The Europe to Come
- The Rotten Heart of Europe by Bernard Connolly
Faber, 427 pp, £17.50, September 1995, ISBN 0 571 17520 1
- Orchestrating Europe: The Informal Politics of European Union 1973-93 by Keith Middlemas
Fontana, 821 pp, £27.50, November 1995, ISBN 0 00 255678 2
On New Year’s Day 1994, Europe – the metonym – changed names. The dozen nations of the Community took on the title of Union, though as in a Spanish wedding, the new did not replace but encompassed the old. Was anything of substance altered? So far, very little. The member states have risen to 15, with the entry of three former neutrals. Otherwise things are much as they were before. What is new, however, is that everyone knows this is not going to last. For the first time since the war, Europe is living in anticipation of vast but still imponderable changes to the part that has stood for the whole. Three dominate the horizon.
The first is, of course, the Treaty of Maastricht. We can set aside its various rhetorical provisions, for vague consultation on foreign policy and defence, or ineffectual protection of social rights, and even ignore its mild emendations of the institutional relations within the Community. The core of the Treaty is the commitment on the part of all the member states save Britain and Denmark to introduce a single currency, under the authority of a single central bank, by 1999. This step means an irreversible move of the EU towards real federation. With it, national governments will lose the right both to issue money and to alter exchange rates, and will only be able to vary rates of interest and public borrowing within very narrow limits, on pain of heavy fines from the Commission if they break central bank directives. They may still tax at their discretion, but capital mobility in the single market can be expected to ensure more or less common fiscal denominators. European monetary union spells the end of the most important attributes of national economic sovereignty.
Secondly, Germany is now reunited. The original Common Market was built on a balance between the two largest countries of the Six, France and Germany – the latter with greater economic weight and slightly larger population, the former with superior military and diplomatic weight. Later, Italy and Britain provided flanking states of roughly equivalent demographic and economic size. This balance started to break down in the Eighties, when the European Monetary System proved to be a zone pivoting on the Deutschmark, as the only currency never to be devalued within it. A decade later, Germany’s position has been qualitatively transformed. With a population of over eighty million, it is now much the largest state in the Union, enjoying not only monetary but increasingly institutional and diplomatic ascendancy. For the first time in its history, the process of European integration is now confronted with the potential emergence of a hegemonic power, with a widely asymmetrical capacity to affect all other member states.
The third great change has followed from the end of Communism in the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. The restoration of capitalism east of the Elbe has further transformed the position of Germany, both by reinstating it as the continental Land der Mitte which its conservative theorists always, with reason, insisted it would once again become, and – a less noticed development – by reducing the significance of the nuclear weapons that France or Britain possessed and it lacked. Yet more significant, however, is the currently expressed desire of virtually all the East European countries, and some of the former Soviet lands, to join the EU. As things stand, the total population of these candidates is about 130 million. Their inclusion would make a community of half a billion people, nearly twice the size of the United States. More pointedly still, it would approximately double the membership of the European Union, from 15 to some thirty states. A completely new configuration would be at stake.
Historically, these three great changes have been interconnected. In reverse order, it was the collapse of Communism that allowed the reunification of Germany that precipitated the Treaty of Maastricht. The shock-wave moved from the east to the centre to the west of Europe. But causes and consequences remain distinct. The outcomes of these processes obey no single logic. More than this: to a greater extent than in any previous phase of European integration, the impact of each is quite uncertain. We confront a set of fundamental indeterminacies that, adopting a Kantian turn of phrase, might be called the three amphibologies of post-Maastricht politics. They pose much more dramatic dilemmas than is generally imagined.
The Treaty itself offers the first. Its origins lie in the dynamism of Delors’s leadership of the Commission. After securing passage of the Single Market Act in 1986, Delors persuaded the European Council two years later to set up a committee largely composed of central bankers, but chaired by himself, to report on a single currency. Its recommendations were formally accepted by the Council in the spring of 1989. But it was the sudden tottering of East Germany that spurred Mitterrand to conclude an agreement with Kohl at the Strasbourg summit in the autumn, which put the decisive weight of the Franco-German axis behind the project. Thatcher, of course, was implacably opposed.
