Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Curious Photo


Bernard Girard comments wittily and perspicaciously on the photo above. I would note one additional point. Some weeks ago a leak from the Elysée revealed that Hollande's staff was worried that in photographs of the president, his tie was never straight. Apparently, some modifications were made to the presidential wardrobe, involving a device to fix his tie to his shirt in such a way that he would appear somewhat less askew. Alas, the device seems to have failed him.

But the real point of this photo, as Bernard notes, is the descent into bathos, from tragedy to farce: the Kohl-Mitterrand handholding commemorated the consummation of the EU as the culmination of a generation's effort to ensure that "never again" would war and genocide darken the history of Europe. A generation later, however, and Europe is once again in grave crisis, if not yet close to war and genocide then at least close enough to the conditions that made intra-European conflict and ethnic hatred thinkable that one cannot help feeling that the feigned insouciance of this staged photo op stands as a warning of the failure of European leadership to recognize, let alone grapple with, what is at stake in Europe's institutional maladjustment.

Football or Rugby?

David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain's EU membership within five years if he is reelected. Although he will give British euroskeptics their say, he will campaign wholeheartedly for continued UK membership but on somewhat altered terms.

The European action was predictably negative. Laurent Fabius, who has evidently been honing his wit for the occasion, came out with this remark for the ages:
“You cannot do Europe à la carte,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France. “Imagine the E.U. was a soccer club: once you’ve joined up and you’re in this club, you can’t then say you want to play rugby.”
No, but you can change the rules of soccer, and the rules of European membership have been continually and some would say surreptitiously modified over the entire history of the Union. Indeed, rules-changing has been the EU's sine qua non. But then again, what polity has endured for any length of time without adapting its rules for any number of reasons, some good, some bad.

Cameron's move should intensify the Eurodebate that has been raging for several years now. The next year promises to be a fascinating time for Eurowatchers.

UPDATE: Kathleen McNamara sees Cameron's proposal as a "non-starter" but also takes it for granted that the tighter political integration without which the EU cannot in her view survive is in fact achievable. German voters may now be as euroskeptic as UK voters, as German elections this fall will likely show. Cameron may just be the advance guard of a movement whose strength and transcontinental variety have yet to be gauged.

Jean Sarkozy, Professor of Law

Jean Sarkozy, the former president's son, failed his second-year law school exams twice, but he has now been chosen to teach a course in corporate law. To be sure, his fortunes as a student improved over the years, and his experience at EPAD may come in handy:
Après avoir redoublé deux fois sa deuxième année de droit, il est sorti major de promo à sa licence, en septembre 2011, 7 ans après avoir eu son bac. Entre temps, il a failli diriger l'Epad, l'organisme chargé de l'aménagement de La Défense, mais a dû reculer face à la polémique.

Shahin Vallee Reviews the Euro Crisis

Vallee's account of the crisis as a consequence of flaws in the Maastricht architecture designed by Jacques Delors is a useful overview for observers of the euro crisis. Although he adds nothing new to numerous similar retrospectives, his statement of the case is brisk and concise. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, of his embryonic recommendations for overcoming the problems of the euro. Here his recipes are not concise but vague and at times hyperbolic. What is one to make of a statement like this, for instance:

For the Economic and Monetary Union today, one could consider the recent mutual insurance tools and the associated mutualisation as forming the basis of a proto-budget. Formalising this would require integrating the sum of ad hoc mutualisation instruments into a new compact that would lay the foundation of Europe’s fiscal federalism.
This is tantamount to suggesting that something like the Constitution of the United States might have evolved from the rules and regulations of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Not only is the mechanism of such an evolution unspecified, but the very idea of it seems to conclude, in true technocratic fashion, that the problem of a constitution is technical rather than political. There is a category error here, not just a lack of specificity.