Responses to Timothy Garton Ash's Guardian columns

This is an archived website, which offered an opportunity for readers of Timothy Garton Ash's book Free World and his weekly columns to exchange ideas. Updated links and new forums can be found at Timothy Garton Ash's new website,  

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Our new Guernica
10 March 2004

Francisico, Spain

Just perfect, Timothy. I read your article and you reflect what we saw and we heard.

Donal Greco, USA

Dear Sir:
It's quite true that all these things "on the ground" in a country like Spain go along way toward improving relations, and toward lessening tensions among fellow-citizens. This is good and necessary. But what insight do you offer concerning the real and relevant dynamic whereby a bin Laden or an al Zarqawi send fanatics to DESTROY ANY PEACE OR GOOD-WILL that exist in established democracies, just because they believe that no one should live who does not bow to Islamic Law?

Jorge Caneda Schad, Spain and USA

Just a quick thank you for helping undermine a prejudice I have that "no good news are reported by British press about Spain".
I am a long time reader of the Economist and the Financial Times, over 24 yeas, and have been quite dismayed at what those papers publish about Spain, allways painting the country and its citizens in a bad light.

Khalid Roy, UK

Timothy Garton Ash is absolutely right when he says (ŒOur Guernica‚, March 10) that long term social cohesion can only be won „if ordinary citizens across Europe are consciously engaged in ∑millions of commonplace interactions with people of different colour and faith.‰ Unfortunately, this is simply not happening in the UK at the moment. People are living in fearful ignorance of one another with all discourse between presently ghettoized communities mediated ˆ or even manipulated - through politics and the media.
Initiatives such as the National Issues Forum in the States and ŒDiversity & Dialogue‚ here are trying to counter this isolation by establishing forums through which ordinary people can get to know and trust Œthe other‚ in a civilized way.
In direct contrast to the racists ˆ who say that we are all being forced to live together through political correctness ˆ our contention is based on an implicit trust in the British people that if (the big Œif) only communities could be brought together in dialogue the result will inevitably be a richer, more profound and more inclusive sense of national identity.

Eduard von Slawik, Madrid, Spain

About Condoleezza Rice's name origins....
I believe someone might have mispelled or else "interpreted" the italian translation of fact...the article Mr Garton Ash wrote...about his parents having a penchant for italian romance..suggest a possible misreading of the term.
So,opposite to the theory that her parents might have meant to call her Con dolianze...which would have turned her into Condelence theory goes that they might have asked someone a suggestion or performed their own research...and..."transformed" the fact..if you were to hand write con dolcezza in italian...after the letter L you might mistake an E for what in truth is a C!
Sorry darling!


The birth of Europe
17 March 2004

bobby, USA

"... never again ..." Chamberlain went to Munich; Blair went to Camp David. Yes, again, it has started already.

Tim Worstall, Portugal

Re your question to Eurosceptics:
In the Grauniad Tim Garton Ash asks a question:
The difference is this: we new, sceptically pro-EU Europeans have a great story to tell - a story that is about the past but also about the future. Our challenge to these old, doggedly anti-EU Europeans is: we hear your story about the past, but where's your story about the future?
OK, here‚s my desired future. A world where power and decision making are devolved to the minimum effective level. That means, in all but a very few things that are better done collectively, decisions made by the individual concerned. In those few things that are done collectively, decision making must again be at the maximally devolved level possible. How to collect and dispose of the rubbish is something for local authorities, how to run the legal system for national authorities. What supra national organisations exist are only there because of the current imperfections in the devolution of power. The WTO, for example, exists to police the trade agreements that nations have signed up to. But nations should not have trade agreements. What to buy at what price and from whom is a decision that should be devolved to the individual consumer, with no interference by any other level of power.
The European Union exists to impose a specific ideal of the perfect society, a social democratic one, and as social democracy is a negation of exactly the freedoms and liberties that my ideal world would contain, there is no place for it in my ideal world. Nor the UN and many other such bodies.
In essence, free Europeans in a free Europe, calmly going about their daily business with the least amount of interference in the decisions of individuals possible. In terms of the impact of the State, something like the world of the 1870‚s, 1880‚s (while at our current levels of wealth, of course) where we had free movement of goods, people and capital around the world, yet the average Englishman lived almost his entire life without meeting the State except at the Post Office. Which we should privatise, of course.

Stephen Renico, United States

Mr. Ash,
You wrote "Le Goff's book ends with Europe beginning to take over from China as the avant garde of technological modernity, and setting out to conquer the world, starting with America. Now America is the world's leading power, while China is coming back up again with the force of a rising piston. This relative decline of Europe is another reason for hanging together rather than hanging separately."
I was wondering if you were familiar with Machiavelli's essay on the concept of "virtu", found in his book _The Art of War_. As a historian, you may appreciate that Machiavelli wrote this back when Europe had even less relative power and influence than it does today.
To understand the passage, however, we must first understand what Machiavelli calls "virtu". According to Dr. Neal Wood- Professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, it is a difficult concept to translate. Dr. Wood describes "virtu" thusly:
"Virtu is a necessary quality of of effective military and political leadership, and it is essential to the survival and well-being of a people in this alien and hostile world....."
"Virtu in the special sense is basically a military quality. There is no synonym for this use of virtu. Machiavelli employs it to characterize masculine and aggressive conduct that is exhibited in a dangerous and uncertain situation of tension, stess, and conflict. The concept entails the idea of tremendous force of will and inner strength that will enable one to overcome the most recalcitrant opposition and to endure the most perilous adversity. Among the attributes included in virtu are boldness, bravery, resolution, and decisiveness."
The passage in question is below:
"Cosimo: I should be very happy to learn if you have ever considered how it comes to pass that we are so degenerate, and that not only these exercises, but all manner of military discipline, have now fallen into such neglect and disuse among us.
Fabrizio: I shall give you my opinon on hte mater very freely sir. You know, then, that there have been many renowned warriors in Europe- but few in Africa, and fewer still in Asia; the reason for this is that the last two mentioned parts of the world have had but one or two monarchies and only a few republics om tje,. amd that Europe, on the contrary, has had several kindoms, but more republics in it. Now men become excellent and and show their virtu according to how they are employed and encouraged by their sovereigns, whether these happen to be kings, princes, or heads of republics; so where there are many states, there will be many great men; but where there are few states, there will not be many great men. In Asia, there were Ninus, Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Mithridates, and a few others like them; in Africa (without mentioning the ancient Egyptians), we read of Masinissa, Jugurtha, and some Carthaginian commanders of eminent note. The number of these men, however, is very small in comparison with those Europe has produced; for in this part of the world, there have indeed been numbers of excellent men whom we know about, and doubtless many more whose memories are now extinguished by the malevolence of time; because every state is obliged to cherish and encourage men of virtu, either out of necesity or for other reasons- where there are more states, ther must of course be more men of virtu.
Asia, on the contrary, has not produced many men of virtu because, to a great extent, that part of the globe is subject to one monarchy alone- to so great an extent that most parts of it languish in indolence and cannot form any considerable number of men for great and glorious enterprises. The same may be said of Africa, although there have indeed been more commanders of virtu in that region than in Asia, thanks to the republic of Carthage. There will always be a greater number of excellent men in republics than in monarchies because virtu is generally honored in the former, but feared in the latter; hence, it comes to pass that men of virtu are and encouraged in one, but discountenanced and suppressed in the other.
If we consider Europe next, we shall find that it was always full of principalities, kingdoms, and republics which lived in perpetual jealousy of each other and were obliged to maintain good discipline in their armies and to honor and encourage military merit. In Greece, besides the Macedonian monarchy, there were several republics, and every one produced many excellent men. In Italy there were the Romans, the Samnites, the Etruscans, and the Cisalpine Gauls. France, Germany, and Spain abounded with republics and principalities; and if we do not rread of as many excellent men in any of them as among the Romans, that results from the partiality of historians, who generally follow the stream of fortuna, and content themselves with praising the conqueror. It is only reasonable to suppose, however, that there were a great many illustrious men among the Samnites and Etruscans since they defended themselves against the Romans for 150 years. The same may be supposed of France and Spain; but the virtu which most historians fail to celebrate in particular men, they are forward enough to praise in whole nations, when they tell us with what bravery and resolution these nations exerted themselves in defense of their liberties.
Since it is obvious, then, that where there are many states there will always be many men of virtu, it is certain that when the number of those states is diminished, the number of such men will likewise decrease by degrees- just as the effect must cease when the cause is taken away. Thus, when the Roman Empire had swallowed up all the kingdoms and republics in Europe and Africa, and most of those in Asia, virtu met with no countenance anywhere but in Rome; so that men of virtu began to grow more scarce in Europe, as well as in Asia, until at last there were hardly any to be found. Just as all virtu was extinguished, except among the Romans, so when they became corrupt, the whole world was similarly corrupted, and the Scythians poured by swarms into an Empire that, having extinguished the virtu of most other nations, was not able to preserve its own."
I think Machiavelli was a bit too dismissive of Asia, especially when one looks at places like China and Turkey at the time. However, I think he was on to something when trying to explain why Europe's star was rising. It leads me to believe that Machiavelli would have been a Eurosceptic.

