Dr. Denis MacShaneThe other day I attended the annual Jean Monnet lecture which takes place in the Council Room of the Venn Building. This year the speaker was Dr. Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham and Minister for Europe from 2002 until 2005. The topic of the discussion was “Europe: Can it Survive?”

Dr. MacShane believes that the progress of European politics can be split into three distinct generations: the first (Monnet’s) was the generation that envisaged a new Europe where there was free, unimpeded travel throughout Europe accompanied by a free market. The second generation laid the groundwork for this new Europe. However, the real task is how the current and future generations looks towards and take advantage of Europe. Dr. MacShane points to several recent speeches made by young politicians in the current Labour Government (David Miliburn) as good signs for the future of Europe.

Dr. MacShane also addressed the issue of illogical euro-skepticism that reached fever pitch around the time that the European constitutional treaty was being proposed. In response to an audience question, he stated that the bite of the press could be substantially reduced if politicians themselves were not so openly skeptical of the European Union. Notably — and unsurprisingly for a Labour MP — he pointed the finger at Conservative MPs as being largely responsible for this problem. Talking of Conservative MPs, Dr. MacShane recalled several examples where he spoke to Conservative leader David Cameron in the changing rooms of a tennis club near Westminster. On several occasions he urged Cameron to run for party leadership in order to promote a pro-Europe viewpoint in the Conservative Party, and mused that he might be partly responsible for David Cameron’s current leadership of the Conservative Party.

Other interesting points from the lecture:

• Dr. MacShane believes that It is in the interest of the global community — particularly the United Kingdom and the United States — that the European Union remains strong. Whenever mainland Europe suffers, the U.K. suffers (two World Wars are the most blatant examples of this).

• 1% of GDP of European countries goes to European Union — a very small price to pay for the return (namely 50 years of peace).

• On the subject of immigration, Dr. MacShane would much prefer to live in a country where people want to live and are moving to (Ireland today) than a country where people are moving away in order to send money home (Ireland 30 years ago).

• Dr. MacShane made it his department’s policy to refer to the European Constitutional as a treaty — the press’s lack of clarity on this point resulted in widespread belief that it was a binding constitution.

• Europe doesn’t exist. It is merely a collection of treaties.