Thursday, January 30, 2003

In the New Republic,'s "countries editor", Robert Lane Greene, argues that Europe's current spate of anti-Americanism is a kind of substitute identity for Europeans who sense that their continent's spirit of unity has failed to develop as hoped. "The further along the Europeans get in their project of integration," he writes, "the more apparent the differences among European countries become, and the more they struggle to decide what a united Europe will actually mean. Increasingly, most Europeans, usually led by France and Germany, can agree only on what they're not, which inevitably brings them to facile denunciations of American policy."

I have no idea whether Greene's thesis is correct, of course, and I'm reflexively disinclined to believe anything that emanates, in any form, from The Economist. But for me, the claim's credibility is bolstered by its unmistakable ring of familiarity. Greene's description of Europe's turmoil bears an uncanny resemblance to Canada's last quarter-century of inane political, cultural and (especially) constitutional wrangling that rivals Dobby the House Elf's similarity to his supposed model, Vladimir Putin.

Consider: "It has a flag, an anthem, and a currency, its own citizenship....And nobody seems to know how it all fits together. A constitutional convention, begun last year to replace the EU's various founding treaties with a single document, is supposed to help sort that out....

"When Schroeder and French president Jacques Chirac attempted to hammer out the contours of the European presidency over dinner in early January....critics quickly complained of a sloppy back-room deal. But if back-room deals between two men are sloppy, the EU's more formal way of resolving these problems is often even worse. After the 2001 Treaty of Nice made the EU's already bewildering institutional framework even more so to prepare the Union for enlargement, Irish voters promptly stunned the rest of the continent by rejecting the treaty in a referendum....

"Europe is as confused on its so-called collective policies as it is about its own design....The goal of a vigorous common foreign policy is hamstrung by miserly defense spending. And domestic economic policy is a mess....It is against this backdrop that Europe's current tense relationship with the United States, typified by its criticism of American policy towards Iraq, must be understood. Sluggish economies, institutional confusion, and distant elites have helped maverick and xenophobic parties (most of which loathe the EU itself) score victories in recent years....To defuse this growing threat without addressing its own malaise, the European political class increasingly changes the question from 'What's wrong with Europe?' to 'What's wrong with America?'"

To my Canadian readers: sounds familiar, eh?

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