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Losing the EUro-momentum

This BBC report about the anxieties and arkwardnesses now being suffered by the EU’s leaders in the wake of their repudiation by the voters of France and Holland makes fun reading for all those of us who fail to see the point of the EU. What is it for? What good and worthwhile thing can the EU do that could not be done just as easily by the separate nations and governments of Europe with a fraction of the fuss or expense or grief? Why must the nations of EUrope homogenise themselves into one nation? For what? Against whom? The EU’s leaders have never explained in a manner that makes simultaneous sense to all of EUrope’s people.

Instead, they have tended to fall back on the argument that the EU is inevitable. Yes but is it desirable? That does not matter, because desirable or not, it is happening. It is reality. It is the future. Arguing that it should not be reailty or the future is to indulge in fantasy.

If the EU had a desirable and agreed purpose of the sort that the people of the EU might actually be able to get enthusiastic about – some purpose, I mean, other than that of giving the EU elite a superpower to be the bosses of – that would have made quite a difference in recent weeks. In crisis, all fundamentally effective institutions go to their core purpose. But the EU has no core purpose that its leaders are willing to allude to. All that the EU has is its precious momentum, its inevitability, and if it suddenly looks like it does not have momentum or inevitabitlity, then, in the word’s of Germany’s Vice President, a certain Guenter Verheugen, “the ground is shaking beneath our feet”.

Shake baby shake, I say.

The EUro-momentum will no doubt soon be re-established, and this little democratically induced tremor may soon be forgotten. But while it lasts, I am enjoying it. I can even tell myself that it might be remembered for a while.

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36 comments to Losing the EUro-momentum

  • The Eu has momentum simply becuse it is the only political game in town.If one examines what purport to be problems in western Europe,it becomes evident that they have been created by politicians,all the major problems that faced us have gone.
    There is no real poverty on a scale like Africa,no warfare ,except the Balkans,universal literacy,industrialisation has come and gone,consumer goods are plentiful,there are jobs,there is no abject poverty for the unemployed.
    All that is left is for politiciacins to do is tinker and undo the work of previous politicians. In this the EU is the biggest game in town for a control freak.Politicians and bureaucrat have a real reason in life.

  • Bernie

    Well I am much more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago. More has happened than just the French and Dutch votes. Some Italians have made an attempt to go back to the Lire. There has been a lot of talk about the stability and longevity of the Euro. I have even heard comments about the absurdity of redistributing the wealth of the UK, Germany and a few others throughout the EU countries.

    What hasn’t been said in the media I have followed is that no one dare set up a referendum in any EU country about the desirability of remaining in the EU. It is becoming pretty transparent to a lot more people as to who really wants the whole apparatus. It is heartwarming to see there are many people outside of the UK who also want to be free.

  • Julian Williams

    Spot on – the EU has always been about a dream and the politicians have had to be believers in order to dupe the public into buying into the EU project.

    The Europhiles have had trouble for some time articulating their case about how we benefit from our membership of the EU. Their arguments have seemed vacuous, but there has always been this confidence of belief in the some sort of utopian society from which we would all benefit.

    That belief seems to have disintegrated following the non/nee referendum results. The nightmare for the Europhiles is that the heretics now outnumber the believers.

    But in truth the elite in Brussels have been having trouble believing their own dream for some years; they are addicted to their power, pensions, tax free perks and vast wages. This is the primary motivation, the project has come second for some time.

    An example of this malaise is the Kinnock family. Mr Kinnock was the minister against corruption, at the same time his wife was an MEP. Between them they were earning a wage that would make socialists blush, but it was not nough money. Mrs Kinnock was recorded signing on 25 times for the attendance allowance of £200+ a day for days she was not attending debates in the European Parliament. Nothing illegal you will understand, she had been in the building at 10 o clock that morning, so she was entitled to the money.

    Had Mrs Kinnock been motivated by the dream and not the money she would have foregone taking taxpayers money she had not honestly earned. Especially as her actions would embarrass her husband who was the minister against corruption. But temptation came before the belief.