She was comprehensively outmanoeuvred, however, not least by the Continental regime she most disliked, which sat in Rome. The otherwise impregnable self-confidence of The Downing Street Years falters disarmingly whenever its heroine comes to Europe. The titles of the chapters speak for themselves. The ordinary triumphal run – ‘Falklands: The Victory’, ‘Disarming the Left’, ‘Hat Trick’, ‘Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life’, ‘The World Turned Right Side Up’, is interrupted by a faintly woeful note. We enter the world of ‘Babel Express’, with its ‘un-British combination of high-flown rhetoric and pork-barrel polities’, where ‘heads of government would be left discussing matters that would boggle the mind of the City’s top accountants,’ and ‘the intricacies of European Community policy really test one’s intellectual ability and capacity for clear thinking.’
The uncharacteristic hint of humility is well-founded. Thatcher appears to have been somewhat out of her depth, as a persistent tone of rueful bewilderment suggests. The leitmotif is: ‘Looking back, it is now possible to see’. Or: ‘I can only say it did not seem like that at the time.’ Many are the occasions that inspire such mortified hindsight. Exemplary in its comedy is the Milan summit of the European Council in 1984, which ensured the inclusion of qualified majority voting in the Single European Act. ‘Signor Craxi could not have been more sweetly reasonable’: ‘I came away thinking how easy it had been to get my points across.’ But on the following day, lo and behold: ‘To my astonishment and anger, Signor Craxi suddenly called a vote and by a majority the council resolved to establish an Inter-Governmental Conference.’ Six years later, the precedent set at Milan proved fatal at Rome. This time it was Andreotti who set the trap into which Thatcher fell headlong, at the European summit of October 1990. ‘As always with the Italians, it was difficult throughout to distinguish confusion from guile,’ she haplessly writes. ‘But even I was unprepared for the way things went.’ Once more, a vote to convene an IGC was sprung on her at the last minute, this time on the even more provocative topic of Political Union. Her explosion at Andreotti’s ambush finished her. In London, Geoffrey Howe took a dim view of her reaction, and within a month she was ejected from office. No wonder she hated her Italian colleagues, to the point of saying: ‘To put it bluntly, if I were an Italian I might prefer rule from Brussels too.’ Thatcher respected Delors (‘manifest intelligence, ability and integrity’), liked Mitterrand (‘I always have a soft spot for French charm’) and could put up with Kohl (‘style of diplomacy even more direct than mine’). But Andreotti she feared and detested from the start. At her very first G-7 summit, within a few months of coming to power, she found that
he seemed to have a positive aversion to principle, even a conviction that a man of principle was doomed to be a figure of fun. He saw politics as an 18th-century general saw war: a vast and elaborate set of parade-ground manoeuvres by armies that would never actually engage in conflict but instead declare victory, surrender or compromise as their apparent strength dictated in order to collaborate on the real business of sharing the spoils. A talent for striking political deals rather than a conviction of political truths might be required by Italy’s political system and it was certainly regarded as de rigueur in the Community, but I could not help but find something distateful about those who practised it.
Andreotti’s judgment of Thatcher was crisper. Emerging from one of the interminable European Councils sessions devoted to the British rebate, he remarked that she reminded him of a landlady berating a tenant for her rent.
