Why EU adds up for Ire­land

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - 60 YEARS OF EUROPEAN UNITY - Prof Der­mot Keogh Pro­fes­sor of His­tory and Euro­pean In­te­gra­tion, UCC ■ Der­mot Keogh, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of His­tory, and Emer­i­tus Jean Mon­net Pro­fes­sor of Euro­pean In­te­gra­tion Stud­ies

Prof Der­mot Keogh looks at how Ir­ish third level stud­ies have en­joyed huge de­vel­op­ment and strate­gic in­vest­ment since join­ing Europe in 1973.

May 9 was named Europe Day as it com­mem­o­rates the his­toric dec­la­ra­tion by French for­eign min­is­ter, Robert Schu­man in 1950, propos­ing the estab­lish­ment of a High Au­thor­ity over French and Ger­man coal and steel pro­duc­tion — the tra­di­tional sinews of war.

Per­sua­sive ar­gu­ments for a Euro­pean Coal and Steel Com­mu­nity (ECSC) had been sent to him on May 4, 1950, five days be­fore, by another ar­chi­tect of Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion, the French civil ser­vant, Jean Mon­net, who wrote: “Wher­ever we look in the present world sit­u­a­tion we see noth­ing but dead­lock. … From such a sit­u­a­tion, there is only one way of es­cape, con­crete, res­o­lute ac­tion on a lim­ited but de­ci­sive point, bring­ing about on this point a fun­da­men­tal change, and grad­u­ally mod­i­fy­ing the very terms of all the prob­lems.”

Both the Mon­net mem­o­ran­dum and the Schu­man dec­la­ra­tion were ex­am­ples of the rad­i­cal think­ing that led, not with­out dif­fi­culty or in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion, to the sign­ing of the Treaty of Rome, on March 25, 1957, and the emer­gence of the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity (EEC) of the orig­i­nal six [France, Ger­many, Italy and the three Benelux coun­tries], and the nine in 1973 [adding Ire­land, Great Bri­tain and Den­mark] and Greece, Spain and Por­tu­gal in the 1980s and to 28 mem­bers in 2013 [ see the ‘Time­line’ panel, be­low].

Soon, per­haps, to be 27 with the re­gret­table de­par­ture of the United King­dom.

The process of EU en­large­ment, in­clud­ing the re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­may, has in­te­grated for­mer dic­ta­tor­ships, like Greece, Spain and Italy, and the com­mand economies of lib­er­ated Eastern bloc coun­tries, into a demo­cratic com­mu­nity which is in­tent upon deep­en­ing in­te­gra­tion still fur­ther. The dis­rup­tion due to the lat­ter phases of en­large­ment was min­i­mal on the func­tion­ing of the EU and the im­pact of mem­ber­ship on coun­tries for­merly un­der Soviet con­trol has been pos­i­tive and pro­found, re­plac­ing au­thor­i­tar­ian rule with democ­racy.

To­day, on Europe Day, 60 years af­ter the singing of the Treaty of Rome, the Ir­ish have much to cel­e­brate. As a cit­i­zen of the union, I can live, work and study in any of the mem­ber states. There, my fun­da­men­tal rights are re­spected and my con­sti­tu­tional en­ti­tle­ments guar­an­teed. I don’t need a visa to travel to mem­ber states and there I can, in most cases, use a com­mon cur­rency.

More­over, I can fly at an af­ford­able cost, thanks to the work of Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions which broke the in­ter­na­tional air­line car­tel that held cit­i­zens to ran­som charg­ing out­landish prices and forc­ing pas­sen­gers to stay a Satur­day night to qual­ify for a cheaper fair. The cre­ation of an EU so­ci­ety with open bor­ders — and the free move­ment of goods, cap­i­tal and labour — is the work mainly of a post­war po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship with vi­sion.

Grow­ing up as I did in the 1950s, I wit­nessed a coun­try dy­ing be­fore my very eyes. There was an an­nual haem­or­rhage of em­i­gra­tion to Bri­tain which of­ten in­cluded my fam­ily mem­bers and friends. Ire­land had ex­panded its po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence, declar­ing it­self a repub­lic in 1949, but the eco­nomic re­al­ity was very dif­fer­ent. By the mid-1950s its econ­omy was in a dire state and ques­tions were raised about the sus­tain­abil­ity of the Ir­ish na­tion-state. Its largely ru­ral econ­omy re­mained a provider of cheap labour (in the form of em­i­gra­tion) and un­pro­cessed goods (pre­dom­i­nantly live cat­tle) to the ur­ban-in­dus­trial Bri­tish mar­ket. Lon­don’s cheap food im­port pol­icy was a struc­tural con­straint. Dublin’s fis­cal and mon­e­tary poli­cies were largely a re- flec­tion of the Bri­tish model and mores, and the direct link­age of its cur­rency to ster­ling lim­ited flex­i­bil­ity.

Ir­ish in­dus­trial pro­tec­tion­ism had failed mis­er­ably by what­ever yard­stick one chooses to mea­sure it in the post-war world. By the mid-1950s it seemed as if the Ir­ish na­tional project was on the line un­less eco­nomic growth could be de­liv­ered and at this point the Bri­tish mar­ket no longer seemed to be a safe for the fu­ture as its eco­nomic growth was slug­gish rel­a­tive to the dra­matic growth rates achieved by the mem­bers of the EEC, pro­pelled by a buoy­ant West Ger­many econ­omy. While the EEC Six en­joyed an “eco­nomic mir­a­cle”, Ire­land as­phyx­i­ated be­hind a pro­tec­tion­ist eco­nomic wall.

