Back to school! So, the question that cannot be ignored: what will this European return to school look like? A short editorial by Franck Biancheri from 04/09/2007. Look for and find similarities and differences with what Franck described 12 years ago!
In brief: it will look like a fine mess, thanks to this mixture of the historical importance of the Community project and the growing incompetence of its leaders, which has made European politics so charming for the past fifteen years or so.
On the issues and challenges side, we will be well served:
- The rapidly developing global financial crisis, which will directly and strongly affect the EU’s economic performance;
- the rapidly increasing role of Russia and China on many key EU issues;
- the socio-economic collapse in the United States against the backdrop of military stagnation in Iraq and heightened political uncertainty in Washington;
- the risk of Israeli-Americano/Iranian conflict against the backdrop of a Shiite/Sunnite conflagration in the Middle East;
- the collapse of all major international negotiations, both on the environment and on international trade.
On the European internal level:
- A draft mini-treaty that does not solve anything and that is starting to get bogged down in the domestic political upheavals of several Member States;
- A central bank that no longer knows where it is going in the face of the global financial crisis while claiming to remain “untouchable” in relation to future Community treaties*;
- A burning Southern Europe… and an EU that for decades has been unable to take any joint action at all;
- Balkans that need a common perspective on EU integration… and an EU that is divided on the subject, with no other ideas than to follow Washington on this issue;
- The pursuit of common policies (GMOs, forced privatisations, Turkey, Afghanistan, etc.) which are in complete contradiction with the expectations of a large majority of Europeans;
- National political classes on the defensive in the face of the increasing rise of extremisms and/or various nationalisms, ranging from Scottish or Flemish independence to the disturbing electoral scores of extremists (when their ideas do not come directly to power in disguised forms).
On the leadership and solutions side, however, it is rather a shortage:
- the Commission has already long since left the forefront of the European political scene, and it is not the new political-financial scandal affecting its current president, Jose-Manuel Barroso, that will put it back in the spotlight;
- the European Parliament, lacking trans-European political legitimacy and strong relations with EU citizens, is still missing out on the main issues. Moreover, after these few weeks of holidays, I have even forgotten the name of the last illustrious unknown who currently presides over it;
- the European Council brings together national politicians who have no common project and who spend their time, like the French President, trying to steal the spotlight from one summit or crisis to another;
- Zapatero is only interested in Spain, which he ideologically tries to transform into mega-Amsterdam in terms of morals and lifestyles. Brown tries not to look totally like Tony Blair. Prodi’s doing something we don’t know what. Polish leaders (twins or not) think they are an American state run only by a local Patriot Act. Belgium no longer has any leaders. Dutch managers are not present. The Frenchman, Nicolas Sarkozy, will not have lasted long by having already succeeded in making himself hated in most European capitals (especially Berlin) for his obsession with images and his disinterest in the background; for the rest, he is the creature of the French oligarchs who put him in power.
In fact, the main, and perhaps the only good news of this new European school year is that mobile phone roaming rates will fall this month across the EU. For the next holidays of tens of millions of Europeans this is a very good thing. And for citizens active on a trans-European scale, such as Newropeans and many other community activists, this is a crucial boost to the development of their civic activities throughout the Union since their trans-European activity remained severely handicapped by the cost of cross-border mobile telecommunications. For Newropeans, for example, this will represent a 30% reduction in our operating costs.
I therefore do not hesitate to write about it, and it is rare enough to be underlined: “Congratulations to the European Commission! ».
Franck Biancheri, Paris, 04/09/2007 (Original French: UE : en avant toute vers la pagaille – Franck Biancheri, 04/09/2007 – translated by AAFB)
*On this subject, as much as I find Nicolas Sarkozy’s accusations and French policies’ accusations on the responsibility of the Euro (and the ECB) for France’s poor commercial performance totally unfounded, I also find Jean-Claude Trichet’s statements considering that the ECB is not a Community institution and as such cannot be concerned by the future Community treaties that will be totally surreal. If he meant by this that only the Member States of the Eurozone could change the structure and functioning of the ECB, this could be defended. But if, as I believe, he means that the ECB would be untouchable by policies, including the European treaties, then that is absolutely unacceptable. Such an idea can only emerge in a world totally foreign to democracy where a self-proclaimed elite places itself outside the realm of politics and citizens, while deciding on measures that strongly affect these same citizens. Newropeans is not fighting to have the lifetime immunities of Community officials abolished in order to tolerate an ECB that would be beyond the reach of 500 million Europeans!