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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/5/16

Independence Day Fireworks on Both Shores of the Atlantic

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jacques Couvas

Fourth of July is Independence Day for the Americans. They commemorate the revolt of their forefathers in 1776 against the exploitation and mistreatment they endured under the British Empire. Together with the French Revolution at Bastille on 14th July 1789, it has represented for the ensuing generations all over the World the fight against tyranny and the quest for equality, justice and democracy.

We can, of course, be sceptical today about the true achievement of such aims for all humans on this planet. Nevertheless, these ideals have found fertile ground and will certainly continue to produce beneficial results.

Fourth of July coincides this year with the decision by 52% of the citizens of Britain to part with the European Union, whose 'tyranny' they resent! Politicians and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic have seized the opportunity to make comparisons and to support, or reject, such claims.

Circle of Fire, closing ceremony, 2012 London Olympics
Circle of Fire, closing ceremony, 2012 London Olympics
(Image by Philip Pryke, Author: Philip Pryke)
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EU has without doubt become increasingly centralised and has conferred too much power to its institutions, giving the impression of an emerging empire, rather than of a cosmopolitan democratic polity composed of a variety of nations and cultures. But the label of 'tyranny' is exaggerated. Although the number of democracies around the globe is shrinking, according to the latest academic research, very few autocratic regimes can be classified as tyrannies, in the traditional definition, and in comparison with those that existed in the Middle Ages and up to the early 20th century. The globalisation of information, hyperactivity of Social Media, and the international public opinion don't facilitate the designs of genuine tyrants!

The British followed their intuition and preference for preserving their cultural and legal traditions, which have been diluted through their membership to the EU. They have exercised their universal right 'to choose where to belong.' Whether this is a pragmatic decision it is too early to tell.

A small majority won and will have it their way, but the losing minority is not excluded, and national cohesion remains intact, in spite of demonstrations in the streets by a small part of the populace, probably manipulated by those whose financial interests where embedded in EU membership--financial institutions, landlords, real estate agents, to name a few. In communications, fear is more persuasive than hope.

The British have so far adhered to their principles of democracy, fairness and inclusion, for winners and for losers alike. The European Union is also demonstrating its own political philosophy, which goes along the same lines.

Considering that the EU project is not only economic, but also political, social and defence-oriented, the British vote is a move towards secession. Secession has negative effects not only for those who secede, but for their former partners too. A century ago there would have been a call to arms! But we have not heard of any intentions to send the troops to suppress the 'revolt', or to bomb London and the British Isles! This is 21st century democracy and cross-border realpolitik. True, it is easier to digest and implement in federal-like states, where politicians and constituents think both vertically and horizontally (from nationalistic and Union-wide perspectives), than in centralised ethnocentric states. Hot heads spark trouble. Cool heads keep the community out of it.

The European Union is a unique creation in political history--anywhere, ever. The departure of Britain from the EU is a novelty within a novelty. No legal model for such divorce had been conceived--just a brief clause in the Treaty of Lisbon, opening a small window for a possible run-away, in which no one believed. The strength of Europe lies in its deep experience in, and lessons drawn from, dealing with social and cultural upheavals, dissent, Machiavellianism, civil struggle, and violence between neighbours.

Contrary to other regions of the world which have been through similar crises over the centuries, the Europeans have learned that dialogue, principled negotiations, inclusion, and focus on similarities rather than on differences pay off and build long-term vision and solidarity to achieve it.

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J N Couvas is an academic, journalist, and an international corporate and political adviser, specialising in Middle East and Balkan affairs. He teaches international strategy and executive leadership at universities in the region.

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