[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

That’s The Trouble With Democracy
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] The recent European constitutional convention ended in failure. France and Germany tried to impose their will on the smaller countries. Despite a massive effort to bend the other European countries to their position on the issues of how many votes each country should have in the European Union, Italy Spain and Poland refused to budge. Now French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are trying a new strategy to bring matters back to where they want them to be.

Boldly, they are reaching out to Britain’s Tony Blair in a series of tripartite summits to forge a de facto alliance with Britain. Their concept seems to be that if they can forge a common front among the three European giants, they will be able to bring those pesky smaller countries into line.

It won’t work.

For starters, Blair prizes his ties to Washington too dearly to throw his lot in fully with Chirac and Schroeder. Even if he didn’t personally, he would face too much hostility at home. Let’s not forget that Britain, unlike every other European country, refused even to relinquish its currency in favor of the Euro. As Blair has demonstrated on his Iraqi position, he had no difficulty disagreeing with the Germans and French and supporting the Americans.

On a recent trip to London, a British businessman joked with me. “What Blair really wants is for Britain to become the fifty-first state.” That’s about as unlikely to happen as the French German concept of a European Union.

Even if Chirac and Schroeder manage to bring Blair around on certain key issues, they are unlikely to prevail on the smaller countries to accept consensus positions arrived at with Blair. Many of them are now wary because they see the more powerful Germany and France wanting to dominate all issues, including defense and foreign policy while following separate rules for themselves. This is what happened when these two giants decided to thumb their noses at EU rules on fiscal responsibility and avoided any sanctions for unduly high deficits.

The experience of the thirteen American colonies forging the United States contains some valuable lessons for Chirac and Schroeder if they took time off from wielding a sledgehammer and read history.

The hardest compromise came on the makeup of the Congress. That’s where the colonies had to yield sovereignty. It’s easy to conclude that the bicameral legislature with the differences between the Senate and the House were ingenious. At the same time, one has to recognize what a bitter pill it was for large states like Virginia and Massachusetts to swallow by giving the same number of senators to tiny Rhode Island and Delaware.

Ultimately, Adams, Jefferson and the other leaders from the large states showed a willingness to compromise. The French and Germans have shown none of that.

There was also the sense of common purpose among colonial leaders. A desire to forge “a more perfect union.” Idealism of that type is missing in Europe.

Finally, when the thirteen American colonies formed the United States, they were spurred on by a common enemy: England. There is nothing to get people together more effectively than a common enemy. The European countries as a whole don’t have that advantage. Some of the European leaders, particularly in France and Germany, do intensely dislike Bush and the United States. Many others clearly do not. Again, the French and Germans are out of sync.

There’s one the further complication.

Despite blustering, Chirac and Schroeder couldn’t control the other EU members when there were only fifteen. On May 1, the EU expands to twenty-five as countries from Eastern Europe join the club. This means ten more arms for Chirac and Schroeder to twist in order to get their way.

The basic dilemma France and Germany face is they want a powerful EU to offset the United States. So they have spearheaded the effort to incorporate the Eastern Europeans. But once they bring in other countries, they lose control.

Certainly, Italy, Spain and Poland, as well as others won’t be bullied by or dictated to by the Germans and the French. If Chirac and Schroeder really want a powerful EU, then the price they must be willing to pay is a loss of their control over decision making. That’s the trouble with democracy. The more powerful can’t tell the weaker how to vote.