The president of the European Commission who must not be confused with the President of the European Council appealed to EU leaders this morning to set aside their differences, and unite to rescue the euro from a sovereign debt crisis “that is menacing the world economy”. It’s not doing a lot for the world round our way either Senor Barroso, but then one could hardly expect a fan of Guevaran Marxism to appreciate that. The rest of us, meanwhile, must face the realities that come with a half-baked, bloated and undemocratic attempt to force 27 States into the sort of cultural paradise that the average Brunhilde might find compelling.
From the start of the expanding EEC (nine was barely manageable, 27 is simply a pillow-fight) it was obvious to those of us blessed with common sense that it could only ever be a slow, lumbering giant – especially in foreign and economic policy. When the single currency idea came along, our same select (that is to say, tiny) group of cynics bored endless supper parties and pub debates with the 874 reasons why the concept was dotty, and the execution double-Dutch.
It all fell on ears made deaf by fat expense accounts and disgraceful pension emoluments; and so here we are today, not remotely expecting much to come out of the Merkozy’s latest attempt to marry Mrs Chalk and Mr Cheese. But for Manuelo Barroso’s benefit at least, I should like to set out why the chances of EU member States uniting right now are roughly akin to Manchester United winning the Champions League.
Even the Sun readers probably know by now that the French are against Brussels having greater power over national budgets, and Berlin does want that – while vetoing European Central Bank intervention to buy up errant countries’ debts in the form of bonds…especially be they called eurobonds, spawn of the Devil, make sign with crucifix etc etc.
They’re never going to agree to settle those differences, but keep going down the list of 27 States: for the Merkozy split is but the tip of an iceberg big enough to sink SS Globalism, let alone Tramp Steamer Eurozone.
Piigs might fly before they’d ever decide that letting the lenders off their haircuts is a good idea. All five ClubMed are against surrendering budget decisions to Brussels, but want to stay in the euro. The Irish will not allow any change to their 12.5% corporation tax rate: they quite rightly see the rate as its main source of growth. The Dublin Government also opposes further losses in sovereignty, and thus opposes Treaty reform. Spain, however, enthusiastically backs it, having lost the will to empty pension pots in a vain attempt to mollify somebody as yet unidentified in the Cayman Islands.
The north and east European Eight want to avoid a two-tier EU, being as they are obliged to join the euro eventually. They naturally fear that they will be seen as the come-lately Second Division eurozoners. Agreement amongst themselves, however, is unlikely. Bulgaria is deeply opposed to the threat to its 10% corporate tax. Most Swedes do not want to join the euro (voted against it in 2003) but have no opt-out. All but Sweden and the Czechs have agreed to limits on the scale of their debts. And the Czechs don’t trust Franco-German plans for centralised budget control. The last time they offered trust to these two, they lost the Sudetenland. And then everything else, including their Prime Minister.
The six Little People from Belgium to Slovenia are both philosophically and geographically all over the place. Belgium and Cyprus have bank debts that would terrify Vladimir Putin. Estonia, Malta and Slovakia are in good shape, and thus feeling moralistic about discipline. Slovenian Parties don’t agree about what to do, having just been elected. You get the feeling these countries are full of schizoid legislators, wandering about arguing with themselves. Which probably explains why Belgium needs the approval of 9 parliamentary chambers to any EU treaty change, Estonia sees no point in new EU institutions to tackle the crisis, the hugely indebted Cypriot care not WTF the decision is so long as it’s fast, Slovakia is hot to chuck lots of States out of the eurozone, and the Maltese will go along with whatever Merkozy say “if there is no alternative”. There’s a gag in there somewhere but I don’t have the time.
Of the four lower-profile Triple-Aers, Austria thinks Fiskalunion can’t be rushed, as does Luxembourg. The Finns (being small) will block any attempt to block small places (eg, Finland) not being allowed to block stuff. And although there has been little or no coverage of this over here, the Dutch are adamant in refusing all referendums and any loss of sovereignty. Now that last entry from Holland really is a doozie: we will not accept any loss of independence, and don’t even ask about it.
So we are left with the Magnificent Two: Britain and Denmark. Curiously enough, we agree about almost everything: no euro membership ever, no loss of influence on EU matters as a whole, and no referendums about anything. The British would also like a law against future Viking rape and pillage, but I can’t imagine that would be a sticking point, all other things being equal. The Danes would like guarantees on the brand share of Lurpak until 2080. I made those last two up.
I think that, for much of this year, there was an attempt by the europhile media to suggest that the debt thing was a purely technical eurozone matter: a bit of an oversight by the creators, about which there is a general agreement to correct what they got wrong. But in the last few weeks, Chancellor Merkel has turned up the volume on an equally mendacious assertion – viz, if the eurozone fails, Europe fails.
None of that spin bears any relation at all to the truth. The truth is that a fiscally united eurozone/EU can only fail…because of the obvious, factual realities outlined above. And if the eurozone either fails or becomes an elite German club, the EU must fail anyway.
Europe will not fail if the whole edifice disappears tomorrow. Europe would rediscover its character, deport every Eurocrat to Elba, and go from strength the strength. But despite the fact that Merkel disagrees with Sarkozy, both disagree with Van Rompuy, Barroso disagrees with all of them, and there is but an anarchic Babel of opinion among the other 25…..all this is reality. Reality for the eurovians is as the sunrise for Dracula – and so it must at all costs be avoided.
This is why, although what emerges tomorrow might be interesting – fascinating, even – it will serve no practical purpose at all. For it will represent the denial of a mistake, itself a relatively small mistake in the bigger screw-up that is neocon globalism. From the smallish European denial will come infection overseas, and the eventual death of the entire silly idea. Bell Pottinger will find itself swamped by the never-ending task of persuading everyone that black is white – and the police both here and in the US will continue to arrest those occupying the places where those black arts are nurtured – but there is no changing the inevitable end. It’s not in sight – it’s not even on the agenda – but it will come to pass. All things must pass/Everything is in transition/Nothing lasts forever.