Europe: From Dream to Nightmare

11/04/2011 04:17 pm ET | Updated Jan 04, 2012

By Alan Sked

Thus far, I was convinced the the EU requires a democratic revolution if ordinary voters were expected to back the structural reforms needed to save the euro. However, perhaps predictably, the remedies being discussed by the elite are all designed to bypass the democratic process. The richer states still want the poorer ones to bear the brunt of the economic crisis while the longer-term plan seems to be to create a proto-fiscal union by stealth: national governments will ask their parliaments to enact measures to establish a common financial regulatory system which will be enforced by a single watchdog.

This will not work: until a system is in place that allows payment transfers from Germany and other countries to Greece, Italy and Spain through a genuine fiscal union, the sovereign debts of the PIGS will remain.

However, only democratic votes in all EU member states can legitimize such an advance in federalist government.

So the European Ideal is now faced with a reality check. Do Europeans actually think of themselves as citizens of one country? Do they actually believe they have common ethical, social and political standards? Do they want to share their savings and their salaries with one another? Do they actually trust one another to follow the rules and not to cheat? Would a fiscal union be a solution to Europe's problems or an economic suicide pact?

Some of us see Europe as a state system rather than a single state. We believe in common values as aspirations but recognize that Europe is a diverse community of historical actors with different political and social cultures and that this diversity should be tolerated and respected. We see the attempt by bureaucrats in Brussels to create plastic, assembly-line citizens for a plastic Union as un-European and unrealistic.

We liked EFTA which allowed Europe's natural units -- nation states -- to trade freely without a suffocating blanket of central regulation.

We still believe that Europeans can coexist peacefully and in prosperity outside a straightjacket of federal law. National federal states may work but international ones do not. Just look at the resentments created in Canada by one French-speaking state, Quebec. Or even at the tensions created in the UK by the Scottish National Party. Think what would happen in the USA if Texas or California adopted Spanish as its official language. It may not therefore be a very good idea in Europe to start creating a new sort of Habsburg Monarchy.

Maybe the EU has served its purpose. Maybe its task of reconciling states after the destruction of the Third Reich, the USSR and Yugoslavia has been fulfilled. Maybe we don't actually need an EU any more. Certainly the price now being asked seems extraordinarily high.