MORE EU PROPAGANDA: Previous News-watch blogs have shown how Nick Robinson’s BBC2 programme Europe: Them and Us presented a false history of the EU in line with the EU’s own self-perpetuated myth that its existence has been an essential ingredient in keeping the peace since the Second World War. Listeners to BBC World Service have this week been heard their own concentrated version of the same propaganda, in an edition of The Inquiry called ‘What Happened to the European Dream?’ The full transcript is below. The first part of the programme was about the founding of the EU. Presenter James Fletcher first spoke to Professor Desmond Dinan, who was introduced as being the holder of the Jean Monnet chair at the George Mason University in the US. What he did not say is that this is one of hundreds of such professorships round the world set up by the EU to study ‘European integration’ under the Jean Monnet project, and is a building block of Union’s massive propaganda project to convince the world – and figures such as the US President – that the EU is vital to peace in Europe. Professor Dinan did not disappoint. He delivered a masterclass in the EU myth. This is what he declared that Monnet and his colleagues had delivered immediately after the war:
I think they were pragmatic. It was an arrangement between countries which meant that war would not happen again and which meant also that countries would be not only peaceful but that they would be prosperous and that economic development and economic success in each country was not a zero-sum game, that all countries in Europe could prosper together and be peaceful together.
This was followed a few sentences later by:
And what cut through the Gordian Knot of this particular conundrum was Jean Monnet’s proposal to establish European-wide Coal and Steel Community. So, what the European Coal and Steel Community did was two-fold. First of all, it addressed very particular economic resource allocation problem. And second, it built trust, because it required countries participating in it to hand over responsibility, national resource ability to a supranational authority, to make key decisions in these very important economic sectors.
Dinan’s first major propaganda point – writ large – was that the EU was set up to ‘look beyond a narrowly-defined self-interest’, then the second, that an essential ingredient was that a supranational body was required to make key decisions (the unelected and unaccountable European Commission, of course).
In the second part of the programme, Fletcher spoke to another ‘authority’ on EU history: Professor Sara Hobolt, from the London School of Economics. Her credentials? Exactly the same as Professor Dinan. She holds the ‘Sutherland Chair in European Institutions’ and is also funded by the European Union Studies Association. He academic record includes dozens of publications about topics such as public attitudes towards integration. He role was to explain what had happened from the 1970s after Monnet had started the brilliant EU dream. As with Dinan, her focus was the importance of the EU, starting with:
The thing that happened in the 70s is really what has sometimes been referred to as the sort of European dark ages, or the dark ages of European integration. A long period where there was no real integration in Europe.
Of course. Not enough integration. At this point Fletcher colluded with the propaganda. He declared:
In the 60s and 70s, the Coal and Steel Community had expanded to become a broader trading area, known as the European Economic Community, and had admitted new members like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. But the tension we heard about from our first expert witness, between national sovereignty and further political integration had slowed moves towards greater economic cooperation.
Hobolt continued the propaganda with another observation that may have surprised Margaret Thatcher and the vast majority of Eurosceptics. She said:
Now, what we come to in the early 80s was a new dynamism, and a new willingness to bring European nations closer together both in terms of economic integration and also in terms of institutional reform. So, the sort of golden era of European integration really goes there from 1995 and up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in ’91.
And then she moved on to Jacques Delors, who was:
….a visionary, he had a vision for closer economic and political integration, bringing nation states together, but not necessarily, sort of, a European superstate, that would supersede nation states to the extent that they wouldn’t exist.
Delors the superstar. Further analysis would be more of the same. The reality is that this programme, in the key area of the development of the EU, was one-sided pro- EU propaganda provided by figures whose job is to collaborate with EU myth-making. They delivered in spades. That the BBC should have made a programme of this nature during the referendum campaign is highly questionable, and appears to be in direct contravention of the BBC’s own Referendum Guidelines. The audience was led to belief that Dinan and Hobolt are authoritative, objective sources on the subject of EU history. But they are not.
Transcript of BBC World Service, The Inquiry, ‘What Happened to the European Dream?’ 3 May 2016, 3.06am
JAMES FLETCHER: This week: what happened to the European dream? On June 23rd this year, British voters will go to the polls. On the ballot will be a simple question: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. No matter the result, the mere fact that for the first time in 40 years a member country is seriously considering leaving is a sign of the problems Europe is facing. Across the continent anti EU political parties are on the rise. In April, Dutch voters rejected an EU deal with Ukraine. Even the president of the European Commission admitted recently that the EU project had lost part of its attractiveness. Bureaucrats are fond of phrases like ‘The European Project’ – but what does it actually mean and has lost its shine? This week, we’re asking what happened to the European dream? (music)
FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Part One: A continent rebuilds.
