“EUROPE : COMMUNITY OR EMPIRE?” a path-breaking historical book by Franck Biancheri (1992)

“Community or empire: up to the European citizen to decide!”

Written by Franck Biancheri in 1992 in the period of the Maastricht Treaty negotiations, this path-breaking historical book is a key-work to understand the paths and the crossings that took Europe for more than 25 years. A book that gives the keys to understanding the complex system of European construction and Europe today.
The look of Franck Biancheri yesterday on the European construction and European governance is still as crying of accuracy and truths on the excesses and blockages of the European system today. A book that gives Europeans the tools to change the democratic course of their history and which should be made indispensable to all those who are at the political helm of Europe and states in Europe, and all those who study European political science…

“Community or empire: up to the European citizen to decide!”. Franck Biancheri always repeated: “Power should never be taken for granted, one must seize it. If the citizens want to have their say in Europe, they must organise themselves and force the European and national bureaucrats to share the European power.”

…/… After Maastricht, the EU continued to follow the awful path of “treatocracy”, with Amsterdam (1997), then Nice (2001), and finally Lisbon (2009 – a miscarriage of what could have been the great rendezvous of the European institutions with the peoples), whilst “technocracy” came to support the agendas of economic and financial conquests, totally incompatible with the needs and aspirations of European citizens.

This is precisely how empires are built, by breaking with the central power, the “unity” (here, in its acceptation of “uniformisation”), as a measuring instrument of success, which Franck Biancheri opposed to the “diversity”, an instrument for measuring European wealth, carried by the Maastricht’s creature called “Union”, as denounced here by Franck Biancheri; by bringing into the same mould some systems so different socially, economically as politically like for instance the Federal Germany, the Republican France, the very old English monarchical parliamentarianism, the young inexperienced democracies of the East, the northern pragmatic Europe, the bubbling Southern Europe … and above all, by imposing a distorted view of the principle of subsidiarity, as the last act of deviation from the communitarian “imperialist” system. It’s a community system which tried to “standardise” instead of “develop” denounced by Franck Biancheri after all.

Today’s “community” environment has nothing to do with that of 1992 (to speak only of that one, for the entire world has been turned upside down), whether in the number of countries (from 12 member states in 1992 – meaning 45 years after the Treaty of Rome, to 28 in 20 more years), in enlargement of border areas, treaties, in number of citizens (about 300 million in 1992 and more than 510 million in 2016), modernised means of transportation, communication, internet … so why publish this text now?

We can only note that the question “Where is Europe going?”, which Franck Biancheri asked in “Community or Empire”, and further on kept asking to thousands of Europeans during his marathon for European democracy throughout the EU in 2003-2004, despite notable changes in the structure of the EU and its governance (Schengen, Eurozone, EP capacities increase, etc.), this question still needs an appropriate answer.

After a period of systemic crisis which has swept the world, and from which the old West has struggled to rise whilst other powers have emerged, it is may be time for European citizens to get back to the work they stopped in 1992 and to finally finalise the creation of their community if they do not want to see their world disappear behind the walls which are being rebuilt around them; for that is also an empire: to build walls that mark the imperial borders. And it is undoubtedly up to European citizens to make a choice, as they are the engine of the “community” of Europe.

Franck Biancheri does not only address the question of survival or of political change. In his acceptance, this question is also a matter of intellectual understanding (the words “Community”, “Europe”, “Union”, “Unity”, “Diversity”); of historical understanding (“Yugoslav war”, “Fall of the Iron Curtain”…); of internal functioning of the current all image system, of language abbreviations and signs, of the monolinguism imposed on us in Europe… destructive characters of all the philosophical nuances of words, but also the submission of our thought to the schematisation of a universal language (an incontestable sign of an imperial conquest killing diversity).

To finish, I would like to quote two passages emblematic for the undeniable actuality of Franck Biancheri’s “Community or Empire” book:

“Or else, she (Europe) can sink into the ruts of history and be the “murdered Mozart” of the 21st century’s politics. Then, unconsciously, it will suffice to get rid of the concept and name of Community (reference to its innovative origin) in order to put back on the classical coat of “power-union”, of “United States”. (The main problem of the “union” is that for it to live, diversity must die. History tells us so … For a year now, they keep telling us about this European Union.)

A failure of individuals and minorities facing a centre and a bureaucracy aiming to control, to standardise and not to develop. A failure of the peace ideals also, because an empire is always providing platforms where conflicts and wars proliferate, a sine qua non condition for the maintenance of interior peace. Finally, the failure of a positive contribution to mankind, because an empire needs enemies, whilst a Community requires partners.

Marianne Ranke-Cormier

Abstracts from the preface of the book: “EUROPE : COMMUNITY OR EMPIRE? Elements of reflection and principles of action for future European citizens” – Franck Biancheri, 1992 – Editions ANTICIPOLIS (20,8 cm x 14cm – 160 pages – 18.00 €)

Franck Biancheri was neither a starry-eyed Euro-believer nor a Eurosceptic. Extremely critical of the system, but fundamentally optimistic (his motto was “the pessimism of intelligence, the optimism of the will” a quote borrowed from Antonio Gramsci), he fought till the end of his life for the survival of the European project initiated by the founding fathers; for the European values enshrined in our texts, the peace among these peoples which have been tearing each other apart during more than 1500 years of history, bringing the world into their decay; for democracy which managed to win in the West and which has just torn down the Iron Curtain and the Berlin wall …

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