The Europe of Nations vs. the Europe of Brussels

John Fonte is probably the leading American critic of what he calls “the Europe of Brussels.” Thus, his is a voice worth listening to in connection with the European parliamentary elections now being held.

John discusses what’s at stake in these elections in an article for “American Greatness” called “The Virtues of Patriotism.” The election, says John, represents a “war of ideas between the ‘Europe of Nations’ and the ‘Europe of Brussels’ — between national democratic sovereignty and supranational authority.”

John is making a critical distinction. The clash here is not between “pro-Europeans” and “anti-Europeans,” but between two different visions of Europe. It’s an old conflict, he reminds us:

During the 1960s French President Charles de Gaulle advocated a “Europe of States” and strongly opposed European Commission President Walter Hallstein’s push for more centralization. Twenty years later, in the 1980s, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher battled with then-European Commission President Jacques Delors over the same general argument of democratic sovereignty versus undemocratic supranationalism.

Over the years, “the Europe of Brussels” gained ascendancy. But in recent years, says John, “the vision of a ‘Europe of Nations’ embraced by de Gaulle and Thatcher is re-emerging both intellectually and politically.”

Those advancing this vision do not constitute a monolith:

These forces are not always in agreement on economics, on foreign policy, or other issues. Some are Thatcherite, some are Gaullist, some are sophisticated, some are not, some are traditional and classically liberal, some are given the nebulous label of “populist,” which is meant as a derogatory epithet.

Indeed, we have observed that divisions among those who believe in a Europe of Nations seem to constitute the main hope that opponents of that vision have for advancing the Europe of Brussels in the face of a hostile electorate.

John and a group of like-minded intellectuals addressed the divisions in a document called “The Paris Statement: A Europe We Can Believe In.” Although expressing “reservations” about “populism” because “Europe needs to draw on the deep wisdom of her traditions,” they nonetheless concluded:

We acknowledge that much in this new political phenomenon can represent a healthy rebellion against the tyranny of the false Europe, which labels as ‘anti-democratic’ any threat to its monopoly on moral legitimacy.

The parliamentary elections taking place right now will give us a good idea of the scope of that rebellion.

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