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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.
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Reference on EU government -- edulcorated to be sure
Pascal Fontaine, 12 Lecons sur l'Europe (Bruxelles: Commission europeenne 2007), pp 16-21.
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Renzi's reference to San Benedetto is to the Christian Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe in
Christian tradition and belief.

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