Europe: nationalism is at odds with national interest

This jointly written piece from Ulrich Beck and Anthony Gidden (all round genius and progenitor of the Third Way) reads more like a power memo than an argument. In it they place generic nationalism at odds the cosmopolitan project of the EU:Thye put the case for the EU as positive, liberalising agent in the post Cold War era:

It has influenced political change as far away as Ukraine and Turkey – not, as in the past, by military, but by peaceful means. Through its economic innovations, it has played a part in bringing prosperity to millions, even if its recent level of growth has been disappointing. It has helped one of the very poorest countries in Europe, Ireland, to become one of the richest. It has been instrumental in bringing democracy to Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries that had previously been dictatorships.

However by its size and the ‘felt’ remoteness from its centres of power, there has been an accompanying sense of alienation:

But even in the new member states people ask: “Where does all this stop?” Even for those who profit most, the EU can feel like an agent of globalisation rather than a means of adapting to and reshaping it.

These feelings tend to stimulate an emotional return to the apparent safe haven of the nation. Yet if the EU were abolished overnight people would feel less rather than more secure in their national and cultural identities. Let’s say, for example, that the Eurosceptics in Britain got their way and the United Kingdom quit the EU altogether. Would the British then have a clearer sense of identity? Would they have more sovereignty to run their own affairs?

They go on to argue that the key to understanding the success of the EU in the teeth of sustained scepticism, is understanding an important paradox:

The persistence of the nation is the condition of a cosmopolitan Europe; and today, for reasons just given, the reverse is true too. For a long time the process of European integration took place mainly by means of eliminating difference. But unity is not the same as uniformity. From a cosmopolitan point of view, diversity is not the problem; it is the solution.

They argue in favour of expansion particular of the accession of Turkey, but argue that this pushes another imperative on current member, the committment to further change:

Europe simply must gear up for change. But along with reform we must preserve, and indeed deepen, our concern with social justice. Tony Blair has recently called for a Europe-wide debate on this issue. We believe he is right to do so. Some countries have been remarkably successful in combining economic growth with high levels of social protection and equality – especially the Nordic countries. Let’s see what the rest of Europe can learn from them, as well as from other successful countries around the world.

We write as supporters of the constitution, lengthy and inelegant though it was. But its rejection does allow – let’s hope it forces – Europeans to face up to some basic realities and respond to them. The European Union can be a, if not the, major influence on the global scene in the current century. It is what pro-Europeans should want to happen. Let’s make it happen.