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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2010

1 - Myth and geopolitics of the Rhineland frontier

Summary

What is European Union about? Referenda in France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Denmark have spawned doubts about the EU's future. The union's champions had been wagering for decades that once Europeans experienced its benefits they would gratefully ratify the project at the polls. In the words of former EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy, “the people weren't ready to agree to integration, so you had to get on without telling them too much about what was happening.” But as it turns out, the “people,” not having heard too much about what was happening, are now demanding greater clarity about what they are being asked to ratify. The question “what is European Union about?” has become, for the first time in a half century, a topic of public debate. Although the EU's success is undisputed – peace in Europe is secure, the economy sound and in spots dynamic, and the EU a force to reckon with in international economic affairs – sympathy and support for the European Union have been eroded by uncertainty and frustration regarding its aims and purpose. Debate is often oppressively technical. The European federalist ideal no longer stirs the imagination with its vision of a more humane instance of political life. But the specter haunting the European Union is one not so much of failure as of loss of moral horizon. It is the specter of tedium, of ossification as the EU becomes merely the local manifestation – cum welfare – of global capitalism.