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Europe Still Isn’t Unifying

Earlier this year, European political junkies were treated to one of the odder displays in recent memory: a German Chancellor planning campaign stops in France for the election of a French president. This would have been unimaginable at nearly any other point in the two countries’ history; many viewed it as a sign that the old enmities were fading away and Europe was well and truly unifying.

So much for that theory. French President Sarkozy has announced that Chancellor Merkel would no longer be appearing at his campaign rallies, after realizing that French voters were less than enamored of his newfound enthusiasm for their Teutonic neighbor.

As the FT points out, the end of the affair should hardly have come as a surprise. Many political actions that are de rigeur in France would be totally unacceptable in Germany. Furthermore, elite enthusiasm for the transnational “European project” isn’t shared by the public. Academics and journalists may like politicians who cross borders during elections, but on the campaign trail this has always been a political loser:

This is the time when a nation takes a snapshot of its evolving political identity and renews its social contract by electing its leaders. At such a uniquely delicate moment, a politician visiting from abroad will always find it difficult to fit in.

The lesson from the aborted Sarkozy-Merkel initiative is that this remains true even in an integrating Europe. History and political culture make the differences between German Christian Democrats and right-of-centre French politicians, especially those of Gaullist descent such as Mr Sarkozy, too glaring to be easily ignored. The dawn of pan-European politics is not yet upon us.

For the past few years, a mountain of evidence has been piling up that Europe isn’t unifying. This is just the latest pebble. Expect more.

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  • Steve Massey

    Personally, I suspect that a Europe of mutually suspicious nation states, perhaps loosely tied together by a toothless rump EU, would be highly successful in a world of increasingly sclerotic and useless mega states. Much like the early US, but without the centralising tendency that is has formed the increasingly authoritarian modern US.

  • Luke Lea

    So the EU model isn’t working. The old League of Nations didn’t work. The new United Nations isn’t working. Yet who doubts that some sort of international organization will be required if we expect to maintain world civilization over the long-term. Warring states in a relentless competition for power is not healthy in a nuclear world. New thinking is needed.

  • Luke Lea

    By world civilization I mean the values of Western civilization which we like to think of (and I do think of) as universal: liberal institutions, civil liberties, individual human rights, democracy, human equality, liberty and justice for all, government of the people, by the people, and for the people, put it like you will.

  • Luke Lea

    Including property rights, the rule of law, and economic freedom of course: they are part and parcel of liberal institutions.

  • Luke Lea

    Our best chance, maybe our only chance, in my humble opinion, is for the world’s liberal democracies to band together and “leverage” their collective economic power to gradually force all other parts of the world to abide by liberal norms. That means regulating access to the institutions of international trade and finance — what else is there short of military force?

    Right now it is not too late. But with the growth of China it might be next decade.

  • Jim.

    @Luke Lea-

    The problem is, Europhilosophy has gone beyond the recognizable liberalism of the past, and now EU types get together to lecture State about subjects like gun control (they want more of it) and the death penalty (they want it abolished.) (Who cares if these are against the stated will of their own people?)

    Without a muscular, indispensible, exceptional America to take a firm lead in these international efforts you propose, it is not liberty that is likely to win, under the regime you propose.

  • Kris

    One big problem for a promoter of lies is that he might come to believe them himself.

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