Back in the EUSSR

Historians still argue over the reasons why one particular geographical region managed to achieve such overwhelming military, economic and cultural power as to subordinate the rest of the planet, but the fact remains that as late as 1914, Europe dominated the world in a way no previous civilization could.

After two centuries of colonization and a century of industrial development, Europe – once known as "sunset lands" by the ancient civilizations of the Middle East – had stood on top of the world. On its eastern end was a stupendous empire that reached from Poland to the Pacific. On its western edge was a thalassocracy that boasted the sun never set on all its outposts.

This also helps explain why the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 were both global conflicts, even though they began in Europe and for European reasons.

Even today, the world feels the legacy of European power. The very concept of nation-state arose in Europe, after a series of religious wars ravaged the continent in the 1600s. Ancient democracy, philosophy, the three major denominations of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant), capitalism, socialism, liberalism, banking… all of these are concepts that were either originally conceived in Europe, or developed on the continent and then spread throughout the world by word, sword or gunpoint. Even after the European empires finished beating each other into rubble midway through the 20th century, the two superpowers waging a cold war for dominion over the world were European derivatives; the United States and the USSR were based on European philosophical principles – of individual liberty and class struggle, respectively.

After the demise of the Soviet Union, those who sought to establish a Pax Americana announced the "end of history" and heralded a "new world order." The past seventeen years have brought neither; quite the contrary, history is more in flux than ever, and there is not much order left in the world, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Cold War victors.

Dangerous Notions

The European Union (EU) is one of the things that emerged from the post-Cold War flux. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht transformed what had formerly been a trade association of European countries into an actual political entity, currently one of the largest in the world (with nearly half a billion inhabitants).

To its supporters, the EU is a crowning achievement of democracy on the continent; a monument to peace, tolerance, and the transformative power of government planning. They might be right on that last one, if not on any of the others.

Democracy is hardly a pinnacle of civilization, as it is by definition at odds with freedom. The myth of "democratic peace" is just that – a myth. "Tolerance" is turning into its very opposite, as the Union seeks to ban speech in a misguided attempt to paper over a very real conflict between the shrinking native populations (a consequence of welfare statism) and the mainly Muslim immigrants who refuse to assimilate.

Last, but not least important, is the notion that European unity is by itself a good thing. History suggests it is rather the opposite. For centuries, attempts to achieve European unification brought nothing but bitter conflict. Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire proved fleeting. Napoleon dreamed of a united Europe (under French leadership, of course). So did Hitler. But when competition among European powers did not lead to conflict, it led to one-upmanship in economics, philosophy, culture, art, and all the other things that eventually made Europe a global hegemon rather than, say, China – which had been united for centuries.

"Slow-motion Coup"

A few days ago, a Swedish blogger by the name of Fjordman wrote an article titled "Towards a Totalitarian Europe" for the Euroskeptic blog The Brussels Journal, arguing that:

The European Union is basically an attempt – a rather successful one so far – by the elites in European nation states to cooperate on usurping power, bypassing and eventually abolishing the democratic system, a slow-motion coup d’état. It works because the national parliaments are still there, and most people don’t see how much has changed.

Fjordman claims that the EU resembles the Soviet Union "more than just superficially," calling it "An artificial superstate run by an authoritarian bureaucracy that overrides the will of the people and imposes its ideology on the populace."

What might this ideology be? Call it welfare statism. But also "diversity" and "equality." Fjordman’s particular objection is to the wholesale importation of immigrants from Muslim lands, who not only do not assimilate, but are encouraged by the Eurocrats to assert their beliefs as part of a planned breakdown of existing national cultures. "After all," he says, "it’s easier to control people who have no distinct cultural or national identity."

Another blogger, an Englishman going by the name Archonix, warns that the EU may be peaceful now, but if history is any indicator, it will soon become aggressive. He makes a compelling parallel between Bismarck’s unification of Germany in the latter half of the 19th century and the process of European "unification," both starting with a customs union and proceeding with small steps. Germany eventually turned imperialist to channel the resentments among its inhabitants created by the powerful welfare state. Archonix fears the EU might do the same.

Danger to Itself

One could argue that the EU is already turning conquistador, re-enacting the German Drang nach Osten by annexing most of Eastern Europe and parts of the Balkans. The new member countries may be poorer, but they also have (relatively speaking) more vibrant economies, unencumbered by thousands of laws and rules and regulations that stifle entrepreneurship throughout the Union. In this respect, the EU’s eastward expansion is a better strategy than importation of immigrants to replace a dwindling working population. However, the new members soon find themselves in the same predicament, as EU laws strangle their economies and their birth rates follow that of Old Europe. Enthusiasm for the EU may then quickly turn to resentment.

It could be, then, that the EU will be much more of a danger to itself, than to its neighbors. Fjordman gloomily predicts that the "EU can only become one giant Yugoslavia, either ruled by an authoritarian oligarchy in the fashion of Tito, or fall apart into civil wars."

One would think Yugoslavia’s tragic history ought to dissuade anyone from emulating it.

All Bark, No Bite

Despite the refusal of most EU members – notably, Germany and France – to support the American Empire in Iraq, prompting derisive talk of "New" and "Old" Europe, at the present time Brussels is an ally of Washington in its hegemonic designs.

It is important to note, however, that the EU is clearly the much inferior partner in this relationship when it comes to military matters. The U.S. has, at great expense, built a military intended to dominate the globe. As the 1999 invasion of Kosovo demonstrated, the EU barely has the ability to serve as an auxiliary to American legions. NATO is less of a military juggernaut than a leash that allows Washington to dominate European military matters almost completely. That makes the European Union much less intimidating than the Soviet one. Woe to everyone if the commissars ever decide a "Blue Army" would be the best way to accomplish their ends, though.

American imperialists, such as Richard Holbrooke, openly claim that interventions in the Balkans had the purpose of reasserting American hegemony on the European continent. The EU may be comparable to the U.S. in size, and have a larger population, but it is not yet a power of its own. Given all the disturbing aspects of the EU, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for debuted in November 2000.