Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

Genuine patriots will regret the end of the European Union.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 27, 2016 in European Union |

These are dark, painful days for the European Union. The union is battling for its very existence, and with it the concept of European unity itself. If the euro were to collapse, for example, the union could in theory continue, but one suspects that the huge pressures on members caused by currency appreciation (Germany) or depreciation (everyone else) could force the German government into a nakedly Germany First policy to protect jobs.

The curious thing is that British or Irish or Danish eurosceptics would, of course, react with delight at the end of the EU. But I wonder what sort of Europe they would expect to emerge from it? Presumably, they picture a Europe of  nation states that they vaguely remember from their youth, or assume existed,  in the 1950s and 1960s, peacefully trading with each other. Of course, this is quite possible, after all, a Europe without the EU would still be a Europe of free democracies, bound together by NATO.

But they forget the German question.

Let me be clear: I have no doubts whatsoever about the democratic credentials of Germany. Germany is a peaceful nation committed to democracy. But it is also by far the economic heart of Europe. More importantly, Helmut Kohl was the last German Chancellor bound by the post-war consensus that saw the creation of a European Germany as the keystone of German foreign and domestic policy. This generation of German leaders are like any other group of European leaders: Interested in putting their country’s interests first, as their Nord Stream gas deal with the Russians, which bypassed Poland, showed. The difference is that unlike other EU countries, which tend to be small and reliant upon cooperation with others, Germany has the economic heft, and the location, to plow its own course with little need to pay heed to the chaos it can create in its slipstream. Through sheer economic gravity, a Europe without the EU will become a German Europe, where German standards and laws and the needs of German consumers becomes the benchmark, without the need for pesky commission consultation.

That may not be a bad thing. Germany is, after all, a well-run country. But is that really what the eurosceptics were thinking of? A future German chancellor who sees Washington, Moscow, Brasilia and Beijing as his equals, and deals with them accordingly, ignoring the rest of Europe in his plans? Impossible! Declare the British or the French. Really?  After all, militarily, Britain and France are now minor players, relegated to sharing aircraft carriers. Britain played at best a supporting role in Iraq and Afghanistan (Despite the bravery and professionalism of her soldiers), and France is only really good at bombing people who include voodoo in their national defence plans. Neither of them, even combined, were able to handle the bloodletting of Yugoslavia. Economically, they are, individually, still significant nations, but they are not where the action is. Ten, fifteen years from now, if only because of sheer size, Britain and France will struggle to compete with Brazil or India, becoming quaint brands of yesteryear rather than global names. It’s true, Germany is a military pygmy too, but unlike France and Britain, the Germans are industrial on a global scale. In short, a Europe without the EU leaves only one European player still capable of playing at a global level, and that is Germany.

The truth is that a Europe without a plan for mutually beneficial integration is a Europe engaged in slow decay, like a once glamorous Vegas casino now in the shadow of a Disney super-resort. It just can’t compete with progress, despite its glorious past. Yes, Dino and Frank and Joey Bishop once performed here, but the super resort has Beyonce and WiFi and roller coasters!

Brazil and China and India  and the US will run the world, with Germany and Japan just allowed in the door, and the aging divas of Britain and France throwing tantrums and wearing skirts too short and tops too low for their age in the lobby. The rest of Europe will just gawk in the window like Dickensian street-waifs, oohing and ahhing at how the other half lives. Is that really what eurosceptics want?

I’m an Irishman, and even though I feel I’m an Irishman, I don’t know why*. I don’t speak Irish, I don’t like most Irish music or literature, which to me seems to wallow in self-pity. But I feel my Irishness, and when I’m in the company of non-Irish people, they tell me that I’m “just so Irish.” To me, European unity is not about creating an identikit European, but adding additional components to enhance my Irish way of life. What I have never understood about euroscepticism is not its logic, which is sound enough, but its belief that national sovereignty as they perceive it is what is on offer. What is on offer does not strengthen the options open to me as an Irishman: Instead I will find myself a citizen of a tiny state open to the whim of the economic colossus that is the Chinese dictatorship, or the take-it-or-leave-it blackmail of mega-corporations freed from the watchful eye of the European Commission. Where is the national sovereignty in that? How can any patriot claim that as a better path for his country?

*Actually, as a postscript, I did recently come across a story that helped define my Irishness. In the 1980s, graffitti appeared all over Dublin demanding the release of Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Fein activist who was being extradited to the UK. More often than not, the declaration “Free Dessie Ellis!” would eventually be accompanied by some local wit adding “with every box of cornflakes” to the wall. That to me is the epitome of Irishness.

5 Comments


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david morris
Dec 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Well I think its a shame that such an erudite & well reasoned post gets only one comment – and that from a troll.

Ah, The Germans. If they were so clever, how did they ever let themselves be sucked into the Euro quicksand ? With Greece, Spain and Ireland thinking this was the best idea since sliced bread. “Ooh, we get a better credit rating than the one we currently have, so we can borrow even more before we have to face the consequenses, it’s like shagging in the 1970’s”. Now the size of the bill is being evident * , Jurgen Ze German is faced with his borrowing fees and credit rating suddenly being at the same levels as Sierra Leone. “Vhat Ze Fuck, ze APR on my Credit Kard ist 189%. Zis is not ze forward progressive Europe ve signed up for when ve vere feeling a tinzy vinsy bit guilty about Varsaw und Koventry”.

Germans, have they ever been right about anything other than making cars, the Reinheitsgebot and Heidi Klum?

* to some. Was it just over a year ago that Ireland was being given the chance to get the referendum answer right ? How did it go again – “Yes for jobs,investment & recovery ? ”

Mind how you go


 
Jason O
Dec 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm

In fairness, my EU masters send me very nice comments with my paycheque.

As for Yes for Jobs, Investment and Recovery, it’s the EU’s 85 billion that’s saving our asses. And EU membership that is helping sustain the 85% of the workforce in gainful employment.


 
FERGUS O'ROURKE
Dec 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Well said.

If there are no benefits for Germany in preserving the EU, it is finished. (This was always the reality, even if idealists chose to ignore it).

Has that conclusion been drawn by the Germans ? I don’t think so.


 
FERGUS O'ROURKE
Dec 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm

The real relevance of the Lisbon non-debate to where we are now is that the EU political class came up with the Lisbon Treaty as an essentially banal answer to a trivial set of problems, while ignoring the elephant in the room. That elephant was that the inter-governmental approach had gone further than safety and democratic legitimacy would have prescribed.


 

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