Special Reports
The European Union, part 2: A clique of multinationals or a union of peoples?
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 30, 2007, 01:16

What kind of Europe?

Fifty years old last March 25, the European Union is the partial realization of the dream of Charlemagne, Napoleon and the Hapsburgs. Since Italy, France, West Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg signed the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the Union of Europe has grown to form the world�s biggest economic market of 500 million peoples.

On its birthday last March, the notes of the EU anthem, The Ode to Joy from Beethoven�s Ninth, sounded over European TV while leaders from the corners of the continent gathered in Rome�s Quirinal Palace to mark the historic occasion. Once the palace of the Roman popes, now Italy�s presidential palace, the Quirinal was graced with the symbols of Europe, from Greek antiquity to the famous Rodin sculpture, The Thinker, as if pondering the future of the continent.

The European Union has chalked up many accomplishments: the reconciliation of World War II enemies Italy and Germany with France and the Benelux nations as the basis of a new Europe. It brought down trade barriers and created the world�s biggest common market. It introduced a common currency, the euro, now threatening the supremacy of the US dollar. It abolished capital punishment as unworthy of ethical society. Except for the Balkans war in the 1990s, it succeeded in avoiding war on the continent. It has spawned a pacifist mentality, held to the social state and given birth to a sense of �being European.�

Yet, progressives charge that the new Europe has become a union of multinationals, and not a social union of its peoples. Though Europe is an economic giant, it is still marked by an underlying social state mentality, which progressives consider its major accomplishment after 100 years of struggle for social justice.

Nonetheless, on the international scene, Europe is a political midget, nor was it originally designed to be a political union. The Netherlands and France voted "N0" to the European Constitution in 2005 because of that feeling of loss of control of their own destinies. Though it has not yet forged a constitution acceptable to all, it is more than an artificial alliance as some critics charge.

Yet the EU has no political clout because it lacks political unity or a common foreign policy, which in turn creates a psychological sense of uncertainty. Instead of collectively, European nations still react individually to questions of war and peace and to tensions with the USA. Some nations sent troops to Iraq, some refused, others like Spain and Italy withdrew their troops later.

While polls show that Europeans are more confident about their future than Americans, the polls also show that nearly half of Europeans are less than enthusiastic about the EU, weighed down by a heavy bureaucracy that some compare to that of the old USSR. Yet it is untrue people are outraged at suggestions of merger into the EU.

The USA has backed and promoted the European Union but is also suspicious and jealous. One wonders if America is truly desirous of a united Europe. For the USA, economic union of Europe is one thing, political union another. In its foreign affairs and imperialistic wars, Washington relies on traditional ties with individual nations like Great Britain and the servility of countries like Italy.

NATO, the military treaty between the USA and European nations allegedly to defend Europe, has been a divisive factor in the West since its creation. Years back, nationalistic France evicted American-dominated NATO from its territory. Since the USA controls NATO, West European Communist and post-Communist parties long favored withdrawal from NATO. NATO in faraway Afghanistan and American-NATO military bases throughout Europe have reignited mistrust of it.

Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals

One wonders where Europe ends? In the Ural Mountains of Russia? On the plains of Asia? On the deserts of North Africa? There are proposals for including Israel and Palestine in the EU as associate members. Dissension is particularly rife about Turkey�s membership. Part of Turkey lies in Europe and it is a historic bridge between Europe and Asia. While for many, Islamic Turkey in the EU would be a Trojan horse in Christian Europe, predictions are that barriers against Islam will eventually fall and Turkey will one day be admitted into the European Union. The major problem again is religion, as always and everywhere an obstacle.

Mistrust of Turkey again leads back to American imperialism and the resulting clash between civilizations. It is clear that without America�s wars Europe�s relationship with Islam would look quite different. Southern Europe is very unenthusiastic about war with Islam, while Italy has long been marked by favoritism for Palestine and is a major trading partner with Iran.

