May 17, 2006

 The stuffed shirts of Europe vs. youth and a fresh start

The closing group photo-op of an EU summit with Latin America in Vienna last Friday was hijacked by Ms. Evangelina Carrozo, the carnival queen of Gualeguaychú in Argentina. The minders didn't realize she is also a Greenpeace activist. She wangled a press pass and paraded a sign protesting a planned pulp mill (nothing to do with the meeting) before the assembled stuffed shirts, having first removed her own.

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It was only a stunt, but the photo illustrates how the European project has lost the fizz, libido, sex-appeal, chutzpah that Ms Carrozo radiates. Jean Monnet had them: in 1914, as a young man of 25, he talked his way into the office of the French Prime Minister, René Viviani, and presented him with a plan for financing the French war effort; in 1934, he got round the unavailability of divorce in Italy by marrying his young Italian partner Silvia in Moscow; in 1951, already 62, he bounced the French government he worked for into the European Coal and Steel Community by manoeuvres that surpassed Sir Humphrey Appleby. Contrast the minimal results wrapped in diplomatic waffle of the gatecrashed Vienna summit, plainly not worth the air fares.

All that vitality is gone.

Young people (and not-so-young) people see the EU as a grey, timid, lowest-common-denomiator technocracy, and they're quite right. When the countries of central and eastern Europe broke their chains and enthusiastically knocked on the door of "Europe", the first thing the EU negotiators presented to the candidates was the acquis communautaire - a take-it-or-leave it package of legislation and regulations 50,000 pages high. The only solution proposed by European leaders is double or quits: to give the EU more powers and more responsibility for defending the European social model, which would cause the mountain to multiply like the water in the cellar of the sorcerer's apprentice. That's Plan A. It inspired the ill-fated draft Constitution rejected by the voters of the Netherlands and France, founder members, part of the inner core. Unbelievably, the crippled Constitution is still on the table.

Plan B, if you can call it that, the one consistently defended by Britain since 1950, is to emasculate the EU and turn it back into a cosy traditional international organisation, run, God help us, by diplomats. They've had some success in making the EU ineffective; the laughable common foreign policy is run by the Council of Ministers, not the Commission, But there's never an actual proposal, which would involve a strategy and choices.

I have a Plan C - sadly not C as in "carnaval", it's actually inspired more by Jemmy Madison and Nicholas of Flüe. You can read it here. on my new website.

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