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There is no doubt that Macron’s conception of Europe has been profoundly influenced by Charles de Gaulle. But in the 1950s and ’60s, de Gaulle could still claim, with some plausibility, that there was no contradiction between French patriotism and European idealism — as long as it was a confederal, not a federal, Europe. Not that the serious European federalists were having any of it. Altiero Spinelli, in his 1972 tract The European Alternative, praised the Brussels Commission for having enabled the European Community (as it then was) to survive “the long winter of de Gaulle”. “No other statesman, apart from him, believed in the effective possibility of European unification under the hegemony of the French state” — not the Commission and other European institutions. After de Gaulle fell in 1969, the path to a federal Europe was clear.

Today, however, President Macron has returned to the Gaullist theme of a Europe united under French leadership, but without the General’s caveat. His latest initiative is to revive the project of a European army, an old idea given new significance by the fact that he has won over Angela Merkel, who enthused about it in her recent address to the European Parliament. But Macron went further in justifying “a true European army”. In a speech delivered in Verdun, the Great War battlefield most laden with tragic significance for the French, the president justified his call to arms with a stark warning: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.” Donald Trump was outraged. “Very insulting,” he tweeted, “but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of Nato, which the US subsidises greatly!” The French were quick to clarify that Macron had not meant to suggest that he saw the US as an enemy, but his remarks, on the eve of a visit to France by the US president, were deliberately provocative: “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.” Macron had a point here, but his protest fell on deaf ears in Washington because Europe had ignored Russia’s treaty violations.

After these opening shots, the relationship between the two presidents plunged still further into bitterness after Macron’s speech at the Arc de Triomphe. Trump tweeted: “It was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the US came along. Pay for Nato or not!” He then hit back at Macron’s contrast between patriotism and nationalism. “By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France,” adding just for good measure: “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” Macron responded in a television interview: “Allies owe one another respect.” Stung by Trump’s “inelegant” reference to the defeat and occupation of France in 1940-44, Macron pointed out that the French had been the first to aid the United States, “our historic ally”, during its revolutionary war with Britain. “But being an ally doesn’t mean being a vassal.” No, but it does mean showing loyalty and solidarity. In 1966, at the height of the Cold War, de Gaulle abandoned Nato’s military command structures; France only rejoined under Sarkozy in 2009. Less than a decade later, Macron is emulating the General: evidently impatient with an unpredictable American administration, he has decided to replace an Atlanticist with a European structure. He seems more afraid of “demons” within the West than of any external threats.
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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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