Archive for juin, 2016

Great Britain and Europe: The EU Referendum Opportunity

lundi, juin 20th, 2016

Following her hard-hitting political and historical review « Ship of Fools », BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt traces the relationship between Great Britain and Europe when addressing as an opportunity the currently hot topic of the EU Referendum vote on 23rd June, 2016.


?If a clod be washed away by the sea,?Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.

The verses of John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, seem particularly relevant at this time of uncertainty in the face of the forthcoming British referendum on the continued membership of Britain to the European community, the so called Brexit. The United Kingdom is indeed a promontory in Europe, a privileged look-out post from which to see further and higher on European issues.

Its membership was by no means an easy process. Historically Britain feared any continental alliance with possible imperial ambitions. Its own Empire was slowly disintegrating, but the bonds of loyalty to the Crown, and trade within the Commonwealth, remained as strong as ever. Britain, the first globalized nation, was opened to the world and did not share France and Germany?s heavy moral burden of the Second World War?s negative inheritance, although it had played a decisive role in the final Allied victory.

Churchill, was awarded in 1955 the International Prix Charlemagne of Aachen for his action toward the unification of Europe after the Grand Congress of Europe he had instigated in 1948 in The Hague, which led to the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the Rome Treaty in 1957 on the Common Market, effectively creating the European Community of the Six : France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ? ?to establish the foundations of a ceaselessly closer union between European people.? He had formulated his vision in a Speech to the academic youth given in 1946 at the University of Zurich ?There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important.. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.?

He was echoing a concept born after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon, exiled on St. Helena, had himself formulated the dream, which his megalomaniac thirst for personal glory had prevented him achieving : ?Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.? But Pax Napoleonica never shone over the world as had done Pax Romana. Yet in Europe, torn by recurring wars and revolutions, this pacifist and humanist ideal found ardent advocates throughout the 19th century. In 1831 Wojciech Jastrz?bowski, the Polish naturalist, pionneer of ergonomics, had exposed his vision of a European international organization in a pamphlet : About the everlasting peace between the nations.

This concept was also Giuseppe Mazzini?s, like Napoleon a Genoese born under French rule, a politician and journalist. He was a fervent advocate of patriotism in his political action for the creation of an Italian state, as much as a fervent believer in a unified Europe. In 1834 he founded in Switzerland the Giovine Europe ( Young Europe), a visionary international movement. Its fondamental precept of national liberty denounced and opposed the dictates of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, by which the dominion of a few great European powers, namely Russia, Britain, Prussia and Austria, oppressed smaller nations. In his hope and action for a freely associated Republican league of European nations, where common interests would be shared and be regulated by a central federal assembly, Mazzini the revolutionary was called the prophet of Europe.

This prophetic vision found a bard in Victor Hugo, the French politician, poet, novelist and artist, who declared in 1849 at the Paris International Peace Congress : ?A day shall come when all of you nations of the Continent : France, Russia, Italy, England, Germany, will fuse tightly together in a higher entity without losing your own intrisic qualities and your own glorious individuality, and you will form a European brotherhood? A day shall come when we shall see … the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas…A day shall come when they will not be any battle fields left other than markets opening to trade and minds opening to ideas?In the twentieth century it shall be called Europe, then transfigured it shall be called Mankind.? Hugo?s vision was one of universal peace : Europe, including Britain, the motherland of European democracy, where like Mazzini he had lived in exile, would be the leading example and guiding light.

Little could he foresee the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, which he lived in besieged Paris, and the ensuing 20th century Franco-German conflicts, the two devasting World Wars, which would set the whole world ablaze, radically altering it. After the defeat of Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire, in 1871 the French National Assembly had called for a United States of Europe, and in 1929, after the horrors of the First World War, Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1926, called for a European Federation at the League of Nations, a vision of Europe also shared by Trotsky before the Russian Revolution. In it the torch of universal peace still shone. Churchill, having foreseen early the danger of Hitler?s rise, and of Nazi Germany?s agressive expansionnist strategy seeking to impose its hegemony worldwide, became its main bearer. He declared at The Hague European Congress in 1948 : ?We must endeavour by patience and faithful service to prepare for the day when there will be an effective world government resting on the main groupings of mankind.?

