European history: co-operation, integration, and diversity
The saga of the House of European History is probably one of the least important stories in the EU at the moment - what with France and Germany seeking to renegotiate the terms of the Schengen Treaty, and the Portuguese bailout effectively blocked or delayed by the Finnish electorate. But it is the epitome of what the EU is trying to become, and why it will never work, so it's still a worthy subject.
The European House of History, as the project is ambitious called, was originally conceived by the former President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering. It traces the origin of 'common European values' and the political and social history of Europe from 1946 onwards, and, at first glace, appears innocuous. I can't think of a single reason, in principle, to oppose the opening of a new museum. Any attempt to bring the peoples of Europe closer to their history is wonderful, in my opinion. But creating a history exhibition is one thing. Giving it a specific political purpose and adjusting the narrative and the interpretation accordingly is another, and I suspect that the European Union's interest lies in that, rather than in education. No organisation with a two-billion pound propaganda budget can be taken at face value, I'm afraid.
It doesn't take much digging to see where the purpose of their project really lies. In fact, the creator admitted it himself: it is an attempt 'to promote awareness of a European identity.' Sadly, it seems that one of the most expensive museums in Europe is little more than a front for yet more propaganda. It is merely the latest phase in a plan to educate the younger generation as Europeans, rather than members of their respective nation-states. The plan goes hand in hand with German attempts - which were originally tabled at around the same time as the German Hans-Gert Pöttering took office - to enforce an EU-wide school textbook, the aim of which was also overtly political: 'a common history book could contribute to a common European identity and knowledge about what is important for European culture and history,' so said the German Education Ministry. Then, of course, there's the 'Let's Explore Europe' book for 9-12 year olds, with this sickening paragraph:
'For centuries Europe was plagued by wars and division. But in the last fifty years or so, the countries of this old continent have at last been coming together in peace, friendship, and unity, to work for a better Europe and a better world'
The narrative is broadly correct, even if fundamentally wrong when examined close-up. But the word order - it is the continent that is old, not the countries - and the 'for a better Europe and a better world' statement makes this deeply uncomfortable reading. It's often used as a tool of exaggeration to compare publications by your opponents to the media of North Korea, but this really is it - blatant and unmistakeable propaganda, that, if not for the word 'Europe,' could have been written in a reunified, Communist Korea. It's even worse for them to aim it solely at people at such an impressionable age. 'History' doesn't even get a look-in. The book sets out to present a one-way totalitarian ticket, right from the start. And, if you think I'm exaggerating, let's read on:
'We Europeans belong to many different countries, with different languages, traditions, customs, and beliefs. Yet we belong together, for all sorts of reasons. Here are some of them.'
It goes on to list several incredibly spurious and simplistic reasons that could apply equally to any geographic region on the planet, such as the similarity of languages, and how Europeans 'believe' in certain things that, again, could apply to anyone on the globe, such as fairness, neighbourliness, and respect for each other and their opinions. The irony that the last part of that sentence is written in a book that is telling nine-year-olds what they and their families believe is apparently lost on its writers. But, wait, the EU's propaganda book gets even more nauseating:
'Could anything be done to stop these things [two world wars] happening again? Would Europeans ever learn to sit down together and discuss things instead of fighting? The answer is yes. That's the story of our next chapter: the story of the European Union'
The last time I laughed in disbelief at something was when I was shown a picture of anti-Jewish propaganda from Nazi Germany as part of my AS-level totalitarian regimes course. I'm tempted to write sarcastically about this, but it really doesn't deserve any humour. A government using taxpayer's money - or, come to think of it, any money - to publish this sort of thing for nine-year-olds is beneath contempt. The last third of the book is solely devoted to the European Union, and how it has saved Europe and Europeans from their own warlike nature. It refers to the European Economic Community as a 'club,' specially customised to suit its nine-year-old audience, claims that the sole aim of the common market was to get rid of border checks, and has a dim echo of Stalin's 'dizzy with success' article when it says that the Common Agricultural Policy worked so well that 'soon farmers were producing too much food.' Oh, and the lovely CAP only pays farmers to look after the countryside. How quaint. I'm not going to quote the rest of the book; most of it, and I'm not joking (I only wish I was) could have been printed in the USSR. I'll just finish off by quoting the last few sentences of the thing:
'We are today's European children: before long we will be Europe's adults. The future is for us to decide - together!'
So, you see, the European Union has a long history in propaganda. And it doesn't make any effort whatsoever to hide that fact. The House of European History is the latest, and most ambitious, part of the plan. It's difficult to find information on the exhibits, which is strange given the amount of ink that's been wasted on complaining about the costs, but one thing is abundantly clear: it will have nothing to do with Europe, and nothing to do with history. Note that it starts in 1946. This is because the countries of the EU couldn't actually decide on what happened before then: Poland took offence at the claim that its resistance was crushed by 1939, and a number of countries disputed the impact of US intervention in the Second World War. This should have been a clue that a shared European history does not exist; but, rather than paying attention to these differences of interpretation, the EU simply ommitted them. It ommitted thousands of years of pre-war history that was simply too controversial to include in an exhibition that was supposed to show how united Europe is. The view of European history as a collection of united states works, therefore, only if you conveniently miss out everything that occured before the Second World War. The Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the Age of Exploration, colonialism, everything. Back then, of course, Europe was a collection of squabbling states, and that wouldn't have suited the EU narrative at all. So they just quietly dropped it.
This is not the behaviour of a state that I want to be a part of. An unelected elite already can overrule our laws and our parliament; they can already set economic policy and foreign policy; they can already demand our money. And now they think that they can walk in with a pen and erase inconvenient facts about our history? Well, no, sorry, a correction. They don't think they can. They just did. Not content with ruling the present, they have extended their control over the past, as well.
The House of European History is simply another aspect of that; it should be taken far more seriously than it is. It is not about mere money; even though the cost is truly incredible. It is about the preservation of the story of Europe - the real one - from the agendas of Brussels beaurocrats. It is about brainwashing. I'm aware of the dangers of exaggeration, but there's no other word for it. Read the European propaganda book here, and think for yourself: do you want your children to come home with one of those for compulsory reading?