Thursday, 31 July 2014

The European Union: forever rising

The election of Jean-Claude Junker on 15 July 2014 as president of the European Commission represents a very important moment in the long rise of an unified Europe. With this event the EU has effectively become a parliamentary democracy, not too dissimilar from Germany. It signals the beginning of a new phase of unification and integration. With Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi,  we can expect that this integration will eventually lead to the formation of the United States of Europe. I discuss the implications of Junker's election as well as the long-term prospects for the EU. I also discuss the eschatological implications.

It is said that the best way to hide something is to place it where nobody can miss it. So often something important happens and most people do not even take notice. Something like that has just happened - some major news channels did not even report on it! A new parliamentary democracy has arrived on the world scene. A new giant has been born. The EU has just elected its first leader. Although there are still a lot of denial, and most commentators have not yet understood or at least spelled out the full implications of this event, a new day has arrived in the long march towards a truly unified union in Europe.

The election of Jean-Claude Junker as president of the European Commission may seem to be just another day in the EU where so many things happen all the time. In fact, it is not. It signals a dramatic shift in power in the framework of the EU away from the European states to the European Parliament. After a long process which took decades to accomplish, the EU has eventually become a parliamentary democracy - not too different from Germany, for example. And this is not the end of the road; it signals the beginning of a new phase in the unification and integration of the European Union.

The resilience of the European project

Doomsayers have often forecasted the decline or end of the European project. I remember the time when the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union as well as the Euro, was signed in 1992. In the period before that treaty was agreed, the Anglo-American media often said that the European project would not succeed and that it was just a matter of time before it becomes derailed. After the treaty was signed they went ballistic. It was a step too far, too soon, they said. For months they moaned and groaned.

When the economic crisis of 2008-12 stroke, there were again many voices - especially in the Anglo-American media - who predicted that the EU or Eurozone would break up or at least that it would become a declining power. And again, these academics and commentators have been shown wrong. Instead, the crisis provided the impulse for further integration and both the Fiscal Compact (2012) and the Banking Union, which was recently agreed, was the direct outcome of that crisis. Although the British leader strongly resisted both the Fiscal Compact and Junker's election, the rest of the union (with the exception of the Czech Republic) proceeded in the face of this fierce opposition with these steps towards an "ever-closer" union.

Although the EU has reached a certain limit on the road to the stated goal of "an ever closer union" with the Treaty of Lisbon (signed in 2007), it has at the same time started with a new phase towards further integration. That treaty, which increased the power of the European Parliament and created the posts of President of the European Council as well as High Representative for the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also signaled the end of the road for Britain. The long process which started with the signing of the Treaty of Rome 1958 had come to its climax. It would not be possible to take all the EU countries further on the road to more integration. But that treaty also contained the seed for a new phase in the unification of Europe.

Junker's election

After the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon the center of power in the EU was still firmly in the hands of the European Council, comprised of all the leaders of the states in the EU. This means that the countries which belong to the EU were to a large extent in control of the processes involving the EU. Although they had to involve the European Parliament in discussions about most issues, they could make the important decisions. Especially, they could decide who the leader of the European Commission would be. The commission introduces most of the initiatives in the union as well as drafts for laws to the European Parliament. Now, this has changed.

In the run-up to the last European election, some leaders in the European Parliament introduced the idea of "lead candidates" ("Spitzenkandidaten"). Each party nominated a "lead candidate" to lead them in the election campaign, with a general agreement that the candidate of the party who won the election would become president of the commission. This is also how the German parliamentary system operates. Although the EU treaties do not say anything in this regard, there is also no reason why it could not be done - as long as most countries went along with it. Junker was nominated as the candidate for the European People's Party (EPP) to which the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (the Christian Democratic Union) also belongs. When that party got the most votes in the election, Junker effectively became the first choice for President of the European Commission (if he could win the necessary majorities in the European Council and the European Parliament).

Although the European Council was at first reluctant to accept the outcome of the Spitzenkandidaten process, pressure from all over Europe (and especially from within Germany) swayed them to nominate Junker on 27 June as candidate (for the first time a vote was necessary in this regard; Britain was outvoted) - which effectively means that they had given up on their right to nominate that leader. In future the choice of the people of Europe, who elect not only the various parties to the European Parliament, but also the candidates for the post of President of the European Commission, will decide this. The EU will therefore in future have an elected President of the European Commission who is elected in exactly the same manner than the German Chancellor. The only other requirement would be that such a candidate must have a ruling majority in parliament. Junker managed that also: on 15 July he was elected by a large majority in the European Parliament to become the next president of the commission.

