The Passage to Europe

The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union

Luuk van Middelaar
Translated by Liz Waters
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 392
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Passage to Europe
    Book Description:

    As financial turmoil in Europe preoccupies political leaders and global markets, it becomes more important than ever to understand the forces that underpin the European Union, hold it together and drive it forward. This timely book provides a gripping account of the realities of power politics among European states and between their leaders. Drawing on long experience working behind the scenes, Luuk van Middelaar captures the dynamics and tensions shaping the European Union from its origins until today.It is a story of unexpected events and twists of fate, bold vision and sheer necessity, told from the perspective of the keyplayers - from de Gaulle to Havel, Thatcher to Merkel. Van Middelaar cuts through the institutional complexity by exploring the unforeseen outcomes of decisive moments and focusing on the quest for public legitimacy.As a first-hand witness to the day-to-day actions and decisions of Europe's leaders, the author provides a vivid narrative of the crises and compromises that united a continent. By revisiting the past, he sheds fresh light on the present state of European unification and offers insights into what the future may hold.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19540-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-34)

    Pub banter about Brussels regulations, lectures on competition law, shop-talk from Euro-experts, blogs by political commentators – even the most fleeting remarks about Europe are political weapons. The talk is not innocent. As Foucault said: discourse is not just the articulation of conflict, but the territory to be won.

    There are no neutral, scientific terms for political developments. Are the Belgians a nation? Is Russia a democracy? Are London and Ankara in Europe? Questions like these cannot be settled among academics. But that is not to say that you can avoid being an ideologue only by remaining silent.

    Time can...

  5. Part I: The Secret of the Table
    • The Transition to Majority
      (pp. 36-41)

      How does a state originate? Contemporary political philosophy has neglected the mystery of beginning. Rather than examining how states are founded, it focuses on rights and representation within existing states; rather than the creation of power and authority, it discusses the separation of powers and the limits to be placed on authority. This conceptual neglect amounts to a major deficiency. The Americans who invaded Iraq in 2003 and blithely removed the local tyrant had clearly failed to pay sufficient attention to the issue of foundation. The country descended into anarchy and civil war. Apparently we need to be faced with...

    • 1 The Step Across
      (pp. 42-80)

      On 18 April 1951, the Coal and Steel Treaty was signed by the founding states in the Salon de l’Horloge at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris. It was a remarkable gathering. The French host was Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, a former premier, whose career had begun before the Great War in Lorraine, then still part of Germany. From Bonn came Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, aged seventy-five, acting as his own minister of foreign affairs at the first international conference since 1932 to include a member of a democratic German government. Representing Italy was eighty-year-old Count Carlo Sforza, a descendant...

    • 2 The Leap
      (pp. 81-96)

      A European treaty can come into force only after manoeuvring its way through two gates of unanimity. It requires signature by heads of government or by governmental representatives of all the participating states, followed by assent from the populations by referendum or vote in parliament. Between the first gate and the second lies a period of uncertainty, since one question arises repeatedly: What will have to be done if, despite their initial endorsement at governmental level, not all the states ratify in the end?

      One such period began with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon on 13 December 2007....

    • 3 The Bridge
      (pp. 97-126)

      A political body’s rules for change are not trivial; they reveal its essence.

      The first question is whether such rules exist. The Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from the mountain contain no amendment rules, unlike the constitutions of most modern states. The former were intended for all eternity, whereas the latter acknowledge historical contingency. Revision rules allow for the assimilation of new events, but also for the repudiation of identity. At stake here is the place of a political body in time.

      Next comes the question of how easily change can be brought about. Is the political order cast...

  6. Part II: Vicissitudes of Fortune
    • In the River of Time
      (pp. 128-135)

      In a famous passage at the end ofThe Prince(1513), Machiavelli claims that the world is controlled neither by the vagaries of chance alone nor by human free will, concluding instead that ‘Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions, but that she still leaves us to direct the other half, or perhaps a little less’. He goes on:

      I compare her to one of those raging rivers, which when in flood overflows the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place; everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without...

    • 4 Coming Together as Six (1950–57)
      (pp. 136-157)

      Fear of fate knocking on the door was decisive at the time of Europe’s founding. For France, Fortune wore the cloak of a recovered and warlike Germany. Neighbours of these two traditional enemies shared the same anxiety. There were even some German leaders who believed that the German people must be protected against their country’s own evil genius. (They lived with the terrible possibility of themselves becoming the uninvited guest at the table.) With the Cold War, a second spectre appeared in the shape of Communist Russia, the most terrifying power on the continent. Although under American protection, several Western...

