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Monday, October 3, 2011

Daniel Hannan on the end of the European Union (and probably Europe)

FP: Must read!!!!!!!!!

The End of Europe's Fantasy is Now in Sight

The logical response to the euro crisis would be to recognise that it was wrong to jam widely divergent countries into a single set of policies. While there are no easy outcomes from here, the least bad option would be an orderly unbundling of the euro, allowing the peripheral states to devalue and begin exporting their way back to growth.

Instead, eurocrats are determinedly doing the opposite. Integration wasn't working, so they have decreed more integration, demanding that monetary union be buttressed by fiscal union. Debt levels are excessive, so they have created more debt, forcing loans on to countries that are already overwhelmed by their existing liabilities. Countries are struggling to meet the costs of their state bureaucracies, so they have replicated those costs at Brussels level, increasing the EU budget under the guise of stimulus spending. For two years now, Eurocrats have been doling out great spoonfuls of the medicine that sickened the patient in the first place.

What the devil are they thinking? Their attempts to prop up the euro fly in the face of every economic theory, Left or Right. In the best case scenario, that is, where the euro doesn't collapsein chaos, they will have condemned the peoples of the Mediterranean to a generation of deflation, poverty and unemployment, and those of northern Europe to massive tax rises. Do they truly not understand where they are going wrong?
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The unravelling of monetary union would call the entire project into question, and thus the jobs of several fonctionnaires. Those fonctionnaires are accordingly ready to pay any price to hold the euro together or, rather, to get the rest of us to pay, since EU employees are exempt from national taxation. An idealistic euro-integrationist, who thinks he is supporting peace and brotherhood, might be relied on to support the project when pushed. But a euro-apparatchik, for whom the EU is a question of mortgage payments and school fees, will fight for it as fiercely as a Gaddafi loyalist following his chief into the desert.

By euro-apparatchik, I don't simply mean someone who is directly on the EU's payroll. One of the more ingenious tactics pursued by integrationists over the years has been to build up a corpus of fellow travellers within the member states. Thus, for example, most European universities employ "Jean Monnet Professors", who can be relied upon to push the Brussels line without regard for academic neutrality. Virtually every local authority over a certain size employs one or more "Europe officers", their wages paid by local ratepayers, but their livelihoods wholly dependent on the EU. Every charity over a certain size does the same thing, as does every large corporation and every lobby group.
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Here is where the EU's strength rests. Not among the benign cranks of the European Movement or the Union of European Federalists, but in the legions of EU-funded consultants, contractors, seconded civil servants, big landowners and NGOs. They are the nomenklatura of our age.
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There is one sense, though, in which the parallel can be fairly drawn. The Communist cadres who seized power in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1940s believed that the force of their ideology trumped any considerations of freedom, democracy or the rule of law. They saw Marxism-Leninism as both irrefutable and inexorable and, while they had no intention of allowing their doctrines to be rejected at the ballot box, many of them sincerely hoped that the suspension of democracy would be temporary. Once socialism had proved its superiority, once it had shown itself to be more economically efficient than capitalism as well as more just, it might be possible to move to a phased restoration of parliamentary rule.

Such reasoning was shaken by the Hungarian rising of 1956 and obliterated by the Prague Spring of 1968. After that date, the apparatchiks gave up trying to persuade their electorates. Instead of agreement, they demanded acquiescence; instead of conviction, consent. The dots and commas of Das Kapital became far less important than the maintenance of their place in society.

Something similar has happened to eurocrats. In the early days, the Brussels institutions were dominated by true believers, convinced that, in burying nationalism, they were burying war. They, too, saw the lack of democracy as contingent: once the people saw the benefits of European integration, it would be possible to make the system more accountable. Their Prague Spring moment came in 2005, when 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters rejected the European Constitution. The mood change in Brussels was immediate and palpable. One of my friends, a senior French eurocrat, asked wretchedly: "How can the voters have drifted so far away from me?" (It is human nature, I suppose, to place oneself at the centre of the universe.)

That's not to say, of course, that those in power won't defend their privileges frenziedly. There is, as I say, a deal of ruin in a union. But the EU has lost whatever legitimacy it once enjoyed. It may stagger on for another five years, or even another ten. But, if the happy events of 1989 teach us anything, it's that the end, when it comes, is more sudden than anyone had dared to hope.

Read it all.

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