    This is the sickness at the heart of the totalitarian system the Kinnocks are part of. They are not corrupt technically, but morally they have become the same level as corrupt people they are supposed to root out of the system. No wonder the accounts have not been signed for ten years, no wander Mr Kinnock sacked the accountant who dared tell him the accounts were a fraud.

  • What is it for? Providing employment for bureaucrats.

    What good and worthwhile thing can the EU do that could not be done just as easily by the separate nations and governments of Europe with a fraction of the fuss or expense or grief? Employ a lot of new bureaucrats. (Maybe you don’t think that’s “good and worthwhile”, but the bureaucrats do.)

    Why must the nations of EUrope homogenise themselves into one nation? Because bureaucrats need someone to regulate and control.

  • I have a libertarian friend who yearns for a one world government. This is do not understand. Governments will always gravitate towards being bigger and more totalitarian… and if a one world (or even one continent) government this momentum is even more difficult to stop. The best chance, I believe, at securing the most freedom is by having numerous competing states… so if change is impossible in one’s home state at least ‘moving’ is a valid option (the so called voting with one’s feet).
    The bigger the government over the wider range of area generally the worse it does at actually reflecting the needs and desires of it’s constituents. I cheer any measure that weakens the control of the EU… much as I feel the same way about the American Federal Government.

  • I’m no fan of the EU in its present form, but there are only 30.000 bureaucrats in Brussels. For comparison, Cologne here in Germany with 1 milion citizens has 18.000. So I think it isn’t fair to say that the EU is only about emplyoing bureaucrats.

    The purpose of the EU is not to form a super-state, something that only very few people want, and it does offer very substantial advantages over, say, bilateral agreements of separate countries. Besides free trade inside the EU, something which wouldn’t exist in
    Europe without it. The EU has forced the member states to open up their markets and privatize their huge state-owned monopolists (in energy, communications, water etc). In other words, it has been a great promoter of liberalization. That, of course, is a huge source of resentment, both for governments which have has powers taken away from them, and (former) employees of said monopolists.
    That’s why the French are so angry at the EU and voted against the constitution – they rightly see it as a threat to the power of the sacred French state, their trade unions, and their protectionism.

    The EU also serves as a kind of blanket fast-track provison cutting through the bureaucratic barriers thrown up by the various member states. Without it any movement or efficient cooperation (economically, scientifically etc) that go across borders would be all but impossible, for you would strangle in the red tape of national bureaucracies.

    One example, Britain has never signed up to the Schengen teraty, but I can tell you that is a huge relief not to have to show your papers at every border you come to, and move your property across them without a hassle. That is a huge increase in individual freedom.
    And by taking in all those new members trhere has been an overall decrease in bureaucratism in Europe, for you no longer have to wait at the borders to Poland, Latvia, Czech republic etc.

    The European Union has many faults, but those are imposed on it by the more market-adverse members, like France, Italy and I’m sorry to say, also Germany. Consider what these countries would be up to on their own. You would see much bigger problems then.

    Brian, I know that you hate the EU with every fiber of your being, but please at least consider the arguments I have put forth here.

  • Julian Williams

    No Ralf bilateral agreements are better. When they talk about fish stocks they bargain over potato and milk quotas.

    It all happens behind closed doors because it is all about bargaining one interest against another and not addressing the issue at hand

    When they get something wrong, like the CAP it goes on being wrong for 30 years.

    The system works very badly

  • Luniversal

    I am always relieved when the best argument an opponent can produce is that such-and-such is ‘inevitable’. It means he has passed from realism and logic to blind faith in the herd’s sense of direction.

    In 1900 it was inevitable that civilised countries had grown out of making war on one another (they had empires instead) and that Brazil and Argentina would become economic giants in the next century. In 1920 everybody knew that the world could not manage another world war for the foreseeable future. By 1940 it was inevitable that dictatorship would replace effete democracy everywhere. In 1950 it was inevitable that the nuclear superpowers would use their bombs on one another somewhere, some time. In 1960 it was inevitable in the State Department’s eyes as well as Khrushchev’s that the USSR would be richer than the USA by 2000. In 1975 many a starry-eyed socialist assured me that Britain would inevitably, if belatedly, move towards the full realisation of their dream. And in 1990 a federal Europe was the only conceivable outcome. By 2000 the ‘end of history’, the universal triumph of Pax Americana and liberal democracy, was being touted.

