Thursday, January 20, 2005

European Constitution

Being pro-European and pro-constitution, I felt slightly chastened when I read this on the Europhobia site because, as nosemonkey points out, the pro-constitution has its work cut out against the anti camp, which - up 'till now at least - has been more vocal, better organised and has the backing of the Murdoch press, whose willingness to concoct "Euro-myths" knows no bounds.

However, I have - as a somewhat skeptical pro-European (hope you don't think that's a contradiction in terms) - been dismayed by the statements coming from those politicians and journalists who are strongly pro-European. People like Polly Toynbee for example, often talk as if it's only xenophobic little Englanders who have any misgivings over the European project (although many "Euro-skeptics" are this, of course). I'm afraid to say I think people like her - along with Roy Hattersley and almost all of the Liberal Democrats (not to mention Ted Heath) etc. are part of the problem, because they have been rather loftily morally superior and haven't, as a consequence, felt the need to push a populist pro-European campaign. The idea, for example, that everyone who has doubts about a single currency is suffering from nationalist chauvinism is really so absurd that I'm not going to dignify it with a rational response (or maybe I'm just too lazy to type in the arguments, you decide).

Anyway, I wish more anti and pro-Europeans could have heard what the representatives of the ten new member states had to say at a conference organised by Prof George Blazyca of the University of Paisley at the time of the accession. There was none of this "you have to accept everything or nothing of the EU" nonsense: a number, for instance, felt that no further integration was either feasible or desirable until the present EU institutions had time to "bed-down". The representative of the Czech Republic illustrated this by pointing out that after the Velvet Revolution, while Czechoslovakia was well-served in the secret police station department, it had no tax office at all.

The idea that this made them anti-European is patently ridiculous. The eastern European delegates in particular were strongly pro-EU and with an agenda that makes concerns over straight bananas - or, I could say, those who back the EU to show how cosmopolitan they are - look even more pathetic than usual. Having emerged from the bankruptcy of Soviet rule, all of them were in no doubt what the EU represented: the re-unification of Europe, an opportunity to cement their fledgling democratic institutions and to contain Germany, whilst keeping Russia firmly at bay. The Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian delegates expressed this most strongly, for fairly obvious historical reasons.

It's in this context that the Atlanticism of these countries should be understood. If you're Polish, for example, are you likely to say to yourself, "if the Russians ever give us trouble, we have the Germans to help us and if they can't be trusted, you can always rely on the French to come out shooting"?

Er, no...

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