The roots of the crisis in the European Union (1991 - 2011)

The economic, social and political crisis which the EU is undergoing is there for all to see. In a few days it will be the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht treaty, signed on 11 December 1991, which brought the European Union into being. Professor Roberto de Mattei, who was then president of the Lepanto Cultural Centre and who is now president of the Lepanto Foundation, was one of the first in Europe to express his criticisms of the Maastricht Treaty in a letter sent to all MEPs in Strasbourg on 11 May 1992, the day before the speech given by Queen Elizabeth II to the European Parliament. His analysis, which preceded by nearly 10 years the entry into force of the euro, invites us to reflect on our future.

Prof. Roberto de Mattei’s letter to the Members of the European Parliament

Rome - May 11th, 1992

Dear Sir /Madam,

on behalf of the Lepanto Cultural Centre, of which I am President, I take the liberty of submitting for your attention certain reflections (1) on the Maastricht Treaty, stipulated by the Heads of State and Government of the Twelve on the 11th of December 1991, to launch the new international organization called “European Union”.

This Treaty, formally signed on the 7th of February 1992 and due to be endorsed by the respective national Parliaments by the 31st of December 1992, is arousing increasing doubts and perplexities in many quarters: will it really unite and strengthen Europe, or will it plunge her into chaos? This letter aims to stimulate discussion on this capital point.

A nihilist dream of the destruction of Europe

The year 1992 marks the 500th anniversary of the Discovery and civilization of America by Europeans, yet European and Christian Civilization is on trial.

Europe is being accused of having imposed its civilised patterns on the world, instead of “opening itself to the Other”, “to what Europe is not, never was and will never be” (2); it should therefore deny itself to recover the “otherness” it rejected, viz. barbarians, Indians, Muslims, all bearers of a “cultural message” which we must now adopt. Europe should therefore renounce its “secular ambition of historical centralization whose symbol is Columbus” (3) in order to “de-civilize” itself and sink into tribalism.

According to the historical vision by these “theoreticians of chaos”, Europe should be founded on the “loss of foundations” (4) and “not identify with itself” (5). This is nihilism.

No historical and cultural identities would deserve to survive because in the world nothing is stable and permanent and everything is devoid of order and significance: this Nothingness is the only reality which is to assert itself in history and society: “We must acknowledge the historically positive role of Nothing / ... / We should base our European citizenship on Nothing” (6).

The real nature of the Maastricht Treaty

These nihilist theses on Europe, set out in journals, books, symposia, amplified by the mass-media and abundantly echoed by politicians, are neither to be ignored nor forgotten when debating such an ambitious political accord as the Maastricht Treaty.

It is not a matter of being generally for or against Europe, but of addressing the real background issue: What kind of Europe are we aspiring to? What kind of Europe is envisaged by the Maastricht Treaty? Political and diplomatic agreements do not simply boil down to technical formulas, but reflect political patterns, visions of the world and ideal aspirations. Which ones in this particular case?

It is not only a single market...

For the man in the street the European Union means simply an extended market without frontiers, namely a single European “internal market” characterized by the abolition of obstacles to the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.

The average European, who is inclined to shirk demanding debates and commitments in order to live entangled in his everyday problems, does not rely on politicians, but has still some confidence in (...) the pragmatism of economists. He feels reassured by a united Europe being sponsored today by economic 'technicians' and is tempted to consider it a possible solution of the serious economic and social evils which are now chronically raging across all European nations.

As a matter of fact, the first basic misconception to dispel is to assume that the international organization, as provided for in Maastricht, limits itself to an economic union destined to ensure greater advantages and benefits to its members.

This is evident already in the first pages of the Treaty, where the new element is highlighted by specifying that “the term 'European Economic Community' shall be replaced by the term 'European Community'” (Title II, art. G A).

What is the sense of this specification? That of stressing the gradual shift from a merely economic union to a basically political union; the economic unification is the means, the political one is the end.

... But it is a political and cultural process

The first characteristic of the Maastricht Treaty which comes to the fore is the process it indicates. In fact, as from the 1st January 1993, the Treaty provides for a series of different stages, in a strict chronological sequence, and establishes the “irreversible character” (7) of the transition to the last stage by the 1st January 1999.

