monograph · Do europeans exist?
More than a club
The European Union is much more than a club, but it is also much less than a nation or a state. Everyone is clear about this distinction and hence derives, I suspect, the need to ask, again and again, if there are Europeans and who they are, after all, those who hold and really deserve that status.
When Britain decided to leave, last June, the huge Brussels club I was following trails in the Valais Alps and my fellow hikers were, all of them, Britons and local Swiss. While chatting at our evening dinner, after having heard about the favourable vote to Brexit, we noted with puzzlement that the single European citizen who was on the expedition was me.
The southern looking guy with somewhat anarchic habits was suddenly the only one who could present a passport fully recognized by the European club while my pale, methodical and reliable colleagues were, all of them foreigners. Barbarians: people from beyond the border. It was evident that a series of political and administrative decisions had generated a nonsense. Because everyone knows that few people in the subcontinent embody better than the Swiss the traditions and values that are promoted in Brussels and Strasbourg. And it is also known, in addition, that Britons are a petulant and self-absorbed kind of islanders, but they will be tied to the subcontinent by contiguity and bonds so old and powerful than any real foreigner (a Japanese or a Polynesian, for example) will consider them much more Europeans than any Mediterranean type despite their aseptic or formal manners.
[pullquote]the most obviously European people for a naïve and external point of view do not belong to the great European club[/pullquote]This is a problem, therefore: the most obviously European people for a naïve and external point of view do not belong to the great European club. I’m using this anecdote, but one could imagine many other equally plausible. And quasi-experimental observations could be prepared. Thus, if during a congress meeting some outsiders ought to identify and score using a scale with gradations of Europeanness, the components of tables formed by Scandinavians, Dutch, Russian, Germans, Greeks, Italians or Portuguese I suspect that appreciable distinctions will appear despite the inevitable overlaps. By adding voice to the physical appearance those distances would likely progress into clear cut gaps without needing statistical tests.
This is a thought experiment that could be complemented with various controls to give it the necessary strength. With those presumed findings we would have to conclude the following: 1. There are quite distinct types of Europeans; 2. They can be perceived and grouped easily by simple markers, detectable at distance and without asking anything; 3. These groups obtain distinctive scores of Europeanness, from naive and external looks.
If that reflects the reality and the European Union persists at functioning as a club or as an alliance and not as a nation or a state, the instability of the assembly will persist becoming chronic and the question of who are the real Europeans will be perennial. So far the main steps have consisted of providing the big EU club with really powerful attributes. The most apparent are to have a single currency which has a solid value in the market, an imposing central bank also unique, a centralized budget of a considerable magnitude and a multitude of regulatory instruments on trade, labor and consumer/health issues which have been left into the hands of the labyrinth executive offices in Brussels. Those are the reasons why countries, enterprises and economic operators around the globe take the great EU club quite seriously, but still consider it a club.
Is there a remedy for this situation of relative fragility typical of clubs lives? Probably yes and it does not seem difficult to imagine a few patches that could improve the robustness of what some have dared to call the “European empire” when it has not reached anywhere near the condition of a stable political alliance. I’ll remember six fixtures, only, which have been proposed many times for the EU:
1. To have sports teams that represent EU in major competitions and in all facets and forms of sport.
2. To adopt a preferential EU language, to become the common and official EU voice.
3. To create a unified EU police agency superior in powers to all other police forces in all areas: surveillance, containment, detention and information.
4. Adopt a strongly hierarchical EU judicial system with unified higher courts.
5. Create and deploy an EU Army with capacity for effective action on any hot area of the globe.
6. Choose, by universal suffrage, a EU presidency every five years (with or without a lifelong monarchy as a symbol), from which to derive all instances of high executive powers.
Nothing else is needed. With all those ingredients accepted, voted and specified in a brief Constitution, the great EU club would become a state and the experience of nationhood will emerge and crystallize in addition. There is consensus, usually, on all that. The challenging obstacle is to be able to erect that structure overcoming the resistances of pre-existing instances, of course.
[pullquote]There are two experiments that by its complex population base and the doctrinal scripts used should perhaps serve as preferred models: the US and Israel[/pullquote]Political experiments of this kind have been carried out several times in different parts of the globe departing from previous conditions as complicated, at least, as those in Europe. The results are highly variable, but there are cases that run quite acceptably. There are two experiments that by its complex population base and the doctrinal scripts used should perhaps serve as preferred models: the US and Israel. In both the seminal cocktail was based on liberalism, Christianity or Judaism plus some drops of social and democratic values. In both cases, however, there was a foundational war with germination of powerful nationalisms that foreshadowed the script of patriotic belonging: Americanism and Zionism. In the first case, success was so overwhelming that the rest of the inhabitants of the American continent have been forced to do without the common gentile. Will you need to ignite a militant Europeanism for the emergence of true Europeans? If so, and if the invention succeeds, perhaps we’ll no longer worry anymore about the British narcissism, the Swiss obstinacy or the apprehensions of some Scandinavian or Slavic. They would have lost the European status and external and naive looks will know to detect, easily, who is who.
Catedrático de Psicología Médica y Psiquiatría.
Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (España)