Brexit, Essays, Europe, latest, UK
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Reforming the EU – Waiting for Godot

by Frank

Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis believes that the EU can be reformed, but one wonders whether he actually believes this.

Greece’s former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis believes that the EU can be reformed, but one wonders whether he actually believes this.

There is a human tendency to cling on to cherished beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There was a time, during the heady days of Jacques Delors and the Social Chapter, when the EU appeared to represent a social-democratic and neutral geopolitical bloc; a third force between the USSR as it then was and the US/NATO – this, however, is no longer the case. The EU has long since transmuted into part of an aggressive neo-liberal and neo-conservative imperial alliance under US command. The liberal, centre-left remainers such as Yanis Varoufakis seem to think that it is possible reverse this development and get the EU back to its original prototype, presumably by dint of political will. In view of historical developments this view seems increasingly difficult to sustain.

In particular since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty of 2005 the EU Defence and Security Policy has been aligned with NATO. Indeed, EU membership has become a stalking horse for NATO membership and vice versa. NATO’s geopolitical drive to Russia’s western borders has been concurrent with the EU’s economic expansion – a strategic partnership between a military push and an economic push.

Not surprisingly perhaps the Russians see the siting of US Anti-ballistic missile systems on their western borders in Romania and Poland, together with ongoing NATO military exercises involving tens of thousands of alliance troops, the most recent being Operation Anaconda, as something of a provocation. Hardly surprising we now have a second cold war.
In geopolitical terms the position of the EU is completely subordinated to US interests. If there is a Russian-NATO conflict it will be fought on Europe’s turf not on America’s; ultimately Europe is expendable. This much can be inferred from facts on the ground, though this must be assiduously kept from the electorates of western Europe. This in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe who seem only too willing to serve as the cannon-fodder for the US imperial designs; witness the incessant baying for war on the part of Russophobic states such as Poland and the Baltics, as well as NATO-EU wannabees like Ukraine and Georgia. It was precisely this expansion to the East (or new Europe as it was called by Donald Rumsfeld) which served as the essential prerequisite for the NATO takeover of the whole of Europe. The change has been noted:

The destructive Russophobia of the new Europe undermined the credibility and cohesion of Europe as a whole. It had been anticipated that the new members’’ – Poland, the Baltics. etc. – would be ‘socialised’ into the ways of the EU, but, instead, the EU was in danger of reverse socialization incorporating the axiological dynamics and virulent neo-liberalism of some of the newer members, accompanied by their prioritisation of Atlantic Security over EU social solidarity.” Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine

In its original quasi-Gaullist form the EU might have played a constructive part in the Ukrainian crisis as a third party and disinterested broker between Russian and American interests, but by 2014 the EU had been transformed into something very different from its original configuration: it had become joined at the hip to the US imperial juggernaut. Moreover, the EU’s status in this relationship was subaltern rather than equal. It should be understood that the United States does not do ‘partnerships’ except of the ‘me Tarzan, you Jane’ variety. It is commented that:

Instead of a vision embracing the whole continent it (the EU) it has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic security alliance … The drift toward a merger with the Atlantic Security system left it bereft of autonomy and policy instruments when it really mattered – maintaining peace on the European continent.’’ Richard Sakwa, Ibid. pp.227/228

The terrorism and refugee crisis in Europe – the blowback – was unquestionably traceable to the US bull-in-a-china-shop foreign policy in the middle east, this much is obvious to even an impartial observer; but answering the call of duty the western media has strained every nerve and muscle in an attempt to deny what was a blatant fact. Terrorism and refugee flows sweeping across Europe were ripped out of the wider context in an attempt to obfuscate any causal connexions with these phenomena and US/EU/NATO foreign policy. The media propaganda tsunami notwithstanding the electorates of Europe were able to put 2 and 2 together, and this resulting in an ongoing political crisis in Europe which shows no signs of stabilization and, if anything, seems to be intensifying (see the Brexit vote and the Jeremy Corbyn ongoing brouhaha).