Francis Turner, France

WRT to you challenge to "Anti-Europeans" in your latest column here is my response

Andy, UK

I think your article shows complete lack of understanding of European history over the last 2000 years and fails in it's arguements, both historically and politcally.
Througout European history many people have dreamt of uniting the continent, only to lead into war, mass murder and genocide. I doubt the current leftist EU elite will be able to succeed in this by force of bureaucracy while the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Napoleon failed by the use of arms.
You cannot overwrite thousends of years of culture and distinctive nationality just because some faceless EU bureaucrat issued some Soviet-style diktat to abandon the concept of national identity. This is goes completely against the human nature, which happens to be tribal.
As British European, I celebrate and cherish the great variety of cultures this continent has to offer - and I strongly believe we should co-operate with our European friends to increase the trade and travel between the nations. But I believe abolishing our very own national identities in favour of some kind of politically correct Thousend Year Reich, we would make our continent that much poorer.

Jack Weixel, USA

As an American, I "have no dog in this hunt", and far be it for me to cast judgement on Europeans' (or anyone's) right of self determination. But considering a great deal of my business is done in Europe, and the fact that Europeans are never shy about instructing me on how Americans should live their lives, I humbly weigh in with a few thoughts for consideration.
Our nation was built through the infusion of millions of (largely) European immigrants, traveling to America for reasons ranging from escape from political or religious tyranny to nothing more than pure attempts at survival. Regardless of their reasonings, they were escaping nations ruled by elites - political, familial, intellectual, religious or military.
It is not possible to properly address of all the many factors or characteristics of migration patterns or national cultures, but it can be clearly seen that all of Europe's history includes domination by elite classes, almost always to the great detriment of the general population.
The EU is the absolute manifestation of the ultimate Elitist viewpoint. What would be my vision of the future? European nations understanding that pride in national identity and hostility towards a foreign national identity are not mutual requirements. That an individual identity revolves around who and what you are and not who and what you are not. That agreements to advance trade and international cooperation are not necessarily followed by multinational elitist attempts to obliterate independent sovereignty in order to create an entity powerful enough to impose its own will upon other nations. Power for the sake of greater power.
This is the underlying history of Europe, and this is what the EU is all about. Timothy Garton Ash acknowledges this, whether he likes it or not, when he speaks of the "relative decline of Europe". The literal meaning of those words are that Europe's "decline" is only relative, as Europe has held still while others have grown. And this would be largely true. Unfortunately, the destruction of national identity for the sake of greater power is, invariably, a sign of further decline rather than advance. We saw this as recently as the late 1930s and early 1940s.
And if anyone should recoil at the thought of comparing the EU movement with the Nazi movement, please let me tell you-
The only thing greater than a European's capacity to revise history is his propensity to repeat it.
What would my vision of the future be? A future whereby Europe finally casts off the rule of elitists, such as the EU and Garton Ash, and finally understands that your best interests lie in your own hearts, your own deeds and your own dreams - not in the gilded halls of your scheming rulers.

Ellis, USA

The "Birth of Europe" most closely resembles the closing chapter of Europe: "Our native-born populations are declining, and we are bad at making migrants, especially Muslim migrants, feel at home." Talk about a one-two punch.
Contemporary "me first" lifestyle, driven by an ideology which is the antithesis of Western Civilization and Christianity promotes childlessness and abortion. Meanwhile the Mullahs school their subjects in all manner of death (applied to both their perceived enemies and, even more astonishingly, themselves). It seems as if both nationals and immigrants should fairly easily find common ground.
How far down will the bar be lowered? Pray for Europe.

Philip Neal, London

Surely the UK Independence Party has a perfectly clear story about the future:
neo-liberalism. A Google search on UKIP comes up with "Neo-liberal, non-racist party
seeking Britain's withdrawal from the European Union." Two clicks on that link take
us to the first section of the UKIP manifesto, headed "The Economy - Free Trade and
Globalisation". The party was originally called the Anti-Federalist League by analogy
with the Anti-Corn Law League. It draws much of its support from Thatcherite former
Conservatives who turned against the EU because they could find no allies on the
continental right against irreversible EU social and employment legislation.
On the rare occasions when supporters of the EU trouble to take issue with this point
of view, rather than changing the subject to 'xenophobia', they generally have two
answers. One is to make out that the EU is secretly a force for capitalism like the
WTO and the IMF, valiantly imposing free market policies on a backsliding public. The
other is to claim that a Britain outside the EU would find itself blocked from a
return to Thatcherism by the might and malice of Brussels. These stories cannot both
be true: EU membership cannot be desirable for one reason and withdrawal undesirable
for the opposite reason.
I do not think it greatly matters whether European obstructiveness towards global
capitalism is to be blamed on the political classes or public opinion as a whole.
Whoever it is, the British free market right is not going to achieve its aims by
staying in the EU. The less power the EU has over us the better: the UK should
withdraw from it at once.

