Overview:

When criticizing the EU, don't equate France or Germany with the EU. They are their own nations and can do good or bad things irrespective of the EU.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Every day, I listen to “Ukraine: The Latest,” a Daily Telegraph podcast about the conflict in Ukraine. If you’re not familiar, the Daily Telegraph is a UK right-wing broadsheet newspaper, and not in line with my personal political persuasion. However, generally, it is excellent, especially when analyzing the strategic and tactical situation in the war.

That said, when it veers into more overt political commentary, which it often does, it is unsurprisingly partisan. And with that, it spouts the usual tropes. Very often, this manifests itself in attacks on the EU. Here’s an example I heard yesterday that illustrates an incredibly common method of attacking the EU that needs to be called out more often.

Scholz dragging his heels is Scholz dragging his heels, it is not the EU dragging its heels.

Journalist Francis Dearnley (Assistant Comment Editor and one of the hosts) encapsulated this double standards approach when he said, commenting on the EU’s move to put an oil embargo in place for Russia, in the episode:

Of course, what they’ve said today is very welcome. Some people would say that it’s perhaps too little too late. They’re not really going perhaps as far as they can on gas; they are on oil, but not on gas.

Already, it’s worth noting the inability to give credit without adding an “adversative conjunction” style of statement: this is good, but…

I think, generally, we should be framing this in the context of a broader point about the European Union…

Should we? Okay, let’s see where you go. This sounds like you are just itching to have a go.

…which is that it has clearly tried to position itself since the war began (and of course longer term) as a major geopolitical player not only within the continent but also around the world. This idea of an expanded federalism—a United States of Europe—this is something that is genuinely believed within the commission. Now, of course, Brexit put a spanner in the works with regard to that. I think that, broadly speaking, this is yet another example of a crisis perhaps like the migration crisis, the refugee crisis, of 2015where the European Union had a golden moment to really show to the many peoples of Europe why it was there.

I’m not sure a refugee crisis, and dealing with it, is “why [the EU] is there” but, nonetheless… Here we now start getting onto the crux of the problematic approach.

But actually, it’s really been so slow getting out of the gates in terms of what it could have done to support Ukraine initially. Think of the skepticism of Germany (of course one of the major powers within the European Union), France’s mishandling around Minsk, etc. It’s been a very, very slow and rather languid approach. And I would just make the comment that if we had been truly relying on the European Union for a response on this in a way that many people within the European Commission would like us to, then I don’t think Ukraine would have been able to put up the resistance that it has, having received the support from Czech Republic, from Poland, and of course from Great Britain in terms of military support….

I don’t think this is a great moment for the European Uniuon and I think this war has shown yet further cracks in the ecifice of what we call the European Project.

Words matter. This quote matters, not only in terms of being a perfect exemplification of the problem, but also for spreading bad thinking. Anti-EU listeners would be nodding their heads in agreement thinking that this was a well-made point. But this type of thinking leads to erroneous conclusions.

So, what am I so riled up about? Well, he makes the classic move of equating Germany and France’s unilateral decisions and nationhood as synonymous with the EU. When France and Germany do something bad (because they only ever appear to do bad things in their reckoning), this is the EU doing bad things, making bad decisions. France and Germany have no independent nationhood: they simply are the EU.

But notice how Dearnley, in the same breath, lauds the quick-acting Czech Republic and Poland, along (obviously) with the wonderful UK. That is not to take away from the support of these nations. It is to be lauded in this context. But you don’t get to congratulate some countries for their unilateral decisions as being a merited result of their great nationhood, irrespective of the EU, while at the same time picking up two other countries for acting slowly, and calling them out for equating to or representing the EU.

This is a case of simple double standards, which is fallacious, and should not be done.

Scholz dragging his heels is Scholz dragging his heels, it is not the EU dragging its heels.

By all means, criticize France and criticize Germany, but do so for their decisions as…France and Germany. Or, if you are hellbent on synonymizing France and Germany with the EU, do the same for the Czech Republic and Poland! But don’t conveniently use a double standard approach merely because it makes it easier to criticize the EU.

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...