One ought to look ahead at the final aim, since the significance of all preceding stages flows from it. While the first stage is economic, the last one completes a far-reaching process of political change in Europe. What is the nature of such change? Despite allegations to the contrary (which we are prepared to discuss in public debate), we affirm without hesitation the following:

The Maastricht plan does not trigger a process of European unification, but rather a process of disintegration of its national states; and since Europe cannot renounce national states, which form its backbone, the dismantling of these states is tantamount to the destruction of Europe in the name of Europe itself!

Towards economic chaos

The 1st stage (as from the 1st of January 1993) of the Maastricht unification process provides for the abolition of political and economic frontiers within the Community and the establishment of a large single European market. But what about the real implications of this project for our continent?

Almost all nations produce goods of excellent quality, from wines to textiles. By and large each nation is the main consumer of its own products for clearly economic reasons, due to customs restrictions by the various governments. Once customs barriers have fallen away, the national consumers will inevitably be prompted by curiosity to sample products from other nations.

Products of all European nations will be circulated and consumed throughout Europe. Thus no industry will be able to rely on a safe economic base in its country of origin, and in turn this will spark off commercial disputes among the industries of each country under the form of all-out promotional campaigns: the conquest of new markets and the preservation of old ones will be at stake.

French cheese, German beer and Italian pasta are not only commercial commodities but also symbols of different cultures and traditions. The war fought by means of promotional advertising will shift from the economic into the political and psychological field. The single market will resemble a battlefield rather than a factor of cohesion.

The weakest markets will be inundated with much more competitive foreign capital, goods and services. Only major companies able to acquire a multinational status will survive; small businesses will have to either merge with the bigger ones in a subordinate position or face bankruptcy. Just as we have already envisaged in our comment on the Delors Plan : “the picture looks even more worrying if one thinks that this upheaval will be artificially forced upon us from above and in the very near future, taking by surprise the weakest, who are generally unprepared. Therefore it is easy to predict that wild competition will break out, sowing the seeds of chaos in the European economy. In the common market a war to death will be fought which might precipitate Europe, (into a general, devastating chaos) deprived of any reference points so far represented by national frontiers and customs barriers” (8).

The expropriation of monetary sovereignty

The next stages, as provided far by the Maastricht Treaty, are as follows:

2nd stage (starting 1st of July 1994): Creation of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) established by the Central Banks of the member states, as an intermediate step for the following:

3rd stage (starting in 1997 and not later than 1st of January 1999), envisages:

a) Creation of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), composed of the single National Central Banks and the European Central Bank (ECB), which will be the exclusive owner and manager of official reserves of member states (Title II, art. 105 2).

b) Creation of a single currency purely fiduciary, the ECU (Title II, art. 3A), destined to substitute national currencies. The ECB will be the only institution allowed to perform the money issuing function.

In particular, according to the Treaty, it is the Commission - not Governments and Parliaments - through the European Central Bank that will set the general objectives far economic policy in the single national States (Title II, art. 103). The ECB will have the exclusive right to authorise the issue of bank-notes within the Community (Title II, art. 105A). The Council will be allowed to impose on that member punitive measures that include: fines, requiring a non-interest bearing deposit of appropriate size, inviting the European Investment Bank to reconsider its lending policy towards that member (Title II, art. 104C).

For the European States the loss of their economic and monetary sovereignty will entail de-facto the loss of an essential component of their political sovereignty. This was well understood by the former British Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, who used to mantain that “if one looses one's monetary and budget sovereignty, there is not that much sovereignty left” (9).

Expropriation of political sovereignty

The authoritative Bundesbank recently stated that creating a single European currency by fiat is easy, but ensuring a monetary stability in Europe is much more difficult: to this end, complex economic, political and psychological conditions would be necessary (10).

How is it possible to determine an effective economic and monetary unification of Europe without a common juridical and political framework which alone is able to regulate problems such as immigration, drug-addiction and organised crime, and thus ensure the necessary conditions far economic and monetary stability?

To meet these juridical and political conditions, the Treaty provides for “the approximation of the laws of Member states to the extent required for the functioning of the Common Market” (Title II, art. 3H). This political and legislative harmonisation is certainly a good in itself and should be pursued, provided it does not infringe Natural Law; but it cannot be imposed by a bureaucratic executive under the pretext of making the Common Market function. This would imply depriving national States of their right to rule civil society.