Emilio Fernández Castro, Albacete, Spain

I agree with you, Mr. Garthon Ash but... what about the UK? Why the English people don't share that reasonings? I've always been surprised of the deep repulse that the EU inspires in wide sectors of the English society, because:
1) Since, at least, William the Conqueror crossed the English Channel and won the Hastings Battle, the European history and the British history have been interlaced, so interlaced that I can't remember any major European historic event, from the Eleventh Century till today, where a Briton didn't take part, directly or indirectly, leading or inspiring it.
2) One of the main purposes for creating the EU was to prevent the big mistake that was the Versalles Treaty and its consequence -obvioulsy- the Second World War. The Europeans are now ready for living in peace, and this achievement would never has been possible without the sacrifice of thousands and thousands of English lives. That's a fact that really confuses me. Britons have fought for peace and democracy in Europe and, when we, all the Europeans, are picking the fruits of their sacrifice, of their bloody sacrifice, they don't want to participate (¿?). You've made the effort, so why don´t you want the profit?
Could you explain this contradiction to me, please?

F.Gamberini, UK/EU

I see no alternative to a continuing process of European integration, and this would be true regardless of whether Britain (or Italy) were part of it. So the only real debate concerns the form it should take.
There is still much to be done concerning harmonization in many specific areas of European life -welfare provision and other forms of assistance, for example. Not everyone is on the same level and people could try to learn from each other. Rolling back authoritarianism and buraucratization in our own countries is another issue whose work is never done. Whoever's ahead, speak up.
To Mr Fernadez Castro:
historically, Britain has always been part of Europe while standing outside it; it has always both participated in it and been in opposition to it. It has strong ties to the US. That is its particularity. One imagines that there may be (or may have been) similarities with Spain.

Emilio Fernández Castro, Albacete, Spain

To Mr. Gamberini:
Thanks for your answer. You're quite right when you see similarities with Spain. But let me ask you one more question. If I've understood your message, maybe Brits don't refuse being members of a united Europe, but they have problems to admit, or to share, a specific way of building Europe, I mean, the political structure we call "European Union". Maybe the problem is that we have chosen a way for constructing our common future that implies an election between one or other side of the Atlantic. An election that I don't share. Do you agree with me, or not?

F Gamberini, UK/EU

(In reply to E. Fernandez Castro)
I was trying, very briefly, to explain how Britain has related to Europe over the last few centuries, and how traces of this have survived into the present.
Today attitudes remain ambivalent and probably, as you say, also on account of the structure of the Union. I guess many in Britain would have been happier with just a free trade area, and you can see how the British public discourse continually talks of "our kind of Europe".
Your next two points are weighty ones, and I can only reply in by means of generalities. I do not really know what a different European Union would look like, unless it were indeed simply a free trade area or a loose and probably ineffectual association -which is why, incidentally, I do not much like to hear the word "club" used in this context; one would like to think that the EU involves rather more than that. We can do without a European anthem, but if you are serious about integration you need coordinating structures and there may be issues of sovereignty involved.
As for maintaining links across the Atlantic, this is a vast technical area. There is no reason why personal, cultural, diplomatic and communication links should not always remain, but in any other regard one can, as ever, only proceed by means of specific proposals. Only then can one begin to consider how something would work in practice.

Chasing the Dragon
24 March 2004

DL, England

I fully support China's NPC passing the anti-secession law.
China had always determined not to let Taiwan split from it by all means available and yes, including non-peaceful ones. Over 90% of the mainland Chinese supports Taiwan's reunification and aginist its separation. By passing this law, China has put its will in a legal framework.
Regarding the EU lifting its arms embargo, it makes zero difference to China stopping Taiwan's separation when it has to, arms sales or not.

Jim Turner, UK

Hello, the Americans will face their own missile technology in any defence of Taiwan as it gives aid and military technology to Israel who then sells it on to China. Frankly as as our technology sharing arrangements with the US have for some time been one-way it is quite likely that some of that technology came from Europe in the first place.
However this is all somewhat speculative, it is most unlikely that the US will actually defend Taiwan. If China invade what exactly is anyone going to do? Yell trick or treat?

James M.maher, Guam USA

Dear Mr. Ash, good analysis. In fact a brave analysis. Indeed the Han culture is following Doc. Kissinger's methods. In the short-term, is not
the immediate problem for us (Europe, excluding France, and America)France? Can there be any doubt? In the not too distant future, Europe (America has made its decision) will have to publicly and essentially choose between America's policies and France's. Like the slow child in the classroom, we're all taught to not talk about France. Not sure this is really productive. Thank you.

abdi, UK

Your arguments for not selling arms to China are not very honest mainly because those who are putting pressure for this their own record on human rights is far worse than the China. The only difference is that they are rich and powerful (incidently white) and call themseleves 'free world' i.e. free to do what ever they like.

Elizabeth Mapazire, Human Rights for all

mr ash i have just read your article in the gaurdian on the 24/03/05 about the arms imbargo on china. i gree with your critisism of europe's decision to lift yhe imbargo. i aslo agree that america is right to disagree. however i am very cynical about the american position. taiwan is a worrying issue i agree but i do not believe that is the motivation behind america's position. i dont know much about politics but america is a country that has always looked after its own interets and no one else . bush has admitted this a few times when being questioned about his govenment's polices abroad. to believe that america is against the weapons imbargo on moral grounds is laughable. this year it become clear to all that china is on its way to becoming a great economic power.i'm sure america will want to continue benefiting as thay have been doing already. but i suspect that they will only want to do this under their own control. this is a possible reason to their protest on the weapons imbargo. there is also a lot of talk about reforming the united nations and i'm sure china wants to increase it s influence in the process of change if it takes place. this could be another reason for america's position to influence who has power in the un. dont get me wrong i do not support china their human rights record still leaves a lot to be desired. i am from zimbabwe and i can wholly sympathise with people in china who want to freedon to speak their mind. if america is going to critise governments that violate people's rights then they should not selective and for this reason a lot people in the rest of the world do not trust the american government

Cary Fraser, USA

According to Timothy Garton Ash:
"But our response should be to work out, in conversations both among ourselves and with the Americans, what are the basic liberal conditions on which we will engage with the emerging giant dragon of the east."
Is it possible to engage in conversation on "basic liberal conditions" when one of the parties is profoundly and atavistically anti-libearl,i.e, the party of Know-Nothings who now control the major agencies of the American state?

