Last week there were two rather hard-hitting articles about the EU and its strange lack of courage or far-sightedness in the Wall Street Journal Europe
. Neither was written by a dedicated member of the international eurosceptic fraternity, though one of the authors, the eminent Polish economist, Professor Jan Winiecki, being a convinced free-marketeer, is not precisely a huge supporter of the project. His article was called Wimps
, which seems to be a very precise way of describing the EU
Professor Winiecki, a professor and chair of International Economics and European Studies at the Rzeszow School of Computer Science and Management and president of the Adam Smith Centre in Poland, made as the starting point of his article an interesting little story about the President of the Toy Parliament in Strabourg, the Spanish socialist Josep Borrell.
It should, first of all, be noted that Señor Borrell, a newly elected MEP was chosen to be the president as part of a particularly unpleasant bit of pork barrel politics between the two main groups: the Socialists and the European People’s Party, to which our own dear Conservative MEPs are attached.
(Incidentally, what happened to his intention to reform the Toy Parliament, especially with regards to the payment and expenses system? A toy it may be, but it is a very expensive toy and we seem to have no right to to take it back to the shop and demand a refund.)
As our readers may recall, the two countries that became closely involved with attempts to sort out the Ukrainian problems after the first, rather dubious presidential election, were Poland and Lithuania. This was not surprising, as they are countries, whose history has been closely intertwined with that of Ukraine. Furthermore, like the other post-Communist states and unlike the older members of the European Union, they are well aware of the need for a transparent and accountable political system and a free media.
The EU itself, on the other hand, played a somewhat ambiguous part. Javier Solana did run around from one important actor in the drama to another, but his aim was to achieve stability. Not the same thing as freedom, democracy and accountability at all. Above all, he and Chancellor Schröder did not want to upset President Putin who was trying to use the Ukrainian election as a stepping stone in his own ambitious power game.
It all reminded some of us with longer memories of the EU’s insistence in the early nineties that no matter what and no matter how but Yugoslavia must stay together, thus, in effect, giving Slobodan Milosevic a go-ahead for some of his most unpleasant policies.
Well, we know what happened in Ukraine and are now waiting eagerly to see what will happen next. Not all of us, it seems. Mr Borrell made some rather curious remarks to the leading Warsaw newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza
The outcome in Ukraine, according to Mr Borrell, was “a great success for the EU in avoiding a crisis”. Presumably, had Yanukovich managed to push through a fraudulent vote, that, too would have been a success in avoiding a crisis. Nothing could be worse than a crisis for the structure-obsessed EU politicos, not tyranny, not oppression, not cheating in elections.
This success, unnoticed by most people in Ukraine, was achieved despite the intervention by the uppity new members who were clearly acting “under US influence”. Gasp! Hiss! At least, he did not repeat President Chirac’s bêtise
about the new members losing a good opportunity to keep quiet.
It seems that one cannot possibly be in favour of free and fair elections. Anyone who says that must be an American agent. And what could be worse than that? Reminds one of the dear dead days of the old Pravda
Alas, those uppity new members refused to be lectured to in this way and Mr Borrell, who could not blame his advisers, blamed the translators. It’s a set-up Youronner, he said, I was mistranslated. In return he heard the Polish equivalent of yeah, right.
Professor Winiecki, however, has gone beyond blowing a raspberry in the direction of the tired old socialist at the head of a toy parliament. He sees this rather silly story as the epitome of what is wrong with the whole EU mentality.
“No matter the exact wording, Mr Borrell expressed an obsessive anti-Americanism common in today’s Europe. And that, in turn, reflects the mental state of the Continent whose main characteristic is fear. Fear of nearly everything.”
It is afraid of getting involved in and helping the countries that lie between the EU and Russia and would not even have uttered a squeak of protest but for the new members, who know a thing or two about what goes on behind those borders.
It is afraid of the market. It is against
“… a work ethic, competition, and all the paraphernalia of the market regime”.
It is afraid of Islam and tries “to make a virtue of its fear”.