    • 5 Community Waiting (1958–89)
      (pp. 158-180)

      For the Six the curtain fell in August 1954. A joint entry into the river of time was no longer in prospect. The French ‘non’ to a European army put paid to the idea of a federal Europe. The French population, speaking through the Assemblée Nationale, rejected the option of joint European political or military relations with the outside world. Germany was now a member of the Atlantic alliance, with an army of its own. Ten years after the end of the Second World War, the Six found themselves under the American umbrella of Nato, sheltered from the Russian peril....

    • 6 Acting as a Union (1989–today)
      (pp. 181-210)

      In a memorable 1969 essay, German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer investigates the nature of the ‘epochemachende Ereignis’ – the epoch-making event that ends an era (from the Greek epokhē, ‘suspension’). Although the expression is often used idly – ‘Many momentous events are announced only on the radio’, notes Gadamer – he claims that we know perfectly well what we mean by it. Such events are incisions in time, points that mark off the old from the new. They are not picked out in retrospect by historians; strictly constructivist notions of periodisation are untenable. It is the event itself that decides.⁸⁸


  7. Part III: The Quest for a Public
    • Winning Applause
      (pp. 212-225)

      Is Europe real, or does it exist only on paper? And how can we determine whether it is real or not?

      This question has a subjective dimension: the difference between a ‘real’ and a ‘paper’ Europe has to do with what goes on in the hearts and minds of the people. Its political leaders realise that they derive their combined power from something impalpable, something purely psychological, and are perpetually fearful that it will slip their grasp. In a report written in 1975 at the request of his eight European colleagues, Belgian Premier Leo Tindemans expressed their unease: ‘The fact...

    • 7 The German Strategy: Creating Companions in Destiny
      (pp. 226-251)

      In the opening lines of the founding treaty of 1957, the six states wrote that they were seeking an ‘ever closer union’ among the peoples of Europe, a formula included in the treaty to this day. The phrase is indeterminate. Permanent motion is built in, but no ultimate goal defined. As far as the states are concerned, the open ending has been intensely debated (‘federation’, ‘confederation’, ‘league of nations’?). But what about the populations? They are supposed to keep moving closer. And then what? Must they eventually merge into a larger whole, or are they to remain themselves, despite years...

    • 8 The Roman Strategy: Securing Clients
      (pp. 252-272)

      The ‘Roman’ strategy relies on the benefits that a political body brings its population, such as security, opportunities or money. On the one hand, these must actually eventuate; to use the prevailing term, there must be ‘output’. On the other hand, they must also be noticed, so they need to be visible, or possibly brought to people’s attention. If the public fails to break into spontaneous applause in response to specific political decisions, it may perhaps be swayed by publicity campaigns and public relations stratagems.

      Security is the most basic benefit that politics has to offer. As political philosophers Hobbes...

    • 9 The Greek Strategy: Seducing the Chorus
      (pp. 273-309)

      Rather than a notion of ‘our people’ (‘German’ identity) or ‘to our advantage’ (‘Roman’ protections and rights), the ‘Greek’ strategy involves promoting a notion of ‘our concern’. This is hard to do. The public will decide for itself whether something is a cause with which it identifies. It discovers itself precisely in those things that are of ‘public concern’. It experiences something, sees something, hears something – a deficiency, an event, a wrong – and realises: This matters to us. And then: Something must be done. It therefore raises its voice, demonstrates, writes to the newspapers, votes for different candidates....

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 310-312)

    The human being is a creature in time. Occasionally we might yearn to be animals and to live in and for the moment, with no concept of yesterday, today or tomorrow –unhistorical. Nietzsche, who captured this feeling magnificently, feared that too much consciousness of history would see any desire to act swept away in the ‘stream of becoming’¹. He believed that people, like animals, needed forgetfulness, which to him was a sign of robust health. But we are not animals. The human being, says Nietzsche, ‘has bred for himself a counter-device, memory, with the help of which forgetfulness can...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 313-326)
    (pp. 327-354)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 355-356)
  12. Index
    (pp. 357-372)