16 Feb 09 Eddie's Blog Global

Europe as a civilizing influence

In the last couple of blogs we talked about Europe.  We made the point that being in Europe allowed us all to have greater personal wealth, to have more choice in the products we buy, to have more personal freedom in our lives.  This, all in addition to the removal of the threat of war.

We went beyond this to talk about pooled sovereignty in the interest of having more influence on a world stage.

We didn’t talk about Europe as a civilizing influence. European unity is civilizing in many senses.  It enhances our individual freedoms.   It transfers wealth from the richer to the poorer states.  It sets high and modern standards of legislation, but all in the context of enjoying our own sense of nationality which we continue to celebrate in our unique way.

In this way we are not a lot different from the United States.  There are almost as big cultural disparities between the Texan businessman and a New York lawyer as there is between an Irish farmer and a German individualist.  All four categories celebrate their own distinct cultural identities.  The Two Europeans might even be more united in their support for the Ryder cup team than would the two US citizens for their Ryder cup team.  Indeed the bad feeling that a Texan might have about a strong federal government would be mirrored in the rhetoric that would emanate from many States in the EU about the power of the EU Commission.

Without question every citizen of the US and every citizen of Europe is a tremendous beneficiary of the federal type arrangement that exists in both places.  Both cultures have as their central unit the family and all cultures wrestle with the same moral and ethical issues such as abortion, stem cell research and religious freedom.

Europe is in some ways less, ideologically polarised than the United States.  Perhaps over a long series of bitter wars we have learned to compromise more.  As an outsider it would appear that the power of the powerful lobbyist is less strong in Europe.

Even 20 years ago we could not have talked about Europe in this way.  The Euro currency has brought further stability to our continent.  Trade in everything except in electricity is completely open.  Respect for our European institutions has never been higher.  We need to move to the next stage now which is to make the European institutions more efficient, more visible and more powerful on a world stage.  It is shameful to think that we in Europe allowed the massacres in the Balkans and the genocide in Kosovo to happen on our doorsteps.  In that case it took the intervention of President Clinton to protect the people living there.  The appointment of the Foreign Policy co-ordinator as proposed in the Lisbon Treaty will surely have the power now to deal with issues such as this.

The person who is the Foreign Policy co-ordinator will have a hugely important role to play furthering energy security, negotiating with the powerful energy interests with the strength of 550 million people at his/her back and who will be empowered to continue Europe’s clear leadership in the struggle to halt and reverse global warming.