is the EU worth saving?


One day in early April, I passed a bizarre series of advertisements in my local London tube station. At first sight, they appeared to contrast two identical plastic-wrapped chickens, one of them profusely labelled with health warnings. They were, it turned out, political ads designed to increase turnout for the European Union parliamentary elections in June, which the EU is billing as the biggest transnational ballot in history. It seemed the most inspiring message the organization could muster was that it had enabled us to know exactly what was in our chickens. Later that month, in Strasbourg, I watched Barack Obama address a crowd of well-behaved teenagers. He apologized for the often patronizing tone adopted by his country toward Europe, and rebuked Europeans for their anti-Americanism. He also told them about his desire to see a world without nuclear weapons. “C’est le président du monde,” a small girl said, and she wasn’t exaggerating. I couldn’t help but compare Barack and Michelle’s expansive style with the pursed-lip, pinched presence of our own leaders at the NATO summit taking place that week. In so many material aspects, especially its commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, Europe was failing to deliver. Who would speak for Europe, I asked myself. Not Italy’s grotesque Silvio, caught on camera incurring the Queen’s displeasure after attempting to attract Obama’s attention. Not the diminutive Hello! magazine president from France, with his beaky pop singer wife, nor the former chemist from eastern Germany, nor indeed our own rumpled-suited, frenzied über-geek of a prime minister.

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