A European Superstate

20 June 2012

A European Superstate

It is assumed on all sides that ‘Europe’ will, for the first time in history, be a major theme in the election campaign for the Dutch national Parliament. That’s a good thing, not only because of the pressing urgency created by the ongoing crisis, but also because nothing less than our democracy and our economy are at stake.

by Jan Marijnissen

From the moment that the Maastricht Treaty came into force, on 1st November 1993, European integration became a near-autonomous process, because every step in the direction of a European superstate - so we have been and continue to be constantly informed – makes a further step necessary. The single European market supposedly made a monetary union necessary, this union led in turn to the demand for ‘economic governance’, and now we are told by Germany’s Chancellor Merkel that this all points to the need for a political union, something like a United States of Europe.

One problem: the European public doesn’t see things that way. People are concerned about the question of who will soon have control of their countries. So-called ‘economic governance’ means that the European Commission is already in a position to meddle in a far-reaching way in the domestic policies of sovereign states. Our annual budget, for example, after being presented, in keeping with tradition, on Prince’s Day in September, will then still have to be sent to Brussels for approval.

I am convinced that the great majority of Dutch people, and this applies by the way to other Europeans as well, support the idea of cooperation within Europe. Almost nobody is arguing in favour of leaving the European Union. The advantages of this close cooperation are obvious to all. We no longer unnecessarily reproduce each other’s efforts, and everyone profits from economies of scale. And still more importantly, Germany and France have for sixty years settled their differences around a table, instead of trekking off to never-ending battlefields.

But where did it all go wrong? From where did the deep-rooted distrust which many people feel towards everything that comes out of Brussels arise? It’s all gone too quickly, people aren’t able to see the full picture, they don’t understand what is happening and why. They have the feeling that any say they may have had is slipping away like sand through their fingers. And there’s more: many have the feeling also that Brussels is primarily there for the sake of major corporations, and much less to serve the interests of the public. The neoliberal character of the EU’s policies of the last twenty years has contributed strongly to this image.

It is in fact a strange paradox: the ‘friends of Europe’ – the Europhiles – have in their pressure for a single, federal Europe, lost sight of the need for support for their plans. A fatal error. By constantly putting the population of Europe into a situation where it is given no options, and forcing it in the direction of ‘more Europe’, they have used up a lot of their credit. Worse still, because they did not have their drive towards unity under control, they brought countries with totally different economies under a single monetary regime. The tragic consequences of this can now be seen, and their byproduct is ever more distrust of European integration.

Jan Marijnissen is the Chair of the SP. This column first appeared in the Dutch national daily NRC Handelsblad of 20th June 2012.

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