Thursday, October 31, 2013
Be The Next Capital of Europe?
The author’s entry ‘did not make it’ to the shortlist of the Brexit Prize http://www.cityam.com/article/1383184050/city-economist-shortlist-100000-prize-brexit-plan. For what it is worth, I republish my entry (submission #1300) here. Edits have been made wherever I believe it necessary for clarity's sake).
When Washington, D.C. (D.C.=District of Columbia, U.S.A.), was created in 1790 as a result of a compromise between the Southern and Northern States of America, because both sides feared that the location of the capital city in either domain will give either side undue say in the affairs of state, significant new ground was broken in the art of fair government.
It is interesting that the American precedent may again play a role, this time in the governance of the European Union, which may be said to be divided, on the basis of historical experience, in states with an Eastern and Western orientation. This situation is especially onerous to the Eastern states, because the establishment of the capital of the European Union in
Brussels is a consequence of a Europe as it presented itself immediately after World War
2, and has been greatly influenced by the subsequent political contest between
two economic ideologies, communism and capitalism.
While we are told that Communism (championed by the Soviet Union in the East) has lost to Capitalism (championed by the West), the former, the ‘losers’ have not in the minds of their own people conceded the loss to the West to the extent that they should abandon their sovereign states to a centralized and ‘federated state’. After all, who will surrender his or her right to ‘equality’ to some phrase that gives a little more of the balance to the next man or woman. As for the ‘winner’—given the present financial and economic instability in the world—he has not proven his success beyond any doubt.
Therefore, as a consequence of the above, if there should be held a referendum in
Britain as to its membership in the European Union and
should the citizenry of Great Britain
vote to ‘out’ of the European Union, it will be to the cheer of many citizens
of Europe. To understand the “cheer”, we must
cast a glance at the lay of geography of Europe
As the map at the above link shows, the conventional view of Europe is bound by five (5) seas: the Arctic and Atlantic oceans (north and west of Europe); the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian seas (along the southern end of Europe); and the mountain ranges of the Urals and Caucasus that separate ancient Tartary (east and southeast) from what we now call Asia. Nevertheless, as the link also notes: “…the borders of
concept dating back to classical antiquity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_antiquity—are
somewhat arbitrary….” To wit: in ‘classical antiquity’ Europe embraced also
parts of Northern Africa and the Middle East.
Furthermore, one may also argue that following World War 2, which was ‘won’ by
the Soviet Union and a consortium of Western Allies, Europe extended its
borders (if that name is generously allowed for) as far East as the Sakhalin
Islands and as far South as the Indian Ocean.
In other words, the above mentioned areas have been in constant flux and interaction (sometimes violent) over a long period of time. Therefore, when one talks of Europe, one also speaks of cultures that overlap with each other, which is in spite of the fact that at one time the history
Europe [following the so-called Great
Schism (religious and political)] was captured by the self-absorbed viewpoint
of Western Christianity, which in our time is being shaken by an awakening of
Whatever the reasons for decreasing the geographical limits of Europe, the establishment of Brussels (Belgium) as the de facto capital of Europe was dictated by an element of elitist dominated post WW2 military bureaucracy, which herded and cajoled the surviving nationalist governments to enter the European Union, which they expected to turn, in due course, into a centralized federation of states. Needless to say, this was done without consulting the opinions of the people of Europe, who became aware that the chicanery of the surviving elements of the bureaucracy had lost them not only their sovereignty, but globalized them in a manner that caused them loss of their history and denied their sacrifices of life an honorable heritage. Therefore, today they see their future not as reality, but some ‘fancy fish’ in an aquarium.
Specific juridical steps that ought to follow an ‘out’ vote should take place within Article 50 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Withdrawal_from_the_European_Union of the Lisbon Treaty, not in the form of an exit from the European Union, but in the context of an Amendment to said Article. The Amendment is to be guided by an additional question on the Referendum: whether Britain ‘in’ or ‘out’ (of Europe) will project more self-assured if there is added the following: “In the event the referendum vote results in an ‘out’ vote, will you agree to recommend that London propose itself part of an Olympiad of EU Capital Cities for a twenty-five (25) year period, thereby denying Brussels and any other city the image of an ‘eternal capital city’? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brussels.
As the added question points out, the citizens of the European Union have not up to this point in time had an opportunity to decide the location of their capital, let alone discover that
has many worthy candidates for the role of capital city. Indeed, the location
of Brussels is based on the medieval
geopolitical model formed by former Benelux nations, without taking into
account the geopolitical alignment of the post Cold War order, the latter which
suggest a Europe of rotating rather than fixed
capital cities. Here, a brief summary of the history of the ‘rotating capital
cities’ of Europe since the fall of the Eastern Roman
When Byzantium, later also known as Constantinople (now Istanbul) came under increasing pressure from westward moving Turkic tribes (some call them Huns), the dominant Frankish tribes in the area found it expedient to move northwestward, just as some Slav tribes first moved to Kiev, later to Moscow.
The move northwest by the Franks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franks perhaps strengthened by earlier Frank tribes in that area, helped create the so-called Carolingian kingdom, with King Charlemagne at Aachen among its most notable heads. The Capetian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Capet dynasty turned the Franks into the French, and established
Paris as the capital of then Western Europe. While other emerging nations were never
wholly satisfied with the arrangement, even greater unhappiness was experienced
by an offshoot of the Franks, the German tribes to the East of the French
dominated West. This is one of the reasons, why the Germans made an attempt to
establish an alternative de facto capital in Riga,
currently the capital city of .
To do so, they needed the cooperation of the Slavic people, who at that time
continued to make their home in the wood, where with the help of reindeer herds,
apple trees, turnips, and other forest and water goods, they practiced a
subsistence economy. Latvia
When the German attempt, led by the Teutonic knights, failed (for a number of complex reasons), the Germans retreated from Riga to Koenigsberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Prussia , which was not only closer to the home lands of the Germans, but which soon thereafter became the capital of Prussia, which became the founding state of modern Germany. When the founding efforts of
were completed, the de facto German
capital was moved from Koenigsberg to ,
located a short distance to the west. Berlin
While the fall of the Soviet Union reestablished
Riga as a potential future
candidate for the capital of Europe, the political and economic orientation of
the Soviet Union was opposite that of the
Western nations. Also, the political leadership of post-Soviet Latvia (soon become submissive to the bureaucracy)
unilaterally denied its people a say in the matter by refusing them a
referendum provided for by their Constitution. This is the reason why this
participant in the IEA Brexit Prize comes from Brussels . Latvia
What makes a referendum regarding membership in the European Union by the people of England of such importance is that the result—whether ‘in’ or ‘out’—will enlarge the participant pool of potential future Capital Cities of Europe, even as it stops any one city from becoming dominant.
While a rotating capital city of
Europe may presently seem as a difficult thing to
achieve, in practice it should be no more difficult than, say, the
International Olympic Committee (IOC) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Olympic_Committee
deciding in which country to hold the
next Olympic Games. The rules as to which country will be Europe’s
successor capital appear to be ideally suited by the methods already
established by the IOC:
“Countries wishing to host the Summer Olympic Games or the Winter Olympic Games compete aggressively to have their bid accepted by the IOC. The IOC members, representing most of the member countries, vote to decide where the Games will take place. Members from countries which have cities bidding to host the games are excluded from the voting process, up until the point where their city drops out of the contest.”