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Europe: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue Europe: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue
by Murray Hunter
2013-01-02 11:13:58
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Old Europe was once a grouping of feudal societies that occasionally interacted with each other. As transport and communication developed many of these feudal societies amalgamated to form larger societies known as nations where strings of alliances to preserve their interests developed.

If we fast forward to the end of the 19th Century Europe began to become dominated by two main groupings, the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy, and the Entente Cordiale between England and France. This was supplemented with the Franco-Russian Alliance, and the Anglo-Russian Entente.

These alliances formed two military camps on European soil and hastened the process to all out war when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914. Again in 1938, aggression across Europe led into bloodshed, pain and suffering destroying a major part of Europe. And after the Second World War Europe was partitioned with an iron curtain that once again divided the continent.

The narratives within Europe were once full of delusions of racial and religious superiority, imposed dominance, and cultural diversity. Some pockets of Europe today still hold these kinds of beliefs, where groups are still expressing aspirations for independence.

In Europe, there was a desperate need to find a way to co-exist, otherwise future conflicts would have devastating consequences similar to what has been witnessed a number of times through European history. The union had to unite a divided Europe of different histories and then stretch it's arms out to most of Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union with an almost unbelievable transformation which other regions of the world like the ASEAN Economic Community will find very hard to emulate.

We can see that the spirit of these old alliances are preserved not for war that dragged Europe into destruction, but this time to bail out a member Greece in the quest to save the union, although the decisions to do this put extreme pressure upon the individual members of the Union.

Today many fundamental questions are arising as new challenges. Youth unemployment, freedom of domicile within the union, the influx of migrants, the Euro-crisis, soaring health costs, rising petroleum prices, food shortages, and terrorism are all concerning Europeans deeply. The answers don't appear to be there and this is leading to great uncertainty.

The European phenomena is still incomplete. We had the political revolution symbolized by the blue European Union flag flying above European land and institutions under flickering with the winds that once blew through a divided Europe. The second revolution is an economic one, symbolized by the common regulation and the Euro currency. This is currently presenting great challenges as we are still finding that common regulation is not as easy as anticipated due to the cultural diversity and situational issues that persist within the union member states. The Euro and uniform financial regulation had unforeseen consequences. The perceived strength of the union, a common currency also had a paradoxical weakness in that it severely limited the utilization of monetary policy, as the EU has now found. Relying almost solely on budgetary mechanisms for fiscal control along Keynesian philosophies is not enough for member states. 

Undoubtedly the European Union Economic approach needs another mechanism. The Euro currency is not the "Higgs Boson" particle that everybody anticipated, and another mechanism to financially drive Europe is needed. But the answer may come in a similar manner to scientists at CERN who discovered that quantum mechanics is extremely complex to truly understand, and the deep fundamentals are within the individual parts, rather than the whole.

There is another revolution that is needed to create the great EU as originally dreamed about. And this revolution is the hardest of all to achieve. It's a mistake to believe that this revolution will come from the committee rooms of the European Parliament. No revolution ever comes from a legislature.

This revolution is a spiritual one about vision for a new Europe and it must come from the streets of Munich, the streets of Paris, villages in Romania, and towers in Barcelona, and so on. The vanguard of this revolution will be the same people who were involved in the Arab Spring, the uprisings in Burma and Iran, and the Occupy movement in the United States, the youth of Europe.

The European Union must find the right balance between debate and consensus on an overall vision. That vision must permeate into all aspects of society. Without this vision Europe cannot progress and may actually decline. The people of Europe need a new identity that carries both meaning and a sense of excitement about the future.

And what must be borrowed by the European Union, once discarded in an attempt to create a pan-Euro culture is the "hotch potch" of cultural diversity that exists within the member states. Uniformity does not bring strength, diversity brings strength which has been unrecognized. Diversity is what makes Europe and the Commission has over the years tried to create a Europe of the lowest common denominator (LCD). Europe has actually been stripped of its very strength. The answer is not in the pan-Euro approach but engaging the diversity within the Union, something many, if not the majority feel in their hearts. A Euro-culture should take in both national and pan-Euro traits and slowly evolve into a single Euro-identity.

Just like the Euro-debt crisis, the Euro-cultural crisis is the result of legislators believing that regulation is not the solution to everything. New approaches outside legislative frameworks are required here.

There is great risk that the metaphor of blue may become a sea that lacks the ability to have foresight and vision. The EU Council is fast becoming a transactional rather than transformational identity as it started out to be. The bureaucrats have replaced the dreamers and philosophers setting into motion processes that inhibit rather than rather than encourages growth in diversity and richness.

