Wednesday, 4 March 2009

My mate Daniel Hannan on Europe

When I was an undergraduate, I once discussed the future of Europe with a Right-wing Italian student. "Brussels will eventually be brought down by anti-German feeling in the rest of the EU," he said. I contradicted him sharply: "No: it'll eventually be brought down by anti-EU feeling in Germany."

People are rarely so indelicate as to draw attention to the fact, but the EU rests on the sufferance of the German taxpayer
No other country (other than Britain, obviously) does so badly out of Brussels. Germans have been the largest net contributors in every year since 1956, even though several other member states have higher incomes. In return, they get the poorest per capita representation in EU institutions.

Why do they put up with it? Well, at first the EU was a way to return to the comity of nations. Konrad Adenauer and his contemporaries believed that Germany would be allowed to become prosperous, powerful and, in time, united, only when her neighbours felt that she was, in a sense, their country, too. This calculation worked, and it has ruled German policy ever since. As Helmut Kohl put it in 1990. "German unification and European unification are two sides of the same coin".
But, as so often happens, the political class is clinging to a policy whose rationale has long since ceased to be relevant. Ordinary Germans can see this .
Hence their court challenge to the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty, on grounds that it is not democratic enough to be compatible with German Basic Law. Hence the recent poll showing that four out of five Germans believe that the EU has "some of the characteristics of a dictatorship". (Perceptive bunch, the Jerries, no?) Hence, too, the first recognition by a mainstream party of how out of line it is with public opinion: the Bavarian CSU, worried about falling below the five per cent threshold at June's European elections, now says it wants a referendum on European integration. While it is plainly in no position to deliver such a referendum, being a regional party, its reading of its voters' mood is telling.

So, turning to the question of the day: will German taxpayers consent to bail out Central and Eastern Europe? Will they respond, as they always have in the past, to the unspoken appeal to historical responsibility? Will they shell out in order to avert the Hungarian Prime Minister's threat that five million unemployed Magyars will thunder Westward across the plains and line up outside dole offices in Dusseldorf?

Maybe. But I wouldn't bet on it. The old incantations-the assertion, above all, that Europe was an antidote to aggressive nationalism-have lost their power. The Euro-shamans still chant them, but there is less and less response. The magic is fading. The dream is dying.
Read Daniel's blog on
We don't need anti-racism lessons when we watch Shakespeare
Harriet Harman wants a Bill of Attainder against Sir Fred Goodwin
What if we didn't pay MPs at all?

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