Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Like a moth to the flame

Last night the great and the good of the Brussels commentariat were out in force to slap the back of Mark Leonard. The event was the Brussels launch of his book “Why Europe will run the 21st century”. Leonard is an interesting cove, an authentic member of the hereditary eurocracy. His father is Dick Leonard, who was there in the supporting throng and is a former Labour MP for Romford who rebelled and voted for Europe in 1972 he “was an assistant editor of The Economist and later Brussels correspondent for both The Economist and The Observer. He is author or co-author of a dozen books including the best-selling Economist Guide to the European Union, The Pro-European Reader, Elections in Britain: A Voter's Guide and A Century of Premiers: Salisbury to Blair”.
Amusingly this little c.v. comes from the Foreign Policy Centre – the think tank set up by the precocious Mark when he was 24 (about the time he coined the dread phrase “Cool Brittania”..

The best I can do is just let you know some of the things that were said, both in the introductory remarks and in the question and answer session.
Mark Leonard
“Europe is driven by a desire to evade the past". Which of course explains why it is based upon such an elderly model. It is not about the future but about fear of its own history, not a fear that the UK shares.
The Houses of Parliament are little more than agents of the EU
He claimed at one point that in the 19th century that nationalism had caused Britain to launch aggressive wars against its neighbours. Can somebody enlighten me on that one?
Europe is based upon “the principle of mutual interference” .
Which is the sort of thing that got Michael Jackson into so much trouble.
The future of Europe would be all about “maintaining, expanding and entrenching the status quo”. A bizarre comment straight from the Humpty Dumpty school of words meaning what I want them to mean. How can a “status quo” be expanded?
His final comment was about European development aid and how it should be the policy of the EU to “tie development aid to regional cooperation”. In other words you do not receive help unless you are trying to replicate the EU model.

Leonard was followed by Robert Cooper. Cooper describes himself as “a British Diplomat working for Javier Solana”. In a classic case of double bluff, of course this means that everybody then points out how dashed wonderful he is. “A master of British understatement” etc. It is the strategy of offering somebody the bigger slice of cake, knowing that their good manners means that you will get it.

Cooper, also published by Leonard at the Foreign Policy Centre is best known for his book in response to Kagan, “The Breaking of nations”. However he was quite critical, pointing out to Leonard that the US still existed.
Cooper was more reticent but he did come up with at least one cracker.
We (the EU) are on a fantastic free ride on the United States military
Now given that he is the head of the EU’s foreign affairs civil service is an admirable admission.
He was also rather fond of the thoroughgoing “incompetence of the EU” .

After Cooper came Tod Lindberg, the editor of Policy Review and thus forever associated with Robert Kagan’s piece.
Was quietly scathing of the book in a polite and reasonable fashion.
He congratulated Leonard on his “polemical zest” for example. He also pointed out the absence of Canada from the book, thus knocking a significant hole in the “Eurosphere” arguments put forward.

Finally Stefan Kornelius, editor at the Süddeutschen Zeitung. Kornelius again took Leonard to task pointing out that
"It is simply not the case that Washington has forgotten how to play the diplomatic game of building alliances and forcing allies to back the American position”. But he claimed to be a committed European ,and demanded that the EU should have a permanent seat on the UN Security council “with veto rights”. He must really be enjoying Bolton’s appointment.
He did however point out that one of Leonard’s central contentions, that European power is the power of the rule of law both within the EU’s borders and without to the 50 possible members (has the man gone barking) to the 80 ‘Eurosphere’ countries was bunk. Kornelius suggested out that the real glue was wealth. “and this glue is diminishing. The EU suffers from a severe case of institutional overstretch".

The atmosphere was delightful, the chairmanship by Ron Asmus was measured and felt like a dinner party. Maybe that was because all bar two if the questioners were called by their Christian names, old friends all.
So “Jamie” was Shea.
"Stanley" was Crossick
"Rockwell" was Schnable
"John" was Wyles

And to my horror a fellow sitting just in fromt of me put up his hand
Yes "Charles" was Grant.
I even stalk him by accident

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