There was an alternative, sensible path open to European leaders. Rather than creating a bureaucratic superstructure to bully and undermine the nation state, Europe could have remained a continent of independent nations with their own currencies, trading and co-operating to mutual benefit. But that would have been incompatible with the mania gripping those pursuing the vision of the founding fathers of the European project after the Second World War.
In his excellent little book, A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe (Notting Hill Editions, £12), Daniel Hannan — the best-known Conservative MEP and a leading Eurosceptic voice — observes that the original architects of integration tended to come from the Carolingian heartland. They believed that a return to Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire, which covered much of Western Europe, was the only way to prevent more conflict between nation states such as France and Germany. Charles de Gaulle, France's wartime hero and postwar president, later described the process of European integration as "a revival of the whole concept of Charlemagne".
As Hannan shows, the euro was always primarily a political rather than an economic enterprise, designed to fulfill the original aims of the neo-Carolingian grand project. Whether through convergence or crisis the existence of the single currency would, after a suitable interlude, force its members to accept one finance ministry and, in time, one government.
Even now, after all that has happened since the start of the euro-crisis, the federalists are more wedded than ever to their bad idea: that it is Europe's destiny to become one political entity which supersedes the nation state, whether or not it causes distress in the shape of Depression-era mass unemployment.
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