By Laurence Ticehurst.
What are we to make of the results of the European elections? Is it an earthquake? Is it the end of the European project born of the wreckage of the catastrophe of 1939- 45? Do we face a xenophobic threat? What is likely to happen next?
These are the questions that others are asking. But they are grounded in the assumption that the European elections are really like those that take place in the individual countries of Europe. But is this true? Is not the reality that real elections presuppose states which themselves reflect real communities, and that The European Union as it currently exists is not such a state? Is not the Union itself really a bureaucratic entity that wants to transform itself into a state? – which, is, of course, a very different thing.
Just as the single currency is intended to create an integrated European economy that does not at presnt exist, so the European election, or elections, are plainly intended to create a European identity. And this explains why the supporters of the project- especially in the BBC- focussed to the extent that they have on the turnout of the elections-, which went up very slightly.
In the same way that the European elections are not like other elections, so the European Parliament is not like other legislative assemblies. The crucial difference derives from the fact that the European project is not intended to be democratic. Indeed the founders of the project in the early nineteen fifties believed that it was the combination of nationalism and democracy which had led to both world wars. The founding fathers of the European project , Monnet ( 1888- 1979) , Schuman (1886- 1963), Adenauer (1876-1967), and De Gasperi ( 1881- 1954 ), together with those beneath them such as Professor Hallstein, had all seen democracies fail. They had seen weak institutions collapse in the face of mass movements. And it was this weakness that they intended to correct. They were not trying to promote democracy. They were trying to prevent democracy from plunging Europe into yet another European war. The dangerous impulses of the people were to be shackled by economic and institutional structures which bound the continent, and more particularly France and Germany, together.
This aniti- democractic and highly questionable narrative of what had led to the wars of the preceeding half century explains why Democracy was not mentioned in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome and why the European Parliament does not enjoy what is called “legislative initiative.” That is to say it lacks the the power of proposing legislation. Thus while the European Parliament has been able to exercise some control over the appointment of individuals (usually in cases when these last were not deemed to be sufficiently politically correct) it cannot do anything other than respond to the proposals of the European bureaucracy which is the real heart of the project. At the best the European Parliament can influence, but it cannot control either form or direction of what goes on. Such direction is in other hands.
Consequently the results of these last elections are unlikely to have the impact that has been claimed for them. This is not an immediate earthquake. In the short run little enough will change. Neither Madam Le Pen nor Mr. Farage are Samsons capable of destroying the temple. Xenophobes they may be; threats they are not. At the best ( or worst ) they may be able to influence events, but they will certainly not be able set Europe on a new course. Nevertheless the political siesmologists are right to be concerned. The future of the European Union depends not on who is elected to the European Parliament but rather on the European bureaucracy. Just as in South Africa change only came about when the white Nationalist politicians started saying to one another “We can’t go on like this” so too in Europe the form of the institutions will only change when senior players in Brussels begin to wonder whether setting up an unacccountable international bureacracy is really the right way to promote liberal values? Only then will they realise that the choice is between a looser and more flexible Europe, and the disintegration of the Union, the destruction of their dreams, and the loss of their jobs. Consequently what we have just seen is not an earthquake, or at least not a large earthquake. It may though be the first sign that an earthquake is possible