Europeism: The Bigger Picture

What is Europeism?



by Václav Klaus (President of the Czech Republic)
http://www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=LmEVjubT5o4I

In recent years, both in my country and abroad, I have often spoken and written about Europeism, which I consider to be the dominant ideology of the contemporary Europe. In spite of the existing pluralism of opinions in many particular things, this ideology more or less determines all the important current events in Europe through its exceptional strength, its general acceptance and its dangerous simplicity. It determines, predestinates and guides people, even though many delude themselves that they are completely immune to the influence of any ideology. 

When writing the last three sentences, I was long searching for suitable words which would clarify or specify this opinion of mine. I wanted to suggest that even the nominal (i.e. formal) freedom of speech which exists as a result of final dismantling the European totalitarian regimes of the Communist and Nazi type is not sufficient for a truly open dialogue about many issues, including the fundamental dialogue about Europe.

I cannot make a statement which I would gladly make, that consistent elimination of authoritarianism in the field of ideas has taken place. The arrogant authoritativeness of Europeanism, which makes itself felt every day, is one of the firmly rooted characteristics of the contemporary stage of European development. And I consider this arrogant authoritativeness, together with intolerant (and in many respects freedom suppressing) political correctness, in their synergy as a destructive combination.

Due to this, we are at an important crossroad, and this is not thanks to the results of the last year referendums on the European constitution in France and the Netherlands, as various people think or try to suggest to us. These referendums were only the proverbial tip of the iceberg of under the surface hidden, more general and profound problems. Let’s try, through this text, to contribute to the clarification of what these problems are about and why it is so.

We must search in the world of ideas. Even if it is the gradual evolution, emerging from the natural spontaneity of activities of millions of people, which in the long term dominates the human society and not constructivism, a dictate of the chosen ones, “the ideas matter”. Thoughts, ideas or ideologies – much more than momentary interests – influence where we are going and particularly where we are heading. That is why ideas, visions, and the ambitious projects based on them, are so important. The course of events in Europe in the last half-a-century is the best evidence of this. I pose myself a question which ideas, which visions and which ideologies had caused this course of events.

Europe of the last fifty years can not be described by dominance of some – in encyclopedias well described, historically well-known – “isms” because each one of them is partial and expresses only one component of our multidimensional reality. The thinking in Europe is based on a wider, more general and evidently heterogeneous doctrine. I call it Europeism. It has a number of important features.

Europeism as a conglomerate of ideas

In my speeches and also in my written work, I repeatedly stress perhaps even more after my participation at a very inspiring conference of the New Europe group in January 2001 in London (see A. Rankin, ‘What’s Wrong with the European Ideal?’, New Europe, London, 2000, who spoke of Europeism and regarded it as an ideology of a quasi-religious type) – that Europeism is “a conglomerate of ideas”. It is a highly heterogeneous structure, but its individual parts are not isolated. They have their own, very important internal interrelationships (each one of its parts influences and strengthens the others). I also say that Europeism is a doctrine which hardly anyone advocates explicitly and, due to this, it is insufficiently specified or systematically formulated (de facto only some of its critics talk about it seriously). It is unfortunately not possible to simply refer to any clearly defined sources, from which it could be “read”. Rather paradoxically, it could be said that the text of the European constitution was a certain “summary” expression of Europeism but it is not a good source either, because this text did its best to suppress many of the important features and manifestations of Europeism, or to make them intentionally unclear.

The critique of Europeanism, of course, exists in a number of publications – systematically, for example, in the English monthly “The European Journal”, with many unexpected ideas and provocatively in the book by John Laughland The Tainted Source; Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea”, more easily in the book by a thorough and attentive American observer of Europe John Gillingham “European Integration 1950-2003: Superstate or New Market Economy?” (Cambridge University Press, 2003), in the extensive and in many respects revolutionary book of Christopher Booker and Richard North The Great Deception – The Secret History of the European Union”, the Czech edition of which was published in May 2006,  but even in these publications there is no explicit polemic with Europeism as such.

The interrelationships between various components of Europeism have been recently interestingly shown by John O’Sullivan in his article “The EU’s Usual Crisis” (Quadrant, December 2005), although he does not talk directly about Europeism either. He, however, notes the parallel existence of three dimensions of Europeist thinking: political economy, foreign policy and the concept of integration. He makes a hypothesis that “those who favour the European socio-political model will tend to support the ‘counterweight’ model of Europe in foreign policy and supranational model of European integration” (pp 39), and he tries to show us that there are no accidental connections between these issues. For him these different ideas “cluster”, although he adds that they are “tendencies, rather than absolutely firm relationships” (ibid.). 

