For the ones regularly reading this letter, it seems quite logical to call me a "souvereignist", favoring a strong state to counterbalance the failing "globalization" of society. However a few amongst my readers know me since much longer and may remember that my position in the 80's was very different.
I was at that time advocating a stronger transnational European Union, and was rather pleased by the prospect of seeing the nation states, that generated so much dramas and death over the past couple of centuries, losing significance and opening the way towards a really integrated and peaceful Europe.
But this apparent contradiction or change of opinion on my side is indeed very logical and does not imply a change in my fundamental values. This letter shall explain that, and I strongly believe that many of you are in a similar position now: sad to condemn today a EU that 30 years ago represented a great hope for all of us!
In the 80's, the EU was still in early developments, limited to the Western portion of Europe, while the Eastern part was still isolated within the Eastern block, Soviet controlled and with almost no economical links to the EU. The famous words of De Gaulle talking about a Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Urals was still echoing, but would not mean much until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. On the other side, the EU of the 80's was rather coherent, with southern countries like Spain and Portugal just joining in 1986.
The way I considered the evolution of the EU was indeed very different from what happened over the 90's and the 00's.
My vision at that time was that the EU would evolve along a strong integration at all levels, economically, fiscally, legally and military. The picture I was dreaming of was a democratically elected EU government, including parliament and executive, assuming sovereignty to that level, and centrally taking responsibility for:
- protecting the EU from external aggressions, both with Diplomacy and Military forces
- defending the borders of the EU against illegal imports and immigration
- defending the economical interests of the region, including the interest of the local communities, favoring local production and employment
- controlling the monetary policy for the region
All the roles above are clearly the typical roles of the State as we general understand it. The fact that such EU State included very different ethnic and language groups was of course a challenge, but it did not seem impossible to me at that time and one example in European history was giving me hope. Indeed I was thinking about that example as a model for the evolution of Europe: Switzerland.
Switzerland managed to create a stable democratic model providing a high level state function handled by its Federal structure, exactly and successfully dealing with the 4 points of State responsibility listed above, while leaving a number of other key responsibilities to the local "governments" at Canton level. Just like the Europe I was dreaming of in the early 80's, Switzerland's regions are fairly coherent in terms of wealth, although some regions are much better off than others, but within an acceptable limit. Swiss regions are however very different by history and culture. The obvious difference is of course languages, but they also differ by the economic structure, some Cantons mostly living from agriculture and tourism, others from Industrial activity, others from Financial Services. This is however well accommodated through a very decentralized system concerning all other key function of the State, in particular Education, Health-care, Culture, micro-economics etc.
My dream was in short to see a EU looking like a gigantic Switzerland, integrated in the world economy, but also very keen to defend its common interests, while leaving each region develop on its own.
In that matter, I also was anticipating a step by step dilution of the State borders inherited from the 19th and 20th century, with growing convergence between regions of similar culture and interests, for example:
- increased synergies between 2 regions split between France and Spain, the Basque Country on the west and Catalonia on the west, based on common language and culture
- more common developments between the Savoie region in France and the Italian Piemont, two regions that had a lot in common before, with French language not long ago widely spread in the northern part of Piemont
- an increased synergy between Italian Ligura and the French Cote d'Azur
- although may be far stretched, the raise of a new Celtic entity including Brittany, Ireland, Wales and Scotland
In short, the picture I had in mind was supposed be a Europe with a strong head representing and defending the whole region at the top, allowing a large freedom at local level in terms of culture and micro-economy.
I was unfortunately very wrong and the evolution of the EU proved that the ones in charge had a very different plan, or no plan at all. What developed over the years proves to be the exact opposite of what I was hoping to happen. Instead of defense of the regional borders, we open the gates wide open and without control. Instead of a coherent economic zone a la Swiss, we allowed new members with a radically different level of wealth and development. Instead of European defense, we have a wider alignment with NATO. Instead of a strong diplomacy, we have no diplomacy at all on the international scene. Instead of defending local jobs and economy, we expend the immunity of multinationals.
The dilution of the 20th century States is happening. But not to be replaced by a stronger European one. They are replaced by nothing, or rather by the power of lobbies and international corporations. And this is why the revival of the 20th century States is now vital and has to happen. Is there a risk of a new nationalism with that? May be, but there is no choice.
By the way, a developing desire by some of the richest and most dynamic regions in Europe like Scotland, Lombardi or Catalonia, may be an attempt to retake control of people's destiny by themselves, lost that they are today between a bureaucratic EU running for the world-wide internationalism and countries that have sold their soul and abandoned their sovereignty to Brussels.