Institutions: Welcome to the Holy See of Europe

Illustration by Peter Schrank, The Economist
Illustration by Peter Schrank, The Economist
6 julio 2010 – The Economist (Londres)

For most Eurocrats, EU federalism is more than a political conviction, it’s an article of faith. But while nationalism may still be fraught with dangers, nations are still relevant to democracy, points out The Economist.

Nigel Farage, a British politician with a knack for synthetic outrage, was appalled to learn recently that over 1,000 European Union officials earn more than Britain’s prime minister. The EU is a “racket”, thundered Mr Farage, who sits in the European Parliament for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). No wonder Brussels bureaucrats demand “more Europe”, he declared. What they really want is “more money” for themselves.

The truth is even worse, at least for UKIP voters. Brussels officials call for “more Europe” because they really want more Europe. Yes, some are overpaid, notably old-timers hired before a staff reform in 2004. Highly educated and often a bit bored, Eurocrats can also sound spoiled: moaning about their conditions while enjoying some of the safest jobs in the world. Yet the average Eurocrat is not primarily in it for the money.

The European quarter of Brussels is an odd place. It is less Sodom and Gomorrah than the Vatican. Europe is a faith-based project for its bureaucrats, or at least it was when they took the EU entrance exams. Even as Eurocrats become more cynical with age, learning that promotion has less to do with merit than with politics, most retain a spark of faith. Put simply, they believe that nationalism is the greatest of evils. As articles of faith go, this is not a terrible one. Nationalism has indeed been a European curse. Today, the existence of the EU is a bulwark against fresh horrors. Take the recent tensions between Slovaks and Hungarians, whipped up by cynical populists in both countries. Such ugliness can only go so far: local politicians cannot close the border to traders from the wrong nationality, for example, or sack workers with the wrong background: it would be against EU law.

Brussels officials are often thoughtful, clever and good company. They speak lots of languages. Many are married to partners from another country (and divorced from a spouse from still another country, come to that). They have multilingual, multicultural children who think of Europe as their nationality. Strikingly often, they come from regions with strongly independent identities, such as Catalonia or Wales. Unwilling to seek a career in a hated national capital like Madrid or London, they instead latched onto the dream of a united Europe. Read full article in The Economist...

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