March 3, 2009
Gideon Rachman’s op-ed in today’s Financial Times should be read by all declared eurosceptics and those who do not regard themselves as such but are supporting greater ‘nationalisation’ of policies. The columnist arrived in Brussels in 2001 believing that most Europeans felt more loyalty to their nation than to Europe; that steadily enlarging the powers of Brussels was undemocratic and dangerous; that in a crisis nationalist instincts would come to the fore; that the euro was liable to run into trouble; and that the Brussels-based elite was a “new class” that had confused its own interests with those of the continent of Europe. His foresight was proved broadly right.
Rachman points to the divisions opening within the EU as result of the economic crisis. It is precisely because of the threat to the Union that he renounces his euroscepticism. He believes the “four freedoms” (free movement of goods, people, services and capital) to be “huge and tangible achievements” and that it would “be terrible to see them rolled back”.
The single market is at risk. “Protectionism and nationalism are close cousins.” How right he is that division in Europe would be “particularly unfortunate at a time when there is an urgent need for international cooperation on a global scale”. “The EU is the best example we have of international governance.”
The Union indeed has many problems, many the creation of the “Brussels elite”, but most due to Member State leaders’ own failings. “The threat over the next year will be the disintegration of the EU.” Rachman rermarkably closes with, ‘I love Big Brother.”
European integration has brought more than a half century of peace, stability and prosperity. One death in Sarajevo in 1914 led to millions of deaths in central and western Europe. Several thousand deaths in Sarajevo a decade or so ago did not for one moment threaten the stability of western Europe. But European integration has not passed the point of no return. The breaking up of the single market, the then inevitable collapse of the euro area, could lead to more nationalism and, a return to Europe’s darkest era.
This is not being over-dramatic. There are occasions when speaking out like this risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But what is currently so dangerous is that too few people appreciate the risks and consequences of European disintegration and most of today’s Member State leaders do not seem to understand where “Buy Spanish”, “British jobs for British workers”, French automobile companies being urged not to invest elsewhere in the EU…can lead.
There is very little time left before the European Parliament election campaigns begin, and when the eurosceptics will have a field day, unless Member State leaders start speaking and acting in unison and explaining to their electorates why we need a European Union, warts and all.
Author : Stanley Crossick