The unpublished book “Europe: Community or Empire?” written by Franck Biancheri in 1992 (edited by Editions Anticipolis -12/2017) is an unparalleled historical work. In this book, which was never published during his lifetime, Franck Biancheri poses the drifts of the European system, including those contained in the new Maastricht Treaty, which lead to the great temptation of the empire “Europe”. Franck Biancheri writes:
Two great symbolic figures will embody the two alternatives for Europe: that of the Community or that of the Empire. The Community represents a continuation of the innovative experiment initiated by the Western Europeans after the Second World War, an attempt to overcome the oppositions among Nation-states through peaceful means. The Empire represents the classic drift of any political entity on the path to power. Should it have been the dictatorship of one man or a group over the others, this drift has always taken the form of bureaucracy and centralisation, ultimately leading to collapse.
In 1992, as Franck Biancheri recalls, Europe and the Europeans live a historical space-time. For him: “The collapse of communism marks the European Community’s entry into history as an actor and no longer as a spectator” and condemns “each of us as an individual, parent (or potential parent) of children whose century will be the 21st, responsible citizen, simply an “honest man” or “gentleman”, (is condemned) to be an actor and not just a spectator in order to try to influence the choice.“
The question we can honestly ask ourselves today is what did we do with this choice? Have we remained mere spectators on the benches of history? Re-reading Franck Biancheri’s anticipations makes it possible to understand the causes of failure and to build the next Europe on a better understood lesson.
Introduction – The Community at a Crossroads
The European citizen can only be born out of the conjunction of three factors:
- the will of the national citizens responsible for becoming responsible European citizens (themselves and their own children);
- the will of institutions and leaders to stimulate the development of a civil society;
- their ability to organise themselves so that their wishes become reality; that is to say, to master the development and implementation of new community policies
III. Community or empire: up to the European citizen to choose!
The Community can indeed be conceived as the implementation of an innovative political model, brilliantly invented, albeit by chance, thirty-five years ago. A model of the European democratic tradition and of the awareness of the absurdity of the exaltation (or negation) of differences which have led us to two tragic conflicts.
A new political entity whose aim is to create unity in order to preserve diversity, the Community has since succeeded in overcoming these two seemingly antinomic concepts through the use and improvement of the democratic practice of our various people. As a laboriously implemented utopia, it tries to understand what are the dreams of each of its components to try to invent itself as a collective project able to enable the adhesion of all. A utopia which has returned from ideologies, and prides itself – wise precaution – on being able to carry measurable progress on the scale of a human life and defines itself as a process, a path, rather than an ideal city. Or else, it may sink into the ruts of history and be the “murdered Mozart” of 21st century politics. Then, unconsciously, it will be enough for it to get rid of the concept and name of Community (reference to its innovative origin) in order to put on the classic clothes of the “power-union” or “united states“. It will amalgamate diversities, the way men have been doing for thousands of years, and will wear the ceremonial garments of the Empire. It will become that fantasy of a centre (whether an individual or a group) who tries to impose its dream of power and glory on a periphery whose diversity is perceived as being at constant peril, threatening by nature the dream of the mighty hegemon.
These two great paths, the Community or the Empire, are now before us. The decisive choices will be those of the 1990s. The collapse of communism marks the European Community’s entry into history as an actor and no longer as a spectator. The European elections in 1999, which will have taken place almost at the same time (within 2 or 3 years) with the successful extension (or not) of the same Community to almost the entire European continent (ex-USSR not included), will constitute the first elections of a Community with broad powers in vital areas. They will undoubtedly mark the last stage of this “decade of all choices”, a transition from childhood to adulthood.It is surprising that I do not see myself discussing the possibility of a return to the free play of nation-states as one of the possible paths of the future. However, it is a favourite “spectre” of the pro-Europeans. If I do not refer to it as a possible future, it is simply because it has no longer been a credible one for five to ten years at least.
The reasons for this are simple:
- The degree of interdependence between our states has become so strong that there is an enormous willingness to go back and the current Community system is flexible enough to adapt to many “particularities”;
- In a democracy, this can only arise from a majority rejection, especially in at least two large Member States at the same time. What could be the cause? The only conceivable reason would be an imperial drift of the Community which would become too burdensome or exclude certain peoples from its decision-making. This would inevitably lead some of its members to a violent rejection. We see here that the main cause of a return to free playing States would be the attempt to follow the imperial path. This brings us back to the two original possibilities we described…
One can note the exceptional importance of the stakes involved in these two paths of the future: the Community and the Empire.
Each of us as an individual, parent (or potential parent) of children whose century will be the 21st, responsible citizen, simply an “honest man” or “gentleman”, is condemned to be an actor and not just a spectator in order to try to influence the choice. The two paths represent two diametrically opposed futures, obviously.
Excerpt from the book “Europe: Community or Empire: Elements of reflection and principles of action for future European citizens” by Franck Biancheri, 1992 – to order at Editions Anticipolis -12/2017 – or on our SHOP