John Gillingham has written a vibrant, genuine, and intelligent book about the EU. Europe is in a very difficult position on the world stage. Unable to compete with the U.S. and the Indian and Chinese economy, Europe is slowly plunging into a major crisis, and Europeans are realizing that individual living standards are much higher in the rest of the Western and in the near future also Eastern world. The EU is kept at bay by a powerful, overpaid, and mostly unuseful bureaucracy, its Parliament lacks of any real power, and the Council and the Commission are unable to clearly define their roles as well as relations between them. The CAP has been a tragic failure, a way to implement protectionist policies which are benefitting only the rich aristocratic landowners still living in the Old Continent, while affecting the agricultural production of poor countries, such as Mozambique. It is like in an old Italian cartoon, "Alan Ford", where one of the characters, named "Superciuk", a superhero whose strenght was in his disgusting alcoholic breath, used to steal from the poor in order to give to the rich. CAP is the ultra-Superciuk of all the EU policies. Corruption is everywhere high, higher still the lack of accountability. European universities are becoming more and more big State offices, a hub of unionized idle/lazy employees, unfit to produce real research, let alone a good environment for undergraduate life. The EU suffers from a lack of democracy. Driven by a self-appointed elite, is more and more distant from the will and goals of the common people. It came not as a surprise that Dutch and French voters, in 2005, stopped the Constitution project. It was a project lacking entirely any down-to-earth approach to the happiness and well being of the European citizens. This book addresses all these issues, and many more. It is full of wit and pleasant to read. It gives also some insight into the measures that should be taken asap, in order to prevent the failure of the EU project. Downsizing EU burocracy, terminating the CAP, give more space to the free market and stress the principle of sussidiariety, i.e., to restore the old nation-states to their full power. Maybe even transfer the EU Parliament offices from dear Strassburg and Brussels to a single location (what already Tim Garton Ash suggested), possibly in a nice spot with a difficult name next to the Balaton Lake, Hungary. One might deduct, however, that this would mean the end of the EU, at least as it has been so far. But this is left as an open question. Certainly, the EU as it is now, hibernated and deeply contrasted by European peoples, cannot survive for a long time. Member states, such as France and Germany, are more and more detaching themselves from this project, and pursue their own independent and contradictory policies in foreign as well as internal affairs. This is what the American and European public needs to know about the EU. Other attempts, to give the EU what it does not deserve (J. Rifkin's The European Dream, for instance) just present a false and misleading idea of the EU and Europe in general. It is a continent which is approaching its "Untergang" (to quote Spengler), its end, at a fast pace. Maybe it is worth saving it. Maybe not. Civilizations have their own life, as everyone knows. They may rise and may die. Apart from God, nobody is eternal.
Paolo Bernardini (Boston University)