Opinions on a federalised Europe

The dream that is EUrope

EUrope is a dream. A perfect dream. A dream of freedom, democracy and pursuit of happiness.

Whenever I travelled outside my country, into the EU, I never had a bad experience. I was never discriminated against, I was not chased down the streets, I was never bullied or ill treated by anybody. I have friends who did though. Just as I know people that rightfully deserved what they got. There is a great deal to discuss when it comes to the EU. About the past, the present and more so about the future. But the most important part of this union are the people.

It’s not about borders, it’s not about imaginary lines drawn on maps by countless conflicts and negotiations over hundreds of years. It can’t be. Even cross-border cooperation programs set up by the EU recognize that. There is no such thing as an imaginary line that separates people’s thoughts, language and lifestyles. In reality all these “borders” are much more diffuse. Have you ever tried watercolor painting? You must have, at least in school at some point – colors always mix at edges of wet areas. You can always do this experiment at home, even now. It’s the same with people.

Borders are artificially imposed. They are a man made creation. Separating political influence and users of one coin from the other. They separate users of one language or dialect from users of another language or dialect. They separate areas with different taxation, or areas where social benefits are different. They separate people – that is what we do. We build borders to separate ourselves from other people. For various reasons. Most of them man made themselves.

A good friend of mine, a planner also, has a catch phrase that he uses all the time – the map is not the territory. And he is right. You can make this claim about the EU also. The map is not the territory. It suffices to look around – people outside the borders of the union want to be inside – Serbia has begun accession talks, in Ukraine the people in Kiev’s Euromaidan struggle for the same goal. Because EUrope is a dream. A dream of a better world, a better life, a dream of freedom.

You can’t put a price on a dream. It is impossible. 10 years ago, for me, Europe was a dream. We still had 3 years to go before becoming part of the Union. 15 years ago Europe was a more distant dream, one that you carry around with you and hope it’s going to come true. And it did. And now this dreams is being thrashed all around the Union. Why?

What happened to the dreamers that got here, that saw their dream fulfilled? It might be easier for those of us that joined in 2004 & 2007 & 2013. We’ve seen the other side, we’ve been in the dark for some very very long years. Most of those that were there from the beginning can’t even imagine how it was. But we are here today. People. 507 million of us. Sharing a common dream, that is EUrope.

Sure enough there are things that don’t work, not as well as we would like them too. Sure there are things we still need to figure out. The dream got us this far. From this point on it’s up to us.

The EP elections are coming. In less than 5 months. Most of us will face a choice – to keep on working for this dream or to give up. But we will be also voting for people. People that will be entrusted with taking care of this dream.

The next months will flood us with debates. We’ll be hearing a lot about this or that problem, this or that policy, this or that fault in this EUrope that we are building. And we have plenty of time to thing about it until then, and I urge everybody to think. To set aside measly politicians, alarmists and populists. Think about the future.

And while you’re at it, think that last night, somebody you don’t know, somebody you most likely never will know, not even by name, died in Kiev for the dream that is EUrope. Not for a border, not for a citizenship, but for a dream.

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  1. The delusion that is EUrope

    What you are describing as the “Dream that is Europe” depends crucially, not on institutional arrangements but on an underlying political and social culture that is related to social trust. This, call it “German culture” leads a more efficient meritocratic public service and less corrupt politics where populist parties are less evident and where governing parties find it easier to gain the public trust needed to take unpopular but required economic reform.

    This model found in northwestern Europe has up to now influenced the workings of the EU. It is the contrast between the German/EU model and the reality of their own countries that has made many of the educated elite so pro-EU in places like Italy, and Eastern Europe. In countries where “the German” model is taken for granted such as Scandanavia there has been less enthusiasm and that is particularly the case in the UK.

    The danger of your approach is to believe that the influence of culture will be one-way and that the “German/EU model” will be unchanged by the different cultures that will be included as the EU expands. Culture is long standing. Greece entered the EU in 1981 and has been in receipt of EU funds in every year since. That seems related to the up to now inability to reform.

    It seems to me very possible that the presence of countries with more corrupt politics will change the dynamics of the EU. Germany has already shown itself unwilling to accept fiscal transfers where it does not control that money. If the new accession countries (like Greece) cannot achieve high rates of economic growth the migration flows to north -west Europe will lead to pressure. Plus the presence of MEPs from countries with more corruption may provide more publicity to damage the EP.

    The activity of the opposition in Ukraine is deeply worrying. Parties which rely on street demonstrations to force governments to change course rather than the taking the long haul via the ballot box and the law clearly have little understanding of how to build a stable democratiic society.

    Your dream clearly inspires you. I find it naive and troubling.

    1. Dear Londoner,

      I will begin my answer with what I think is most relevant right now – your view on what goes on in the Ukraine. I must confess that I believe you might be ill informed. Your comment would be very correct if we would be talking of a democracy. But Ukraine has clearly devolved from that – a country where you can get your license redrawn fro driving in a column of more than 5 cars, and the car confiscated for 2 years, a country where the state has the power to cut interned access, when and how it sees fit, where NGO’s are considered foreign agents, and where gathering information about the police or judges or any civil servant is punishable by 3 years in prison is hardly a democracy wouldn’t you say? What if her Majesty’s Government decided to cut all UK access to the internet tomorrow? Would you consider that a rightful action? There have been laws to obey in every repressive regime, would you call those that stood up then equally un-democratic?

