Blog AnalysisEconomy Euro zone

Le Non Grec: Brussels has failed to conquer hearts and minds

The Europeans seem incapable of applying certain basic precepts in terms of the conviction of "peoples" (credit: Otan - Operation tageer in Afghanistan)
Europeans seem incapable of applying certain basic precepts in terms of convincing “people” (credit: NATO – Operation Tager in Afghanistan)

(BRUSSELS2) Once again, the European heart has been widely beaten during a consultation by referendum. Once again, the polls which predicted a Yes-No vote were completely contradicted. Once again, the Europeans were stunned by the result, hesitating between admonition and cold tone without thinking to find where the error was. But is it the European idea that has been defeated? Or how to defend it? I would go for the second option.

Distilled information which has continued to be contradicted by the facts

Listening to the hammering produced by the different European structures, we felt uneasy about being European last week. The arguments used were biased, both in terms of legal and economic analysis and political assessment. What have we actually heard in the European corridors? First of all, the Greek parliament was not going to vote for the referendum (it was Saturday June 27). Parliament voted by a large majority. Second 'line of defense': this referendum is illegal and it will be annulled by the courts. It was not the case. The Council of State validated the organization. For the moment, no one disputes the result. The participation was significant (62,5% according to the final results) without being massive but sufficient to give an indisputable result. Thirdly, the organization of the referendum will immediately lead to the cutting of all budget lines of the European Central Bank. And, the chaos will be immediate. None of this happened. The Financial Times even went so far as to predict a levy on bank accounts... Finally, it was suggested that the Yes vote was very close to winning. We were almost at the point of discussing the constitution of a technical government, etc. All this fell like a house of cards from the first partial results which gave more than 60% No. A figure which was confirmed and even amplified throughout the evening with 61,31% according to the final result. The difference in votes between No and Yes: more than a million votes being quite notable.


Drawing inspiration from counterinsurgency theory

There is something of a 'system error' in the European system which hammers home arguments that are just as populist and fallacious as those it claims to combat. The desire to integrate people into the European “thing” seemed very distant. The European institutions have failed to “ Convince hearts and minds as in 2005 in France and the Netherlands. European leaders would do well to reread General Petraus, who most recently theorized this conception of counterinsurgency: Winning hearts means persuading the populace that their best interests are served by counterinsurgent successes. Winning the spirits means convincing the population that force can protect them and that resistance is useless. ". As in the referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005, this 'No' is not a refusal to Europe or their government, despite what some commentators or extreme movements proclaim. It is a 'No' to a certain idea of ​​Europe, distant, arrogant which says 'I know', 'there is only one choice', the one I am offering you. And you are 'ignorant, incapable'.

A hundred miles from the ideas that form the basis of Europe

Saying that this vote automatically results in a “Grexit”, or even an exit from Europe, is a perfect example of this attitude. Certainly by finishing the last plan put on the table, at the end of June, which was only before a calculation becomes a crisis option. It is taboo today. But wielding it as a threat, fear, had the opposite effect of the desired effect. Among certain European leaders, particularly in several Member States, the desire to humiliate Greece and the Greeks was clearly perceptible... In a sort of blackmail: that's where the chaos is. So present among some that it could only cause real discomfort among those who truly believe in the European idea. To misunderstand or underestimate an opponent is to go into battle at a huge disadvantage. To further humiliate him is to ensure defeat. “ Do not overwhelm a desperate enemy. said Sun Tzu.

In this campaign, we were very far from the European ideas of solidarity, integration and negotiation... in short, community and union. The objective of Europe is not in fact to unite what is similar, it is to unite dissimilar peoples and states in a community of destiny, to bring them together in a union which brings them together and not keep them away. The failure of this blitzkrieg is this…

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).