The EU's Ring of Steel
The EU, goes the narrative, has prevented war and conflict in this fading old continent for over sixty years. It is often held by federalists that nothing - not even NATO and nuclear weapons - were more important than the European Union in ensuring stability, and that only the pen-pushing beaurocrats of Brussels kept the armoured might of the Soviet Union at bay. Their army of lawmakers and legislators defended the plains of northern Germany from the columns of tanks and ballistic missile launchers that could, at any moment, have spilled across the border, and nothing has done more to enshrine European peace and prosperity, and prevent a second Holocaust.
Why, then, is the EU the most blatantly militaristic government in Europe today? Its army may be small and largely ceremonial, but the pomp and circumstance with which its symbolic relevance is celebrated is highly unusual. One day before Europe Day, the headquarters of Eurocorps opened its doors to some twenty-thousand visitors. Based in Strasbourg, near the European Parliament, this is the European Union's multinational standing army. It consists of sixty thousand troops from several different countries in western Europe, and, for the day, it was very much on public display.
This was, of course, largely for propaganda purposes. Eurocorps has served on active deployment, but its combat role was limited. There were no major historic achievements on display; no relics of past wars. This was purely a PR exercise, as its brief description on the official website makes clear. The insignia of the elite unit, claims the report, was immensely popular with visitors. The sinister boast in the last line doesn't bear repeating here. Funnily enough, the story that they are selling there does not correspond to the reality, briefly glimpsed in a single picture of the event here. One solitary stand, surrounded by no more than ten visitors, none of whom are remotely interested in the soldiers who stand chatting behind the table.
But, not dismayed by what was actually a washout, the EU continued the celebrations of its military might into the next day - Europe Day - where the European Parliament was attended by the Commanding General of Eurocorps, who was presented with the 'European flag' by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament. 'Under the applause of the public' (the same people who attended the day before, no doubt) the flag was hoisted above the parliament by soldiers from various areas of the EU. 'Speeches were held in the presence of a crowd of some one thousand young Europeans from the Euroscola programme, representing the twenty-seven EU nations A multinational Eurocorps detachment with soldiers from the five framework nations were the actors of the flag hoisting, while a military band played the European anthem.'
I'm trying to resist drawing parallels with the Russian VE Day Parade, partly because that would be disrespectful to the Russians, who could actually draw crowds without paying them to attend, and partly so I don't sound like I'm exaggerating. But the difference between the reality and the reported version speaks volumes about where the EU's interests lie. How does a handful of people gathered around an empty stand turn into 'twenty thousand people?' How do 'one thousand students' of Euroscola - which involves five hundred students, the EU doubled the numbers - represent five hundred million? Why are 'Europe' and the 'European Union' interchangeable? And since when was Strasbourg the 'European' capital? Brussels, maybe. But Strasbourg? The whole thing reeks of propaganda, and, if there had been no photographs of the event, I'd have believed it, and reported it as accurate.
It is part of an increasingly martial European Union, with a burning desire to show itself on the world stage. I have blogged before about how the EU appears to be the hidden power behind the scenes when it comes to recent European national deployments in Libya, and Christopher Booker, on the Telegraph, has wrote about the pride of our navy being handed over to the European Rapid Reaction Force. The EU's Baroness Catherine Ashton has recently applied to the UN to be able to field soldiers under direct EU control in Libya on 'humanitarian grounds.' It has the European Gendarmerie Force, a 'tool able to perform all police tasks within the scope of crisis management operations.' And, of course, it says in the Lisbon Treaty that 'the common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy.'
'If you don’t want to call it a European army, don’t call it a European army. You can call it ‘Margaret,’ you can call it ‘Mary-Anne,' you can find any name,' Romano Prodi blustered in 2000, evidently proud of his new military wing.
'Transforming the European Union into a single State with one army, one constitution and one foreign policy is the critical challenge of the age,' as Joschka Fisher, German Foreign Minister, famously remarked.
'We must finally bury the erroneous ideas of nations having sovereignty over foreign and defence policies. National sovereignty will soon prove itself to be a product of the imagination' - Gerhard Schröder, former Chancellor of Germany.
Note the Roman gladius on the beret badge and how the UK has been artificially connected to the mainland of Europe. In fact, the badge does not show the European Union, but an extended version of it, with the countries currently regarded by the Commission as 'potential future members' already coloured in. 'Non-imperial empire,' or good old-fashioned conquest?