In the early 1960s, the taoiseach, Seán Le­mass, ad­vised by Dr Ken Whi­taker, ap­plied to join the EEC but failed to do so when the Bri­tish ap­pli­ca­tion was blocked in early 1963 by Charles de Gaulle. Ir­ish mem­ber­ship of the EEC, which came in 1973, ac­com­plished another phase in the coun­try’s strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence. Para­dox­i­cally, through in­ter­de­pen­dence, this coun­try surged for­ward in the 1970s — in spite of the con­flict in North­ern Ire­land — re­duc­ing its de­pen­dence on Bri­tish mar­kets by rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing Ir­ish agri­cul­ture and de­vel­op­ing an agribusiness with ac­cess to a large con­ti­nen­tal mar­ket. Mem­ber­ship obliged a re­luc­tant Ir­ish state to in­tro­duce equal pay for women. The civil ser­vice was in­ter­na­tion­alised through the new de­mands of work­ing within the EEC. Ire­land, led by the min­is­ter for for­eign af­fairs, Gar­ret FitzGer­ald, played a role in de­vel­op­ing com­mon for­eign pol­icy po­si­tions on in­ter­na­tional ques­tions. Most of all, mem­ber­ship changed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ire­land and the UK. Both coun­tries, now equal mem­bers of the EEC, had to abide by com­mu­nity norms.

Per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance

At a per­sonal level, mem­ber­ship of the EEC holds a great sig­nif­i­cance for me. It pro­vided an ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity I would not have had in Ire­land. I re­ceived a doc­toral schol­ar­ship to the Euro­pean Uni­ver­sity In­sti­tute when it opened in 1976.

Later, teach­ing at UCC, I saw the trans­for­ma­tive power of the Eras­mus/Socrates pro­grammes, fund­ing the mo­bil­ity of tens of thou­sands of stu­dents to cross from one mem­ber state to study in another and to have their work cred­ited in their home uni­ver­sity. There were EU fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for transna­tional re­search con­sor­tia at third level which gave suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of Ir­ish stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to com­plete doc­tor­ates and post-doc­toral re­search.

I wit­nessed the lin­guis­tic rev­o­lu­tion in Ir­ish univer­si­ties — where the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween stu­dents from dif­fer­ent coun­tries helped to im­prove lan­guage com­pe­tences and in­tro­duce stu­dents to new lan­guages other than the nar­row range be­ing taught tra­di­tion­ally at third level in Ire­land.

Legacy of peace

Just how far the Euro­pean con­ti­nent has de­vel­oped since the end of the Sec­ond World War in 1945 may be lost on the cit­i­zens of a union, many of whom have come to take so much for granted. Does this spring from an ig­no­rance of a con­tested past in Europe? Au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, en­demic in Euro­pean cul­ture, needs to be com­bat­ted in ev­ery gen­er­a­tion. Knowl­edge of the con­ti­nent’s his­tory will help suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions to con­tinue to de­feat and con­tain the se­duc­tive voices of rad­i­cal pop­ulism.

Trag­i­cally, the UK will leave the EU. The Bri­tish prime min­is­ter, Theresa May’s let­ter that started her coun­try’s for­mal with­drawal re­flects the poverty of English na­tion­al­ism. She wrote that the referendum “was a vote to re­store, as we see it, our na­tional self-de­ter­mi­na­tion”. Scot­land did not vote to leave. North­ern Ire­land did not vote to leave. Ob­jec­tively speak­ing, where was there a loss of Bri­tish self-de­ter­mi­na­tion over 40 years of mem­ber­ship?

The EU will be weaker as a con­se­quence of Bri­tain leav­ing. But a Bri­tain out­side the EU will yet con­found the rhetoric of the Brexit lobby by leav­ing the coun­try much weaker eco­nom­i­cally and car­ry­ing less clout in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Un­ques­tion­ably, Ire­land faces a hope­fully man­age­able night­mare in an un­char­tered con­text of Brexit. How­ever, the de­par­ture of the Bri­tish may be of far less con­se­quence to the EU if Pres­i­dent Trump lives up to his cam­paign rhetoric and in­tro­duces an era of U.S. mer­can­til­ism, and a for­eign pol­icy iso­la­tion­ism which could yet have a se­ri­ous im­pact on Wash­ing­ton’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to re­gional de­fence pacts around the world, Nato in the case of Europe.

Jean Mon­net wrote in May 1950, as quoted above: “Wher­ever we look in the present world sit­u­a­tion we see noth­ing but dead­lock.” What­ever the fu­ture, Ire­land’s na­tional in­ter­ests and the pros­per­ity of its cit­i­zens will con­tinue to be best pro­tected through on­go­ing ac­tive mem­ber­ship of the EU.

Photo: Gary O’ Neill

Dr Jimmy Mur­phy and Katie Lynch, both of the Beau­fort In­sti­tute, UCC, in 2013 with then Re­search & In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Sean Sher­lock, dis­cussing their LeanWind project, a €15m Hori­zon 2020-funded ini­tia­tive to re­duce costs for off­shore wind farm...

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