Sunday, 26 August 2012

French philosopher André Glucksmann: Pursuing a federal European state "is the wrong goal"

Germany´s Der Spiegel has published an interesting interview with the French philosopher André Glucksmann. Glucksmann, who has strongly criticized the West for its tendency to to close its eyes to evil forces in the world, is - rightly - critical of the present European leaders. Particularly Glucksmann singles out Germany´s unilateral energy co-operation with Putin´s Russia, which he considers a threat to Europe.  And he also - rightly - says that a European federal state is the wrong goal: 

SPIEGEL: European countries are also bound by shared cultural aspects. Is there such a thing as a European spirit?
Glucksmann: European nations are not alike, which is why they can't be merged together. What unites them is not a community but a societal model. There is a European civilization and a Western way of thinking.
Glucksmann: Europe was never a national entity, not even in the Christian Middle Ages. Christianity always remained divided -- the Romans, the Greeks and later the Protestants. A European federal state or European confederation is a distant goal that is frozen in the abstraction of the term. I think pursuing it is the wrong goal.
SPIEGEL: Is the European Union chasing after a utopia in both political and historical terms?
Glucksmann: The EU's founding fathers liked to invoke the Carolingian myth, and an EU award was named after Charlemagne. But, after all, his grandchildren divided up his empire. Europe is a unity in its division or a division in its unity. Whichever way you put it, though, it's clearly not a community in terms of religion, language or morals.
SPIEGEL: These days, many people cite the phrase "never another war" as Europe's raison d'être. Does this foundation still hold up now that the specter of war in Europe has dissipated?
Glucksmann: The Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia and the murderous incendiary actions of the Russians in the Caucasus didn't happen that long ago. The European Union came together to oppose three evils: the memory of Hitler, the Holocaust, racism and extreme nationalism; Soviet communism in the Cold War; and, finally, colonialism, which some countries in the European community had to painfully abandon. These three evils gave rise to a common understanding of democracy, a civilizing central theme of Europe.
SPIEGEL: Is a new, unifying challenge what's missing today?

Glucksmann: It wouldn't be hard to find if Europe didn't act so heedlessly. In the early 1950s, the core of the union was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first supranational economic alliance in the area of heavy industry; (it was) Lorraine and the Ruhr area, the ECSC as a means of preventing war. As everyone knows, the counterpart today would be a European energy union. Instead, Germany decided to embark on its transition to renewable energy on its own, ignoring the European dimension. Everyone is negotiating individually with Russia for oil and gas, Germany signed an agreement to build the Baltic Sea pipeline despite the resistance of Poland and Ukraine, and Italy is involved in the South Stream pipeline through the Black Sea.
SPIEGEL: So each country is pursuing its own interests amid changing alliances and bilateral agreements that ignore the spirit of the European Union?
Glucksmann: (This is a) grim example of cacophony because it shows that the member states are no longer willing and able to form a united front against external threats and Europe's challenges in the globalized world. This touches on the nerve of the European civilization project, in which each person is supposed to be able to live for himself, and with which, however, everyone wants to survive together. And it makes things easy for Russia under (President Vladimir) Putin. Despite all the weakness of that giant of natural resources, its capacity to cause damage remains considerable and is something its president likes to use. Recklessness and forgetfulness create the conditions for new catastrophes in both the economy and politics.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that the idea of a European community of fate hasn't really taken hold yet?
Glucksmann: Not in practice. Globalization brings global chaos, and a global police force -- which the United States played for a long time -- no longer exists. The players may not be keen on war, but they don't exactly mean well by one another. Everyone is playing his own game. In this anarchic confusion, Europe has to assert itself and face up to threats offensively. Putin's Russia, which wants to regain parts of what it lost, is a threat. China, a bureaucratic slave state, is a threat. Militant Islamism is a threat. Europe has to learn to think in terms of hostility once again. (German philosopher) Jürgen Habermas, for example, doesn't see this when he says that well-intentioned cosmopolitanism can unite everyone in global citizenship.

Read the entire interview here

1 comment:

A K Haart said...

"well-intentioned cosmopolitanism can unite everyone in global citizenship."

This is the kind of rosy thinking the BBC goes in for. I'm sure Glucksmann is right - we need to look at global threats in a more hard-headed way.