Sovereignty is the essential feature of a State. It can be described as the supreme authority a state must have, in its own sphere, to achieve its aim, namely the common good of its citizens (11). That is to say their communal virtuous life (12).

The state can delegate certain functions, according to the principle of subsidiarity, but cannot destroy itself, as would be the case once the Maastricht unification process is completed. This would mean the disappearance of nation states.

The aim: European mega-State and regional micro-states

This transfer of powers and functions, so far attributed to national governments and parliaments, would take place in two directions: on the one hand, towards supranational institutions, viz. the European “mega-State”, and on the other, towards regional and municipal entities which would tend to become real micro-states. The establishment of a “Committee of Regions” (Title II, art.198A), destined to assist the Council and the Commission, which would be the “supergovernment” of the “mega-State”, follows this pattern.

This, as was explained by the President of the European Commission Jacques Delors at the Wissenschaftszentrum in Bonn on the 5th of October 1989, “in its essence means that the powers of central government are shared with those of pre-existing collective territorial units”.

This blueprint fulfils the plan spelt out a few years ago by the Socialist Peter Glotz in the Manifesto far a new European Left where he welcomed “the end of the nation state in Europe” which “should not take place only by means of a transnational unification, but also by regionalization and decentralisation” (13), and the creation of a European Union” was indicated as a “long-term prospect of European unification” (14).

It is the updated version of the great goal of the Left, which has always been and still is, anarchy, viz. the “new World”, in the words of Bakunin, “on the ruins of all the Churches and states” (15). Therefore, Bakunin himself clarifies, “revolutionary socialists are organizing in view of the destruction, or if you prefer a more gentle word, the dismantling of the States (16)... so that free associations organized from the bottom by means of municipalities freely federating into provinces, from provinces into nations, from nations into the Unites States of Europe, may arise on their ruins” (17).

A time bomb: European citizenship

One chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, which is a real time-bomb in the heart of our continent, can be viewed as a part of this disintegrating drive: a “European citizenship” will be conferred on each citizen of the various national states as they are dismantled.

The citizenship problem cannot be thrashed out unless the contemporary scene is taken into account. The failure of Socialist-communism in the East, and the similar gigantic failure of decolonization in the Southern hemisphere have opened up massive migration into Europe. Fully reliable statistics on the real extent of this immigration are not available; what is certain is that this trend is on the increase, accompanied by population decline in our Continent. It is by no means a secondary problem, since in November 1991 the Ministers of 27 European countries deemed it necessary to meet in Berlin to discuss it.

The Treaty provides for a “Citizenship of the Union” for “every person holding the nationality of a Member State” (Title II, art. 81). But amongst member states of the Union, as regards the granting of citizenship to extracommunitarian immigrants, there does not exist homogenous legislation: some legislation is more open and some is more restrictive. It is not difficult to imagine that immigrants would head towards those States whose citizenship is easier to acquire, and then move through the “internal borders” to those with less flexible “external borders”.

One might argue that this is one of the points whose approach in national legislations, as provided for by the Treaty, is a priority. But if it is so certain that this approach will not be delayed, why not provide for union citizenship to be granted only after uniformity of legislation amongst states has taken place?

The immigrants to the conquest of political structures

In terms of art. 8 A 1 of the Treaty, “every citizen of the Union shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member State”. The real significance of this article becomes evident in the light of the following: “every citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he is not a national shall have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate at municipal elections in the Member State in which he resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that state” (Title II, art. 8 B1) and “every citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he is not a national shall have the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament in the Member State in which he resides, under the same conditions as nationals of that state” (Title II, art. 8 B2). Ways and means will be set by the Council by the 31st of December 1994 and 31st of December 1993 respectively.

The following are the foreseeable consequences:

a) The first object of the extra-communitarian migrant will be to obtain citizenship of the Union. Therefore, since legislation is not strictly uniform, he will choose the country granting him an easier access to its citizenship: this will automatically entail for him European citizenship.

b) Once he has obtained European citizenship, his second step will be to move, according to his absolute right to movement, to his chosen dwelling place within the Union, where he will make use of his political rights.

c) Active and passive voting rights enjoyed in his dwelling place will grant the migrant access to the European political structures at municipal and supernational levels, the only two levels of relevance after national States have been dissolved.

