Europe Daily Bulletin No. 12784

7 September 2021
Contents Publication in full By article 24 / 24
Kiosk / Kiosk
No. 043

Le bateau ivre


A young president, his surprise election in May 2017 on the strength of which a new presidential party named “Renouveau” (“Renewal”) comes into being. A wave of terrorist attacks at the BHV shopping centre, next to a synagogue, in the RER public transport system by the Stade de France and in Gourdon, a tiny town in Lot of barely 4300 souls. Media and political uproar. This is the outline of the first novel by Pascal Boniface, although it might be closer to call it a ‘remake’, as the similarities to persons living or dead cannot possibly be coincidence.


Describing this relentless outrage with his hyper-realistic style, Pascal Boniface takes us into a captivating story in which tragic situations mix with delightful portraits and unexpected twists”, the back cover reads (our translation throughout). But is this really the case? The director of the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), who is no stranger to future-oriented scenarios, provides us with a fiction that draws hyper-realistically on French current affairs of recent years. It features many characters, possibly too many, with the risk at times of leaving the reader behind – particularly as the author has the infuriating habit of calling all characters by their first names. The portraits are limited basically to functions, political postures and motivations and the backdrop scenery is presumed to be known to the reader. Although the “infernal escalation of events” leads eventually to the election of a far-right president, something that cannot be entirely ruled out back in the real world, the only surprising twist in the course of this novel is the abolition of the Constitutional Council. But the story is cohesive and an effortless read.


The author, a fierce opponent of the Parisian politico-media system, takes the opportunity of this novel to denounce the prevailing cynicism: “you had to appear tough and denounce the weakness or naive optimism of others. That was enough, you didn’t have to know whether these proposals worked or not. Because they weren’t actually proposals, they were slogans. Nor was there any point in looking at what happened in other countries, what worked and what didn’t. You just had to adopt the posture and nobody, or almost nobody, ever guessed that you were an imposter”. Boniface also takes issue with the 24-hour information channels that feed into anxiety and disputation, with revenue that is up there with that of reality TV shows, where the right casting systematically brings together unqualified specialists, known faces with no expertise in the subject under discussion, and a single polemicist with radical, verging on extremist ideas. (Olivier Jehin)


Pascal Boniface. Le bateau ivre. Armand Colin. ISBN: 978-2-200-63206-9. 278 pages. €17,90


La Grande Migration et l’Europe


In this work, which was first published in Italian in 2018 with the title “L’ospite e il nemico”, the Italian philosopher and linguist Raffaele Simone takes an analytical and uncompromising look at all consequences of the Great Migration to Europe, the scale and speed of which have increased since 2015.


The book starts in 2017, with the expulsion of a group of migrants from a squat near to the Termini railway station in Rome and describes various episodes of the unprecedented migration phenomenon facing Europe. Yet he does not claim to be telling the history of this migration, instead focusing on analysing the phenomenon and its effects as well as a clash of ideologies behind the scenes.


There are several reasons to suggest that the Great Migration will not be a brief episode, but that it will be one of the fundamental characteristics of this century. Chiefly because it is merely a fragment of a gigantic movement at global level: nowadays, the whole planet is on the move, particularly in the southern part of it. The 21st century seems to have reactivated the giant chain of mass movements that characterised the primitive phases of the settlement of Earth. A Gallup poll carried out in 151 countries in 2008 showed that about a quarter of the world’s population expressed a propensity to emigrate. This tendency was greatest in countries such as Sierra Leone, Guiana, Congo and Nigeria, where it was expressed by more than half of respondents. It can therefore be said that the tendency to leave one’s own country is one of the primary distinctive social signals of modernity”, Simone writes, adding: “these acts give us to understand that it is meaningless to be for or against the Great Migration: it’s like being for or against a flood or a snowstorm that swallows up our houses. It makes far more sense to try to understand what it is, what it means and what it will bring about, and to organise appropriate responses before events themselves bring them about”.


The author impartially describes the two clashing accounts concerning the phenomenon of migration, that of “guilty Europe”, proponents of which state that “the immigrants are only taking back what was taken from them in the past, and furthermore, they are generous towards their former exploiters because, through their presence, they are contributing to the welfare of the host countries”, and that of the “great replacement”, illustrated by the novel “Submission” by Michel Houellebecq. Faced with an unprecedented phenomenon, Europe is caught offguard and swiftly subjugated by the former account, by blindness and denial that goes as far as “self-denial”, states Simone. Nobody wanted immediately to recognise the nature of the Great Migration and, a few years on from 2015, they were still hesitating to do so, he writes, continuing: “those who flagged it up as a fatal event were accused of being politically incorrect; those who suggested analysing its dangers and calling for measures to be taken were seen as right-wing or outright racist. Even certain unfortunate events, strictly in line with the Great Migration, did not have the power to prompt Europe to look clearly at reality. This, for instance, was the case when, from a certain point in time, immigration began to be associated with terrorism. Not, of course, that all immigrants were terrorists, but it is impossible to deny that the terrorism that hit Europe from 2005 onwards stemmed entirely from Muslim immigration (of several generations, including recent arrivals). If immigration was not, consequently, confused with terrorism, it certainly offered it fertile ground and shelter”.


Before generally denouncing multiculturalism and communitarianism, which leads to “separatism”, the author devotes a long chapter to the person of the stranger, the xenos, from antiquity to modern day. He also returns to the notion of Islamophobia, an “unlikely sample of ideological distortions produced by the politically correct in its peculiarly French form”. Lastly, Simone reiterates the cultural differences that are specific to the Islamic world and questions their compatibility with the rule of law as it stems from European history. (OJ)


Raffaele Simone, La Grande Migration et l’Europe (available in French and Italian only). French version translated from the Italian by Gérard Larché. Gallimard. ISBN: 978-2-072-89716-0. 212 pages. €21,00.


