This Sceptical Isle

Did you ever get the impression that there’s an unspoken pact between fervent supporters of the European Union and its fiercest opponents? The term most commonly used by the fervent supporters is Pro-European, a term that conflates general support for the institutions with a solidarity with European people. The logical corollary to this is that not to support the institutions is to be anti-European. But since the European Union hasn’t established sufficient allegiance from its peoples, to refer to people as anti-European is inflammatory, since people can easily dismiss the logic used because they can see to what ends it is used: in the service of a particular conception of Europe that is coterminous with a particular set of European institutions.

To refer to people instead as ‘Eurosceptics’ is a magnificent means of marshalling support for European institutions without appearing to do so. It says, yes, these people haven’t been convinced yet, but there’s nothing wrong with scepticism: why, scepticism is a venerable philosophical tradition and we’re all Enlightened beings around here! By the same token, people who oppose the European Union on nationalistic grounds may willingly adopt the term for themselves on precisely the same grounds. As in, ‘It’s not that I want to establish Herrenvolk democracy in my own neck of the words and expel as many immigrants as I can, it’s just that I’m of a sceptical disposition on all these grands projets!’

Now, most people immediately and publicly identifiable as ‘Eurosceptics’ are nothing of the sort. They tend to have deeply held convictions that the European Union is evil, and they often wear underwear with prints of their national flag. But by referring to anyone critical of the direction taken by the European Union as occupying the ‘Eurosceptic’ camp, ‘Pro-Europeans’ are able to imply that to offer any trenchant criticism of the European Union is to be not the full Schilling, whilst simultaneously giving the outward appearance that they have unstinting respect for the critic’s powers of reasoning. In that way, the most fervent ‘Pro-Europeans’ need the looney ‘Eurosceptics’ (the reverse is also true, but less interesting) which is one of the reasons why they are popping up quite a lot in the ‘Pro-European’ media in recent days.

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1 Response to “This Sceptical Isle”


  1. 1 Melvin O'Gabe June 21, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Sceptical or not. Vote YES or NO at http://www.FreeEurope.info. The only vote online site about the EU, what I know.


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