Plan D – limits to Europe

Classroom at the Berlin Metropolitan School (picture Jens Rötzsch)
I write this from the closing session at the European Commission’s Plan D wrap-up conference, looking at the concluding remarks that were circulated. The Plan D project involved a series of consultation exercises across Europe during 2007, and various selection procedures have produced a set of statements about the future of the EU. We are told that these are the authentic views of the European citizen. Read them here and make up your own mind: Most of the statements are surely uncontroversial: the EU should protect the environment and trade more fairly, for example. Others, such as the suggestion that the EU should have a stronger foreign policy, will be controversial in some circles (although not here, evidently) but in a straightforward way. Most interestingly, though, are the suggestions that the EU should promote education and social welfare. On education about Europe, this is happening in many countries but not everywhere, but of course it is a national or regional competence, if it is even a matter for government at all. The idea that Europe should insist on including itself in education programmes and curriculums seems to me rather worrying. If it is a good idea for children to grow up knowing about Europe (and surely it is), then it is in the interest of countries and parents to do this anyway. They are undermining their own interests by not doing it. And the reason countries don’t make it compulsory is because they are suspicious of or uncertain about Europe, in which case being compelled to change their own education systems is going to make things worse rather than better. A similar point arises in the area of social welfare. Do people really want to reduce their national freedom of action in this field? The taxation consequences could be substantial. Social welfare is something that sounds good until it has to be paid for. Just because a policy objective is a good one does not mean that it should necessarily be done by Europe.

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