Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Charles de Gaulle was wrong

At the outset I'd like to declare an interest: I don't like Charles de Gaulle. So it is with a certain happiness that we can mark one of his most famous speeches today by saying: he was wrong.  

On 23 November 1959, in a speech in Strasbourg, de Gaulle announced his vision for Europe:
Oui, c’est l’Europe, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural, c’est toute l’Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde. ("Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the destiny of the world.")
It is difficult where to start in taking this assertion apart. While the European federalists in Brussels have marched to this banner ever since, building a great self fulfilling bureaucracy and slowly sucking more and more power away from the member states, the world continues to move on.

Since 1959 the big events in history have been decided by the United States or the Soviet Union. The recent American hegemony, in place since the fall of the Soviet Union, is at an end so the destiny of the world will now be decided somewhere between Washington and Beijing. And that doesn't mean Brussels, despite what Baroness Ashton and her diplomatic corps would like you to believe.

The great European economic project is faltering. The Irish economy is in crisis with other eurozone countries also in dire straits. This at a time genuine tiger economies - not built on false promises and inflated by debt - see economic power shared around the world more freely than ever before. Economic growth is driven by Brazil, China again, India with other smaller economies helping out. It is only really those in Berlin, among the European capitals, who can look people in Sao Paolo, Beijing and Mumbai in the eye where sustainable economic growth is concerned.

De Gaulle had a mission to build entente between France and Germany, a noble goal after the carnage of WW1 and WW2, but also to work toward a federation of European nations. He thought that it was right for a Europe, existing for itself but impacting on how the entire world developed, to be as powerful as the true superpowers. That way Europe's destiny would be in its own hands, but Europe would also decide the destiny of the world.

He was wrong 51 years ago and he is still wrong today.   


  1. Well, if the US and Europe reduce or stop buying from India and China and Brazil they will go bust really quickly, well, except China which has a trillion dollars of paper sloshing around. In times of crisis buying does decrease, often markedly. So what will happen to these 'real' tiger economies?

  2. This is an embarassing article that shows a complete lack of knowledge about what Charles De Gaulle actually believed.

    De Gaulle was a committed anti-federalist, leading anti-commission forces in 1954 to defeat the proposals for a European Political Community and European Defence Community. As President he used the 'Empty Chair Crisis' to push through the Luxembourg Compromise which allowed countries to veto decisions taken by majority voting if it threatened a significant national interest.

    De Gaulle was not was not in favour of federalism, he was in favour of cooperation between soverign nation states. Anybody with an ounce of knowledge in this area would understand this.

  3. Will, I appreciate your comment. I admit I was wrong to be so free in my language and use 'federation of European nations' when talking about de Gaulle's view of the world. However, his words have been used as a banner to march behind for generations of European federalists.

    I hope you do agree that his assertion that 'Europe will decide the destiny of the world' was false and perhaps even agree with some of my reasons why.


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