Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tony Judt as Nostradamus

One of the wisest commentators on post-war Europe, Tony Judt, passed last summer, and his piercing analysis is missed as Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Herman van Rompuy, Jose Manuel Barroso, Mario Draghi and others struggle to prevent the Eurozone from falling apart while credit ratings agencies and Tory backbenchers sharpen their knives and Barack Obama breaks a sweat. But a short book by Mr. Judt has reappeared on the bookshelves of Brussels. A Grand Illusion? is a Euro-pessimist essay based on lectures given in spring 1995 at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins University's Bologna Center. Judt appreciates the EU's accomplishment but doesn't see "Europe" expanding on equal terms or defeating nationalism. While the integration of Poland and other eastern states has been far more successful than Judt predicts, he's got plenty of salient points, and the book is well worth a read. To be honest, very little seems out of date. For example:

"The recently touted German idea of a small inner core of European states moving at full speed toward integration and setting demanding macro-economic criteria for membership in their club is merely the latest evidence that the future of Europe will be on German terms or not at all. It is unlikely that Italy, Spain, or even Britain will ever qualify for such an exclusive club, and even more absurd to envisage Poland or Slovakia doing so. Actually, no one except Luxembourg really qualifies according to the criteria set out in various position papers from the Christian Democrats, but to make the idea even semi-plausibly 'European,' Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have to be in, rules or no rules."

And that's your probable core of a new two-speed or three-speed or four-speed EU, with the possible additions of Austria, Finland, and top pupil Estonia... and just maybe, in a few years, Padania.

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