March 2, 2012

Herman Van Rompuy's delusions of grandeur underscore the folly of the European project

Herman Van Rompuy (second from right) is steering a ship of fools
Herman Van Rompuy (second from right) is steering a ship of fools

In a development barely noticed outside of Brussels, Herman Van Rompuy has been “unanimously re-elected” as President of the European Council for a second two and a half year term. This is despite the fact that no election appears to have been held. His coronation underscores the farcical nature of European Union institutions, part of a vast supranational entity headed by bureaucrats and technocrats that rides roughshod over national sovereignty and democratic accountability.

You would be hard pressed to find a more vainglorious acceptance speech than the one delivered by Mr. Van Rompuy yesterday. Against a backdrop of economic turmoil from Greece to Portugal to Italy, with the very future of the single currency in doubt, the EU president remained in denial over the scale of the crisis. His whole speech can be read here, but below is a snapshot of his remarks which captures his detachment from reality:
In a way my job is to be the guardian of trust: fostering mutual understanding around this table among ourselves, knowing that for us together, our duty is to preserve the trust of citizens in the Union.
We are already harvesting the first results of our work on stabilising the eurozone, for instance in terms of lower interest rates. But more is needed. Together we must bring Europe back on the path to structural growth and jobs. Exploiting the full potential of our great market. Using the EU's central budget to foster competitiveness and employment. Investing in innovation, education and green technology, precisely when we reduce deficits. We must provide a positive outlook for jobs and prosperity, in fairness and in justice.
We must convince people across Europe that their sacrifices in these crisis years were not made in vain, that they are leading to results, that the eurozone in the end comes out stronger: this has to be our biggest concern. It is our only way to win over the hearts and minds of the Europeans. Such a crisis must not be allowed to ever happen again. Ensuring this must be our legacy.
The word "Europe" has long been a sign of hope, embodying peace and prosperity. In the crisis, this equation has come under stress. It is my and our role, that Europe again becomes a symbol of hope. Of a better future for all.
I see something else around this table: a sense of common responsibility, the political resolve to continue our road together. I know you all share my deep conviction that the euro and the Union are irreversible projects. They support and embody the ideals of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic continent. It is our duty to continue this historical endeavour.
Van Rompuy's speech illustrates why the European project is crumbling all around him, and why Euroscepticism is on the rise across the EU in the wake of the debt crisis.  Mr. Van Rompuy is deluding himself if he believes that "ever-closer union" is Europe's destiny. As Lady Thatcher noted a decade ago in her book Statecraft, the relentless drive to create a European federal superstate is “a classic utopian project, a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the final damage done is in doubt.”  Van Rompuy and his cohorts are steering a ship of fools that is heading for the rocks. Europe needs economic freedom, political liberty, and self-determination, not the dead hand of Brussels.

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