Toby Lincoln, UK

The overall picture that the EU's wish to lift the arms trade ban with China for trade reasons is essentially correct, however there are two assumptions which have gone almost entirely unchallanged in much media coverage of this and related issues on China. The first is that the anti-secession law is an act of belligerence, an assessment that fails to consider the internal context in which the law was formulated.
An article published in international political journal China Brief provides such context.(
The authors argue that the law merely puts into statute what has been the position of China for many years, namely that any declaration of independence will result in force, and that this is the result of a debate with hardliners in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who wanted a really belligerent law of national reunification. Furthermore, the law represents an attempt to set out Beijing's policy towards Taiwan in such a way as to make such a policy applicable beyond the life of the current government. The establishment of structures and norms that do not depend on the whims of the faction of the CCP that happens to be in power is in fact a step towards stability and the rule of law in China, and should be welcomed. It should not be forgotten that events in 1989 occured partly as a result of a power struggle within the upper echelons of the CCP. This law makes war wih Taiwan as a result of political infighting less likely, and for this reason should be welcomed. Of course, as the article points out, to the Taiwanese this law appears provocative, but the blunt acceptance of this perspective in the international media, without adequate consideration of the internal Chinese context is symptomatic of a lack of perceptive analysis of China, and worrying in that it promotes misinterpretation of a country and a system that does not exactly lend itself to easy examination in the first place.
The second issue that needs addressing is the seeming assumption that human rights is a closed defined concept. The conclusion to Prof. Garton-Ash's article aruges for a debate as to what the minimum standards of engagement with China should be. This must include an understanding of and debate about the Chinese conception of the thorny concept of human rights, as well as those of democracy, freedom, development etc... It is true that the EU and the Western world in general should not cease its criticisms of China's legal system, death penalty, activities in Tibet and the like. In each case there needs to be closer examination of the internal context in which these problems were created, as well as an appreciation that systems of governance work differently, and often not terribly effectively, in China. There should also be an admission that current international definitions of human rights, democracy and the like are the result of the Western and largely European historical process, and that their claim to universality is one that can legitimately be questioned, a fact attested to by the vibrancy of postcolonial studies in academic circles, a vibrancy that should be transmitted to the political arena.
While this is not the place to examine in the detail the different conceptions of democracy and human rights that result from several thousand years of Chinese historical development, conceptions that in some ways, although not through a lack of basic humanity, work very differently from those that guide our debates in the West, an example is pertinent. Michael Dutton in Streetlife China, a collection of essays examining Chinese life in the 1990s from an anthropological perspective notes that for the Chinese, poverty alleviation out of a wish to create general stability is a matter of human rights. Indeed, Chinese criticisms of US human rights abuses reflect this, while the UN's praise of the country for lifting 300 million people out of absolute poverty in the last twenty years attest to its success. It, in part, explains recent moves to develop the Western countryside, murmurings of sustainable development policy, with the announcement last year of a green GDP that attempts to factor in the environmental impact of economic growth, a commitment to increased renewable energy use etc. While China can be criticised on many fronts, the fact that its developmental path and political culture are not necessarily the same as the West must be taken into account for its place on the international stage to be seriously examined.
It would be intriguing to still be around in 100 years to see if, environmental challenges permitting, the shift in economic and political power to Asia will result in a new conceptualisation of many of the cultural norms that we currently consider universal. Perhaps, as the balance of economic and political power changes, a style of neo-Confucian collectivism will become the standard by which human relationships are judged. It may even be that from such a perspective it is the current modes of thinking that become a discourse in need of civilisation.

kung hoi, usa

As an ethnic Chinese, I do remember our history and how Brits had forced opium down the chinese throats, killing tens of millions over 100+ years before you were kicked out. I also learned that your country, Britain, was the only state sponsored drug trafficker in the history of mankind and civilizaton, with unprecedented large scale military force escorting shiploads of opiums to China. I don't see how britishers can talk about human rights when you can't come to term with your own shameful history.

The First World Leader
4 April 2005

Tony, Africa, Caribbean, Europe, Pacific, Asia

Let us leave the religion emotion out for a moment. Mandela versus the Pope as an international icon?
I was an unabused acoloyte some 40+ years ago but Mandlea is the man in my lifetime.

Sarah Wright-Smith, Australia

Dear Timothy
Your article on PJP2 was great. I commend you and agree we now need to find the new man/woman for our times. I am not religious!

The Choice is Not Here
7 April 2005


For a pax Europeae
14 April 2005

Michel Bastian, France

TGA´s proposition of a "Pax Europeana" in the Balkans, notably, is tempting. However, in my opinion there are major drawbacks to systematically rewarding good behaviour by eastern, balkan or north-african states with a clear perspective of EU membership: economical problems, cultural dissent and problems with political structure. Why do all these states want to join the EU so much? Because it´s seen as a major benefit to their economies. We (as well as the potential new EU members) tend to forget that a. membership in the current EU is not an instant guaranty of a superior lifestyle for everybody, that b. we´re already having trouble convincing our population that cultural integration of the new states is going to work and c. that the current political structure of the EU is not adequate and new members will probably destabilize the situation even further.
a. Economically, we need to ask ourselves whether the EU is going to be able to support all those new states, because that, in essence, is going to be what it will have to do, at least for the first few decades. Simply put, the question is: are we in a position to finance large parts of the joining new economies and is the european population as a whole ready to lay the money on the table for that? Fortunately, at the moment there isn´t quite as much of an economical gradient within the EU as we feared there might be, but still: the "central european states" (i.e. Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy mainly) are doing much of the paying while the other states (especially Spain, Ireland and Portugal) are mostly on the receiving end. This is not to critizise those states, because mostly the money has been well spent and these economies are making marked progress. However, we´ve just taken in a lot of new member states, whose economies will have to adjust, which again will take some time and investment. Also, we still have to iron out a lot of mischief wrought in the early years of the EEG (like the completely overblown agrarian subsidies, for example, or the ongoing row over the UK rebate). We have a lot to digest. Taking in new members at the current rate is going to strain the central european economies even more.
b. Concerning cultural integration: the question of Turkey´s membership is going to be a central theme during France´s referendum on the EU constitution. Why is that? Because the french population (as well as the german population) has a certain amount of xenophobia towards the turks: we´re indeed talking about Ottoman heartland here, which means cultural difference in a major way. Personally, I think integrating the turks into european society will work because there is a common democratic denominator, albeit that there is still a lot of work left on the question of human rights and religious fundamentalism. However, this is not the view of public opinion in central europe. Taking in new, culturally very different states is going to generate an enormous amount of resentment on the part of the population of the older EU member states. Turkey has only shown us the tip of the iceberg in that respect.
So if there is going to be a pax europeana, an enormous amount of educating will have to be done, not only in the potential new member states, but also in our own population.
c. Political structures. We might as well admit it: the current political structures of the EU are inadequate, even if the new constitution should pass against all odds. Do not misunderstand me, I´m all for the new constitution, but as it stands now, it´s just a drop in the ocean. The EU institutions have to be democratically legitimized, and their powers have to be clearly defined, especially in relation to the member states. Currently, the EU is a bureaucracy in the scientific sense of the word: it´s a state-like construct run by a scarcely checked administration. There has to be a clear democratic mandate. This should be done through massively strengthening the european parliament, which has to have much more control over the executive, i.e. the european council and especially the european commission. De facto, both of those have much too much unchecked legislative power. The european court is just a judiciary and can only judicate after legislation has already been passed. There has to be an independent, democratically legitimized european legislative power worthy of the name.
Furthermore, there has to be a clear division of powers between the EU "federal" government and the member states. The EU wields the same power as a federal state in many respects, therefore powers should be defined and checks and balances should be applied just as in any federal state. Before this has been cleared up, any new member state (regardless of economical or cultural status) will only increase the potential controversy and dissent over who should wield how much of the EU´s power. "Guarded sovereignty" or not, the member states will have to admit that they have already transferred a lot of their sovereignty on the EU and they will have act accordingly, i.e. institute democratic checks on it.
To sum things up: Pax Europeana is nice, but let´s clean up our own act internally before we start thinking about further expansion.

