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Tag: EU

Spain becomes Argentina

Thursday, 25 April, 2013 0 Comments

First, Bayern Munich hammered Barcelona and then Borussia Dortmund routed Real Madrid. Now, comes news that Spain’s unemployment rate soared to a new record of 27.2 percent of the workforce in the first quarter of 2013. The jobless figure is the highest since at least 1976, the year after Francisco Franco’s death began Spain’s transition to democracy and, to add further woe, data released on Tuesday by the Bank of Spain showed the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy had shrunk by two percent in the first three months of 2013, compared with the year-earlier period.

What makes the economic crisis so shocking is that Spain was once Europe’s most vibrant and exciting country. Prosperity soared for two decades and Viva España became the slogan for a global leader in football, fashion, food and cinema. But where once there was optimism, there’s only rage now. It’s directed against the banks, the politicians, the royal family and, increasingly, the European Union. Initially, the EU seemed to offer a way out of an Iberian jungle of ignorance, poverty, isolation and authoritarianism. Indeed, in a moment of euphoria, the writer, José Ortega y Gasset, put it thus: “Spain is the problem and Europe is the solution.” But that was then.

The “European dream” that Spain bought into seemed to promise a middle-class lifestyle for all, from Andalusia to Zaragoza. But with no hope of jobs for the young, the welfare state under threat and the fabric of society rent, the worry now is that Spain will become more like Argentina than Munich or Dortmund. Those football results are portents.


In Bruges

Wednesday, 17 April, 2013 0 Comments

On 20 September 1988, Margaret Thatcher delivered her famous Bruges speech. The venue was the College of Europe, the Oxbridge, the Harvard and the MIT of the European Union. It produces the officer class of the “European project” and most graduates go on to work in the European Commission, Parliament, Central Bank or the Court of Justice.

In Bruges, Mrs Thatcher spoke to those who religiously believe that federalism is the European raison d’être. To their horror, she sang the praises of national sovereignty. “The European Community is one manifestation of that European identity, but it is not the only one. We must never forget that east of the Iron Curtain, people who once enjoyed a full share of European culture, freedom and identity have been cut off from their roots. We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities.”

Margaret Thatcher called out the federalists in Bruges and accused them of plotting the end of the nation state in Europe. In doing to, she placed Europe at the heart of British politics and the aftershocks continue to this day. That fact that her successor as leader of the Tory Party, David Cameron, has pledged an in/out referendum on Europe is something she could not have dreamed of that night in Bruges.


How Cyprus was robbed

Tuesday, 26 March, 2013 0 Comments

Reuters: “As new President Nicos Anastasiades hesitated over an EU bailout that has wrecked Cyprus’s offshore financial haven status, money was oozing out of his country’s closed banks.”

All those TV and newspaper images of Cypriots standing in line to get their daily €100 from the ATM show the real victims of the bailout/bailin. The reality is that the big money has left the island and the Brussels PR campaign that the real pain would be felt by the “rich” is exposed as just another Big Lie. Check this out:

“The two banks at the centre of the crisis — Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and Bank of Cyprus — have units in London which remained open throughout the week and placed no limits on withdrawals. Bank of Cyprus also owns 80 percent of Russia’s Uniastrum Bank, which put no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia. Russians were among Cypriot banks’ largest depositors.”

And who’s left holding the can? We’ll see real suffering at the end of this week when Cypriot firms are scheduled to pay their workers.

When the euro was launched, its most ardent defenders used to argue that monetary union would eventually require political union. Their moment came, they thought, with the Greek nightmare. However, instead of being the expected catalyst, it turned out that the “cure” of forcing bitter economic medicine down reluctant throats in Athens generated hatred, not gratitude. The Cyprus crisis has exacerbated the situation and the thing that was meant to unite is now becoming the great divider. What we’re left with is an increasingly unhappy marriage of totally incompatible partners.


