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

Europe In Turmoil
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] With great pomp and fanfare, last week in Rome twenty-five European heads of government signed the European Union’s first constitution. It was a magnificent ceremony atop a hill that had once been the center of the Roman empire. Rome had been selected because it had been the heart of Europe’s last effort at unity two thousand years ago. Emissaries came in those days from far and wide bringing tribute to the Roman emperor.

In last week’s event, dignitaries then gathered in a room inside a palatial city hall and museum complex on Capitaline Hill. Under the watchful gaze of Julius Caesar in marble, speakers hailed the historic event. “It’s a story of friends and their partnership,” the Prime Minister of the Netherlands declared.

To those unfamiliar with current European politics, it might seem as if a new super power was emerging across the Atlantic to challenge the United States for world leadership. Personally, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that possibility.

Having just returned from a visit to France, I can testify first hand that this great show of accord and harmony is but a fig leaf to conceal deep fissures. Internal dissention within member states, as well as bitter differences between nations based in part on historic hostilities and rivalries, which have been festering beneath the surface, can be expected to erupt.

To begin with, there is the question of whether the constitution will ever become effective. Ratification by each EU member is now required. The corollary is that it is left to each nation to decide on the process for that ratification within their countries.

At least ten members have indicated that they will hold referendums on the document. In many of them, including France, Britain, Denmark and Poland, public opposition is widespread. As one British commentator expressed it, “we’re not about to cede our prerogatives to a bunch of cone headed bureaucrats in Brussels.”

Most important, unanimity is required. If even one EU member does not approve the document, it fails.

Then there is the question of how strong in fact will the entity be which emerges even if the constitution is approved. As a result of compromises required to get this far, the EU President will have no executive powers. Those remain with national leaders. Moreover, individual members can opt out of foreign policy decisions. Suppose New York, California and Illinois had opted out of the war in Iraq. How would the United States have launched or conducted that war?

Large sections of the economies in all European countries are hurting. Increasingly, those suffering the misery are blaming, whether justifiably or not, the EU for their problems. This is true across the board from British ferry boat operators to French farmers, to German steel producers.

Then there is a question of human rights issues and cultural differences. Two weeks ago, when the candidate for a top EU portfolio, offered views on women’s issues that were considered far to the right of the mainstream in most countries and announced that homosexuality was a sin, a great wave of protest was unleashed.

Traveling around America, I am always struck by the enormous similarities among regions, although there are to be sure differences. In Europe, my perception is the opposite. These differences will be a source for disagreement in the political process.

Finally, there is the whole Muslim Christian issue. Europe is basically a Christian continent. No question about it. Hostility between Christians and Muslims within individual countries is on the rise as the brutal slaying of Theo Van Gogh on an Amsterdam street on November 2nd demonstrates. Now Muslims are perceived as trying to force their way into the club via Turkey’s application for membership. In places where terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists has had an impact, the population is not in the mood to deal generously with a Muslim nation which has a huge population by European standards.

As all of these issues have emerged, the popularity of the EU in most nations has plunged. Heads of government are alarmed by the grumbling they are hearing among their countrymen. Never forget the lesson of Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations. The treaty he approved crashed on the rocks of America separatism.

The “cone headed bureaucrats” are preparing to strike back. The EU is launching a huge public relations campaign to gain widespread acceptance. It’s hard to imagine that those hurting economically will be swayed by television ads hailing the rise of the new Europe.

Those dreaming for the days when Rome was the center of the world are about to get a dose of reality. All roads may one day again lead to Rome, but not quite yet.