“On the bigger international stage, the obsessive invocation of ‘rule of law’,of ‘multilateralism’ as opposed to ‘unilateralism’, comes down to a search for an excuse not to act.”
Nor is he, unlike certain American commentators, well-protected by that uncouth American power, impressed by what is now more and more often described as the “soft power” of Europe or, rather, the European Union.
“Europe’s invocation of ‘soft power’, i.e. the preference for economic assistance as the solution to violent conflicts, raises psychologically interesting questions. How much does that reflect socialist mythology that throwing money at the problem will overcome obvious obstacles to success? And how much, simply, is it an aversion to risk, a fear of engagement in the world’s problems. The EU’s reluctance to act anywhere, and its instinct to fall back on the least imaginative approach, was most recently on view in its response to the masssacre in Darfur.”
They are, in other words, wimps, scared of their own shadows and hoping against hope that if they shut their eyes all those internal and external problems will go away. Failing that, the despised Americans will deal with some of them.
Oddly enough, there had been a similar despairing article in the Wall Street Journal Europe
on the previous day. This one dealt largely with economic and social issues and cut a swathe across the frozen, terrified European political outlook.
In particular, it cut across the whole ridiculous nonsense of the Lisbon Agenda (already on the dust heap of history
“This overloaded agenda has suffered from conflicting priorities, inadequate political will at the member-state level, poor co-ordination and inadequate delivery. Each spring the European Council, with a marked improvement in content this year, has produced excessive and flatulent conclusions by way of annual review that said so much as to amount to saying virtually nothing of substance.”
Well, yes. And who is the author of this imprecation? None other than Señor Borrell’s predecessor, Pat Cox, who seems to have become a vociferous supporter of free market economics and freedom in general.
“Meanwhile, in spite of twin budget and trade deficits, the American eagle continues to soar. The Chinese dragon behaves as if performance enhanced. India is finding its economic feet and Japan is turning the corner. But Europe’s stars are failing to shine, marking a relative economic decline. It would be tempting to ascribe Europe’s economic problems solely to forces beyond its control – a global slowdown, the weak dollar, higher oil prices or even the unique challenge posed by the low-wage, high tech countries in Asia. Tempting but wrong, that.Europe should not blind itself to the fact that its economic problems are very much of its own making.”
Mr Cox’s article calls for greater freedom in economic and social terms: less regulation, greater tax cuts. He points to his own country, Ireland, as the great example of a successful low-tax economy but, unfortunately for his argument, a country that has such a high inflow of subsidy cannot be used as a text book case of the Laffer curve.
Still, one cannot argue too much with the following conclusion:
“I believe that the root cause of Europe’s lack of dynamism lies not in its procedures, although these can and should be greatly reformed, but rather in its core beliefs. More specifically, it lies in our unwillingness to acknowledge the contemporary failure of the postwar experiment in high-tax,regulation-intensive, dependency-inducing welfarism and the success of free-market liberal reforms in the US in the 1980s and elsewhere in the 1990s.”
You go man! One thing puzzles me about all this outspokenness. I may be suffering from a memory failure but I do not remember similar pronouncements from Mr Cox in his days of glory, that is, his presidency of the European Parliament.
In those days he seemed to support the “postwar experiment” and derided all attempts to free up economic and social activity. In fact, he presided over a Parliament that did its best to tighten even further the various detailed and inappropriate regulations, proposed by the Commission and negotiated by the Council of Ministers.
In those days, Mr Cox could have been described in Professor Winiecki's succinct way as a wimp. Still, as far as Mr Cox is concerned, the light has been seen, the truth sighted and salvation glimpsed. Much in his future pronouncements, one assumes, will depend on what he will do now that he is no longer presiding over that toy parliament in Strasbourg.
One wonders what Commission President Barroso made of the following slightly sarcastic imprecation:
“If the EU is to prosper, my dear President Barroso, this is not the time for you to be the conservative leader of a cautious continent.”
All this can be summed up in a very simple phrase: Europe is afraid of freedom. The continent that invented the concept has abandoned it and rails against anyone who tried to invoke it. In so far as there is a European identity, the EU and its wimps are busy destroying it.