‘ Verdun, Auschwitz and the future of Europe’ Annual Adam von Trott memorial lecture for 2008.By David MarquandDelivered in Mansfield College Chapel, Monday 3rd March 2008.I want to begin by asking you to accompany me on a mental journey to two of the most poignant sites of memory (lieux de mémoire) in Europe. The first is Verdun in North-East France, where in 1916 French forces halted a German onslaught in the most terrible battle ever fought on the European continent west of the old Soviet Union. According to Alistair Horne’s classic The Price of Glory Verdun was the longest battle in human history – twice as long as Stalingrad. The combined casualties of the French and Germans together reached the staggering total of more than 700,000. Killed or missing totalled more than 260,000. In the huge and forbidding ‘Ossuary’ on the site of the battle lie the remains of 150,000 unidentified dead. But, for me, the single most moving artefact in the Ossuary building is a picture of Helmut Kohl (then German Chancellor) and Francois Mitterrand (then President of France) holding hands, each carrying an immense wreath in his other hand and each facing the camera with an expression of profound grief. They were, of course, mourning the dead of both their countries and paying tribute to the astonishing courage of the troops engaged in the battle. But they were also doing something else. They were celebrating the greatest single achievement of the post-war European project – the reconciliation between France and Germany, whose rivalry had lain at the heart of the European civil war which devastated the continent twice in the space of less than thirty years, and had been a central theme of European history since the days of Louis XIV. The significance of this reconciliation for ‘Europe’, as idea and as fact, cannot be exaggerated. It lay at the heart of the project from the start; its achievement did more than any other single thing to produce the longest period of peace and prosperity in post-Roman European history – at least in the western half of the continent. And the method was as epoch-making as the achievement itself. The founding fathers were not trying to abolish national sovereignty in the way that the founding fathers of the US had abolished the sovereignty of the constituent states. They were trying to transcend it – an astounding political innovation whose intellectual and moral grandeur has never been fully appreciated in this country. They sought to integrate the two parties to the historic Franco-German conflict, together with their neighbours in Italy and the Low Countries, in a new, non-imperial, consensual version of the empire of Charlemagne, united by mutual agreement instead of force and governed through a process of negotiation and power-sharing. Miraculously, they succeeded. The autarchic tariff barriers restricting trade between the six founding member states came down more quickly than anyone expected. A common agricultural policy and a common external tariff were soon in place. Integration faltered in the 1970s, but the 1980s and 1990s saw faster forward movement than before. A European Monetary System (EMS) was set up in 1978 to create a zone of currency stability in Europe. The Single European Act of 1986 abolished national vetoes over a wide range of policy fields. A renewed push towards a genuinely single market, involving the free movement of goods, capital and labour throughout the Community territory, then followed. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 set the seal on these achievements – symbolically by transforming the ‘Community’ into a ‘Union’ and practically by agreeing a path towards full monetary union complete with a single currency and central Bank. The ‘Euro’ was successfully launched in 2002. Today, it is a safer and stronger store of value than the US Dollar. The EU is not a federal state, but it is far more than a loose Confederation of the sort that preceded the creation of the United States. It is more integrated than the US was at an equivalent stage in American history. (There are no slave states in the EU!)  The expansion of the Union’s territory is even more astonishing. The Carolingian Europe of the Six became nine in 1973, with the accession of Britain, Denmark and Ireland. By the early eighties Greece, Spain and Portugal had brought the total to twelve. Now the EU has twenty-seven member states. Its frontiers extend from the Blasket islands off the west coast of Ireland to the Byelorussian border. Its population totals more than 500 million and its combined GDP $13.06 trillion. It is easily the largest trading bloc in the world. The continent is more united now than it was in Roman days; a humdrum process of peaceful negotiation and compromise has done what all Napoleon’s armies failed to do. I worked in the European Commission for a short time in the 1970s. If I had forecast that the next thirty years would see progress on the scale we have actually experienced, I would have been thought insane. At this point I invite you to accompany me on the second leg of my mental journey, this time to Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland. It is a grim and horrifying place. The piles of