Maximization of European values can only be achieved through a United Europe of States and not through a United States of Europe
The European continent is the cradle of democracy that has come to full maturity in the national states. These have united in a European Union in order to guarantee the interests of the European peoples. The drive towards a unitary state however, leads to a United States of Europe that has no resemblance with the United States of America but instead resembles the Soviet Union; the European Union as a Soviet Union 2.0.
In order to maintain and expand the European ideal of freedom and democracy, it is therefore necessary to strive for a United Europe of States where the states themselves have great individual sovereignty. In this way, Europe can compete economically and maintain its prosperity, whereby it even has some important competitive advantages. The different European countries have a strong national identity and compete with each other. A state has a monopoly in many areas of society which makes it hard to impossible for alternatives to arise. The existence of competing states provides the opportunity for alternatives to arise which enhances people’s freedom. Thus, there is a form of individualism at the national level which prevents a collectivist system from being implemented that would cause irreparable damage to our prosperity.
The goal of history
Through ‘Europe’, the national countries and its citizens can increase their influence in the world. Cooperation between European countries is therefore a good thing. This should however not mean that the European project is aimed at undermining the present national identities within Europe. When for Europe means against national countries than the European project is corrupted. The whole idea behind the European project is to provide additional possibilities through European cooperation and not that people’s identity and possibilities are undermined whereby people have to sacrifice their life’s chances.
The historicism of Hegel, in which history has a goal, is the anchor of the new European faith. In this idea Europe’s destiny is to create a unitary state. It is therefore fixed, regardless of the events. If there is no alternative to the European project then we are not free and only the slave of history, or rather of those who interpret history for us. The argument of the advocates of European state formation, that Europe is also a community of values, should therefore be interpreted in that way.
An important value of Western culture is freedom. You can only be free if there are choices. The idea that there is no alternative to European state formation is not descriptive but prescriptive. The elite want nothing to do with an alternative and thus try every possibility to expel it from the debate. If you have no alternative, you agree with the current situation. To the opponents of European state formation the task of formulating and executing alternatives. Where the advocates of European state formation try to deny freedom, it is to the opponents of a unitary European state to regain this freedom. If there is any goal in history it would be greater freedom.
Saving democracy by limiting the powers of the European Parliament
The view of what the role of individual countries in Europe should be is not a choice between either no ties to Europe or the complete abolition of the individual states, but rather the choice of how Europe can best be arranged so that the interests of the nation-states and national populations are best served.
The history of European state formation has turned the European institutions into a complicated mix of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. In the first, the national states are the primary actors while the latter imposes a higher authority over the states. Today, Europe is therefore not transparent and the various interests and capabilities are difficult to comprehend. A complex, interconnected problem can only be made understandable by simplifying it and looking at its essence. In the case of Europe, the crucial question is which direction we want Europe to take; towards intergovernmentalism or supranationalism? Although the European Union has always been a hybrid between these two, we can choose which way it leans towards. If we choose the first option then it means that we need to place the democratic legitimacy with the national parliaments and not with the European Parliament.
The advocates of supranationalism strive for a European state in which the individual countries will eventually disappear. The consequences of such a situation are disastrous for the individual countries because such a European state is either not democratic because there is no European people, or if that people is there then there would be no place for the national languages and cultures. This immediately shows a major problem if we were to support supranationalism that ultimately serves to create a unitary state, namely that the current states, languages and cultures must disappear.
However, it is highly unlikely that for example in 2020 the French and German languages will be abolished in order for us to arrive at one European people. No sane person believes that the great cultures of Europe will simply abolish themselves in favor of a Brussels idea. European state formation is often legitimized through the idea that it is a guarantee against war. However, only something as radical as a great war can merge different European national identities into a completely new identity.
