January 31, 2012
We’re heading towards a Soviet-style union run by a Politburo made up of national political leaders uninterested in consulting the European Parliament on important decisions affecting our lives.
Whilst in Brussels where the EU heads of government were busily hammering out measures aimed at solving the euro-crisis, Martin Schulz held his first speech as President of the European Parliament. He rightfully incriminated the cumbersome and un-democratic way EU political leaders make decisions bearing on the future of Europe’s almost half a billion citizens. To be sure, the EU is not a fully functioning union yet and the fiscal arrangements concluded on January 30th only serve to reinforce this.
As Martin Schulz has complained, the European Parliament is rarely consulted before a vital, Europe-wide decision is made. Indeed, it seems national leaders act as a veritable Soviet-style Politburo. The German chancellor, like Russia’s leaders had within the Soviet federation, is increasingly able to railroad the other national leaders into agreeing to policies that will ultimately bring about… the unravelling of this union, as well. We have been used to comparing Germany to the other exporting powerhouse, China. So why compare it to Russia now? To their credit, the Chinese are pouring tens of billions of dollars into infrastructure projects within their ASEAN neighbourhood every year, sometimes without even being asked. Moreover, they are buying hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US treasury bonds, only to keep their business partner afloat and able to buy Chinese goods. Would anyone see the Germans doing likewise ? Not unless they really had to, and then on condition they get to take over the fiscal management of the country in need of assistance.
Look no further than the adoption of the so-called «golden rule», as a panacea for solving the sovereign debt crisis and so much more (!). Unfortunately, however, most of the countries that were forced to adopt austerity measures aimed at balancing their budgets have been beset by huge social turmoil, du jamais-vu in post-war Europe. To the current leaders who met in Brussels on Monday, warnings constantly issued by Nobel prize laureates like Joseph Stiglitz or leading economists like Martin Feldstein seem to matter little, if at all. If the trend continues, I sincerely wonder who is going to be left with enough funds to buy German cars and German machine tools around here… As Christine Lagarde has courteously reminded her German hosts recently, for every surplus country like Germany, there have to be a number of deficit countries left, in order to absorb its exports. There’s simply no other way about it. This is why the «golden rule» can only have a boomerang effect on the German economy, but to people affected by political myopia, that, of course, is no valid reason to desist.
And what if the European Parliament, since the spring of 2011, was in favour of the introduction of eurobonds? Nobody has invited its representatives to have a say at the summits where such decisions are taken. Let’s face it: for complex issues, inter-governmentalism as a decision-making mechanism has proven highly detrimental to the running of the Union’s affairs. More often than not, the Commission and the European Parliament look on as powerless spectators of the ongoing series of policy blunders which, instead of solving the crisis, aggravate it.
Whilst national governments are being constrained to stop much-needed investments in infrastructure and other projects, the European Commission is supposed to pick up the slack and spend some 82 billion euros on regional projects in order to kickstart growth. Now, if anyone believes that this sum is going to make a significant dent in the continent’s unemployment, good luck to them. Sure, as Martin Schulz has observed, the adoption of a 0.05% financial transactions tax would bolster the EU’s budget by 200 billion euros per year, but who listens to Euro-parliamentarians ? As in the illustrious Soviet example, apparently nobody…Florian Pantazi