‘We are facing the the greatest challenge that I believe our Union has ever faced in its history.‘ That was what the President of the European Commission told the European Parliament in what he called the State of the Union message.
Is it true? I don’t think so, unless Mr Barroso is hiding some utterly disastrous facts from everyone. He was not talking about the destruction of the Community system. The challenge did not involve the elimination of supranational democracy.
It only involved, at worst, the postponement of plans for a single currency called the euro. The euro plans are not yet tossed into the bin. It is yet to be seen whether Statesmen can reform the present euro system on a more rational and moral basis, rather than cover up of what some politicians call ‘skyrocketing debts and falsified statistics‘.
The destruction of plans for a European currency has already happened once before. It was very painful. But Europe survived it. Trillions have already been lost because of political duplicity.
Imagine! Now politicians want to borrow a few more trillion. Have they learned their lesson? Have they ensured that ‘skyrocketing debts and falsified statistics‘ have been stopped by democratic supranational control? Or do they want more secret ‘governance’?
The earlier debacle involved:
- turning huge European trade surpluses into mammoth debts,
- the loss of multiple trillions of euros or dollars,
- major upheaval to the European commerce and the world economy and
- the loss of European leadership in the world emphasizing moral, European values,
- an imposed delay of more than a decade in re-starting the effort for a single currency
- destruction of major industries, galloping inflation, massive unemployment. Industries stopped production because of energy shortages. Motorways were empty of traffic because of fuel legislation. Rampant inflation destroyed capital and pensions. The West contemplated going to war against the perpetrators.
Are we facing a greater challenge today? I don’t think so.
Let’s be clear. If the currency fails, a better one can be built. It is not a case of ‘It’s the currency, stupid‘. It is more the case of ‘It’s a stupid currency‘. Politicians should be saying: ‘Sorry we got it wrong, folks. We messed up. We did not follow the Community rules.’ Honesty must replace duplicity.
The euro is not solidly built on democratic supranational principles. It is not worthy of 27 countries which are supposed to shine as democratic examples to the world.
What was the greatest challenge the European Community and the later European Union? I assume Mr Barroso includes the Community in his history, as it is the origin of modern Europe, the unification of the Continent. It is the origin of the European Commission for which he stands as the latest president.
WHY did not the President’s advisers remind him of the FACTS about Community history? Were they not concerned that such a statement makes the President of the European Commission look ignorant or deceitful?
In its history Europe has faced THREE past challenges, far greater than anything we face today. The Euro crisis is far from being the most severe. Even with a multi-trillion euro debt overhang, it does not stack up to Europe’s biggest problems that leaders have had to face in the past. In most of them they succeeded in finding the right solution of solidarity and moral justice. In the last one in the 1970s and 1980s they were less successful and the problems are now coming back to haunt us. Serious thought, cooperative action and solidarity of all the people is required.
First, what were Europe’s most serious crises, the Continent’s most severe postwar challenges? Unless we are aware of them, Europeans are less likely to solve the present crisis. They are more likely to go through the same problems again in a more painful form.
The first major challenge to a democratic Europe was perhaps its most subtle and underhand one. The Eden Plan was introduced in September 1952 soon after the first Community, the European Coal and Steel Community, was under way. The British wanted to undermine the supranational principle which involves INDEPENDENT democratic institutions. They suggested that instead of the Community being independent with its own FIVE independent democratic institutions, the Coal and Steel Community should be subject to the political control of the Committee of Ministers.
What Committee of Ministers? This was and is the body that is part of the Council of Europe. In those days it was often called the European Union and was meant to be the main democratic framework for the new Europe. It does so by ensuring Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of all individual and is able to criticize European States for not adhering to democratic principles.
If the whole apparatus of Europe were controlled by the politics of a Committee of Ministers — that met behind closed doors — then it would become a Europe of ministerial apparatchiks, an oligarchy of politicians. It would have been a similar system to that behind the Iron Curtain. We can be thankful that Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak recently elected as President of Europe’s supranational Assembly of the Community and Jean Monnet, together with a host of other European democrats refused to let that corrupt idea happen.
What would have been the consequences? Nothing short of dismantling the supranational idea of democracy and replacing it with political squabbles. The Committee of Ministers would issue its own politically compromised deals — totally lacking in any democratic support or legitimacy.