While West Europeans worry about American imperialism, as well as about maintaining their social states, new East European union members that emerged from the former USSR, such as Poland, are ready to accept American-style savage capitalism and take shortcuts in order to arrive quickly at West European living standards.

The European idea

Political leaders concerned with the role of Europe in the globalized world are aware that political union is necessary in order to move ably and quickly in the name of their half-billion citizens. Coupled with the emerging European mentality, one notes also a growing sameness, the conformity that marks Americans. EU leaders warily welcome that mentality as a basis for the future political union. Not many years ago Europeans noted that only foreigners spoke of �Europe,� like American tourists off to visit Europe hardly distinguished between one country and the other.

Italians and Germans, Dutch and Belgians, young and old, are proud of their European passports. It is a curious sensation for everyone traveling from Italy to Germany or Holland without passing customs and passport controls and then spending the same currency in each country. Study exchange programs such as Erasmus abound. Internet and low cost air travel facilitate contacts. Most young people today speak foreign languages. English is the common language, the true lingua franca.

Though the new generation feels European, nationalism survives. Most Italians still hasten to add, �first Italian, then European.� The European motto of In varietate Concordia is quite apt.

Sociologists note Europe�s capacity for auto-criticism, to question what doesn�t work within the system. Europe is now at the maximum of progress; its new destiny is based on its inexhaustible capacity to create great dreams, a capacity that once made America the dream of Europeans. I find from day to day that the old American dream has vanished for most Europeans.

EU and the G-8

When the G-8 gatherings began in 1975 there were six members, the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Canada joined the informal group in 1976. The European Community as it was then called, began attending in 1977, Russia in 1997. Today the European Union is represented at G-8 meetings by the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council.

The G-8 is about economics. It is no secret that this congress system is an imperialist affair, despite its upright fa�ade of battling world poverty. Its annual summits culminate the constant top-level coordination among member governments in fundamental policy areas. Quarterly meetings by the Sherpas prepare for the summits on the basis of information from ministries of finance, foreign affairs, interior, justice, health and environment. G-8 governments and central banks coordinate policies with top financial houses and monopolistic transnationals. And now we know that the over-lapping Bilderberg Group plays an important role across the board.

Thus the G-8 stands at the acme of imperialism and the New World Order.

International economic relations thus have come to reflect a fundamental state gangsterism rendering irrelevant established international humanitarian and human rights laws that impede the imperialist globalizing project.

EU governments have collaborated in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture by facilitating transfer of prisoners for torture either to third countries or to US clandestine prisons. G-8 counter-terrorism is pure charade. G-8 insincerity is self-evident from the way its governments use anti-terrorism legislation to suppress dissent. The declaration on terrorism issuing from this year's summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, exemplifies G-8 cant from countries who collude in the very worst violations of human rights in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Somalia and support repressive regimes around the world.

Good and evil

Private good, public evil. Private evil, public good.

Which of the these social variants predominates is a moot point. However, tendencies toward good or evil do count. As a rule what is secret ultimately becomes the evil. Europeans more than Americans consider the �market� as a secret and mysterious affair and most probably evil, as evidenced in the market aspects of America�s wars in the Middle East.

We know that defense of the market and reliance on war are only a hair�s breadth apart. Though seduced by modern technology, Europeans do not accept a priori the supremacy of the market though they are often as deceived by it as are their -- in their opinion -- more gullible American cousins.

That the violence of war is contagious is reflected in the growing �private� violence within European families from Finland to Sicily. Nevertheless European multi-party parliamentary systems and the world of ideas create a more defensive atmosphere and public responsibility absent in America�s presidential system where the two parties meld into one, elect a leader and allow the Power sect to act in their name.

