The Passage to Europe


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How a Continent Became a Union

Luuk van Middelaar

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The untold story of the crises and compromises that united a continent

As financial turmoil in Europe preoccupies political leaders and global markets, it becomes more important than ever to understand the forces that underpin the European Union, hold it together and drive it forward. This timely book provides a gripping account of the realities of power politics among European states and between their leaders. Drawing on long experience working behind the scenes, Luuk van Middelaar captures the dynamics and tensions shaping the European Union from its origins until today.

It is a story of unexpected events and twists of fate, bold vision and sheer necessity, told from the perspective of the keyplayers – from de Gaulle to Havel, Thatcher to Merkel. Van Middelaar cuts through the institutional complexity by exploring the unforeseen outcomes of decisive moments and focusing on the quest for public legitimacy.

As a first-hand witness to the day-to-day actions and decisions of Europe’s leaders, the author provides a vivid narrative of the crises and compromises that united a continent. By revisiting the past, he sheds fresh light on the present state of European unification and offers insights into what the future may hold.
Luuk van Middelaar is a Dutch political philosopher and currently policy advisor and speechwriter to the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy. He lives in Brussels, Belgium.
"A discerning, balanced, gracefully written book, flavoured with the insights of political science but filled with the meat of European Union history over six decades."—Tony Barber, Financial Times
“Philosophically informed and historically sensitive. . . . [offering] a subtle and detailed account of the evolution of the Union.”—Larry Sidentop, Times Literary Supplement
"[The book] has much to teach those who want to understand the EU’s recent political dynamic."—The Economist
"An erudite alternative to the persistent drumbeat about the coming, market-driven disintegration of the European Union . . . . An intriguing presentation of views seldom reported so readably and in such depth."—Kirkus Reviews
"This insightful book, written by someone close to events, comprehends and confronts the dynamic tensions in Europe between the politicians and public opinion. A must-read for reform-minded pro-Europeans and sceptics alike."—Lord Mandelson
"A study that is attracting a lot of attention among those trying to find a way out of the euro crisis. The author is a philosopher, historian and adviser to the president of the European Union. This book is slightly labyrinthine in structure but full of interesting ideas. Van Middelaar rejects the idea that the EU must become a political union to survive."—Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

“Beautifully written (and translated from the original 2009 Dutch edition by Liz Waters), The Passage to Europe has deservedly won several prizes and been translated into four languages (and counting). A 35-page prologue written for the English-language version cogently ties the analysis to more recent events. It is well worth digging through the 44 pages of notes, commentary and bibliography which van Middelaar has banished to the back of the book. His wit (he memorably compares the current transitional process to purgatory) and his training as a philosopher shine through (though he wears his learning lightly). His aphoristic, provocative but always entertaining analysis is richly garnered with metaphors and illustrative anecdotes that make what could have been a dry read a colourful pleasure.”—Martin Westlake, Literary  Review

“This story [the European project] is well-described by Luuk van Middelaar in The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union. The author is an advisor to Herman van Rompuy, the first full-time president of the European Council. Middelaar’s book is a humorous, jargon-free and historically well-informed account of how the EU has developed."—Brendan Simms, Prospect Magazine.

"Luuk van Middelaar has a command of European political ideas and their long genesis. He is at home too in the undergrowth of the overlapping spheres of influence of the European Council, Commission and Parliament. . . . The result is a major academic analysis of the European Union, its origin and germination. Van Middelaar has a firm grasp on the philosophical antecedents of modern sovereignty from Hobbes and Locke in the 17th century and the practical political sense to know that just because it doesn’t work in theory doesn’t mean it won’t work in practice. . . . Reading this book is to enjoy a synergy both of this history, the politics and the history of ideas that have brought a hugely improbable project to life and sustained it through succeeding crises."—Gerard Howlin, Irish Examiner
“His encyclopedic knowledge of and intimacy with European affairs will make even a specialist blush with envy.”—Publishers Weekly

“The book I most valued was Luuk van Middelaar’s The Passage to Europe, a brilliant account of the development of the European Union. The most insightful book on Europe since Larry Siedentop’s Democracy in Europe, and essential reading before voting in the referendum.”
—Vernon Bogdanor, Times Higher Education Supplement, Book of the Year

“The author, a senior EU official, combines inside knowledge with the insights of a philosopher . . . His discussion . . . is illuminating and remarkably readable.”—Roger Morgan, Times Higher Education Supplement

“Luuk van Middelaar has produced a superb, eloquent study of the European Union that is essential reading . . . With empirical precision and conceptual sophistication, he subtly entwines the interplay between personalities, institutions and imponderable ‘events.’ The result is a gripping historical narrative interlacing politics and law woven into a Bildungsroman . . . [E]veryone interested in Europe owes Luuk van Middelaar thanks for a lucid and penetrating study that enriches our understanding and provokes intelligent response. If you read just one book on the EU this should be it.”—Allan Janik, The Vienna Review

"The Passage to Europe is a book on European integration like no other: history, political theory, social science and constitutional law laid out in such a personal and compelling narrative that one does not perceive the depth of learning and experience underlying it. Students, politicians and anyone interested in European politics will profit from reading this book. There are few better ways to grasp how a continent became a Union."—Joseph H.H. Weiler, author of The Constitution of Europe: 'Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?' and Other Essays on European Integration

"A revolution in thinking and speaking about Europe."—Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans
ISBN: 9780300205336
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
392 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4