Instead of the longest period of peace and prosperity in Europe’s 2000 plus years of existence, Europe would have soon degenerated into conflict and probably war.
If the British plan had succeeded Europe would have had no peace and its hopes for peace might have been dismantled. We would not be experiencing the unity of two halves of Europe, the western and the Communist-controlled systems. German nationalists would have been plotting the Kremlin to try to unify their country. We would probably be at war or recovering from another destructive, ruinous war, probably a world war!
That is why this first crisis was far more important than the present currency crisis. PEACE is far more important than the currency. Peace is far more important than immediate prosperity and gratification of consumer desires. Without peace it is difficult even to discuss a common currency.
When the democrats stood firm, the five key institutions of the European Community were able to be built. They are by no means fully developed today. They are still exhibiting infantile and immature tantrums. However, this first crisis was the most serious because without a solid foundation of those institutions, democracy would have disappeared from some of Europe’s countries and some under dictatorship such as Spain, Portugal and Greece would never emerged so soon from authoritarian regimes. Britain did not immediately join the first Community but became an Associate Member in its first years.
The SECOND crisis of Europe was the attempt by France’s General de Gaulle to take over the Community institutions by stealth and make them become the instrument of his undemocratic power. His intentions were published later by his spokesman, Alain Peyrefitte. His aim was ‘to suffocate supranationality.’ He wanted to boycott all Community collaboration as far as possible and to ‘deactivate the treaties of Rome’ and specifically to ‘chloroform Euratom’. (Peyrefitte: C’était de Gaulle, vol 1 pp66ff).
De Gaulle revealed his hand in two open strategies, the Fouchet Plan to turn the European Commission into a Secretariat for which the French would assume political primacy. When this did not succeed the second plan was the Empty Chair Strategy when French ministers refused to participate in European decision-making. De Gaulle hoped this would bulldozer Community Europe into the ground and he would remain in the driver’s seat. It did not work either. French ministers came sheepishly to the table some six months later after the more democratic States had given the would-be bully the face-saving measure of the so-called Luxembourg compromise. The lesson was that democratic European law prevails not arm-twisting in secretive ministerial councils.
The Community cannot allow one strong nation that thinks it is superior to dictate the policy for all the others. That is the lesson Europeans should have learnt from their history. The States are equal in a Community Europe. (We do not have a hundred or more Germans or French in the Council of Ministers compared to one Maltese or one Luxembourger.)
The next, the THIRD crisis should be a burning lesson for all politicians. Europe partly succeeded and partly failed. Europe’s economy was cut to ribbons. Europe should be aware of those failures because they lie at the core problem of the present currency crisis. This third crisis was an external one. It attacked two aspects of the Community: solidarity and its resistance to blackmail threats. It also destroyed the basis for a European Currency. It attacked at an area where the Community had not developed a competence — its Achilles’ heel: ENERGY. It had disastrous consequences on the FIRST attempt at a European currency, the Europa.
Yes the first attempt at European currency were set back decades because of this crisis. If the present crisis means that the currency will have to be started again from scratch, it is not the worst thing in the world The Community system will not crumble. It has already happened once before. Europe survived.
Heads of State and Government decided in 1969 on Economic and Monetary Union. The Council of Ministers defined a programme of structural reform, indicators and economic guideposts on 27 January 1970. The Monetary Committee had been set up in 1958 under article 105 of the EEC Treaty (in conjunction with articles of the Euratom and Coal and Steel Community treaties). With the adhesion of UK, Ireland and Denmark, the Commission and the Council reconfirmed 1980 as a goal for introducing a single currency, the Europa. However USA devalued by 10 percent in February 1973 after having closed gold sales earlier. Worse was to come.
First the context. Western Europe should have been the centre of gravity for world monetary affairs. The Communities’ trade with the world was three times bigger than the USA. Europe had built up huge surpluses. The Communities represented 37.2 percent of wold exports and 35.6 percent of imports. America had 11.9 percent exports and took in 12.9 percent of imports.
They were hit nearly lethally by the Oil Weapon. Under de Gaulle, France had recklessly discarded the idea that the Community must become energy-independent to avoid energy blackmail. Then Arab exporters struck. In conjunction with other oil producers like Iran, they quadrupled the oil price. Israel-friendly countries were most heavily targetted. A total embargo was applied. Europe and its democracies were to be taught a lesson about the need to lie in foreign policy.
