Great expectations that Europe, ten years after the signature of the historic Maastricht treaty, will become a flawless union, are boundless illusions. It is not yet clear to the European political class whether the new European order will have the label of federal units or the hallmark of sovereign states. In view of the unavoidable globalisation, the concept of the European Union becomes superfluous. To what good should one keep uniting Europeans, if in the global market most European enterprises have already branches scattered all over Eastern Europe, or tap on cheap resources and labor in Third World countries? The grandstanding project of uniting Europe is based on mercantile and consumerist principles and little on cultural and historical identities of European peoples. The Union was conceived at Maastricht, in 1992, as a pool of rootless merchants not as a trove of patriots. If the sacred economy slides into recession, each member country is bound to pay a heavy price.
The idea of the unified Europe is not just meant for somebody or for something, but also against something and against somebody. Early European emperor, Charlemagne, in the ninth century, also thought about uniting Europe, but primarily as a shield to fend off the looming Arab threat coming from the Mediterranean basin, and as a common rampart against incursions of Asian hordes into the Panonian plains of central Europe. His dream about linking the Burgundy with the Black Sea through elaborate water channels via the Rhine and Danube rivers, was finally put to practice in 1993. Charlemagne's late successor, the Flemish-born German-Spanish emperor, Charles Quint, in the sixteenth century, also toyed with the idea to unite Christian Europe, albeit not only as a spear for throwing out infidel Turks from the Danube delta in the Balkans, but also as a sword to push back the rapacious French southwest off the Rhine river. Foreign powers have traditionally tapped on numerous European traitors and collaborators in order to weaken Europe. What is more, Europeans have a strange habit of constantly waging tribal wars among themselves. The French royal houses and their mundane Catholic clergy, nourished for centuries good diplomatic ties with Islamic Sublime Port in Turkey, which the peoples in central Europe and the Balkan peninsula paid very dearly. The French obsession was to weaken the European center and its prime spiritual and geopolitical locomotive, the Holy German Empire.
It is not per chance that the biggest stumbling block among European Union bureaucrats today is not the clash between the left with the right, but the clash of the French "souverenistes" vs. German "fйdйralistes." Must one follow the old principle of decentralized Germany and its current state policy of federalism, or rather lean toward the French aggressive agenda to preserve sovereign nation-states? Yet even the concept of sovereignty and state-building differs widely in both countries today, creating a great deal of confusion about the future of the Union. The early French state was created by lawyers. By contrast, the early German statehood was designed by itinerant poets and philosophers. It is not an accident that the French revolution, prior to severing of intelligent heads, first began with severing of all regional dialects. The French idea of the united Europe, which is embedded in the concept of centralized "empire," has nothing in common with the German idea of "Reich". The idea of the Reich presupposes the spatial infinity defying transient state borders. Many of the "reich" legal proviso are still strong in contemporary German Republic. The most elaborate form of the embryonic European union was practiced by the lasting Austro-Hungarian Empire, which housed for centuries a myriad of diverse European peoples living in relative solidarity.
The imperial French tradition, carries along a merciless grinding wheel of cultural and ethnic assimilation. Not even in his wildest dreams does a French right-winger or a left-wing extremist think about granting complete autonomy to Brittany, Alsace or Corsica. In its centralistic and globalistic appetites the ancient royal France sold not only gaping mortars to the Ottoman empire in Istanbul. Its ruler Louis XIV also introduced the state -sponsored terrorist cannon diplomacy. By the end of the 17th century his troops lobbed with heavy howitzers the city of Brussels - a town which was then inhabited by the majority of Germanic speaking populace.
The European Union and its apparatus in Brussels and Strasbourg, cost very much money and employ over 40 thousand apparachiks. Side by side with state bureaucracy, an anonymous supra-state bureaucracy keeps growing and growing, which only hampers smooth and unanimous decision making. The salaries of EU bureaucrats are amazingly high - even for West European standards - and everybody pretends to ignore that all expenses are being indirectly fueled to Brussels by German tax payers. Long time ago, in multiethnic Holy German Empire, official languages were Latin and German, and no career could be dreamt of without solid knowledge of these two languages. In the European Union headquarters today, in theory all 7 European languages are equally represented. Yet in order to avoid linguistic effort regarding the plight of Portuguese wine makers or Greek fishermen, official statements are made in broken English - which seems to be the trademark of the bearded and stuttering NATO spokesman Javier Solana. Foreign policy of the EU is non-existent. Given that the heads of the EU are unwilling to trot in the mine fields of independent decision making, each foreign overture must have a prior stamp of the Washington benediction. Such political paralysis resulted recently in additional thousands of dead in the Balkan killing fields. Today, the paranoid fear of any foreign wrong-doing, which in the minds of EU officials may be wrongly interpreted as anti-Israeli, makes EU diplomacy a mockery in the burning Middle East. In addition, since even among equals there must be those who are more equal, the German nation, unlike other EU member states, never had a chance to vote in plebiscite for the introduction of the euro currency. Indeed, even the uttering of a word plebiscite ("Volksbegehren") triggers amidst the German political class, immediate historical neuroses and may result in loss of a well paid career. To offset this complex of historiographic inferiority, the Germans must therefore counter their back-seat role in the EU by endlessly jumpstarting their charitable and culinary diplomacy - to the great joy and big laughter of other member states. In its architectural design the EU buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels project the late, albeit air-conditioned carbon copy of the Soviet monumentalism, and its last palace standard bearer the late Romanian communist Dracula, Nicolae Ceausescu. And should one consider this as an accident that exactly 2 years ago a postage stamp was introduced by the Belgian authorities with facial traits and goat beard of the late communist leader Vladimir Ilich Lenin?
The dream of the united Europe is as old as Europeans themselves. In reality though it turns into regular nightmare. About the united Europe millions of European romanticists hallucinated: from papist to atheists, from Guelfs to Ghibelins, from anarchists to Trotskysts. Their wishful thinking as a rule ended up in chain catastrophes. Hence the fact that even today the concept of the European union remains fluid, lending itself to thousands of work hypotheses. By the end of 1943, the national-socialist authorities decided to start printing in the German village of Vlotho, first European passports destined for a million or more European Waffen SS volunteers coming from Germany, Chechnya, Croatia, Flanders, Albania, France, Spain, a handful of Irishmen etc. These lost souls also had their vision of united Europe. On May 3, 1945 in the late evening hours, accompanied by gusty winds, around 300 hundred French Waffen SS soldiers side by side with a handful of Latvian and Hungarian SS troopers defended Berlin along the left bank of the Spree river on fire, against the incoming Soviet tanks. These were the remnants of the French Waffen SS division Charlemagne.
The author is a writer and a former Croat diplomat. He writes from Europe.