Europe is rising in conscience as a continental brotherhood with the union appearing to now be made of iron in taking shape towards forming a third way: the European method of politics, economics, international relations and governance.
Its complexity and sophistication can be shown by the fact there are so many unions within this union, the so called many highways of Europe.
There is the widest area that still includes United Kingdom – or parts of it – in the single market, with even neutral Switzerland somewhat part of the free movement of goods, making it the world’s biggest or nearly the biggest market in purely economic terms.
Then there’s the political union of 27 member states that makes part of the official EU, with this too stretchable at least to the Western Balkans politically if not quite yet fully economically.
We zoom in further then to the core of euro member states, where there’s a financial union of sorts.
And then of course we zoom in to the actual member states which maintain general independence and freedom of governance, as well as a somewhat distinct culture and language, but gather their representatives to form continent wide policy in effectively informal treaties which are enshrined on rare occasions into actual treaties.
That this system can work has been the doubt of many, but it does appear it is held both by crisp potatoes and by iron bonds with a somewhat clearer picture emerging in regards to how the interests of so many can be merged into the interest of one and all.
The Meeting of Giants
This Thursday and Friday, the European Council of Head of States, Arthur’s round table, is to meet at its pinnacle of strength since the founding of this union just after the devastations of the last century.
Emmanuel Macron, perhaps pleased the people of France are still committed to the flag of liberalism after a pretty atrocious showing of much hyped Le Pen in the local elections, will have his chance to shine in comfort alongside the other two great pillars.
In raising a half occupied Germany to the mighty strength of architecting what now there’s glimpses might be a governable Europe, Angela Merkel has a last chance to put some finishing touches to lighten the greatest peace project in the history of man.
And alongside these two there will be another rising giant that brings a sight of relief and even dreamy thinking among some of Europe.
Fresh from having seen off a challenge to the liberal order in Italy, Mario Draghi puts this country on the European map, giving the south its rightful table at the meeting of no significance and yet the meeting where Europe becomes Europe.
Not necessarily because of any decision, but because there’s now some clarity that these are in effect the presidents of Europe, and that if there are at least some giants, this can actually work to act as a one headed union.
The Final Form?
The Citizen’s European Summit or Assembly has been ongoing for more than a month and has generally expressed a desire to have a more centralized Europe where there is a president with say over the whole continent.
It is much more probable however that any modification will be gradual and incremental, especially when considering the utter complexity of maintaining a round table of so many diverse peoples.
Nonetheless someone like Ursula von der Leyen can be directly elected, but without any change in substance where governance is concerned with it necessarily having to remain ultimately fully in the hands of the heads of state.
Someone like Leyen therefore is more the chief civil servant, with some leeway but obviously she is not able to decide whether we should sanction Belarus.
That decision is and for any foreseeable future will remain for the roundtable, but that roundtable is or should be advised by the European civil service which does or should put forth a report on this example from a continent wide perspective.
As the European civil service can or should be independent from any nation state, within the natural limits of that requirement, the head of it is quite a bit more than the head of the civil service of any nation state, and in some ways is the glue or the table itself.
The head of the civil service thus not just should but must be directly elected because that is in some ways the only direct input by European citizens as a whole to this table.
There is the parliament, but that is more law than policy, and thus both should be elected directly perhaps through European wide parties, unlike currently where European elections are more local elections.
These refinements, and necessarily there will be many, are somewhat minor to the stone structures that appear to hold this building and perhaps without much notice or fanfare, may be building a very fine monument to the European way.
But tensions remain on how to square this circle of decentralized centralization that aims to maintain and align national interests with continental interests.
Your Say, Our Way
It has become somewhat of a sport in Europe to guess which tiny country will torpedo a continent wide grand achievement or supported policy.
It is the more fun because it is usually only one and one alone, bringing laughter as one can easily imagine the shocked face of Macron, Merkel and now Draghi when little boy Cyprus says no to the decades long negotiated free trade treaty with the United States.
Comedy of course goes full swing when one learns the reason for them doing so is because it contained no protection for Halloumi cheese being called so only for the Halloumi cheese made in Cyprus. A trademark of sorts.
We can imagine the table discussion… but we spent decades and you Halloumi!!! But is there much truth to this little boy torpedo?
A recent example was Hungary vetoing some statement about ree Chyna, Xinjiang concentration camps bad.