NEWSREEL MONTAGE: Pointing to Western Europe as a shattered ruin from which great masses of the people could never hope to rise without American a . . . France had miraculously emerged from general strikes which paralysed her national life. But civil war had barely been averted.
PROFESSOR DESMOND DINAN: Those days were grim, the circumstances were bad, Europe faced an enormous challenge of reconstruction immediately after the war.
JF: Our search for the European dream begins in the aftermath of World War II.
DD: And the men who would go on to become the so-called founding fathers of the European Community were very much immersed in that challenge.
JF: Professor Desmond Dinan works at George Mason University in the United States, where he holds a chair named after one of those founding fathers, French civil servant Jean Monnet.
DD: He had worked for the League of Nations in the late 20s and early 30s, he had worked for the French government, so he was very well known internationally, and he had never stood for elected office, he preferred to operate in the background, that’s how he pushed the goal of European integration forward.
JF: Monnet’s main partner in France was government minister Robert Schuman who had been part of the French resistance with a price on his head.
DD: Schuman was an experienced foreign minister, very committed as Monnet was to try to find a new way to manage relations between states and especially between France and Germany.
JF: Monnet and Schuman were part of a group of European statesmen all in their 60s and 70s who had all lived through turbulent times.
DD: They had experienced not just the Second World War but the entire inter-war period, and indeed, the First World War as well. So for them, throughout their careers Europe had been in chaos, war, recession, unemployment was the norm. They wanted to change that; they wanted to break that cycle.
JF: And so how would you express what they came up with.
DD: I think they were pragmatic. It was an arrangement between countries which meant that war would not happen again and which meant also that countries would be not only peaceful but that they would be prosperous and that economic development and economic success in each country was not a zero-sum game, that all countries in Europe could prosper together and be peaceful together.
ROBERT SCHUMAN Speaking French, over music.
JF: In 1950, Robert Schuman gave a speech proposing the creation of what would eventually become the European Union. He talked about avoiding war and the importance of economic development. Peace and prosperity. Professor Dinan says this was the founding dream. Of course, dream is just a dream unless you can figure out a way to make it a reality.
DD: They saw this challenge, not just as a diplomatic challenge or a challenge of international relations, they saw it also, and this is very important, as an economic challenge.
JF: Coal and steel were the key resources as Europe rebuilt after the war. The problem for France was that Germany had most of the coal. Being on the side of the victors, some in France advocated simply taking the coal from Germany. But keeping Germany down wasn’t consistent with those goals of peace and prosperity. So, it was clear that nations like France would have to look beyond their narrowly-defined self-interest.
DD: And what cut through the Gordian Knot of this particular conundrum was Jean Monnet’s proposal to establish European-wide Coal and Steel Community. So, what the European Coal and Steel Community did was two-fold. First of all, it addressed very particular economic resource allocation problem. And second, it built trust, because it required countries participating in it. To hand over responsibility, national resource ability to a supranational authority, to make key decisions in these very important economic sectors.
JF: Economic cooperation required political institutions to make it work. European bureaucracy which stood above national governments and took some of their powers away from them. So, from the beginning, signing up to Europe meant link wishing some national sovereignty.
DD: Monnet described the Coal and Steel Community as a functional economic approach to greater European integration, but his hope was that this would result in policy spillover, that as countries cooperated very closely in one or two economic sectors that their cooperation and collaboration inevitably would spill over into other sectors.
JF: So we’ve heard how the European dream was for peace and prosperity, achieved through economic cooperation. The vehicle for this was the Coal and Steel Community, but crucially, that was seen by some as just the beginning.
FEMALE ANNOUCNER: Part two: the golden age.
SARA HOBOLT: The European Union has always been this fascinating experiment of change, a political experiment.
JF: Our second expert witness is Sara Hobolt, originally from Denmark, now at the London School of Economics.
SH: The thing that happened in the 70s is really what has sometimes been referred to as the sort of European dark ages, or the dark ages of European integration. A long period where there was no real integration in Europe.
JF: In the 60s and 70s, the Coal and Steel Community had expanded to become a broader trading area, known as the European Economic Community, and had admitted new members like the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. But the tension we heard about from our first expert witness, between national sovereignty and further political integration had slowed moves towards greater economic cooperation.
SH: Now, what we come to in the early 80s was a new dynamism, and a new willingness to bring European nations closer together both in terms of economic integration and also in terms of institutional reform. So, the sort of golden era of European integration really goes there from 1995 and up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in ’91.
JF: The Maastricht Treaty is important, and will tell you more about it in a minute. But first, let’s hear about the driving force behind this so-called golden era – Jaques Delors.