    I was able to retire early thanks to contrarian investing. All that means is that in politics, as in the markets, it’s a long lane that has no turning. The EU has reached the twist in its lane.

  • Julian,

    bilateral agreements don’t open up borders, or liberalize telecoms and energy markets.

    And the CAP would be replaced byy something as least as bad without the EU. Farming is one sector that hasn’t been liberalized yet, especially because of the French, who would be even worse without the EU – think of their EDF, an energy conglomerate that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Soviet Union.

  • And the CAP would be replaced by something as least as bad without the EU.

    The CAP involves, among other things, the officials in Brussels giving my money to Greek tobacco farmers. Please explain how that would happen absent the EU.

  • Euan Gray

    Contrary to Ralf, the EU emphatically IS a political project intended to create a European state. It is unlikely now that this is politically practical, and it is even less likely that it is in principle possible given the huge differences between the cultures involved. It has nothing to do with a desire for freedom or opposition to undemocratic dirigisme, but rather that there is simply not enough in common between the member states for such a federal structure to work in the long term. The divergent reasons for opposition to the constitution demonstrate pretty clearly that Europe has finally arrived at the point of figuring this out.

    A mutual free trade agreement would meet all of the nominal economic objectives of the EU. This leaves, however, the question of agriculture. Although it could in principle be quite easily addressed by free trade, this is not politically likely to happen soon due in large part to French farming interests. A practical solution might be to have a free trade agreement for everything except agriculture, and leave that matter to the discretion of the states. Such things as visa-free travel, right to live and work in other states, provision of services across national borders and so on do not need any supranational body to regulate.

    There is no pressing need to have pan-European legislation on anything in order to achieve this. Such legislation is ONLY necessary if the aim is a federal state, since it has no other purpose. Common standards are another matter, and although not essential it is very useful to have a set of agreed technical standards for a variety of things.

    The fundamental political problem, however, remains French intransigence in the face of a compelling need for reform, added to a French desire to rival the US. In the long term, such rivalry is pointless since the US will in due course decline as the European powers have (all states do this, hubristic rubbish about the end of history notwithstanding) & will yield to the likes of China and India.

    Perhaps the answer is for France to leave the EU?

    EG

  • Andrew Kinsman

    Two points:

    1) Stephen Kinnock (relation) is also on the gravy train. Would he, I wonder, have got a job without the surname.

    2) I have often wondered if the organisation would work better without France and Germany. I have felt for a while that the UK, with its political/economic experiences before 1979 has more in common with the old iron curtain countiries than it does with some of its western allies.

  • Crikey. I find myself agreeing with Euan Gray.
    Excuse me, I need to go lie down.

  • GCooper

    Mark writes:

    “Crikey. I find myself agreeing with Euan Gray.”

    Yes… uncomfortable feeling, isn’t it?

    It’s sad to read comments like those from Ralf Goergens. In the face of all the evidence, he seems to have swallowed the EU mythos. Liberalised free markets? In France? .

    Has he never heard of EFTA?

  • Ralf Goergens

    GCooper,

    I never said that the EU is perfect. And yet, the markets are a lot more free with the EU than they were before. despite French foot-dragging.

    And it’s not just France – before the telecoms market in Germany was liberalized, you were not a customer who, say, ordered a new telephone extension, you were a subject and had to beg to have the extension granted to yourself inside the next six months. And of course, private competition for this state enterprise was illegal.

    It is misguided to demand perfection, and to want to see the EU abolished because it is imperfect, because things would be a lot worse without it.

  • Ralf Goergens

    And I didn’t have to buy into any myth to think this way, for I experienced it first hand. I’m not likely to forget the 800 pound gorilla (formerly the German post office, now called Deutsche Telekom) that was sitting on my back then.

