The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

, by Jean-Pierre Gouzy

The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

A new group has just been constituted in the new European Parliament which was elected last June, and it requires our special attention.

On the initiative of David Cameron, the leader of the Tories, and under the discreet label of “Conservatives and European Reformers”, it includes twenty-six British conservative deputies, the Poles of the ultra-right of the Kaczinski twin-brothers (one of them is the current President of the Polish Republic), nine “liberals” who in Prague follow the line of the thorough-going souverainists of the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus, and various populists; for the time being, a total of 54 euro-deputies from seven different nations, whom Philippe de Villiers and some others will eventually join in the future. Today, this man from France’s reactionary Vendée region is the only surviving member of the Euro-sceptic movement founded under the name of “Libertas” by Declan Ganley, the champion of the Irish “No” to the Treaty of Lisbon. Well…

With Cameron and the conservatives from across the Channel we are dealing with personalities who openly claim to be “anti-federalists”; they pretend to embody inside the European Parliament a “Union of sovereign national states” and not the so-called “United States of Europe”. Today a majority of euro-deputies are satisfied with the present European construction, as it is made up by the Chiefs of states and governments, at least according to the Treaty of Lisbon. The former President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering, a leading figure of the German Christian Democrats, said to a journalist of Le Monde who had come to interview him last May: “I am a federalist, but I prefer not to use this word, which has become almost synonymous with centralization (…). I prefer to speak of a system of European communities; (…) one does not speak of federalism as such any more, but the system moves in the direction we intended”.

Only a few political leaders accept to declare themselves to be stout supporters of a federal Europe.

Many liberals or fellow-travelers of the Socialist and Social-democratic family express themselves in the same terms; only a few political leaders differ or disagree with this vague consensus and accept to declare themselves to be stout supporters of a federal Europe. For instance, I have in mind the Flemish liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime-minister, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the multicultural leader of the Greens, among the better known. But, fortunately, there are others. For example, Andrew Duff, a British liberal who is President of the UEF, who greeted the new group of Euro-sceptics founded on the initiative of the Tories as a curious mixture of ultra-conservative Calvinists and ultra-Catholic Poles, embraced by all brands of souverainists who have only one single objective, to perpetuate a European Union without well defined borders and its own independent government, and let it be a free trade zone as loose and flabby as possible.

The European Community that Jean Monnet conceived as a test-bench for the future United States of Europe would be, for the Cameronists, reduced to the state of a shrinking container under the combined effect of a more and more ambitious and blurred enlargement (from Iceland to Central Anatolia) and a power regularly reduced to a minimum every time the circumstances will prove favorable; the Atlantic Alliance being the only competent authority in the fields of security and defence, under the protective wings of the Pentagon.

To realize this disruption plan, David Cameron and his confederates hope to catch the opportunity in 2010, at the latest, asking the British citizens to approve a re-negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon, after the Irish, who rejected it in 2008, ratified the version which has been corrected according to their intentions at the beginning of the coming autumn. Moreover, the Cameronist enterprise will be comforted and sustained by the souverainist far-right which is raising its own ugly head and whose own maleficence should be denounced. Sooner or later, an alliance of federalists will become necessary in the European Parliament and should be able to get the support of all the significant progressive forces in the countries of the Union.

To the Euro-sceptics’ front of the conservatives, we must oppose an identifiable alliance of all the federalists. For the time being, we are still a long way from such an agreement and the question is how this weakness can be remedied.

Meanwhile, the Europe of the chameleons is still alive and thriving. It even seems to have prosperous years ahead.

Image: crossed European flag, source: google images

This article was first published at ’The Federalist Debate’, 3, 2009 (

Your comments
  • On 24 February 2010 at 14:55, by Cédric Replying to: The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

    Calling on political parties to get together either in a federalist coalition or in a eurosceptical one... Well, it is not really a new idea. And it has 4 limits.

    First, the so-called federalists in the EP are already in a sort of Grand coalition: S&D+ALDE+EPP. And it doesn’t really make it more influencial or more visible for the voters.

    Second, let’s assume political parties deliberately endorsed the idea and acted accordingly. We would have a formal federalist alliance of 300 (?) French, German, Italian, and Spanish (PSOE) MEPs; and a eurosceptical alliance of 300 (?) MEPs from UK, Central Europe, Spain (PP), Germany (CSU), Italy (Lega Nord). And the rest having no idea where they should stand. Then what? Do we reach an agreement on Galileo? On a common defence policy? On tax harmonisation? On economic governance? On minimal social standards? On the industrial policy? No. Not even the beginning of an agreement.

    Third limit, we can not clearly divide the Parliament between federalists and eurosceptics. On the one hand, take the eurosceptical PiS party (of the Polish Kaczynskis), which seats in the rows of the ECR group: it has had rather unexpected positions on defence and energy. Take De Villiers: he is constantly talking about European protectionism. On the other hand, take the SPD or the CDU. They pretend to be federalist. But they would block any decision in the Council when it comes to economic governance, cooperation in research, energy, industrial policy… And the German governments like to seize any opportunity to remind of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. In some fields, some of the so-called federalists are just very happy with a passive Europe. And in others, some of the so-called eurosceptics are just criticising the EU for its lack of political leadership.

    Fourth limit: organising a regime’s political spectrum between those who support its institutional setting and those who criticise it is the best way to destroy this regime. Take the late IVth Republic in France or the Weimar republic.

    So what’s the solution then? The solution is not to oppose actors according to their institutional viewpoints, not to get inpiration from the theories about a “consociative Europe” where all parties govern together in harmony, but rather to come back to the good old method: a Europe functioning on the principles of representative democracy, with the rule of the democratically elected majority. For that, existing European political parties should have concrete programmes ahead of the next elections, and designate their front-runners before the start of the campaign, and possibly non-consensual ones.


  • On 6 March 2010 at 00:26, by Lina Replying to: The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

    While this article displays correctly that the UK Conservatives have put themselves in an isolated situation within the EP, it is now sure that the possible Tori government cannot ask its citizens any longer about Lisbon as it is in force.

    Further, it has to be considered that there are a large number of pro-Europeans in the UK - even in the Conservative party but a conduct of not talking about Europe has come about. Politicians ignoring the topic is far worse than those openly against Europe.

    We have to get discussion going - that is the only way of convincing the British public!

  • On 10 March 2010 at 13:55, by keith Replying to: The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

    Its Declan rather than Duncan Ganley

  • On 10 March 2010 at 16:07, by JEF Secretariat Replying to: The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

    Dear Keith,

    Many thanks for pointing out that it was indeed Declan Ganley who was the founder and chairman of the political party Libertas, not Duncan Ganley, as previously cited.

    The correction has now been made. Many thanks again for pointing out this important mistake.

  • On 11 March 2010 at 17:55, by Charles Replying to: The Eurosceptics are on the Offensive

    There are indeed a large number of pro-Europeans in the UK, and probably a majority are more or less favourable of the EU. However federalism is a dirty word to the majority in the UK, and any creep towards it will only distance the majority from what is otherwise good in Europe.

    This applies not only to the UK, federalists do not have the political high ground anywhere, and why they think they do is beyond me.

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