At the end of the 20th century, it looked like history was being made. After a century that had seen Europe dissolve into an...

At the end of the 20th century, it looked like history was being made. After a century that had seen Europe dissolve into an orgy of bloody conflict not once but twice, the continent seemed to have changed its ways. It had spent the second half of the century building a system of shared sovereignty that was set to expand not just into the countries of the former Soviet bloc, but into what used to be the USSR itself. In the words of one author, Europe (or at least its model) was about to run the  21st century.

Things look different now, of course, thanks to the impact of the financial crisis on the single currency, the euro. However  the European Union (as the project is currently named) has managed to burnish its image in some areas – for instance it now on the verge of covering 28 countries, and even managed to pick up a Nobel Peace Prize (somewhat controversially, although after the first half of the 20th century its role in keeping Europe largely at peace is certainly laudable).

The project that lies at the heart of this is the subject of Luuk van Middelaar‘s The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union (Yale University Press, 2013). It’s not a history book as such, but more a book of political philosophy, that knits together a series of concepts, challenges, and constructs, that together have formed something that in the dark days of the immediate post-War period seemed a long, long way away.

As such, it’s rather an important book. The continent and the European project have both been riven by crises over the last half decade, and some of the achievements Brussels can point to are now seriously threatened. Luuk – who has had a ringside seat of the crisis as the speechwriter for President Herman van Rompuy – has a look at the underpinnings that go beyond the immediate debates, and the insights this provides will no doubt play a role in shaping the European project (whatever it becomes) in decades to come. Enjoy the interview!

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