The passage to Europe : how a continent became a Union
The passage to Europe : how a continent became a Union

Middelaar, Luuk van

Translated by Liz Waters. - New Haven : Yale University Press


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Further works by Luuk van Middelaar


A graduate in philosophy and history from the University of Groningen and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Luuk van Middelaar (Dutch, born 1973) gained his PhD from the University of Amsterdam for a thesis on the evolution of the European Union defended in 2009. Having worked as a political advisor to Frits Bolkestein and as a columnist for the Dutch newspaper "NRC Handelsblad", Luuk van Middelaar has been, since 2010, speechwriter and advisor to the Presidents of the European Council: for Herman Van Rompuy until 2014 and for Donald Tusk since his appointment.


In "The Passage to Europe", Luuk van Middelaar uses a wealth of anecdotes and a dash of humour to tell the ongoing story of the European Union, from its establishment in 1950 to the present day – or, in the words of Churchill, from the end of the second Thirty Years War to the present.

Step by step, not knowing which path to take or where they would end up, able at best to guess at the full significance of the changes already set in motion and certain only that it was already too late to turn back, six States came together to lay the foundations of the European Union; many others would later join them. The author describes what he terms the ʽintermediate sphereʼ, occupied by the Member States, which emerged to fill the space between the legal ʽinner sphereʼ of the Treaties and the ʽouter sphereʼ of geopolitics and diplomacy. In this intermediate sphere, the Member States, setting their own concerns aside, came increasingly to acknowledge their mutual interests. This sphere, officially recognised in 1966 by the Luxembourg Compromise, acted as a kind of club, providing a space in which its members could learn to trust one another more each day.

In his book, van Middelaar touches on the treaties, events, debates, individuals, States, and legal procedures and rules involved in building Europe, analysing each in detail and from his own point of view. With an eagle eye, he discusses a variety of topics, including unanimous and majority voting, the right of veto, the rules on the revision of the treaties, and the Commissionʼs elastic interpretation of the limits to its own powers. The author examines the concepts of collective agreement, shared identity and ʽEuropeʼ, and offers insightful analyses of the legitimacy of those who proclaim themselves leaders or representatives of a given group before they have even been appointed or elected. He examines three strategies used to give the EU legitimacy: the German strategy of attempting to build a nation, the Roman strategy of winning citizensʼ support by providing them with tangible benefits, and the Greek strategy of both increasing public participation in politics and raising the profile of politicians and their work. He also covers the more controversial stages in the process of establishing the European Parliament.