More on Europe. November 26, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
Scariest moment for me this week – bar none? Talking to a close friend whose professional expertise in matters international is more than credible than most and who found the actions of the last three weeks by Germany and France stunning. Granted, they threw in the caveat about the issue being a ‘eurozone’ one rather than an EU, but noted how thin that was and how the institutions of the European Union have effectively been bypassed and how this has led to government change in two EU states – Greece and Italy.
And it is stunning. It is something that even a year ago, even six months ago, would have been incredible. It represents a rupture with both the spirit and letter of what the EU is meant to represent. It is a devolution to two states of effective power in the EU, with all others, including the UK, positioning in orbits of decreasing proximity and therefore influence. Guess where Ireland is, probably by this schema somewhere out beyond Pluto – no longer even a planet – in the Kuiper Belt in the halo of comets.
But it continues apace. Read Arthur Beesley in the Irish Times today and this rupture is still extant. Germany and France attempt to come to some sort of agreement, albeit Germany is in the stronger position. Note that:
EU leaders are due in Brussels for a summit in a fortnight. As market turmoil intensifies, they are under pressure to deliver yet another “big bang”.
But the real action is…
…a meeting in Strasbourg between German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Italy’s newly installed technocratic prime minister Mario Monti [which] served up some vital clues.
The first was Sarkozy’s abrupt retreat from his drive to radically expand the mandate of the European Central Bank. Dr Merkel simply brushed this off, leaving her closest ally with nothing to show for an intensive diplomatic push to give the ECB a new role. The chancellor wants no truck with anything which would see the central bank print money to hand to errant euro zone governments. Sarkozy backed down.
What’s so amazing is how no one apparently gives a toss about this. Germany and France vault into attempting to control this process and EU leaders are happy to wait two weeks?
But there’s worse, at least from an Irish and EU perspective. The Franco-German comfy little coup necessitates the breath of some form of democratic legitimation. So… in order that the
moves are now under way in Europe to toughen the enforcement of the EU’s long neglected budgetary rules…
… actually are implemented…There is…
…the increasing possibility that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have to fight a European referendum at a time when onerous austerity policies linked to the EU-IMF bailout are biting hard. If that sounds like an impossible mission, Mr Kenny may not have choice in the matter.
Note the latter point about no choice, and ponder the democratic deficit in that statement and then note the political insanity of asking the Irish people to vote yes to such measures at such a point. Which means that – in order to push such a referendum forward it will have to be couched in existential terms – In or Out. Nice.
But it’s not just Ireland which presents a problem…
Mr Van Rompuy is wary of prompting British claims for a repatriation of powers from Brussels if the treaty is reopened. Therefore, he is working to achieve maximum flexibility within the law as its stands.
And looking at all this to me there’s a real sense that Merkel et al have almost no feel for the realities on the ground. Perhaps to them they’re irrelevant. Perhaps they’re playing a longer game with an EU that is sans the UK, sans Greece and perhaps sans others in the periphery. Or perhaps they simply don’t have a clue what to do and it’s a case of trying whatever comes to mind.
Whatever, there’s no sense of a strategy, no sense of an European union but rather of two or three or four countries [at best] taking a leading role very much to save themselves and after that let events fall as they will.
And all this is political. The ‘increased scrutiny of national budgets [which] can be expected to be pretty severe’ will be profoundly political – and yet we are unlikely to see German levels of state provision anytime soon. If ever.
What’s most telling is how imperfect, how flawed the EU and the single currency have actually been. I’ve said it before, the latter was not fit for purpose, the former ever more evidently unable to operate under the stresses and strains of a genuine crisis.
And now we face the prospect of a referendum. Good luck with that.