Open Europe Blog

The Director of Open Europe Berlin, Prof. Dr. Michael Wohlgemuth, has dug up this old quote, which has a great deal of relevance for where we’re at today. 

It’s taken from the third Jean Monnet Lecture delivered in Florence by Ralf Dahrendorf – in 1979 (Dahrendorf was Member of the German Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Foreign Office of Germany, European Commissioner for External Relations and Trade, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Education, Member and life peer of the British House of Lords, director of the London School of Economics, Warden of St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford and Professor of Sociology at a number of universities in Germany and the United Kingdom…).

Pay attention:

“It is emphatically not the desire of some of the founding fathers to create another superpower; to have as much decentralization as possible and only as much centralization as necessary, is a prescription for a humane society to which many, including myself, would subscribe today.”

He continues:

“The policy of the British government is to express its commitment to the Community – which is appreciated – to assure its partners that it does not propose to break the law – which is more than can be said of some others, though it remains to be seen what exactly the British Government has in mind – and to demand a « broad balance » of contributions and benefits. It will be for politicians to try and find out how much room for manoeuvre the notion of « broad balance » allows; at first sight, it certainly does not seem unreasonable. To say that we have to start again in order to build Europe would be wrong; there is much in the acquis communautaire which is worth preserving. But what we need is more than mere adjustments and reformlets; we need a fundamental reappraisal.” 

 Then he absolutely hit the nail on the head:

“I have often been struck by the prevailing view in Community circles that the worst that can happen is any movement towards what is called a Europe à la carte. This is not only somewhat odd for someone who likes to make his own choices, but also illustrates that strange puritanism, not to say masochism which underlies much of Community action: Europe has to hurt in order to be good. Any measure that does not hurt at least some members of the European Community is (in this view) probably wrong. In any case it is regarded as unthinkable that one should ever allow those members of the Community who want to go along with certain policies to do so, and those who are not interested to stay out. The European interest (it is said) is either general or it does not exist.” 

Full lecture here.

As they say, most things that are being said today, have been said better before…

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