restricted access IV: The Revenge of Politics
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102 -IVthe revenge of politics  For we alone regard the man who takes no part in public affairs . . . as good for nothing; and we Athenians decide public questions for ourselves or at least endeavour to arrive at a sound understanding of them, in the belief that it is not debate which is a hindrance to action, but rather not to be instructed by debate before the time comes for action. —Pericles’ Funeral Oration, from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BCE Gregory (Scotland Yard Detective): Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention? Sherlock Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time. Holmes: That was the curious incident. —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Silver Blaze,” 1892 On 1 December 2009, after nearly a decade of confusion and vacillation, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty came into force. Like its abortive predecessor, the 2004 Constitutional Treaty, it was designed to counter the centrifugal forces that the admission of twelve new member states had let loose. To some extent, that is what it did. It simplified the Union’s cumbersome decision-making process; gave the European Council of EU heads of government a semi-full-time president; and created a new post of High Representative for foreign affairs. At the same time, it increased the powers of the European 103 THE REVENGE OF POLITICS Parliament; endowed the Union with a single legal personality ; and made the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding (though with opt outs for Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic). These changes matter. They have removed some of the obstacles to effective decision making and made it marginally easier for the Union to raise its profile in the outside world. But the key word in that sentence is “marginally.” Henry Kissinger’s snide question—“If I want to talk to Europe , what number do I call?”—is as pertinent as ever. The Lisbon Treaty was a palliative, or rather a set of palliatives. It did not equip the Union for a world that bears virtually no resemblance to the mental maps its elites and peoples have inherited from their past. It was not intended to. Europe’s leaders sought a better way of doing business as usual; the last thing they wanted was a new kind of business. The European Union is still a hobbled giant. The haze of ambiguity that has surrounded its governance since the beginning of the European project is still there. It is still caught in a noman ’s-land between federalism and confederalism—and between democracy and technocracy. Its institutions still lack the political legitimacy and moral authority to steer Europe through the shoals of a new century, in which the venerable categories of “East” and “West” have been emptied of meaning . The treaty is a staging post on a journey to a still unknown destination, not the destination itself, an opportunity to take stock and look ahead, not an excuse for dodging the great questions of purpose, principle, and power that now press in on European elites and peoples. Tragically, there has so far been more dodging than looking. In this chapter, I shall try to redress the balance: to probe the unanswered questions that the European Pushmi-Pullyu 104 CHAPTER 4 has brushed under the carpet. I begin by trying to tease out the inner meaning of the long-drawn-out negotiations that culminated in the Lisbon Treaty’s belated ratification. As in the Sherlock Holmes story, their most striking feature was the dog that did not bark in the night. There was no searching pan-European public debate about the meaning of the treaties and the political vision that the Union was supposed to incarnate. Vigorous—often bad-tempered—debates took place in some of its member states, but these were national, not European. They focused on the pros and cons for the particular member state concerned; the implications for the Union as a whole were virtually ignored. Opponents dilated on the loss of sovereignty their country would suffer if the proposals went through, supporters on the influence it would lose if it scuppered the project. The passion, moral seriousness, and philosophical depth of the extraordinary public debate that followed the drafting of the United States Constitution in 1787 and preceded its adoption in 1788 were conspicuous by their absence. No European Alexander Hamilton or James Madison set out the moral values...