Esin Ay, Turkey

It seems like the new winds of racism that is being claimed and cherish by European intellectuals against Muslims and/or Turks is more one again in this article. Providing statements like „one in six would be Muslim‰ as boogie word to readers, this writer actually promoting anti-Islam to his readers. Of course, in 21st Century, it is normal for any European to practice and promote racism. However, this kind of statements, from a prominent intellectual in a one of the most so-called Liberal papers in the world, is astonishing.
Besides, the situation of Turkish Republic and where it stands today in comparison to its previous Imperial form the ottoman Sate, is no more different than today‚s Britain to British Empire of the past. Therefore, it very is futile, hostile, and racist to blame today‚s problems in Balkans. It was not the Turks that butchered 300,000 Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia just 13 years ago while the rest of the Europe was watching the events like „merkats‰. Until the US stepped in and took action, Muslims of Europe went through genocide in front of our beloved EU politicians.
I would highly suggest to Ash to look at the EU and its Turkish perspective (and vice versa) and analyze it with a more rational, logical, and less racist point of view.

AB, France

Strange that you blame poor Suleiman for his lifestyle. He must not have
realized that several centuries later a guy named Napoleon broke up the empires of Venice and Germany ("Holy Roman Empire"), which triggered the spread of a very strong doctrine, called nationalism, eastwards. This doctrine contributed to unite Italy and Germany, but crashed into the Empire arrangements in Central/Eastern Europe, with great effect on the Austria-Hungary empire, the Ottoman empire, and the Russian Empire. In the geographical areas covered by those empires, people of different cultures (kinship wise, language wise or religion wise) live(d) inextrically mixed together in the same territory.
Unlike the slow building of the State-Nation in Western Europe (State was first, Nation came later in e.g. France), the non-dominant people in e.g. the Ottoman Empire had little time to build up their own strong state, since rival claims about the same territory seemed inevitable. Witness the Greek "Megali Idea", and its fate, or Greater Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, and so on, leading to two Balkan wars, igniting WW-I, suffering through WW-II, and the wars in former Yougoslavia in the 1990's. The stronger states ("Powers") did their best to meddle into this mess, without much understanding. Most of the conflicts were/are settled by fragmentation and ethnic homogeneisation (whether "voluntary" such as the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, or forced as in the recent Yougoslavia wars).
It is easy to see why governments in SE Europe are jittery about modifying boundaries, which may well happen if Kosovo Albanians become independent, and will want to join up with their fellowmen in Albania proper, and in the process claim the area around Tetovo. The EU, with its (too ?) strong emphasis on economic development, might shift the agenda in the Balkans from extreme nationalism to European peace, but current debates about its "Constitution" do not leave much room for optimism. Yet it is clear that the "black hole" of the western Balkans has to be addressed soon by the EU, and perhaps better before addressing the problems set by Turkey.
Finally, maybe YOU think that the Balkans are Europe's backyard, and not a place the USA cares much about, but the USA does care a lot about it, since it is next to the Eastern Mediterranean where the USA and the UK keep their strategic options open, e.g. on Cyprus (another Ottoman legacy hotspot). Witness the "name issue" concerning the
Former Yougoslav Republic of Macedonia, where the mediator is an American, not a European. And aren't they building (NATO) bases in the Eastern Balkans, just so as to be close to the Caspian oil countries ?

William Duffy, USA

Your cart is before the horse. Where does the Constitution stand? What happens if the French vote NO! I guess you add another 2/300 more pages. I suggest one dilemma at a time or do you suggest we settle 2017 first? Good Luck.

Tom Beament, UK

On the subject of future EU enlargement, you said: "Nor does it include any of the successor states of the Ottoman empire in the Near East or north Africa, although Morocco has in the past asked if it could apply. For them, the EU will have to develop a neighbourhood policy which does not depend on the promise of eventual membership."
Is there any reason why such "non-European" states could not join the EU? In fact, is there any reason why the EU has to be "European"? Like you, I'm very much in favour of Turkey's memebership, and of the idea of the EU, not as a privileged memebers club, but as an organisation that premotes democratic and economic stability AND effects it, by steadily encorporating new members as each puts in place the necessary reforms in order to gain the benfits of memebrship. In fact, we can see this process as a wave moving out from its origin in the original member states. Now, is there any reason why this should be limited to some geographical, or cultural, notion of what "Europe" is? Don't the economic and political reasons for this movement transcend any such boundaries? I can see no reason why there couldn't come a time when the EU outgrows the origin which made it right to call it "European".

Christian Europe RIP
21 April 2005

Michel Bastian, France

Excellent article. I watched a debate on the pope on german TV just yesterday, where roman catholic and lutheran protestant theologians were having a go at eachother. One of the "laymen" on the panel was Norbert Blüm, the minister for social affairs under the Kohl administration. He made a very good point: how does all this bickering between christians about whether or not to ordain women, whether or not to celebrate eucharist together etc. look to non-christians? Is this going to make them want to join the church? The answer is obvious: no, it isn´t. Worse: not only will it frighten off non-christians, it will also radicalize those christians that stay within the churches. With the new pope, chances are that this development will continue. Benedict XVI is going to back off from secularism towards traditional catholic doctrine even more.
A commentator on the spiegel website very aptly described this development: Nietzsche´s dead, God lives ;-).

Pierrick Moreaux, London Metropolitan University

Bring on a secular, de-christianised Europe

Peter Hughes, Canada

In Christian Europe RIP you mention that with modern medicine the Pope could well survive another 10 years. With stem cell research pointing favourably to the possibility of regenerating organs and other human tissue, this Pope may have the potential to reach the age of Methusalah. The irony, of course, is that Catholics are currently opposed to stem cell research becuase it involves harvesting cells from foetuses. Hmmm! Keep watching this space.

