A less popular EU… October 15, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
I had to smile reading Gavin Barrett’s six predictions in the Irish Times this morning on how the economic crisis would play out in Europe. Not so much the predictions themselves, because like him I’d still suspect Greece won’t leave the Eurozone – or rather won’t be allowed to, and that ‘Ireland will receive sufficient assistance in relation to its bank debt to facilitate its return to economic independence’ albeit that latter would come with two significant caveats, firstly a ‘just’ before the word sufficient and secondly that the very notion of ‘economic independence’ is meaningless in the current context and largely so in the picture that Barrett maps out for the future of a ‘more integrated’ EU.
Nope, what raised the smile – an ironic one at that, was the following:
It can only be hoped, however, that this crisis has not done too much damage to public acceptance of integration.
Moreover, the economic advantages of such integration seem clear. But a Ryanair-style approach to European integration – in which the public frequently feels harshly treated, but is driven by economic necessity to continue doing business – seems an insufficiently sound basis to maintain needed popular support for Europe in the long term.
I don’t know if further integration will fly or not – but it strikes me that politically one of the effects of the crisis has been to cement general public opinion both here and elsewhere in the EU (with the notable exception of the UK) to the proscriptions of the orthodoxy. Even in Greece one can read the last election result as a triumph for that approach.
Whether that damages public acceptance further down the line when and if matters calm somewhat is a different question.
But it’s the last sentence that is crucial. That has been the central feature of the last five years, the idea that ‘economic necessity to continue doing business’ drives the European project. And that as we have seen from the example of our own Governments, whether of right or centre – such as it is – formations, is the guiding light. In all this – a crisis which was generated not by citizens but by small financial and political elites with no regard to the impact of the deregulatory, low tax economic policies they championed and implemented either on the private sector or on the broader society (and that’s an important distinction in and of itself), it has been the public that has picked up the tab time and again, indeed has explicitly been seen to be the only means of doing so.
Popular support for Europe? I genuinely wonder if the longer term outcomes will be deeply problematic for the EU. The manner in which the institutional elements have been pushed aside and national government considerations have taken precedence has been educative, interesting to see how far that lesson goes.