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When Europe Wakes Up! (II)

Last Updated: 8 Oct 2017

Recovering the power of speech !

As the writer Laurent Binet reminds the readers in his humourous and talented thriller The Seventh Function of Speech, speech is a power, a function long unknown to the linguists. In this respect, Europe, or rather the European communities which have become the European Union, has always kept silent, desperately silent, on the matters of the world and on itself.

The diagnosis , was made a long time ago. It is no secret.The European Union never figured itself other than « a political and military extension of the American power » as Régis Debray puts it. Did recovering from the ruins of the Second World War condemn the Europan nations to being and behaving as eternal vassels. The words are cruel. The code name of the Normandy landings was « overlord ». Now, what does « overlord » mean ? It means suzerain. It is a whole programme which imprints its mark on 70 years of communal life. But times change. The Europeans seem to become aware that vasselage does not have advantages only.

So, if Europe, as a grouping of nations to which the state of the world imposes to link their futures, started to talk, it would be a good thing for everyone.

The weekly magazine Le Point headlines its front page of September 21 Françallemagne, the Historical Pact. In his various speeches, in particular in his latest speech at the Sorbonne, the French president Emmanuel Macron gave a new impulse to foreign political power while falling within the scope of a historical multisecular continuity. Concerning the recent past, what extraordinary relationship with the speeches delivered at the time of the Franco-German treaty of 1963 whose ambition had been hindered by the circumstances of the time. There never was any mention of Germany and France leading Europe together. Yet no serious matter can be dealt with, without the Franco-German pair. It is for them to make proposals and to inspire without any monopoly. The Elysee treaty mentioned nothing else. What relationship also with the Declaration of Copenhagen of December 14 & 15 1973 on European identity which involed the nine member states (the six founding states + the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark which had just joined the European Union) and the future new members !

For example :

« 6. Although in the past the European countries were individually able to play a major rôle on the international scene,

present international problems are difficult for any of the Nine to solve alone. International developments and the growing concentration of power and responsibility in the hands of a very small number of great powers mean that Europe must unite and speak increasingly with one voice if it wants to make itself heard and play its proper rôle in the world.

8. The Nine, one of whose essential aims is to maintain peace, will never succeed in doing so if they neglect their own security. Those of them who are members of the Atlantic Alliance consider that in present circumstances there is no alternative to the security provided by the nuclear weapons of the United States and by the presence of North American forces in Europe: and they agree that in the light of the relative military vulnerability of Europe, the Europeans should, if they wish to preserve their independence, hold to their commitments and make constant efforts to ensure that they have adequate means of defence at their disposal.

14. The close ties between the United States and Europe of the Nine — we share values and aspirations based on a common heritage — are mutually beneficial and must be preserved. These ties do not conflict with the determination of the Nine to establish themselves as a distinct and original entity. The Nine intend to maintain their constructive dialogue and to develop their co-operation with the United States on the basis of equality and in a spirit of friendship. »

This text could have been written today. Yet the geostrategic context has changed a lot. Nothing or so little came out of those fine resolutions because of the incompatibility of the assertion of a political role of Europe, a Europe sovereign of sovereign States, and the structure of the NATO and the ensuing alignment. This alignment will reach its height with the invasion of Irak approved of by all the current governments of the time subject to the French veto at the Security Council and the position of the German government of Gerard Schröder who had withdrawn, declaring that he would not participate without being mandated by the UNO. A historical moment which was marked by the appearance of a European public opinion and by the beginning of a divorce between the European governments and their public opinions.

That was a long time ago. It is useless to mention the main events  since 1973 which have modified the geostrategic balances and the Europeans’opinion of the world and of their American ally : the end of the Vietnam war (1975), a forty-year long war in Afghanistan (from 1979 up to now), the collapse of the Soviet bloc (1989), the two wars in Irak (1990-91, 2003-2011) and the extension of the conflicts in the Middle East (from 2014 to now), the enlargment of the European Union from 9 to 28 members, the breaking up of Yugoslavia, the Brexit etc.

It is true that speech is not enough. The word is only a beginning.

So let’s look at the opposing armies, restricting ourselves to the United States, Europe and Russia.

Russia is the American elite’s obsession. What is it really worth ?

- Military expenditure (billions of dollars and % calculated on more than 80% of the military expenditure in the world 2015) :

United States : 611,45 à 98% ; Europe (France + United Kingdom + Germany + Italy) : 173 à12,72% ; Russia : 62,9 à 5,09%.

- GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in billions of dollars and % calculated on the world GDP in 2015 :

European Union : 18812 -à  25,22% ; United States : 18562 à 24,88% ; Russia : 1325 à 1,78%.

Therefore Russia represents 1,25 time the military power of France and 40% of the military power of the first four European powers . More, it is hardly more than the tenth of the American power. It spends twice less than France and five times less than the United States per inhabitant.

In terms of GDP, Russia represents 12% of the United States, 55% of France and 40% of Germany Consequently the bogey man of a certain kind of propaganda is just a paper monster. Yet material force is not enough. The influence exerted, the capacity of influence, the soft power count a lot too,  which sends us back to speech.

For Russia, recovering a capacity of influence beyond its limited military capacities is a major stake.

For the United states, what has become of their soft power after the series of disasters quickly mentioned above. What about Europe?

In a debate organized by the newspaper Libération of November 26, 2011, whose subject was

« Can culture give Europe a meaning ? , Umberto Eco had initiated this reflection  « The fact of being a European is something you feel when you are abroad. This happened to me in the United States. At a party, after a couple of glasses, you rush towards the first Norwegian around to chat, with the feeling that you understand each other better. Of course in this case it is an identity felt at the cultural, intellectual level. The question is how to have everyone feel it. »

Nothing prevents Europe today from speaking in a single voice, according to the terms of the Copenhagen Declaration.

That’s the whole point.

In an interview given in 1965, Général De Gaulle explained that the grandeur of France (how is the word « grandeur» to be understood?) was to plead everywhere for peace, cooperation. Such was its ambition and it could not have any other. Today we can hold  the same discourse for Europe and add to it the social model, sustainable development and the full and entire responsibility of our planet.

Disgruntled people will say that France considers Europe only as a greater France.

But really isn’t it the pleading and acting for peace, cooperation and the protection of our planet and using all possible internal and external  measures, the greater project for Europe. It is probably not the only innovation of the Sorbonne Speech (the partnership with Africa for example), but we must draw attention on the importance taken by culture, languages and multilingualism. These being major elements.

This kind of Europe cannot be identified by a lingua franca. It cannot be other than plurilingual and built on its langages.◄

To be followed in the next Letter