Jim LaPeer, USA

I don't know that I agree with Mr Ash's assesment that the new Pope is going to hasten the demise of Christianity in Europe. The Pope is the lineal descendant of Peter, who walked with Jesus; (incidentally, I am christian, but not Catholic) His message is going to be the true one that Jesus brought. And, this message has never been subject to the currently popular values of a given point in time.
I think Europe will reject, or re-embrace, the message for reasons of their own determination, not because of a new Pope that gets the obligatory bad press from the media.
As an American of European ancestry (many EU countries), I hope that Europe 'gets religion' again; There's far more to life than just the days we are given. Good luck to them.

Cormac Sheridan, Ireland

I very much liked the 'Christian Europe RIP' piece. In one way, I am that atheist who will enjoy the pathetic spectacle of Ratzinger attempting, Canute-like, to hold back the tide of relativism and secularism in Europe; but I also regret that we won't have a credible moral leader who will stand up for the world's poor. Despite my overall antipathy towards him, I genuinely respected John Paul II's stance aginst consumerism and unbridled capitalism and thought he represented an independent political voice in an increasingly unipolar world. I would have liked to have seen this tendency further developed in the current pontificate. I just don't see it happening.
But maybe we're attaching too much significance to the papacy - after all, as one critical Irish priest commented this week, the pope is nothing more than the bishop of Rome. John Paul II built the position up into much more than that by becoming a global media celebrity. Ratzinger may well take a different tack. On one level, I'm actually surprised at myself that I care about any of this - but I think it has perhaps uncovered a hunger I didn't know I had for moral leadership that seems to be so absent from the world.

Tom Dudley, London

i find your article "Christian Europe RIP" to be a most objectionable piece of writing. What pessimistic and very generalised comments you disgorge!I should be most interested to see how a Pope whom you have described as having "nothing in the personality, biography, principles or strategy to suggest that he can reverse these trends." copes with said trends. The job of the Holy Father is to steer and guide through times of trouble for the Holy Mother Church. I suggest that you visit the many churches of France, and see for your own eyes the "decline of the church". Perhaps you would be more willing to attend Mass at St Bartholomew the Great in London. Here you will find living proof that the church endures. Indeed a trip to Poland will indicate the vivality of the Roman Church, whatever an "American Baptist Ministry website" might say. Perhaps you have lost your way during the arduous research for your article, but the Roman Church was a separate denomination the last time i checked.
However, my major bone of contention is that you have the cvheek to judge this Pope before he is a week into his Magisterium! Many a man has changed radically upon ascent to the Papal Throne; Benedict XVI is a conservative, yes, but it does not mean he will alienate the youth who, from the numerous photos, appear to revere him. As for German television coverage, I suggest you recall the demographics of Germany and realise that is a Lutheran, or evangaelische kirche and the majority of northern germany is strongly Lutheran, one must be wary of judging before one knows the facts.
Finally, your expectation that Islam will be the dominant religion is misguided, and foolish in the extreme; if anything, the rise of Islam and particularly its fundamentalists is far mroe lilely to create a backlash against Islam and consequently a resurgence in the Church's numbers

antti vainio, finland

I don't want to sound like a whiny bastard but could you ask the gentlemen at the Guardian to hire some of your eastern European friends to make this website a bit more snappier and practical. the Checks and Poles are cheap and much better than the English. the content is brilliant, don't let them touch it, though

Rich Holt, UK

Very much enjoyed your Guardian piece on the new Pope last week. Please have a look at my latest blog on the subject:
All the best, keep up the good work.

antti vainio, finland

To mr Dudley
I'm a non-believer from a secular protestantic country so you probably just ignore my opinion. I thought "Christian Europe RIP" made a lot of sense. I don't like muslim fundamentalists either, nobody likes them, but the muslims are not one singleminded mass (Christians are neither). the new pope was wrong when he stressed that Europe is Christian, actually the muslims did a good job in Spain while the catholic church was the menace. also, we good Europeans should have sided with the moderate muslims like kurds and people in Sarajevo. oh no, we were on the side of the good Christian Milosevich and (this is so weird) Saddam Hussein. the catholic church is such a dubious institution, why didn't you choose a South American pope? that would have been nice, somebody who could be called, for instance, people's pope

margaret kearney, australia

As shown by all the media coverage and the crowds in Rome the role of the Pope whether you agree with him or not is important. However your Europe RIP is correct. For far too long Rome has taken attitudes towards a range of issues which make it disconnected to the modern society.Attacks on gays are offensive, promots bigotry and violence. It is anti all the lessons learnt from WW11 and the fact that gays were sent to the gas chambers as were Jews.Opposition to contraceptives and even abortion is denying women access to health care and medical services that they think are essential for their health and well being. From Europe to South America contraceptives provide safe family planning options for women and couples within marriage and prevent unwanted pregnancies outside marriage. Abortion is an moral issue which needs to include the reasons why women need acces to it. They include rape and violence, physical and mental health of the women, social stigma and economic issues (lost job, poverty). The militant campaign is about denying women access to these health services rather than dealing with the causes and reasons. It is whyso many have walked away from the church.And the opposition to the use of condoms could best be described as medical negligence. False claims that they do not protect people against hiv/aids or other disease should result in the church being sued. All of this takes away from what the churh does which can be good. Or if it it had supported liberation theology would have found many people returning to the church.

Howard's false move
28 April 2005

Geoff James, USA

The concern with anti-semitism is interesting in that it is the column itself that refers to Howard's "Romanian Jewish father" (and "enterprising" father, no less). While the point about the chap with immigrant roots who peddles anti-foreigner hysteria is valid, what, exactly, does the fact that Howard's father was Jewish have to do with it? Wouldn't it have sufficed to say that Howard's father came to Britain from Romania? Millions of Poles and Italians migrated to the U.S. a century ago; we don't refer to them as "Polish Catholic" or "Italian Catholic" immigrants.


Regarding your article in today's Guardian (28/04/05) about Michael Howard and immigration and Europe's need for immigration in the next decade and the battle the responsible mainstream is having with the far-right: a colleague pointed out that the "Are you thinking what we are thinking" slogan is very similar to that used by the Belgian National Front, Vlaams Blok five years ago who used "YOU know why!" - As he pointed out, "The message is exactly the same. Vote for us. You don't need to put the reasons why into words, and nor do we. We all have exactly the same 'unspoken' views in our heads, and let's keep them there, just in case others show them to be 'unspeakable'."
No-one in the British press has commented on this - presumably because unfamiliar with what is going on in Belgium.
I wonder if Michael Howard didn't make a sort of Faustian pact when he became Tory party leader - he got the leadership on condition he denied his forefathers three times before the cock crowed...

