Jonah Golderg (of cheese-eating surrender monkey and liberal fascism fame) is no fan of Europe (Switzerland, excepted). Today, he frets that, if Obama is allowed to continue with his big gubmint ways, the world is likely to stop having new ideas.
Europe, he argues, is only able to keep afloat because it is propped up by US innovation:
America invents a lot of stuff. When was the last time you used a Portuguese electronic device? How often does Europe come out with a breakthrough drug? Not often, and when they do, it’s usually because companies like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline increasingly conduct their research here. Indeed, the top five U.S. hospitals conduct more clinical trials than all the hospitals in any other single country combined. We nearly monopolize the Nobel Prize in medicine, and we create stuff at a rate Europe hasn’t seen since da Vinci was in his workshop.
If America truly Europeanized, where would the innovations come from?
Comparing rates of innovation between nations is no easy task, but the Economist Intelligence Unit produces an index – the last of which came out in April 2009. Here’s the top twenty, with the Europeans appearing to hold their own:
1. Japan. 2. Switzerland. 3. Finland. 4. United States. 5. Sweden. 6. Germany. 7. Taiwan. 8. Netherlands. 9. Israel. 10. Denmark. 11. South Korea. 12. Austria. 13. France. 14. Canada. 15. Belgium. 16. Singapore. 17. Norway. 18. United Kingdom. 19. Ireland. 20. Australia.
Such evidence, I fear, is unlikely to sway Goldberg. He prints, approvingly, an email from a reader which supports his thesis as follows:
I think that everything we need to know about the state of innovation in Europe is supplied by the search list results and the fact that the fifth-highest listing is this: Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages.
QED, say I.
The collapse or at least the decline of intra-EU political cooperation, facilitated by the corrosion of trust inherent in the EU financial crisis, inevitably will affect the common foreign and security policy. It may well affect and permanently hurt the continued quest for an “ever-closer union.”
If so, the United States and its European friends who believe in popular sovereignty, limited government and Atlanticism can only rejoice. The EU may be weaker, but the West as a whole will be stronger.
In today’s FT, William Hague underlines (again) that a new Conservative government will see the European Union as a platform for achieving progress on global issues.
With David Miliband’s enthusiasm for a G3, we’re left with robust cross-party consensus on Europe’s role as a foreign policy actor (whether it can fulfil this role is another matter).
I’m reminded of how Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary, Bernard Ingham reacted when asked, shortly after the new Tory government took office, to write a report on how the government could build public support for the European Community.
According to Robert Harris, Ingam wrote that:
A community of 250 million could achieve more than a ‘debilitated nation of 55 million, however much the latter may trade on past imperial glory‘.
Government publicity should stress this, ‘with all the instruments of the orchestra, not only central Government, reading the same score, playing the same tune and coming in on cue.’
True in 1980. Even more so thirty years’ later.
(Photo from Iain Dale.)
It’s taken as a given here in the UK that Brits wield little influence in Europe. But apparently – not. According to the Guardian, an FCO-led coup is under way:
Germany is planning to stop what it sees as a British campaign to dominate European foreign policy-making under Lady Catherine Ashton, the Guardian can disclose.
Amid growing criticism across the EU of the performance of Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the EU’s new high representative for foreign and security policy, Berlin and Paris are alarmed at the prominence of British officials in the new EU diplomatic service being formed under Ashton.
A confidential German foreign ministry document analysing the creation of the EU’s new diplomatic service, seen by the Guardian, has concluded that Britain has grabbed an “excessive” and “over-proportionate” role…
The French contend that the inexperienced Ashton is being schooled in policy-making by the Foreign Office. Diplomats and officials in Brussels also see Britain’s hand in one of Ashton’s first appointments, made last week. She named Vygaudas Ušackas, a former Lithuanian foreign minister and ambassador in London, as the EU’s special envoy to Afghanistan. He was widely seen as the UK’s favoured contender after Britain withdrew its own candidate because it secured the post of Nato envoy in Kabul.
The Germans are also increasingly unhappy at what they see as the erosion of their influence and being cut out of decision-taking.
…and things are turning nasty, according to the Economist’s Charlemagne:
To my surprise, a dominant mood in this final stretch is one of hostility towards the Swedish presidency and specifically, the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
If the briefing, which comes from several EU governments, were just sniping about incompetence, I would not be so surprised: every rotating presidency is criticised before every big summit, because everything always looks like a mess before every crunch meeting of the EU. It is only when summits are over and the results are known, that you can really judge the role played by its hosts.
No, what takes me aback is the level of “distrust” out there about Mr Reinfeldt, to use the word chosen by a senior figure from one EU country. There are veiled hints that he is using his role as chairman of the selection process in a way that is not wholly straightforward.
Specifically, there is grumbling about Mr Reinfeldt’s decision to seek a very short list of candidates to put to EU leaders at their emergency summit, consisting of one or two names who enjoy near consensus before discussions even start. The thing about this system, it is alleged, is that it gives Mr Reinfeldt extraordinary power over the process, because once a candidate attracts any opposition, that candidate can be chucked off the shortlist as “failing to create consensus”. The accusation from some camps is that candidates are being chucked off too quickly, when the opposition to them might not be as hard and fast as all that. Nobody is quite accusing Mr Reinfeldt of using this system to kick people off the shortlist who he himself does not favour, but they are coming pretty close.