Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

August Books 7-10) Four books about Europe

7) Not Quite the Diplomat, by Chris Patten
8) Missed Chances, by Roy Denman
9) Rethinking Europe's Future, by David P. Calleo
10) Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century, by Mark Leonard

Four books by four people who I know, more or less, representing the takes of different decades - Leonard was born in 1974, Patten in 1944, Calleo in 1934 and Denman in 1924. Leonard and I move in similar parts of the epistemic community, and we last saw each other at a brainstorming session to which he invited me last month; I know his father, a former Labour MP for Romford in the 1970s, rather better as he lives in Belgium and we worked together briefly at CEPS. Patten was someone I had a great deal to do with, mostly indirectly, when he was in the post of European Commissioner for External Relations which is the main topic of his book; subsequently we had more direct dealings when he took over as the chair of the Board of my next employers, ICG. Calleo gave the keynote speech at a conference we both attended earlier this year, and we ended up having a long conversation in the course of the three-hour drive back to the airport down the coast of Maine at the end of the event. Denman died last year; I had met him a couple of times at social gatherings since I moved to Brussels, but I also knew his son at Cambridge.

Denman's book, alas, is the least useful of these. His over-arching theory does not go a lot further than "Britain got it wrong", which may be the sort of wake-up call that some need to hear from retired senior mandarins, but if (like me) you more or less take it as a political axiom it's not really news. A quarter of the book is dedicated to arguing the peculiar and questionable proposition that Britain should have stayed out of the second world war (because the Soviet Union would have beaten the Germans anyway). There are, however, some really good chapters near the end, when he gets to his own first-person observations of how British negotiations to join were handled in the 1960s and 1970s, and how rapidly the UK started to screw up its own effectiveness in EU institutions after the departure of the Europhile Heath as Prime Minister. The book was published in 1997, and is essentially a call to the incoming Labour government to play the EU game as it is meant to be played. I think that, ten years on, Denman would probably have given Blair a pass mark, but not a very high one; he would certainly have failed Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher and Heath.

Calleo's book, published in 2001, is strongly recommended for academics and wannabe academics - especially, I think, in Europe; his dispassionate analysis of how the EU got to where it was then, and what the options for its future development really are, are a welcome relief from the euphoria or despondency about it which I tend to be exposed to here. He provides massive amounts of citations for further reading, including extensive reference to himself (the book is an answer to his own 1964 Europe's Future, in which he claims to have forecast how it would all develop, and it wouldn't surprise me if that were true). In particular, I found myself very enlightened by his economic analysis, of how the dollar as a world currency has functioned as a system of indirect taxation by the US on everyone else, and how the single currency was in part a response to that. Calleo rather despairs of US attitudes to the rest of the world, and since 2001 his despair has rather increased (for the 2003 paperback edition he adds a post-9/11 postscript, but he is even more eloquent on the subject in person).

Patten's book is a joy to read, just as Patten himself is usually a joy to listen to. I said above that Europeans may get disproportionately more out of Calleo's book than Americans, Americans may well get a lot more out of Patten than Europeans. I may be wrong; part of the problem is that I know Patten well enough that I don't find any of the views he expresses here surprising, and in fact I already agree with most of them. He is more eloquent and specific than Denman on how the British Conservative government screwed up its relationship with Europe (though his assertion that this only really happened after he was kicked out of Parliament in 1992 is at variance with my memory, and with Denman's account). He is brilliant on the need for the EU to develop a sensible approach to the rest of the world, especially the rising powers of India and China, but also in its own neighbourhood, by integrating the Balkans and Turkey through the prospect of membership. He is also brilliant on the US - writing as a passionate admirer of the American project, but one who is deeply dismayed by the Rumsfeld/Cheney domination of foreign policy.

Leonard's book is half the length of the others. It is a positive polemic - an assertion that the EU model is not only stable and viable, but that it will prove infectious and beneficial to the rest of the world. He tackles the economics as well, arguing that the demographic crisis is much less grave than some fear, and that the euro will prove a magnet. He writes of the "Eurosphere", the European, Middles Eastern and African states which he believes will naturally look to the EU as their geopolitical centre of gravity, especially as US influence recedes. It's an attractive vision, the kind of thing I always chide Commission officials for failing to produce. One can quibble with the details (eg on Macedonia, where in one brief paragraph he doesn't quite get the sequence of events straight) but the overall thrust of the argument is attractive. Since writing the book, Leonard has been made the head of a new think-tank promoting precisely these ideas.

In summary, the Leonard book is strongly recommended for activists, Calleo for academics; Denman for completists; and Patten for everyone.
Tags: bookblog 2007, eu, history: us, uk politics
Subscribe

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 4 comments