The increasing role of Italy as a critical third in the affairs of the Community was a significant feature of these years. The Report on Economic and Monetary Union that laid the basis for Maastricht was drafted by an Italian, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, the most trenchant advocate of a single currency, and it was also an Italian initiative – Andreotti again – which at the last minute wrote an automatic deadline of 1999 into the Treaty, to the consternation of the British and of the Bundesbank. Nevertheless, the final shape of the bargain reached at Maastricht was of essentially French and German design. The central aim for Paris was a financial edifice capable of replacing the unilateral power of the Bundesbank as the de facto regulator of the fortunes of its neighbours, with a de jure central authority over the European monetary space in which German interests would no longer be privileged. In exchange Bonn received the security system of ‘convergence criteria’ – in effect draconian conditions for abandonment of the Deutschmark, which Italian theorists of a single currency had always rejected – and the fixtures and fittings of ‘political union’.
The diplomatic origins of the Treaty are one thing. Its economic effects, if implemented, are another. What is the social logic of the monetary union scheduled to come into force by the end of the decade? In a system of the kind envisaged at Maastricht, national macro-economic policy becomes a thing of the past: all that remains to member states are distributive options on – necessarily reduced – expenditures within balanced budgets, at competitive levels of taxation. The historic commitments of both social and Christian democracy to full employment and traditional welfare services, already scaled down or cut back, would cease to have any further institutional purchase. This is a revolutionary prospect. The single obligation of the projected European Central Bank, more restrictive even than the charter of the Federal Reserve, is the maintenance of price stability. The protective and regulative functions of existing national states will be dismantled, leaving sound money as the sole regulator, as in the classical liberal model of the epoch before Keynes.
The new element – namely, the supranational character of the future monetary authority – would serve to reinforce such a historical reversion: elevated higher above national electorates than its predecessors, it will be more immune from popular pressures. Put simply, a federal Europe in this sense would not mean – as Conservatives in this country fear – a superstate, but less state. Hayek was the lucid prophet of this vision. In his 1939 essay on ‘Economic Conditions of Interstate Federalism’ he set out the current logic of European monetary union with inspired force and clarity. After arguing that states within such a union could not pursue an independent monetary policy, he noted that macro-economic interventions always require some agreement about values and objectives:
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.
[*] Macmillan, 314 pp., £10, 21 April 1995, 0 333 64169 8.
Vol. 18 No. 3 · 8 February 1996
In his stimulating though also amphibologous essay on Europe (LRB, 25 January) Perry Anderson several times takes issue with the argument I made in another place (TLS, 5 May 1995). The first of his objections is based on a wilful misunderstanding. Anderson sets me up to be arguing that a clear ‘dividing-line must be drawn’ between what I describe as a second Europe of some twenty states (15 of them post-Communist) more or less set on course for EU-rope, and a third Europe comprising Russia, its adjunct Belarus, Ukraine and (my words) ‘perhaps also’ Serbia. He contrasts this with my previous – but in fact continued – advocacy of rapid extension of EU and Nato membership to the new Central European democracies, starting with Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Anyone who goes back to my TLS essay will see that I am very far from arguing that a ‘dividing-line must be drawn’. In fact, Anderson rightly quotes me as objecting to an instrumentalisation of the notion of ‘Central Europe’ to draw an ‘absolutely clear historical dividing-line between the so-called Visegrad group and, say, the Baltic states or Slovenia’. (Incidentally, it’s another canard to suggest that East Central European ideas of Central Europe all go back to Friedrich Naumann and the Germans. What about Palacky or Masaryk, to name but two non-German progenitors?) I do suggest that there is currently a significant difference between, on the one hand, the large array of mainly small post-Communist states, with a strong desire for membership of the EU among their political élites and a majority of public opinion, varying historical, political and economic qualifications for membership, and acceptance of their theoretical claim to membership by the political leaders of the EU, and, on the other hand, a smaller number of states, two of them large, where those conditions do not apply.
Does Anderson really think Russia or Serbia currently wants to join the EU, is set on a course to qualify for membership, or would find a claim to membership accepted, even in principle, by the political leaders of the EU? But identifying real differences (not least, between democracy and dictatorship) is a very different thing from insisting that a clear geographical ‘dividing-line must be drawn’. Indeed, I explicitly go on to envision ‘the longer-term possibility of a democratic Serbia re-oriented towards Europe’. The important point is precisely that one thing will lead to another, and EU-rope therefore has to start thinking now about how to make a functioning community of not just twenty but thirty member states.
