.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some of the Bad Features of the European Union -- A German Dictatorship?

Just what is wrong with the EU? Why is it reasonable to doubt its continued existence after the 2020s? We know that the EU is governed by a central bureaucracy, located in Brussels, which makes decisions, according to its authority deriving from the treaties that set up the EU. These decisions are subject to little democratic control, although representative bodies of the various member states meet from time to time and can theoretically oppose policies coming out of the Brussels HQ of the EU. However, what happens usually is that the representatives of the member state govts. are presented with faits accomplis, backed up, usually by Germany and the influential states of northwestern Europe.

Matteo Renzi, former prime minister of Italy, gives a glimpse into EU policy making or rather policy ratifying. He also indicates German hegemony over the EU which is reflected in the votes of the EU executive and representative bodies, the EU Commission and the EU Council (Council of Europe) respectively [the EU parliament has so little power that it's not worth dwelling on]. In a recent book Renzi writes that German prime minister, Madame Merkel, is considered by many in the Italian political world to be the "chief strategist of an anti-Italian vision." Renzi states that he respects "her and certainly does not agree in the least with those who point to her as the one responsible for Italian problems." Be that as it may, Renzi clearly shows that she so dominates EU politics that the EU Council members, governmental leaders in their own countries, fear to criticize or gainsay her:
". . . I realize that in the Council, she is so respected and involved in all the issues that few have the courage to contradict her publicly. Which is what I do on more than one occasion. The idea that nobody can allow himself to raise the least bewilderment over the German contradictions makes me angry. The exchanges with Merkel are difficult on many issues, from the flexibility of budgets [of member states] to the relationship with Russia . . . . [And] up to the regional German banks to whose questionable system of governance and control I am the only one to point explicitly and transparently --- and to the contradictions of Berlin's economic policy. . . .  Merkel does not appreciate the style with which I open --often deliberately-- debates in the Council but begins to  scrutinize me in order to understand me better. Over time, a collaborative relationship develops between us." [Corriere della Sera, 9 Luglio 2017]
Thus Merkel so dominates the Council that other leaders of government fear to contradict her. Meanwhile, problems in Germany are overlooked. Hardly a healthy situation for the EU.

Renzi goes on about Merkel. "The theme on which we are farthest apart is the economy. I believe that the policy of austerity adopted by the European Union is a tragic error." In this vein, Renzi also criticizes the EU response to the earthquake disaster in Italy in 2016:
"The earthquake shocks of the end of October 2016 did not cause any deaths only by a miracle. . . . . And what did the usually punctilious technicians of the European structure [the bureaucrats] do? While the houses are collapsing, they send you [= himself] a verbal extortion note in the form of a whisper to Italian journalists in Brussels --saying that the budget law of 2017 is good only if the deficit is subsequently reduced by 0.2%. . . . But how is it that they don't understand that, while we are all concentrating on support for the evacuees [from the earthquake], Europe should be in the basilica of the patron saint San Benedetto with its own heart, instead of choosing that moment to make a (marginal) request for settlement of the debt? This is what happens when politics abdicates to the technocrats. . . .  I want to shout to the European bureaucrats that in the face of pain, first of all  there is compassion, respect, empathy. And then, only afterwards, the technical stratagems. . . . Respecting the European rules, moreover, cannot be an ideological mantra" [Corriere della Sera, 9 Luglio 2017]
Maybe Renzi gave reasons why Guy Milliere was right when he agreed with my suggestion after a lecture here in Jerusalem that the European Union was a death pact, un pacte de mort.

Obviously, neither the European Union nor its member states can be a model for our Israel nor can we trust the EU to be wise or compassionate in its diplomacy in the Middle East and first of all we cannot trust the suggestions and proposals that the EU makes to us in order to --supposedly-- bring about peace for Israel. The EU is notoriously hypocritical and often enough self-destructive yet arrogant. We don't want to be members and the EU does not want us. And if a case in point is needed, take Greece which suffered from EU/Eurozone efforts to supposedly help them, as Luciano Fontana [chief editor of Corriere] indicated, the EU/Eurozone failed in dealing with the Greek Debt Crisis which began in 2010 and is still going on. Greece can never pay its current debt, most of which was incurred by Greece after it reported in 2010 an inability to pay interest on its debt at that time. The debt is now much greater than then after "bail-outs" by the Eurozone. And it cannot be paid off. And the Eurozone led by Madame Merkel whom Renzi describes above, does not want to forgive or even restructure the Greek debt. Maybe, it is hinted, we will do that after you have reformed as we wish, etc. More of that extortion that Renzi mentioned?

