Good debate again on Britain’s role in the EU http://blogs.ft.com/the-world/2013/02/britain-romania-and-that-referendum
@Jean thanks for your response. Britain is not unique in placing its own interests first. It defeated the various powers not with any other primary objective. That doesn’t make it an enemy, far from it. One can also say France or Germany is the enemy of Europe for reasons of repeatingly trying to usurp power, which Britain never did (in Europe).
I endorse Britain’s attempt to maintain the ‘balance of power’ on the continent. Because of Britain, the Spanish, twice French and German occupation of the Netherlands were only short lived. “spoiler against unification of power on the continent” indeed. For which I am by and large grateful. None of those occupations were beneficial or had Dutch best interests in mind, quite the reverse. In the late 16th century in fact the Dutch offered Queen Elizabeth the Dutch crown for various good reasons; Dutch and English interests tend to align and have done so for centuries.
The EU is the best thing that ever happened to Europe; this is the proper way to forge bonds that will last and can handle the various strains that develop. The Euro crisis shows the resilience of what we’ve created. On the other hand we musn’t move far beyond what people can accept. The negativity towards Europe is a political fact that we have to deal with. Berlin and Paris tend to have a way of moving forward, seeking compromises between each other that don’t resonate with the smaller countries, especially those in the north. The Dutch continue to bond strongly with Britain (esp England), more than with any other country in Europe except perhaps Belgium. Many interests are shared, many in fact are Anglo-Dutch. The resistance against a Europe that is largely defined by Berlin and Paris has grown very rapidly over the years especially with the rise of populism. This discontent must find a way into being represented by mainstream politics or risk becoming a “spoiler against unification” as well.
I and many Dutch with me no longer are convinced like I once was that a federal European state would be good. Maybe it will become an option later this century. Berlin but especially Paris are much more paternalistic dirigiste capitals than the Hague, and their bottom line is to serve their own interests. We serve ours aligning with Britain. The lessons we’ve learned from Fortuyn and Wilders are that many people need time to get used to changes, and the faster things change the more people will hit the brakes and vote for populists. I don’t want to derail the EU for that reason. If with Cameron we can address the discontent that can derail the EU and slow things down I am all for it.
Yes many of these anti-EU emotions are avatistic and held by people who may not all have had the best education available. University graduates tend to be overwhelmingly pro-EU. If they were the only ones who had the vote we may have had a Federal Europe toppled by the disenfranchised.
The Soviet Union made huge sacrifices in defeating the Nazis and did more than any other nation. But Stalin was content with Molotov-Ribbentrop, Churchill not even with Munich. While the Soviet Union did more to defeat the Nazis than any other power, they also succeeded in being almost just as horrible as those Nazis in their methodology and occupation.
I’m sorry if after this post I won’t respond; work is calling with urgency.
Britain isn’t better or superior. It is a part of Europe and without it playing that part and without it doing its utmost to secure its interests and putting its stamp on it, the EU will be a Franco-German affair mirroring a stale compromise on how they view the world. Which isn’t the Europe that many if not most Europeans want. Europe needs Britain to stop it from becoming a Franco-German Moloch in which Britain will see nothing of itself. Britain must lead the third group with blatant self-interest, just like the Germans and French do.
@Jeandoe not quite a crush on David. A year ago I marveled at Cameron’s shocking lack of understanding. I agreed with a column calling him a dilettante PM, I called him a lightweight. You probably missed it? I thought my disdain and despair was quite in evidence for several months last year.
Now however I am encouraged that he got the message: leading a coalition of like-minded countries to success in Europe is the precise role I see for Britain in Europe; it’s what Britain has always done. I was pretty certain we’d never get another British Tory PM that would understand how Britain can lead in Europe. So I celebrate what I consider to be a lucky stroke of fortune. And I hope it lasts.
Justin Beeber all you like. Sometimes you so seem to forget all the debates we used to have coming down from mount Sinai like that.
@George Sipos, EU member nations DO have the same rights and responsibilities. What I propose is to reduce the rights when they fail in their responsibilities. Are you aware of the civil rights violations in the countries I mention? Their governments get warning after warning to treat minorities and political opponents according to the charter. But while their responsibilities are wholly flexible and can be bent and broken, their rights are sacrosanct? Why is that.
The trouble is that it is politically incorrect to make judgements on individuals based on their country of origin, and we shouldn’t. But if their country of origin is corrupt and is flaunting the rules of a club it is a member of, then its citizens have learned by example that rules are not important. While in the EU they are. A Greek lady once furiously insisted that the ruling classes in the Netherlands were just as corrupt as those in Greece, just much better at hiding it. Given her understandable emotions I didn’t want to argue the point. But Transparency International’s Global Corruption Index http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results places the Netherlands 9th and Greece 94th (far worse than e.g. Turkey, same score as Moldova and Senegal).
I’m well aware of the great hope and aspirations Bulgarians had when the Soviet Union fell. But the people I knew there insisted Bulgaria should not become a full member until the political system truly had evolved. We should have dangled the carrot in front of them until they did meet the accession criteria.
That Britain is an ambivalent player in Europe is obvious. What nation isn’t. Britain’s geography, history, demography and culture dictates what role it must play.