Posted by: Paraic | July 26, 2008

The E.U. – a ‘Geographic Expression’?

Shortly after the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a visiting professor from the University of Maryland remarked over lunch on his fascination in watching the process unfold as it reminded him so much of the history of the United States.  True, when you look at the Articles of Confederation and the statement that ‘under the Articles (and the succeeding Constitution) the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically deputed to the central government’ and the fact that some of the concern around the articles related to the contention that they ‘did not strike the right balance between large and small states in the legislative decision making process‘.  [Compare this to the statement that, “The Treaty of Lisbon will be an international treaty agreed and ratified by sovereign Member States that agree to share some of their sovereignty in supranational cooperation“].

On the other hand though, and returning to ‘The Post-American World’,  I was taken by Zakaria’s description of India as “A Geographic Expression” when examining the role of regional politics in India.

“All politics is local”… In India, that principle can be carved in stone.  India’s elections are not really national elections at all.  They are rather simultaneous regional and local elections that have no common theme.

India’s diversity is four thousand years old and deeply routed in culture, language, and tradition.  This is a country with seventeen languages and 22,000 dialects that was for centuries  a collection of hundreds of separate principalities, kingdoms and states….

…The Hindu-Muslim divide might be crucially important in one set of states, but it is absent in others.  Political leaders who are strong in Tamil Nadu have no following whatsoever in the north.  Punjab has its own distinct political culture that relates to Sikh issues and the history of Hindu-Sikh relations.  Politicians from Rajasthan have no appeal in Karnataka.  They cannot speak each other’s language – literally.  It would be like holding elections across Europe and trying to talk about the same issues with voters in Poland, Greece, France, and Ireland. Winston Churchill once said that India was “just a geographic term, with no more political personality than Europe”.

And so the difficulty of moving the European Union along…

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