The EU in denial
SOPHİE QUİNTİN ADALIA dark noxious cloud hangs over the Greek capital because impoverished Athenians have reverted to wood burning to keep warm. As joblessness reaches shocking levels and anti-EU sentiments rise, European mandarins are in denial.
The book by Dutch MEP Derk-Jan Eppink “The Life of a European Mandarin: Inside the Commission” puts the spotlight on the exercise of power in the EU’s most powerful body. The witty anecdotal account of his experience as a mandarin (top bureaucrat) highlights the games of intrigue, trickery and deceit that characterize the supranational governance system. It also illustrates the disconnect between its élite and the citizens.
Recent declarations confirmed that mandarins exist in a parallel reality and in a state of denial. For them (and five Norwegians), there is nothing inherently wrong with the integration process. In Dublin, European Commission president José Barroso exonerated the EU Project, his administration, and himself of any responsibility for the crisis, simply blaming member states for “spending too much.” That is partly true. The electoralist short-termism of many national leaders led to unsustainable debt levels.
However, it is preposterous to claim that the “guardian of the Treaties” (Commission) bears no responsibility in the construction of the EU social democratic utopia that is now generating poverty more than growth. Did it not notably fail to protect European citizens from the serial-budget deceptions of Greek politicians?
In his state of the union address to the European Parliament - a pale copy of the American tradition – the unelected activist president pleaded for a wide debate on the future of Europe. Yet in the same breath he set the direction of the consultation. The European Union must transform into a “federation of nation states” with more powers for its supranational institutions.
This is managed democracy. From national referenda only supported to rubberstamp the choices of the euro-élite to bureaucratic farces like the “citizens’ initiative” - instituted under the Lisbon Treaty to address the democratic deficit - examples abound. The latest is the “European year of citizens” campaign, decreed by Brussels’ spin doctors to promote supranational citizenship. Is the point to create a “new man”? The USSR tried it.
As the gap between the rhetoric of a brighter future and the reality of economic misery widens, skepticism about deeper integration increases. If the Greek people continue to cling on to the idea of keeping the currency that has cost their economy so dearly, for Germans the Euro-mystique has gone. Support for the Deutsche Mark now stands at 60 percent. In France, the debate on a return to the Franc is livening up. Euroskepticism is at its highest in the U.K.
Experts arguing that the rescue mechanism only gives respite to the eurozone are jokingly dismissed as “cassandras” whose prophecies have been proven wrong. No one wants Europe to fail, but while its mandarins abide to the federalist dogma and wallow in their Nobel Peace Prize moment, the peoples of Europe are questioning. The simple truth is sinking in. As Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Osborne notes, the debt crisis has revealed that “the European way of welfare itself is bankrupt, that it never worked as well as its defenders pretended.”
Like the noxious cloud hanging over the birthplace of democracy, “The Project” in its current form has become harmful. A new deal conceived as a great leap forward in the same mistaken welfarist and federalist direction will not fix it.
Sophie Quintin Adalı is an analyst for www.libreafrique.org, the francophone project of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.