A piece in yesterday’s Economist is noteworthy for that magaine’s continuing blinkered assessments of the reach and influence of the European Union.
The Charlemagne column offers us what its author probably thinks is an insightful article titled ‘No time for doubters’, which argues that Europe must do more to support Arab democracy, out of self-respect and self-interest. As always, whenever there is a crisis the Euroweenies always emerge and declare that ‘Europe’ must do something. We are told that:
WHEN people took to the streets of Tunis, France offered to help President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s security forces. When they filled the squares of Cairo, Italy praised Hosni Mubarak as the wisest of men. And when they were slaughtered in Tripoli, the Czech Republic said catastrophe would follow the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Malta defended Libya’s sovereignty and Italy predicted that the protests would lead to an Islamic emirate.
With every new Arab uprising, some European country has placed itself on the wrong side of history. So it is no surprise that the European Union has been slow to tell regimes to listen to demands for democracy and to condemn violent suppression.
Well, what do you expect? The European Union has as much place lecturing others on democracy as the Taliban has lecturing others on the wonders of Hinduism.
When are people like the author of the Charlemagne column going to get it through their thick heads that the EU is not democratic? If anything the EU acts in much the same way as Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi, selecting its own leaders and imposing laws and regulations on the people of member states through entities that are unelected and unaccountable. Too many EU leaders have respected the autocrats of north Africa and have coveted the kind of power they have wielded until now.
So when Charlemagne’s author pens comments such as the one below, it is clear he either doesn’t ‘get it’ or is simply helping to hold the EU’s anti democratic line:
Yet it is hard to avoid the suspicion that too many European countries are still more worried about stability in the Middle East than about democracy.
For sure EU leaders love globe trotting and telling the world about the wonder of democracy. But they sure as hell don’t practice what they preach. Out of all the member states only Ireland held a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty’s package of measures to dramatically increase the power of the EU at the expense of national sovereignty. That’s democratic? The cosy stitch up by the political class serves no one’s interest but theirs, but they believe their own bullshit and think they are some kind of model democratic structure.
In truth the EU is only a model for a modernised version of the totalitarian autocracy being thrown off by the people in north Africa. The only difference being the illusion of democracy where in truth none exists. Which is why comments such as the one below are worthy of such contempt:
A better test of European diplomacy will be whether, in the longer term, the EU can help north African countries establish lasting democracies. Europe has a wealth of experience in helping to reform former totalitarian states.
Reform them into what, precisely? There is a risk here that if north Africans listen to such garbage they will soon be engaging in yet more violent actions. The erosion of democracy across the EU member states has been a gradual process, where each night a few extra bricks have quietly been laid on a steadily growing wall separating us from self determination. If the north Africans implemented an EU model as it currently stands, people would soon realise they have been conned. Charlemagne almost gets it right when he writes:
So far the revolts of 2011 have been strikingly free of Islamist, anti-imperial and even anti-Israeli ideology. Such sentiments could yet be stirred if Europe appears to be colluding with hated rulers.
Or if the people realise that the European method simply replaces one set of hated rulers with another outside the reach of democratic accountability. What then? From the tender shoots of a desire for democracy we will see grow a thorny bush of Islamist fervour as the corruption of democracy becomes all too apparent – and the only available outlet for rebellion is offered by the Islamists, who will say only embracing their godly ways can satisfy the wishes of those who risked their lives to throw off dictatorship.
Indirectly, Europe’s slow burn coup d’etat could in the future have the effect of driving people into the arms of the extremists. Which is a pity, not least because it should be having the effect of making people in the member states rise up and take control back from those who have stolen it.