This is approximately how I would describe it as well. I also see internal interconnections in this “conglomerate of ideas” and the enormous strength of their synergy which stems from that. Due to this, Europeism brings together people with very different worldviews and it brings them together in many particular things. These people do not otherwise agree with each other too much but to stand against Europeism (they mistakenly – intentionally or unintentionally – say against Europe!) would by a blasphemy for all of them. This immensely weakens any possibility of their criticism of Europeism. I am afraid that – in the today’s Czech political setting, for example – the Social, Christian and Civic democrats, and perhaps even Communists more or less accept the ideology of Europeism, although none of them could ever admit their “friendship” in public

Europeism as today’s European metaideology is, for all of its advocates, somehow “before the brackets”. It can accommodate the agreeing or disagreeing with the war in Iraq, wishing for higher or lower taxes, reconciling or not reconciling with the massive wiretapping of the citizens, wishing or not wishing to trade with China, supporting or not supporting “the registered partnership” and many other things. Certain “clustering” exists, however, in all these attitudes which are seemingly unrelated to each other. And such clustering is the defining feature of this metaideology. 

The basic structure of Europeism

I would not wish to attempt at any vertical hierarchization (as regards significance), but it is possible to structure Europeism horizontally in the following way:

1. Political-economic (or social) dimension

One of the key parts of Europeism which is currently shared by both the European politically correct right and left (although less so in the Anglo-Saxon than in the “continental” or German-French Europe) is the model of the so called social-market economy. Although, it is evidently an unproductive, overregulated, demotivating and excessively redistributing paternalistic system, the Europeists base their position on it stubbornly. They refuse “markets without adjectives”, they do not want the “free market”. They do not like the word capitalism. They are defending all types of government interventions under the slogan – and this is a nice term suggested by O’Sullivan – “civilized corrections of market anarchy” (pp. 38).

Let’s notice the use of the not unimportant word “anarchy”. Europeism does not regard market as imperfect – like everything human – but yet the best, the fairest and the most democratic mechanism of human interactions. The advocates of Europeism do not accept the fundamental teaching of Adam Smith, nor the ideas of the economists and representatives of other social sciences who followed him. The basic paradigm of Europeism is the mirror opposite – market is primarily anarchy and government is here to correct this anarchy.

It is a sad intellectual defect and a dangerous personality fault of the Europeists that they do not realize that in overwhelming majority of cases government failure is much bigger and much more dangerous than market failure, and that government is not a neutral entity maximizing the well-being of its citizens, but an instrument for advocacy of very narrow private interests (of different interest groups and also of very utilitaristically-behaving politicians and bureaucrats who satisfy mainly their own interests). The Europeists do not realize that government regulation is a weapon in the hands of influential, well-organised (and therefore vocal) interest groups, not a promoter of interests of an anonymous, not organized and hence almost defenseless citizen.

In summary, Europeism is – in its political-economic dimension – based on:

- the explicit refusal of liberal doctrine of the functioning of the economy (and of society) and

- the belief in the government capacity to be “a productive” factor even in the activities which go above its minimal (classic liberal) concept.

Europeism doesn’t want to learn a lesson from the tragic episode of communism and other, not less evil variants of centrally administered society and economy (different types of fascist or authoritarian regimes). Nor does it learn any lesson from the experience with the European “civilized corrections of market anarchy”. It interprets it as extraordinary success.

This European social model is accepted by both SPD and CDU in Germany. It is even considered a part of the cultural identity in France (with the exception of a few liberals). Scandinavia almost competes about authorship of this model. In Austria, it is viewed as the desirable counterpart of the American “wild capitalism”. The British Conservatives have long stood out of this stream but I am not sure whether this will continue under the new leadership which is politically much more correct than the previous ones. The question is whether the “new” ODS (Civic Democratic Party) is not becoming softer in this respect as well.

2. The model of the integration process

For half a century there has been an ongoing dispute in Europe between the advocates of the liberalization model of European integration which was based primarily on intergovernmental cooperation of individual European countries (which kept significant majority of parameters of their political, social and economic systems in their own hands) and on the removal of all unnecessary barriers to human activities existing on the borders of states – and the advocates of the harmonization (or homogenization) integration model which is based on unification from above, orchestrated by the EU-authorities, with the ambition to level-out all aspects of life for all Europeans and to do it in a supranational entity, which will determine an overwhelming majority of systemic parameters for the entire integrated Europe through its supranational bodies.

