The push for a greater ‘Europe’ is also dividing Europe

European Leaders

From Julian Lindley-French, the New Atlanticist:  The current crisis has painfully exposed what is the great European divide ; those who believe in a greater ‘Europe’ and those suspicious of grand constructs that not only threaten hard won freedoms but also seek to replace the nation-state. Sadly, friendships have been torn asunder over this issue; I too have lost a couple.

Many continental Europeans are used to so-called ‘dirigisme’, diktat by fiat from above. As an Englishman grounded in a political culture in which fundamental individual freedoms are sacrosanct the very idea of a European Leviathan is dangerous political folly. It would require trust in a European political caste over which I have no writ. . . .

For me ‘Europe’ can only ever work as a tight alliance of nation-states in which the political centre of gravity remains national sovereignty under national parliamentary control ‘harmonised’ into a tool for strategic influence, both within Europe and beyond. To that end the place of Brussels is to serve the European state, not replace it. I will never compromise on this point.

Shortly before his death Hobbes said, “I am about to take my last voyage. A great leap in the dark.” He could well have been speaking of the giant leap into the political dark that is now taking place in Europe. Ultimately, a European Leviathan would be an insult to the tradition of English and Scottish political thought that made parliamentary democracy possible – Hume, Locke, Mill, Smith et al. And, if friendships are lost because I will not compromise on this fundamental political principle, then so be it.

A European Leviathan; be careful what you wish for.

Julian Lindley-French is Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy, Fellow of Respublica in London, Associate Fellow of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies and a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Atlantic Council. He is also a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the NATO Defence College in Rome. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.  (photo: Reuters)

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