human hair, artificial limbs and shoes leave an indelible impression. But for me, at least, the sheer, vast expanse of Auschwitz-Birkenau – around 340 acres – was more horrifying than anything else. Auschwitz is, of course, a symbol of the Holocaust, about which there is a mountain of scholarly literature and over which there are endless debates. I cannot claim to have studied the literature, and I can’t contribute to the debates. What matters, for my purposes, is that the Auschwitz death camp was there; that the Holocaust took place – and that it was a, perhaps the, central reality of European history in the twentieth century. Six million Europeans were deliberately and systematically killed, in a process of industrialised mass murder, in the name of ethnic and racial purity, and of the associated belief that a pitiless, never-ending struggle for supremacy between rival races was the motor of history. There have been plenty of other evils in European history, but none of them equalled the Holocaust in horror.  But the nature of the horror is often misunderstood. The ‘anti-semitism’ that led to the Holocaust was quite different from the age-old Judaeophobia that went back to the  middle ages. The latter was a special case of xenophobia – of fear of and hatred for ‘others’. It was given extra ferocity by the fact that, in an age when it was taken for granted that morality, the social order and religious belief were interdependent the presence of non-Christians in the midst of Christian societies was peculiarly unsettling. But it had nothing to do with ethnic or racial purity. Europe was a patchwork quilt of overlapping jurisdictions – the Church, the Empire, a mosaic of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, cities, bishoprics and so on, all jumbled up. It was, by definition, multi-ethnic and also multi-cultural. Despite continuous discrimination and bouts of brutal persecution the Jews were part of that jumble.‘Anti-semitism’ is different. It is the ugly, irredeemably evil face of the nineteenth-century liberal belief in the right of ethnically defined ‘nations’ or ‘peoples’ to self-determination, embodied in the Versailles settlement. This point cannot be stressed too strongly. Modern anti-semitism was not a reversion to medieval primitivism. It was the ugly side of a particular derivative of the Enlightenment and a particular conception of modernity – the product of a witches’ brew of perverted ethnic nationalism  and perverted social Darwinism. The people it mobilised were not all lumpen thugs. Among them were highly educated, highly civilised scientists, doctors, lawyers and philosophers. For the Jews, like the Roma, were too dispersed to count as a ‘nation’ – and they had no territory of their own to support a claim to self-determination. Once the discourse of ethnic nationalism and ethnic self-determination took hold, the Jews were ipso facto anomalous, strangers at the feast. This fact was not bound to lead to the peculiarly evil version of anti-semitism espoused by the Nazis, but the connection was close. The Holocaust was the ultimate horror to which the notion of ethnic purity and of the nation-state as the embodiment of ethnic purity had led. It would be a mistake to see the European project as a direct response to the Holocaust. When it started the Holocaust was the elephant in the European room to which no one – not even the victims – wished to draw attention. The fact remains that a crucial object of the European project was to transcend, not just national sovereignty, but ethnic nationalism as such: to enable different ethnicities to live side by side in peace. Jean Monnet summed up his vision in the motto he chose for his memoirs: ‘nous ne coalisons pas les etats, nous unissons les hommes’. Echoing Monnet, the Rome Treaty declared that the purpose of the exercise was to achieve the ‘ever closer union’ of the peoples of Europe. In this union, the French would still be French, the Germans German and the Italians Italian, but they would also share a common European identity, reflecting common European values and a common European civilisation. For Europe was more than a geographical expression. It was also an idea – or, if you prefer, an ideal. Here too the project was astonishingly successful. It affected individuals as much as economies. The free movement of goods, capital and labour is part of the texture of European life. Polish lorries now thunder down the French A6 on the way to Spain; Slovenian lorries pass through the Channel Tunnel on their way to the North of England. 1.2 million students have taken part in the EU’s Erasmus programme for student exchanges. The total population of the Eurozone is more than 320 million. You can travel from Barcelona to Berlin, or from Calabria to Calais using the same currency wherever you go. 500,000 Poles and around 300,000 French people work in Britain. 