“I have lived in your future ….and it doesn’t work”
(Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky on the EU)
I’ve had a few thoughts about the EU in recent days, none of which might be particularly novel, but which I’d nevertheless like to share:
Over the past 50 years, the member states of Europe have been busily surrendering various different ‘competences’ to the EU. When this happens, the EU takes over governing from member states. For example the Common Agricultural Policy is run by the EU. So also are fisheries, and lots of other things. Individual member states are no longer in charge of policy in these areas. They become powerless to do anything.
In principle, this shouldn’t pose any problems, but in practice it’s clear that a lot of new problems appear. Not least of these is the fact that policies are no longer formulated by individual states, but are negotiated by all the members of the community. So instead of a single minister or ministry taking policy decisions, EU policy now requires the agreement of 27 different ministers or commissioners. For example:
Today, 27 European foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss joint EU foreign policy. It’s a packed agenda, with the EU’s response to the conflict in Syria up for debate (a topic we looked at last week here), along with (amongst other events of global import) the recent elections in Libya; the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt; the tense state of affairs between Sudan and its independent neighbour, South Sudan, and the ongoing conflict between Islamists, Tuareg rebels and the government in Mali.
Which brought the comment:
“With 27 talking heads (soon 28) plus the various circles-within-circles of the European Commission, European Parliament et al forming more circles of hell than Dante ever envisioned, [EU foreign policy is] an exceptionally poor common denominator that does not offend any Member State or create specific difficulties for a particular member.”
It’s easy to see how the decisions that get taken produce policies with the lowest common denominator. But also – although it’s not explicitly stated – it’s clear that it must take a long time to get 27 talking heads to agree, and that therefore policy must take a long time to be decided – and not just foreign policy, but every other policy as well.
This might not matter if there is plenty of time in which to make formulate policy. But if some sort of urgent problem needs to be sorted out rapidly, it’s still going to take the EU a long time to formulate a new policy.
So as the governments of European states have been handing over ‘competences’ to the EU, not only have they become powerless to act, but the EU is also effectively powerless to act as well, because its policy-making processes are so glacially slow. And therefore the process of Europeanisation must be accompanied by growing political paralysis. Nothing gets done.
And this might go some way towards explaining why the ongoing crisis of the eurozone never seems to get resolved. It isn’t being resolved because it can’t be resolved in anything less than years (maybe even decades) of protracted discussion between member states. And nothing else can be resolved either.
And also, it might be argued that whenever the competence of a functioning branch of national government is passed to the EU, it is almost always being passed from a competent bureaucracy to an incompetent one, because at the outset any new EU bureaucracy will have no experience and therefore no real competence at its assigned role.
And all these lowest common denominator policies emanating from a paralysed EU bureaucracy must have adverse economic and political consequences throughout the EU, as things that need to be done are done too late, or not done at all.
And these adverse consequences must also gradually mount up. And while they won’t directly affect either the EU or national governments, they will affect businesses and regions and individual European citizens. And they will complain. And they will protest.
But it will all be to no avail, because in the first place their own national governments are now powerless to do anything about it, and in the second place in the short term the EU is powerless to do anything either. The entire political system is paralysed. And with both the EU and national governments out of action, the political initiative will pass down the command chain to local and regional governments, or to decisive popular leaders. And so the political paralysis of the EU will result in attempts by regions (e.g. Catalonia in Spain) to break out of the log-jam and go it alone – because they can’t wait any longer for the EU to get its act together. And the EU will start to disintegrate.
There seems to be general agreement these days that the eurozone was a piece of economic mis-design. But there seems to me to be a case for saying that the EU is also a piece of political mis-design, because its decision-making processes are simply too slow-moving to be able to handle crises which demand rapid decision-making. And the result will be that on such occasions the political initiative will pass to those (local) political leaders who actually are able to respond rapidly and decisively. And this will tend to lead to the disintegration of the EU (most likely back into its former self-governing constituent states).
Unless, of course, the EU in its turn produces a decisive leader who would be, in effect, a European dictator. But it’s rather hard to see how a decisive leader could ever emerge from as chronically indecisive an organisation as the EU.
That’s how I see it. Not that it matters: smokers like me aren’t welcome in Europe anyway.