To ‘dream’; perchance also to ‘believe’… ay, there’s the rub!

For now, I’m quite happy to go along with the premise that this original dream, of a ‘peaceful Europe’ united by its own common economic interests, has indeed been a success…

As I sit down to write this – my last article for 2023 – The Times has just uploaded an op-ed piece, entitled ‘The value of unity in a changing world’, by Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, Christine Lagarde, Paschal Donohoe, and Roberta Metsola.

Now: I imagine that most of those names won’t need much in the way of introduction (though I must confess I had to look up Paschal Donohoe, as – for some obscure reason – I don’t generally keep track of whom Ireland chooses to appoint as its Finance Minister, at any given moment...)

As for the rest, however, we are talking about the chief ‘movers and shakers’ of the entire European Union: the presidents of, respectively, the European Council; the European Commission; the European Bank; and – last but not least – the European Parliament.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, this article – also, in a sense, the EU’s ‘last for 2023’ – gives us a unique insight into pretty much everything that’s clearly going WRONG, with the so-called ‘European Project’ right now.  Starting with…

… well, the very first paragraph: “The case for Europe has always rested on solving problems that countries could not address alone. After World War II, visionary leaders understood that the only way to secure peace on our continent was to unite our economies. And a united Europe would, in time, require a single currency to make the most of the economic benefits created by this peace dividend…”

And ending with a quote by French author Anatole France (yep, that’s her real name): “To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also DREAM; not only plan but also BELIEVE”…

… to which the signatories add: “The first 25 years of the euro have shown just how successful a dream can be. But, as the world changes around us, our action proves that a united Europe provides the answers the Europeans and the world need.”

Hmm. Ok, there’s a lot to chew over, there: and also, quite a lot that can openly be challenged (or at least, debated). For instance: the somewhat glib assertion that the foundational ‘dream’ of ‘European economic unification’ – which, incidentally, is what the European project was originally all about – really has been as successful, as the authors of this article would have us all (ahem) ‘believe’.

In other words: can European economies really be described as ‘unified’, today… when European institutions seem to always use vastly different yardsticks, when confronted with different EU countries facing the same sort of economic problems?

Take Greece and Germany, for instance. When, from 2007-18, Greece faced an unprecedented sovereign debt crisis… the IMF (then under the chairmanship of Christine Lagarde) and the European Bank chose to actively intervene in Greece’s internal economic affairs: resulting in “sudden reforms and austerity measures that led to impoverishment and loss of income and property, as well as a small-scale humanitarian crisis.” [Note: that’s from Wikipedia, by the way. Personally, the Greek humanitarian crisis didn’t look so very ‘small-scale’, to me…]

But when Germany experienced a sudden debt crisis of its own, late this year… there was not so much as a squeak from either of those two institutions (one of which, the European Bank, now being under Lagarde’s leadership); nor even, as it happens, from the European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen.

No ‘sudden reforms’ for Germany; and even less, any EU-imposed ‘austerity measures’ (of the kind that Germany itself had so gleefully demanded for Greece, back in 2007).

In fact, there was no EU-level reaction of any kind, whatsoever. In the end, it had to be Germany’s own Constitutional Court – and not any ‘interim measures’ (of the kind that the Commission has so often used against other member states, including Malta, in the past) – to shoot down the German’s government’s ILLEGAL handling of that particular crisis.

So when the same Christine Lagarde, and Ursula von der Leyen, now write ‘dreamy’ articles in the European press, about how very ‘successful’ their own economic policies have all along been… well, ‘Tell it to the Greeks’, I say! (And I can assure you: there are some pretty scathing op-ed articles, in that country’s media right now, about the European Union’s glaring double-standards in this case.)

But no matter: for now, I’m quite happy to go along with the premise that this original dream, of a ‘peaceful Europe’ united by its own common economic interests, has indeed been a success… if nothing else, because (closing an eye at the Yugoslavian conflagration, of course; and even the war in Ukraine, if it comes to it) there hasn’t really been any major war - fought between European powers, on European soil - for the past 80 or so years.

