I love books. The instant-reaction and short-form market is so over-saturated as to render much of what we read distinctly informative. It’s all been said. But books let someone express a detailed, lengthy argument, thought or description. I always feel more intelligent after reading a good book, something which is not the case for most activities.
This summer I took a break from work and, beside enjoying the numerous pleasures of the south of France, I was able to read a ton of books. At one point it was practically a book a day. Below are brief book reviews of all the ones I’ve read over the past three months, these include: U.S. politics, Glenn Greenwald’s four books, sociology, European/euro politics and Belgium, among others.
Euro-lemmings charge for “MOAR EUROPE!” By Matador, El Tiempo, Colombia.
The phrase “more Europe” should be abolished from our vocabulary. I know it is an utterly futile wish. The need for “more Europe” is something repeated ad nauseam by Brussels-based MEPs and commissioners, generally when they have nothing of substance to say. The German media and political class, among others, are also big on the idea. Der Spiegel reports that “more Europe” is “the official stance of almost all German political parties [in] response to the crisis”. In the words of Deutsche Welle, “For months, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel has stressed the need for more Europe to solve the debt crisis.” There is international consensus too, as when Merkel met with French President François Hollande in Paris in June to show their common will for “more Europe” and “deepening the economic and monetary union”. My what a wunderbar consensus we have!
In a recent post I went through who visits this blog and how the experiment of bilingual blogging led to a massive increase in French readership, so that it now represents a quarter of the total.
“Dinollande” – terrifying.
While tax cuts for the rich are being maintained, or expanded, across the Western world, France’s Socialist President François Hollande is doing something unthinkable: reducing the deficit by taxing the rich. And the Anglo-American business press and the “1%” are terrified the idea will spread.
I’ve just finished Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe, a collection of articles in English (most translated) that appeared in European newspapers at the start of the 2003 Iraq War. The point was to collect and document a debate provoked by the famed German philosopher Jürgen Habermas’s manifesto for “a common European foreign policy, beginning in core Europe”. The piece simultaneously appeared in French and was co-signed by the equally famous French philosopher Jacques Derrida (the two had previously been known for their disagreements on matters I don’t pretend to understand).
Habermas’s intervention provoked a vigorous debate in Europe’s newspapers among intellectuals. The following are some of the more memorable quotes and arguments made. Continue reading
Where you are: geographical distribution of this blog’s readers.
It has been just over two months since I relaunched this blog (my it feels longer). As it’s been quite a shift in terms of style, substance and method, I figure it’s a good time to take stock and assess how successful the changes have been. For reference, those changes were:
- A more professional and “official” look, and my own domain (craigwilly.info)
- More strategic use of Twitter (and posts more consciously targeting specific audiences)
- Systematic bilingual blogging, posts now being in French as well as English
- A shift to longer, hopefully more memorable posts (instant reactions and other ephemera being reserved for Twitter)
I thought about whether to write this a post. Is there anything more narcissistic than meta-blogging about a blog? But as Orwell pointed out, writers are necessarily very, very bigheaded, so I may as well just go ahead. Perhaps other bloggers will find something useful or will be prompted to share their own experiences and practices. Continue reading
European values beyond the text: freedom, democracy, international law, social well-being, environmental sustainability…
The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims. – Robert Schuman, 9 May 1950
If, as seems likely, the EU genuinely federates, it will have been an epic vindication of the power of political will and, in particular, of the “Founding Fathers” of European unity. One has to be very farsighted or foolhardy indeed to imagine that the technical, unglamorous work of pooling of a particular industrial sector could lead to a genuine Federal Union.
The rationale for European unity has changed over time. Originally the reason was largely negative: to prevent the apocalyptic wars that had periodically afflicted the Continent throughout the centuries. But there were also more positive or assertive reasons. Continue reading
European forces in Chad, central Africa.
Europe is an economic giant, a political dwarf, and a military worm. – Mark Eyskens
The above words were pronounced by Belgium’s then-Foreign Minister on the eve of 1991 Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The often-cited bon mot, two decades on, still rings true. But while militarily the European Union is likely remain marginal in the years to come, there are indications it will become something like a “political giant”.
The trouble with the EU (and before that the Communities) – the idea that it could have a coherent policy or even be a world power – has always been that it is effectively a “vetocracy”. A system where decisions of any significance must be taken unanimously means reform and good government are almost impossible. If the status quo suits just one representative’s constituents enough, then no change is possible. This is the single most important reason for the EU’s impotence in world affairs. Continue reading
A mirage no more.
superstate (suːpəsteɪt), noun, a large and powerful state formed from a federation or union of nations: “We are not advocates of a European superstate.” – Oxford Dictionaires.
Victor Hugo famously spoke of the “United States of Europe” at the 1849 International Peace Congress. Almost 100 years later, just after Second World War, George Orwell spoke of the same thing, adding however that these United States should also be “Socialist”. These calls have always been abstract in the extreme. For Europe, holding the bulk of the world’s industrial and war-making ability, division, meaning war, had apocalyptic overtones. The rhetoric of unity, the very phrase “ever closer union” inscribed in the Treaty of Rome, has often had an almost theological quality.
But today European unity is a very real thing. Whether we like or not, the quiet (and not so quiet) work of diplomats, businessmen, politicians, activists and civil servants over six decades is bearing fruit. A number of “game-changer” factors, I believe, will come into play in the coming years, contributing to the creation of something actually like the European Superstate of federalists’ dreams and nationalists’ nightmares. Continue reading