500,000 Britons own houses in Spain and 600,000 in France. (It is not for nothing that the area around Calais is sometimes known as ‘south Kent’!) Thanks to skilful and energetic participation in the European project, Ireland has escaped from the resented shadow of the United Kingdom, and is now a ‘Celtic tiger’ with a higher per capita GDP than ours. Portugal has transformed herself from a poverty-stricken backwater, and entered the mainstream of European life. The effect on Germany has been even more striking. Old notions of historically determined German exceptionalism – of a German Sonderweg or special path, embodying uniquely German values, and quintessentially undemocratic or even anti-democratic – have perished. Thanks to Germany’s integration into a partially supra-national Europe, committed to pluralist democracy and the rule of law, the demons of her past have been laid to rest – the single most important achievement in Europe’s post-war history. At a meeting I was once privileged to attend in Berlin, Marion von Dönhoff – one of the shining lights of post-war German democracy – drew an analogy between modern Germany and eighteenth-century Sweden.  For a century and a half, she pointed out, Sweden had been the terror of northern Europe. Then, quite suddenly, the Swedes had turned their backs on that chapter in their history. This, she thought, had now happened in Germany. It couldn’t have happened if there had been no European project with which Germans could identify. But there is a worm in the bud. Everywhere there are signs of a potentially fatal disconnect dividing the peoples of Europe from the European elites. One obvious example is the turn-out in elections to the European Parliament. Turn-out has been declining steadily since the first EP elections in 1979 – from almost 65 per cent in 1979, to just under 50 per cent in 1999 and to 45 per cent in the most recent EP elections in 2004. Yet, by an extraordinary paradox, the EP has been gaining power while electoral participation has fallen. A more ominous example is the rejection of the so-called Constitutional Treaty – backed by all the member governments, remember – in the French and Dutch referendums of 2005. The  French result was a particularly cruel blow. For more than 50 years France had been at the forefront of the integration process. Now, it seemed, the French people had spurned their own leaders’ proudest achievement. Last year the EU governments agreed a ‘European Reform Treaty’, not very different from the Constitutional Treaty that the French and Dutch electorates rejected. But the new Treaty has been carefully designed to present as narrow a front as possible to Eurosceptic opposition, and it is clear that the governments are desperately anxious to avoid a searching debate on its implications. Behind all this looms the spectre of renascent ethnic nationalisms, echoing the nationalisms of the interwar period and mocking the founding fathers’ hopes. The spectre is particularly noticeable in some (though by no means all) of the former Communist countries of East/Central Europe. Ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia are the most telling example. But renascent nationalism is not confined to the European periphery. It is also a growing factor in some of the member states of the pre-enlargement Union. The United Kingdom is a striking case in point. Britain joined the European Community under a Conservative Government. Until the late-1980s the Conservative Party was more ‘European’ than Labour. But since Margaret Thatcher’s final phase as Prime Minister an increasingly clamant ‘Euro-scepticism’ has become a central theme of Conservative rhetoric. One reason is that the party leadership is terrified of losing votes to UKIP, which won 16 per cent of the total UK vote in the last elections to the European Parliament. Though Labour is less Eurosceptic than the Conservatives, it has effectively abandoned all hope of taking Britain into the Euro, for fear of the electoral consequences and the mystic powers of the Murdoch press. Denmark has always been somewhat ‘Euro-sceptic’, partly because Germany has been the ‘other’ for Danish nationalists. Of the ‘big’ countries of the enlarged EU, Italy and Germany are the least Euro-sceptic, but Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – the main Centre-Right party – is a lot less ‘communautaire’ than the Christian Democrats were when they were the main Centre-Right party. France and the Netherlands are hard to read, but a far Right, essentially nationalist upsurge has plainly taken place in both countries, contributing hugely to the ‘No’ majorities in the 2005 referendums. And the far Right is not confined to France and the Netherlands. Among others, the Northern League in Italy; the Freedom Party in Austria; the Flemish Bloc in Belgium; and the People’s Party in Denmark all come from the same stable. These are minorities, but quite sizeable ones in some cases. Throughout the continent there is a big pool of resentment – of the ultra-rich; of unemployment and insecurity; of the left intelligentsia; of the political class; of the EU itself; and most of all of immigrants – which far Right parties tap. Resentment extends beyond the frontiers of the far Right. The French vote in the Constitutional Treaty referendum was, in large part, a non-ideological backlash against headlong enlargement imposed from the top down, without any popular mandate. Probably, the same was true of the Netherlands. Hubris among the elites invited nemesis at the hands of