Europe in Search of Europeans   /   Spring 2014   /    Europe In Search Of Europeans

Europe and the New Democracy

Philippe Bénéton

© Iconeer/Getty Images.

The cooperative Europe works badly, but the regulating Europe works only too well.

The project of creating a unified Europe, which began in earnest a half century ago, has been a great adventure, and partly a great success. The European “civil war,” which began in the sixteenth century and went on for hundreds of years, has finally ended. Peace is firmly established within the European borders. In this respect, the founders of Europe, and especially the architects of the Franco-German reconciliation, made history. And they knew the history they were making.

Apart from that signal achievement, the adventure of unification gives the appearance of groping in the dark. The general reason is clear: Europe is a powerful idea, but it is also an indeterminate idea. Gradually, from about the 1970s, the procedures of unification took the place of the project. Now official Europe is thought of as a process. European issues are reduced to taking the next step. Any pause will ruin the undertaking. The obligation to walk together and the obsession with compromise prevent serious debate. The process governs.

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