On Europe…

February 8, 2016

There’s a lot of talk and argument about Europe at the moment, and it’s not going to go away. So, I’ll add my fourpence-worth, at least, from the perspective of my blog.

Sense of belonging is a curious thing. I’ve never felt British; it’s a weird concept, and alien to me. I know it says it on my passport. If I acknowledge anything, it’s Englishness, as England is where I was born, brought up and have lived; however, half of me is Polish, and I feel an affinity with that nation, too, some of the time, although I feel alienated by its currently bonkers politics… so I’ve never really been sure where I properly belong.

Most of my travelling has been in Europe, a place I feel at home in and understand to varying degrees, depending where I happen to be visiting. We share a great deal in Europe: the past, the Romans (for a sizeable chunk of Europe) Christianity, which for better or worse has shaped our beliefs and philosophy, and our approach to literature and the arts links us together, too. There’s a great deal we can be proud of as Europeans, and probably rather more that we should be acknowledging is shameful.

Although other parts of the world, perhaps tutored by our past example, are beginning to approach the savagery let loose during two world wars, those wars blight our history and collective memory in aeternum. And somewhere, the European project of the last sixty years or so has been about ensuring that we do not slide into that kind of anarchy and mayhem again; apart from the Balkans in the 1990s, on that front we have done quite well. Many nations are increasingly closely tied together by economy, law, travel and culture, and it’s pretty difficult to see those bonds disintegrating.

And yet, the cynic kicks in: despite all those lofty ideals to which our petty leaders pay lip-service, the EU is actually a gigantic capitalist club, increasingly forged in the interests of big business and profits, if not actually run by those businesses, as they pull the strings of the Brussels puppets. It’s not the Europe I’m really interested in, and feel part of.

Then there is the refugee crisis and immigration, which is being exploited by nationalists who would be happy to see the European project dismantled. Those of us who are reasonably comfortable with immigration, and want to help those in need, nevertheless must recognise that we live among other people who are profoundly unsettled by what is going on, who would like to restrict or end immigration and asylum. To this I can never subscribe, being the son of a Polish exile. So what should Europe do?

Because Europe is prosperous and peaceful, it’s attractive to people who live in war zones. And, to begin with, Europe should be looking at its contribution in creating those war zones in the first place: invading Iraq, bombing Libya, bombing Syria: as we collectively trash those countries and interfere in others, we both make ourselves more attractive to our victims, and also make ourselves the potential objects of revenge. It doesn’t take an Einstein to put that two and two together…

So, yes, I feel European, and want my country (England) to remain an integrated part of it. I’m not worried about loss of sovereignty (whatever that may mean); I’m concerned about lack of democratic accountability within EU institutions, but that doesn’t mean I want to throw my toys out of the pram. And I hope to continue enjoying travelling in Europe, visiting its cultural treasures and marvellous landscapes, and enjoying its amazing music and wonderful literature for many years yet. English and happy to be European!


4 Responses to “On Europe…”

  1. kaptonok Says:

    A nice pretty balanced account. Most of humanity is much the same when it boils down to it. They wear different labels but they are on the surface and a close encounter quickly tells us their significance.


  2. bob cannell Says:

    Hi Stef, I’ve spent quite a bit of time working with the EU institutions. The problem is philosophical. The people who designed the EU built in permanent crisis deliberately to prevent an oligarchy taking over (most of them had just survived fascism).

    This constantly arguing and negotiating is the European way of doing things and so frustrating for ‘just get on with it’ Anglo Saxons. Our way is vulnerable to authoritarianism and elected dictatorships.

    The EU has three legs organised business, organised labour and organised democratic state representatives. They heavily funded European trade unions to be able to take part but ETUC has been useless for the past 20 years and sat passsively in its TU house failing to organise national unions while business got its act together.

    So there’s little opposition to things like TTIP and the Council of Ministers just gives way ( most of them are right wing probusiness).
    There are said to be 250 corporate lobbyists to every TU lobbyist.

    Ironically the only opposition to corporate domination is the Commission. Nothing happens without their agreement and they are mostly European social democrats with god like powers. (Remember how Cameron protested at the current President). Individual commissioners can impose eye watering fines Microsoft were fined a billion euros for anti competitive practices and Google are currently being threatened.

    The Commission will not let Monsanto ride rough shod over Europe. They have the power to stop them and they use it. Its like the House of Lords protecting the disabled and unemployed from the ‘democratic will’ of the Commons.

    Of course hardly anyone in the UK knows or cares anything about this as we rot in our Ragged Trousered Philanthropists fantasies of self-importance.


    • litgaz Says:

      Thanks for this useful clarification, Bob; it’s a pity these things aren’t more widely known (and I do read quite widely!). I do feel it’s Britain’s attitude that’s the main problem, and the fact that we share a similar language with the USA is largely at the root of it. Geography doesn’t help, either.


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