Twenty seven countries of Europe belong to the so-called European Union (EU). They include Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain. All of them are in the throes of an economic crisis. But right in the middle of Europe, there is a small country which is not a member of the EU yet is doing rather well – Switzerland. Why are all its bigger neighbours in trouble? There is a simple answer:
The dominant countries of the EU have allowed their dream of rivalling the USA as a powerful federal state to blind them to economic, democratic and political reality. They have taken their eyes off the ball.
The name of the game at the foundation of the EEC (European Economic Community, precursor to the EU) was economic cooperation between self-governing independent nations. The nations of Europe speak English, Spanish, German, French and Italian and the languages of many smaller countries. And they have diverse systems of government. So you cannot create a single patriotic nation like the United States of America just by sitting down and writing a European constitution. But this is what France and Germany have tried to do – they have created a European Parliament (EP) which aims to overrule centuries-old national parliaments. But it does not work. The people of Britain, for example, only become aware that it exists when they get a ballot paper asking them to elect their “MEP” from a list of candidates, few if any of whom are known to them. The turnout for the elections is small. A United States of Europe (USE) may be a reasonable aspiration, but only on a time-scale of many decades, one small step at a time, responding to democratic demand, not imposed on reluctant peoples.
Not satisfied with the paper European Parliament (which absurdly and expensively meets in two place, Brussels and Strasbourg), they have created a European Central Bank (ECB) to oversee a new “federal” currency, the euro. Of the present 27 member states of the EU, 17 discarded their national currencies for the euro. It was meant to be another step towards a federal Europe, but they have put the cart (a single currency) before the horse (democratic wish for federation). The result is an economic and political crisis.
This was foreseeable. How could you expect a single bank, the ECB, to protect the individual national interests of 17 different countries? Before the merging of currencies, each country had its own Central Bank which cooperated with its national government to regulate the currency according to the economic interests of that country. That power has now gone and we see the disastrous result in the present Euro Crisis. The interests of Germany and of Greece are in opposition. Germany experienced terrible inflation in the 1920s and is resolved never to let any such thing happen to them again. So they insist that the Greek government must balance its budget by cutting jobs and pensions, regardless of the political consequences. But Greece is already experiencing public protests against the cuts and wants the ECB to come to its rescue. At present there is deadlock. In the old days, Greece could have devalued the drachma to become more competitive and get growing again. Now they share their currency with Germany. The EU’s solution to the problem seems to be to overrule Greece’s hitherto sovereign government and let EU commissioners tell them what they must do.
Welcome to the burgeoning USE; farewell to European democracy.