SH: He was a visionary, he had a vision for closer economic and political integration, bringing nationstates together, but not necessarily, sort of, a European superstate, that would supersede nation states to the extent that they wouldn’t exist.
JF: Delors was a Socialist politician and former Minister of economics in France. In 1985, he became President of the European Commission, then and now, Europe’s executive body.
SH: If you go back to the early years of integration, integration was very much about removing tariff barriers, but Jacques Delors as a Socialist was also one who wanted a more social dimension, this more, what we might think of as a welfare state at the European level, and add a political dimension to European integration.
JF: He started by furthering the original European dream: economic integration.
SH: What he did first was about the completion of the single market, establishing a common geographical area where companies can trade with each other without any kind of barriers to trade, but also they established sort of common external borders and tariffs, so they have a common policy vis-a-vis the rest of the world in terms of how difficult they see it is for the world to trade with this area.
JF: The single market was considered a success, and that meant Delors wanted to go further – towards establishing a single currency.
SH: Now, of course, I’m sure he wasn’t unaware that once you have a single currency there will also be pressure for more common fiscal policy.
JF: Fiscal policy means taxes and spending – pretty fundamental functions of national governments. Establishing a single currency was an ambitious step, that would require European states to give up much more control over their own affairs.
SH: So what he proposed was a three-stage roadmap.
JF: Stage I was the Maastricht Treaty in the early 90s.
ARCHIVE NEWS REPORT: Fanfare at Maastricht as the governments of the 12 reassembled here two months after the haggling of the summit which finally produced the treaty now ready for signature – a treaty charting the European Community’s course closer to that of a superpower, with agreements on monetary union, moving towards a common foreign and defence policy, and increasing the Community’s scope to make law for all member states.
JF: Maastricht also brought in a significant name change The European Economic Community dropped the ‘Economic’ and became part of the European Union. Jacques Delors had taken Europe deep into political territory, and a long way from the dark ages we heard about earlier. (music)
SH: That was the high watermark, you know, it was the establishment of an economic union, the prospect of a political union and all forces were sort of joined to say we are creating, you know, this grand new project. (music, with lyrics, ‘Unite tonight – Europe’ and applause)
FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Part three: Overreach?
ADRIAAN SCHOUT: They have the European dream, they believe in the European dream.
JF: Adriaan Schout is from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. Back in 1988 he was living with people who’d studied at the College of Europe – considered an elite finishing school for budding European bureaucrats.
AS: If you were the son of a diplomat, and you speak five languages and you’ve lived in several other countries, then it’s easy to believe in the European dream.
JF: What’s that vision that they’ve had that they’ve signed up to heart and soul?
AS: It’s about fiscal union, it’s about a political union, it’s about an economic union, it’s about the Parliament is being a true parliament that appoints a government and that has a sizeable EU budget. But all of that goes at the expense of member states.
JF: As we’ve heard, around this time, people with this expansive dream of Europe were in the driving seat in Brussels.
AS: We started to realise that the EU was more than just a market, but we didn’t know what it quite was, what it was going to be. It was an abstract discussion, but it became clear with a remark by Jacques Delors.
JACQUES DELORS: (speaking French)
AS: That 80% of policies would be formulated at EU level. And I think that remark really woke up and to European feelings, or at least Eurosceptic feelings that . . . ‘Hey, this is going too fast – that means we can more or less close our own Parliament and the EU will become a government’ so that remark was a bit the turning point.
JF: Adriaan Schout says it started to become clear just how much political spillover, Jacques Delors’s vision of Europe was going to involve.
AS: All sorts of policies came in, all kinds of areas, so you could see around 1990, you s— could see the resistance also in the public administration growing, of all these new proposals, are they really necessary?
JF: There was just a sense almost of the paper piling up too fast on the desks?
AS: Oh yes.
JF: These concerns began to gain more traction with the public, as Europe move towards monetary union and the single currency.
AS: You could see a dip in popularity of the EU, and, let me stress, that is not just only in the Netherlands but also in, for example, France and Germany, because while the popularity of the EU was going down, the integration process just continued with the momentum that it had.
JF: The Maastricht treaty was narrowly rejected in a referendum in Denmark, and only just approved in a referendum in France. And what do you think was the fundamental difference between the vision of the European Commission, where they were taking Europe, and the people who were opposed or even tepidly in favour of?
AS: Well, the first step was the enormous widening of the policy areas, then the introduction of the euro, and then subsequently the widening of the number of member states that happened from the first 10 Eastern European countries and then later some more joined, and then the final blow came when it became clear that the euro was much more than just a symbol and a coin.
JF: We’ve moved fairly swiftly through a lot of history there, but essentially, Adriaan Schout is talking about the pattern we identified earlier: the move from economic to more and more political integration, and particularly in difficult times, more and more people becoming concerned about the loss of sovereignty that this entails. The extent of public opposition to further EU integration became particularly clear in 2005 when moves to adopt European Constitution were rejected by French and Dutch voters.
