At a dinner party this evening I met a vociferous proponent of a case I have been arguing for some time now. For a long period the essential, inspiring ‘narrative’ of the European integration process was peace and prosperity. As various Western Balkan countries knock at the door that surely is what it is still all about. Nevertheless, the success of the integration process has made us blasé about our achievements and younger generations, who never knew Europe’s conflicts and divisions, take everything for granted. Now, with the effective sidelining of the Europeans at Copenhagen we suddenly find ourselves searching our souls and wondering about the EU’s existential raison d’être. Will what we have collectively achieved turn out to have been a passing phenomenon and are we now already in a decadent slide into world irrelevance? As Tony Barber put it recently in the Financial Times, will Europe become a sort of open-air museum inhabited by pensioners, unemployed youth, restive immigrants and chocolatiers’? (12 January 2010) Like my vociferous host this evening, I believe a more noble fate could await our continent, if we have the true strength of our convictions. It is tied up also in the existential crises that other organisations – the UN most notably, but also NATO and the Council of Europe – have been undergoing. It is easy to forget that many of Europe’s original federalists (William Beveridge among them) had a vision of world governance and saw the European experiment as a sort of pilot project. Put simply, the EU has shown that there is another way of doing things. That if mutual confidence and respect is gradually built up, if peoples trust in courageous visonaries, if generations of hardworking technocrats are prepared to dig in the trenches, then nation states can maybe begin to pool sovereignty and accept majority decisions. Like trade, regional integration is better than no integration at all. It is time to export the European model more vociferously, to use our notorious ‘soft power’ to encourage other parts of the world, specially those riven by territorial conflicts, to look to our example and follow. The issues we increasingly face – water, food, energy, climate change – are global in nature and require a global response. It may take a long time but surely global governance should be about more than the Chinese and Americans sitting down in a classic ‘smoke-filled room’ to broker last-minute face-saving deals. Other guests were not so sure. After all, wasn’t the EU vision preceded by a cataclysm and Europe re-built on the ashes of its previous stupidities? There’s no time for the gradualism of the Monnet method. And wasn’t European integration based first on a sectoral approach? All of those points are valid, but I don’t believe they undermine the basic argument. Collectively, the world owes countries like Haiti a better future than their ghastly past.