Paddy Briggs, UK

I thought that your article in The Guardian "Howard's false move" the best that I have read on the elction. I would only add that as well as the ghastly Lynton Crosby the Conservatives have also had Maurice Saatchi spinning away!


Make it happen
5 May 2005

matt mcauley, labour voter, australia

thanks for today's column (5th may). i would dearly love to see blair beaten but labour returned. however, it is more important that howard and lynton "queasy" crosby are given a very clear message and that crosby is sent back to australia with his tail between his legs. crosby won "our" howard 2 successive elections by lying shamelessly about the threat from immigrants. they kept a straight face when their lies were exposed

Joseph Nailer, United Kingdom

Your column in the Guardian today (5/5/05) argues that Britain has a "liberal" majority because more people vote Labour or LibDem than Conservative. If this is so, why are a majority of British adults in favour of the death penalty? And why do so many of Muslim males who support Labour believe firmly in the subjugation of women and the violent suppression of homosexuality? And in vote-rigging? Or is vote-rigging a liberal value too? You don't seem to realize that many people vote Labour or LibDem out of self-interest, not because they agree with "liberalism". That this glaringly obvious fact has escaped you says all that needs saying about your grasp of political reality.

Joe Patterson, UK

1. It is gratifying to see yet another Guardian correspondent coming out openly for PR. I hope the momentum for electoral refom will be maintained after the election; and that Guardian correspondents will play their part in supporting the campaign being led by "Make Votes Count". (In this regard I hope that everybody who reads this will visit the MVC website ( and sign the petition they are organising)
2. "Even proportional representation would not - and obviously should not - secure a Lib-Lab majority for ever."
It seems almost certain that if/when we get PR there will be a complete party re-alignment. In particular the Labour Party is in fact two parties: "New" Labour and "true" Labour. They are shackled together by first-past-the-post because to split would further divide the left-of-centre to the advantage of the Tories. PR would eliminate this inhibition.
Indeed, if we had the Electoral Reform Society's preferred system - STV - these two wings could put up their respective candidates and be represented even without a split; and could speak up and vote in Parliament without having to "keep on message" as at present.
Thus we could hope for the discarding of at least some of the Tory clothes which were donned by "New" Labour in order to be more sure of gaining power after two decades of Thatcherism.

Forward to VE Day
12 May 2005

Joe Deane, USA

TGA wants a democratic Russia just as George Bush does. The independence and equality of Russia and of Europe, not to mention UK, are under assualt by the Bush regime in the USA. For Putin to allow privatization of the resources of Russia and the sale or control of them to US energy corporations, esp Bush Inc. would be a betryal of his country far greater than denial of "democacy". TGA understands this perfectly well. That is why he wants Putin to act the fool and wants to fool his readers. Gartin and Bush are on the same page and use the same word "democracy", in vain. They defile it!

Exchange of Empires
17 May 2005

Erion, Albania

Tirana Festival of Activism
Pora, Kmara, Mjaft, Zubr, Otpor. All together on the 3rd of June in Albania.
A government that abuses with its country holding the power illegitimately? Elections being manipulated and peoples‚ will being infringed? Corruptive affairs among high officials, which bring to collapse the economy of ordinary people, every single day? A dictator who isolates his country in misery and enmity with its neighbors?
You might have heard repeatedly and very often, these words appearing in the articles of correspondents from Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, Albania or Georgia. In addition, many names of those who have been organizing for quite some time society‚s resistance in these countries against the evil that has captured them, became widely recognized. From OTPOR of Serbia, which buried the Milosevic regime, to ZUBR of Belarus, which is still struggling against the last European dictatorship, that of Lukashenko, from KMARA of Georgia, to MJAFT of Albania, from PORA of the Ukrainian orange revolution, to the youth of KAN in Kosovo, student movements are the foundation of these activities, and the youth is the commune raw material of this Eastern European civil resistance power of post-communist countries.
This time, the rendezvous is Tirana. The Festival of Activism will take place in the capital of Albania, starting from June 3rd, and lasting three days. Representatives from all the organizations that fight or did fight against autocratic regimes or power abuse, will get together to demonstrate that they share the same vision, and, regardless of their names or the countries where they operate, everyone has a unique goal: democracy.
The participating organizations will engage during the days of the Festival, in a number of activities in Tirana ˆ where the local organization, MJAFT Movement carries a huge support of youth as the upcoming general elections in this post-communist country. The Albanian Elections will be held a month later and are expected to be quite intense, while the actors of civic society, including MJAFT, have called for the support of the international community in order to not permit the aggravation of the situation following elections, regardless of the results.
The Festival of Activism will comprise a massive conference, with the participation of thousands of young people from Tirana, the showing of documentaries in different movie theaters, concerning the efforts made by the participant organizations in the festival, of TV debates, public audiences with famous representatives of past movements, such as Solidarnosc etc, or with distinguished writers and publicists from all over Europe and USA. During the festival, an opening of several exhibitions with pictures and posters of the organizations in diverse locations of Tirana is planned, therefore turning the capital of Albania for three days into a capital of activism.
The organizers of the first Activism Festival, which this time will be held in Tirana, aim at transforming it into a yearly tradition which will amble from capital to capital, all over Europe. They are thinking of signing a „Solidarity Document‰. Its purpose will be to set up a network for all activist movements, which will support one another in a Pan- European civil resistance against dictatorships, power abuses and the breaking of democracy principles by the power, wherever they may be.
Representatives from the most distinguished local and international media have already confirmed their participation in the Festival of Activism in Tirana 3-5 June 2005. In order to receive the program of the Festival, for further information, or to make your accreditation, or special requests for your correspondents or TV crew who will cover the Festival of Activism, you are kindly required to contact the people assigned to coordinate the media, through these email addresses: and As well you can require further information searching our website or also by phone/fax +355 4223661.
Looking forward meeting you in Tirana, on June 3rd.

Susan Starke, USA

In "Exchange of Empires" you mention as one of your three scenarios for the former Soviet-ruled countries the prospect of the USA's filling the imperial void. That will never happen, because American voters aren't interested in funding, administering and sustaining far-flung empires. The historian Niall Ferguson has made a similar point in relation to American ambitions in Iraq. So really, you're left with your first and third scenarios. Let's hope that number three comes to pass: supportive cooperation between the EU and the USA to aid these countries.


Votez oui malgré tout
26 May 2005

Deirdre Toomey, Ireland

Dear Mr Garton Ash,
Your assumption (implicit in your latest Guardian column) that democracy is excellent as long as the little people vote the right way (Oui) is surprising for a specialist in Eastern European affairs. I am reminded of the old joke about dissolving the people and electing another people. The more voters are hectored and finger-wagged, the more likely they are to resist being told what is good for them. A Dutch friend of mine has referred to widespread dislike of being lectured from the pulpit by the Regenten (sp?)
This was markedly the case in Denmark's referendum on the Euro. The Danish media and the major political parties told the electorate to vote for the Euro. But voters had minds of their own and refused to do as they were told. I agree that French voters might vote 'Non' for the wrong reasons, but those who vote 'Oui' might also have mistaken assumptions.

