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THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Some savoir-faire might keep EU weak but happy

Employers will tell you there are two ways to keep out a union. One is through fear, the other through generosity.

What applies to labor unions also applies to the European Union.

Keep in mind that, for an employer, the goal is to keep costs at a minimum. If being nasty causes more expense than would unionization, it's not working. By the same token, if a union-averse employer spends more trying to buy peace than he would in dealing with a union, the strategy failed.

The European Union is likely here to stay, but the people of France and the people of Netherlands dealt it serious blows. Both countries rejected a constitutional provision that would have greatly strengthened the EU while reducing the power of its individual member states.

The EU's existence has a whole lot to do with international disdain of the United States. We are too loud and brash. We are the nouveau riche of the world, having become suddenly and obscenely rich.

We lack the savoir-faire of our continental betters.

The failed constitutional provision is important because it means they hate us less than they hate losing their independence to a board in Brussels.

Truth is, we don't always like them so much, either. Sometimes they are a bit uppity.

Fortunately, though, we don't need to like each other. We just need to keep the peace. From our standpoint, we want each country to be independent enough to quarrel with its neighbor. It's OK if each country has an army, but one big army is not so good.

Back to the employer analogy. Being nasty is not likely to keep this union out. More likely it will just make them mad and it might make them rethink the recent referendums. If we get uglier, they also may say more mean-spirited things about Microsoft and Boeing and other venerable U.S. monopolies. And then there's the prospect of an EU army, which would be a serious headache.

What we need is to be gentil.(That's like nice, but with champagne instead of a Bud Light.) We need to break down and sign a couple treaties; maybe drop in occasionally when they are throwing multinational conferences, and invite them to some of our own.

Being gentil would probably require that we donate pesticides if a fire ant colony or a swarm of killer bees makes it that far.

Being gentil likely would fall short of saving them from Nazis again.

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