Friday, March 24, 2017


Western Europe today rests on two pillars, like the Hellespont. The Elysee Treaty 919630 signed between de Gaulle and Adenhauer established the "special relationship" between France and Germany.  The Treaty of Rome (25 March 1957) extended the first steps of BENELUX, France, Germany and Italy to extend the ECSC and Euratom into all sectors of their commercial and economic life.

Further incremental achievements followed. The qualitative and quantitative reach of the Common Market made it possible to arrive at the present European Union of 28 member states, an endeavor which remains exceptional in history.  Certainly the ride remains bumpy but the added value is undisputed. Immigration and BREXIT challenge former assumptions, while the workings of the Commission and the EU Parliament are in need of an overhaul. Nevertheless, the efforts by populist forces, Russian undercover meddling, and Trump's snubs to marginalize the EU are also proof that Europe is a force to reckon with. 

The repetitive, sheer endless meetings in Brussels do little to stem the blase indifference of Europeans regarding their supranational institutions. They seem to forget the peace, social, economic, and technological benefits which they enjoy. The multiplicity of crises on all fronts-- monetary, nuclear, ethnic, migratory, environmental, social--could never have been managed by a single country. The rotating presidencies also provide for an equalizing learning curve between member states. Obviously not all is rosy, far from it. Brussels is too often seen by ruling governments as an exit plank to get rid of political opponents. As is the case in Washington, the lobbyists distract from the visionaries. The grey men and women in the leading positions too often lose the proximity advantage with the citizens.

The EU occupies a precarious space between the Russian Federation's agenda and the United States' disengagement under President Trump. The positive aspects of globalization and of a multi-lateral mindset are under siege. Until now, multi-lateral trade arrangements have provided for collateral checks on climate, environment, labor protection, human rights which benefited transparency and the rule of law. This added-value is coming under attack now. Alternative facts and order will play a major role in the French elections which will, for the first time, confront the electorate with a stark choice. It is no accident that Marine Le Pen met President Putin, who lately acts like the world's Kingmaker, thanks to the besotted American president.

The Junker Commission lacks any form of radiance. Normally personalities count but, unfortunately, there is no there there! This void comes at a difficult moment where many wish for a repeat of last week's Dutch reflex but are more worried about the fickle French. A win for an improved professional commitment of parties which stand up against populism will be a shot in the arm for the EU. A loss will have unforeseen consequences in Europe but also in NATO, IMF, World Bank, etc.  BREXIT will  be unpleasant but manageable. A French surprise might be a wild card which leaves the players without a Plan B. The French might still think twice before becoming Europe's arsonists. The playground under the "command" of philosophers led by Michel Onfray might still be  a bridge to far for the far right to cross.

The Treaty of Rome is 60, the new 30 (?) . It is time to return to basics. This visionary instrument is less in need of a face lift than it is in need to reconnect with its base. The Democrats in the US lost mostly because they failed to put the right message in front of the right audience. The EU should likewise be aware that there are too many empty seats in the audience. This anniversary needs neither a rebuke, nor to be in Francoise Sagan's words just "un accident qui dure."

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