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A European ultimatum
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-06-19 08:19:37
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Before deciding to write anything for the Irish No for the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, I left a few days to go by to read what the pro and against would write, and most of all try to listen to the people and that are living in a country in the further north side of Europe. The truth is that people are somehow glad for Ireland’s no but at the same time they have no idea what this treaty means and I have the feeling that the truth lies somewhere there.

The European Union, with a lot of help from the bureaucrats, managed to disgrace itself and lose any kind of legitimacy in the eyes of the people; it doesn’t matter if the Lisbon Treaty improves the Rome Treaty, and it doesn’t matter if it changes the idea of an EU constitution. My opinion is that the problem this moment is not the few hundred pages of document, but the EU as an establishment itself. Naturally the worst people to fix the problem are the people who represent this establishment now, and I mean Barroso and the rest.

Brussels’ bureaucrats! Every time I read this I remember a personal favourite television series called "Yes, Mr. Minister!", the series leads you in a comic and often simplistic way through the British government and British bureaucracy, and I have to admit it is very enlightening regarding British bureaucracy’s attitude towards the EU. So there is British bureaucracy and it is equally fatal as the French bureaucracy.

Another comedian, the Australian Paul Hogan had a stand-up program on British TV and in one of his shows he was describing how the French react to the British attitude when in the EU - what did the British say, did they say ‘yes’? Well, we say …no! And please don’t stop there; the Greek bureaucrats celebrate after every big committee because they took some more money for the farmers and the Finns because they made a deal for the fishermen. I’ve read about the Spanish bureaucrats blaming the increasing prices on the EU with the Portuguese following them in day’s difference. Lately Bulgaria and Romania joined the club of the Blaming Game with their bureaucrats leading the way.

So these bureaucrats are not just Brussels’ bureaucrats, but European bureaucrats - every single member country has it own bureaucrats often tripping the system and any kind of improvement for their own reasons and agendas. The Brussels’ bureaucrats are Greeks, Spaniards, Italians, Brits, from each and every member country, and they act often under the instructions of their governments, since they are their real bosses. So before we start blaming this indefinite Brussels’ bureaucracy we must remember who they really are.

Coming now to the people that represent the EU, namely the Euro MPs. Please be honest, who is going to be candidate for EU MP? Politicians who want to build a political future or politicians who did a mistake in their country, and a bit of time away in Brussels might help people to forget. Former president or former Prime Ministers their party wants honourably to get rid of or parties paying back favours they couldn’t pay with a position in the local parliaments! I’m sorry for my cynicism, but that’s the truth. Whom do you blame again? Brussels or the government and the local parties?

Who’s leading the EU? Barroso, a former Portuguese Prime Minister that the Portuguese people try to forget, or am I missing something? Who knew Solana? What the people see on the news is two arrogant politicians building a political future for their big return in their countries, just like all the former presidents of the EU have done with the latest example Pronti of Italy. Coming to the acting president who is the leader of the member state with a six months term this is where the big laughs start. Sarkozy, the man who has already failed after just a few months as president of France, is going to lead European policy for the next six months. Berlusconi, my favourite! The man changed the laws in Italy while prime minister so he wouldn’t be prosecuted for corruption and he is going to lead Europe? Gordon Brown? What about the Polish Lech Kaczyński, please shoot me before the time comes!

And then came the expansion and before we understood that ten more countries had joined, another two jumped inside, and then another group is waiting at the front door with Turkey nearly knocking the door down. Was Europe prepared for this change? No, definitely and loud now, not financially, not technically and definitely not psychologically. I have said it before in other articles, in length, the last expansion was a mistake for both sides and personally I still cannot see why to give all these accessions to Poland so they will become full members - accessions are often unadvisable for the EU, the country members and for the other candidates.

The people of the new member states were not prepared for the new reality and why should they be? Their governments were the same often corrupted governments and their economy was definitely much lower than the average European. The only thing they saw was the opportunity to immigrate to north Europe without the obstacle of visas - ignoring the fact that Europe suffers from unemployment. What their government saw, or was it at least what their politicians preached? Money will flow with the EU, money will come from everywhere, but they forgot to tell them about the VAT and the money they take is their own money. That for every penny will come a day they have to return it, they should ask Greece, Spain and Italy.

The other side, the old member states? They never recovered from the one shock and then they had to deal with the next one. The first group back in the sixties had to put a lot of money to establish the EU and the next group had to work hard for a decade to prove that they are worth the honor and then comes Poland and takes it all! I’m using Poland but it could be any of the new member states, it is just I never really understood all this begging game with Poland’s membership and all these things Solana was saying, if Poland doesn’t join, the EU has failed! I hate the day he will say something similar for Turkey, since he is so keen on the EU’s expansion to the Middle East!