Europe?s destiny was to show the way, and England was to play a major part in it. In 1948, at a Conservative Meeting at Llandudno, Churchill outlined Britain?s unique position at the hub of ? three majestic circles? the ?Empire and Commonwealth?, ?the English speaking world? and a ?United Europe?. These three circles were for him ?co-existent? and ? linked together? in a truly globalized vision : ?We are the only country which has a great part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together.? In May 1947 at a meeting in the Albert Hall of the United Europe Movement, which he had founded and chaired, he spoke of ?? the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part?? Britain and France would be ? ? founder-partners in this movement?, and ?? Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.?

His resolve over the matter was such that, after the German invasion of France in May 1940, supported by his Party and Cabinet, he had announced in June 1940 the Declaration of Union between Great Britain and France, ? The two governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union? Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.? An Anglo-French stamp featuring King George VI and French President Albert Lebrun was conceived to commemorate the union.
The rise of Marshall Pétain and the creation of the collaborationnist Vichy government in occupied France, brought this plan to an abrupt end. It is in this context of a France divided onto itself between Collaborateurs and Résistants, the latter themselves divided into Gaullists and Communists, that the much used, and misused, rebuff of Churchill to De Gaulle on the eve of the 1944 Normandy landings, must be understood : ? If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea. Every time I have to decide between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.?

De Gaulle did not share Churchill?s lofty vision of a unified Europe as a premise for universal world peace. He held a French traditonalist view of Germany, and for him the settlement of the centuries-old rivalry and conflict between, as he said : ?Les Gaulois et les Germains?, (The Gauls and the Teutons ), was the main motivation : ?Europe, it?s France and Germany?. In this he did not share either his French compatriots Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman?s opinions and active involvement in the realization of European unity. Jean Monnet had declared in 1950 : ? The prosperity of our European community is inextricably linked to the development of international exchange. Our Community shall thus contribute to the solving of the world?s free exchange problems.? He resumed his humanist ideal in stating : ?We do not form a coalition with the various States, but their people.? It was at the antipodes of De Gaulle?s beliefs who violently denounced Monnet and Schuman?s initiatives in the face of the rising Cold War towards a common Western European economic, political and military policy supported by the United Sates, with the creation in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a consultative assembly of 78 to neutralize any future return of the Franco-German rivalry, the signing of the Rome Treaty and the paving of the way for Britain?s entry. Schuman, then Prime Minister, had declared in 1949 : ?Wihout Britain there can be no Europe.?

De Gaulle expounded his views on the Common Market as directed by ? a common commission which would, of course, be composed not of people like Jean Monnet, a supranational stateless man, but with qualified civil servants.? Thus the European Parliament, which started as the consultative Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community with 78 appointed parliamentarians drawn from the member states national parliaments, with no legislative mandates, has now grown over the years into an overblown structure of byzantine complexity, where discordant voices are heard, powerfuls lobbies exercise pressions on commissions, where there is no vision for the future, no guiding master plan and true common policy. The splitting of the Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg, to comply with France?s unreasonable demands, is not only a gross waste of time, of ressources and energy, but constitutes an obvious impediment for the efficient functionning of the structure, which amounts to a near sabotage of the Founding Fathers of the European Union?s dream and ideals. France has a heavy responsibility in the floundering of the institution, having imposed upon it its ancestral nationalist interests without thought of the future common good, its cumbersome administration, and its fastidious bureaucracy which calls to mind Aesop?s fable of The Dog and its Reflection. La Fontaine took up its moral in his own fable:

We all are deceived in this world.
One can see so many madmen
Running after the shadow of a prey,
That one cannot count them all.

De Gaulle staunchly opposed Britain?s entry in the Common Market, and twice vetoed its membership in 1961 and 1967, on the same grounds which, one must say, had made Churchill doubt about the good of it for Britain, as he told the House of Commons in 1950 ie : Britain?s position, ?at the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth?, and, ? our fraternal association with the United States of America.? But he went on ? We are prepared to consider and, if convinced, to accept the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards? national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.? Britain?s former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who successfully negotiated the United Kingdom?s entry in the European Community on January 1st 1973, who had known and worked with Churchill, wrote in an article in the Guardian in 1996 : ?? I am sure Churchill would now favour a policy that enabled Britain to be at the heart of the European Union? Churchill would be the first to realise that in the world today, where an isolated Britain would be dwarfed by five great powers, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union, Britain?s full participation in the European Union is vital, both for Britain and the rest of the world.?

In his seminal speech at the Congress of Europe in 1948, Churchill had called for a European Charter and a Court of Human Rights. France, the European nation which had issued in 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, directly inspired by the 1776 American Declaration of Independance, ? All men are born equal?, with the right to ? Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?, conceived by President Jefferson of English ancestry, was not at the vanguard of this visionary humanist initiative. It had to face its own demons which have haunted the French for centuries. Without going back to the northern Crusade against the southern Cathars, the fight between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the Wars of religions, French history is the story of an endlessly violent internal fight beween conflicting values and factions, interspersed with intermittent periods of remission. It is a country forever divided onto itself, and the shadow of a national psychosis has grown heavy over the centuries, in particular since, in more recent times, for all its claims to rationalism in the ?Age of Enlightenment?, it has never adequately dealt with and exorcized the moral trauma of the 1789 Revolution : its regicide and the horrors of civil war perpetrated during the ensuing Terror. Bonaparte did manage to bring back some stability and prosperity for a while during the Consulate and First Empire, but at the price of endless wars which devastated Europe and did not create permanent political cohesion internally. Throughout the 19th century the pendulum swang between Monarchists and Republicans, between the radicalised socialist revolutionary urban society and the traditionally conservative Catholic large population of rural France. The situation exploded with the 1871 Paris socialist Commune, which ruled over the city for 3 months, its repression during the ? Bloody Week?, and the formation of the Third Republic by Thiers.

Usually united in the face of common ennemy, it was not the case in 1940, and after the Second World War, it was the noxious inheritance of the Vichy government and Collaboration that France had to face up to and deal with. It was by no means an easy task, even Alsatian-born Schuman, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe had at one time participated in the Vichy government, to be reinstated in political life by De Gaulle in 1945. It was of course a matter of degree of involvement and circumstances. Thus Maurice Papon, the former Bordeaux police prefect, who, under the Nazi occupation had sent French Jews to death camps, became a Gaullist after the war and held important official posts. He played a key role during the Algerian war, using torture against prisoners and ordering the 1961 Paris massacre of the FNL demonstrators whose bodies were thrown in the Seine in unknown number. De Gaulle, who had been called to the presidency to deal with the Algerian crisis in the hope of retaining this French colony, awarded him the Légion d?Honneur that same year. It was not until 1998 that Papon was caught up by his bloody past, he was then put on trial and condemned for crimes against humanity. Mitterand, who as President abolish the death penalty in France in 1981, had sentenced 45 Algerian members of the FNL to the guillotine in 1956-57 as Minister of Justice during the Algerian war. Mitterand also came under strong suspicions of collaboration in the 1980?s and 90?s for his involvement with the Vichy goverment and his close friendship with René Bousquet, the former Vichy chief of police who sent thousand of French Jews to their death. Among other misdeeds he was responsible, for the infamous 1942 Vel? d?Hiv? roundup. He was assassinated in 1993 before his trial for crimes against humanity had started.

Put into this context, it is easy to see that France?s involvement with the European Community has never been from the beginning an easy and straigtforward one, but tinged with ambivalence and overshadowed by the spectres of the past. It is also easy to understand Churchill?s sometime wavering and reservations about joining the European Union. Yet Britain?s membership can be seen, in some respects, as bringing an outer necessary balancing element in the European union between the two major protagonists, France and Germany. This precious independent voice must be preserved, even if it becomes at times dissonant. This is the case with the present referendum which emphasizes many of the deficiencies of a nearly 60 years?s old institution, which has grown in a fairly haphardly manner, assuming an overblown dimension, with redundant features. The whole structure of the European Community needs to be reassessed in the light of the realities of a changed world : globalization, immigration, financial crisis, the threat to the environment of an over-industrialized world, the threat to European and world peace of growing radicalized extremist groups whether terrorists or right-wing populists, the rise of Daesh in the Middle East. Britain?s call for a referendum can act as a gad-fly, a necessary evil, to trigger off a salutary reassessment of Europe?s state and status, and redefine its aims, its role and position, within its own frontiers and in the world at large.

It is time also to take stock of European?s policies on solidarity and humanitarian issues, as well as protection and defense of its frontiers. The richer Northern countries cannot expect the poorer ones such as Greece, Spain and Italy, to have to deal alone with the surge of migrants leaving their own countries spurred on either by wars, as in the Near and Middle East, or economic disasters, as in Africa. They are often the results of Western interventionnism in their inner politics, or over-exploitation of their natural ressourses to profit large international groups.