Blue is also symbolic of authority and the EU must be aware of the need to develop an environment where the Commission is not seen as top down regulator but truly concerned with what it's citizenry thinks and feels about issues. The citizens of the EU must be encouraged to develop a sense of ownership in the whole process once again.


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Thanos2013-01-02 12:38:55
The last twenty years and for series of reasons including personal agendas (to my opinion Solana and Barroso have been the masters of personal agendas), the gap between the bureaucratic Brussels and the European citizens has become huge. Things like solidarity and partnership are just convenient words for celebrations and parties. But the same time especially under the recession and with the need of the people for unity in front the common problems – as you well said unemployment, poverty education – perhaps they will be forced to change attitude. And you can see how much they fear the people; the possibility of the left alliance elected in Greece provoked an unbelievable reaction in Brussels, Berlin, Paris ands London that reminded the darkest periods of the cold war. And if you check on the news internationally they are still talking about the left alliance in Greece like the rebirth of Stalin comparing a parliamentary group which balances in centre-left (now this semantics but it is like an illusion to consider Social democrats in Europe as centre left when sometimes and as practice has proved all around Europe they are more conservatives than the conservatives).

However, Europe needs change and I think that this change will come with a return to her (as you well said) spiritual fundamentals.

Murray Hunter2013-01-02 13:54:08
Dear Thanos,
Looking at the EU from afar has both advantages and disadvantages. We learnt European history at school and there has certainly been a violent history and oppression of peooples. From afar (rightly or wrongly) I see the EU as a neo-colonial power colonizing the smaller states with Germany as the colonizer, aided to a lesser extent by France. So countries like greece are just colonies that supply labour to the rest of the union, and told what to do.
Another observation is that the EU has destroyed itself through regulation to the point that industry and jobs have almost dissappeared. Now there is a massive unemployment problem).
The Euro is another mess. It should have been a trading currency rather than a primary currency, but agendas prevented this wisdom.
Finally in the news over the last 24 hours is the sounding out through the media of the UK opting out as a full member. This is surely a sign that all is not well (given UK has always been reserved over the EU), which if not handled correctly could build up momentum across states that feel that they are colonized by Bruessells.

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-02 14:34:12
Ah, the vision of a new identity! Trouble is that building a new identity implies that one first knows thoroughly the old identity and the reasons why an alternative is desirable. In fact, even visions need foundations which could be very solid if they are universal and based on knowledge or very brittle if they are purely chauvinistically nationalistic. When they are the latter one ends up with the quip of Massimo Dazeglio after Italian unification: “now that we have made Italy we need to make the Italians.” This is the equivalent of putting the cart before the horse.

And here is a glorious vision expressed way back in the 18th century: “…by the favor of universal Enlightenment, it might become possible to dream, for the great European family, of going the way of the American Congress…what an outlook then of power, of glory, of well being, of prosperity! What a great and magnificent spectacle.”

At first sight one may think that the operative words in such a statement are “dream,” which implies vision, “Enlightenment” which implies universalism, or perhaps “glory” or “magnificent spectacle” or even “prosperity.” I suggest that it is POWER. This becomes more clear when the identity of the man who uttered the statement is revealed. None other than Napoleon Bonaparte. We all know where his chauvinisticlly nationalistic vision and dream ended up. It became a nightmare.

One more thought if I may: Henry Kissinger used to quip some forty years ago when the EU was still in its infancy: "where is the telephone number by which which to call the EU? That was a mouthful in itself and reveals a good amount of cynicism on the part of Kissinger who was a European-born naturalized American. But aside from Kissinger whom nobody remembers any longer, the question persists: have things changed in forty years and if so how; for change can be for the better but it can also be for the worse; a hard concept to grasp by the young of any continent.

Emanuel Paparella2013-01-02 15:11:48
P.S. I couldn’t agree more with the wise suggestion that the foundations of the EU need to be spiritual, not political nor economic. But here too, the statement ought not to be interpreted as meaning that there are no old spiritual foundations to be discerned and pondered upon before suggesting alternatives, at the risk of throwing out the baby with the dirty water as some activist youth seems to be inclined to do….

This is indeed the problematic I have been exploring in Ovi’s pages in the last five years or so. For the curious reader: one excellent book I invariably suggest to my inquiring students to take the first step of such an exploration (for every journey begins with a first step) is Christopher Dawson’s The Making of Europe. He will open up vistas and horizons invariably leading to spiritual visions.

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