And before the Europeans recover from this shock, they saw thousands of immigrants coming from these new members while the presidency had made it clear that since these people have the same privileges and rights they have no reason to immigrate! They forgot the magic …if! If they have the same privileges in their country and if they have the same rights in their own country they will not immigrate and how does this happen? By helping them first, just like the first group did with the second and the third to reach a legitimate status. And who is responsible for that? I’m sorry to say but the responsibility is collective, all the state members are equally responsible.

If they had explain the seriousness of the EU elections and the role of the EU MPs then people would participate, if they had been serious in choosing the commissars we wouldn’t have the corruption scandals of the past, we wouldn’t have failed politicians who find it a good chance to find a job for all their family with unbelievable salaries that would have never been sent there. And then they are coming with a constitution! People had to react and they did but those responsible didn’t listen and they came with a treaty. What’s next? Unfortunately there is always the worst. The Irish ‘No’ was not a warning, they didn’t listen to the warning, the Irish ‘No’ was an ultimatum and that’s how they must see it …if they are not only deaf, but blind also!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-06-19 10:42:41
Correct me if I have misunderstood Thanos, but what I seem to gather from the above analysis is that Europe is much more than a mere geographical place; it is primarely an idea and a vision. In my opinion, such an idea and vision may be found in a Constitution which is the ideal vehicle with which to proclaim it, if, and it’s a big if, the ones who write it are faithful to the vision and can express it imaginatively; but it is rarely, if ever, found in the bureaucratic language of a treaty. The mere fact that the word Constitution was changed to treaty is indicative of an unimaginative bureaucracy abysmally ignorant of the ideals behind the idea of Europe (and certainly present in the mind of its founding fathers) and mainly concerned with “real politik.” (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-19 10:43:47
The Irish people, of all people, know a thing or two about distinguishing the sublime and the poetical from the crass and the banal and have reacted accordingly. Can one imagine the founding fathers of the EU, whose vision nobody seems to remember discuss any longer, writing such a banal and obscure document with no genuine cultural spiritual cement to insure a more perfect union aside from some vague references to a spiritual tradition? Indeed a De Gasperi is not a Prodi and certainly not a Berlusconi, and Plato’s Republic is quite different from Machiavelli’s Prince. The former is concerned with ideals and the achievement of the common good, the latter is concerned with power grabbing and retention and the movement of goods. Homer was blind but not deaf and not dumb and had an internal vision that could be proclaimed poetically to those who have ears to hear. That is what all genuine Constitutions dare to do: they give voice to a vision and give hope to the people. Unfortunately those who are blind deaf and dumb see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. All they can do is grab and retain power and write banal commercial treaties coming from nowhere and going nowhere. Indeed, what is needed is a conspiracy of hope!

Clint2008-06-19 11:34:17
The EU monster rumbles on. Lets face it the three options are 1. Abandon the Treaty as per their rules on ratification. 2. Move on without the Irish. 3. Bully and cajole the Irish until they get the right answer. I know where I'm putting my money and if its not number 3 I'll fall off my donkey once again!

Emanuel Paparella2008-06-19 16:19:42
There is alas a fourth option which some EU bureaucrats may misguidedly adopt: ignore Europe’s spiritual heritage and the democratic process currently in place and force a decision relying on a banal uninspiring treaty based on purely economic and geo-political considerations, thus ensuring, willy nilly, a return to good old nationalism, colonialism and imperialism. Tony Judt, in his latest book whose review I recently forwarded to this magazine, mentions the sad and alarming phenomenon, that, on both sides of the Atlantic, we now have a whole generation of young people unable to trace the toots of its history further than 1950. They call themselves the “Newropeans” to signify a break with all that is old Europe as if they were born ex nihilo in 1950, blissfully unaware that those who ignore their own history are condemned to repeat it. The other side of this coin is an older generation nostalgic for the days when Britannia ruled the waves and called the shots on a continent constantly at war. Like McCain on this side of the Atlantic pond, this older generation wished to give war a chance since war brings glory in its entourage.

And finally, there is a fifth option, repeatedly placed on the table for discussion in the pages of this very magazine but largely ignored, and perhaps even derided from what is assumed to be a superior more enlightened vantage point. As a wise man in Palestine once said: let those who have ears hear. The rest, with no ears, no eyes, no tongue, will continue their fatal journey rearranging the furniture on the Titanic, or on the back of their donkeys, as the case may turn out to be.

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