The hypocrisy is even worse when we recall that Madame Merkel's Germany did not have to pay WW2 reparations according to a postwar treaty, nor did it ever pay back more than a small part of the US Marshall Plan loans [some $15 billion in 1947 dollars], and even that small amount stayed in Germany; nor did Germany pay its full war reparations debt to France for WW One. And the EU finances a host of so-called "civil society" NGOs that work to undermine Israel's standing in the world and Israel's society.  Hence Israel must be very wary in its dealings with the European Union. It is not a friend.
- - - - - - - -
Reference on EU government -- edulcorated to be sure
Pascal Fontaine, 12 Lecons sur l'Europe (Bruxelles: Commission europeenne 2007), pp 16-21.
- - - - - - - -
Renzi's reference to San Benedetto is to the Christian Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe in
Christian tradition and belief.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fantasy & Reality about the European Union

Many people make a rather good living off the European Union. Besides, gourmet food is often served in the Brussels headquartes of the EU. There are the bureaucrats in Brussels and elsewhere plus the elected members of the European parliament. The pay is better than average and often better than for comparable jobs in the home country of the bureaucrat or parliamentary deputy.

Hence, many have little reason or inclination to rock the boat with sustained and substantial criticism of the EU. What some do is to let out a little mild criticism of a particular policy or person or making a general criticism in a vague fashion while at the same time extolling the EU's lofty purposes [supposedly lofty]. That's what Antonio Tajani --president of the EU's parliament-- did when speaking to a group of influential people back home in Italy:

"The European Union is in the midst of fording the river. There are many things that don't work but more Europe is needed, not less. Leaving it means suicide, as many in the United Kingdom are realizing and even Marine Le Pen understands that the war on the euro [currency] is a mistake."
[Corriere della Sera, 9 Luglio 2017; emph. added]

The reader will make up his own mind as to how sensible that reasoning is. But before we analyze it, here's some reality from the chief editor [direttore] of Corriere della Sera, Luciano Fontana:

"Europe --the chief editor of Corriere observed-- has become a major actor [protagonista] in our lives. and even in our election campaigns. A Europe that often makes mistakes, [a Europe] whose management of the Greek crisis and the migrants cries out for revenge."
[Corriere, 9 Luglio 2017]

There are many things wrong with the EU which was likely the main reason that British folks voted against the EU and for Brexit more than a year ago. Despite its lofty rhetoric, the EU is very undemocratic in that decisions are made in Brussels by EU appointed officials rather than by national parliaments whereas according to the EU treaty, the Brussels officials can overrule laws passed by national parliaments, although this power can be challenged. But the Brussels bureaucracy is much less responsive to local needs, desires and conditions than national parliaments are. And then these Brussels officials like to impose a one-size-fits-all policy on all of the EU countries which of course have their own local traditions, histories, conditions, political environment. And obviously this causes resentment throughout the EU.

Then we come to the Euro currency, the single currency which is legal tender in most EU countries which gave up their national currencies to join the single currency zone. That was a bad idea whose time had come. Imagine. A single currency was imposed on some fifteen countries without a common tax policy/tax laws/, without a common pension system, a common state budget, common labor laws, so on and so forth. As no doubt was predicted the currency has great problems and one major victim --Greece, although other countries have suffered as well. To be sure, tourists who travel from one Eurozone country to another find traveling simpler [because they don't need to change currency with every new country that they come to]. Otherwise, few benefit. Un disastro, an Italian friend told me. We could go on about the EU's faults. But rather than be tedious, let's go on to Signor Tajani's logic and common sense.

"many things . . . don't work but more Europe is needed, not less". "More Europe" in the words of the Brussels crowd means closer political integration within the EU and more central control of the lives of EU citizens. But Tajani has already told us that many things don't work in the EU. So why would he think that "more Europe" would be better rather than worse? Does the centralized bureacuratic system of the EU where decisions are made far from the governed and often against their will and/or their better judgment, seem to be capable of doing a good job when and if it has more political power than now? We can go and on and maybe we will.

Labels: , , ,