Death Spiral of EU Crisis?
By Staff News & Analysis - May 24, 2011

Crisis-talk in Brussels is hardly new. What's different today is the palpable sense of failure and confusion communicated, even by the most fervent advocates of the EU. It is easy to dismiss this reaction as merely a symptom of the bitter conflict and rivalry unleashed by the crisis of the Eurozone, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal having to be bailed out with huge injections of cash to keep their governments solvent. However, the current problems confronting the integrity of the EU are not confined to the domain of economics; the organisation is also threatened by a political and cultural crisis. – Spiked

Dominant Social Theme: Just give us a little more time. Say, can we ban these nasty bond markets? Why do they exist anyway?

Free-Market Analysis: Frank Furedi of the alternative web newspaper Spiked has written an insightful article on the breakdown of confidence among the EU's chattering classes. He has the idea that Eurocrats are so out of touch with average Europeans that they have run out of ideas of how to protect the union from its onrushing Armageddon. His larger point, though he doesn't use our vocabulary, is that a fundamental dominant social theme (internationalism forever) is beginning to crumble.

This is a cause for happiness in our view. Let the EU crumble and the Anglo-American elites will have received a significant setback. Combine a failure of the EU with failure in Afghanistan (see other story, this issue) and it becomes clear that Money Power is less dominant in this century than in the last. Of course, we have been arguing this possibility for years.

This group of authoritarian socialists IS out of touch. They would disdainfully require countries to vote again and again when the votes were not in the best interest of the EU Leviathan. They would gladly hold whole populations hostage for the sins of a handful of elites, while ignoring the EU's own fiscal lapses, ones that are so bad an auditor has refused to sign off on EU finances for a decade or more.

Lately, there seems to have been a pullback in EU elite ambitions, a cessation of confidence in the idea that Eurocrats could slam their collective, Orwellian boot endlessly in the face of a resentful populace. Talk of massive abrogation of civil rights has seemingly been muted for the moment. Putting all EU citizens into one large one database in order to spy on them more effectively has seemingly been shelved for the time being. Building an EU Army to help NATO with its job of oppression around the world has quieted.

Generally, we're getting the sense that the Eurocrats are beginning to believe that the financial crisis is a bridge too far. Gone are the proclamations of confidence issuing from the lips of Sarkozy, Merkel and Trichet. The Camp of Confidence seems to have fallen mute. Furedi captures it well.

The new buzzword in Brussels: 'Crisis' The EU is beset with problems, but it is so cut off from the electorate that it lacks the popular legitimacy to solve them. During a recent visit to Brussels, I was struck by the uninhibited use of the word 'crisis' by people who closely watch or inhabit the institutions of the European Union.

With the Greek economy in a state of disintegration, European leaders know that there is no alternative but to restructure Greece's debt. They may use the euphemism of 're-profiling debt' to avoid acknowledging the scale of the problem, but the spectre of insolvent nations haunts Europe. Just a few weeks after pouring billions of euros into bailing out Portugal, it is evident that the medicine is not working and that the Eurozone is in big trouble. Inevitably, there is talk of reorganising Europe's monetary union as more and more people have lost faith in the existing bailout strategy.

Opposition to this strategy has led to the growth of euroscepticism throughout the more prosperous regions of Europe. A recent opinion poll in Germany showed that 30 per cent of the respondents wanted an 'independent Germany', without the euro. That is why last week, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated that people in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain should not have more holidays, work less or retire earlier than Germans. One Portuguese journalist described this gesture as 'feeding the populist monster that is growing in the Europe of the euro'. But this monster is not about to disappear.

Furedi makes other interesting points. The anti-EU True Finn party has emerged as Finland's third-largest and is actually within a whisper of being Finland's largest. This is no accident, he writes, and shows how the EU's woes are mutating.

There are other issues, just as serious as the financial crisis, though they have received less attention. The biggest challenge, curiously, may be the tens of thousands of North African and Libyan refugees showing up on the doorstep of Italy. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has called this refugee wave a 'human tsunami," and has indicated that Italy is not about to foot the bill for an endless surge of homeless Tunisians.

Berlusconi wants a fundamental tenet of the EU done away with for the moment – the Schengen border-free travel agreement. Freedom of movement, Furedi points out, is one of the few areas where the EU has delivered something entirely positive, and now it is under attack. It is not just the Italians either; the Danish government has indicated it will regenerate permanent border controls. The EU, Furedi notes, has responded by announcing it will spend £84million "to explain European policy and for 'better connecting with citizens'."

The article saves the best for last. Furedi explains that the EU has been effective at overcoming resistance to its policies because it was deliberately set up in such a way that its top Eurocrats did not have to respond to public opinion. Many were appointed rather than elected; at the very, top votes were not necessary to make policy, which could simply be handed down.

Of course, this fundamental anti-democratic state of affairs has kept various EU opponents in something of a subdued frenzy (and been responsible for making many powerful EU enemies) but authoritarianism admittedly has its merits. "The EU is able to adopt policies that would often prove contentious and difficult to justify in a more open, national parliamentary setting," Furedi points out.

Furedi also make the clever point that lacking legitimacy, the EU substituted vast PR programs. He is absolutely right about this. We noted this occurrence without fully understanding its import. But the EU's use of PR is virtually unprecedented within a modern democratic setting. Not only is it unusual, but as Furedi notes, it has produced an environment where the EU's top people have no legitimacy and no political tools to wield when they need them most.

He writes, "Today decisions affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people cannot be insulated from the anger and hostility of the public." This is a profound point. It was always pointed out by the EU's enemies that its lack of accountability was its most dangerous element. But ironically, this very lack of accountability means that the Eurocrats never built the communication channels and relationships that could be used in a time of crisis.

The European Central Bank just yesterday indicated that any kind of debt restructuring was out of the question for Greece, presumably for any of the PIGS. We have noted in the past the exceptional European "rigor" on this issue. The Greek socialist leadership promptly and cravenly agreed with the ECB and came out of with a statement vowing to inflict on Greeks every part of the unfair, unwise and unworkable austerity program that the IMF has devised for the Greeks –and for Portugal and Ireland as well. In fact, they really have no idea what to do. The politicians have begun to bicker with the bankers and it is wonderful to watch.

After Thoughts

Spain, convulsed by protests, may be next on the austerity list. If Spain goes, so goes the EU – and we will gladly wave it goodbye. One more dreadful, authoritarian celebration to pile on the junk heap. That it will likely mark a significant setback to the Anglosphere elite's efforts at building world government would only make it more satisfying.

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