  • Coward Anonomie

    >no core purpose that its leaders are willing to allude to
    Key words: "willing to allude to"

    Le Monde, May 2, an open letter to French voters, from German intellectuals, artists and academics:

    "Europe is the answer to your and our fears. Europe demands courage. Without courage, there is no survival. Not for France. Not for Germany. Not for Poland … We owe this to the millions upon millions of victims of our lunatic wars and criminal dictatorships."

    EU started as a steel (trade) pact between France and (West) Germany, correct? The purpose to anchor Germany into europe hand in glove, right? The "your and our fears" is alluding to this. "Without courage," [for what? keeping that hand in that glove?] "there is no survival. Not for France. Not for Germany" Perhaps you read this differently, but it sounds like the Germans are alluding to the danger of the undoing of what started as that steel agreement, sounds like the Germans fear what might develop in such a case.

    Then again, maybe the muslims will take over before the next indiginous euro-dictator can emerge.

  • GCooper

    Ralf Goergens writes:

    “..because things would be a lot worse without it.”

    That’s simply an assertion and I have to say it seems extremely unlikely to me.

    In common with most EU advocates, you attribute things to the organisation (absence of armed conflict, privatisation etc) which are simply not due to its influence. You are not accurately reflecting cause and effect.

    Let’s take the example of Deutsche Telekom.

    We in the UK suffered exactly the same problems with our telephone system before it was privatised. But it wasn’t the EU that enforced liberalisation, it was the result of economic policies simultaneously at work in the USA and UK, that led to privatisation. Indeed, many EU states were highly resistant to the implementation of these policies and it was only their enormous success which made EU states decided they had no choice but to emulate us.

    In other words, the UK didn’t need bureaucrats telling it to privatise its telephone system, and neither did Germany. We did it more despite the EU than because of it and there was nothing to stop you following suit.

    This is what I meant by the EU mythos. Something happened in your economy which you attribute to the existence of EU but which would have happened anyway, once German politicians realised that maintaining state monopoly would have damaged your economy.

    I find this loss of faith in a country’s own ability to find the right way quite disturbing and absolutely fundamental to the flaw at the heart of the whole concept. There may well be historical reasons for this and I wouldn’t belittle them, but, really, it is politically infantilising to believe that a parental superstate is the only thing keeping us from economic madness or war.

    Indeed, if history teaches us anything, it is that the opposite is more likely to be the case.

  • It is a myth that one had to present ones papers everytime one crossed a frontier,having travelled extensively in Europe going back thiry and forty years the only time papers were demanded was travelling to East Berlin.
    It was standard even then to get waved through,in fact those who wanted their passports stamped as a souvenir had to request it.
    The Shengen Agreement that wonderous pact that allows anyone who crosses the porous EU borders to disappear into the whole of the EU never to be traced again.
    Since there are many economic benefits available free to those who enter,it is sensible,just on a housekeeping level,to know exactly what a nations liabilties are going to be..This is not anti-libertarian,but common sense since in many European cities services are at breaking point because poulations have grown faster than planned for.

    On the subject of bureaucrat,does anyone really believe that just because the job is being done in Brussels that national bureaucracies will rebuce in size.Reallity show that they grow to accommodate all the directives spewing from Brussels.

  • Coward Anonomie

    I was almost shocked to find sane thinking in europe, when I happened upon your site. Not that I am with all you talk about, (what with the gun toting and all), nonetheless, we could use a few more of you guys over here in America. We suffer of the same nut jobs, rewritting history, making one loose confidence in the ability of the human brain to operate above the most base level.

  • Euan Gray

    It is misguided to demand perfection

    True, but it never stopped anyone demanding it.

    and to want to see the EU abolished because it is imperfect

    True again. Some people, of course, have other reasons for wishing it to be abolished.

    because things would be a lot worse without it

    I don’t see how.

    I think it’s reasonable to suggest the EEC/EU played a useful role in more or less uniting western Europe during the Cold War, but that need is now gone. The probability of Europe facing a hostile invasion in the immediate future is vanishingly small, as is the probability of global warfare interrupting the food supply (which is the reason for the CAP).

    If the EU did break up and become nothing more than a free trade area, what are the negative consequences?

