Is the European Project Falsifiable?

The attacks in Paris have left EU-elites remarkably unwavered in their beliefs. Jean-Claude Juncker stated on Sunday that there was no need to change the EU’s immigration agenda, while Guy Verhofstadt argued for ‘a common anti-terrorism capacity’ and even ‘a European CIA’. This absence of self-doubt pairs with a call for ‘more Europe’ in the face of clear policy failure.

The closed thinking that underpins the European idea is something that I’ve encountered time and again in the dozens – if not hundreds – of EU-debates I’ve participated in over the past few years.

During those discussions, I’ve developed the habit of asking proponents of the European project what would have to happen for them to stop adhering to it. Is there anything that might cause them to doubt their belief in the merger of European countries? The question is inspired by Karl Popper, who saw in the ability to answer this question the ultimate proof of a rational, scientific approach. He called this principle falsifiability: those defending a position – for example that European integration is important and necessary – should be able to say what would have to happen for them to abandon it. If they are unable to do so, their convictions are not rational or scientific, but ideological or religious.

Popper introduced this question into the most important debate of his time and used it to expose Marxism. For it is impossible to falsify the view of history as a class struggle that will ultimately result in world revolution. It is a closed theory, based on a vision of the past (‘oppression’) and a vision of the future (‘revolution’), and nothing can possibly refute or prove it wrong. Marxism has an explanation for every possible event. If the workers revolt that is a confirmation of Marxist theory. If the workers do not revolt, then that is also a confirmation of Marxist theory, because failure to revolt is proof of their continued oppression. Whatever happens, we’re never to doubt Karl Marx’s prophecy.

The quasi-argumentation that currently justifies the European project is analogous in significant respects to the type of reasoning once employed by Marxist ideologues. Therefore, when I ask its supporters what would have to happen, or what would have to be proven, to make them change their mind, I never get an answer. Instead, a ritual-like repetition of the EU party line is rattled off, starting with the credo that ‘in the past, Europe waged war’ and that ‘unification brings peace’. The terrorist attacks in Paris, or indeed any other catastrophe (such as the eurocrisis), could never change that fundamental belief – because, so they’ll say, it’s a historical fact. Upon the suggestion that NATO’s role be included in our understanding of the peace we’ve witnessed since 1945, as well as the emergence of the Cold War, the rebirth of Germany as a democratic nation, the rise of the welfare state, the nuclear deterrent and a declining demography (all of which having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the EU), the europhile won’t argue with you (lest he might be forced to concede). Instead, he’ll shift the subject and say: “But the EU brings prosperity.”

If one then explains that free trade is perfectly possible without Brussels’ centralized management of the economy, that countries outside the EU do perfectly fine, and the euro currency has driven several member states to the edge of economic abyss, the Europhile counters that, actually, the real purpose of the EU is to form a ‘block’ against emerging powers such as China and Brazil. To the objections, then brought forward, that the EU undermines the real and unique strength of Europe – its political, legal, and cultural diversity – and that all decisive breakthroughs in European history, including the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, oversees exploration, technological innovation and economic competition, were possible precisely – and only – because of its decentralization, the true believer’s response is to remind you that Europe has enjoyed sixty years of peace. And so the argument comes full circle.

When people voice objections to further expansion of EU powers in referendums or opinion polls the conclusion is always: ‘We need to explain it better’. When its concocted schemes break down, as in the case of the euro, the answer is: ‘It was introduced too soon’. And when the open borders lead to enormous immigration problems and terrorist attacks, they call for a European army! Should you then point out, finally, that the Scandinavian countries and Britain will never agree to be ruled from Brussels by a federal government and an integrated army, the europhile generously suggests a ‘Europe of two speeds’.

Yes, why not have a two-speed Europe? It suggests an open worldview – tolerant and welcoming. Prudent. But what it really means, indeed, what is actually implied in the term, is that we are all on the same track – with the same destination. Some countries are going faster, others more slowly, but we’re all moving in the same direction. The Europhile simply can’t imagine two destinations. There’s only one destination, history moves towards one goal only. Some of us are pulling ahead (at full speed) while others are lagging behind (at a lower speed). But there can be no doubt about the final dot on the horizon.

Overwhelmingly, Europeans do not want the EU’s usurpation of their democratic rights of self government. Southern European economies are on the verge of collapse. Open borders have led to an immigration explosion and now terrorist attacks. A Weimar scenario is unfolding in Greece and Portugal. The Europhile draws only one conclusion: ‘We need more Europe’. His worldview is as hermetically sealed as that of the Marxist, and reality has absolutely no bearing on him. Over sixty-five years after the publication of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies, the poverty of historicism is still with us, alive and well, and shared by the overwhelming majority of our hopeless elite.