An important shift in power has happened in the EU. The leaders of the countries which comprise the European Council have lost their powerful hold over the European Commission. In future the president of the commission would not serve their interests per se, but rather that of parliament. Although Junker presented his program for the next few years to the council, he also held meetings with all the parties in the European Parliament to convince them that he would take their interests into consideration. He is therefore especially responsible to parliament. If he looses his majority in parliament, he would also loose his job.

Although the European Council suggests candidates for the various posts on the commission, the final decision must be negotiated with the president-elect of the commission. These candidates must also appear at hearings of parliament who decides if they are suitable candidates. Since the commission is henceforth responsible to the European Parliament (via their president) and the laws which the commission proposes are negotiated in close consultation with parliament, the MEC's (Members of the European Parliament) would probably gain the upper hand in this process. Although the parliament does not initiate laws on their own as in other parliamentary systems, they have gained effective control over this process.

We can therefore say that the EU has become a parliamentary democracy where parliament elects the president of the commission and is directly involved in the whole process of law-making. In future, the President of the European Commission will effectively be a "prime minister", the commission will operate as the executive arm (i.e. like a cabinet), the European Council will operate very much like an Upper House or Senate whereas the European Parliament is effectively the Lower House of Parliament.

As elected president of the commission Junker would have more power than the various leaders of the EU, even the German Councillor, since he is duly elected to that post! Whereas they are elected merely in their respective countries, the president has been elected by all the peoples of the EU. Junker himself is a very experienced politician, who was the prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995-2013 and headed the Euro-group from 2005-2013. He has both the authority (being elected) and the experience to stand up to the leaders of the EU countries. With him the EU would become a coherent and powerful force on the world stage.

The future of Europe

When the leaders of the EU agreed to nominate Junker as president of the commission, they also accepted that some countries, like Great Britain, would not participate in any further integration. They agreed that the expression "ever closer union" in the EU treaties allows for different paths of integration for different countries. Countries like Britain who do not want deeper integration, therefore do not have to participate in any further integration, but can also not stop other EU countries from pursuing such a path. This means that the future EU would incorporate various levels of integration, with Britain (if she stays in the union) at the lowest level.

In his acceptance speech in parliament, Junker spelled out what he has in mind for his term at the helm. He accentuated that further integration would take place in the framework of the Eurozone. He said that the countries which share the euro must have their own budget and be "represented by one single chair, one single office". We can therefore expect that a single post for Eurozone affairs would be established - maybe even in the next few years. He praised those European leaders who in the past played an important role over a dynamic period of EU integration, namely Jacques Delors, Francois Mitterand, and Helmut Kohl - the commission president, and the French and German leaders, respectively. On the other hand, Junker has previously mentioned that he is willing to renegotiate Britain's position in the EU. So, while the Eurozone would begin another process of integration, some countries in the EU, like Britain, would become even less integrated. This will eventually lead to different zones of integration in the EU.

In my opinion this new phase, which has started with the election of Junker, will eventually lead to the United States of Europe. The Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, who is one of the leading lights in the EU after his good performance in the last EU elections and who just took over the rotating presidency of the EU, presented his vision for Europe in his State of the Nation speech in May 2014. He called courageous leaders to work towards an United States of Europe: "For my children’s future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe". He appealed to EU leaders to show "not in the cold language of technocracy, that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to solve the problems of our time.”

The formation of a true United States of Europe would take many years to construct. The period from the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1958 to the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon took more than 50 years. We can expect this new phase, which effectively started with Junker's election (since the European Parliament will now start playing a more dominant role), to also take many years to complete. But eventually some countries in the Eurozone will also, just like Britain now, reach the limit of their willingness to surrender more power to Brussels.

I foresee that eventually there would be a third phase in European unification and integration. This is the phase when the United States of Europe would become an empire. In this regard Europe would proceed in the same manner than Britain and the US (and many others before them) who first became unified entities (Scotland joining England in the union of Great Britain; the northern and southern states joining after the Civil War) and then became empires (who would dispute that the US is effectively an empire although they do not always show the same enthusiasm to project power?). Until now the EU only projected soft power. I believe that the new phase that has just began would require the EU to also develop a hard component in its power projection. Countries like Germany would slowly but steadily leave behind their reluctance to engage military. In the empire phase, this projection of hard power - in an ever more unstable world - would become dominant.

