Oliver Hartwich says that with it's deeply embedded parochial regionalism, the EU just can't operate like a nation-state. Everyone is foreign to everyone else

This is the fourth chapter of Oliver Hartwich essay "Why Europe Failed", an analysis of an ageing Europe, burdened by the size of its welfare state. He draws cautionary lessons for New Zealand's policy makers. You can read the full version here.

This fourth section is titled "No people, no country". Part I is here. Part II is here. Part III is here.

By Oliver Hartwich*

Of course there are some good things to be said about the European Union. The common market is its greatest achievement.

The four freedoms – the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital – have been almost fully realised. Great strides too have been made in unifying European markets, increasing competition, reducing transaction costs, and maximising consumer welfare.

The Schengen Agreement is another milestone for European integration. Being able to freely cross borders without controls from the North Cape to Sicily and from Lisbon to Warsaw has made travelling a remarkable experience. So much so that one forgets this was once a continent defined by borders that were often disputed, heavily controlled, and sometimes difficult to cross. And of course, with the caveats mentioned above, one could argue that the EU has made a contribution towards a more peaceful European order.

Despite such achievements, the EU’s structural design flaws are at least in part responsible for some of the problems facing the union. The most fundamental is related to the lack of a European people.

What the EU seeks to achieve, it mainly does because it suits the interests of its individual member states but within the structure and institutions of a nation-state.

There is an executive government in the form of the European Commission. There is a legislature in the form of the European Parliament (deficient as it is), and there is a judiciary in the form of European courts in lieu of high courts or supreme courts.

There is only one problem with this. The institutions of a nation-state first and foremost require a nation. And for a true democracy to work, it needs a demos – a people. The EU does not have a people. No one self-identifies as purely or even mainly European (with the possible exception of the Germans still too ashamed to be German). Instead, the majority of Europeans self-identify as Czechs, French, Swedes or Italians, Maltese, Spanish and so on.

Today, the 28 EU member states range from the tiny states of Luxembourg and Malta to industrial heavyweights like Germany and Italy, from formerly communist economies in Eastern Europe to the self-styled postmodern service economy of the United Kingdom.

The EU includes countries that are predominantly Protestant like Sweden and Catholic countries like Poland, as well as mainly atheist countries like the Czech Republic. It includes countries that have a civil law tradition like France and common law countries like Ireland. It includes countries with traditionally good fiscal discipline like Denmark and countries with large debt burdens like Greece.

In other words, the current EU is an assortment of 28 extremely diverse countries united under one banner. But the umbrella of EU membership has not eradicated the national peculiarities at all.

Least of all, the European project and the elites that have promoted it have not managed to form a European people, a demos, out of the many different nationalities. There is not even a pan-European identity to replace the national identities. But without a demos, can there ever be a true democracy?

Mark Steyn, the Canadian writer and commentator, summed up Europe’s troubles when he said the core problem was that it was impossible to convince the Swedes that the Greeks were not foreigners to them, and vice versa. Though this may sounds flippant, it is indeed the fundamental problem.

Making the EU work requires overcoming the national and cultural differences within the continent. Desirable or not, for all practical purposes this task is impossible given Europe’s extreme diversity.

EU structures are mimicking the workings of nation-states because the EU aspires to become supra-nation-state under its ultimate goal of “ever closer union”. It is just not obvious how a single European people can ever be formed out of Europe’s peoples.


Oliver Hartwich is the Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative. Before joining the Initiative he was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, the Chief Economist at Policy Exchange in London, and an advisor in the UK House of Lords. Oliver holds a Master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Law from Bochum University in Germany.

This is part IV of a serialisation of his essay "Why Europe Failed". Part I is here. Part II is here. Part III is here. Part V tomorrow is titled: "Panen et Circenses: The rise of the European welfare state".  You can read the full version here.

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15 Comments

Can't decide whether Oliver is being serious or this is tongue in cheek.
The ethnicity, culture or religion with which a group of people identify them selves is a fairly basic characteristic of their humanity. If we are to take this section of the essay seriously he seems to be saying that it is a problem for European project that people are not abandoning their individual and unique identities in favour of the grand European vision. These identities have evolved over millennia and I would suggest it would be impossible to the change cultures of such a large and widely different collection of peoples. If there is a problem with the EU in this area it is that it seems to make no allowances for these differences and seems to assume that every body can be hammered into the Teutonic mould. (Are the Greeks ever going to work, behave and organise themselves like Germans; not a hope in hell. But this is what the EU, particularly the Germans seem to expect) This is a very fundamental flaw with the EU and one that underlies many of the other problems. Maybe this is what Oliver is driving at and I have misinterpreted him.

Have read the 4 chapters

Can someone articulate what the "lessons" were that New Zealand was supposed to take away?

This chapter 4 suggests that people continue to identify with their origins which in turn suggests people don't willingly integrate - which in turn suggests NZ is on the wrong path with immigration

Hartwich also writes for Business Spectator
Here he sums up EU's failure in 1 article as a summary of the 4 chapters
http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2015/9/3/europe/roots-europe...

Can someone articulate what the "lessons" were that New Zealand was supposed to take away?

Just in case the author doesn't respond - if you link to the very first link provided above (the full document) the answer lies in the Chapter "EUROPEAN LESSONS FOR NEW ZEALAND" starting at p51.

