In This Review

Pandemonium: Saving Europe
Pandemonium: Saving Europe
By Luuk van Midelaar
Agenda Publishing, 2021, 208 pp.

Among the many alarmist policy experts, sensationalistic journalists, idealistic federalists, and spinning politicians who dominate debates over the European Union, the Dutch political philosopher and former policy adviser van Middelaar stands out as a balanced and thoughtful observer. Like his previous books, this one convincingly demolishes the many “false prophets” who over recent decades have predicted that the euro, the Schengen area, the common foreign policy, and even the EU itself cannot survive—a group that includes not just Euroskeptics but also surprisingly many among the EU’s leaders and supporters. Instead, he argues, crises within the EU often elicit pragmatic and permanent reforms, even if they are sometimes slow in coming. Moreover, such initiatives generally come not from a distant EU bureaucracy but from national leaders working together informally in the European Council, comfortably insulated from direct public scrutiny. The author approves of this behind-the-scenes diplomacy, although he depicts it as more egalitarian and legalistic than it really is. Convincing though much of it is, this book, compared with the author’s previous writing, relies more on philosophical pronouncements and less on an insider’s feel for how everyday policymaking works.