L’évolution des valeurs des Européens


The latest edition of the review Futuribles devotes a lengthy dossier to the evolution of the values of the Europeans on the basis of the most recent edition (2017-2018) of the European Values Study.


In it, Pierre Bréchon (University Grenoble Alpes) stresses the differences in values observed in different geographical areas in Europe, whilst stressing the essential difference between the tendency towards individualisation (desire for autonomy) and that of individualism (desire for one’s own strict personal interests). Although the former is particularly prevalent in the Nordic countries and in Western Europe, individually has regressed since 1999, other than in Eastern Europe. Unsurprisingly, religiosity continues to be far stronger in Central and Eastern Europe and in southern Europe. “Confidence in others is also greater in wealthy countries, with a specific form in the Nordic countries, that has been observable for a very long time. A culture of confidence has developed there, which is typical of an open sociability”, the author of serves (our translation throughout).


Raul Magni Berton (Sciences Po Grenoble) emphasises four principal findings concerning tolerance towards the behaviour of others: (1) the main divide between values in Europe lies between the countries of the East and those of the West; (2) looking at global developments, the two groups are moving in the same direction; (3) within the Eastern group, evolution differs depending on whether the country is in the EU or not; (4) the evolution of the values of Europeans is moving towards greater tolerance in ethical matters and less tolerance in civic matters. “In Western Europe, conduct that is largely frowned upon includes, in order, accepting a bribe, committing tax fraud, committing benefit fraud, fare-dodging on public transport and taking soft drugs. More than one out of every two Europeans believes that none of these acts is ever justifiable. In the countries of the East, however, apart from accepting bribes and taking soft drugs, these acts are broadly more tolerated. Additionally, intolerance of homosexuality, prostitution and suicide was expressed by every other respondent”, the author notes. (OJ)


Pierre Bréchon et al. L’évolution des valeurs des Européens (available in French only). Futuribles, edition 443, July August 2021. ISBN: 978-2-84387-456-7. 152 pages €22,00


Initiative citoyenne européenne


The Revue de l’Union européenne gave its June special dossier over to the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which is experiencing new impetus with the application, since 1 January 2020, of Regulation 2019/788, the provisions of which aim to reinforce the still unsatisfactory effectiveness of this mechanism of cross-border participative democracy.


In it, Nathalie Rubio (University of Aix-Marseille) looks at the case-law concerning the ECI and shows how the EU judges are “gradually tightening the screws by adopting a stricter control and the Commission’s decisions” (our translation throughout). Rubio explained that the court is also on the way for a broad debate on sensitive areas and limits on the EU’s actions. Finally, this case-law has helped to clarify the obligations on applicants that may help to contribute to the success of the controversial action.


Luis-Miguel Guttierrez (University of Lille) lays emphasis on the role the European Parliament could play in support of the European Citizens’ Initiative, in terms of the value it can add between representative democracy and participative democracy. He recalls that in her speech of July 2019, the then candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the Parliament: “when this House, acting by majority of its Members, adopts Resolutions requesting the Commission to submit legislative proposals, I commit to responding with a legislative act in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity, and better law-making principles”. The author goes on to conclude: “the time therefore appears to have come to reinvent the ECI as a powerful instrument of political control for both citizens and Parliament in order to reinforce and improve the democratic functioning of the EU”. (OJ)


Adriano Evangelisti et al. Initiative citoyenne européenne (available in French only). Revue de l’Union européenne, edition 649, June 2021. ISBN: 978-2-990-35649-7. €53,09


Review of the PADR and EDIDP: Lessons for the Implementation of the European Defence Fund


In this study, Frédéric Mauro and Édouard Simon identify a number of pitfalls that must be avoided when implementing the European Defence Fund (EDF) in order to ensure its effectiveness. They reiterate that the budget of 7.953 billion euros over the period 2011-2027 may constitute progress, but it is still a very long way behind the Commission’s initial ambition (13 billion) and represents just a fragment (barely 0.66%) of the overall EU budget over the same period. Adding together the annual defence research expenditure of the member states and the contribution of the EDF gives approximately the estimated level of expenditure of Russia (8 billion euros), a long way behind China (20 billion) and the United States (96 billion).


Given the circumstances, it is vital to avoid spreading this budget too thinly, particularly in the context of the objective of developing cross-border cooperation. The authors suggest keeping this objective within the envelope earmarked for research and technology, where it should be possible to water even supposedly infertile ground. The European Defence Agency could develop a network of defence research centres to this end. In the field of development, on the other hand, the priority should be given to proposals with the support of the member states, with acquisition prospects. The OCCAR, naturally, has a part to play here. The authors also stressed the need to develop multi-annual strategic planning to create conditions to allow projects to develop over several years. Within this framework, the best option would be to abandon annual tenders, replacing this process with a single call for proposals, followed the same year by the selection of a consortium with the allocation of a multi-annual budget, which would then be the subject of annual budgetary decisions, along the same lines as the military programming bills.


Mauro and Simon also anticipate the situation post-2027 and recommend that the budget of the European Defence Fund and/or the efficacy of its spending be improved. Reiterating that Israel, Turkey and Iran have developed drone production on the basis of reasonably modest budgets, they argue that “the problem is not that the Europeans do not spend enough money, but that they waste it”. (OJ)


Frédéric Mauro and Édouard Simon. Review of the PADR and EDIDP: Lessons for the Implementation of the European Defence Fund. ISBN: 978-92-846-8080-1. 103 pages. This study, which was commissioned by the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, may be downloaded free of charge from the website of the European Parliament.