Here comes his second objection, this time to my central argument for the importance of enlargement – especially at a time when the great gamble of monetary union seems increasingly likely to fail – and for the radical thinking about the structure and priorities of the Community that enlargement necessarily entails. Anderson argues that ‘the cost of integrating the Visegrad quartet alone would mean an increase of 60 per cent in the current Union budget.’ But that is only true if the applicants enter on the current terms of membership. Precisely because this is economically almost impossible for them, and unacceptable to influential constituencies in Western Europe, I argue that we have to give priority to rapid political membership – reverting to the original first purpose of the founding fathers of the European Community – combined with long economic transition periods, while at the same time trying to reform the bad system of the Common Agricultural Policy and structural funds, in which, for the time being, the new members might not participate. To characterise this project as ‘political embrace of the whole of Eastern Europe, under the guidance of Nato’ (‘guidance’ – where on earth does that idea come from?) ‘with power-sharing from Albania to Ireland’ is simply a caricature.
Most enjoyably but also most misleadingly, he conflates my views with those of the FO, the TLS, and what he calls ‘the wisdom of London’. The ‘wager in London’, he avers, is that widening will lead to loosening of the Community, and an end to federalism. This then enables him to pull an apparent rabbit out of his rhetorical hat. The ‘final amphibology’, he says, is that enlargement could actually lead to the opposite: a strengthening of Union powers in a new constitutional settlement. But that rabbit has already been skinned. This is exactly what I argued: ‘it would require more sharing of power and sovereignty; both in the form of Qualified Majority Voting, without which an EU of twenty or more member states would simply not work, and in the rather different procedures for what one might call Qualified Minority Acting … which is what is needed in foreign, security and defence policy.’ Others have made the same point. A British advocate of enlargement is not necessarily a Thatcherite. In the house of ‘London’ are many mansions.
I freely admit that, to use terms which will be familiar to Perry Anderson, the project I propose is a radical one. By contrast, Anderson’s argument seems curiously conservative.
Timothy Garton Ash
St Antony’s College, Oxford
Vol. 18 No. 4 · 22 February 1996
Timothy Garton Ash (Letters, 8 February) protests amiably, but still too much. In the New York Review of Books of 24 October 1991 he published a ringing appeal, under the title ‘Let the East Europeans In!’, co-signed by one of Kohl’s aides, for the speedy admission to the EC of just three countries: Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. This should start, he argued, with their immediate co-option into the foreign policy counsels of the Community, and continue with their participation in elections to the European Parliament in 1994. Economic aid should also, he argued, be concentrated on this trio. ‘To give priority to these countries’, he wrote, was ‘realistic when we consider the available resources of the present EC’. Meanwhile other and poorer candidates, not on the shortlist, would presumably have to fend for themselves.
About the same time, the American political scientist Ken Jowitt, a specialist on Romania, was warning of the dangers of dividing Eastern Europe into two zones – an Orange County and Watts. A few months later, fires duly started in the Balkan ghettos. Might a less one-sided distribution of journalistic energy in the Eighties, and diplomatic generosity in the Nineties, have helped to avoid the Yugoslav disaster? The practice of picking favourites does not benefit Eastern Europe, which needs collective rather than selective treatment from Western Europe. Even in the trinity of intended privilege, there are those, like George Konrad, who could see this.
Since the war in Bosnia, Garton Ash has extended his attention south of the Danube. But he still wants a shortlist. The new one is composed of states ‘not on course’ for entry into the EU – Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Belarus, Ukraine. These states are excluded because they are too large, or they are ambivalent about Nato, or ‘the political leaders of the EU and Nato’ do not want them, or they are undemocratic. About this it might be said that Turkey is a member of Nato, Serbia a small country, Russia more democratic than Croatia, and the preferences of EU leaders regularly discounted by Garton Ash himself, when they don’t coincide with his own. To round matters off, he gamely concedes that consignment to an excluded Third Europe is ‘probably unfair to Ukraine’. The criteria are a jumble of ad-hockery that unravels itself.
