The EU Rota blog - newly added to my blogroll - makes an excllent point that no matter what way the French vote on May 29, the likelihood that the EU will move towards greater economic liberalism seems to be close to 0. As he says:
The reason? A Oui will require Jacques Chirac to continue his fight against "ultra-liberalism" and his reinforcement of the "social model." A Non will be misread by Chirac as a signal to continue his fight against "ultra-liberalism" and his reinforcement of the "social model."
The fact, as the Wapping Liar, reports that Schröder popped up in Paris to help l'Escroc earlier this week to say pretty much precisely that:
In an emotional speech at the Sorbonne University, Herr Schröder cut to the core grievance of the “no” camp, reassuring them that the constitution was not some Anglo-American scheme to undermine France and demolish its cherished protective social system.
Echoing M Chirac’s own arguments, Herr Schröder said that the reverse was the case. “Never in the history of the EU has there been an agreement that so strengthened the social dimension as the constitution will do,” he said.
“Putting together the constitution with the erosion of welfare benefits is purely and simply false. Neither President Chirac nor myself would ever have given our consent if it was like that”.
This is not good. As the Economist points out, the German economy is totally fucked by the well identified problems of labour market rigidities and the costs of precisely those "welfare benefits" that Schröder promised to maintain. Likewise the French economy, while in slighlty better shape that Germany's, is seeing anemic economic growth and a trend towards increasing unemployment. The OECD's recent report on unemployment has a graph which makes it only too clear.
The graph clearly shows that the Euro region agerage is higher than the OECD average and that the French and German values are both higher than the rest of the Eurozone and heading up. Since the French and German economies are the largest in the Eurozone what they do will have a major effect on the rest. This may begin to explain why countries such as the Nordic regions and the Netherlands seem increasingly unwilling to sign up to "ever closer union" and why the Eastern Europeans seem to be showing a certain amount of buyer's remorse after being part of the EU for a year.
To me, and to countless other people with a basic understanding of mathematics and economics, not to mention almost unanimity amongst those who get paid to do economics, the EU is destined to gradual decline unless it can reform its economies and social welfare systems. Across the pond people are worried that their social security systems are in danger of being underfunded, here in Europe we all know they are and yet our glorious leaders refuse to explain the looming catastrophe in words that the simplest voter can understand - perhaps because they fear that the electorate would blame them for the problem. Denial, it would seem, is a large river in Europe not Egypt these days.
The European Identity
However in an attempt to misdirect the Euro-luvvies seem to be latching onto fleeting signs of progress such as the A380 launch, with only the hard-hearted blogosphere noting that the government funded expenditure looks like a return to the 1970s and likely to make Concorde look like a financial success (e.g. Tim Worstall, EURSOC, EU Referendum). The EURSOC piece also links to a piece of blather in the IHT about the way (some) European youth think of themselves are "Europeans" these days rather than being a particular nationality. The problem is that, as the article hints, the "European" youth are the educated ones who go to university. It seems rather less likely that the youth that leaves school at 16 for a life on the dole feels European in any meaningful manner but the latter will, in theory, have just as much of a right to vote as the former; a problem noted by EURSOC:
Who's going to manage this new identity, then? The EU has been quietly building an army of Euro-droids through its Erasmus student exchange program. Since the scheme was launched in the 1980s, 1.2 million students have taken part. This "Erasmus generation" will be taking the reins of political and business power in the next ten or twenty years, and EU supporters believe that under them, "there will be less national wrangling, less Brussels-bashing and more unity in EU policy making."
Creating a clone army of technocrats prepared to build an Earthly Euro-paradise is one thing - persuading those among us who didn't make Party Standard to go along with their leadership is quite another. Unless, of course, building a European identity means limiting the power of voters to halt integration.
The IHT piece notes a few other problems (although it doesn't seem to see all of them as problems). Firstly the problems it recognizes:
Two factors could set back what appears to be an emerging European identity in the decades ahead, Rifkin says. One is economic malaise in large swaths of the EU, amplified by stagnating population growth, and the other a widening disconnect between pro-European leaders and the wider public.
and secondly the places where I see a problem but the IHT doesn't.
Unlike a national or regional identity, strongly based on geography and language, being European appears for most people to be a set of broadly shared values. One such value would be democracy, which most Europeans associate with a social safety net, according to periodic opinion polls conducted by the commission. Quality of life ranks high on their list of priorities, as do environmental concerns and a reluctance to use military means to achieve political goals.
The "economic malaise" is, as argued above, caused by the desire for a "social safety net". I suspect the fact that voters also capable of basic sums and therefore in their heart of hearts know that the "social safety net" is bust, is why they are disconnected from their "pro-European leaders". The fact that the elite seem to act as if they don't care about the man or woman in the street or even understand their problems doesn't help either. The fact that "environmental concerns", "quality of life" and "reluctance to use military means" are also apparently shared European values seems to indicate that the continent as a whole is doomed. Pacifism and indolence are the values of a culture ripe for collapse so if they really are shared values across Europe then those of us that don't share those values may as well emigrate now.
Fortunately, however, despite the fact that this idiocy is clearly widespread, I do not believe it to be in anyway universal. Indeed the fact that European elites seem to think that "quality of life" and "reluctance to use military means" are shared values may also account for the "widening disconnect". I seem to recall, though Mr Google isn't cooperating, that surveys of Europeans show that the majority are in favour of the death penalty (for example), against subsidizing the idlers on the dole and are more interested in cheap airfares than the damage to the ozone layer. What the IHT doesn't mention though is one other shared value - one that is I suspect shared by people everywhere - and that is a distrust of free trade
Free trade for me but not for thee
On this subject the EU leaders are totally in tune with their electorates and as a result the worst excesses of the EU, such as the CAP, such as all the industrial subsidies and the protection of textile and car industries are all wildly popular. Tim Worstall has actually done some excellent digging on his own to figure out what the brou-haha about Chinese textile imports is all about (other than l'Escroc getting a OUI vote). Go and read the whole thing, but I point out that there seems to be rather a lot of stinginess about the actualité spouting from EU commissioners and French politicians mouths where mention is made of an increase of 534% in Chinese imports in one category without mentioning the total size of this category. This is not much different to the way that the EU acts when it comes to bananas and the way that it convinced the Japanese to not flood the continent with reliable Toyotas or Hondas.
With luck some of the textile imports are T shirts with this slogan on them: Ceterum Censeo Unionem Europeaem Esse Delenda