Monthly Archives: June 2016

The EU is no good

The EU is no good,

Chop it up for firewood,

And if it don’t burn,

Pour on some PETROL,

And have some fun.

Vote Leave

If the EU were to create a camel…

If the EU were to create a camel

it would undoubtedly have 28 humps

or 29 or 30 or 31 or…

EU madness, for sure

EU madness, for sure

YIPPEE it’s Independence Day!

Ole ole ole

Britain voted to leave the EU today!

oh happy day

Brexit AOK

yipee

June 23rd Independence Day

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The EU is doomed to failure

The EU is only an episode in European history – and is doomed to failure
Europe is not the same as the European Union. The European Union is only an episode in Europe’s history. The two, nevertheless, are frequently treated as if they were identical. It is, however, entirely possible to be a Europhile, in the sense of valuing and engaging with Europe’s cultures, peoples and history, and to be opposed to the European Union and thus to Britain’s continued membership of it.

Britain and continental Europe share much. Cultural, religious, philosophical and political movements and ideas have spilled across from one to the other. It would be strange if they had not, given their proximity. Nevertheless, exchanges of this kind are hardly sufficient to justify political union. The histories of Poland and Russia are similarly entangled, but no one would now suggest that they should join together.

The way that ideas have spread in Europe is important. One of the strengths of Europe has been its diversity. The separate experiences of Europe’s countries have acted as inspirations and warnings to others. The example of British manufacturing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, underpinned by the free-trade philosophy of Smith and Ricardo, overturned the regulatory and protectionist regime that prevailed across much of Central Europe. Bismarck’s early welfare state and Swiss federalism had their own emulators. Across large parts of Europe, the lesson of the French Revolution stimulated the politics of conservatism and of gradual change, and so on.

The high modernist ideology that underpins the EU is predicated on the erosion of differences between countries. It would seek to impose single solutions that are blind to complexity and inimical to the sort of local experimentation that has been one of the driving forces in European history. Not only therefore are the EU and Europe different things. By putting its stress on political, economic and social convergence, the EU may also be antithetical to Europe’s historical dynamic.

The eurozone is doomed

The monetary union was flawed from the start—and now Europe has “its foot on the accelerator and is running out of road,” says Heather Conley, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The nearly 16-year experiment with a financially integrated Europe is instead tearing the continent apart, stirring ugly ghosts of history and fueling the rise of extremist political parties that could one day control a NATO partner.

So warns Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. I sat down with Conley, a former top State Department official, for the latest installment of our CSIS iTunes podcast “Smart Women Smart Power,” which you can hear by following this link: bit.ly/csisswsp

While Greece’s latest travails capture the world’s attention, Conley sees dire consequences for all of Europe from a fatally-flawed monetary union of 19 countries. “It was a structurally flawed project,” Conley says of the Eurozone, born in 1999. “They were warned about it. This was an economic project designed politically to make Europe more united. But instead it’s pulling Europe apart.”

Greece, she adds “should never have been let in; it did not have the economic indicators and strength to participate in this currency union. But as a political project people said, ‘How can we not include the birthplace of democracy? The great recession showed the weakness and flaws, and we saw all of this unravel.”

That unraveling has launched a number of dangerous political trends. Economic pain and anger at European leaders, on the left and right, is combining with the type of anti-immigrant sentiments that fuel the rise of populist and xenophobic parties. France’s far-right National Front and Spain’s far-left Podemos Party are on the upswing. In Britain, which held onto its own currency, the UK Independence Party has successfully pressured Prime Minister David Cameron to call a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union. And Conley notes that even 25% of EU parliament members can be labeled Euro-skeptics.

“There will come a moment with a far left or far right party in a NATO country potentially forming a government,” she predicts, “and that is a nightmare because then we have to question the democratic credentials of our allies. That’s a thought we don’t want to have.”

Conley warns of a dark era, not unlike 1914, with the world “sleep-walking” toward an abyss. “The free movement of labor is under attack,” she says. “The free movement of capital is under attack because of the Eurozone crisis,” she says. “Many EU officials will say Europe evolves through crisis. But this is not forging Europe, it’s pulling it apart.”

As the continent’s strongest economy, source of bailout funds and enforcer of Eurozone rules, Germany is a target of populist wrath. There is historic irony to this, Conley notes, since “the euro was created right after German reunification to ensure that Germany could not economically dominate Europe.”

Meanwhile, Conley worries that the U.S. is sitting on the sidelines, despite an American investment in a healthy Europe dating back to World War II and the Marshall Plan. With France and Italy right behind Greece in terms of the need for economic reform, Conley urges U.S. officials to help the continent craft bolder plans to step out of the bailout cycle and move forward economically.

Conley stops short of embracing suggestions from German officials that Greece would be better off with a temporary Eurozone exit. However, she does believe that Greece is trapped by its debt burden and the damage done to its economy by the ruling left-wing Syriza party. “The status quo cannot be sustained,” says Conley.

“Europe’s success is America’s success,” she says. “When Europe is weak, we are weakened. The stakes are enormous. Europe seems to be putting its foot on the accelerator and is running out of road.”

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