For the included Second Europe – i.e. all other former Communist countries – Garton-Ash advocates top-speed entry into an EU that has shed the misguided goal of a single currency, although Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are still to occupy the front row. He argues that this design should not be confused with Conservative policies towards Europe, since it envisages ‘more sharing of power and sovereignty’ in the Union than at present. But since his recipe for a new constitutional settlement on the one hand excludes East European members from the Common Agricultural Policy and structural funds, pending the dissolution of this acquis communautaire, and on the other, reserves to a West European triumvirate (UK, France and Germany) the power to act as they please in ‘foreign, security and defence policy’, its effect must be to weaken rather than strengthen the cohesion of the Union. Decently veiled, it is a formula for dis-integration.
A scheme like this for scotching the single currency is music, if not from, certainly to the Foreign Office. From Thatcher’s speech at Bruges to Douglas Hurd’s recent leading article in the Financial Times. Conservative strategy has consistently sought to thrust Eastern Europe as a spoke in the wheels of the ‘ever closer union’ intended by the Treaty of Rome. Garton Ash is, of course, a writer with a mind of his own. It would be surprising if the advice he gave Thatcher back in 1990 chimed exactly with that of Trevor-Roper or Stone, when she conferred with them at Chequers over German unification. So, too, his current design for enlargement to the East, more capacious than any official proposals, is undoubtedly distinctive. After originally describing his scheme as ‘sceptical, empirical and pragmatic’, he now strikes a rather different note, explaining that ‘my project is a radical one.’ The claims are contradictory. There is no doubt the latter is more accurate. But the question remains: how realistic is this kind of radicalism, bent on undoing what the Union has so far done?
Lastly, a historical point. Garton Ash complains that it is a canard to trace ideas of Central Europe principally to Friedrich Naumann and his German predecessors. He asks: what about Masaryk? Indeed. The answer is suggestive. Masaryk commented only briefly and weakly – a few lines – on Naumann’s Mitteleuropa in 1916. In his own writing of this period, ‘The Problem of Small Nations in the European Crisis’ and The New Europe, composed in 1917, he accepted that there was a ‘striking difference between the East and West of Europe’ and argued that the principal problem of the First World War was ‘the political reconstruction of Eastern Europe on a national basis’. In that battle, ‘the Czech and Slovak nation is the anti-German vanguard of all the nations of Eastern Europe.’ At times Masaryk spoke of a ‘central zone’ stretching from Norway to Greece, but he distinguished it from the ‘vague term’ of Central Europe, which occasionally surfaces but never organises his thinking about the continent. In 1918, in exile in the United States, he could patronise a ‘Mid-European Democratic Union’ embracing even Armenians and Ukrainians, not to speak of Zionists, but he had no illusions about the association, nor the metaphysics of middleness. Masaryk was a much more considerable mind than Naumann. But on this subject there is no comparison between the contributions of the two. The idea of Central Europe could never acquire the salience for a Czech patriot aspiring to national independence that it had for a German contemplating regional dominance. Has the field of force behind that difference so greatly changed today?
European University, Florence
Vol. 18 No. 5 · 7 March 1996
There is a danger of diminishing intellectual returns from my exchange with Perry Anderson (Letters, 8 February and Letters, 22 February). So let me be unamphibologous. Anderson is now reduced to travesty. Roughly half the October 1991 New York Review of Books article to which he refers was devoted precisely to the consequences for the rest of post-Communist Europe of giving priority to East Central Europe. Michael Mertes, Dominique Moisi and I argued: ‘The politics of inclusion are not necessarily the politics of exclusion. The contrary has been the case in the history of the EC. Including new members has always strengthened the case for including still more new members’ (emphasis added for speed-readers).
