I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

The Black International


Some British historians of a conservative stripe have tended to see the European Union (or the Common Market as they may call it) as a Napoleonic conspiracy against the sceptred isle (see Does Europe Exist?). Back when it was starting out they had other ideas, as the late Tony Judt pointed out in Postwar.

… further north … [in] the Protestant lands of Scandinavia and Britain … the European Coal and Steel Community carried a certain whiff of authoritarian incense. Tage Erlander, the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister from 1948-68, actually ascribed his own ambivalence about joining to the overwhelming Catholic majority in the new Community. Kenneth Younger, a senior adviser to [Labour foreign secretary Ernest] Bevin, noted in his diary entry for May 14th 1950 … that while he generally favoured European economic integration the new proposals might “on the other hand … be just a step in the consolidation of the Catholic ‘black international’ which I have always thought to be a big driving force behind the Council of Europe.”

Such views, Judt adds, were not uncommon at the time. In fact three of the prime movers in these first steps towards creating a political Europe were indeed political Catholics: the Italian prime minister, Alcide de Gasperi, the German chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, and the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman. There were, however, two other things they had in common: each came from a peripheral region of their respective countries, De Gasperi from Alto Adige in the far north of Italy near the Austrian border; Adenauer from the Rhineland and Schuman from Alsace. The other thing was that the native language of each, and the one they conversed in when they met, was German.