Yesterday President Chirac announced that Britain, France, Spain and Germany are going to issue a joint statement agreeing that it is important for the UN and the EU to play a leading role in post war Iraq. He also warned the new member states of the EU to toe the line in future.
These Baghdad-Bob-like attempts to cause something (in this case, foreign-policy agreement in the EU) to happen by the magic of declaring that it has, or will from now on, are typical EU moves. Chirac has to resort to fantasy because, in reality, the whole idea of European Unity, as conceived by its Central Powers (also known as The Weasels),
is fatally flawed. In reality, the European political scene is a collection of sharply different political traditions based on different assumptions and different aspirations. To expect them to be transformed into a unified political entity by pretending that they already are is a classic example of Cargo Cult Politics. The Weasels hope to emulate the success of the United States (not just economic and military success but, at root, its moral success) through a resentful and envious, but essentially empty, mimicry:
“The European Union is about more than just a large market, common policies, a single currency and free movement,” he [Chirac] said pointedly.
(In reality, of course, it does not even have common policies or a single currency.)
“It is more importantly about a collective ambition, shared disciplines, firm solidarity and naturally looking to the European family.”
The Iraq crisis has highlighted the folly and danger of this “collective ambition”: if Britain had bowed to it and had withdrawn from the Coalition – pretending to be ‘unwilling’ for the sake of pretending that we shared France's ambitions – it would have been a national shame and disgrace. And if the the majority in the EU had been in favour of participating in the Coalition (as it would have if the new members had already acceded),
how could any nation whose entire body politic was screaming deep-rooted opposition to the war have submitted to that majority? Or even (if the further monstrosity of a Common Defence Policy had been in existence) ordered its armed forces to fight a war they believed to be immoral?
Such “ambitions” are not only illusory and unworkable, they lead to the perversion and suppression of important political debates and build up a totally unnecessary festering resentment between European nations. Fortunately, it looks as though Britain will not be joining the Euro any time soon, despite Tony Blair's reported enthusiasm. Perhaps, given time and maybe a change of government, Britain will be able either to lead a profound change in the way the EU is conceived of by member nations, or else to leave the EU altogether.
UPDATE: When we said "lead ... the EU", we didn't mean like this!