I have said it before, but having read the interview with Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European Studies at Oxford, it must be said again: Garton Ash is one of the most overrated European academics. His downright naive answers makes one wonder, why fairly serious magazines, like Der Stern, still bother to talk to him:
SPIEGEL: You are British and a pro-European, a rare mixture. Doesn't your country face the question of whether to either participate in Europe completely or not at all?
Garton Ash: Yes, now is the hour of truth for Great Britain, because if the euro zone is saved, there will be a fiscal union, which means a political union of the euro countries -- I suspect without Greece, but with a few new candidates. At the same time, the British government is trying to bring certain powers, in social policy, for example, from Brussels back to the island. This will hardly succeed. Then, in the next two, three or four years, we in Great Britain will face the final question: in or out?
SPIEGEL: And what will the answer be?
Garton Ash: You'll be surprised, but it could still be: in.
SPIEGEL: Do you really believe it will turn out that way?
Garton Ash: Yes, and that is why the conservative euroskeptics are doing their utmost to prevent it from coming to this existential alternative. The passive consensus in favor of Europe is bigger than it appears in Great Britain.
There cannot be more than a handful diehard europhiles in Britain who share Garton Ash´s opinion. The comfortable life of an Oxford don seems to have completely insulated the professor from the real world.
SPIEGEL: (Former German Chancellor) Helmut Schmidt charges that the European elites don't know what is at stake in this crisis, because they don't know enough about economics. Is he right?
Garton Ash: I don't think that this is a decisive aspect. What's more important is that leaders like Helmut Schmidt or Helmut Kohl, as well as François Mitterrand, could expect a passive consensus within the population. Perhaps people weren't particularly enthusiastic about Europe or in Germany about the monetary union, but they accepted it because the elites told them: In principle, this is important and it's the right thing to do. Today this passive consensus is missing throughout Europe. As a result, there is a great deal more persuading to do in each country and it's significantly more difficult.
Read the entire interview here
Garton Ash is probably right about "people weren't particularly enthusiastic about Europe or in Germany about the monetary union, but they accepted it because the elites told them", but it is outrageous and deeply undemocratic to claim - as Garton Ash does - that "it's the right thing to do". With this kind of attitude the professor must be an ardent admirer of countries like China and Russia, where people still do what the ruling elites tell them to do.