How Cyprus was betrayed

Monday, 25 March, 2013 0 Comments

“We are all prisoners of knowledge. To know how Cyprus was betrayed, and to have studied the record of that betrayal, is to make oneself unhappy and to spoil, perhaps for ever, one’s pleasure in visiting one of the world’s most enchanting islands. Nothing will ever restore the looted treasures, the bereaved families, the plundered villages and the groves and hillsides scalded with napalm. Nor will anything mitigate the record of the callous and crude politicians who regarded Cyprus as something on which to scribble their inane and conceited designs. But fatalism would be the worst betrayal of all. The acceptance, the legitimization of what was done — those things must be repudiated. Such a refusal has a value beyond Cyprus, in showing that acquiescence in injustice is not ‘realism’. Once the injustice has been set down and described, and called by its right name, acquiescence in it becomes impossible. That is why one writes about Cyprus in sorrow but more — much more — in anger.”

Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens


Cyprus banks pass EU stress test

Tuesday, 19 March, 2013 0 Comments

That was the headline on an article by Poly Pantelides, which appeared in The Cyprus Mail on 16 July 2011. Best bit: “In Nicosia the Finance Ministry issued a statement saying: ‘The measures which the banks are taking or planning to take will further increase solvency.'”. Two years later, the same paper is today reporting that “Eurozone finance ministers last night urged Cyprus to protect small savers’ deposits while still coming up with €5.8 billion from a deposit levy so the island’s €10 billion bailout could go ahead.”

Hero to zero in just two years. How come? Because EU stress tests are as reliable as EU promises and policies.


Europe of the Concilium Plebis

Thursday, 24 January, 2013 0 Comments

The day in Europe begins with the news that Spain’s unemployment rate has hit the highest level since measurements began in the 1970s. At the end of last year, the jobless rate was a frightening 26 percent, while unemployment for people under 25 years old reached an off-the-scale 60 percent. Clearly, some parts of Europe are not working. And David Cameron will, no doubt, allude to this when he addresses the World Economic Forum this morning in Davos.

As the European north-south divide gets larger and the suffering of those yoked to the common currency becomes more visible, it’s time to talk about the future of the continent. Or, at least, the entity known as the European Union. Unless it manages to create some kind of accountable, democratic institutions, the outlook is grim. The Roman way For the Brussels bureaucrats, European democracy means minimizing the role of the nation state, a form of governance they see as outmoded. In their vision, the European Council would be abolished and the EU Commission would be directly elected by the EU Parliament. This post-national system would represent democracy.

The problem with this scenario is that most Europeans don’t want it. They wish to keep the democracy they have right now. The one thing they do want, however, is increased use of the plebiscite, a concept that dates back to the Concilium Plebis, the popular assembly of the Roman Republic. The problem with referendums, though, is that there’s no knowing what the people would decide. The reintroduction of the death penalty? The deportation of illegal immigrants? The scrapping of student fees in Bavaria? The list is long.


Cameron: It will be in-out

Wednesday, 23 January, 2013 0 Comments

“The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give […]

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Political satire: EU wins Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, 12 October, 2012

“Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” Tom Lehrer That was 1973. Today, the Nobel prize committee went one better and gave what some call “its most prestigious prize” to the European Union. Less than pleased is Constantin Gurdgiev, who says that the EU worked its way towards the […]

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“The European Union is a horrible, stupid project.”

Wednesday, 10 October, 2012

So says Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, in a wide-ranging Foreign Policy interview titled “Epiphanies from Nassim Nicholas Taleb“. Here’s what he says about the EU: “The European Union is a horrible, stupid project. The idea that unification would create an economy that could compete with China and be more like the […]

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Democracy loses in struggle to save euro

Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

“Since 1945, the central idea of the European project was never again to leave a powerful and aggrieved Germany isolated at the centre of Europe. We are now dangerously close to that point.” So writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. Now, we wait for Germany’s Bundesverfassungsgericht (the Federal Constitutional Court) to deliver its verdict […]

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Bernard Arnault to become a Lilliputian

Monday, 10 September, 2012

“According to Belgian law, a person can apply for citizenship after having lived in the country for at least three years. Citizenship can also be granted to someone residing abroad if the person can prove that he or she has real links with Belgium.” So write Geraldine Amiel and Gabriele Parussini in a Wall Street […]

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