In lieu of anything original from me (far too busy and knackered at the moment, so lengthy pieces on the latest round of repetitive and doubtless unproductive CAP reform discussions, likely Russia-EU relations under Medvedev, the ongoing tensions in EU-Serbian relations and all the rest must wait, I’m afraid…), have a book review like wot I done for this week’s TLS ahead of the imminent Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
We the Peoples of Europe
by Susan George
(Pluto Press, £11.99)
Originally written in the run-up to the 2005 French and Dutch referenda on the (then) EU Constitution, and revised ahead of the Irish referendum on the (now) Lisbon Treaty, We the Peoples of Europe is a political polemic of the old school. Nonetheless, it is a refreshing and mostly well-written read for anyone used to the standard British brand of centre-right euroscepticism, for Susan George is of the unreconstructed, 1968-era, Marxian variety of eurosceptic, whose thought has become such a rarity in the UK as to have been all but forgotten.
Packed with emotional assertions (officials promoting the Lisbon Treaty are “despicable”, the Bolkestein Directive, designed to liberalize the EU’s service industries, aims to “annihilate all social progress made in Europe since the Second World War”) and repeated references to class warfare and the supposed evils of “neo-liberalism”, the result is occasionally – unintentionally – hilarious. Indeed, by this interpretation of the new Lisbon Treaty, Britain’s eurosceptics appear to have got every concession they wanted,for in George’s analysis this is the latest step in a vast capitalist conspiracy of shadowy political elites and big business interests to promote precisely the kind of free trade association that has long been the dream of the British right.
The end result therefore ironically shows what a successful compromise the EU Constitution-cum-Lisbon Treaty must be (George, like many commentators, never quite makes the distinction between the two), inspiring as it does opposition from both extremes of the political spectrum. But this also helps to prove George’s main contention, because underneath all the Marxian rhetoric lies the major point that the various EU treaties, laws and bodies are so complex and impenetrable as to have locked out the ordinary citizen from a European Union whose purpose and direction is increasingly unclear. What George advocates, at its heart, is something all Europeans should be able to support – a genuine, thorough reassessment of what the European Union is for, taking into account the views of the people for the first time in the project’s history. Only that way, she argues, will a lasting, viable union be constructed – whatever its political slant.
Oh, and while I’m at it, here’s a report on that UACES-Reuters award thing I got shortlisted for, and a lovely piccie of the shiny trophy itself:
Finally, in other news – remember The Sharpener, like wot I used to help run and write for? Well, it’s back. Huzzah! Have a gander – lots of good stuff in the archives, plus a vague possibility that we all might get off our arses and start adding new content sometime soon… (And yes, the same does go for this place. Promise…)