The following article from a German news site discusses the warning signs of catastrophe in the European Union. It was translated by Rembrandt Clancy, who includes extensive contextual notes.
Too Many Mistakes: The EU is Staggering into the Abyss
The EU is staggering from one mistake to the next. In this form, a political union hardly has a chance of survival.
by Ronald Barazon
Translated by Rembrandt Clancy
20 May 2018
The weaknesses of the EU are becoming all too obvious in recent days:
- the EU is helpless against US policy;
- Brexit negotiations are proceeding;
- in Italy, an EU-critical coalition is assuming control of the government;
- in Hungary and Poland, opponents of the EU are in government;
- the EU Commission presents an unusable budget draft;
- with the General Data Protection Regulation, the regulatory delusion produces a total meltdown.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that many are already predicting the end of the EU. There is no recognizable initiative that could save the “European Integration” project. The duty of the Community to secure peace in Europe is being pushed into the background. Unreasonable rules and regulations are spreading vexation and dissatisfaction, which trigger anti-EU slogans, ultimately leading to anti-EU governments. The anger over absurd regulations combines with a still deeply rooted nationalism among many citizens. In Europe many gravediggers of the EU are at work. This development is made possible by three decisive factors:
- The actors see only their actual or supposed interests and do not recognize the harm threatening all Europeans without exception.
- The EU in its current form is a defective construct, which precludes an effective policy: 750 members of parliament and 28 Commissioners — soon to be 27 — are unable to make useful decisions simply on account of their sheer numbers. That need not even take into account that the Parliament and the Commission can decide nothing without the consent of the 28 governments, 27 in the future. Such a construct is unworkable, inevitably inefficient and therefore also ineffective.
- Even the EU-friendly parties emphasise nation states and thus differ, in the final analysis, only marginally from the nationalists who reject European integration. Also most pro-European citizens’ initiatives do not call the state into question and they barely strive for a factually integrated Europe.
Hence nothing will change. The problems threaten to become a permanent crisis with a catastrophic outcome. For purposes of illustration, a number of mutually related themes follow.
The punitive tariffs against China, which also affect the EU
The US is collecting punitive tariffs of an additional 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum and still plans to do the same with other goods.
Initially the EU begged for a postponement until May 1st and now it has negotiated a further deferment until June 1st. At present it is being haggled over.
A compelling trade policy would have consisted in the immediate imposition of counter-duties. As a consequence, the EU would have had a position of strength in the current negotiations and would have been able to negotiate a reasonable tariff regimen whilst offering concessions to the USA. Now they have become supplicants and are considering how the World Trade Organization (WTO) can be called in. WTO procedures are generally known to last from years to decades.
One of the reasons for this is that even within the Commission itself, the responsibility for customs is distributed among several Commissioners. This shows the absurdity of appointing 28 Commissioners (after Brexit 27), because each Member State must nominate a Commissioner and for each Commissioner a function is needed. As if that were not enough, each country’s government has a voice in the decisions; hence a US president like Donald Trump can turn the EU into a marionette.
The sanctions against Iran
Europe is incensed that the USA has cancelled its nuclear agreement with Iran. In return for Iran’s assurance not to build atomic weapons, the economic sanctions had been anywhere from relaxed to abolished. The EU absolutely insists on a continuing co-operation with Iran, citing economic interests as justification; they would like to realise projects involving billions of euros.
Since Thursday [17 May] there has been a singularly strange initiative: EU-Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker intends to punish European firms should they comply with US sanctions against Iran. Having been moulded by many sets of regulations, it appears that thinking in the Commission is determined exclusively by punishment categories; except, the United States prohibits companies who violate sanctions from being economically active in the USA or from exporting to the USA, and it imposes penalties as applicable. This is ruinous for many companies who therefore submit to the diktat of the USA. That the EU then still threatens them with a penalty is absurd. The issue has no effect on companies lacking interests in the US market.
For Europe the development taking place in the Near East is clearly irrelevant: Iran will have good opportunities, after the armed conflicts have ended, of becoming a major power whose territory extends to the Mediterranean. A change in the balance of power is also emerging, which would also have to be of interest to Europe, especially as Russia consistently emphasises her friendship with Iran and is active in Syria.
