A Critique of Europe

Michel Wieviorka, Jonathan P. Eburne
2012 New Literary History  
École des hautes études en sciences sociales Can the European Union be revitalized-or salvaged, at the very least? And if so, can ideas about cultural and historical identity play a significant role? Not long ago, such questions would have hardly seemed relevant, as candidate nations scrambled to join a European Union that grew from six to twenty-seven member states in less than half a century. During the recent economic and fiscal crisis, and particularly since 2011, however, a growing number
more » ... f people, even within the founding nations of the EU, have spoken out against a project they consider inadequate for coping with the economic problems of the Old Continent, while also criticizing the euro, its common currency. Opponents of European unification have not only stressed matters of policy, criticizing what they consider the ineffectiveness of Europe's social and economic protocols; they have also, especially critics on the Right, stressed issues of moral and cultural value, history, and national identity. And indeed, when it comes to "values," are the supporters of European unification not at somewhat of a loss, given that Europe's appeal to moral and ethical convictions registers, at best, less strongly than that of any individual nation? Perhaps the European debate has simply reached a state of imbalance, with partisans of the EU project-who are only able to rely on reason and economic proposals, even if combined with a moral argument-squaring off against their opponents, who leaven their economic critique with an emphasis on identity. The EU originally arose from two essential beliefs. The first was a profoundly humanist moral principle: in order to avert the return of war and atrocity, and to prevent nations from killing each other (as they had done twice during the past half century), the best course of action would be to unite the nations in the creation of a European community. In the words of Robert Schuman, one of its founding fathers, the EU would henceforth render war "not only unthinkable but also materially impossible," as he declared on May 9, 1950, which became Europe Day. And whereas the long-range, utopian aims of the project conveyed that this community would be political, a sober, more realistic examination of the situation demanded that the project proceed step-by-step, beginning with economic integration. This was the founders' second belief. The first act of European unification was the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was inaugurated in 1951 by six countries: Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The idea was to create a common market for coal and steel, as well as a rational organization for the scale of production in each of the countries that signed the treaty. A European space thus began to take shape among states that had just survived two
doi:10.1353/nlh.2012.0042 fatcat:vnbnynx47fdnvemdlqyhyzu4na