I'm pleased I'm not alone in looking backwards - in this mini 'history corner' series - to try to understand the tectonic shifts now taking place in Europe. Bruce Anderson in the Telegraph today refers to 'a French jockey on a German horse' as previously described but more importantly describes a development from the 1960s, the subject of today's post. I'm also duly grateful for Dr Richard North's useful footnotes in the comments - and his forbearance - for whilst I'm plodding through these illustrative nuggets, Richard got to the conclusion many years ago. So far I've described the interactions between nation-states, France and Germany, in terms of 'France wanted ...' or 'Germany thought ...' and for these early years I think this is legitimate enough, to the extent that any broad national political consensus reflects the popular will. But from the 1960s something else was happening, as Anderson describes;
Throughout the continent, a cadre of Euro-intellectuals had come into being. For them, Europe was not about pragmatism and prosperity. It was a new religion. These people were not interested in learning from history. They wanted to re-make history. Like the French revolutionaries and the Marxists before them, they intended to transform human nature in order to reshape the human condition. Thus tragedy was incubated.1
This new breed of federalists believed in a Europe of weak nation states and strong supranational institutions. The 1960s brought them smack into conflict with De Gaulle, whose 11 year Presidency from 1959 has now assumed consensus admiration today from both left and right in France, as Mrs Thatcher's in the UK is now doing. De Gaulle had a mystical belief in a France not as she was constituted in 1960 but as an entity 2000 years old and pivotal to both European and world development. As Warlouzet comments;
This deep conviction triggered a European policy based on the promotion of the nation-state. The strengthening of the cooperation between Europeans should be based on an intergovernmental approach and every federalist ambition would have to be thwarted. Although de Gaulle never expressed this clearly, it is obvious that in order to satisfy his goal of French grandeur, the European organisations should be under French leadership. This purpose was expressed clearly in his willingness to free Europe from any American influence.
And also, of course, to keep Britain away.
De Gaulle's efforts at securing political integration in Europe started in 1960 with 'A note on the subject of the Organisation of Europe', a 9-point plan that sidelined the US, NATO and Britain, and promoted an intergovernmental Europe with nearly all the power remaining with member states and not with supranational institutions. This was in direct conflict with the aims of the Federalists, and the crisis simmered away before it came to a head in the Summer of 1965. The Federalists proposed combining the CAP, the Commission and the European Parliament in a massively powerful triumverate. De Gaulle reacted by walking out of the Council. France's empty chairs were to remain until January 1966.
The resulting Luxembourg Compromise that brought France back to the Council table was not a resolution of the schism but an agreement to disagree. It governed Europe's development through the 60s and 70s, and during this period bureaucracy thrived and decision making slowed to the pace of cold treacle. The Federalists, Anderson's new Euro Zealots, in the meanwhile grew, multiplied and inculcated themselves like cockroaches into every cranny of public life, dominating the political class. I'll leave the final word to the man who, though a prickly little haemorrhoid to the British, was the greatest threat the Federalists faced;
Now, we know - heaven knows that we know! - that there was a different concept of a European federation in which, according to the dreams of those who conceived it, the countries would lose their national personalities, and in which, furthermore, for want of a federator - such as, in the West, Caesar and his successors, Charlemagne, Otto I, Charles V, Napoleon and Hitler tried to be, each in his fashion, and such as in the East, Stalin tried to be - would be ruled by technocratic, a stateless and irresponsible Areopagus. We know also that France is opposing this project, which contradicts all reality, with a plan for organized co-operation among the States, evolving, doubtlessly, toward a confederation.
(De Gaulle 1965, quoted in Warlouzet)
1 Elsewhere Anderson's absurd suggestion on ConservativeHome that Britain is no longer threatened by the Federalists is shredded - notably in the comments. EUReferendum also trashes his belief that the Conservative Party was immune from the Federast infection; indeed, many of us believe the very Zealots that Anderson accurately describes are actually running the Tory party, and have been since the 1970s.