Islam to be dominant in Europe?

We cannot ignore the fact that the majority of extra-communitarian immigrants are Muslims, and that Islam does not make the Christian distinction between natural and supernatural orders or civil and religious spheres, but combines sacred and profane into a single totalizing vision (18).

Muslim leaders in Europe are already asking for their religion to be legally incorporated in national legislations as is the case with other religious denominations. This means: civil recognition of polygamy, teaching of Muslim religion in schools, exemption from work on Muslim festive days, and so forth.

On the day Muslims obtain citizenship of the European Union, they will stand as candidates in elections at municipal and European Parliament levels.

In terms of the Treaty, European political parties will “express the political will of Union nationals” (Title II, art. 138A). A “European Muslim Party”, owing to its deep-rooted presence in all territories of the Union, its power of political and religious cohesion, its financial resources and its international connections, might become the leading party in the European Parliament. This would imply Muslim political domination in Europe, peacefully won, or rather, peacefully handed over by Europeans themselves.

Furthermore, at municipal level, how can one rule out the possible concentration of massive groups of immigrants in certain European cities or regions? Who could prevent these European nationals from turning a historically rich or significant city into a “Muslim island” and erecting their minarets, given their right of movement, residence and voting rights?

Who could prevent these European nationals, who enjoy the right of movement, residence and voting rights, from choosing one of the European cities richer in history or significance, to make of it a “muslim island” and erect their minarets?

To emerge from chaos: save national States

These hypotheses constitute a disquieting picture.

Western economy, as recently written by French Nobel prize-winner Maurice Allais, “resting upon a gigantic pyramid of debts” (19), is increasingly showing its extreme vulnerability. Social problems, such as crime and drug-addiction, reveal the profound cultural and moral vacuum of our society. From the East a far-reaching disintegrating thrust, resulting from the self-destruction of Communism, is spreading ferment of dissolution aver to the West. The muslim religion is throwing its menacing shadow aver Europe. Today chaos is threatening our continent as never before in its history since barbarian invasions...

Given these circumstances, does it seem reasonable to further the scrapping of nation states and proceed towards a European Union with such cloudy and confused contours? Nation states are at present the only factor of order and stability in the face of the disintegrating process sweeping across Europe; and to scrap them right now is political suicide resembling that committed by the French monarchy and nobility in 1789.

Europe at a crossroads: suicide or Christian restoration

Europe at present finds itself at a historical crossroads.

The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty would spark off a process of rapid scrapping of nation states. But this would imply the disintegration of Europe, which would then plunge into anarchy and tribalism. It is a real suicidal itinerary, consistently claimed by ideologists of the New Left. 

On the other hand, rejecting the Maastricht disintegrating process is a necessary step for the restoration of Europe.

If today the word Europe arouses memories and hopes, it is because it was already a socio-political reality: a reality which was not “invented” in Maastricht in 1991, but was born in Rome in 800 A.D. on Christmas eve, with the Sacred Roman Empire of Charlemagne and, even earlier, in Subiaco and Montecassino, from where the religious reform of Saint Benedict of Nursia radiated (20).

Paraphrasing the words of Saint Pius X in his well-known Apostolic Letter Notre Charge Apostolique (21) and those of Leo XIII in the equally well-known , encyclical Immortale Dei (22), we could say that Europe “is not to be invented”, but that “it did exist and still exists, and that it is Christian Civilization, once united, though in the differences of its nations, and in the peculiarities of its customs and traditions, by a single philosophy of life: the Gospel. “Europe - John Paul II confirms - is Christian in its very roots /... / One common sap drawn from a single source is flowing in the different cultures of European nations, both in the East and in the West” (23). The defence of our (Western and Christian) civilisation is based on the defence of these nations and these cultures. The variety of European national States is a reflection of Europe's cultural heritage and moral and historical identity.

The revolutionary process which has been attacking Christian Civilization for over five centuries now (24), represents a thorough rejection of this Europe, of its identity and history: the final and consistent outcome of this process is the anarchical and tribal nihilism of the New Left.

An untouchable Treaty?

The Maastricht Treaty is not “untouchable”, just as the process of European unification underway cannot and must not be regarded as an “irreversible” process. This is already not the case with Great Britain and Denmark, who reserved the right not to implement the third stage.

