René van Leeuwen: When in Europe, do as the Romans do

Pro-Europe politicians know damn well that a majority of the Dutch population oppose the treaty to create a European rescue fund, writes René van Leeuwen.

In 44 BC Julius Caesar was appointed dictator in perpetuum, or dictator for life. This meant, mostly according to Caesar himself, that he was to be treated as king. The last time the Romans had a king the people lost all their rights.
According to Caesar, the Roman empire had become so extended that the old system of government had ceased to function. He wanted more power to act decisively. This was a step too far for many, including Marcus Brutus, Caesar’s former protegé. A conspiracy to end Caesar’s life was formed.
Popular myth has it that Caesar’s spirit broke when he saw Brutus among the plotters. Just before his death from 23 stab wounds on March 15th, 44 BC, he is supposed to have uttered the words Et tu Brutus? (You too, Brutus?) Then he hid his face in his toga and fell to the ground.
ESM treaty
Fastforward to the present times: The ESM treaty (more power to act decisively, remember) was rushed through parliament in what constitutes a gross act of contempt for the voters themselves. It should go down in parliamentary history as the most controversial subject to crop up during a period of caretaker government.
The EU is suffering from Roman goings-on: backroom politics, conspiracies, a profusion of red tape, a toothless parliament and little democratic participation. The EU, like the Roman empire, wants to be an imperium. What the people think about this is of no great importance. I don’t have to listen to barbarians, the uppity politicians think. See also the referendum about the European constitution.
The vote on the ESM treaty is one of almost unbearable political stupidity. The political wisdom of monetary union apart, if the concept of European unity is suffering from anything, it is its image. Any politician whose ideal is a united Europe should listen to what the people are saying about it first.
But what do the pro-European politicians do? They knowingly gag the people.
This has nothing to do with European deadlines or emergency situations. The pro-European politicians know damn well that a majority of the Dutch population is diametrically opposed to their take on the ESM treaty. They will have to live in hope that this insult will have been forgotten by September 12th.
Uncrowned kings
The politicians are behaving, as did Caesar, like uncrowned kings. By willfully ignoring the wishes of the people they are running the risk of the election date becoming the Ides of March all over again. The pro-Europe politicians are creating their own, modern day Marcus Brutus.
René van Leeuwen is studying for a Masters degree at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. This column was originally published in the Volkskrant.

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