Ay, but – as I hinted in the headline – ‘there’s the rub’, right there! The success of this dream cannot be taken for granted, forever. And as the authors themselves point out (in the very first paragraph, too!): “After World War II, visionary leaders understood that the only way to secure peace on our continent was to unite our economies…”

Got that, folks? Our ECONOMIES… NOT our ‘political structures’. In other words: if European countries have managed to avert internecine conflict, for so many years… it is only because they limited their ‘unification’ efforts exclusively to the economic front – common tariffs; common trade regulations; a common currency, etc. – while avoiding any attempt to anyhow ‘deepen’ that union, into a POLITICAL one.

The moment that equilibrium is reversed, however… so too, will the prospect of a lasting ‘European peace’ be instantly overturned.

To put that another way: if the EU makes the tragic mistake of allowing one European political ‘force’ (and an ideologically-motivated one at that; as the authors themselves freely admit) to impose its own ‘dreams’ and ‘beliefs’ on the entire European Continent… THAT, I fear, is when the ‘dogs of war’ will finally be let loose on European soil, after so many years of (almost) uninterrupted peace.

Because let’s face it, people. This is hardly the first time, in Europe’s long and spectacularly-bloody history, that ‘single political forces’ have (wittingly, or unwittingly) ‘let slip’ those dogs, in pursuit of their own ‘dreams and beliefs’.

And before you all pounce on me, for making oblique allusions to Germany’s Third Reich… kindly note that I could just as easily be referring to the Napoleonic Wars; or the Russian Revolution; or the Crusades (and various other religious conflicts: including 300 years’ worth of conflict between Catholics and Protestants); or even, for that matter, to the Roman Empire…

For what did all the ‘ideologues’ who precipitated these, and other conflicts around the world, always have in common, at the end of the day?  Like the authors of this article – the ‘movers and shakers’ of today’s Europe, remember? – they all likewise very clearly ‘BELIEVED’, in all the ‘DREAMS’ that they so persistently (and at times disastrously) pursued…

Now: just to be clear, the ‘dreams’ themselves may have varied wildly, over the centuries. Obviously, the ideology represented by people like Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, Roberta Metsola, etc., is going to be vastly different from those of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Napoleon, Pope Urban II, or Julius Caesar (and especially, I should think, Adolf Hitler)…

But make no mistake: all those people ‘believed’ – as their adherents still do today - in all their respective, chosen ideologies. The Communists ‘believed’ in Communism; the Fascists ‘believed’ in Fascism; and all the various leaders of world religious certainly ‘believed’, in the myriad Faiths they invariably invoked, when dragging entire nations into, um… WAR!

…because THAT, ultimately, is where all these ideological ‘dreams’ and beliefs’ will invariably lead us, you know. (Especially when those ‘beliefs’ just happen to involve ‘unifying’ an entire Continent, under a single, pan-European political system. I mean: what could possibly go wrong?)

All things considered, then: much safer, I would say, for the European Union to simply stick to its original ‘dream’, as proposed by those early ‘visionary leaders’…. and remain the exclusively ‘economic union’ it was conceived to be (as opposed to the sort of ‘political union’, that is ‘believed in’ only by its current crop of leaders; and no one else).

For as Michel von Der Leyen, Lagarde, Donohue, and Metsola themselves all proudly tell us, in that same article: Europe’s ‘economic union’ has already proved to be a success, over the past 25 years.

So let’s not ‘screw up’ that success today, then: by so unwisely turning this ‘European dream’, into a ‘political nightmare’...

… and on that hugely positive, optimistic note: I bid all my readers as ‘Happy’ a ‘New Year’, as we can all realistically expect 2024 to be, under the circumstances. (After all: anything more than that would be a tad too ‘dreamy’… don’t you think?)