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Alstom: Power and sovereignty.

A titre d'expérience, nous retranscrivons ici le dernier article de Jean-Claude Empereur, Pouvoir et souveraineté, obligeamment traduit en anglais par Henry Suhamy, que nous remercions chaleureusement. Si nous en avions les moyens, nous éditerions les articles de ce site sous une version bilingue, mais ceci ne nous est pas possible pour le moment. Here is an english translation of the paper of Jean Claude Empereur: Pouvoir et souveraineté. The author of the translation is Henry Suhamy; many thanks ! JPB

Let us do away with semantic refusal.

How to  build power.  Vision defines sovereignty.

The up-coming of European elections are likely to result in a new reduction in the capacities of power and sovereignty available to the European Union. In France, the acceptance of public authorities as regards the announced dismantling of  the  ALSTOM group confirms this worrying forecast.

The prospect for the European elections, the negotiation on Transatlantic Trade and Investment  Partnership agreement, (TTIP) in a general mood of mistrust towards the European institutions, should encourage medias and political officials  to question the concepts of power,

For the Europeans the problem of power is an essential one but subject to two conditions:
- That they reach a common agreement on its contents,
- That they regard power not as an aim  in itself  but as  an element  of  a much more global and higher concept: European sovereignty.

If the reconciliation of the Europeans with the concept of power is a need, the essential requirement remains the conquest of sovereignty, that is to say the will to control their collective destiny. Power is an element of sovereignty, a way of access. It has no value in itself, it appears only as a relativist concept; on the contrary sovereignty is an absolute concept.

Power defines itself by its contents, sovereignty by a vision.

Power: what contents?


Political leaders and medias as well are continuously calling, time and time again, upon the concept of European power. Rare are those which have ventured to define the contents of it.

At worst, European Union leaders, frightened with the  idea of being stigmatized  as world trouble-makers, were anxious to show  as a proof of their good intentions, their desire to annihilate in their attitude anything that would imply some sort of will for power and refer them to “the dark ages of our History”.  Consequently they evince toward the rest of the world a preference for impotence, begging, in so doing, for a kind of approval that nobody is asking from them. The paradox of the situation is that in the meantime the entire world is engaged in a strenuous multipolar competition, whose mainsprings are precisely an expression of power in all its aspects.

However, at the present time, nothing allows us to think that the States which are members of the Union
- entertain a common idea of power, either about its use and finality,  or its multiple components,
- share a common vision in the manner of treating them on a hierarchical basis,
 - are ready to provide for it the same type or level of means,
 - or even, at least as regards some of them, feel  the very need of it.

Asking the question is already answering it. Enumerating higgledy-piggledy, some of these elements of power: finance, demography, defense, energy, technique, industry, digital industry, space, oceans, culture, etc, it clearly appears that there currently exists no European consensus.
Nevertheless this does not mean that we are bound to give up the idea of building a powerful Europe, which is an operational concept, rather than a  Europe as power, which is on the contrary a purely incantatory concept, just instrumental as a lure in congresses or assemblies under the umbrella of Europeanist right-thinking.

Quite on the contrary, it is a pressing need. It is high time to put  together in perspective the tools and devices of power which are  critically  needed  for  Europe's survival in a world which is actually not favorable to the concept of a European power  and prefers to consider  Europe, at best as  a free and open  market, at worst as a group of countries growing old, economically weak,  and a political nonentity.

Having for thirty years preferred economic irenics to political voluntarism, market short-termism to long term vision, the Union has proved  unable collectively to implement  essential and strategic structures of power  such as fundamental or applied research, energy, generic techniques, NBIC, food safety, defense, population policies  or  cultural identity...

The indisputable success of some technical or industrial great adventures in the fields of aerospace or nuclear power is primarily due to French initiatives, most often taken over by Germany and sometimes by other European partners. New domains of power were hardly explored since then, except only in reports or blue books.

Aversion for any industrial policy, obsession for unimpeded free competition, the alpha and omega of the European Committee would undoubtedly make now impossible the launching of Airbus. It is not without difficulty that the A  400M was successfully turned out, a major element of sovereignty due to its strategically and tactical capability of projection.  Similarly the Galileo program was carried on in spite of many obstacles–an essential geolocalisation  tool  dedicated to global security and management of economic flows and activities. The supplies of the former are doled out in driblets, owing to the reduction of defense budgets, the latter had to accept many interworking arrangements under American pressures prejudicial to the independence and sovereignty of Europe.

This last point clearly illustrates the will displayed by the American and imperialist concept of permanently maintaining vis-a-vis the European Union and the rest of the world, including China a technological gap in order to preserve and develop, at any cost, based on the hegemony of the dollar, their  full spectrum dominance over the world, a decisive and  non-negotiable concept of their planetarian domination.
In addition to that , the  Snowden affair  revealed, how the NSA, one of the most emblematic intelligence agencies of the American technical and digital sovereignty, well beyond the simple sprawling  system of electronic espionage to what  the medias and European political leaders restricted their geopolitical analysis, represented de facto  the digital pivot of this strategy.