One can expect that the empire phase would start in the same way than the current phase, namely with a change in the leadership structure of the united states in Europe. Although Junker's election provides the EU effectively with a prime minister, this role falls far short of the power that the presidents of France or the USA, for example, has. They do not only have control over the day to day affairs of their countries (this role is often assigned to a prime minister who stands under the authority of the president); they also have effective control over foreign and military affairs. In my opinion the United States of Europe would also eventually appoints (or elects) such a leader, be it an executive president, king or even emperor. We should not forget that Europe has an unique history in this regard going back to the Roman Empire. It is possible that future generations would see themselves as the heirs to that empire.

Which countries would proceed along this road? These would be the countries that are the most willing to relinquish sovereignty. These countries would be those who are willing to join their economies and eventually join forces politically. In this regard we can take the countries who are willing to introduce a financial transaction tax (FTT) as barometer. They want to introduce a tax which is supra-national and would create a European tax-base. This is one of the most important characteristics of sovereign states: they can tax their citizens. On 6 May 2014, ten out of the initial eleven participating member states (all except Slovenia) agreed to seek a "progressive" tax on equities and "some derivatives" by 1 January 2016. They aim for a final agreement later in 2014.

Eschatological implications

Christians have been expecting for many centuries that the Roman Empire would be reborn at the end of days. They interpret the prophecies in the Biblical books of Daniel and Revelation in this manner (see [1] for the different views). Although we are definitely not even close to that happening, it seems that the developments in the EU are slowly but steadily moving in that direction. There can be no doubt that Junker's election is a very important step along that path. If my interpretation is correct, we have just entered a totally new phase in the unification and integration of the EU which can lead to the formation of the United States of Europe in accordance with many pronunciations in this regard (Renzi is not the only EU leader talking like that) and eventually to an European empire.

At this stage those who are skeptical about the eschatological dimension could argue that it is a mere coincidence that Europe is rising again. This can be the case. Over time the picture would become clearer. The prophecies referred to give particular details - and we can watch out for the time when those things start happening [1]. These details include the appearance of ten leaders/countries at the helm of a re-established Roman Empire (i.e. the ten "horns/toes" of the prophecy) as well as the Antichrist who will appear in the period directly before the second coming of Jesus Christ. Although many antichrists have appeared in the past, it seems that the prophecy speaks of a particular person who will appear right at the end of days. I do not think that the appointment or election of a president (or king or emperor) to lead a  future United States of Europe would be the Antichrist, but I do think that the growth of that empire could eventually lead to the point where such a leader appear.

The problem for our generation is that these things lay in the distant future and it is unlikely that we would live to see it happening. The type of evidence that could possibly sway the skeptic would therefore not be forthcoming in the near future. The success of the unification of the EU, in spite of great resistance and against all odds (i.e. contra many predictions in that regard by learned academics and commentators), are, however, a good reason to be open-minded and to not dismiss this possibility out of hand. The fact that so many other countries have followed exactly the same path to become empires (in the last few centuries: Britain, the US), with the difference that Europe has a great history in this regard, seems to suggest that the EU could very well also proceed along that path. If we take the Roman history of Europe into account, it seems quire possible that future generations could take inspiration from that. They could eventually view themselves as the descendents of that great and mighty leaders (Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar etc.). All of this seems to suggest that we have good reason to think that this interpretation of the prophecies is correct and that they will eventually be fulfilled in this manner [2].

Conclusion

The election of Jean-Claude Junker as President of the European Commission is a very important moment along the way towards an "ever closer union". Although it might seem to be just another event among many others happening in the EU, it is in fact a water-shed moment. Power has shifted from the leaders of the EU states to the European Parliament. The EU has effectively become an elected parliamentary state. This introduces a new phase in the integration and unification of the EU which will probably lead to an United States of Europe. Although many doomsayers have predicted the end of the union or the Eurozone as we know it, I have consistently said over the past three decades that we will see exactly the opposite, namely that the EU will become stronger and stronger (based on my interpretation of the prophecies). This is exactly what has happened until now.

I have divided the long road towards full unification into three phases. The first phase resulted in the formation of the EU with a powerful European Parliament, a President of the European Council as well as a High Representative for the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The second phase, which started with Junker's election, would lead to the formation of an United States of Europe. The last phase would lead to the rise of an European empire, which could view itself as heir to the Roman Empire. It is within this context that the Biblical prophecies regarding a re-established Roman Empire may go into fulfillment. Although this would clearly take many years to happen, it seems that we have good reason to think that it would eventually come to pass.

[1] The rise of the final world empire: the different views
[2] Bible prophecy: predicting the distant future?

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud (Ref. wmcloud.blogspot.com)



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