The unelected head of the EU´s executive and de facto legislative body once called the European Union the world´s first ´non-imperial´ empire - one of which he, conveniently, was head. Now, we are about to find out what exactly he meant by that.
European Information Offices have opened up across the eastern and southern frontier of the continent. As you might expect, these are not information offices at all, but free propaganda dispensers conveniently located in the major towns and cities, as far away from the relics of the Soviet Union as possible. European standards - i.e. EU directives - have been imposed on the export and manufacture of various goods, and modernisation programmes that are a prerequisite for EU membership have already been commissioned.
EU funds have been poured into local projects, and local government. In this, there are a few clues as to how a `non-imperial´ empire would function. If people protest their subjugation, throw money at them and tell them they´re inferior. But there are also clues as to why this is such a bad idea, from the perspective of a British taxpayer.
Before the list of countries is even approved, I can tell you that none of them will be in the rather exclusive set of EU ´net contributors´- i.e. those countries that pay more to the EU than they get out. Britain, however, is. Our net contribution rose to nine point six billion pounds last year, or two hundred and thirty pounds for every household in the country, and no new nations joined the EU. If up to eight new countries, each of them developing economies, join the EU, we could see up to ten billion, or even twenty billion, pounds of public money handed over, for no benefit to the people who are compelled by law to hand over more and more of it. That´s almost four times the government´s proposed spending cuts.
And each of those countries will be required to join the euro. They will have the same problems as other developing economies did when they joined the euro. Some of these countries you may recognise: Greece, Ireland, and Portugal? The prospect of bailing out the whole of eastern and southern Europe does not appeal to me, especially as their economies are far more inter-dependent than those of the eurozone were, and any economic crash would be a lot quicker and a lot more expensive.
If the federalists had any reason to assume that this would not be the case, I might reconsider. But I´ve spent hours feeding euros into a computer in a Spanish Internet cafe, to trawl the pages of Eastern European newspapers in an attempt to uncover a counter-argument, but, so far, there doesn´t appear to be any. If there is one, it is curious that the federalists have chosen not to state it. A bit like the ´self-evident´ benefits of Britain´s EU membership, that no-one can ever seem to remember.
This is too high a price to pay for one man´s imperial ambitions.