Anthony Coughlan reviews The Great Deception: the secret history of the European Union, Continuum, London and New York; ISBN 0-8264-7105-6, £20 hbk (plus 10% for postage and packaging, from The June Press, PO Box 119, Totnes, Devon TQ9-7WA, England)
THIS IS the most important account of the development of the EU to have appeared in English.
In 450 pages it gives a mass of new information based on primary sources as well as the memoirs of key participants. The book shows the origins of "the project" in a small group of senior officials who worked in the League of Nations in the 1920s, the best known being the Frenchman Jean Monnet.
It shows how Monnet strove to keep Britain out of the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community, from which the EEC, EC and EU developed, because of inevitable British antipathy to its supranationalism.
The authors show how the US government supported European integration from the beginning as an economic underpinning to NATO during the Cold War. The CIA funded the European Movement in its early years. President Kennedy pushed prime minister Harold Macmillan into applying to join the EEC after the 1956 Suez Crisis.
One of the book's most original contributions is to show that French president Charles De Gaulle's vetoing of Britain's membership of the EEC in the 1960s was not primarily out of concern that Britain would be too pro-American, although this was a consideration, but because he was anxious to ensure that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would be financed in a manner beneficial to France.
Once that was achieved it became in France's interest to have Britain join the EEC to help finance the CAP and provide a market for France's food surpluses.
The aim of the strategists of integration from the beginning was to establish a supranational form of government for Europe, able to overrule its nation states, through which French power,and later German power, could be projected once again on the larger European and world stage in a manner that was not possible any longer for these once imperial countries individually, following their experience of defeat,conquest and occupation in World War II.
The book chronicles Britain's repeated attempts to prise France and Germany apart, or else to be accepted as their equal in a triumvirate -- attempts that have ended in failure to the present moment.
The ‘great deception’ of the book's title lay in the manner in which the political and economic elites behind the project succeeded in persuading the citizens of the countries involved that what they were up to was not really political at all, but rather a matter of trade, markets, jobs and living standards.
As the project now stands on the eve of its greatest triumph, establishing a constitution for an EU state, it could also be its moment of greatest weakness, for this decades-long deception cannot possibly continue.
Democracy always and inevitably reasserts itself and people everywhere are now beginning to ask: Do we really want this EU state, and how have we got to this stage, with our national democracy and political independence so fundamentally eroded, without our scarcely noticing it?
In answering these questions, which are the most important confronting Europeans today, they will find no better guide than this book.
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Copyright © 2004 Anthony Coughlan