VOX POP FEMALE: To much power is going to the minster of that little countries like Holland.
VOX POP MALE: It’s the wrong referendum, I vote against.
VOX POP FEMALE 2: They never asked us anything, and we don’t have time to read all the 350 pages.
AS: It was an attempt to make the EU more simple, in a way, by having clear, identifiable structures. But these things, they just . . . were not supported in the Netherlands, ‘We don’t want European president, we don’t want European flag, we don’t want a European hymn’ and that still is the tension that we now see in Europe. It was vetoed in 2005, but we’re actually still on this trajectory of more and more Europe.
JF: As the European project has faced crisis after crisis over the past ten years, over the constitution, the euro, immigration, this key question has emerged again and again. Are these crises caused or made worse by Europe travelling too far down the road of political integration? Or do you European nations need to bite the bullet and give up more sovereignty to make political integration work?
FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Part four: Where to now?
NIKOLAUS BLOME: My name is Nikolaus Blome, I’m the deputy editor of Bild, which is the biggest daily in Europe.
JF: Meet our fourth expert witness, a man with his finger on the pulse of popular opinion in Europe’s most powerful country – Germany.
NB: The euro is in dire condition, maybe it’s the worst (word unclear, ‘phase’ or ‘face’?) of the European integration ever witnessed. It’s a multitude of crises, starting from the debt crisis, from the euro crisis, erm . . . Ukraine, refugees, but there are crises coming from within too. We’ve seen some sort of renaissance of nationalism. So, all in all, it’s not in good shape.
JF: And where do these crises leave the European dream?
NB: The narrative we had over decades, all about preventing war in Europe. That one is mission accomplished, definitely, so well it’s . . . some sort of a problem, if you have success, what is your next story, what is your next project?
JF: Nikolaus Blome says finding that next project is complicated by the fact that the low hanging fruit: politically uncontroversial stuff like lowering trade barriers has already been picked.
NB: Member states, all over the years and decades, have given away a lot of their sovereignty already. And now you’re like coming to the very hot . . . issues of defence, taxes, domestic security. And so that’s, obviously, it’s more difficult to hand that part of sovereignty over to Brussels than it has been about car parts or . . . cucumbers. And erm . . . I am not astonished about having a fierce debate on that.
JF: And do you think there is still a fundamental belief amongst Europeans that there are some things that are done better, you know, together as Europeans?
NB: That belief is shrinking – they don’t buy the dream, if you want, anymore.
JF: This June, Europe will get a clear sign whether some of its inhabitants buy the dream, when the UK votes on whether or not to remain in the EU.
NB: Already the campaign is setting some standards for future debates like this in other countries. And if the United Kingdom steps out, this might trigger similar things in Austria, in Belgium and the Netherlands, whatever.
JF: So, if Britain leaves – known as Brexit – what would happen to the idea of closer political integration?
NB: I think if Brexit will happen, the next day some few member countries, Germany and France maybe will do something in terms of more integration, just to show to everybody that the European thing is still alive, but it’s going to be difficult to have more than six or even five member states to be part of that new phase of integration.
JF: If Britain does vote to stay in, so there’s no Brexit, do you think that, that new phase of integration will still happen, is there this sense that there’s these five or six core countries that are going to keep moving ahead with the kind of broader project?
NB: No, I don’t think so. If Brexit does not happen, they will try to consolidate what they have, and they will let pass like, five years, before trying to renegotiate the whole thing.
JF: Do you think even in five years’ time it might be possible to get all 28 member states heading down the same road at the same speed?
NB: (two second pause) No not at all. There might be some . . . different, multispeed Europe, that’s fine, that’s in the treaties already, but still it’s getting more and more obligated to have decent relations between those in the faster pool and those staying out of that deeper-integrated pool of member states.
JF: It’s a tricky balancing act. Enough flexibility to address the concerns of those who think Europe is going too far, too fast, but not so much flexibility that a common project ceases to make sense. And it’s even trickier to pull off in the heat of multiple crises.
NB: Hopefully, in like, five years’ time, there’s no longer a refugee crisis, there has been some settlement with Greece, there’s more growth, and the European Union, somehow consolidated and gone through all those crises, might be able to take a new breath, and to start again.
JF: So what happened to the European dream? We’re a long way from where we started – peace and prosperity achieved through economic cooperation. Under Jacques Delors, political integration developed a momentum of its own, and since then the EU has found itself increasingly out of favour and under siege. But the idea that what’s needed now is a pragmatic response after a time of crisis – that’s something that might feel very familiar to Europe’s founding fathers.