To paraphrase Mackinder and his geographical pivot theory, one can contend that who controls the digital pivot controls the world.
The National Security Agency (NSA) whose extensive activities were revealed by  Edward Snowden represents the central axis of a planetary digital power.

This digital power, spreading at an exponential speed in every field, from  defense to economy and culture, is unfortunately out of reach for the Europeans who forty years ago, did not   understand the crucial importance of sovereignty obtained through technical mastery. In so doing, owing to this lack of industrial, technical and geopolitical vision, Europe has been running the risk of becoming an incomplete power.

Sovereignty, what vision?


Without geopolitical goals clearly asserted, the notion of a European power has no significance. This power has to be targeted and ordered toward an objective. At minima it is a question of ensuring the survival of the Old Continent, or, with more ambition, of defending a certain vision and conception of the world and of society. In short: to control a destiny.

However, since Bodin and Hobbes, for a State or a union of State the will to preserve the ways and means of this control, not to depend on anyone, to protect its people, its goods, his heritage, its memory, has a name : sovereignty.

But, for historical and geopolitical reasons, but also due to a collective feeling of guilt, Europeans have kept, since the end of the Second World War, a posture of refusal of sovereignty considering this concept as being the origin of their conflicts and of their decline.

This attitude of refusal does not in any way affect the other actors of the multipolar world, such as China, Russia, India, Brazil, Israel or the so-called international community. Quite on the contrary, this world is the theatre of a permanent confrontation of sovereignties. This confrontation is even the essential characteristic of a “world becoming normal again” to follow the expression of the American geopolitologist Robert Kagan.

But the course and governance of their institutions condemn the members of the European Union to this refusal. Much more: these institutions perseveringly, year after year, have been appropriating, by successive and irreversible delegations, the true substance of national sovereignties without transforming this process into the building and strengthening of a genuine European sovereignty: an overhanging and mutual sovereignty capable of asserting itself vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

Little by little a double-faced figure of European sovereignty has been settled: one for internal use, turned towards the Member States, coercive, making them feel guilty, even punitive; the other one for external use,  inhibited  and almost non-existent to the rest of the world.
This dissymmetry, being considered more and more disapprovingly by public opinion, is largely responsible for the weakening of a European political feeling.

This is obvious in the management of the Euro, the single currency. Everyone has finally understood that the sacrifices consented to in terms of abandonment of sovereignty in this particularly significant field of collective psychology were not compensated by the emergence of a currency which, on  the international monetary and financial market, does not succeed in asserting itself in front of  the dollar and the yuan, in a context of currencies at war, the dollar and the yuan being backed by real powers, especially as regards the United States, growing economic, technical and military power in full growth.

According to the legal tradition, sovereignty is necessarily based on three elements: a State, a people and a territory, but the European Union is a cantilever construction, thus revealing all the ambiguity of its project.

The difficulty is all the more important as beyond and in addition to traditional powers, other vectors of power such as financial corporations and digital operators are most often narrowly interwoven and connected to each other: The ones and the others today are essentially dependent on the American hyperpower. Traditional powers will be soon entangled also with new huge techno-financial groups belonging to emergent or re-emergent powers in a gigantic competition aiming at  the “ capturing  of the world”, in reference to  the concept that Heidegger applied to postmodern technical development.

Confronted with such a complexity carrying threats for their future, paralyzed by institutions unsuited to the oncoming world, tormented by a feeling of guilt, sometimes verging on self-hatred, deprived of any collective geopolitical vision, what can make Europeans escape from these Gulliverian fetters?

It has often been said that the European Union was a sui generis legal construction without any example in history. Undoubtedly it seems true.  The European Union is neither a State, nor a federation, nor a confederation. There is a risk that this singularity which was some years ago a strength may become now a trap in the multipolar competition which is spreading at full speed under our eyes.

The Europeans have now to invent a new form of sui generis sovereignty, shared by all, co-operative, overhanging, above the ground, a new kind of sovereignty conceived not as superior to the sovereignty of the Member States but on  the contrary as a protective, liberating and anticipative reinforcement, able to break away from the geopolitics of impotence which seems to have inspired Europe for a hundred years.
In the absence of collective reflection on these subjects, there is no doubt that the crisis of European feeling and the very advanced disaffection already felt by our fellow-citizens towards institutions which they have with amazement found unable to cope with the challenges that the financial  crisis and the ensuing world recombination imposed on them, worsens day after day.
                                                                           
                                                                             Jean-Claude Empereur

                                                                                         
31/05/2014
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