know one’s onions, Slang. to know one’s subject or business thoroughly; be capable or proficient.
The summit kicks off today. Because we live in the here and now, it has the aura of a Summit of Summits. Pictures of “launch or bust” scenarios are being painted all over the press. Britain and Poland have slipped into the tempoprary clothes of the nasty villainous killjoys while Merkel’s Germany dresses up as the mediator intent on ensuring progress. Sarkozy’s first summit is the summit that has been dubbed as one that will probably end in a travesty of democracy when with a not so vigorous mouth to mouth, the leaders of the 27 decide to revive a Constitution which had a residue of a heartbeat but without resorting to such useless shenanigans as referenda.
Obviously the subject needs much much more elaboration. Needless to say the summit will close under a shower of large ambitious headlines screaming “Failure”, “Travesty” and probably “Deceit”. The 27 will have met and will have negotiated what shape of the EU best suits their countries’ varied interests. The result of this egotistical exercise will be slammed as another conspiracy from Brussels to achieve hegemony over nation states. For that is the irony of the EU. Firstly that it works and is progressing notwithstanding all the criticism. The results are there to see from the common market to the rights and freedoms that were not half as strong some fifteen years back. Secondly that no matter how much people complain about the complex current formula that combines dozes of supranationalism (obtained mainly thanks to the ECJ – remember Van Gend?) with heavy balances of intergovernmentalism it is and will remain the way forward until one of three things happen. Either we have a series of popular revolutions (hopefully peaceful) that dethrone governments from London to Ljubljana and replace the whole system with a federal government based on regions. Or there is the most improbable scenario of freezing the EU as is without allowing any further development or transitions between the IG and the SN areas. And finally we could see a very remote possibility that either through internal stress within one member state or as a result of a huge crisis in a third country pressure is such that one by one, and over a short period of time, the Member States of the Union are forced to leave.
Or we could just go on as the EU has since the Rome Treaty in the eighties. The Europe of fits and starts. The Europe of the successes of Maastricht and Amsterdam and EMU and the Europe of the failures of Nice and the Constitution. Leaders will come and go, ideas of how to go about shaping Europe will change. One thing J’accuse is ready to bet on is that we have been together for 50 years and we’ve still got a long long way to go.