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May 2002 Journal

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Europe – a superstate?

France is bucking the European trend towards middle-of-the-road or centre-right administrations by having a socialist government outflanked on the left by disparate Marxists, who poll as many votes as the Lib Dems once did over here. Unsurprisingly, this ultra-left is mirrored by an extreme right, through, happily, Le Pen no longer exerts his former pull.

Across the Rhine, France has a near-ally in Germany, whose government pursues similar policies. In internal affairs, the Germans oppose the liberalisation of labour laws à la Berlusconi, and abroad they jib at toeing the US line à la Blair. The Bundesrepubik is, however, unique in having Greens – weaned off their Luddite convictions and unworldly pacifism – in the socialist-led government.

Italy is the odd one out among the continental Big Three. The media tycoon Berlusconi is pushing it so radically towards a laissez-faire economy that he has triggered a recrudescence of Red Brigade terrorism. Abroad, Berlusconi has put his head above the parapet by unambiguously asserting the superiority of Western over Islamic values. He is able to do this because Italians tend to be pro-American, whereas in France fierce Americophobia unites Gaullists and gauchists. Italy and France share Romance languages, Catholic culture and European consciousness. Where they differ is that (non-Marxist) Italians feel indebted to America for having accepted so many economic migrants from their country; in contrast, the French intelligentsia keep sounding the alarm about the creeping Americanisation of la belle France.

Lastly, what of Britain? Here we have a left-leaning, yet simultaneously pro-enterprise, PM trying to reconcile Capital and Labour. While this may be difficult, it is in foreign affairs that Mr Blair is really setting out to square the circle. He is attempting to lead a public even more suspicious of America than it had been of Europe into an open-ended alliance with the USA. Meanwhile, the Atlantic shrinks, but the Channel grows wider.
Richard Grunberger

previous article:A debt disavowed
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