The true believer’s faith is strengthened by disaster. So the true believers in a federal Europe have no intention of abandoning the monetary, budgetary and commercial integration policies that have exacerbated and prolonged the economic crisis. On the contrary, they want to increase the authority of those responsible for these policies. If European summits, stability pacts and disciplinary measures haven’t solved the problem, then that, our true believers assure us, is because they did not go far enough: we owe all our successes to Europe, all our failures to its absence. On the strength of this blind faith, they sleep soundly and dream happy dreams.
They also have nightmares, because federalists do not dislike storms: warnings of storms ahead give them the pretext of an emergency with which to subdue resistance to their grand design. Caught in mid-stream and under fire, you cannot go back. You must reach the other bank or die in the attempt, make the great “federal leap” or fail. As the former German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said last year: “Unless the current confederation evolves into a political federation with a central government, the eurozone — and the Union as a whole — will disintegrate” (1). In France, the three major radio networks and two of the main newspapers say the same thing every day.
Listening to the federalists, you would think the European institutions have no power or resources, while states have unlimited authority and means. But the European Central Bank (ECB), which has managed the crisis with the success we know, producing €1,000bn to refinance the banks, does not depend on EU governments or EU voters. Far from being under excessive constraints because of any lack of integration (a common budget, a single minister), the harmonisation of European policies under the German austerity regime has succeeded in increasing national debt and public poverty.
Today’s prophets of doom are former optimists. They were behind the European Community policies technocratically imposed 30 years ago; they celebrated the greatest market in the world, then the single currency, then the “policy of civilisation”; ignored public opinion as soon as it dissented; destroyed any plan for European integration based on social welfare, public services or trade protection. But when midnight strikes and their coach turns into a pumpkin, they forget how happy they were, and swear they always warned us the scheme would never work.
Will the current drama be the pretext for imposing a new federal leap forward without allowing universal suffrage a last bow? Europe is already in trouble; it cannot afford to deny democracy yet again.