Since many voices are being heard speaking of ?European Christian roots and values?, these various people or groups would do well to remember that ?Caritas? is a cardinal Christian virtue. It is neither ?condescending?, as had said Margaret Thatcher when asked about compassion, nor is it gratuitous charity. It encompasses the concepts of fraternal brotherhood and solidarity, it is a basic value, which the Founding Fathers of Europe advocated, for all men, whatever their race, their creed, their religion. They were Christian Democrats and their vision was meant to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to all, in accordance with the recognition and respect of the dignity of man in his spiritual dimension, for all men and all religions, a religious pluralism as recognized by the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis. All men are equal is a basic Christian tenet. Man as a spritual being enjoys a fondamental right, and this right is unalienable. It depends in no way of the State and must be recognized and acknowledged. And all men are linked in the working for the common good of all.

This equality between men has little to do with the radical socialism which erupted in France in the 19th century. Whereas Karl Marx, who had lived in the Commune in Paris in 1871 and written a book about it, saw in it a source of inspiration as ?the dictatorship of the proletariat?, the withering away of the state?, the glorious harbinger of a new society? Mazzini, ?the prophet of Europe? condemned its excesses, denounced the Socialist and Communist materialism and ?class struggle?, advocating instead ?class collaboration?. He also denounced the evils of rationalism and atheism, rejecting the revolutionary concept of intrinsic ?Rights? owed to men as a source of individualism, for those of human ?Duties? whereas one earn one?s ?Rights? through virtuous living, contributing to society through hard work and self-sacrifice, which allows for man?s spiritual dimension to grow in tolerance, altruism and humanity, and thus brings peace and harmony between men and nations.

Mazzini?s Jansenist inspired ethics are similar to those of the Christian Democrats. They are also close to those of Thatcher?s own Methodist upbringing, with its emphasis on the importance of a virtuous life, education and hard work. However she may well have quoted Francis of Assisi when moving in at 10 Downing Street, but the Raegan type neo-liberalism she introduced to Britain, which Tony Blair, her ?best follower? in her own words, also pursued, is responsible for the worldwide grip of over- powerful financial international bodies, which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. Untold misery has resulted for millions all over the world. Its effects must be taken into account in some of Britain?s present ills, which do not all come from the inadequacies of the European Union. In an equitable society economy and capitalism should be put at the service of all men, for their benefit and well-being. The majority of men should not be slaves to the system for the greed and profit of the few. The respect of others would then go together with the respect of their environment, and nature would be preserved as a common inheritance to be protected and husbanded in the care and awareness of the natural ressources made available, to ensure a sustainable development. This is also a Christian Democrat notion. As is the decentralisation of the State?s administrative powers to percolate down to the various social groupings, allowing for a better respect of individual liberties, including religious ones, and the free teaching of the various religions, with obvious implications for Europe.

The present situation in Europe hardly reflects this earlier ideal, when in France, for example, under the pretext of laïcité, which should be tolerance of all religions, but is repression of all forms of religious symbols for the sake of secularisation and Socialist atheism, there is a constant vociferous debate over the wearing of the veil for Muslim women. Britain who can boast in London the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city, brings a pacifying note to the widespread European clamour of racial and religious discrimination. The United Kingdom in its ancestral institutions, the Common Law set by the Norman William the Conqueror, the Magna Carta, the Parliament, its monarch anointed according to the ancient French coronation ceremony, the traditions and people inherited from its former Empire and Commonwealth, enjoys a historic continuity, right to the survival of earlier Saxon?s features. It is the source of Britain?s inner sense of pride and security enabling the nation to face, and to survive, the vagaries of life and the passing of time. Is it necessary to recall that England?s mottoes are in French, Dieu et mon Droit, and Honni soit qui mal y pense ?

France, with England the oldest European nation, is sadly divorced from a large part of its historical past, and forever shaken by social commotions in an endlessly feverish search for the new, unable to build on foundations made shaky through its own self-destructive tendencies. The last two presidencies are a sad testimony to France?s decline at all levels, nationally and internationally. The governing of the country has just become an empty two-dimensional media show, exercised with neither true authority, nor vision and direction. The country is rapidly sinking into social chaos. Violence in conflicts between various groups and the police is on the rise. Democratic rights and basic liberties are eroded in the name of security by an authoritarian anti-demoncratic socialist government seeking to conceal its inherent incompetence and incoherence in assuming a would-be reassuring posture which is an imposture. The two international events held in Paris, the COP21 for the climate and the recent Palestine summit, are just a pathetic example of France?s incapacity of influencing international affairs through its own contradictions and idiosyncracies.

