Four Score: Failure to Join the European Union Hasn't Harmed the Holdouts

By Clark, Neil | The American Conservative, March 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Four Score: Failure to Join the European Union Hasn't Harmed the Holdouts


Clark, Neil, The American Conservative


"THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY." The favorite refrain of totalitarians throughout history is now uttered by the serial globalizers who insist that membership in sovereignty-sapping bodies such as the EU and NATO is the only option for any self-respecting European country. If you have not surrendered your sovereignty, then you're missing out. But is this really true?

Now it might just be a freak coincidence that the four countries in Europe who have best preserved their national sovereignty--Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Belarus, none of whom are in the EU and only two of whom are in NATO-- are all doing quite well. Much better, in fact, than European countries who have handed over law-making powers.

Consider Switzerland, a country that gets bad press from Europhiles for not wanting to join the EU and from serial warmongers for resolutely staying out of military conflicts. The demise of Switzerland has long been predicted. We were told that once it was forced to reduce its banking secrecy, there would be a big outflow of capital and the Swiss franc would lose its position as the world's most secure currency. Moreover Switzerland's high-wage economy would not be able to compete in the cut and thrust of the globalized system. Poppycock. Switzerland stands at number six in the list of the world's richest countries, above the U.S., Japan, and Britain. Uncompetitive? The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's high-wage economy as the most competitive in the world. GDP growth is currently 3 percent, unemployment is only 3.3 percent (compared to the EU average of 7 percent). If Switzerland is suffering from staying out of the EU and the European Economic Area then suffering has never been so comfortable.

Switzerland's non-interventionist foreign policy--the country has not been involved in a war since 1815--has had a direct impact on its prosperity. Bombing and invading other states every few years tends to get rather expensive, as one look at the U.S. deficit evidences. The Swiss' admirable stance of minding their own business also means that, unlike Britain and the U.S., the country doesn't have to spend a fortune protecting its citizens from terrorist attacks.

There is a simple way to tell whether a country is following an interventionist foreign policy: the level of security at its main international airport. Heathrow, since Britain signed on to the Gospel of Scoop Jackson, has become a nightmare: the place is now more like Colditz than a civilian airport. Zurich, by contrast, is how British airports used to be. "Is that it?" my wife and I wondered recently as we passed through the splendidly low-key security. Then we remembered that we were in a country that doesn't attack others.

Switzerland's stubborn refusal to join the EU has led to its demonization. The passionately pro-EU Independent newspaper last year ran a headline: "Switzerland: Europe's Heart of Darkness?" drawing attention to a racist anti-immigration poster designed by the Swiss People's Party. While the poster, which showed three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag was indefensible, the media's double standard toward Switzerland is glaring. The Swissophobes, in their determination to portray the country as the next Third Reich, ignore the fact that SPP's crude nationalism has strengthened the Left, with the Green Party getting almost 10 percent of the vote--one of the best showings of any Green party in Europe.

When it comes to democracy, it's the rest of Europe that should be learning from Switzerland--not the other way round. Switzerland practices the most direct form of people power on the continent. Referenda have been an integral part of the constitution since 1848. One can understand Swiss bewilderment at how surrendering legislative powers to unelected commissars in Brussels would make their country better run.

Norway, like Switzerland, is thriving. …

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