It is a good thing when citizens have more influence on decision-making in Brussels because there are so many decisions that are important for people. This does however not mean that the European Parliament should be given more power. The alleged democratic legitimacy of the European Parliament is a misrepresentation. From a democratic perspective it is better to limit the powers of the European Parliament. This ‘parliament’ is not a popular representation in the democratic sense of the word, because it does not represent a European people.
An untapped paradise of new bureaucratic jobs
What would be the benefits of a European nation-state in the 21st century? The most important benefit seems to be economies of scale. Since the end of World War II, individual European countries have been too small to play any major political role of significance on the world stage. The conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States was testament to this. The influence of the European countries only grew smaller after the end of the Cold War. European countries are therefore increasingly politically irrelevant on the world stage. This also applies to the elite of European countries. A major motivation for European state formation therefore lays in the fear of the elite for their impending irrelevance. ‘Europe’ is for the elite mainly an untapped paradise of new bureaucratic jobs without the need for democratic accountability.
The debate about the Euro for example is for the elite a question whether they can be a global player rather than whether it is about good financial management for the people to live in prosperity.
In many cases, ‘Brussels’ acts like the Russian tax authorities whereby the honest, hard-working citizens and countries are additionally punished when the government needs money, while those who do not comply with the responsibilities are left alone. There is after all little to get from those who have nothing.
Fear and loss
European state formation has much support among the elite but little among the population. The changes to European structures are then always made as low-key as possible, because they know that most people do not really want them. Once the impact of the changes is understood, it will be difficult to reverse them without suffering major losses for the people. In a sense, European state formation is driven by the fear of loss and not by potential profits. People are frightened into believing that without ‘Europe’ no export is possible. As if a new relationship with the EU would mean isolation. This is a threat made by the elite that will never be carried out because the damage to everyone in Europe would be too great. Fear and loss are then what Europe is associated with.
The Cold War showed that European state formation did not bring peace because during much of that time the Cold War was being acted out. This conflict was not waged between European countries themselves, but that was due to the fact that they were too weak in comparison to the major world players. The long-lasting peace in Europe is more likely caused by the integration into NATO than into the European Union. NATO is therefore the appropriate organization to align foreign policy and defense with. This alliance represents all of the Western values. In addition, NATO is militarily much stronger than the European Union can ever be.
A bureaucratic European Union manages Europe’s decline
The vision of the European bureaucrats is similar to that of the officials in the Soviet Union. A great dislike of competition and the desire to have a planned economy. With grandiose, unrealistic plans they attempt to overtake the USA, to hold off China and at the same time create a major economic power block themselves. All this is done using a neo-communist mindset. This is due to the fact that the EU thinks inside a bureaucratic framework. A bureaucracy is all about controlling and suppressing conflict. For this purpose, ‘equality’ is imposed, while freedom is sacrificed. The European nations are however very different from each other, in culture and economic development. This causes the European public arena to be filled with groups who have strongly divergent interests and are as a consequence at odds with each other. Equality is imposed in order to limit this conflict. Imposed equality is however a form of distrust. Freedom is impossible in such an environment because if people would be free than they would choose to cooperate with others who promote their own best interests.
Whereas the United States of America has a dynamic free market economy, the EU is creating a neo-communist planned economy. It is highly unlikely that such a state can be prosperous and remain competitive. Perhaps Europe has little to fear militarily (thanks to the protection provided by the USA); its economic prosperity can vanish like snow on a sunny afternoon if European state formation is allowed to continue. Europe tries to imitate the dynamism of the USA by adopting some of its appearances but without tackling the core issues. The major problem lays in rewarding conformism and preventing competition in order to remain in control of groups who are too different to fit in one political, economic and cultural unitary state. In this way, the EU is managing Europe’s decline.
If we as European peoples do not wish to be a footnote in history and instead want to be economically prosperous and politically relevant we need to work towards a United Europe of States where the political primacy and democratic legitimacy is based in national countries.
The article is an edited version of chapter 20 of the book: Jeroen Zandberg (2013): Freedom in Self-determination. 206 pp. 9.28 Euro; available at Amazon.