the peoples.Behind these discontents lies the forgotten detritus of early triumphs. The neo-Carolingian empire of the founders was swathed in ambiguities – necessary ambiguities, I believe, but still ambiguities. This was most obviously true of the fundamentals of ethnicity, culture and identity. The  west European nation-states which set up the Community were fairly (though only fairly) homogeneous ethnically. Belgium, with its two linguistic communities, was the only clear exception. But in the halcyon days when the European project was launched the differences between Flemings and Walloons seemed trivial. The result was that the European project was blind to ethnicity. Ethnicity was not respectable. At best, it was a hangover from an unenlightened past; at worst it carried overtones of the unspeakable evils of an all too recent one. The battered nation-states of western Europe were still reeling from the effects of defeat and occupation; no one wanted to waken sleeping ethnic dogs. It was enough that ethnically homogeneous nation states shared a common European identity. But no one defined the cultural and civilisational content of that identity. The founding fathers approached their task in the spirit of Gertrude Stein: Europe was Europe was Europe. They had to: here as elsewhere, ambiguity was the price of success. No one asked whether the borderlands of East/Central Europe were European in the same sense as the nations of western Europe. There was no point in asking: they were corralled behind the Iron Curtain. Equally, no one tried to define the common culture that made Europe more than a geographical expression. De Gaulle vetoed Britain’s first application to join the Community, ostensibly on the grounds that she was not properly European. But once he left the scene, his veto was lifted and nothing more was heard of his scepticism about Britain’s ‘Europeanness’. Later enlargements were conducted in a spirit of easy-going goodwill. Provided the applicant countries promised to accept the norms of pluralist democracy and the famous ‘acquis communitaire’ – the mass of Community rules which the existing member-states had negotiated between themselves – no one asked nasty questions. After the fall of the Berlin wall, the velvet revolutions in East/Central Europe and the implosion of the Soviet Union, easy-going goodwill gave way to triumphalist euphoria. As west Europeans saw it, the newly free nations of East/Central Europe were our little sisters, a bit bedraggled perhaps, but flesh of our flesh. They were as European as we were. They were morally entitled to EU membership. To exclude them would be treachery to the European ideal. And so enlargement to the east took place, at breakneck speed. No one paid much attention to the long-standing, often profound differences of culture and experience between the new members, or asked if they had laid their demons to rest in the way West Germans had done after the war. An equally necessary ambiguity enveloped the divisive questions of governance and territory. The European project was supposed to transcend national sovereignty. But how far and fast would transcendence go? And whose sovereignties would be transcended? There was a vague belief that at some stage in the future economic integration would lead, more or less automatically, to political union, on more or less federal lines. Walter Hallstein, the first President of the European Commission, certainly hoped so. But no one gave much thought to the way in which this would happen; and, in any case, once the chronically unstable Fourth Republic had given way to de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic, the French state had no intention of following the Hallstein path. But apart from the cryptic slogan of a ‘Europe des patries’ Gaullist France offered no alternative. By the same token, there was no agreed answer to the crucial question of where the boundaries of the new Community would lie. For some, the objective was to bring Franco-German rivalry to an end within the little Europe of the Six, and to leave matters there. Others dreamed of a wider Europe including Britain, Ireland and Britain’s Scandinavian associates. No one expected the Iberian peninsula to be admitted in the foreseeable future. Portugal and Spain both languished under authoritarian regimes. As for the Communist bloc, that was the ‘Other’ against which the democracies of western Europe were pitted. The third and most important ambiguity is the most difficult to describe. Running through the project was a curious ambivalence about politics. In transcending the nation state, the founding fathers were also seeking to transcend – or rather to escape from – the messy, vulgar, clamorous irrationality of political life. Their project was, of course, highly political. Monnet apart, they were themselves politicians. The bargaining and compromising that lay at the heart of the Community process were a form of politics. But it was the politics of the conference table and the couloir, not of the debating chamber or the election meeting. For a generation which had lived through Fascism and Nazism public politics, popular politics, were tinged with danger. A curious strain of