Propaganda seems to have its limits; like Abe Lincoln said: ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’

So much for the geopolitics.

Perhaps as significant is the shift in economic policies and development which has taken place within the EU. Without doubt there has taken a sharp right turn since the 1980s: namely, the imbibing of a ruthless, winner takes all neo-liberal orthodoxy and its equally brutal imposition; Greece is perhaps the most egregious victim of this frugal economic diet, followed by Latvia, Estonia, Ireland and Portugal, all of which are being forced into penury and debt-peonage courtesy of the Troika’s relentless austerity programme. Piling on the agony these policies are soon to be augmented by Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

In both economic and foreign policy, therefore, the European political and financial elites have acted as overseas branch managers of a multinational enterprise whose HQ is on the other side of the pond (the US) where policy is determined and exported. Quislingism might be an appropriate word in this context.

Finally, we come to the democratic deficit. This is important since the only way that change is possible is through the EU institutions. In order of importance these institutions comprise 1. The Council of Ministers, 2. The European Central Bank, 3. The European Commission. The last of these institutions consists of a President, at present, Jean-Claude Juncker, seven, Vice-Presidents, whose identities are not known to me, and twenty Commissioners, equally obscure. Juncker succinctly enunciates the process of EU’s decision making as follows:

If it’s Yes, we will say on we go, and if it is a No, we will say we will continue.”

So much for open and flexible debate on policy.

The Council of Ministers and the ECB also pull various levers, often in tandem with extra-European global institutions such as NATO, WTO and IMF. Of course there is absolutely no sign that the current policies of the EU are not continuing along its present reactionary trajectory; and since the electorates of the EU have no control of the Council of Ministers and ECB there seems no way to break into this closed system of rule by a technocratic oligarchy. Once again political unrest in Europe suggests a causal connexion between the nature of the EU’s political and economic structures and the policies and outcomes emanating thereof.

This is not the EU we in the UK signed up to in 1976, and there comes a time in politics where it is judicious to give up flogging a dead horse. A progressive Labour government under Corbyn would not be allowed by EU law to implement its economic reforms, cancel Trident, leave or even modify its NATO membership. Democracy is impossible without some measure of sovereignty, and nations must get control of their own foreign and economic policies since if they don’t the globalisers and Bilderbergers will and have done. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a volte face in politics. It was J.M. Keynes who once said:

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”


8 Comments

  1. The piece, draws to a conclusion, but only implies it obliquely. Every point that Frank does make is in my opinion accurate and on the whole and taken together, fairly describe the overall state of affairs for Europeans.

    Given that the EU is ruled by clearly undemocratic institutions — which is only another way of saying that it labours under Kapital, as it has for the last 300 years or so — whatever are Europeans to do to extricate themselves from the noose of totalitarianism that has been surreptitiously slipped around their collective necks?

    Either ‘something’ will give, as it must if something resembling democracy is ever arrived at, or the ‘regime’ will further entrench itself while attempting to incorporate even greater swathes of the world to the east.

    Either way, it looks like even more blood on the horizon. I hope that people will have the good sense of knowing to whom they truly owe their allegiances.

    The best thing that could happen to the EU would be for it to dissolve back into the so called nations that comprise it, so that each of these ‘jurisdictions’ could become a more manageable target for popular movements striving toward social-democratization. The reality is that ‘national consciousness,’ which in-itself remains a reactionary element in the modern world, is more easily mobilized to truly progressive collective ends than the as yet remote universalism of one world, one family. Under the circumstances, our best chance of mobilizing resistance against our masters is in that direction . . .

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  2. James Carless says

    I liked the the Tarzan analogy at the begining of the article.
    I would tweak it slightly however.
    Jane had a special relationship with the muscle bound enforcer,she could sway him to do whatever was her bidding, he would grunt a few inarticulate words before swinging into action, especially after her getting into deep water and screaming “Help save me !”
    Her role is more likely to be played by Israel,the EU are merely the pet troop of gibbering chimps.
    The reptilian crocodile in the meantime, has also grown beyond the 3ft wrestle-able size,Tarzan’s brain hasn’t.

