Sunday, 15 November 2015

Origins of the EU - An Old Idea

In this post,  I will try to briefly highlight the origins of the EU.  I cannot take any credit for the information, I have gleaned this primarily from “The Great Deception” written by Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North – a meticulously researched and detailed account of the European project.  I regard this book as essential reading for anyone who wishes make an informed decision at the EU referendum.  This book is available to download as a PDF here.

It is commonly believed that the concept of the European Union developed following World War II.  In fact, the essential ideas of the European Union emerged as a response to the horrors of the Great War, for example: 
·     Federal Europe or “United States of Europe”  based on the Amercian model, e.g.:.Giovanni Agnelli published ‘European Federation or League of Nations’ in 1918, the Pan Europa movement founded in 1922, Aristide Briand (French Prime minister) published ‘Memorandum on a European Federal Union’ in 1930.
·     Coal & Steel Union to transfer industries crucial to waging war from nations to a “higher authority” and as a first step to establishing a “United States of Europe”, e.g.: Louis Loucheur (French Armaments minister 1917/8, Minister of Finance 1925/6); Pan Europa; “International Steel Agreement” brokered in 1925.
·     Customs Union or Common Market as a means to achieving economic integration leading to Federation e.g.: Sir Max Waechter (1924); French economist Charles Gide, supported by Pan Europa (1924); Louis Loucheur (1927).
·     Franco-German Collaboration Aristide Briand & Gustav Stresemann (German Foreign minister) shared the 1926 Nobel Peace prize for their work on the Treaty of Locarno (which guaranteed mutual security for France and German) and championed Franco-German economic collaboration and a “United States of Europe”.

However, it was two close friends & senior officials in the League of Nations, the Frenchman Jean Monnet and his British colleague Arthur Salter, who did most to provide a blueprint for the future European Union:
  • During his term as the League of Nations deputy-secretary general (1920-23), Monnet became frustrated by member states power of veto and became committed to the idea of an entirely new ‘supra-national’ form of government, beyond the control of national governments, politicians or electorates.
  • In 1931, Salter published ‘The United States of Europe’ proposing that the method used to unify Germany in the 19th century should be used to create a United Europe, i.e. by establishing a Zollverein or  ‘common market’, funded by a common tariff on all goods imported from outside with “a political instrument to determine how the distribution [of those funds] should be made”.
  • Salter also proposed an institutional structure based on the League of Nations, with a “Secretariat” as the central source of authority – a permanent body of international civil servantsloyal to the new organisation  (not to the member countries) – essentially government by “Supranational” bureaucracy.
At the heart of these initiatives was an attempt to bind Europe together politically and economically, particularly France & Germany, to avoid another war.  As Churchill put it :
“…the aim of ending the thousand-year strife between France and Germany seemed a supreme object. If only we could weave Gaul and Teuton so closely together economically, socially and morally as to prevent the occasion of new quarrels and make old antagonisms die in the realisation of mutual prosperity and interdependence, Europe would rise again.”
Ultimately, these initiatives failed to prevent World War 2. Nationalist resentment in Germany at the terms imposed by France at Versailles combined with the Wall Street Crash and ensuing Depression provided the platform for Hitler’s rise to power. The world that emerged after World War 2 was a very different one:
  • Britain was at the forefront of international co-operation that led to the founding of many institutions: the United Nations; the World Bank & International Monetary Fund (to avoid another Depression); General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (to the avoid the protectionism that prolonged the Depression).
  • Germany underwent dramatic changes.  Prussian militarism was extinguished by the humiliation of Allied occupation and shame as the Nazi's deeds were fully exposed.  The “Wirtschaftswunder” or "economic miracle" ensured a successful social democracy was established in West Germany.
  • The Cold War dramatically altered the political landscape.  Germany was split in two (East & West); Western European nations were bound together by the common threat of the Soviet Union and NATO was formed; the Soviet Union became a nuclear power in 1949, ushering in the threat of nuclear Armageddon and “Mutually Assured Destruction”.

In the late 1940’s,  Jean Monnet renewed efforts to establish a “Supranational” United States of Europe, establishing the European Coal & Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, culminating in the European Economic Community (EEC) established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, based on the blueprint provided by Salter in 1931.  

However, given the changed reality of the post-war world, was this idea still relevant ? If the ECSC and EEC had not been created in the 1950’s, is it really possible to believe that a new European war would have erupted ? Was the EEC any guarantee of peace in the Cold War between the two super-powers (USA & USSR), which reached a near-disastrous climax during the Cuban Missile crisis ? If NATO had not been formed and the USA had returned to its inter-war "isolationism" would peace have been sustained in Europe and the Soviet threat countered simply because of the formation of the ECSC and EEC ?  If the answer to these questions is no, then it begs the ultimate question :  why do we need a "Supranational" United  States of Europe, a government of unelected bureaucrats with power over nation states ?

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