The EU is still in trouble and needs to face its inner-demons

1:02 pm - August 26th 2013

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by John Stephenson

Those with an eye for economic optimism will have had their eyes on the Eurozone in the last two weeks, as the European Union announced a return to growth following almost 18 months of economic decline.

Then again, it will be economists with a nose for political rabble-rousing that may sense a sort of bureaucratic-bluff from the likes of Mario Draghi, Oli Rehn and co.

Instead this recovery has been for the most part intergovernmental, increasing the level of tension between heads of states and allowing a Franco-German alliance to play Napoleon over smaller members.

“No one should believe that another half century of peace in Europe is a given – it’s not” was the ominous tone set by Merkel just two years ago. This was on the back of Germany bailing out its fellow Eurozone members, a move agreed upon in the German parliament, leading to riots within the streets of Athens.

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, came to the fore following economic turmoil within the Europe, pledging that he and his colleagues would see that Brussels does “whatever it takes” in order to return to prosperity.

One measure announced was the proposed purchasing of the bonds and debts of weak member states in order to buttress a recovery. This never happened.

In fact evidence suggests that such moves are futile in attempting to resolve an economic downturn, due to the affinity that countries, safe in the knowledge that they have a fall-back option if things go awry, have for taking risks.

In January 2011 the EU saw through new legislation designed to combat the recession. This consisted of minimum requirements for national fiscal frameworks and sanctions against countries running up huge deficits. What is bemusing however is the emphasis put on such measures when evidence strongly suggests that the effect such behaviour has is almost wholly reliant on prior circumstances which are not being addressed by the Union.

The Eurozone is liable to fall into the same difficulties it has done previously if any of the member states experience renewed instability in the coming years.

Furthermore, the policy provisions in place to protect against further insolvency appear fundamentally flawed. How are we to have a financial union if the EU remains the “lender of last resort” to member states following a financial crisis? The answer given from Brussels is budgetary consolidation, to ensure that such problems never occur again, thus rendering any bail-outs unnecessary. Yet the IMF’s own figures show that for countries such as Greece and Ireland to attain debt ratios of 60% of GDP by 2030, they would have to maintain budgetary adjustments over 10%.

If the likes of Draghi and Barroso are to really deserve a pat on the back, then they need to enforce measures such as further fiscal union and a more powerful ECB. The argument over “more or less Europe” is becoming tiresome and to see technocrats in preparation for celebration is nauseating.

The EU needs to make decisions now and it needs to make them fast. To lumber around while sitting on the fence will no longer cut it. In fact, it never did and I imagine the founding fathers of the EC will be turning in their graves seeing EU officials commend the union as being on track while unemployment in Spain remains at 25%.

John Stephenson tweets from here: @JohnStephenso14

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“The sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to European federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity,” is the fifth of the 10 principles set out in the Prague Declaration, the constituent declaration of the European Conservatives and Reformists.

26 of the 56 MEPs in the ECR are British Conservatives, a twenty-seventh is drawn from their Ulster Unionist allies, the Chairman is the North East’s very own Martin Callanan, and the Secretary-General of its Europarty is none other than Daniel Hannan.

How odd, then, that Callanan and Hannan should both be among the 12 ECR MEPs, seven of whom are British Conservatives, to be members of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

There is also a UKIPite who was elected as a Conservative, a Swedish Moderate who is therefore a member of the European People’s Party, and a Flemish separtist whose party’s roots are in the Flemish Division of the SS, which is at least some riposte to those who blah blah blah that such things were and are left-wing. For example, Daniel Hannan.

ALEC, you see, claims to be “federalist” but seems to have adopted the European rather than the American definition of the word. It is a body of State Legislators who undertake to ensure that their respective states all adopt identical legislation drafted by that body’s corporate backers.

A handful of Democrats does belong to this thing, raising serious questions about the limits of the diversity of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party having arrived at the opposite extreme, with club rights extended only to those who subscribe, and that with sufficient fervour, to each and all of dozens of shibboleths.

But all but two of the State Chairmen are Republicans, and those two hold the office jointly with members of the other party. What was once the GOP provides all of the “Public Co-Chairs” of ALEC’s policy task forces that write the legislation, on which they enjoy no veto power, since that attaches only to the “Private Co-Chairs” who not merely come from, but explicitly represent, their own corporations.

The one for International Relations, which are constitutionally outside the province of State Legislatures but on which work is clearly being done, has as its veto-wielding Private Co-Chair a senior executive of Philip Morris International. To ALEC, the whole of foreign policy is subordinate to the interests of big tobacco.

So much for Hannan’s Anglosphere, since ALEC contains one Australian Senator, as well as one Georgian MP and one Pakistani Assemblywoman. All of its other “International Delegates” sit in the European Parliament. There to enact legislation written by giant American corporations, as if the European Parliament were an American State Legislature, with the United Kingdom having much the status of an American county.

Eight of those MEPs sit for the United Kingdom. Seven of them are members of the party led by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and all eight were elected for that party; the eighth is now a member of an entity which laughably calls itself “the United Kingdom Independence Party”.

And no fewer than 12, four fifths of the total, belong to the Group, and include both its Chairman and the Secretary-General of its Europarty, the creation of which was supposed to have been David Cameron’s great EU-level triumph in the cause of the sovereign integrity of the nation state, opposition to European federalism and a renewed respect for true subsidiarity.

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