Editorial. Power at the top

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



Coleman, J. (2000), "Editorial. Power at the top", European Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ebr.2000.05412cab.007



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Editorial. Power at the top

Edited by John Coleman

Deputy Editor Aidan Rankin


Power at the top

The question of power and how to control it has always been at the forefront of human history, no doubt, since the Stone Age. In more recent times we have witnessed Napoleon and Hitler. The constitution of the USA is characterised by its safeguards against the abuse of power, although it remains open to question whether or not such safeguards have been enough. The European Treaties of Rome, Maastricht and Amsterdam place far less emphasis on restraining the use of power. That is a matter that still ought to remain in the hands of the member states. Much of modern politics is an attempt to strike a balance between rights and responsibilities, between individual freedom and social good. Increasingly, we see this debate played out at continental level, through the creative tension between national independence and pan-European structures.

The dangers and hopes which face and challenge Europe were plainly set out in an article in The Tablet by Cardinal König and are so important that no excuse is needed to repeat them here. On the one side is the danger of the kind of nationalism that in the past has led to tension, misery and war. On the other is the spectre of an undemocratic European Union. There is a narrow path between these two dangers: "The answer surely is unity in diversity, namely a union of European states in which each has the greatest amount of freedom so long as the liberty of its democratic members is not endangered." If the European Union becomes undemocratic that surely is the very thing that will play into the hands of the nascent fascist elements in all its member states.

Aidan Rankin looks at the Council of Europe and see dangers, not in its promotion of human rights but in the abuse of those rights if they are not organically linked to their accompanying obligations. The truest of ideas can be the most dangerous when the devil gets hold of them.

The last issue of this journal carried an article by Hazir Temourian: "If Turkey gets in ..." which is sharply, if not rudely criticised in this issue by Andrew Mango, one of the leading authorities on modern Turkey. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the Turkish case for membership, there appear to be the two main ways of looking at the question of enlargement. As Temourian pointed out, Köhl and the old Franco-German axis were firmly set against Turkey joining the EU. On the other side, the British Government at the EU summit in Helsinki - possibly not without an awareness of Washington's support for Turkey as a member of Nato - strongly supported the enlargement of the Union specifically including Turkey. We have witnessed the role of the USA in former Yugoslavia, and its readiness to accept Albania as a member of Nato, thus bringing it to the heart of Europe. Perhaps this approach runs parallel to Britain's championing of Turkish interests. If so, we can discern two major power groups at the core of European development: the Franco-German axis and the Anglo-American. Perhaps this has been so from the beginning, when the USA pushed so vigorously for Britain to join the Common Market. Why else did de Gaulle resist?

The situation calls for long and hard thought by Europeans, including Britain, but surely the best answer has been produced by Cardinal König. That answer offers not only the best political solution but also the restraint of Christianity. It is all too easy to suppose that peace and prosperity, material prosperity go together. The evidence of history suggests the reverse. Human beings behave best towards each other when they share the vicissitudes of adversity. War is an extreme example. Of course destitution will create tremendous problems but once human beings begin to achieve prosperity too easily we soon find the truth of the old saying "the more they get the more they want" and fellow human feeling quickly deserts them. We may hope that the prosperity that Thomas Orszag-Land describes may achieve its environmental aims and help to avoid undue human hardship without destroying civilisation. Europe might learn from the mistakes Tacitus saw the Roman Empire making in its client states:

we give them baths and theatres and call it civilisation.

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