Oct 6, 2009 6:26 pm


Europeans know darn well the meaning of a United Europe. It means less democracy, more elite rule. Gideon Rachman argues a similar trajectory can be expected of G-20, i.e., Americans, like Europeans before them, should prepare to lose their say in major decisions affecting their lives. As a matter of fact, Europeans use the bureaucratic, procedural, incremental methods they used to create undemocratic Europe"to take over the world."

The realisation that the G20 is Europe’s Trojan horse struck me at the G20’s last summit in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. The surroundings and atmosphere were strangely familiar. And then I understood; I was back in Brussels, and this was just a global version of a European Union summit.

It was the same drill and format. The leaders’ dinner the night before the summit; a day spent negotiating an impenetrable, jargon-stuffed communiqué; the setting-up of obscure working groups; the national briefing rooms for the post-summit press conferences. . . .

The Europeans did not just set the tone at the G20 – they also dominate proceedings, since they are grossly over-represented. Huge countries such as Brazil, China, India and the US are represented by one leader each. The Europeans managed to secure eight slots around the conference table for Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council. Most of the key international civil servants present were also Europeans: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund; Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation; Mario Draghi of the Financial Stability Board.

As a result, the Europeans seemed much more tuned into what was going on than some of the other delegations. Puzzling over the new powers given to the IMF to monitor national economic policies in the Pittsburgh conclusions, I was interrupted by an old friend from the European Commission, who recognised the language immediately. “Ah yes,” she said, “the open method of co-ordination.” . . .

Yet the kernel of something new has been created. To understand its potential, it is worth going back to the Schuman Declaration of 1950, which started the process of European integration. “Europe,” it said, “will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements, which first create a de facto solidarity.”

The G20 now has some achievements and a burgeoning sense of solidarity between the members of this new, most exclusive, club. Who knows what comes next?

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