The first of these models has been mostly based on the assumption that the removal of these barriers will lead to a desirable competition between states, as well as to the consequent liberalization within individual countries. Liberalization should not come as a dictate of a wise central authority, endowed with unhuman qualities, but on the self-interests of individual countries which would try to make the conditions they offer not worse than those offered by other member countries. This should be a spontaneous activity, not a project organized from above. The second of these models wanted and wants the opposite. It essentially did not wish for the best system (the least regulated one) to win, but it wished for the general acceptance of the most regulated system (regulated by the advocates of this approach).

In the initial phase of European integration (approximately until the beginning of the era of Jacques Delors in the mid-80s) the first model prevailed, although Jean Monnet wanted something conceptually different from the very beginning. In the current phase it is, however, the second model that has evidently prevailed. Europeism fully identifies with it. It is embodied in the European constitution and now – after the referendums in France and the Netherlands – by the everyday “creeping” shift of Europe towards further and further harmonization and homogenization of people and the conditions of their life, which goes on silently ahead.

The integration problem has, of course, many partial aspects. One of them is the question who or what is the basic entity (or building block) of European integration. Is it the man (the individual man or woman) or the state? 

The building of a supranational entity, which is an evident and undisguised ambition of Europeism and of Europeists, weakens the states and strengthens the direct relationship of the individual towards the EU. The weakening of the state creates a vacuum. The European Union is not a state. It is merely a “set of supranational authorities”, whereas the state is an entity which is fundamentally, by its very nature, more than a set of authorities. It is possible to like or not to like the country you live in. It is possible, for example, to cheer for it or not to cheer for it at the Olympics in Torino. It is possible to defend it with a gun in the hand. It is (usually) possible to speak its language. It is possible to worship it and hate it. It is not possible, however, to have such relationship towards a set of supranational authorities (which J. Delors wanted to provide with his proverbial “soul” of the EU).

Related to this is the conscious and even intentional strengthening of the role of regions vis-à-vis the states, leading to regionalization of Europe and to the Europeists’ looking forward to their living in the nirvana of postgovernmental society. The Europeists proclaim that the idea of a nation state is long dead. Therefore they give up the basic concept of the original intergovernmental European integration – the unanimity principle – and are defending the move to the majority voting as the elementary rule of decision-making in the EU. 

As I already mentioned, another important aspect of the Europeist model is the effort to introduce – as far as the legislation and institutional framework is concerned – a noncompetitive and therefore harmonized system within which the individual parts of Europe would not compete with each other because only one single system would prevail in them. Virtually everything – tax rates, social security benefits, regulation methods, various kinds of “standards” (environmental, hygienic, veterinary, labour, fire, safety, etc.) would be harmonized or homogenized under the wise guidance of the supervisor of this “unity”, which is the EU-bureaucracy and the EU-politicians.

The problem is that this, from-above organized harmonization can only be done upwards. The economists understand it because they are familiar with the term „downward rigidity“. All kinds of things cannot go downwards because the deeply rooted vested interests do not allow for any movement in this direction. We should know that it basically means the increase of the costs and the decrease of the competitiveness. Some European countries already have to face these high costs and to them related lower degree of competitiveness. The harmonization policy is nothing else but an attempt of these countries to export their high costs and their lowered degree of competitiveness to other EU countries; to the countries which are – for various historic reasons – at a different level of economic development, have different priorities, customs and traditions, as well as different ambitions. (As a side-note, I must mention that if the European Union as a whole does not succeed in exporting these “costs” outside the EU, it will be necessary to intensify European protectionism and further increase the discrimination against the less developed countries. (More about this can be found in my recent speech in India Dubious Attitudes of Western Countries Vis-à-Vis the Developing World“ (www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=gx0cxKxoSeVY)

Europeism is a powerful supranational tendency, strongly and mercilessly standing against the intergovernmental principle

3. Views on freedom, democracy and society

The Europeists are also characterized by their clear stances in the disputes about parliamentary democracy or civil society (a programme which is conceptually different from “the society of free citizens”) and in the disputes about democracy or post-democracy. They do not prefer standard democratic processes. They give preference to the pragmatic decision-making efficiency (by simplifying the decision-making procedures, which can be undoubtedly slow and costly). They prefer collectivity to the individuals (as well collective to the individual rights), social partnership (different kinds of syndicalism or corporatism), and the classical democracy to corporatism. It is also entirely obvious on which side the Europeists stand in the disputes about the importance of various post-democratic “isms”, such as multiculturalism, feminism, ecologism, homosexualism, NGOism, etc.