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  3. This is not the EU we in the UK signed up to in 1976, and there comes a time in politics where it is judicious to give up flogging a dead horse. A progressive Labour government under Corbyn would not be allowed by EU law to implement its economic reforms, cancel Trident, leave or even modify its NATO membership. Democracy is impossible without some measure of sovereignty, and nations must get control of their own foreign and economic policies since if they don’t the globalisers and Bilderbergers will and have done. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a volte face in politics.

    And this is precisely my motive for voting leave. The racist theme was a MSM hijack. Quite why corbyn wanted to remain I don’t know, as pointed out above , he would not be allowed to enact his policies.

    It’s a measure of the insanity of “democracy” that to admit you were wrong or change your mind to suit changing circumstances, is to lose face and cede points to the opposition.

    I would like to see a government where they all worked together, you know, for the good of the country. If that was in place then maybe the EU might make sense. As things are, no way.

    @rtj1211
    You suggested Saudi Arabia might become the latest nonsensical threat to the US. I don’t think it’s nonsensical. For the Saudis to get away with financing terrorism in the US shows how tightly they hold somebodys balls. What hope for democracy under those conditions?

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  4. rtj1211 says

    It should be pretty easy: the evidence that 9/11 was a US Govt false flag is now so unassailable that any moral leadership that the USA might try to claim is gone and gone forever.

    All the USA is now is a police state, it’s constitutional ideals long gone.

    All it takes is for 1 billion people, together, to say: ‘No more!’

    NATO will collapse if Germany, the UK, France, Spain and Italy all leave on one day.

    The EU will collapse if Germany leaves. With Britain already gone, the EU is bankrupt if Germany goes.

    Europe shows little sign of war with itself right now. A true bilateral military partnership with Russia can secure peace for all without any difficulty. It doesn’t need the USA to be a part of that.

    As for the Middle East, what will the next war be? Syria? Iran? Saudi Arabia?? IT really would be the irony of ironies if Saudi Arabia, which built the Great American Dream with cheap oil from 1940 to 1975, becomes the latest nonsensical ‘threat to US security’.

    The time has come to part the ways with the USA. If Trump becomes President, it will undoubtedly become politically possible.

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  5. paulcarline says

    Excellent. Sound realism, though it’s only natural to cling to a hope that Yannis Varoufakis’ call for mass civil disobedience – in the likely event that the institutions permanently resist democratic change – could rouse the slumbering EU masses to throw an effective spanner in the evil works. As things stand the prospect of this happening is extremely slim. Things would have to get a lot worse before people will put freedom and real democracy before material comfort and the pursuit of pleasure.

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    • “Things would have to get a lot worse before people will put freedom and real democracy before material comfort and the pursuit of pleasure..”

      You are wrong about this: the problem is not that people aren’t starving but that they cannot bring themselves to believe that they are entitled to a decent standard of living.
      When the poor used to riot against bread price increases they did so because they had no doubt that access to food was a right that they had, a basic right derived from the formation of society and endorsed by God. Governments which denied this right were liable to find that “Heaven’s Mandate’ had been withdrawn.

      The problem that we have is ideological: people have come to believe that all that they are entitled to is the price that they can sell themselves for in the marketplace. The commodification of food, shelter and necessities has led to the commodification of people. It is a form of self managed slavery in which the individual is responsible for selling herself in markets in which everything from stamina and strength and beauty to phrase mongering skills, ruthlessness and deceitfulness are all desirable. And on sale.
      The descendants of the peasants who produced all the wealth are instructed over their years in school, to learn how to sell themselves, how to present themselves, how to package their attractions for the market.
      There will be change when people learn to respect themselves as the poor always did in the traditional communities.

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