Tuesday 18 December 2012

Allan Little's Choice is Made

Following on from the post before last.....

Having just listened to Europe Moves East, I would say that the programme concentrated on Polish-German relations to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. There were many interesting insights into the relationship between the two countries, especially those into the Kohl administration's hopes for new friends in the East to make Germany a country entirely surrounded by friends for the first time in its history. Yes, the growing warmth between the two is a wonderful thing. Truly wonderful.

So Czech, Hungarian or Latvian Euroscepticism wasn't on the agenda at all. Poland is the East, as far as Europe Moves East was concerned. 

British Euroscepticism was on the agenda.  There were many, often sustained criticisms of British Eurosceptic attitudes towards the EU from several of Allan's 'talking heads'  throughout the course of the programme. Unfortunately, British Eurosceptics themselves were nowhere to be heard, so no defence of their position was heard. That was much as I expected from an Allan Little documentary on the EU. 

The one concession to Euroscepticism came in the form of a very brief, one-off appearance by Marek Migalski from the Poland Comes First party. In less than a minute he was gone. Still, at least he was there - even if you might have missed him had you sneezed at the wrong moment! I have to say I expected no concessions whatsoever to Euroscepticism from Allan Little. 

His Euro-enthusiast countrymen, Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, and Jan Rostowski, the Polish finance minister, were the true voices of Poland for the programme; indeed, Allan at one stage actually averred than generations of Poles spoke through Mr. Sikorski.  Mateusz Koracki, the young Euro-enthusiast tour guide, also appeared - as above. 

At with Europe's Choice, it was the familiar diet of pro-European voices advancing Allan Little's pro-European-sounding narrative -  Joachim Bitterlich, Helmut Kohl’s advisor; Dietrich von Kyaw, former German ambassador to the EU; and Jörg Müller-Kindt, an enthusiastically pro-EU businessman, represented the Germans.  Élisabeth Guigou, advisor to President Mitterand, was there for the French. 

The sign of bias I was particularly looking out for was who was chosen to speak for the UK. There, criticising Mrs. Thatcher, admiring the course of European advancement and acting throughout as one of Allan Little's main 'talking heads', was Sir John, Lord Kerr, former UK ambassador to the EU - one of Britain's leading Europhiles, serving as Chairman of the [pro-EU] Centre for European Reform, Vice-President of the [pro-EU] European Policy Centre and a Council member of the [pro-EU] Business for New Europe. Quite an unbalanced choice, wouldn't you say? Shouldn't we have had a counterbalancing, Eurosceptic British voice to balance him out - and answer the many criticisms of Britain Euroscepticism (including repeated digs at Mrs. Thatcher) being made at intervals throughout? I think we should.

The other 'talking head' was the historian Anne Applebaum. I thought it was quite unusual that Allan Little missed out one bit of biographical detail about her that would surely have been relevant to the discussion - a detail I suspect most Radio 4 listeners would have been completely unaware of. Anne is married to one of Allan Little's other talking heads, Mr. Sikorski - the foreign minister Allan Little says speaks for generations of Poles. Anne Applebaum added no note of Euroscepticism into the mix, somewhat unsurprisingly.  

And it's to Anne that we now turn. As she herself wrote in the aftermath of the success of her husband's party in the last Polish elections, "Poland might just be the most pro-European country in all of Europe right now." She wrote that in an article about her husband's homeland called Europe's only fan? Allan Little's focus on Poland and Poland alone of all the ten Eastern Bloc accession countries risked misleading listeners into assuming that Poland is necessarily representative and that its Euro-enthusiasm is a particular headache for us heel-dragging Brits. Our Czech Eurosceptic friends may have had something a little different to say, had we heard from them. 

As with Europe's Choice I found myself alternating between feelings of interest and feelings of exasperation - the latter arising from the sense of been repeatedly hit over the head with a metaphorical handbag wielded by Allan Little. The handbag he was so relentlessly whacking against our poor pates contained the message that the European Union is the agent of something wonderful - the coming together of Germany and Poland. Indeed it may be; however, that doesn't mean that the European Union (as now constituted) is necessarily a good thing as a whole, nor that we should all be rejoicing at its wonderfulness.  

The programme is now available to listen to. Please do. 

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