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The strength of Europe and the EU

1) The strength of Europe and the EU. In 1968 Louis Armand and Michel Drancourt wrote a book called Le Pari européen (The European Bet), which stated that we as a continent would have to unite politically and economically in order to be able to compete with the Soviet Union and the USA. Europe, it was argued, has to conform to the law of natural selection which favours large transnational or federal structures. This implies that Europe must adapt to a radical mental change. Almost half a century later, that is just where Europe is, on the road to regaining its leadership role, however slow and awkward this journey may seem.

2) We represent the largest economic force on the planet, but we are divided.

3) Western Europe, in a broad sense, now has 450 million inhabitants, and includes twenty-five nations and forty major languages. With about a thousand representatives at Strasbourg this represents the beginning of a new form of coalition politics, at the limit of what can be managed without falling into inefficiency.

4) There is not one Europe but three: Western, Byzantine, and Russian.

5) There are four possible political and economic models for Europe:

a) The United States of Europe, Jean Monnet's and later Jaques Delors' model, a bureaucratic state after the French precedent. It is Louis XIV, Richelieu, Colbert, and Byzantium. Very seductive for French civil servants who feel at home with the idea, but not for the Germans. The new Europe will demand more than that from their public officials in terms of public service and accountability.

b) The Free Trade Zone Europe, championed by Britain, with a competitive position open to the rest of the world - especially to Britain's US ally. This is Europe according to the Thatcher plan.

c) Regional Europe, after the German political model. Europe fragmented into eighty or ninety territories each as homogeneous as possible, with an average population of four to six million inhabitants. Here the principles of federalism, subsidiary, and decentralism will be applied. There are a minimum of financial transfers between regions to equalize economic differences. This model leads to a European Parliament of two chambers, where the second is the Senate of the regions. This is a realistic, well-structured model for Europe.

d) Social Europe, with equal wages in all countries. This is a social-democratic model transferred to the EU level, and it has just about rendered our states bankrupt.

6) In the regional model France would have eight to nine regions, Sweden two to four.

7) National space within this new Union is under reconstruction. The new opening of borders to goods and labour will only speed up this political evolution. The nation state no longer has its previous economic significance.

8) To compete, we must give our regions more leverage. France as nine regions might look like this:

a) The Greater Paris Region. The inconveniences of Paris include traffic bottlenecks, poor foreign-language skills, higher telecommunications costs, lack of an international platform for exporting companies to distribute their goods. To revitalize Paris one could suggest moving all larger industries to the periphery, importing unskilled labour, and having them live in dormitory towns outside Paris, for instance at Le Mans.

b) The large cross-border areas of the north and north-east, the region best situated for economic growth: Nord, Flanders, Lorraine, Alsace, and Baden-Württemberg together form an economic unity. Many think that Alsace, which has suffered so much in the past, deserves this.

c) The Rhône-Alps Region. Burgundy, the Auvergne, Franche-Comté, all linked to Switzerland and northern Italy, go together.

d) Nice may become an annexe to Turin with the new tunnel. They have much in common both culturally and economically. "Nizza" only became French late in the nineteenth century.

e) Occitania. This region includes Languedoc-Roussillon, the Pyrenees, Catalonia, with major cities Montpellier, Toulouse, and Barcelona. Spanish and Catalan will be mandatory languages.

f) Marseilles. Marseilles is a city without prospects. Its best hope would have been to become a city like Hamburg, a free port. Ideally it could become a European Hong Kong or Shanghai, great Asian port cities. Marseilles was a great port once, but it has turned into a lawless zone which it may be too late to revive.

g) Greater Aquitaine. Facing towards the south Atlantic Ocean, together with Bordeaux, Poitou, and everything down to the Basque country. This part of France is closely related to Spain, culturally and economically.

h) Britanny-Atlantic. Britanny, the Vendée, Maine, part of Anjou, and the Cotentin peninsula, facing the ocean and Britain, but also Quebec, Portugal, and Morocco.

i) Corsica. This island is oriented towards Sardinia and Tuscany.

9) Of these projects the most advanced are Britanny + Loire and Languedoc + the Pyrenees + Catalonia.

10) It is easy to make Britanny into a region, because it used to be an independent kingdom. Britanny has its own language and adheres to the Celtic culture. It is easy to make a region round Nice too, since it has only been French for about a century.

11) In this new Europe we shall have several political identities. We shall not only be nationals, but we shall also have a regional identity and a European identity. Mixed marriages will multiply. And the laws will follow. All Europeans have already been voting together since 1 May 2004, when the new enlargement of the European Union included ten new member states, whereof eight from Central and Eastern Europe.

12) The territory of the nation state will continue to provide policing, defence, judicial, and other public functions.

This transition will be more difficult for countries like France or Sweden which do not have the same regional experience as Germany or Switzerland.

It is also important to learn how to be an inhabitant of Europe and not just of one's nation state.

13) Language is important for success in the new Europe. In the common European armed forces, soldiers will need to master at least three languages to operate effectively. In this Europe the more languages you speak the more valuable you will be in the job market, and the greater your opportunities. English, French, and German will be indispensable. Any Western student who knows Chinese will be guaranteed a job in business, business studies or not.

14) The territorial dislocation of the nation states will make way for a renaissance: a renaissance of the province or region, and of local culture. Smaller current political units, such as communes or départements, will continue as administrative centres for certain functions, but already they have long ceased to be engines for economic development. We are experiencing a major leap in political scale. In the new Europe, regions will co-operate directly among themselves without the mediation of the nation state. Baden-Württemberg is already a German California.

15) The public sector should be at the service of society, rather than society at the service of the public sector. The State should not hold a monopoly on the public interest.

16) Education will need to be handled at the regional level. You cannot reform national education as it stands today. It is controlled by the unions, and they are non-reformable. That problem must be solved by allowing competition.

17) The French model is no alternative for the new enlarged Europe. Europe has no need of a Sun King in Brussels.

18) The French inherited their bureaucratic tradition from the Romans. Europe is now moving away from a French model of a centralized State, towards a German model of autonomous Länder. This is the model of the Habsburg Empire.

19) By 2015-50 the Pacific will be the new commercial centre of the world. Europe will need to have settled its problems, internally and with its neighbors, by that time. South Africa will already have settled theirs.

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