German Hegemony, Consternation, and Grass Roots Scepticism
European Union was never going to work. The Grand Idea was that respective European nations could be gradually moved towards giving up sovereignty bit by bit. Gradualism was the plan. The initial execution was brilliant. It started with low level wins. First the euro itself. A common currency had immediate benefits for commerce across borders. Business loved it. Consumers likewise. Then the dismantling of borders with respect to customs duties and migration and travel. No more long queues up at the border between France and Spain. Citizens of Europe could freely travel across the Fourth Reich. Then there was the boon of a common labour market. Poles could freely come into the UK to get work. Gone were the long struggles to get work permits.
These easy wins made the EU project very popular. But wait, there was more.
More money. Poorer countries were subsidized by wealthier ones. Money flowed to Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland and so on. Throw money at a poor country and a pseudo-economic boom results. A new key industry emerged: euro-grant farming. Overnight there was plenty of such nice work, and the rewards were inconceivably good. Then there was the easy credit. Ah, so wonderful. Pathetic economies like Portugal and Greece suddenly had the same credit rating as Germany.
Naturally people grumbled about the increasing tide of rules and regulations spewing forth from Brussels. One’s rhubarb had to be cut a certain way, of specified length, and reflect a certain redness to be traded. But as long as the money was flowing freely, who cared? These things were minor irritants, like a gold-digging young bride putting up with her plutocrat, octogenarian husband’s snoring. Who cares?
But then the biggest bubble yet seen in Western history burst. It suddenly dawned on the lenders that Greek debt was not the same as German debt. The huge resulting crisis has tossed out gradualism. If the European Union is going to survive, federalism will have to be speeded up. Europe now has to do the “big things”. The big things mean rapidly giving up national sovereignty in favour of European sovereignty which, as everyone secretly knows, means German sovereignty.
The irony is that Germany has always been contained by French ambitions to be top dog in Europe. Consequently, neither nation was able to assert itself. Gradualism seemed genuine and a real outcome. But it was all chimerical. In the end, vaunting French ambition led that nation into the same profligate, debt-fuelled socialism as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland–along with the inevitable corruption of public institutions, bureaucrats and politicians. Deeply indebted France can no longer balance out or restrain German hegemony. In the end, the borrower always becomes the lender’s slave.
Now, it seem, the grass roots throughout Europe are expressing if not contempt, then at least a profound scepticism for Europe as a Grand Idea. This, from The Guardian:
Crisis for Europe as trust hits record low
Poll in European Union’s six biggest countries finds Euroscepticism is soaring amid bailouts and spending cuts
Ian Traynor, Europe editor
The Guardian, Wednesday 24 April 2013
Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the union’s worst ever crisis, new data shows. After financial, currency and debt crises, wrenching budget and spending cuts, rich nations’ bailouts of the poor, and surrenders of sovereign powers over policymaking to international technocrats, Euroscepticism is soaring to a degree that is likely to feed populist anti-EU politics and frustrate European leaders’ efforts to arrest the collapse in support for their project.
Figures from Eurobarometer, the EU’s polling organisation, analysed by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a thinktank, show a vertiginous decline in trust in the EU in countries such as Spain, Germany and Italy that are historically very pro-European.
Credit: Guardian graphics
. . . . EU leaders are aware of the problem, utterly at odds over what to do about it, and have yet to come up with any coherent policy proposals addressing the mismatch between the pooling of economic and fiscal powers and the democratic mandate deemed necessary to underpin such radical policy shifts.
. . . . Aart de Geus, head of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German thinktank, also warned that the drive to surrender more key national powers to Brussels would backfire. “Public support for the EU has been falling since 2007. So it is risky to go for federalism as it can cause a backlash and unleash greater populism.”
So the common man has finally decided that the price for the Grand Idea of Europe is too high and is not worth paying. That’s the sceptical view, now held by strong majorities in the “core” Euro countries. But if one wants a more principled, ideological view, consider this speech by Nigel Farrage: