Commentary Magazine


Europe: Miracle or Monster?

The ratification, or not, of the Maastricht Treaty shaping the future of the European Community (EC) is a matter of profound importance not only for Europe itself but, in the long run, for the United States as well.

On June 18, 1992, the people of Ireland, in a referendum, accepted the Treaty by a majority of more than two-to-one. This was not surprising, for the Irish are among the biggest beneficiaries of the Community’s transfer-payments system, getting six dollars out for every dollar they pay in; projected EC spending plans will give them a further $3,500 for every man, woman, and child in Ireland’s 3,537,000 population. Despite this, 50 percent of them declined to vote at all, reflecting widespread fears that increasingly intrusive Community legislation would threaten the special status of the Catholic Church and, in particular, force Ireland to scrap its constitutional amendment which guarantees the right to life of the unborn child.

Moreover, in a referendum held two weeks earlier, on June 2, fears of their own led the Danes, in a high turnout, to vote “No,” albeit by a narrow majority, in a referendum on Maastricht. Denmark, with a population of just over 5.1 million, is also one of the smaller members of the EC. But its negative vote was a catalyst of doubts felt in many other EC states. Polls taken since show that voters who are undecided about what they think of Maastricht outnumber those in favor in seven out of the ten other member-states. Only in the Netherlands, where 52 percent favor Maastricht, do the European enthusiasts have a comfortable majority of all voters.

Under the terms of the Treaty, it cannot come into effect until it has been ratified by all twelve member-states. Therefore, unless the Danes can be persuaded to reverse their vote, Maastricht is, strictly speaking, null, and the British government instantly withdrew parliamentary legislation ratifying the Treaty until the doubts are cleared up. In the meantime, a grand debate has begun on what kind of Europe should be brought into existence. Should it be a federation with a strong central authority, as Maastricht seems to suppose, or should it be a much looser confederation? It is vital that Americans follow this debate and, indeed, participate in it.

For Americans, as the first people to create a continent-wide union of states, have been there before, and they know how difficult it is. How to balance the desire for continuing local sovereignty against the need for an effective general government? What kind of government should this be, what powers should it have, and to what extent should it legislate for individual states? How should the answers to these questions be defined in constitutional language, and how strictly should that language be interpreted by the courts? Two centuries ago these matters were discussed, in speech and print, by one of the most gifted generations of public men ever to have controlled the destiny of a nation, and their magisterial debates ring with relevance even today—indeed, especially today.

Yet the United States evolved only through trial and error. The entity brought into existence by the Continental Congress, which declared its independence and fought and won a long war with Great Britain, was no more than a loose confederation. Like today’s European union, it was a device to avoid internecine war. But it could not function indefinitely in that form—it would go either backward to individual sovereignty, or forward to true union. Even Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong upholder of limited government, states’ rights, and strict construction, recognized that the dangers of falling apart were greater than the dangers presented by the dynamic of centralism. He wrote to Edmund Randolph in 1783:

I find . . . the pride of independence taking deep and dangerous hold on the hearts of individual states. I know no danger so dreadful and so probable as that of internal contests. And I know no remedy so likely to prevent it as the strengthening of the band which connects us. We have substituted a Congress of deputies from every state to perform this task: but we have done nothing to enable them to enforce their decisions. What will be the case? They will not be enforced. The states will go to war with each other in defiance of Congress; one will call in France to her assistance; another Great Britain, and so we shall have all the wars of Europe brought to our doors.

Hence the federal Constitution was drawn up in 1787, was ratified, and came into effect in 1788-89. Yet the passionate debates which accompanied this process revealed that, in the view of most citizens, the centralizing process was now going too far, and would have to be qualified by libertarian guarantees. Thus the first Ten Amendments, or Bill of Rights, were enacted and ratified in 1791.

But even these back-and-forth shifts to find a viable median between center and periphery did not suffice. The late 1790′s were dominated by the debate on the right of states to nullify federal law, a debate resumed in the early 1830′s, and left unresolved on both occasions. Likewise, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the further Compromise of 1851 did not settle the claims of states to protect their own institutions from collective change, or to secede if they were threatened. Those claims had to be put to the test of the Civil War, which cost the lives of at least 620,000 combatants, nearly as many as in all the other wars America has fought combined. Nor did even this bloodletting end the debate, which continued through Reconstruction and the long reaction to it, right down to the civil-rights battles of the 1950′s and 1960′s.

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Most Europeans, even well-educated statesmen from the grandes écoles, know little of this history and of the huge difficulties Americans have had to overcome in order to make federalism work. They are therefore unaware of the lessons they need to learn from America if they are to survive the tests they undoubtedly will face.

If anything, those tests will be far greater than the ones confronting America’s founders and continuators. America’s federal experience, it is true, was bedeviled by slavery and race, two factors which do not divide the Europeans. As against this, however, Americans had overwhelming compensatory advantages in building a continental federation: a common language and literature; a common political culture and law; for the most part a common religion; even shared inspirational texts, such as Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government; and, not least, a common Anglo-Saxon tradition of pragmatism and compromise. They also had, in Great Britain, a common enemy, and no bitter memories of fratricidal conflict.

The Europeans have not a single one of these advantages. They are also working against a recent background in which other federations which did possess them have fared disastrously. To be sure, Europeans can and do brush aside the collapse of the Soviet Union, a sham and involuntary federation which had more of the characteristics of an old-style authoritarian empire. But the example of Yugoslavia, now disintegrating amid appalling savagery, is more difficult to dismiss: for it was, initially at least, a voluntary compact, and one with a common tongue. As for the Czechs and the Slovaks, now also moving backward from federation to confederation—or to outright separation—they too had many unifying advantages, but loss of local sovereignty has proved too strong a grievance.

Outside Europe, there have been innumerable postwar unions which, despite strong common interests, have likewise ended in dissolution: East and West Pakistan, the Central African Federation, the Federation of the West Indies, the Federation of Malaysia, to name only four, all now defunct. Failed attempts to federate the Arab states are too numerous to mention. Federations which have survived, like the Trucial States in the Persian Gulf, are few and small-scale.

Indeed, the European Community as it currently functions sometimes reminds one of Dr. Johnson’s comment on women preachers: “It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.” The resilience of nationalism at the end of the 20th century, in Europe as elsewhere, makes it remarkable that the European Community, which dates from the 1957 Treaty of Rome, can have grown and flourished for 35 years. That it has done so is due largely to the good sense, as well as the genius, of its architect, Jean Monnet (1888-1979), and to the modesty both of its initial aims and of the means used to pursue them.

Monnet’s attempts to get advanced nations to cooperate on matters of mutual economic interest went back to 1919, and he persisted in them, with unrelenting courage, for the rest of a long life. Therein lay his genius. But Monnet had a background not only in the French civil service but in international banking and economics and in wartime diplomacy, and he saw the need to qualify Gallic logic with Anglo-Saxon pragmatism. Therein lay his good sense.

As head of France’s postwar Commissariat du Plan, Monnet invented “indicative planning,” a minimalist approach which used discussion and persuasion, rather than directives, to get capital, labor, and government departments to work together. In creating the European coal-steel pool and in projecting the future of a Common Market which would, he hoped, evolve eventually into a federal Europe, he stipulated that regulations should be few, confined to those absolutely necessary to make the concept work at all. To keep their numbers limited, he further insisted on employing as few bureaucrats as possible, believing in a proto-version of Parkinson’s Law: “Rules expand to occupy the time of bureaucrats available to formulate them.” Although he was unable to persuade British governments, either Labor or Tory, to cooperate in his ventures, Monnet believed that he had nonetheless given those ventures the saving grace of a qualifying British dimension.

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Alas, however, there is another unifying tradition in Europe, a much older one, and it proved too strong, if not for Monnet, then for his successors. That tradition stresses centrality, uniformity, and réglementation.

Europe, as an entity, was the offspring of the marriage between the culture of ancient Greece and Rome and the morality of Judeo-Christianity. It has, therefore—or so visionaries and imperialists have long argued—a natural disposition toward a common system of law and government. The Roman empire itself, both in its original and its Byzantine version, and in the attempts to resurrect it by Carolingians and Hohenstaufen and even by triumphalist canon lawyers and pontiffs from the 11th to the 14th centuries, tried to turn this disposition into solid reality. So, in the 16th century, did the Hapsburgs, using a combination of a network of dynastic marriages, Spanish-American gold and silver, and the Counter-Reformation.

From early modern times onward, this centralizing aspiration was resumed by whichever nation-state was perceived to be most powerful and thus in a position to impose its own version of unity by armies, bureaucrats, and the extension of its legal system. France, as the most populous nation, took the lead. In the late 16th century, Henry IV’s great minister, the Duc de Sully, had a grand design for a united Christian European Republic of fifteen states. This was to be balanced, on the Greek analogy, by an international Amphictyonic Assembly. But it is significant that Sully’s plan was preceded by a thorough reform and modernization of the French bureaucracy, the instrument which was to bring the federation into being.

Such French visions were the background to France’s military efforts to dominate Europe, from Louis XIV onward. Napoleon I, by recreating the dimensions of the Carolingian empire through an amalgamation of conquest and client states, and by imposing his own code of law and his own trading area through the Continental system, came close to succeeding.

With the relative decline of France later in the 19th century, the Germans next took the lead, encouraged by the teachings of Fichte and Hegel that a German epoch in European and world affairs was dawning. If Germany and Austria had won World War I, Germanic military and economic paramountcy would have been the outcome. Adolf Hitler, whose Third Reich controlled virtually all of Europe by 1941, had elaborate plans for a postwar continental New Order which, while embodying his own obsessions with the Aryan race and Kultur, also partook of this long unifying tradition. So, too, it could be argued, did Stalin’s abortive attempt to dominate postwar Europe, inspired as it ultimately was by Hegel’s disciple, Karl Marx, but using class rather than race as the compulsive force.

These attempts to dragoon Europe into unity, or impose a centralizing hegemony upon it, ended in wars, the most destructive of which left the Continent in 1945 prostrate and impotent, its destinies for the first time in the hands of non-European powers, the U.S. and the USSR. From this nadir in its fortunes, the idea of a new Europe sprang: a Europe which would abolish its civil wars, and end its repeated suicide attempts, by moving toward a negotiated, voluntary, democratic union. This was Monnet’s idea, and it seemed, certainly in its origins, to offer a viable and welcome alternative to all the failed compulsory schemes of the past.

In addition to its modesty of means, the idea was marked by two further characteristics. First, the union was non-military. The original six nations which formed the Community—West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—did sign a treaty to create a “European Army” (the EDC) in May 1952, but when the French parliament refused to ratify it in August 1954, the idea collapsed. The military dimension of Europe was instead supplied by NATO, whose members included such nonparticipants in the Community as Britain, which did not join until 1972; Norway, which has yet to join; Turkey, which has been refused admission; Canada; and, above all, the United States, which for decades continued to provide Europe’s defensive shield.

That shield, by definition, stopped short at the Iron Curtain; and so did America’s parallel efforts to revitalize Europe’s economy via the Marshall Plan, in which Stalin would not allow Russia or its satellites to participate. Hence the second characteristic of the burgeoning Community: it was capitalist. This too was very much to Monnet’s taste. His whole faith rested in the wealth-creating properties of free enterprise, and even his “indicative planning” was to be conducted with the lightest of touches, becoming progressively less perceptible as the organization matured. His object, indeed, was to achieve what he called “perfect competition,” when all the obstacles presented by chauvinism, protectionism, and bureaucratic intransigence would be removed. Had Monnet’s original aims and methodology been maintained, the Community would now be entering—with the collapse of collectivism to the East—its Golden Age, a cynosure of the whole world as the way to bring about a true multinational market economy.

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But Monnet’s aims were distorted and perverted. There were many reasons for this. The first was the need, in order to bring about a Community at all, to strike a crude, unspoken, but fundamental bargain between France and Germany, the two largest members and former hereditary enemies. German industry needed access to all Community markets, including France’s highly protected one. France was prepared to grant this, provided Germany financed, through agricultural-support payments, the transformation of France from a predominantly peasant economy to a predominantly industrialized one.

The bargain, struck in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, took the form of the notorious Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which was, is, and will remain the greatest single barrier to the integration of the Community into a global free-trading, competitive system. By deliberately subsidizing the inefficient, CAP made nonsense of “perfect competition.” And by introducing the principle of support payments on a permanent basis, it automatically made the Community an expensive institution, encouraging every other industry or interest, threatened or not, to demand subsidies and so raise further the Community’s costs. Worse, CAP made it necessary to create a substantial bureaucracy to process and arbitrate these demands, and to write the expanding regulations needed to administer the system. Thus did Monnet’s small bureaucratic machine, which was supposed to contract as anti-competitive regulations were scrapped, become a “transfer-payments trough” into which a growing number of snouts were thrust.

The growth of the bureaucracy and of its subsidizing function distorted the constitutional arrangements as well. The three original bodies—the European Coal and Steel Community (1952), the European Atomic Energy Community or Euratom (1957), and the European Economic Community, which functioned from January 1, 1958—were merged into the present European Community in 1967. The EC, whose headquarters are in Brussels, consisted of five elements: a European investment bank; a Court of Justice; a European parliament, originally appointed but now directly elected; a Council of Ministers, drawn from the member-states; and a permanent European Commission of civil servants.

There was here a confusion of ideas, which has become more impenetrable as the years have passed but which might have been avoided if the architects had studied the American precedent and laid down a clear separation of powers among legislature, judiciary, and executive. In the absence of these distinctions, in the absence indeed of an overriding constitutional document, the parliament has totally failed, so far, to become the equivalent of the American Congress—the fountainhead of law and finance—and has remained primarily a talking-shop. Nor has the Court of Justice taken on the role of validating the constitutionality of Community legislation: it has simply attempted to impose that legislation on the judicial systems of member-states. Finally, the Council of Ministers has failed to emerge as a true executive, instead remaining merely the conduit through which member-governments transmit their agreements or disagreements.

The confusion, therefore, was produced by a vacuum of power; and, nature abhorring such things, it has been filled by the one body which is always on the spot, permanent, coherent, and strongly motivated—the Commission of civil servants. This would be bad enough in itself, with the all-powerful Brussels commissaires evoking distant echoes of Sully’s or Louis XIV’s intendants, Napoleon’s préfets, and even Hitler’s Gauleiters and Stalin’s commissars: symbols of the way in which unification is slipping back into the authoritarian, compulsory mode of the past.

But the triumph of the bureaucrats has become still more oppressive as a result of the conjunction of three other factors. The first is the way in which Monnet’s policy of “perfect competition” has been inverted—rather as Marx inverted Hegel’s dialectic—to transform it from a device for scrapping regulations into one for imposing them. Competition is now an excuse for Community bureaucrats to intervene in virtually every operation of industry, commerce, distribution, banking, and finance. Not only, for instance, must the monopoly legislation of individual states be “harmonized” with Community policy, but the Commission has the right to supervise compliance with both sets of criteria and use either or both to veto proposed mergers. The axle weights of trucks, the financial and shareholding structures of newspapers and TV groups, the kind of apples a farmer may grow in Herefordshire or Normandy, the size and metallic composition of paper clips, the way in which salmon should be smoked—these and countless other matters have been drawn into the bureaucratic net. Plans are well advanced to use spy satellites to monitor compliance by member-states with Brussels directives, especially in crop arrangements.

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The second factor conducing to greater bureaucratic oppression is the increasing use of Community regulations to achieve social objectives. Here we must introduce the man who personifies the aggressive Brussels afflatus, the sixty-seven-year-old Jacques Delors, who has served two terms as president of the Commission, seeks an unprecedented third, and hopes eventually to become the first president of a United Europe—a bureaucratic George Washington, in short.

Delors, who has been Minister of Finance in the Mitterrand government, came up through the French central-banking and planning mechanism and is, by career and conviction, an unrepentant, unreconstructed Socialist of the most rigorous kind. As Marxist theory has disintegrated with the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Delors, like many others on the Left, has seized upon the expanding theory of rights as a substitute weapon to force capitalism to bow to “social justice.” Workers’ rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, the rights of minorities, the old, the sick, the young, the handicapped—all these, and others, are grist to the Brussels bureaucratic mill and emerge from its regulatory conveyor belt. A salient part of the original Maastricht Treaty, which Britain refused to sign, is Delors’s masterpiece, the Social Charter, which lays down in great detail the rules with which employers must comply, beginning with a maximum work week.

A third regulatory element on which the Brussels machine has eagerly seized is the increasing obsession of the educated middle class, in all advanced countries, with protecting health and the environment. All countries now legislate in this field, to some extent: the Community takes the highest common factor in such codes and applies it a fortiori. Pollution levels; water purity; the quality of beaches; afforestation; the ingredients, manufacture, storing, nomenclature, and labeling of cheeses; what birds you may or may not shoot and when; the arcanae of the abattoir; the right of access to an abortion clinic; the use and abuse of drugs, cosmetics, suntan oil; the future of boar-hunting in Gascony, bullfighting in Spain, stag-hunting in Somerset—these and thousands of other topics are now or shortly will be the subject of furious and self-righteous Brussels activity.

Needless to say, much of this legislation is the result of horsetrading, of a crudeness that would raise a blush on the cheek of even the most hardened U.S. Congressman. Hence, anomalies abound. The Commission, for instance, has produced the most draconian regulations to ban tobacco advertising. These involve taking down 150-year-old signs on tobacconists’ shops, some of them classified as ancient monuments—if cigar-store Indians existed in Europe, they would be grievously unlawful—and advertising restrictions on the media which will hit publishers and TV networks severely and, in particular, U.S.- and British-owned agencies. Such regulations are being pressed with great ferocity by the Brussels Health Commissioner, the Greek Socialist Madame Papandreou, regardless of the fact that some member-states run tobacco monopolies (which remain untouched) and that the Greek tobacco industry is subsidized by the Community to the extent of over $1 billion a year. Since the Turks are not members, their tobacco is banned entirely, and selling Turkish cigarettes is now illegal in EC countries—a move which has brought an eloquent cry of outrage from at least one European, the playwright and former Angry Young Man, John Osborne.

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These rising torrents of Community regulation, which must increasingly be incorporated into the national legislation of member-states and upheld in their courts, evoke radically different responses north and south of a line which runs along the English Channel, through the south of the Low Countries, and down to the Alps. It is in many ways equivalent to the sectionalism which, in the early days of American federalism, distinguished New England from the South, and both from the West. We are dealing, in other words, with a clash of cultures.

Broadly speaking, Mediterranean Europe is Catholic, Northern Europe Protestant. This different formation expresses itself in many ways, notably in attitudes toward the law. The French, for instance, are a highly regulated people, now more so than ever. A recent report to their Prime Minister, Pierre Bérégovy, revealed that, by the end of last year, the country had passed 109,500 laws and state decrees—a world record. On examination, however, many of these turn out to be laws reinforcing earlier laws which have been evaded, defied, or simply ignored. The French do not object to the principle of overregulation, but in practice, when particular interests are threatened, well-organized groups, from farmers to students, simply erect barricades and block roads until the authorities back off. It is not unusual, for instance, for French farmers to seize truck-loads of imported live lambs from Britain or Spain—all perfectly legal imports, under Community regulations—and incinerate the lot, while the French gendarmerie watches impassively.

Italy, too, delights in legislative hyperactivity, determining, in theory at least, the minutest details of all economic activities. But earlier this year, the official charged with coordinating anti-Mafia activities admitted that in many parts of the country, particularly the South, Sicily, and Sardinia, the writ of the government, let alone that of Brussels, simply does not run (he has since been murdered). The situation in Greece, the most corrupt European country this side of the old Iron Curtain, is in some ways even worse.

By contrast, the Northern states have a tradition of enacting fewer laws, but obeying them. In Denmark, for instance, Community laws and directives are rigorously enforced by local authorities; the widespread feeling there that other members do not penalize offenders—that the EC is moving toward a two-tier moral system—is one reason for the Danish “No” vote. The Dutch, Germans, and British feel the same.

According to a recent Commission report, during the first half of 1991 Britain had the worst record of the twelve in the number of attempted frauds against Value Added Tax and customs regulations. British officials retort indignantly that the figures reflect merely the diligence with which national authorities investigate crime. In Italy, where such frauds are almost universal, only eight cases were uncovered; in Greece, a derisory two. A member of the British government, who has property in France, reported that when he inquired of a neighboring farmer about compliance with EC regulations, he got the bland reply: “Community laws are for the British to obey. They are not for the French.”

There is a widespread feeling, indeed, that the Community, a French concept, serves primarily to advance French interests. France has been by far the largest beneficiary of the CAP. Though one of the wealthier members, it is a net recipient of EC funds. Frenchmen dominate the Brussels bureaucracy, and move to and fro with ease between their national machine and that in Brussels. Delors’s chief of staff, Pascal Lamy, having played a major role in devising the scheme for European monetary union which lies at the heart of the Maastricht Treaty, has recently returned to Paris as head of the French Treasury. Delors himself is expected to résumé his French political hat, perhaps as Prime Minister, when it suits his ambitions and France’s convenience.

Such men see no conflict of loyalties, since they regard it as axiomatic that the interests of the Community are identical with those of France. The French Minister of Justice, with no sense of irony or awareness of any contradiction in his words, recently threatened: “French sovereignty will not permit any obstacle to the progress toward European unity.” It is such views which lead critics more and more frequently to use the word “Napoleonic,” applying it in particular to Delors himself. There are certainly times when he gives a more-than-passable imitation of one of Bonaparte’s military governors.

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Indeed, the greatest single defect of the EC is the almost total absence of a democratic dimension. No one who matters in Brussels is elected or answerable. Moreover, the Commission operates in an impenetrable mist of bureaucratic jargon—“subsidiarity,” one of its key terms, defies definition.

One reason for the success of federalism in the United States is that, throughout the 1780′s, the issues at stake were presented with incomparable clarity, the arguments for and against were exhaustively deployed at every political level and in newspapers, and the number of those who participated directly in the debates and the ratification process constituted a sizable part of the entire nation. Conversely, when the U.S. federation broke down in 1861 with the secession of the South, that move was decided by the vote of a mere 697 (out of a mere 854) men at state conventions, all of them appointed by legislatures; so 697, none directly elected, decided the fate of nine million. The determining oligarchy in Europe is, if anything, smaller, and composed entirely of professional politicians and officials.

By contrast to America in the 1780′s, the people of Europe are moving toward federation as if in a trance. It is unlikely that one in 10,000 has even glanced at the Maastricht Treaty, which among other things introduces a common currency and central bank. Copies of it are hard to come by and there is even a dispute over what is the correct English text. The Danish government, while campaigning for a “Yes” vote, took the democratic step of printing and distributing free no fewer than 300,000 copies, so that virtually every family in the country had one: the result was “No.”

The right response to the uncertainty triggered by the Danish vote would therefore be to seize the opportunity for a thorough democratization of the Community’s procedures. We must hope this now takes place. But the likelihood is that any changes will be cosmetic. A fundamental reconstruction would inevitably work against France’s interests, and in that event France would leave the Community and it would collapse. If, however, the Community simply carries on in its blind, bureaucratic way, a far more serious—and possibly violent—crisis will develop. It is as if, like Tennyson’s Kraken, the monster of European anarchy and force, sleeping peacefully since 1945 beneath the deep waters of prosperity and civilization, were beginning to stir.

The Northern members will not indefinitely tolerate the corrupt, unequal, and partial application of the Community’s laws. Yet how are they to be fully imposed on the South? No one knows. The chances are that in the end the real resistance will come from Germany, by far the largest net contributor to EC funds. Indeed, since the Danish vote, polls in Germany have been running four- or five-to-one against the Community. The Germans fear that Maastricht will deprive them of their “beautiful strong Deutschmark,” as they call it, and give them a potentially worthless Euro-currency in exchange. The Community was designed in large part to anchor the Germans irrevocably in a peaceful, supernational European system. But it is proving irksome to them as they have become stronger and increasingly independent-minded, and they may soon feel they have outgrown it. If Germany breaks free, then the Kraken may awake in earnest.

There is a further, global danger in the perpetuation and growth of the present Community ethos. All-powerful internal bureaucracies are invariably associated with high external tariffs and all the other mercantilist apparatus of protection. The United States’ struggle with the EC over agriculture is only one aspect of a much wider problem. The world is already drifting into three huge trading systems—the Americas, East Asia, and Europe. There is no doubt that the French, and the bulk of the Brussels machine, see the EC as an internal free-trading area, surrounded by a high protective wall—Fortress Europe. If the French determine the European pattern, then the Big Three will emerge as fiercely antagonistic, repelling one another’s trade and fostering their own. The scene would be set for the greatest trade wars the world has ever known—and history teaches that trade wars lead to real ones. We could well face the nightmare of that tripartite world, engaged in perpetual warfare, foreseen in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

There is, however, an alternative vision, and it may be that the corrective administered by the Danes will promote it. The British, since they have joined the Community, have seen it, ideally, not as inward-looking but as outward-looking: not as a Fortress but as an Open City. They are anxious that it expand not so much vertically, into a tightly integrated superstate of its existing members, but horizontally, to take in new ones: initially Sweden, Norway, Austria, and Switzerland, eventually Eastern Europe and possibly even Russia itself. They want to make Community aims wholly compatible with the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, so that the EC maintains a low and diminishing external tariff wall.

Assuming the Americas and East Asia follow suit, the Big Three could then become complementary rather than nakedly competitive, and in time merge into one global trading system. Then, in the very long term—perhaps the second half of the 21st century—the European federal experiment, in conjunction with the United States, might become the nucleus of a worldwide experiment along the same lines.

This is indeed a grand, even a grandiose vision. It certainly will not become reality unless Europe proceeds step by step, in a pragmatic manner, learning from its mistakes, and taking its electorates wholly into its confidence. In short, to survive, to avoid destroying the European idea, the Community must cease to be a bureaucratic-driven entity and become—like America before it—a democratic one, a Community “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

About the Author

Paul Johnson is the author of Modern Times, A History of Christianity, and A History of the Jews, among many other books.




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