A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The EU Will Go The Same Way as Yugoslavia

Nigel Farage, UKIP MEP.

Sometimes I wonder whose idea it was to put Nigel Farage MEP so close to the President of the Commission. Himself and Barroso have frequent disagreements in the chamber. Although they never really speak to each other, the body language says it all. The two can't agree on anything, and Barroso holds the former in contempt, clearly, with his pithy replies and sarcastic applause. But Nigel Farage rarely goes a speech without making a valid point that, given the increasing numbers of people who watch the television station of the European Parliament (the number is almost into the thousands), the federalists would do well to answer.

Here is one such occasion. He starts off laudably, exposing the EU's hypocrisy over the Libyan situation and their attempts to put down 'deep democracy,' and, then, as is typical, goes onto a different topic entirely. After a brief swipe at Belgium, he goes onto the debt crisis in the eurozone, making the point that buying our own debt is economic illiteracy, when Martin Schulz takes the floor (for those of you wondering, as many of the people who commented on the YouTube video are, who that lady is, she is Silvana Koch-Mehrin, former Vice-President of the European Parliament, who resigned on the 11th May 2011 after accusations of plagiarism regarding her 2001 thesis 'Historical Currency Unions between the Economy and Politics.' And her surname is pronounced 'coke,' as in Koch brothers). It's usually when Martin Schulz takes the floor that something interesting happens.

He appears to make the somewhat irrelevant point that Belgium was founded on the basis of a British treaty, to which Nigel responds with a line that's usually used against multiculturalists and mass-immigration advocates. 'When you form an artificial state which has within it more than one language group...and you may for a period of time be able to hold it together. But whether it's Belgium, whether it's Yugoslavia, or whether it's the European Union, if you have entirely different languages and cultures it will not hold together.'

The historical precedent shows that he is entirely correct. There is not a single example of an artificial state - be it an empire or a confederation - that was put together for political or economic advantage holding together for longer than its neighbours, which evolved over a period of time, for the purposes of division of labour, pooling of resources, and mutual defence. Especially not where more than one language or cultural group is concerned. An Irish MEP made the excellent point that the UK itself is such a federation, but, in the UK, English is spoken by almost everyone, even those who do not speak it as a first language, and everyone, bar a few exceptions in the Welsh valleys, Scottish Highlands, or inner-city ghettoes, is exposed to the same mainstream British culture, a binding thread that holds the otherwise fiercely competing and defensive cultures of the UK together.

Belgium, Yugoslavia, and the European Union never had that to quite such an extent; a lot of people may speak a single language, but they do not expose themselves to it on a daily basis. They do not read newspapers or watch television in that language, or talk to their friends in that language, and so they remain largely within their own linguistic and cultural group. And, besides, an Irish MEP should know that there have been Irish rebellions against the distant and English-speaking government in the past, and now, following Alex Salmond's victory in the Scottish elections, there will also be a referendum on whether Scotland leaves the union. The spectre of dissident terrorism has returned to British shores. Simply put, artificial countries do not last as long as natural ones. Libya, formerly two countries, west and east, now may seek to return to such an arrangement. The Ivory Coast, neatly divided along ethnic and religious lines between north and south, has just gone through a civil war. South Sudan will soon be created as the result of a conflict that killed millions of people.

So, why, then, does the European Union insist that the answer to nationalism and xenophobia - i.e. opposition to any aspect of the European Union - can only be countered with more European Union? It's like saying that the solution to the divisions in the Balkans, a collection of states that rebelled against a distant governing authority that was based a few hundred miles away in the name of national independence, is closer integration with a ruling authority thousands of miles away, in Brussels? Most wars and conflicts in Europe, and indeed the world, since the European Union's foundation have came about not through imperialism, but through secessionism, where countries wanted to be independent from a central ruling authority.

When an artificial state loses consent, as Nigel Farage correctly states, there are always calls for referendums, or, if that option is unavailable, popular discontent, violence, subversion, and civil war. Fortunately for the European Union, it cannot lose consent, for it never had it in the first place. No-one has ever voted for its creation, no-one has ever voted for its legislative, executive, and military abilities, no-one has ever been allowed to vote for their country to leave it: is the very thing that countries have fought tooth and nail to leave, only on a much, much larger scale, and with much less democratic oversight. I see no reason for the European Union - an artificial federation created without the consent of the people - to be an exception to a rule that has stood and destroyed nations - some of them far larger than itself - for thousands and thousands of years. Europe's own history is littered with the carcasses of over-ambitious states: the USSR, the Ottoman Empire, and Rome itself have largely been brought down by the same thing. A 'non-imperial empire' will presumably collapse and crumble in the same way.

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