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Yet in his book, Jenkins delivers a devastating verdict on the leadership of the European Union and, by implication, on President Macron.

The EU’s political structure, fashioned by the Cold War, has become cumbersome and retrospective, gripped by a democratic deficit which no one has been able to bridge. It lacks a constitution to which its multitudinous subjects can give wholehearted assent. Europe’s leaders have been unable to achieve the balance so vital to regional stability, between state and superstate, locality and centre, the citizenship of a nation and the citizenship of Europe. Fifty years of centripetalism have given way to centrifugalism.

After surveying more than four millennia of European history, Jenkins concludes that

. . . since the fall of Rome, no power has come close to ruling this continent. Charlemagne did not do so, nor did the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors, nor France’s Napoleon, nor Germany’s Hitler, nor yet the commissioners of the European Union. If history teaches anything, it is that all attempts to straighten Kant’s “crooked timber of humanity” will fail. Europe’s peoples will not be put on bondage to a superior state, however liberal its intentions.

That last clause should resonate in the Élysée Palace. Macron may see himself as liberal in the classical sense of the word, which is neither the American meaning of “centre-Left”, nor the French one of “centre-Right”, but rather a wider commitment to economic, social and cultural freedom. Nobody doubts Macron’s intelligence, least of all Macron himself. But his mind is not open or broad or subtle enough to grasp the point that Jenkins presses home:

The EU has sought ever more power without consent. It can now only decay if it does not repatriate that power to its members. This currently includes control of borders and immigration, and thus a role, as members see it, in the evolving character of their societies.

The postwar European order aspired to emulate the United States. Unlike the American model, however, the European partners were unable to agree on a grand constitutional settlement that could be adjusted to suit new circumstances. Instead, like the United Nations they began with the end on which they did agree — Kant’s dream of perpetual peace. Unlike either the US or the UN, they fixed on a means to achieve their end: “ever closer union”. This process has become the raison d’être of the EU. For the opinion-formers of the Continent — who came close to committing civilisational suicide during the first half of the 20th century — in this case the end justifies the means. That is, the pursuit of peace justifies the inevitable sacrifice of sovereignty, liberty and democracy required by a process that concentrates power in the central institutions of the union. It is a pursuit that lacks any extrinsic validation: its legitimacy is intrinsic to the process. But as the threat of war receded, the pursuit of peace was superseded by that of power and prosperity. The EU became the bureaucracy we know today: the self-perpetuating machinery of a means unaware that it is no longer advancing the end for which it was created.
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Lawrence James
January 1st, 2019
10:01 AM
Canada and Australia have managed successful federal states and so has South Africa with its racial and linguistic differences. There is no reason to believe that the EU can surmount its current difficulties.Incidentally, you mention the 'resistance to freedom' by the EU: my freedom has never been curtailed by EU membership; has yours ?

Michael Layden
December 15th, 2018
3:12 PM
Macron's apparent adoption of the notion of Europe defending itself against the United States was perhaps the most bizarre remark I can recall in a long life of trying to keep up with world events. But the model the EU is trying to emulate is not the United States, but something more like India; a federal, democratic polity of multiple language groups and ethnicities. India thus far makes it more or less work. But it does so perhaps because its "Roman" (Mughal) period was superseded by another successful imperium, and the whole (aside from the bloody excision of Pakistan), passed on to a populace possessed of a living sense of common identity within diversity of language and culture. Europe can no more be India than it can be a United States, despite the best efforts of its bureaucracy; it has not the requisite history. The difficulties within its nation states are just that, and the idea that establishing a common currency would cause Greeks to acquiesce to German notions of fiscal prudence has always been a pipe-dream. The current shambles in which the UK finds itself in the attempt to extricate itself from the EU will not be the last such. And the vulnerability of the EU to those who really wish it harm will be vastly increased in proportion to its institutional resistance to freedom among its members.

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