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  • A Confused and Contrived Celebrity in Strasbourg

    President Obama’s tele-prompted speech to thousands of hand picked town hall guests at a sports stadium in Strasbourg was received with the customary rock star greeting that the President and the stylish First Lady have grown used to by now in Europe. Throngs of students applauded rapturously when President Obama talked passionately about the urgent crisis of climate change, and the ‘moral shame’ of Guantanamo bay. Less enthusiastic were they for his message about the essentialness of winning in Afghanistan, which perhaps explains why he spent such little time on the topic. Even though he fluffed his lines reading France’s political motto “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality,” the crowd forgave the young and charismatic president this minor faux pas.

    However, it is the President’s unfettered enthusiasm for the European Union which is most confusing. President Obama was effusive in his praise for European integration, and more than once alluded to the EU as a symbol of European unity. He referenced the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament as an example of European achievement; he even told Europeans that an EU defense identity was a good thing!

    On all of these things, he is profoundly wrong. Firstly, the treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Lisbon have all, at one time or another, been rejected in free and fair referenda – but pushed through by the EU regardless of the law. It is patently obvious that the process of EU integration lacks both credibility and legitimacy among the publics of Europe. European integration is an elite driven, undemocratic project perpetuated by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.

    Secondly, the Strasbourg Parliament is one of Europe’s largest money wasting projects, which is a pretty difficult category to top. The European Parliament’s official seat is based in Brussels, but the entire parliament travels 250 miles to Strasbourg one week per month in order to satisfy French vanity. It costs c. $270 million annually and tens of thousands of tons of CO2 emissions. It is akin to moving the entire Congress (including Congressmen, aides, advisors, administrators, reports, papers and office supplies) from Washington D.C. to Raleigh, NC once per month.

    However, it is his enthusiasm for an EU military identity, separate to NATO, which is most confusing. At a time when defense resources are becoming scarcer and competition for them fiercer, it makes no sense to create a duplicate, Europe-only military alliance on the Continent. The militarization of the European Union embodies the worst elements of European animosity toward the United States and has created uncertainty about the primacy of NATO in European security affairs.

    When President Obama attends the NATO summit tonight and tomorrow, he must be far more clear-headed about the transatlantic alliance. He must defend the supremacy of NATO in European security affairs and he must challenge Continental Europe to take the mission in Afghanistan seriously. Finally, when he moves onto Prague to meet with EU leaders after the NATO Summit, he must view the European Union not through rose-colored spectacles but through the eyes of the 450 million European citizens who want a European Union of free-trading, free-moving peoples and not a monolithic political entity foistered upon them.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to A Confused and Contrived Celebrity in Strasbourg

    1. Emmanuel, Strasbourg says:

      Your comment about the European Parliament is totally misplaced, and demonstrates a total misunderstanding about the EU – quite contrary to President Obama, who has been accurately briefed.

      Contrary to what you say, the official seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg, pursuant to EU treaties, which provide that

      "The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg."

      So, if anything, it is the Brussels and Luxembourg situation which are abnormal, not the Strasbourg one. Can you imagine a Parliament working part-time in a city 350 kilometers away from its official seat, and having its Secretariat General in yet another city?

      Besides, it is unclear where your figure of 270 million dollars for the cost of this triple location is taken from, since there has never been any official and detailed EP figure of this costs. The same can be said about the "tons of CO2 emissions". The only study I read about that was published by the Green Party in the European Parliament. It commissionned a study which didn't even consider the CO2 emissions of the Brussels buildings, and concentrated on Strasbourg.

      I think you're just pandering to the pro-Brussels lobby, whithout having ever done your bit of investigative journalism whatsoever.

      To finish with this, I don't see here any trace of French selfishness. As President Obama very rightly pointed out, Strasbourg is a symbol of European reconciliation and peace. It served as a beacon for most ex-soviet countries after they gained independance, before joining the EU. It is where Europe's division really started (Strasbourg Oaths, in the year 842 (but how can you know that: the US didn't even exist)) and where it ended in 1949 with the creation of the Council of Europe, in a city where had 5 different nationalities between 1870 and 1945. It makes the whole national pride issue very far-fetched: people here are more concerned about the fate of the whole continent than about French grandeur…

    2. Sally McNamara Sally McNamara says:

      Sir: I think that it is the first time in my life I have ever been described as part of the pro-Brussels lobby

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