EU Under Water

The EU: A Sinking Ship?

The shipwreck off the Italian coast, Bret Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal, is an apt metaphor for the entire continent. Stephens recounts an old Berlitz ad featuring a German coast guard trainee who receives an SOS call from an English ship: “May day, May day.  We are sinking! We are sinking!” “What” replies the nervous trainee: “are you sinking about?” That’s the question that should be asked of Europe’s political as well as maritime captains, Stephens notes: What on earth are they thinking?

A perhaps yet-more apropos joke was told to me many years ago by my then-colleague Radek Sikorski (link no longer available) (now Poland’s Foreign Minister, whose gutsy talk on the EU (link no longer available) a month ago in Berlin received well-deserved attention):

A Lufthansa jet loaded with passengers from across Europe leaves Frankfurt and, en route to New York, develops engine trouble. The pilot announces through the intercom:

Ladies and gentlemen, vee vill have to land on the water. But there is no reason for concern. Passengers who can swim, please sit on the left side of the plane. Passengers who cannot swim, please sit on the right.”

The passengers sort themselves; the plane lands on the water; and the pilot comes back on:

Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately vee do not have life vests. Passengers on the left, please find the nearest exit. Passengers on the right, thank you for flying Lufthansa.

A year or so hence, Mrs. Merkel’s parting words?

Michael S. Greve

Michael S. Greve is a professor at George Mason University School of Law. From 2000 to August, 2012, Professor Greve was the John G. Searle Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, where he remains a visiting scholar. His most recent book is The Upside-Down Constitution (Harvard University Press, 2012).

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  1. lks4htgtrf97ick says

    Several years ago I was flying back to the US from Germany. They were handing out the customs cards for us to fill out and when asked her nationality a passenger proudly said “European”. The flight attendant handed her a card printed in English to which she immediately and frantically replied, “In German. I need one in German!”

    Europe is not a nation it is not democratic. The notion that they could have a single economic policy dictated by unelected bureaucrats was self-delusion.

  2. John McClaughry says

    I believe the radio inquiry was “Vat are you sinking about?” I am reminded of the famous Kennedy-era Air Force One game of supplying a question to fit a stated answer. The answer was “Nine, W”.
    The question turned out to be: “Do your spell your name with a V, Herr Wagner?”

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