March 6, 2009
The 3 March post “I love Big Brother” highlighted Gideon Rachman’s conversion from eurosceptic. The single market is at risk. “Protectionism and nationalism are close cousins.” 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 threat over the next year will be the disintegration of the EU.”
Charlemagne writes in a not dissimilar vein in todays’ Economist – not known as a ‘pro-European’ publication. He worries about violent anti-government protests in Greece, Latvia, Bulgaria and the growth of extremism on the right and asks whether 1930s economics could lead Europe back to 1930s politics. “Everybody knows (or should know?) how the 1930s ended.” Yet, Charlemagne fears that intriguing echoes from the 1930s can still be heard. “It is not that bits of Europe are flirting with fascism again. It is rather that the same issues irk voters then as now—and politicians are responding to them in similar ways”.
And therein he believes, lies the biggest reason to think that the 1930s will not be repeated. EU membership binds national politicians into a set of essentially liberal, free-trading, internationalist standards. Among EU leaders there is a consensus on the need to defend “fundamental rights”. The EU can be expected to block blatantly discriminatory laws.
While Charlemagne believes that bad things could happen as this crisis deepens. In one nightmare, a fragile EU member could become a failed state. But the EU stands for international solidarity and interdependence. “Its maddening complexity amounts to a permanent compromise between competing interests that also makes it a bulwark against extremism. That may not always make Brussels popular with voters. But it does make one thankful that the EU exists.”
“The European Union is one reason not to fear the spectre of the 1930.”
The messages coming through loud and clear – from Rrachman, Charlemagne and others – are that, despite its faults:
- The European Union is as important today as it was in the 1950s.
- The EU is our safeguard against returning to the bad old days.
- The EU is needed to work with the US, China and other countries in overcoming the current economic and financial crisis.
- No single country can go it alone.