David Miliband, writing in the FT (14 November 2011), has called for a new approach to Europe while excusing the failings of the past by saying: “Every political system is a balance of efficiency and legitimacy.”
Yet, the EU could have had sufficient amounts of both efficiency and legitimacy: if national politicians and EU commissioners had been more honest from the start and had admitted ‘ever closer union’ meant exactly what it said; if they had had the guts to take the (good) arguments for the EU (particularly the single market) to the people; if they had been prepared to listen to the concerns of the people rather than dismissing them as stupid or bigoted.
With good democratic leadership, rather than bullying and insults, I believe that the EU would now be stronger, fairer, more integrated and more at peace with itself. Instead, many people (not just in the UK) feel they have been lied to and ignored for too long. As a result, the EU has managed a dismal double-fault – that of squandering both efficiency and legitimacy.
Today, with the project facing ruin, Angela Merkel has finally had the courage of her convictions (or honesty bred of desperation) to tell her people what was obvious all along (but often denied by many europhiles as merely eurosceptic scaremongering): “The task of our generation is to complete economic and monetary union, and build political union in Europe, step-by-step.”
It doesn’t come clearer than that. Now let’s get on with the job – but with the people not despite them.