It can be also said that the Europeists want, in their decision-making at the supranational level, to get rid of politics (because they dream about creating an apolitical society) and to introduce the system of decision-making which would be easy and uncontrollable. That is why they advocate post-democracy and graciously smile at the obsolete and old-fashioned advocates of the good old democracy and the good old “political” politics. Since they are (and like to be) far from the citizens, since they do not see the citizens and do not reach them directly, they need various collectivities, groups and groupings with which they can deal on a large scale (either to follow them blindly or suppress them and complicate their life). That is why they like the corporativist concept of social partnerships, that is why they want big business and big trade unions, that is why they want Galbraith’s countervailing powers (at macro level, not the market, functioning at micro level). Since they do not want to be under the citizens’ strict control, it is convenient for them to deal with various NGOs, which – at least that is what they hope for – give them an otherwise missing legitimacy and “the voice of people”, even if it is a very strange kind of people.

Europeism is also a priori succumbing to everything new, would-be progressive, non-traditional, non-conservative. That is why Europeism likes feminism, homosexualism, multiculturalism and other similar positions, which destroy the age-long European cultural and civilization foundations. The Europeists know well, even though shortsightedly, that all this is helping them –without thinking out the consequences – to accomplish their goals. The long term consequences are not much of an interest to them.

Europeism is essentially an illiberal view, if we use the word liberal in its original European (not American) sense.

4. Understanding of foreign policy and international relations

The Europeists do not like “domestic policy” (which implies being under much stricter democratic control) and therefore promote the – democracy lacking – decision-making at supranational level. They like a big, world-wide, geopolitical thinking and this is also why they are establishing one international or supranational organization after the other. Sixty years ago, in his famous text “The Intellectuals and Socialism” (The University of Chicago Law Review, 1949), Friedrich von Hayek wrote very convincingly about people of this kind striving for a position (usually well paid) in these organizations. The effort to emancipate politics and politicians from democratic “accountability” is one of the primary objectives of the Europeists. They are not alone in this, but I am certain that never in history had the people with this type of thinking reached such success as through the creation of the EU.

That is why Europeism promotes the slogan: “less of the nation state, more of internationalism”, that is why the Europeists purposefully associate the nation state with nationalism, that is why they promote multiculturalism and de-assimilation principle, that is why they strive for denationalization of citizenship, that is why all-European political parties are being funded and supported. That is why they expect the birth of European identity and of European “people”; that is why they want to build some kind of “brotherhood of Europe”. That is why the Europeists advocate abstract universalism of rights. That is why it is strived for a homogenized, “decaffeinated” world (with no flavour, aroma, and smell). That is why the impression is being created that what is at stake in Europe now is a sort of reunification (after the fashion of German Wiedervereinigung which had, however, its justification in this one country, forcefully divided half a century ago). That is why they suggest that something like “collective psyche of Europe” exists.

Europe was not much of a political entity in its past, but rather a frame of reference for a spiritual and cultural life, and I consider these Europeist’s ambitions (and arguments) merely a screen, using nice words in order to hide very down-to-earth interests. These are the interests to get rid of the state as an unsubstitutable guarantor of democracy, as a basic political unit of a democratic system (in contrast to Reichs, empires, unions, leagues of countries), as the only meaningfully organizable arena of political life, as the biggest possible, but at the same time also the smallest reasonable, base of political representation and representativeness. Europeism is an attempt to create the Huxleyian brave new world in which there will be “rosy hours”, but not freedom and democracy.

Moreover, O’Sullivan suggests that – unlike intergovernmentalism – Europeist’s supranationalism „tends to manufacture rivalry by its very workings even when no one intends them” (pp 40) and that supranationalism brings rivalry towards the USA, in other words antiamericanism, to life. Instead of Atlanticism or transatlantic alliance, it leads to the opposite tendencies. The “continental” thinking also leads to the acceptance of another false idea – that the conflict between the West and Islam is a fore-picture of the unavoidably forthcoming clash of civilizations. Supranationalism incites to all this by its very nature. The existence of the powerful United States can not be taken as a reason for European unification.

5. Broader philosophical stance of Europeism

In its general “Weltanschaung” Europeism maintains not a modest evolutionary belief in spontaneous order but a radically constructivist position. The legendary dictum of Mises and Hayek, that the world is (and should be) a result of “human action”, not of “human design”, is the exact opposite of the Europeists views. The Europeists do not believe in spontaneous, unregulated and uncontrolled human activity. They trust the chosen ones (not the elected ones), they trust themselves or those who are chosen by themselves. They believe in a vertically structured and hierarchized human society (in the Huxleyian Alpha-Pluses and in Epsilons serving them). They want to mastermind, plan, regulate, administer the others, because some (they themselves) do know and others don not. They do not want to rely on spontaneity of human behavior and on the outcomes resulting from this spontaneity because they think that racionalistic human design is always better than an unplanned result of interactions between free citizens, constructed and commanded by nobody. Even though we thought that after the collapse of communism all this was a matter of the past, it is not so. It is around us again. Europeism is a new utopism and, I add, it is an extremely naive and romantic utopism.