We think it important to highlight the following: if there is a fragmented myth today, it is “historical irreversibility”, namely, an alleged course of events whose sense and direction can be perceived only by some “avant-gardes”. When a Socialist speaks of “historical irreversibility”, one cannot help recalling the endless series of fallacious prophecies which have marked the history of European Left over the last two centuries. But Socialists, descendants of the Illuminists and Hegel, persist in presenting themselves as the pertinacious interpreters of the “sense of history”. Thus, when German unification was under discussion, Willy Brandt's prophecy was that it would not take place before the end of the century (25). Today, with European unification under scrutiny, Mitterand's prophecy is that it will inevitably take place by the end of the century.

These prophecies are all based on the same thing: the void of nihilism. The only sure prediction one can formulate at the turn of this century is the demise of false Socialist prophecies and the triumph, irreversible, of truth. In the name of Truth we are calling upon you and your colleagues to intervene in such an authoritative and significant assembly as the European Parliament and oppose the spirit and the letter of the Maastricht Treaty.

It is in face of European public opinion that we are appealing for your collaboration, and offering you ours. It is our firm conviction that today all forces should unite in defence of national States, of Europe and of Christian Civilization, so seriously threatened by nihilism and chaos. It is our equally certain conviction that this battle can only be fought with the help of the One without Whom nothing can be achieved (John 15,5), but with Whose help everything is possible (Phil. 4, 13) - even the resurrection of a glorious Civilization, such as Europe has been and will be again in the twenty-first century.

Roberto de Mattei


1 The perplexities of Euro MPs are evident in the minutes regarding the session of 7 April 1992, in PE 160. 902.

2 Jacques Derrida, L'autre cap, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1991, p. 75.

3 Jean Chesnaux, Triomphalisme européen, déchirure planétaire in Le Monde diplomatique, December 1991, p. 24.

4 Edgar Morin, Penser l'Europe, Éditions Gallimard, Paris 1987, p. 67.

5 J. Derrida, L'autre cap, cit., p.16.

6 E. Morin, Penser l'Europe, cit., p. 174.

7 See the Protocol on the transition to the third stage of economic and monetary union, attached to the Treaty.

8 Roberto de Mattei, 1900-2000. Due sogni si succedono: la Costruzione, la Distruzione, Fiducia, Rome 1990, p. 44.

9 Corriere della Sera, 25 June 1990; but particularly, cfr. the speech in Bruges of 20 September 1988. 

10 Die Zeit, 7 February 1992, cfr. also Zeitschrift für das Gesamte Kreditwesen, 15 February 1992.

11 Aristotle, Po1itics, IV, c.s, 1336 b, 22-30.

12 Saint Thomas Aquinas, De Regimine principum, I, 15.

13 Peter Glotz, Manifest für eine neue Europäische Linke, Siedler Verlag, Berlin 1985, pp. 81-82.

14 Ivi, p. 82.

15 Mikail Bakunin, La Comune e lo Stato, it. tr. Samonà e Savelli, Roma 1972, p. 55.

16 Ivi, pp. 55-56.

17 George Woodcock, Anarchism, The World Publishing Company, London 1962, it. tr. Feltrinelli, Milan 1980, p. 142.

18 See for example Alessandro Bausani, L'Islam, it. tr. Garzanti, Milan, pp. 11, 37.

19 Maurice Allais, L'Europe et les États-Unis après Maastricht: questions et réponses, in Le Figaro, 6 February 1992.

20 On 2 October 1964 in Montecassino, Paul VI proclaimed Saint Benedict patron of Europe. John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Egregiae Virtutis of 31 December 1980 (in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, Rome, vol. III, 2 (1980) pp. 1833-1836) proclaimed co-patrons of Europe with Saint Benedict, saints Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the slavic countries.

21 Saint Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique of 25 March 1910.

22 Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei of 1 November 1885, in Acta Sanctae Sedis, vol. XVIII, p.169.

23 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Euntes in mundum of 25 January 1988, in Insegnamenti, cit., vol. XI, 1 (1988) p. 220.

24 Cfr. the work of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Foundation for a Christian Civilisation, New York 1980.

25 Der Spiegel, 23, 1989, p. 148.