    EG

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Euan –

    Some members of OPEC would have to start trading in the hated Greenback again! The horror, the horror…

  • GCooper,

    it wasn’t the salutary example British example, it was compulsion from Brussels that made Germany liberalize the telecoms market. And as it happens, the oligopolists in our energy sector behave in exactly the same way Deutsche Telekom used to behave when it was a state monopoly.

    Take natural gas: Our oligopolists have coupled its price to that of crude oil, so that they can raise it any time that for crude oil rises, even though both have nothing to do with each other. Even worse, they won’t even disclose how they calculate those prices. The way they can dictate said prices to consumers is clearly illegitimate, for said prices are only sustainable because it is illegal for private companies to compete with them.

    People have taken the oligopolists to court, but no German judge will find in favor of a private individual, when he is tring to take on a state owned monopolist or oligopolist.

    In other words, my confidence for Germany to find a way out of this mess on its own is less than zero, for our institutions would close down our borders for forein products and competition if they were free to do so, making things immeasurably worse overnight.

  • Olease excuse the garbled first sentence.

  • GCooper

    Ralf Goergens writes:

    “In other words, my confidence for Germany to find a way out of this mess on its own is less than zero, for our institutions would close down our borders for forein products and competition if they were free to do so, making things immeasurably worse overnight.”

    Then, I’m afraid, Germany is beyond hope – something which I actually doubt, though bow to your immeasurably greater knowledge of the country.

    Personally, I would have thought even the most purblind nation would eventually learn from watching its relative position decline.

    Either way, my point stands. Even if Germany was forced to change its monopolistic ways by the EU, that was was becase privatisation had worked here, where it hapened without force, and the consequences of not following were dire.

    Moreover, even if, as you say, Germany has no hope without the EU dragging it into the 21st century, that is absolutely no reason to inflict such an absurd structure on others, which is what advocates of the EU are doing.

    Far from being an engine of the free market, the EU actively conspires against it in the majority of cases.

  • The Last Toryboy

    So Ralf’s democratic government is so awful and so useless that Ralf feels the answer is to yoke that democratic government under the bootheel of an unelected and unaccountable technocracy?

    I find this whole concept really hard to understand, and quite worrying in fact.

  • I understood it was the adoption of the euro, interst rates and working time directives that flattened Germany,that plus having to carry a bunch of deadbeats.

  • Keith

    “I find this loss of faith in a country’s own ability to find the right way quite disturbing and absolutely fundamental to the flaw at the heart of the whole concept. There may well be historical reasons for this and I wouldn’t belittle them, but, really, it is politically infantilising to believe that a parental superstate is the only thing keeping us from economic madness or war.

    Indeed, if history teaches us anything, it is that the opposite is more likely to be the case.”
    I reckon GCooper nailed it, right there.

  • GCooper,

    there’a a bunch of others who have the same problem, like France and Italy.

    If Germany and those other two to made to keep on liberalizing, Europe won’t be all that bad off.

  • GCooper

    Ralf Goergens writes:

    “If Germany and those other two to made to keep on liberalizing, Europe won’t be all that bad off.”

    Well, fine. But why should someone in Britain give the proverbial damn?

    Why should we be shackled to these sclerotic economies for their benefit?

    If France, Germany and Italy (I’m not sure about Italy, by the way, I have strong connections there and I get the impression they are far more sensible) aren’t smart enough to see for themselves the commercial disadvantages of running socialist monocultures, why should anyone else care? And, more to the point, why should they suffer the awful impositions of, say, the CAP, just to help out countries too besotted with socialism to help themselves?

    There is nothing whatsoever in this Franco-German mutual support club for the UK. We should get out and leave “old Europe” to sort out its own problems.

    I must add something. I say the above not in contempt of Germany or Germans, a country I like and a brilliant people I hold in very high regard. I am quite sure you would work it out for yourselves and would be all the happier for so doing.

  • The faith in the Eu seems to ignore that the bureaucrats of Brussels are not infallible.When those nations who find a disater is upon them find that instead of throwing out the politicians responsible, they are stuck with dictat from Brussels.Whither then?

  • GCooper:

    Well, fine. But why should someone in Britain give the proverbial damn?

    Why should we be shackled to these sclerotic economies for their benefit?

