Europe should dare to use democracy

This weekend sees the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, and the foundation of the international body that became the European Union. The EU may have many faults, but it is in my opinion a very good thing, and I hope it leads to stronger cultural and political links between the peoples of Europe.

I don’t have any substantial comment to make here on the EU’s first half century. For now, I merely refer you to an interview with philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas. In this article, Habermas proposes an EU-wide referendum asking whether the Union should have a directly elected president, foreign minister and financial base:

“The governments – which control the process after all – have to recognize their own powerlessness and, this one time, ‘dare to use democracy’.”

I have little time for neo-marxist critical theory, but Habermas, who was arguably the Frankfurt School‘s most articulate representative, makes some good points in the interview. I take issue with Habermas’ views on the continuing importance of nation states, and his wish to see a strengthened United Nations Organisation, but I think he may be right to talk of silent majorities in favour of a strong EU, and say that member state governments are to blame for the current paralysis. I also appreciate Habermas’ comment on the reactionary nature of anti-Americanism in Europe, and share his fear that the next US administration is likely to be inward-looking, to the detriment of all.