THE HAGUE: The idea of European unity used to appeal to the hearts and minds of Europeans. But its reality, the way the Union actually works, is far less inspiring. What is the cause of this malaise and is there an idea that can mobilize future generations and revitalize the European vision of the past fifty years?
Europe’s failures are often blamed on the fact that the Union is an association of states which tend to put their own interests ahead of the common weal. This is certainly true, but there is also a deeper, less obvious cause of Europe’s troubles. The EU is a rules-based government. This may sound like the rule of law, implying transparency and impartiality. In fact, the EU’s rule-making process, reflecting backroom deals among conflicting national interests, is anything but transparent. Decisions of the Council of Ministers are just like treaties: difficult to reach and difficult to alter. The rules that emerge are often too detailed, too rigid, and inappropriate to changing circumstances.