Once the largest and most important agricultural European country, France is also the Community?s highest consumer of chemical fertilizers polluting land, water and air. It is now selling vast expanses of prime agricultural land to the Chinese, who inundate the European market with its products, often filled with harmful chemicals, at vast production of CO2 during the journey. The Chinese are also colonizing the urban French landscape in buying all the small local cafés and brasseries, the French themselves cannot afford to run any longer for all the intricacies and pettiness of its bureaucracy. It is left to Angela Merkel to denounce the Chinese agressive commercial methods and the unfair dumping of steel on the European market. The French extensive waterways network remains largely unused for freight transport, the lorries?s fuel consumption continue to pollute the air with CO2, for fear of another strike and social unrest. If Sarkozy is once more elected, the mining for shale gas shall destroy an ancient land harmoniously fashioned by the hand of men over thousands of years, and pollute forever the ground water.

France?s position in the Middle East has been totally discredited by Sarkozy?s erratic governement and its perverse and corrupt relationship with Libya and Syria. Holland?s government held a summit on international policy over Palestine, yet it penalizes French people who stand for the economic boycott of Israeli products to stop the spread of Jewish settlements in Arab-owned land in Palestine. France?s guilt over the Jewish persecution during the Second World War still exercises a powerful hold on its home and foreign policy, and does not allow for any objectivity and constancy in its attitude towards the region?s political situation. Despite its former mandates and colonies in Arab-speaking countries, France has never had the equivalent of the British Middle East Centre of Arabic Studies, (MECAS), created after the war by Sir Bertram Thomas in Jerusalem to form an elite Arabist corps at the Foreign Office. The French Intelligence Services do not even have Arab-speaking agents to track and detect potential terrorists on their own territory, and have to employ outside bilingual translators for the job.

Mazzini had advocated the following of thought by action, denouncing intellectualism, and rationalizing for its own sake, a French fault to excess now reflected in the European Union?s management and administration. With the overmediatization of all human actions, it is rarely thought that is now concerned, but rather words. It seems that words are beeing issued without prior rational and reasonable thinking, under emotional impulse and on the spur of the moment, with no sincerity nor convictions. If not meant to deliberately confuse in the perverse disinformation game of political propaganda. With France?s sorry weakened state on home ground, in Europe and abroad, Britain must stand for steadfastness and determination, and give the Community a new direction. It must endeavour to reform the European Union for the better, on the strength of its unique position. It is to be hoped that it shall not relinquish its privileged status with the issue of the referendum, and let the opportunity pass by. Europe would be the poorer for it, and its future, and that of the world, made bleaker.

What more to add but to quote Shakespeare?s verses ? The words of the Plantagenet English king, Edward II, born in Bordeaux, depicted on the Wilton Dyptich kneeling at the Court of the Virgin in the company of the English royal saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr, bearing on this mantle his royal badge, a white hart. They come to me every time, when eschewing the speed and modernity of the Eurostar, I choose to see the white cliffs of Dover loom over the watery silver grey horizon, slowly coming nearer as the ferry sails across the Channel, my heart overwhelmed with emotion, my throat tightening and tears rising to my eyes. I learnt them as a teenager, when I studied Shakespeare. Aged 10 years old, I had the prescience while reading Sir Conan Doyle?s The Hound of the Baskerville and Dickens?s David Copperfield, that to live in the modern world I had to be an anglophile. Indeed, I have lived inside Churchill ?three majestic circles? the ?Empire and Commonwealth?, ?the English speaking world? and a ?United Europe? . My life has been, and still is, the richer, the fuller and the better for it.

?This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,?
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Paris, June 18th 2016

A Final Word on Brexit – As Viewed by our Representative in Greece

dimanche, juin 19th, 2016

Read below the concluding personal view of Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, as she rounds off her previous discussion of the critical issue of Brexit or not for the United Kingdom (Great Britain: EU or Brexit?):

As we are a few days away from the referendum now, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have ardently supported (and argued in favour of) the remaining of the UK in the EU, and all those who gave us the unique opportunity to be heard through our texts, etc.

Please allow me to suggest to the British people that they keep in mind and take into most serious consideration all the statements of the Prime Minister Mr. Cameron concerning the referendum before casting their vote.

May everyone keep in mind, as well, that the day after the referendum must be a bright day for the UK!

The future must be secured and this can be achieved only within the EU.