‘We should do our utmost to promote democracy in Russia,’ we wrote a few months after the August 1991 coup. As for potential Russian membership: ‘An application from a truly democratic Russia would pose a serious dilemma, if only because Russia is so big, and half in Asia.’ But, we continued, in words for which I take full responsibility: ‘even on the most optimistic view of Russian developments, that delicious dilemma is not one we are likely to face for a few years yet.’
‘Might a less one-sided distribution of journalistic energy in the Eighties,’ Anderson asks, ‘and diplomatic generosity in the Nineties, have helped to avoid the Yugoslav disaster?’ Does this mean that I’m partly responsible for the war in Bosnia because I wrote about Poland and Czechoslovakia, or what?
My point about German and non-German ideas of Central Europe was simply that there has been much serious and independent non-German thinking about it. In the Eighties, for example, the idea was revived by Czechs, Hungarians and Poles, not by Germans. If in 1917 Masaryk was reacting to Naumann, in 1987 Peter Glotz was reacting to Kundera and Konrad.
But rather than continue the list of small points, let me restate the large ones. First and foremost, the major division on this question in Europe today is not between those who favour or exclude particular countries or groups of countries, but between those who are serious about the enlargement of the EU to include post-Communist countries and those who are not. That was the real issue in 1991, and, alas, that is still the real issue in 1996. Our article then was trying to get the EC to do something for post-Communist Europe at the inter-governmental conferences which culminated in Maastricht. It failed. Now we approach another inter-governmental conference, and the danger is still the same: more internal fiddling while post-Communist Europe burns.
If you’re serious about enlargement you must have criteria for membership. Some European countries will meet them sooner than others. If you’re serious, you have to make an assessment of which countries are likely to do so, in what time-frame, so as to judge the scale of the task. That – and not drawing any eternal lines of European division – is what I was about.
The claim that I am ‘bent on undoing what the Union has so far done’ simply ignores my clear and repeated statements to the contrary. It is also fatuous. Why waste time trying to get new democracies into a Union which is good for nothing?
If Perry Anderson thinks there is a contradiction between being pragmatic and being radical, that only tells us something about his notion of radicalism. Anyway, rather than continuing to attack my project of enlargement with a ragtag army of nit-picking, misrepresentation and amphibologies, wouldn’t his time be better spent coming up with a better one?
Timothy Garton Ash
St Antony’s College, Oxford
Vol. 18 No. 6 · 21 March 1996
The impulse to self-justification, common to us all, has made Timothy Garton Ash unneccesarily irritable (Letters, 7 March). The issues in our exchange were these:
1. Was it sensible or equitable in 1991 to urge that EC aid be reserved for the three best-off East European countries – Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary – and that they be rapidly inducted, ahead of all others, into the Community? Garton Ash points out that he and his fellow authors did not exclude other countries receiving comparable treatment later on, and defends their proposal on grounds of urgency: ‘Our article was trying to get the EC to do something for post-Communist Europe’ at a time when there was a danger of ‘more internal fiddling’ while ‘post-Communist Europe burnt.’ But why should poorer countries be put to the back of the queue for help – like worse-off citizens under Thatcher and Reagan, promised ultimate benefits from immediate hand-outs to the well-off; and what was the only region of Eastern Europe where the fuse was lit in late 1991? To call for emergency care to be rushed to the Visegrad states within a few months of the conflagration in Yugoslavia, can, without misrepresentation, be described as myopic.