    Well, I nerver said Britain should stay in, for it is the only country in Western Europe (I know you are sensitive on this point, but I am merely saying that the Island is located at the Western part of a continent called Europe, regardless of culture 🙂 that is oro-Market enough to make it on its own.

    I say the above not in contempt of Germany or Germans

    I nevr thought you did, no worries.

  • Julian Williams

    Hi Ralf – I was away for two days – returning to this point of view of yours that multilateral straightjackets being better than bilateral agreements. Think of what they are trying to do.

    They have a problem with polluted water in Greece and Italy, they call a conclave of failed politicains (Kinnock, Mandelson ….) who have been put out to grass and ask them to find a solution. The solution is put to the Council of Ministers (again behind closed doors) or scrutinised by MEPs (institutionally corrupt – look how they organise their expense accounts) and the solution is passed into law (If the law turns out bad for some countries and good for others it will never be changed because each country can veto on a review of the directive).

    What works for Greek and Italian sparse water resources is then imposed on Sweden and Scotland. It is such nonsense. Surely if the Rhine is polluted it should be sorted out by the countries that live along the banks of the Rhine?

    If North Sea cod are being overfished then the countries arround the north sea who should look into the problem and make an agreement? At present Austria has the same weight in agreements about fish stocks in the North Sea as Britain. Is that really sane?

    Thousands and thousands of directives are being made every year.

    We do have the World trade organisation for the big picture. I do not see what the EU has to contribute

  • Hello Julian,

    like I said above, Britain is the one exception that will get by just fine without the EU. For the others the EU is a liberalizing force, for all of its faults.

    I alos don’t agree about the straitjacket. Membrs effectively have all the leeway to act that they need, but some (Germany, France, Italy etc) are using that leeway to mess up.

  • Erin

    All this euphoria surrounding the problems of the EU is all misplaced. The Inner circle didn’t get to this point just to see the EU whither away.

    If there is one reason for the EU to exist in the 21-st century it is to become a super-power to counterbalance the uncontrolled actions of the United States. The individual European States have no power and never will by themselves to control or tame the ambitions of the US. By themselves, the European nation states will disintegrate in to a third world economic mess. some in the UK are hoping for this as the EU in the past decade or so has eclipsed there power and taken attention away from the UK. This is most felt among those having a nostalgia for the former empire. The euro has replaced the pound as one of the world’s reserve currencies. People about the how the euro compares to the dollar, no one cares about the pound. A British hoped for demise of the euro would in the mind of the empirists place the pound at a higher level.

    Despite the British wish to see the EU collapse, collapse it won’t. If anything it will pull a surprise and become stronger. The EU did what no other country did and mostly will never do, and that was to offer its people to vote on a constitution. Constitutions have always been decided by Representatives of the government never in a referendum.

    Of course, the EU Constitution in my opinion is way to complex and needs to be simplified, then approved by the ruling government, not the whims of people governed by emotionalism, but by those who can see into the future the direction that is best for the nation. That is how the Americans have done it , and that is why the US is where it is today.

    Either the EU will move into the future by democratic means or by a hidden power yet unseen and unknown. One way or the other, the EU will become the next world superpower.

  • If anything it will pull a surprise and become stronger.

    And upon what do you base this notion?

    The EU did what no other country did and mostly will never do, and that was to offer its people to vote on a constitution.

    Yes. And it was rejected in France and Holland and will be in Britain.

    The idea that the EU somehow needs to be a counter to the USA is bizarre. Are you suggesting the EU develops itself to go to war with the USA if needed? IS that what you think the highly divergent cultures of the EU actually want? If not that what on earth are you talking about? In what way exactly is the EU going to ‘counter’ the USA? Trade perhaps? And how will it do that? By making the continent look more like France?

    As for the Euro, rather than making Europe’s currency look more like the Deutschemark, it is looking more like the Lira. And that was very very very predictable. Exactly HOW do you expect the highly divergent economies of the EU to deal with different business cycles now that both currency rates and exchange rates are ‘one size fits all’? Sheesh.

    Somehow I do not think all too many people in Washington DC are losing sleep over the ‘mighty EU’.