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Europe's dignity for desert
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-11-13 07:33:46
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Back in 80s there was a short of anecdote in Brussels, all the serious decisions were taken in the after-summit semi-informal dinners with all the leaders enjoying their foie gras and French wine while their assistance were running like mad negotiating in the hotel rooms  above the dinning hall. Some anecdotes from that period with Margaret Thatcher and Francois Mitterrand have reached the public in memoir books. However the EU summit has reached new heights since they are going to decide the top jobs in EU hierarchy during an informal …working dinner skipping the summit.

But this time there is a huge difference, in the place of Margaret Thatcher will be Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy will try to stand in the heights of Francois Mitterrand, the only common thing Angela Merkel has with Helmut Kohl is their conservatism and Italy was balancing between Bettino Craxi, Amintore Fanfani and Cuilio Andreotti with none of them compared with the unique Silvio Berlusconi. And it was the time when Europe was transforming, taking a more solid shape while the world was getting in a new era, the post cold war era with Mikhail Gorbachev signalling the new wind of change that overtook the whole world.

What is left from that era is …Barroso! The decadence of all the hopes for an active European Union, for a union that could have played decisive role in the international scene. The European Union lost its influence starting in Africa and Middle East and later internationally when they decided to change from allies to followers of the American foreign policy and especially of the George W. Bush administration’s policies. That period was bad for the Americans but it was definitely the period the Europeans lost their dignity with final strike when Donald Rumsfeld talked about old and new Europe, describing old Europe as a bunch of arteriosclerotic old hippies – apparently I’m still waiting for an apology – slow minded who need guardians.

And it was people like Barroso, like Solana, like Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi who let that happen and it is the very same people who are going to find their successor o lead Europe back to its international position sometime between the salmon soup and the creamy desert! It feels like Europe’s dignity has become the desert! How sad! And what a defeat is going to be if they all agree that the future of Europe lays in the hands of Tony Blair as the new EU president. If the 90s signalled the beginning of the European decadence then 2010 will mean that we reached the bottom.

This last decade the EU has succeed in only one thing, to disappoint its citizens and unfortunately the blame is going to the people who actually led us there and not to the institutions or the fundamentals of the Union. Men and women too small for their mission, who used the union for their opportunistic and personal agendas often suspiciously representing interests alien to the Union and its foundations. Barroso was a mistake and we saw that from the very beginning of his presidential appearance. From the beginning he tried to rule Europe using the method of share and rule, working for the powerful and manipulating the weak of Europe. As a committee he failed in every step of the EU foreign policy and he was a disaster when it came to the economic policy. The expansion regarding its timing and the way it was done it was a catastrophe that Europe will need time to stomach and somehow the man has put the blueprint of the future president.

As a result of those failures we all saw in the last Euro-election the number of the euro-sceptics increasing and finding settler in nationalistic and extreme right parties. The move to those parties has nothing really with how much the European citizens support or not the European Union, it has mainly to do with how much the European Union as it is now has disappointed its citizens. And by replacing Barroso with Tony Blair the leaders of the European states don’t help much.

Europe needs to re-establish itself and what happened with the constitution and the Lisbon treaty should sound as a warning on that direction. However when the European Union is led from people like Sarkozy, Brown and Berlusconi any expectation seems naïve and perhaps Thatcher’s wish for a loose partnership than a Union looks more realistic. And all that while the European leaders will eat the European dignity as desert in their informal working dinner!


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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-13 15:20:23
The above brings me back to a fantasy of mine wherein the present leader of the EU Mr. Barroso in a modern world wherein people live forever, meets the founding father of the EU Mr. Monet. A short conversation ensues and it goes something like this:

Monet: Good day Mr. Barroso, since you have proclaimed yourself a “newropean” lately, could you kindly clarify for me and the other EU founding fathers how do you understand that term?

Barroso: That’s easy, it basically means that we are all new Europeans now, in the same bank together and go to the same soccer games on Sunday and have a common currency called the euro competing with the dollar and leading us to greater and greater prosperity. That prosperity will lead to greater and greater power within a world of real politik.

M. With all due respect, I beg to disagree. Not only that statement does not sound very modern, it sounds very much Machiavellian from the 15th century. That is not why we founding fathers established the European Union.

B. Oh no? Why don’t you tell me then?

M. The original vision was to have all the nations of the continent live in peace and democracy, respectful of human rights, especially those that are inalienable deriving from its Christian heritage. Those are the values and ideals that would ultimately unite us, and would be spelled out in a visionary constitution that would not ignore the historical heritage of the continent and its genuine cultural identity. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-11-13 15:23:18
B. That smells very much like the old European serving a stale dessert after a sumptuous dinner. You mean to say that we should impose Christianity on the people of Europe? That is anachronistic, to say the least. You and your fellow founders De Gasperi, Shumman, Aidenauer should be aware by now that we are all enlightened modern secularists now, we don’t allow crucifixes in public places any longer. Crucifixes belong in church and so does any reference to religion. Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to speak freely about religion in the public square, especially when it comes to the Catholic Church.

M. To answer your loaded question, no, it simply means that to forget the heritage of the continent means ultimately to build on sand and assure that this new polity I founded will self-destroy. Don’t you see the results of that historical and political myopia? As the English say, you are clever by half. What do you suppose Shumman meant when he said “I never feel so European as when I enter a cathedral?”

B. I don’ t have the foggiest. That he was a bigoted Catholic perhaps? Why don’t you tell me?

M. Simply that on continent with so much cultural variety, so many different languages, so many centrifugal political forces pulling at the center, any transcendent and positive symbol that can work as a centripetal force ought to be respected and even encouraged. It is not a question of imposing anything, it is a question of guaranteeing freedom of religion and speech in the public square and providing a vision of common values and common good to the people, without which any polity assures its own future demise.(continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-11-13 15:24:16
B. You may have been the founder of the EU, and I tip my hat to that, but really now Mr. Monet, with all due respect, aren’t you aware of how passé that statement sounds? Of how old European it makes you sound? We are not the Europe of sixty years ago any longer. We are now Newropeans. We don’t believe in visionary constitutions and conspiracies of hope any longer. We don’t fight windmills in Utopia. That is for Don Quixote. We Newropeans are practical enlightened people and know better: the game is all about power and real politik even if we pay lip service to egalitè, fraternitè, libertè.

M. Indeed, that does sound like the European of old; that before World War II. Marx had it on target those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it. And now let me turn in my grave Mr. Barroso and as the Italians say: “in bocca al lupo.”

B. In the mouth of the wolf? Another anachronistic statement. Sleep well, Mr. Monet.

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