Paul Morgan, Paso Robles, CA, USA

Dear Mr. Ash,
In your article suggesting that it good for a yes vote on the so called constitution, your logic was irratic. You accutally sounded like the wacko leftist that we have in the USA. Snobish, elitest, reason based on emotion. That is how I would describe this article.
The EU was doomed from the start. Why? Simple, socialism does not work. Has not worked, will never work and Europe is already stuck in the mud with socialism. Real pain will be needed to be felt by the people before real change can occur. Unfortunately, that historically means a war. Believe me, after Iraq, the real America (Not Hollywood or Washington DC or New York) does not like or care a whit about Europe. The last thing that we want to do is to come in and save you from yourselves AGAIN!
The UK has always been a friend and a good friend. You have been wise to embrase the EU with caution. We wish you the best and the close ties that are governments have is good for everybody concerned.
As for the French, who cares. They are an enemy. Physical enemy, no. They couldn't cause our guys in green even to break a sweat. But in a real sense they are an enemy. If Chirac (Who thinks he is a king.) falls because of this, it will be good for Europe. Schoeder is gone also, so maybe some sense will break out.
Your closing concern that Europe will look like clowns is already real. "Old" Europe does look like clowns now and have been for a while. I am very glad that the UK is not Europe and historically, Europe has been the enemy of England. Keep your distance and thank God for the Channel.

Daniel Gordon, UK

I sympathise with many of the concerns of the 'No' camp in France. The last thing Europe needs is more privatisation and deregulation - and its far from clear that even the British people, as distinct from the British political class, actually want that either. Here, it has produced an unhappy society of overworked, exploited, indebted and deeply alienated individuals.
Nevertheless, it has to be said that the chances of the French 'non de gauche' camp getting what they want out of a scrapping of the constitution are slight. Last week I was in Marseille and spotted around the city centre, amidst the left 'no' posters, some by an obscure monarchist group saying 'Les jeunes royalistes disent NON a cette Europe-la'. This brought to mind the unkind thought that the chances of the current 25 governments all agreeing to a revised constitution that would be acceptable to the French far left are about as high as a restoration of the monarchy in France! [Not to mention the far right. To be truly representative of the diversity of the various no campaigns, a renegotiating team would have to include Laurent Fabius (the nearest France has to a Blairite, engaged in some extraordinary opportunism here), the Trotskyist postman Olivier Besancenot, and Jean-Marie Le Pen. The mind boggles...]
I worry that a scrapping of the constitution could actually lead to a more, not less, neo-liberal direction for the EU, at least in the short term. As one yes slogan has put it, 'Le capitalisme n'a pas besoin de constitution, nous les citoyens, OUI!'

Deirdre Toomey, Ireland

I must admit to being reluctant to crow over the 'Non' vote, but your comment on the debacle in today's 'Guardian' (the heart rejecting the body) indicates how emotionally (rather than logically) you are wedded to relentless progress towards closer EU integration---whether EU citizens like it or not. The remote,anti-democratic, top-down, dirigiste governance of the EU is not a pleasant phenomenon to contemplate. Again I am surprised that an expert on the former Eastern European Soviet Block should be so uncritical of the negative aspects of the EU as it now exists.

Michel Bastian, France

I agree with most of what is said in this article. I do not agree with the view that the constitution will or should just be "watered down" so that it´s acceptable to everybody, as it happened for the European Defence Union. Hopefully, european governments will not try this. With the french no, the constitution project is effectively dead. As TGA pointed out, when France says no, why should the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and Britain say yes? Even the Germans are grumbling and starting to call for a referendum (eventhough such a referendum would legally be impossible because of the german constitution). New drafts, a second referendum in France etc. won´t change the underlying problem: public opinion needs a scapegoat for a general feeling of social insecurity in Europe (indeed, the fear factor TGA is talking about, except that it´s not limited to France), and (besides the national governments) the EU is the obvious target. To try and continue the ratification process now would effectively only deepen this groundswell of distrust against Brussels. Worse, it would be seen as a decision by governments against the people´s declared will.
The french no, whatever the reasons for it, is a major setback for Europe, there is no doubt about that. So what to do now? Should we just sit back and see Europe balkanise? Undoubtedly, that would suit the american administration well, but would it be in each european state´s best interest? Factionalism, nationalism, political, economical and military competition between the member states? The consequence would be that each and every european member state would dissappear into global irrelevance, even if there wouldn´t necessarily be war in Europe again (well, not in the immediate future, anyway). No, this would not be a good idea for Europe. What is needed now is perseverance. Pick up the pieces and build the whole thing up again. Start by tackling the basics: somehow the european population has to be made to understand that Europe is the only way out for every single member state. None of them can make it alone on a global scale, not even Germany, France or Britain. If this doesn´t get through to everybody, there´s no point in even thinking about a european constitution. That´s because constitutions don´t stand on their own. They´re driven by the will of the people. That´s the way democracy works. If however the population of some or all member states does not understand Europe is necessary to their continued survival and want to pull out (France, Britain and Denmark are drifting in that direction), then every single state in Europe is dead (including those states that want to pull out of it) and all of them will gradually fade into oblivion over the next few decades. From now on, it´s basically an enormous exercise in marketing the union, really. Fail and in the long run, we´re all done for. We´ll just dissapear into the mists of history one by one, like so many nations, empires and cultures before us.


What is to be done?
2 June 2005

Elizabeth Pallister, Newcastle University, UK

Dear Timothy, I found your colum today (June 2nd) very intersting and I have a question. I would be most grateful if you could explain to me what Blairism is, i.e. what policies exactly can be considered to make up the body of Blairism.

Deidre Tommey, Ireland

Michel Bastian might be interested in a recent and very acute article by Larry Elliott (the Guardian's economics editor) about the fallacy of trying to 'sell' the EU. He compares this to Coca Cola's doomed attempt to force New Coke down the throats of buyers. However his point is that Coca Cola had to respond to rejection by changing the product, not by endless rebranding. The EU, he argues, cannot understand this and tries to bully its citizens into agreeing that everything is just fine. That the eurozone works perfectly (it doesn't) and so on.

Pierrick Moreaux, London Metropolitan University

Elizabeth Pallister
I would advise (and I think Timothy will agree) that you start by reading
The third way : the renewal of social democracy / Anthony Giddens.Malden, Mass : Polity Press, 1999

Tim Weaver, UK (based in US)

You may be interested in an article I have just written on the French "non".
Foreign Policy Research Institute
50 Years of Ideas in Service to Our Nation
Volume 6, Number 3
June 2005


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