Hungary said these are just silly words that antagonize China for no reason, so what’s the point of making them. With obviously there being the undercurrent of Hungary likes China, nana this little kid doesn’t be with cool boys.
There’s also of course the undercurrent of Europe maybe being a bit happy with both Cyprus and Hungary. Yeah Trump sorry… Cyprus, what can we do. We haz veto, don’t wanna bully little boy. Or, yeah China concentration camps bad but, it is just words so, reee Hungary.
That’s of course how many see Bulgaria’s veto of North Macedonia. The hypocrisy is off the chart to begin with, where a slavic nation is telling another partially slavic nation that they are really just Bulgaria and not a real country and until they renounce their complete identity, they’re just going to be kept in veto jail, with Bulgaria itself being Russian slavs that immigrated when Mongols invaded a millennium ago.
The duplicitousness of Bulgaria is more that of Europe, naturally one must conclude, for the merging of Serbia with Montenegro where EU accession is concerned and the merging of Albania with North Macedonia while negotiations to negotiate have not even began with Bosnia or Kosovo, somewhat ensures neither of them gets anywhere near being part of the European institutions within any foreseeable future.
This blame of the little boy shows itself when the European Union suggests the Western Balkans should just have a min-schengen zone of their own.
This of course creates a new structure that effectively amounts to a rejection of joining the actual Schengen structure because if they did, obviously there would be no need for a mini-schengen.
In effect this little boy vetoing big things becomes more the big boys not actually wanting to say they not quite happy with that big thing, and in effect it amounts to a veto by the roundtable generally, not the fall boy.
This becomes very evident when one wonders why Bulgaria was let in if they had a dispute with their neighbor, and in fact why shouldn’t Bulgaria be kicked out until they resolve this dispute if the resolution of the dispute is a criteria for North Macedonia and more so for a country that has nothing to do with it, Albania.
Berlin of course tried to get North Macedonia and Bulgaria to talk. We should remember, this is negotiations about opening negotiations to join the EU. Berlin’s suggestion to Bulgaria was why not veto when it comes to joining the EU itself, rather than now when it’s just about opening negotiations to join.
We don’t know what Bulgaria responded, but as tempting as it might be to suggest this is another Berlin failure, one can’t help but wonder whether it is actually Berlin policy.
For if Berlin was really unsatisfied, you’d think they would have plenty of tools to ensure they do get their way, with the roundtable policy of course being the very very tip of actual policy.
Or Your Way?
The complexities of the Balkans are an apt lumination of the European governance method which in practice really amounts to small boys rule if we happy to let them, but of course are brought in line otherwise.
This has a balance of friction that takes into account the interest of all while adding some proof of work where the interest of most is concerned if at least one member state expresses a different view.
A method that is open to abuse because work is of course constrained by time and energy, but both are kept in check by patience.
Making the union in some form a decentralized empire that moves slowly but decisively with regional priorities balanced against continental interests while both national interests and continental interests require some proof of work to gain prevalance.
This creates a resilient structure of hybrid decentralization and centralization modeled very much on the one thousand years of Charlemagne that eventually brought us the enlightenment.
Effectively all have power, while no one does, while even the smallest one has continental power, and while continental power as one is total.
It’s a marvel of human achievement in putting together both the most individual freedom and the most union power which ultimately rests on the fragility of man himself, the voters, but then that is its ultimate strength.
While Shanghai and Xinjiang have no say, nor New York and Tennessee, both Germany and Bulgaria have equal say when they agree or when their differences are to such extent that they can’t be bothered to really disagree.
Illuminating this part is crucial if this structure is to work. It is crucial for there to be an awareness that there is actually no little boy veto if it sufficiently mattered for there to not be one, and that there is instead one only when the continent either agrees or disagrees to an insufficient degree.
If our assumption is correct that this is how it works in practice, then perhaps keeping the veto is better because it keeps the proof of work, but only under the ultimate knowledge that there is actually no real veto, that there are mechanisms to reprimand and fully if it is abused, if a little boy fancies himself the whole continent.
Alternatively there can be majority voting, with a distinction necessary between economic policy and politics, and a hierarchy existing already regarding vetoable matters and discussions under majority voting, all so requiring gradual refinements through the experience of time based on the current blueprint.
The Reverse Concert
As such, the European structure as designed is or might be the anti-thesis of the 19th century concert where a web of individual alliances is replaced by an alliance of all with all, within the European Union.