Instead of a further surplus, 1974 brought a triple-size deficit. Developing countries were hit by a bill greater than all the aid the received from OECD countries. They got little help from the mega-rich oil cartel that had pillaged the world. Instead Africa descended into worse problems of debts, corruption, wars and the murder of myriads. Terrorism proliferated. Inflation raged worldwide.
This hammer blow had many consequences. One of these was the abandonment of the plan for a single currency by 1980. Arab militants and jihadis in OPEC found that blackmail worked against Europeans! In 1979 the OPEC cartel again quadrupled oil prices. They got Europe to sign up to the 1980 Venice Declaration.
Europe had to wait twenty years before it got to the stage where a single currency could be substituted to support what is today the world’s greatest economic and commercial power.
The Treaties created supranational institutions. That does not mean international. It does not mean that the European Commission should be composed of NATIONAL representatives. The early treaties forbade that. It means the Commissioners should be fully competent with (1) expertise in relevant European affairs and (2) proven independence of thought and action.
That means according to the original treaties that they should have no further links with political parties or other such lobby groups, national governments, industries, finance house, trades unions, consumer activists or any body in sectors where they will legislate. All European institutions should be democratic. All should be independently democratic. Only that way will the contagion of corruption be stopped.
Party membership has been the common thread in the present financial scandals that involves taxpayers’ money issued and spent without proper control, skyrocketing debts and falsified statistics. Party politicians have been the ones that have continuously tried to block the free and open elections of the Parliament across the entirety of the EU area.
They have blocked the Europe-wide elections of Europe’s organised civil society in the Consultative Committee of the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of Regions and the Scientific and Technical Committee. These Committees, if independent of national governments and party politics, would be the principal vehicles, outside the Court of Justice, for seeing that fraud did not take place with European budgets and national accounts.
The Commission cannot be the guarantor of fairness if it is composed of people tied by loyalty to Nation States and political parties. It will not work if the Commissioners are constantly taking instructions from political parties and Member State governments, the principal culprits in the euro crisis. The Commission, under the Lisbon Treaty is no longer accountable to the European Parliament. The Lisbon Treaty annulled Parliament’s vital and primary powers to be able to sack the European Commission.
When a politician says that this is the greatest crisis in history, democrats should beware! That generally means that the political class is going to try ot pull a fast one! They should be warned that democrats, in the spirit of Robert Schuman and Paul-Henri Spaak, need to rise and denounce acts to take further money from public coffers, to mortgage the future, to make children and children’s children pay for their folly and corruption.
Why do politicians try to deny the THREE major crisis involving far bigger challenges that what we have today? War, political oligarchy, energy blackmail are far more serious. Does it indicate that they do not want to enter into a democratic dialogue with the citizens. Don’t they wish to debate with democrats? Do they want to adopt scare tactics to introduce UNDEMOCRATIC methods? When did anyone hear a Commissioner explain how the supranational system works and how it stopped wars in Europe?
Public apathy and ignorance will lead to ambitious and unscrupulous people trying the same dirty tricks again. Vigilance is eternally needed to protect freedoms.
Imagine, if in the past Europe had not faced up to its greatest challenges. Consider what dangers Europe would have faced.
Imagine, secret committees of ‘democratic’ ministers making deals about TRILLIONS of euros, without any democratic supervision! Does that remind you of anything today? Imagine politicians meeting in secret trying to cover up each other’s skyrocketing debts and falsified statistics. Imagine, instead of an independent Commission, it would be entirely composed of political NATIONAL nominees from each of the Member States. Does that ring a bell? Imagine if possible that this change in the fundamental structure of Europe had been done without any democrat able to object, in the darkened corridors of the European Council. (Such a change is strictly forbidden in the treaties).
The Commission is supposedly the ‘guarantor of fairness’, yet its members are best described as a political cartel. They are chosen in the most discriminatory way possible by excluding every citizen who is not a paid-up member of the political clique. Imagine how ‘fair’ Commissioners could be selected not from Europe’s best qualified people for the job but be only party nominees and sometimes the throw-outs of the political parties!
Imagine. Does that remind you of any dangers we face today?David Heilbron Price
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