Monday, June 13, 2005

"What are they doing?"

That's what my boss asked me when I told her that I'm nerding out over EU politics. Short answer: France and Holland voted down their constitutional referenda, and now nobody has any idea what the hell is going to happen. But you knew that.

I tried to explain about delocalisation and Polish plumbers but that's not what I really care about. What I really care about is the related question of what this means for the project of constructing a post-national world. I would love for Europe to become the world's biggest NGO. Because it's a wild concept. Because I'm not a huge fan of nationalism anyway. And yes, because it will be the best way to avoid the dangers of hyper-puissance. Not just the US, but China too--Europe should be on the same side as the US on 90% of the issues.

The person who deserves most of the blame, I think, is Chirac. As I said, I agree with the idea of constructing a strong Europe, but I think it was a terrible mistake to connect this to Gaullism and gloire. There's a fundamental contradiction in what he asked France to do: on the one hand he appeals to nationalist sentiment, and on the other he wants to give up a certain amount of sovereignty. People were right to suspect that his vision of Europe had more to do with economic and military power than with social justice. If you want to create a Europe that can balance American power, you're not going to convince anyone by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of America. You have to trust that the European vision of society (i.e. "social") can hold its own against the American (liberal) and the Chinese (authoritarian-capitalist). Emphasize that nationalized health care is cheaper. Point out that European society is admirably egalitarian. That it isn't torturing people. Make it the beacon of hope and liberty that America used to be.

Why couldn't the Socialists make this case? Why couldn't they appeal to the great French tradition of exporting democracy and justice? The EU acts to inspire democracy in Ukraine, in the Balkans, in Turkey the same way the French Revolution did in Germany and Italy. And yet the Socialists turn away from enlightened internationalism. Very disappointing.