The concert thus moves stage, from Prague or Vienna to Moscow, Istanbul, Beijing or Washington.
Here, there is a concert playing and loudly, and just as our forefathers thought it would never devolve into anything further, we can never keep away the thought that it might devolve.
Here, the complexities are far grander than anything within, and thus the sophistication required is even bigger.
One illustration is Europe’s policy towards China which is seen politically as a systemic rival, while economically a competitor and more generally a negotiating partner. Hence Europe was able to agree a trade treaty while sanctioning some officials over Xinjiang and of course negotiates with China on many things.
So creating a sophisticated strategy with distinct approaches based on topic, rather than a one dimensional view of the relationship.
For the United States, you would think it would be the reverse. Politically, we’re one, but economically there are clear tensions, and just as between companies, such tensions will continue as long as we operate under free market competition.
Europe’s economic strategy however is perhaps not as streamlined with it being Germany that unveiled a quantum computer, not Europe.
There is here plenty of opportunity to gather member states economic forces to do what they can’t on their own, including vast projects like the space program which realistically can’t be German or French, but has to be European, including the little boys.
To incentivize such things, the European Commission maybe should have bigger tasks in providing say continent wide subsidies for renewable energy.
That’s if Europe is really to compete with America or China on the many tech and industrial races developing economically.
Politically it is arguably Russia, Turkey, and currently Boris’ nationalism that might be bigger challenges to the continent than either America or China, but all are so to a minor extent and in the periphery with Europe currently afforded the space to lead its own destiny.
Not least because the single minded approach when desired towards all five was clearly illustrated recently when even Serbia agreed to sanction Belarus.
That shows we are witnessing in effect the action and wit of a very new structure in the modern age that has proven itself for a thousand years where its weakness is its strength and its strength is total.
This challenging design moreover not only serves to refine thought, but stimulates it, in effectively putting meritocracy at the forefront and so sinking one without merit because it requires proof of work by the heads of states to get things moving how they want.
One can wonder therefore whether this table of Arthur himself, whether by accident or design or most probably due to necessity, has unlocked in the modern age the pinnacle of governance and thus the European dream.
For while one speaks of a European structure, it is still Germany that has say or France or Bulgaria or even little Cyprus. And thus if cause of justice, one can criticize not Europe, but shame the individual and pressure them if the rest are persuaded.
So making this a hydra of many heads. One easily captured, and so much the better for it as we’ll know what the enemy says, but all can’t be captured, and one can’t prevail by a veto or something else, they can only reveal instead.
Knowledge so being power, this must be the form that provides the greatest knowledge. Yet, as with the achievement of all good things, it is the most challenging method and in many ways by far.
It is in effect the very opposite of absolute kingdom, the other end of China’s governance or even Americas. One where many rule, not one.
Its weakness rests on the drying up of a drive towards meritocracy, for without willing men or women to do the necessary work at times beyond necessarily required in what is effectively a communistic design, mixed with the self interest of the nation state, then a race to the bottom follows in a regression of the civilized mind.
One must however take such drive as an apriori, and while much can be said about the Holy Roman empire or its gridlocks, it did deliver a millennium of peace and the grand revival of the European renaissance and enlightenment.
We stand somewhat far from that as confusion has reigned with the British universities for example not comprehending a bit what to them must be a completely, not just different but even alien structure.
Yet with at least the base itself now comprehensible, it is perhaps time for this generation to take up this stone structure, and run with this code of governance, to effect a new reality where we are the masters of our fate, and somewhat uniquely in the world, without any undue chains.
The rest is the grand arena of pleasure and games. The blue print is what was the work of men, and for it we should be grateful to the giants that give the stage to the sonet of the peaceful valley of our age.
For week and imperfect as the pen might be, few can doubt in this Europe its supremacy in every pavement and every tree that washes this greatest of civilizations.
For though Germany’s quantum computer should be Europe’s, and France’s nuclear arms that of the continent wide, and the Bulgarian veto not of this land, they all indeed appear to be so in this hybrid governance of a magic roundtable, gifted to this generation for centuries to come.
That’s if we put the effort to make this decentralized-centralized member state Europe wide sophisticated governance under the glue of the European civil service an integral part of our understanding of the European way which is clearly utterly distinct from any other form of governance in the present and at this scale, even in the past.