This is an extract from 'Tackling the EU Empire: basic critical facts on EU/Eurozone – a handbook for European Democrats', written by Anthony Coughlan. The full document can be read on here web-site.
EU IDEOLOGY – SUPRANATIONALISM
Supranationalism – from Latin supra,”above” – is where Nation States surrender their authority to a superior entity that rules them and has legal primacy over them, at least in the policy areas surrendered. An example is a multinational Federal State where sovereignty is divided between a superior federal level and inferior national or regional states. Such contemporary Federations as India, Pakistan, Russia or Nigeria are instances. Or it can refer to imperial arrangements like the Austro-Hungarian Empire, once known asa “prison-house of nations”, where different countries are ruled by a centralized bureaucracy in a far-away imperial capital.
The EU has features of both these forms of supranationalism. Supranationalism is the opposite of internationalism, which is a benign and progressive concept. Internationalism – from Latin inter, “between” – implies the pre-existence of sovereign Nation States. It refers to relations of co-operation between the States that constitute the international community, but with each controlling and deciding its own domestic and external affairs in accordance with the wishes of its people. Recognition of States based on the right to self-determination of nations and peoples is a basic principle of modern democracy and international law.
Supranationalism, in contrast to internationalism, implies a hierarchy, with the supranational level on top. Internationalism implies legal and political equality between the parties. Properly understood, internationalism is opposed to all forms of chauvinism and xenophobia. It implies coexistence among progressive “nationalisms” – that is, broad nationalisms rather than narrow, using the positive rather than the negative sense of that word in English. It implies patriotism and love of country, combined with respect for the many national communities into which humanity is divided and admiration for their varied cultural and other achievements.
Internationalism delights in the diversity of nations. Supranationalism seeks to erode national differences, eitherbecause they threaten the dominance of a particular ruling power or they make it more difficult for transnational Big Business to establish a world of homogenized consumers and employees. Supranationalism seeks the erosion of State sovereignty. Internationalism seeks to establish and maintain it.
The glory of European civilisation has been the diversity of its national components – in culture, science, political institutions, economic actors, legal systems, education systems, tax codes,fashion. In classical Europe emulation and competition between nations, communities and individuals spurred creativity and innovation. They contrasted with the centralized empires of China, Japan, India and the Ottomans. The peak of Europe’s cultural achievements occurred when its political units were numerous and small – in Athenian Greece, Renaissance Italy, 17th century Netherlands, 18th century Germany. This classical Europe, which is synonymous with much of what is best in human civilization, is the opposite of the centralised “Europe” of the Brussels bureaucracy, with its mania for imposing uniformity and “harmonization” by means of supranational laws.
EU supranationalism means rule by technocrats, supposed experts who are not elected, without democratic control. The EU Commission is a good example. Supranationalism leaves ordinary people cold. In the EU it means “Brussels talking to Brussels” as the elite groups concerned get ever more removed from citizen voters in the different national communities they come from. It means the governments of the bigger Member States using the EU’s supranational institutions to impose their hegemony on the smaller, while at the same time seeking to leverage the EU bloc as a whole into becoming a world power through which the government of each Big State hopes to wield more influence externally than it can ever do on its own. Lust for world power is the mainspring of EU supranationalism. National democracy is to be sacrificed to that end, while economic laissez-faire is made a constitutional imperative everywhere in the interest of powerful national economic elites, particularly those of the big countries. Supranationalism and internationalism propose quite opposite visions of different ideal “Europes”.
Supranationalists seek to encourage the illusion that one must belong to a big political unit to be prosperous. That is false. There is no connection between size of country and peoples’ living standards. The richest countries in the world are mostly small. The two European countries with the highest standard of living for their populations are Norway and Switzerland – both independent and outside the EU.
The historical and moral guilt of those pushing the European “project” is great. They work to subvert the democracy and national independence of their own peoples and to transfer control of their societies to supranational elites with whom they identify and who reward them generously. Their own peoples meanwhile become disillusioned and depoliticized, while the economic prosperity they have been promised if they shift to supranationalism proves a mirage for many.
The European Union is the ghost of the real Europe. When it calls itself “Europe” and believes it is Europe it is acting out a fiction that future historians will surely compare to the fiction of the Holy Roman Empire, the ghost of imperial Rome, which the French philosopher Voltaire once said was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, and which for centuries spoke German and was ruled from Vienna.