technocratic rationalism, going back to the French utopian socialist, Henri de Saint Simon in the early nineteenth century, pointed in the same direction. It was deeply embedded in the traditions of the French state and part of the climate of the times almost everywhere. In the Community structure the politics of the couloir were embodied in the nationally rooted Council of Ministers, which took the decisions. The supra-national Commission, which made the proposals, embodied, in its own eyes at least, a supra-political technical rationality. The founding fathers made a pious nod in the direction of public politics, in the shape of the European Parliament. But the nod was not very convincing.Now the unanswered questions buried in the detritus of the early days have come back to haunt us. Three sets of such questions stand out. The first has to do with ethnicity and identity. The ethnic blindness of the early days is no longer feasible. Having been expelled through the door, ethnicity has returned through the window. A growing number of the apparently homogeneous member states of the Union have been challenged by the re-emergence of ‘buried’, in Marx’s language ‘historyless’ ethnicities, such as the Bretons, the Corsicans, the Basques, the Catalans, the Catholic community of Northern Ireland, the Welsh, the Scots and the Flemings. While Europe has been integrating, the nation-state has been fragmenting.  Where, if anywhere, do the renascent, pre-modern, but also post-modern ethnicities of Europe fit into the Union structure? For obvious reasons, the existing member states are desperately anxious to evade that question: Gordon Brown’s attempt to propagate a narrative of ‘Britishness’ is a case in point. But it is hard to square EU support for ethnic aspirations in Kosovo with indifference elsewhere. If Kosovo today, why not Scotland tomorrow? Far more problematic than that is the impact of immigration from the Third World, mostly from former European colonies – notably from Muslim ones. Here, ethnicity has raised its head in a peculiarly harsh and disorientating way – rendered even harsher and more disorientating by the American and British response to 9/11 the folly of the Iraq war. Currently, the Muslim population as proportion of total EU population is comparatively modest (though still significant). In 2003 Muslims constituted around 4.0 per cent of the total of EU 15; and 3.5 per cent of EU 25. But the proportion was much higher in certain EU countries. In France it was between  8 per cent and 9.6 per cent; in the Netherlands it was nearly 6.0 per cent. And, of course, the birth rate is much higher in Europe’s Muslim population than in the society at large. Despite its ‘republican’, ethnically blind ideal, Muslims in France are badly integrated, as the riots of November 2005 showed. But the non-republican United Kingdom has seen vicious riots too, to say nothing of home-grown Islamist suicide bombers.  Many American commentators imagine that what they call anti-semitism is on the rise in Europe. The truth is that a deep-seated and sometimes hysterical Islamophobia now poses a far greater danger to the culture of pluralist democracy than does anti-semitism or Judaeophobia. Islamophobia flourishes on the secular liberal left as well as on the Right. So-called Islamic ‘fundamentalism’ is frequently mirrored by an intolerant, self-righteous secular-liberal ‘fundamentalism’, as was shown in the affair of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed and the storm of fury that descended on the Archbishop of Canterbury after his tentative attempt to explore the possible role of Sharia law in multi-ethnic Britain. Perhaps this is not surprising. For centuries, Christendom’s ‘Other’ was Islam. Much of the Iberian peninsula was under Muslim rule from the eighth to the fifteenth century. The same was true of the Balkans from the fifteenth to the twentieth. It was not until the late seventeenth century that the advancing tide of Turkish conquest was finally turned back. Radical Islamic Jihadism has given Islamophobic stereotypes dating from those days a new lease of life. Misleading talk of ‘Islamo-fascism’ is an example.  Can European cultures accommodate Islam? Can Islamic traditions accommodate ‘European values’, whatever these may be? I think the answer to both questions is ‘yes’, but my view is far from universal. And my optimism presupposes fundamental changes of attitude and perception on both the European and the Islamic sides of the divide. Optimists will be whistling in the wind unless and until Europeans recognise the enormous Islamic contribution to European civilisation in past centuries. On a deeper and more controversial level, we shall also have to accept that the Islamic critique of hyper-individualism in the moral and cultural spheres has some merit: that there is a difference between liberty and licence; and that there are moral and psychological dangers in an ever-advancing secular instrumentalism. Equally, Muslims need to reinterpret their own tradition to make space for secular values. The second set of questions concerns governance and competence. Though the EU is not (or not yet) a federal state it has evolved in a federalist direction. But there is an important difference between its trajectory and those of ‘classic’ federations like the US.  ‘Classic’ federations start with ‘high politics’, and gradually extend to ‘low politics’. (In the US that happened during the New Deal.) The European project started with low politics, and many hoped it would sooner or later extend into high politics. But monetary union was the last big innovation in that mode. Now ‘high’ political questions are unmistakably on the table, notably over foreign and energy policy, in a highly embarrassing way. Henry Kissinger once famously asked, ‘if I want to talk to Europe, whom do I call?’ The question is even more pertinent now. As used to be said of Federal Germany, the EU is an economic giant, but a political pygmy – a paradox brutally illustrated by its humiliating performance during the Bosnian crisis of the 1990s and its even more humiliating divisions over the Iraq war. In the bi-polar world of the Cold War this hardly mattered. The member states of the then European Community all sheltered behind the capacious skirts of their super-power protector across the Atlantic. The situation in today’s fractured and increasingly multi-polar world is quite different. It can no longer be taken for granted that European and American interests converge. To take only one example, the Middle East is Europe’s near-abroad. Conflicts there – notably the running sore of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – impinge far more directly on Europe than they do on the US, and in a profoundly different way. That was one of the reasons why the heartland states of the EU opposed American policy towards Iraq. On a deeper level, European and American values also diverge. Though he infuriated European commentators by saying so, there was something in Robert Kagan’s notorious aphorism that Europeans were from Venus and Americans from Mars – though he would have done better to say that Europeans, having lived through two of the most terrible wars in human history, are post-Martian. If Europeans are to have any influence on the destinies of the conflict-ridden and increasingly multi-polar world of the twenty-first century – if their interests and values are to be defended and promoted in that world – the EU will have to be able to answer Kissinger’s question. It will have to find an answer very soon if it is to counter blackmail by an energy-rich and increasingly authoritarian Russia, or for that matter by some future American administration, seeking to play off Europeans against each other, in the way that Donald Rumsfeld did during the run-up to the Iraq war. And that means that it will have to make a quantum leap into the high-political sphere, and become more like a classical federation in doing so. The quantum leap is unlikely to happen quickly, but happen it must. It won’t happen without a profound public conversation focused on the simple, but deadly questions: Do Europeans wish to safeguard their interests and values in the already emerging multi-polar world of 2050, when China, India, perhaps Russia and perhaps Brazil will also be super-powers? Assuming they do, are they willing to make the necessary transfers of competence and authority from the national to the supra-national level?The third set of unanswered questions comes into the story at this point. It has to do with civilisation and territory. Assuming that ‘Europe’ is more than a geographical expression, what makes it so? What are the defining characteristics of European civilisation, the special, European values that give meaning to the notion of a European ideal? And how far does the Europe that shares these values, the Europe that is more than a geographical expression, extend? In Brussels and among influential Brussels-watchers, that question tends to evoke a resounding silence or a pitying smile. It seems slightly shocking or hopelessly naïve, in any case politically incorrect. The fashionable talk is very different. It is about Europe’s so-called ‘soft power’; about the allegedly transformational effects of EU membership, or even the mere prospect of EU membership, on new members or candidates for membership. Federalism, even quasi-federalism, is old-hat, passé, boring, so 1980s, my dear. Europe should not be seen as an incomplete nation, say Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck. Europe is a network, says Mark Leonard. It is a Commonwealth, says Timothy Garton-Ash. Its mission is to spread democracy and the rule of law to its ‘near-abroad’, by holding out the promise of membership in return for democratic reform and economic liberalisation. By implication, at least, its vocation is therefore never-ending enlargement, from one near-abroad to the next: today the East Balkans; tomorrow, the West Balkans; the day after tomorrow, Turkey; the day after that Ukraine; and, for the really wide-eyed, the day after Ukraine, Russia. What used to be called ‘deepening’ is for the birds; ‘widening’ is all. The rationale is that in our post-modern world, ‘soft power’ trumps ‘hard power’, or in more elevated language that Kant trumps Hobbes. I am sorry to tell you that I think this is dangerous nonsense. It purports to be a new theory, but