There are two in summary:

1. Do not let 'elites' capture democracy (and in this regard he uses Auckland Supercity as a comparative example where amalgamation moved democratic representation further away from the 'local' populations). He argues for "more elements of direct democracy and greater
devolution of political power to the community and local government." (p 54).

2. A caution against a burgeoning welfare state. And this I find interesting. He states that where EU governance is concerned that " In Europe, the welfare state was a means of buying political power." (p. 54). But I found little evidence/discussion of this point in the rest of the document. And of course my question is whether such expansion of the welfare state (if it did indeed expand or contract to some degree in Europe over-and-above its expansion or contraction in other OECD nations) was EU regulatory-driven or individual nation-state driven. Neither do I know whether the welfare policies of EU members are aligned thru EU mandate(s). All interesting questions.

#2 Surely a false hope Kate? Our left of centre political parties buy their power exactly that way, and the right of centre parties cumulative actions drive the common people to the left over time as their policies support the elites of society (wealthy). As for #1 both our left and right wing parties tend to suck up to the elites to enable them to feather their own nests and so they can say they are supporting the creation of jobs etc.
What he ultimately seems to be suggesting by your interpretation, seems to be that we need to move away from the party political (Westminster?) Government and bring back a Government of independents who stand or fall on their own merits? Virtually an impossibility as any politically minded person must work toward essentially corrupting the system through simple self interest.

My point is not so much about hope, but rather about evidence. You've made some generalised statements of opinion (and not that I expect anymore from anyone like us in responding to a piece of research). But the point I make is the author put together a piece of research and so in it, I expected more evidence.

But then perhaps he intended it to be an opinion piece.

I feel that the forum limits the ability to delve into too much depth. I do agree that if he hasn't provided the evidence then perhaps it is just opinion. However the evidence that he bases his opinion on may not be balanced? However the original question remains - What are the lessons for NZ and how do we implement them. Another question - how does the economic model applied in Europe differ from ours, and the USA's, and what do we need to learn from that?

David Goldman, in 'How Civilisations Die', points to exactly the same thing: the intense nationalism of peoples, but links that, in turn, to a much wider concept: the nation-state as a surrogate for religion.
http://www.amazon.com/How-Civilizations-Die-Islam-Dying/dp/159698273X

Goldman writes as Spengler in Asia Times (atimes.com) and pjmedia.com and his strongly religious views are an affront to many. But the inability of entire EU nations to reproduce themselves certainly hints at some loss of the overall 'will to live'. Of course, mass immigration counters that, but as the host country tends to find, the demos changes irrevocably: ask someone in Bradford, Birmingham or High Wycombe....

It is certainly true that location matters: try suggesting to a Barcelona resident that they are Spanish, and you are likely to be met with a firm ' no, we are Catalonia!'. I love Barcelona - Gaudi.....http://waymad.blogspot.co.nz/2004_01_01_archive.html

Cannot believe there is not a single news on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfxpKdAJYvY

video is private (?)

I am reminded of the old folklore where Heaven is where the police are British, the lovers French, the mechanics German, the chefs Italian, and it is all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where the police are German, the lovers Swiss, the mechanics French, the chefs British, and it is all organized by the Italians.
Mr Hartwich's summary so far is reasonable. Europeans by and large get on, but their first loyalties are certainly more national. The continent is still a very liveable place, but could do better for sure.
The only real cross national social welfare is the common agricultural policy, and it is questionable whether that should be called social welfare, even though I suspect it is in Mr Hartwich's figures. Anyway, a British exit in a few years is a real, if still unlikely, possibility, due to the disfunction and non democracy of the European institutions.
Like other posters here, I will be intrigued as to what lessons Mr Hartwich draws for New Zealand.

Great bunch of comments above. Congratulations all.

Mr Hatwich operates from the premise that because Europe has not formed into a single ethnicity it's a problem. The opposite is true. It 's diverse, it will continue diverse, and they haven't killed each other in any serious way for seventy years now as a result of the EEC. Congratulations Europe.

Notice how Europe is supposedly "failed" Perhaps the Mr Hartwich might reconsider. Why are hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are fleeing there right now.

I guess failure is relative. You've got your apocalyptic failure; Syria, WW2 etc. and your "things could be better" type failure. Apparently struggling to achieve +2% growth is now failure.
The question Europe and the whole of the developed world struggles to answer is "now what". We've got a pretty good standard of living - some say equal to royalty a few centuries ago - yet we apparently still need to want more and not getting it is failure. Is it just human nature or a necessity of our money system; certainly dangerous and completely unsustainable.

More neo-liberal drivel IMHO. Virtually all (all?) the countries in the EU had welfare states anyway, so I cant see how this is significantly relevant to the entity of being in the EU. Is welfare burdensome? I cannot see much evidence it is myself. Lets look at the possible alternative, no welfare state, where has that worked better? USA arguably has less of a public health system etc, they dont live as long, so the advantage was what? more money to the super rich who do what with it? appear to bet in hedge funds to make more money that seems parasitic in nature.

Why has the EU failed? maybe we should be asking was anything else better? or why has it failed? Considering every other country in the world is in a similar boat, I'd argue that the problem was and is over-consumption of finite resources in building grow for ever economic models. ie no other model would have worked anyway.