2. What is the effect of Carton Ash’s current proposal that the European Union jettison a single currency and abandon the acquis communautaire, in favour of wide-scale enlargement to the East and differential categories of membership without any uniform rights or obligations? Affinities between this scheme and long-standing Conservative objectives are fairly plain, and it is puzzling that Garton Ash should be reticent about them. On the other hand, the balance of motives behind each is not quite the same. For Conservative leaders, the strategic aim is to dilute integration in Western Europe: the Eastern card, notwithstanding genuine pride in the pupils of privatisation, is a tactical means to that end. For Garton Ash the opposite holds. A passionate champion of countries and causes in East Europe, in the tradition of R.W. Seton-Watson, for him it is rapid enlargement that is the essential goal: disposing of monetary union and unwinding the acquis communautaire are simply seen, with good logic, as conditions of it. Once foreign editor of the Spectator, Garton Ash is unlikely ever to have warmed to European federalism, but concern with Brussels has never been a primary preoccupation. Perhaps this explains why he seems disconcerted that his proposals could be thought inimical to the Union. But he is mistaken if he thinks that the principle of the acquis communautaire, instinctively disliked but little understood in London, was anything other than central to the architects of integration.
3. Still, he asks, what is wrong with his plan for redesigning Europe in the sceptical but radical spirit of the British genius? The answer is straightforward. Garton Ash proposes to scrap the architrave of the institutional unity that the Community, with all its limitations, has historically achieved, in order to extend a status to former Communist states in the East that would, he makes clear, include no share in either CAP or the structural funds, let alone the privilege of ‘qualified minority acting’ reserved for Britain, Germany and France. What they would receive, however, is honorific promotion to the West. The order of priorities here was candidly indicated by Garton Ash in 1991, when he urged that Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia should participate in elections to the European Parliament without even being members of the Community – ‘this would be a powerful symbol,’ he wrote, ‘although the exact status of their Euro-MPs would have to be worked out.’ such blitheness is not pragmatic. It answers to a politics of gesture, in which not institutional reality but symbolic satisfaction is at stake.
It would be wrong to hold Garton Ash responsible for this. There is a deep craving in much of Eastern Europe for such solace, to which his new scheme can be seen as a generous reaction. Yet in these societies themselves, local wits can already be heard likening the fixation with quick membership of the EU, no matter how second-class, to a cargo cult. The real needs of the region lie elsewhere. Today, cancellation of the heavy burden of debt left by their former rulers would be of much greater material benefit to the populations of Eastern Europe than any number of native politicians sitting in on the Council of Ministers. So far only Poland, as the enfant doré of German-American goodwill, has been favoured with a serious reduction of its liabilities. Impartial and general relief, to ease fiscal pressures and stimulate employment, would be preferable. A steady job and a square meal are worth more than a mere glimpse of the high table. Much to his credit, Garton Ash has criticised the politics of personal prestige, even in the leaders – Havel and Walesa – he has most admired. Mutatis mutandis, there is a lesson for national welfare, too. It is not speed but solidity of construction that a less spatially and socially divided Europe requires.
Vol. 18 No. 8 · 18 April 1996
Perry Anderson (Letters, 21 March) obviously doesn’t want to let this one rest. I think the time has come to do just that. However, I must briefly respond to what remain – however genially expressed – misrepresentations of my position. Taking his numbered points: 1. I certainly never argued the ludicrous proposition that ‘EC aid be reserved’ for Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. 2. I have never argued that the EU ‘jettison a single currency and abandon the acquis communautaire’. 3. I have never argued that what I call ‘qualified minority acting’ in foreign and security policy be ‘reserved for Britain, Germany and France’. On the contrary, other interested and capable European countries should participate in such ‘coalitions of action’ wherever possible.
While feeling honoured by the comparison with R.W. Seton-Watson, I don’t accept the implicit disqualification that I’m only seeing this from an East European point of view. Anderson himself argues that I’m also seeing it from a British point of view. Add the German one, and that makes, I think, a pretty good stab at a European view. After all, we all come from somewhere.
His final paragraph about the cancellation of debt raises an important point, but what post-Communist Europe needs above all is more access to our markets. Not aid but trade.
Perhaps Professor Anderson and I could now continue this discussion personally, in Oxford or Florence, over a plate of lightly braised amphibologies.
Timothy Garton Ash
St Antony’s College, Oxford