Each transparency, Baudrillard recalls, poses its opposite, the secret. The same equation belongs to the political world of power. We know little of what goes on in the secret chambers of power in Washington because of their inaccessibility. Some things will never be known in full detail: who assassinated John Kennedy or who shot down the Italian passenger plane over the Tyrrhenian Sea over 20 years ago? What is secret is part of the world of evil. Europe�s fear that as a result of the nebulous, top-heavy Brussels bureaucracy the people have less and less control is fundamental to the Euroskepticism of those unconvinced that the EU is good for Europeans.

How could the descendants of peoples wrapped in secret and mystery of Cabala and alchemy be duped by promises of wealth based on free trade by imperialist parvenu market economists? How could the sons and daughters of Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, Kafka and Joyce and also of Marx and Lenin believe neocon storytellers of the sacredness of the exportation of democracy? These are peoples whose ancestors were stargazers, whose artists depicted peoples with their eyes lifted toward untold secrets in the stars and interpreted life�s mysteries in numbers.

People don�t understand how the EU bureaucracy works. What are the many thousands of highly paid functionaries doing? Though for 100 years a majority of Europeans have believed in the role of the social state, the EU government seems emblematic of a new kind of secrecy infecting mankind. They created the euro without the consent of the public. They lay down the rules that the individual governments try to get around. People who feel the rising prices in their wallets have become pessimistic, suspicious and resentful. Gasoline at over $7.50 a gallon today is enough for revolution. The popular verdict is that the EU is to blame.

The infamous G-8 conference in Genoa in 2001 exemplifies the abyss between European peoples and G-8 of which Europe is twice a member: several individual countries and the EU itself. Genoa, Italy, and Europe were humiliated that fall weekend. The city was a battlefield of barricades and fortifications between European people and G-8 political leaders, 20,000 police troops and 200,000 demonstrators from 50 countries, four times the number in Seattle two years earlier, shouting in 10 languages �a different world is possible.�

It was like Chile. Police dragged kids to secret places and beat and tortured them for days. G-8 Genoa was pure violence. It is still a mystery how the Black Block vandals got into the tightly controlled country with all their arms. How they operated so freely in the city is a mystery too. In retaliation the Special Forces then attacked peaceful demonstrators. One young man died. It was tension strategy at work! Create the terror then blame anyone you want.

The outcome of parliamentary investigations was acquittal of the police and convictions of peaceful demonstrators.


In an interview at his regular table in the Caff� San Marco in Trieste, the former border city between East and West Europe, the Italian prize-winning writer and Germanist, Claudio Magris, ruminated about his favorite subject, Mitteleuropa, or Central Europe, the eastern half of Europe. The Berlin wall had just come down. The Soviet attempt to unify East Europe had failed. The future was uncertain. The nations of former Mitteleuropa had broken from their Russian masters and were electing national governments, wondering whether the national states would return or were destined to pass from Russian domination into the hands of expansive Germany.

�Napoleon�s victory over the Austrians at Ulm,� Magris said, starting far back in time, �was the victory of modern Europe of unification over the old Hapsburg-Danubian Europe of separate states, of the totalizer over the particular. Napoleon signified the modern fever for action, for everything new, like Napoleon�s ejaculation praecox; Austrian civilization instead defended the marginal, the secondary.�

Napoleon�s victory continues to condition Europe today. The dilemma is the same: unification and sameness or national states and the particular. The former border city between East and West, Trieste, is again a crossroads, standing at the center of unified Europe, under the aegis of the Brussels bureaucracy.

People to the East want the material wealth of the West; they want it now, but just as Dutch or French or Italians they are cautious about surrendering their separateness, the particular.

That is Europe�s quandary: a super-state of multinationals or the particular and separateness.

Gaither Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. He has lived his adult life in Germany and Italy, alternated with residences in The Netherlands, France, Mexico, Argentina and Russia. After a career in journalism as a correspondent for the Rotterdam newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, he began writing fiction. His collections of short stories, "Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by www.Wastelandrunes.com He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail: gaither.stewart@yahoo.it.

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