like many purportedly new theories it is in fact hoary with age. It is a new version of universalist Enlightenment rationalism – of the quintessentially anti-political mentality of the latter-day St. Simonians I mentioned earlier. It assumes that everyone knows what democracy is, and agrees about its meaning: that democracy means the same thing in Tokyo as in Toronto, in Baghdad as in Birmingham. It also assumes that words on paper can change realities on the ground: that if a given Government signs up to democratic reform, open markets and the rule of law, they will come to pass. More dangerously still, it wishes away history, tradition, culture and difference. It forgets that the great Atlantic democracies – France, Britain and the United States – had to go through long and arduous struggles before their versions of democracy finally arrived. It assumes that enlightened EU emissaries can transplant democratic institutions and democratic practices into societies which have never known them. I don’t deny that there is an element of truth in the theory. It is certainly true that the European Community and later the European Union were magnets for successive near-abroads. Britain’s own membership of the EU is proof of that.  It is also true that slow, patient, culturally sensitive work on the ground can, over time, help to nurture democratic ‘habits of the heart’ in particular places and particular institutions where local people are receptive to them. But this has nothing to do with Kantian universalism or hubristic dreams of EU soft power. It is modest, bottom-up pluralism in action. So what is the European ideal? And where does Europe end? These are extraordinarily difficult questions. A proper answer would need a long book, perhaps a whole library. I can only offer two tentative thoughts. The first is this. The unofficial motto of the European Union is ‘unity in diversity’; and it is a good one. For the sake of our children or – in my case, grandchildren – we must become much more united than we are now. But we must also cherish our diversity. A comparison with the United States may help. What strikes European visitors to the United State most of all is its sameness. Of course, there are huge differences within it, but to European eyes, the way of life is extraordinarily uniform. The hallmark of European culture and civilisation, on the other hand is – precisely – diversity, a diversity that springs from deep and ancient roots, long ante-dating the modern state. The Welsh were Welsh long before they were British; the Burgundians were Burgundian long before they were French. With diversity goes pluralism. It is easy to confuse European pluralism with American individualism, but the two are different. The American Dream is one of individuals, striving for individual success, and making the most of their individual talents. The European ideal is one of groups, living together in harmony, negotiating their differences and nurturing their members. Of course, both Dream and ideal are repeatedly flouted in practice, but that does not lessen their power as cultural myths. They help to explain the subtle differences between American-style neo-liberalism and the more collectivist economic approaches of continental Europe. (Rhetorically, the UK is closer to the US than is the rest of the EU, but here, as in many other respects, the English Channel is, in reality, a good deal narrower than the Atlantic.) Much more importantly, European pluralism has nothing in common with the authoritarianism which has lain at the heart of the Russian tradition ever since the beginnings of the Russian state, and of which Soviet Communism was only one incarnation. Tsar Putin was not a reincarnation of Tsar Stalin or Tsar Nicholas, but he was still a Tsar. Medvedev may or may not become a Tsar, but if he doesn’t it will be because Tsar Putin is still around. This does not mean that Russia and the other European successor states of the Soviet Union will never be fertile soil for pluralism, but it does mean that they are most unlikely to become so in the foreseeable future. The same applies to that citadel of ethnical nationalism, post-Kemalist Turkey. Rather than rushing in to these near-abroads armed with high ideals and soft power, Europeans should remember the wise Latin motto: ‘festina lente’.  My second thought is more urgent. All the questions I have tried to explore are quintessentially political. They cannot be answered satisfactorily by bureaucrats, or technocrats, or think-tankers, or even Governments. Answers hammered out in the European village in Brussels – or, for that matter, in the Westminster village in London or the Elysée village in Paris – will have no legitimacy, and will not bite in the real world. The politics of the couloir and the St. Simonian myth of technical rationality have served Europe well, but their day is done. It is time for messy, vulgar, clamorous, sweaty, sometimes unreasonable, public politics. The great question now facing Europe, whether as idea or as fact, is not economic reform or Turkish or Ukrainian admission. It is how to bring the peoples into the European story: how to grow a European demos capable of sustaining European democracy.