Who are the “constructeurs” and exponents of Europeism

Europeism is a product of the elites. It is a product of the people who do not want to go to work from 8am until 5pm during the week and to have a normal job. It is a product of the people who want to steer, command, patronize, and “legislate” others. On the one hand, they include politicians and to them related bureaucrats and on the other hand, public intellectuals (operating in the public space and in the media) who are attached to politicians. It is a large group of people in the public sphere (representing the proverbial deadweight) that “very pragmatically” maximizes the effects which result from its position and that: 

- wants to ensure that its privileged status and with it connected benefits will be long-lasting;

- wants to isolate itself from the reach of the electorate, from public opinion and from standard democratic mechanisms

- wants – through the complexity and untransparency of the communitarian law decision-making procedures and through the distance from the individual citizen – to detach itself from any consequences of its decision-making and from the costs (in the broadest sense of the word) they – by their activity – produce to the citizens of the individual member countries.

The Europeists are the politicians who are, due to the supranational structures, detached from their electorate and who excuse themselves to their electorate by referring to the supranational obligations and to the fact that it is impossible to disappoint their colleagues in Brussels. At the European summits I am always surprised by the peculiar familiarity of their participants given by the fact that most of them have known each other for a very long time (the ten new countries are a change in this respect but even their representatives usually enter the club very rapidly), that they have similar interests and that they need each other. That Kunderian “unbearable lightness of being”, given by living in five-star hotels, by flights in the comfortable special planes, by meetings in the gorgeous castles (and all this not only for one President or Prime Minister but for their vast staff), creates their own world for them; a world which is entirely different from the world of those on whose behalf they like to speak so much and so often.

Among the Europeists belong also the top bureaucrats (thanks to the laws of bureaucracy and bureaucratism often also those who are not at the top), who have a tremendous power over the politicians. They are preparing very influential background papers which the politician reads only on the plane or in the course of the meeting. There are so many of such documents that one has to – whether s/he likes it or not – rely on the work of these people. The overwhelming majority of proposals and decisions are predetermined at the meetings of deputy ministers, departmental directors at the ministries, experts or advisers and ambassadors without touch of any political decision-maker supported by a mandate. Moreover, all this is being extremely amplified by the enormous range of EU-agendas where detail (which is where the problem usually lies) cannot be concerned at all.

Among the Europeists belong also the intellectual fellow travelers for whom the world of Europeism is almost ideal. It is in this world where they gain a great power which they would never be able to gain on the domestic scene. (See my “Intellectuals and Socialism”, www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=wFYl3mgsTzI6

These three groups of people form a very strong coalition of interests which does not have any adequate counterweight in the heterogeneous and territorially vast Europe with so many differing interests. There exists a silent majority, which does think that this is wrong but it is unable to organize itself and has – unlike the Europeists – a normal job it has to, and wants to, do (and therefore it has not enough time to get involved in it). This majority stands on the defensive. Moreover, the Europeists were successful – as already so many times in history – in presenting themselves as a human progress and all others as obscurantism, which is an extremely successful trick. The consequence is a standard scheme: a vocal, immensely motivated, not explicitly organized minority, whose members however meet and talk to each other, against an entirely scattered majority which has conflicting interests and concerns and which doesn’t see what this is all about. Besides that, this majority thinks that the entire EUnizing is a small addition to the normal course of events. Unfortunately, it is not so. It is a revolutionary turn of the normal course of events.

Conclusion

I proclaimed that it is a revolutionary turn of the normal course of events. I mean this seriously. 

I know, of course, that there is a soft and hard version of Europeism and that not all the proponents of Europeism subscribe to its hard version. They do not know, however, that they open the way for it and that they prepare it.

I know as well that Europeism is not a promising third way (see my speech in Vancouver at a conference of Mont Pelerin Society, “The Third Way and Its Fatal Conceits”, published in the book „On the Road to Democracy“, National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas, 2005, pp 173 - 178) – because there are only two ways. And Europeism is the second one.

I also know how powerful is the synergy of the opinions and interests which aim in a similar direction, despite they differ in details.

Václav Klaus, “What is Europeism or What Should not be the Future for Europe”, CEP (Center for Economics and Politics), Prague, 2006.

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