Well, this is an intriguing mess.
The Scotsman - Top Stories - Blair's EU hammer blow: TONY Blair's credibility over Europe lay in tatters last night, after Brussels unveiled a blueprint for a European superstate. In a last-minute concession to British concerns, the 148-page dossier that proposes stripping the UK government of many of its powers did not contain the word "federal". But in a humiliating blow to the Prime Minister, a leading eurocrat confided only hours later that its replacement term - "in a community way" - meant exactly the same thing. In the new vision for Europe, there would be an elected president and an all-powerful European minister of foreign affairs. Mr Blair's personal envoy to the Convention on the Future of Europe, Peter Hain, attempted to pass off the draft document as a "big advance for democracy" and a victory for Britain.
One wonders exactly what Mr Blair intends to do with this. In its current state, the European Union constitution would almost certainly not pass parliament. If it was submitted to the British public, it would be soundly rejected. (In fact, one suspects that if it were submitted to other European nations, it would be rejected, as well.)
The draft constitution unveiled in Brussels yesterday would, if approved, commit member states to "unreservedly" back a European Union common foreign policy.
One suspects -- just suspects -- that the insertion of the term "unreservedly" may have been a response to the recent unpleasantness between Germany and France and Eastern Europe over US policy toward Iraq. It's fascinating to see how autocratic Europe's politicians really are, in their heart of hearts. Even here, the states didn't declare themselves lockstep behind the administration's policy. Now, in what's theoretically supposed to be something resembling a democratic union, Europe wishes to stifle public dissent.
This would not seem to be an unreservedly reasonable way to proceed to create a democratic superstate.
Elsewhere, the Guardian/Observer is accusing newspaper magnates, politicians and other movers and shakers of being in cahoots to torpedo the new constitution.
Referendum calls grow as EU issues draft constitution (The Times Online, May 27, 2003): ..... Despite trying to appear reasonable and pragmatic in public, behind the scenes ministers are preparing to wield Britain’s veto if its powers over foreign policy are threatened. Mr Blair will team up with Jacques Chirac, the French President, to challenge any serious encroachment into national governments’ power to set their own foreign policy.
And that, frankly, just seems wildly inappropriate. After having tried to bludgeon Eastern Europe into following the French and German policy line on Iraq, after having thoroughly villified Britain during that same time period, NOW Chirac wants to make certain that national governments retain the power to set their own policy. Clearly, someone is being fed a bill of goods; it's just not clear who it is. (Given that he seems to have spent almost two solid months being taken by surprise by various developments here and elsewhere, one suspects it's Blair.)
The EU bureaucrats seem to want to turn Europe into a more autocratic version of the US. Unfortunately, it's not likely to work well when you have so many members with different histories, with long memories of actual antagonism to some of these states ... with different languages, for heaven's sake. What will wind up being the lingua franca of the new Europe? Given the stated desire of some bureaucrats for this to be a political, economic, and military counterweight to the US, it would seem rather silly for the official language to be English. Numerically, the largest single linguistic group would be Russians, if Russia is allowed to join this federation, but Russian also seems rather improbable.
It will be fascinating to see how this all plays out ... in a "glad I'm not there" sort of way.Posted by iain at May 27, 2003 12:12 AM
I'm afraid your comment is too much of an outsider's view. There are indeed divergent feelings. There is a deep divide between European and British Europe, equally felt on both sides. This means e g that the Iraqi war will leave Spain (and the Netherlands and others) unaffected while Britain will be crucified for taking the Bush side. Continentals would rather see the continental divide narrow between England and the US, and the ocean between Ireland or Quebec and Europe slowly dry up. When Berlusconi and Aznar take a stand in favour of the Bush strategy, it is perceived as a conservative strategic move, based on a community of interests, not as an expression of kinship or of natural affinity, which is certainly the way we look at Britain. They are not "one of us", they are simply them. Weird. Odd. Different. Let them stick with their pound, their past glory, their 19th century economy. It is clear that though Blair and Bush can't possibly be friends, they are partners. I would say the same for Germany and France, and Italy, Greece and the rest of... Europe. There is no such opposition as between bureaucrats (French and Germans) en democrats (Brits), there are opposite forces at work, converging in "Europe", and diverging and anti-Europe in the British political majority, labour and conservative alike.Posted by Toninho at May 27, 2003 02:37 AM