      Moving further, this is not an article about what you call the German system or any other system for that matter. Is is an article about people. Who want better things for their future. I don’t wish to impose my dream on you, and because I believe in democracy and different opinions your comment has not been banned or restricted.

      I expect all cultures to be represented in this European project. And I also believe that a strong Union can be a very good influence on bad practices like corruption. It is no something that will happen over night, I grant you that, but it is happening. The latest CVM on Bulgaria and Romania recognizes that in my country, Romania, the judicial has made significant progress and that problems lie mostly with politicians and their disrespect of an independent justice. Sure, you are going to say that the people have put them in office. But we both know, i presume that what politicians say to get elected is not always what they actually do once they are elected. The tides are turning in Romania but it takes time. Time that a strong EU pressure makes shorter, and that in turn is a very good thing.

      It is a dream. It is a dream of freedom and democracy, and lasting democracy, change that is there for the future providing perspective. Maybe it is harder for you to see that, because you’ve had it all your life. (I presume that you have lived your live in the UK, if not please do share more about your experience). We, in Eastern Europe, have not. We had to do with out, and in the end we had to take to the street and fight for it. Not that in the long years that we were there, we did not. It was just less visible and the international context did not always work in our favor. It is estimated that in Romania alone there were at least 500k – 1000k direct deaths related to this, and an overall scale of victims rises to 2000K. That’s approximately a quarter of London’s population.

      So yes I dream that Europe will grow stronger, and last for as long as I can imagine. Because I know what it would mean to not have it here. I know what it would mean for all of us to return to our petty quarrels and fight each other for things that are increasingly unimportant.

      I’m not saying that you should relinquish your culture, I am asking you to bring your culture to the table and to build on it with the rest of us.

  2. I fully accept what you say about the level of democracy in Ukraine. The key question is what courses of action will lead to more democracy.

    From what I have seen the actions of the opposition in Ukraine only makes sense if you view the conflict as a struggle between competing nationalisms – pro-Russia or anti-Russia. This is a conflict which predates the accession of Poland into the EU or even the establishment of the EU itself.

    Viewed as an attempt to strengthen democracy the actions of the opposition make no sense. If you want democracy you have to foster trust and you have to maximise support for the political process, for elections, for voting in Parliament and most of all for the rule of law. You have to strengthen the view that although we disagree on the outcome ( pro-Russia or anti-Russia) we are united on a commitment to the legal parliamentary process). They should have made common cause with the the pro-Russian Democrats but instead they have set Ukrainian against Ukrainian.

    There are two approaches to achieving democracy. Firstly there is a revolutionary approach – starting with the French Revolution – which clearly you favour and secondly the gradualist British approach. In this second approach respect for the rule of law comes first even if the laws are draconian. You break the law only in the most extreme circumstances when absolutely no other means are left. I would argue that the British approach has been much more successful. Even in Apartheid South Africa the courts still functioned and that continuity of respect for the law has made the South African transfer of power much easier.

    You misunderstand me about culture. I am not talking about when we celebrate Christmas but about social trust, about respect for the rule of law, about an absence of corruption, about tolerance of strangers, about honesty and integrity. I do not want several cultures but the social culture they have in say Sweden which is less apparent in say, Bulgaria.

    It seems to me you focus too much on institutional arrangements rather than on the underlying culture required to make them work. It was a change in attitude by the Germans which has produced peace in Europe and allowed the emergence of the EU. The institution did not produce the change of heart – that was produced by the realisation that German mililtarism had provoked the destruction of Germany.

  3. Yes, sure, Napoleon believed he was the one to do it, and ended up as a prisoner on ST Helen, in the middle of nowhere . Other rulers believed in a”united Europe” before him and after him : for the time being, the EU is work-in-progress that ceased to work about five years ago. A project, no more, no less. Not a dream, at any rate.

    I let you in into a little professional secret . The American federation started playing the leading role in the world only AFTER FDR abandoned old-style federalism in favor of what has became known as “co-operative federalism” : since the forties, the American federal government acts like any centralized government from the Old World, you understand ? In other words, since 1945 USA behaves, internally as well as externally, as Japan, China, UK, France, etc, as a NATIONAL and not really a federal state . (I bet this is news to you, I was aware of it since 1980, after participating in Bucharest at an International Congress of Historical Sciences) In my professional view, you still have a lot to learn about these and other issues .

    1. The main difference between the EU and what Napoleon and other did before is primarily that it is negotiated and not made by force. And it makes a pretty huge difference.
      And let’s make one thing perfectly clear, because I have a feeling you might not understand this properly – I am not advocating a US style federal system in Europe. I am drawing parallels, yes, because some need to be made. All through my texts you will find these parallels, mostly on issues of identity rather than adopting per se an US model. It could be one of the federal directions that could be done, but with significant alterations. Because we operate with significantly different realities.
      As for professional secrets I’d rather not be interested.

  4. Why won’t you admit you do not REALLY know what you are talking about ? It is actually YOU that do not understand federalist issues, not me . This is normal for anyone who does not have the right professional background and specialized knowledge : EX NIHILO, NIHIL, as our ancestors, the Romans, were found of saying . Have you considered other topics, or better still, a sport like fishing ? I say this because as matters now stand, you are making a fool of yourself on the Internet !

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