Also the tweets of the “Supreme Leader” of Iran, Khamenei, are obviously not read in Europe. Only hours after the conclusion of the nuclear agreement on 14 July 2015, Khamenei commented on the agreement with a tirade of abuse against the West. This posture led even the Obama administration into putting the brakes on implementation of the “nuclear deal” and they maintained a portion of the sanctions.
For the purpose of illustration, here is a Khamenei-tweet of 8 February 2018: We consider weapons of mass destruction haram, “but anything else that we need, we’ll pursue staunchly”.
Where is the European foreign policy? The EU Commission has as its Foreign Minister the “High Representative” Federica Mogherini, but many figures are active, from French President Emmanuel Macron to Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel through to the Polish government and numerous other actors. The phrase attributed to the legendary US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger still applies: “Whom are you calling when you call the EU?” An agreed policy between Brussels and Washington would be advantageous.
The dispute with Russia
The entry of the Crimea into the Russian Federation is being given as justification for the economic sanctions against Moscow. That the sanctions are ineffective became spectacularly apparent just a few days ago when President Vladimir Putin opened a bridge constructed in record time connecting the Crimea with the Russian mainland.
The sanctions harm the West as much as Russia. The EU only maintains the sanctions because of the desire not to lose face. And incidentally, the favourite excuse in many cases, that the United States is forcing them to maintain them, is becoming strained.
That the Crimean crisis is a consequence of NATO’s policy towards Russia is kept in the background: under the leadership of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a war scenario is being set up which defines Moscow as an enemy. In this way of thinking, Ukraine ought to be bound to NATO — an alarm signal for Russia; after all, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been stationed in the Crimea for centuries.
Also, the failure of the EU to construct an effective economic cooperation with Ukraine is not mentioned. Stereotypically, only the so-called annexation of Crimea is discussed. Ukraine was originally a European and not an American issue. Now it is in fact on the American agenda:
- The Eastern European countries have used the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity to establish a threat scenario according to which Russia once again becomes the Soviet Union intending to annex the eastern European states. Since the EU has no defence policy, the countries on the eastern border of the EU turn to the United States. Considering the personal experience of those affected by the Soviet era, this reaction is more than understandable; an independent EU policy would be helpful, but it is not happening.
- The appeals of the Eastern states are proving to be grist for the mill of NATO’s policy against Russia. And in the US, many have seen Russia as the number one enemy since 1945.
- Russia’s interference in the US election campaign by disseminating news on the Internet can be read on the protocols of countless servers worldwide. Too many were misused as hubs for the transfer of disinformation e-mails. The US reaction against Russia is a logical consequence. The as-yet unresolved question of whether Trump himself or his collaborators have cooperated with Russia is therefore only a part of the issue.
Of urgent necessity would be a European foreign and defence policy to ensure a practicable relationship with Russia. It is easy to believe that Washington is too far away to understand Moscow. It is completely obvious that in Brussels they too do not know how to deal with Moscow in a way which requires being tough whilst respecting Russia’s interests.
The EU-Budget is the wrong policy cast into numbers
The Commission acts as a kind of agency responsible for specific sectors. The execution of these tasks is effected, however, in an immensely complex manner and is accompanied by the much-cited regulations and penalties. Recently the Commission presented a budget plan for the period 2021 to 2027, which is sold as modern and geared to the future, but which only allows for the extrapolation of existing practice and defines new activities in the same style.
The budget is currently in the order of 150 billion euros a year. Due to the exit of Great Britain, it will be short in the future by about 10 percent. However, the Commission proposes to raise the ceiling to about 190 billion euros a year. The remaining members are therefore expected to pay about 55 billion more than hitherto. This very prospect is unrealistic.
The two largest items in the EU budget are the allocations to agriculture and regional development. Until now, over 100 billion euros yearly have been handed out to the two sectors. This appropriation is allocated according to a complicated procedure which unleashes a bloated bureaucracy in the EU and the Member States. Here is where reform is urgently due: many subsidies would have to be cancelled, and those actually required should be administered by the regions, which are better acquainted with local conditions. But that is out of the question. The objective is to allocate 5 percent less across-the-board.
There is more. Very much in the spirit of the subsidies policy, which has been centralising up to now and has been only of limited effectiveness, two new instruments are to be created: a “Reform Support Program” in which the Commission plans to distribute 25 billion a year and an “Investment Stabilization Function” which is to allocate 30 billion euros in loans.
Nothing has been learned from the experiences of the EU itself, from the modest results of the “planification” in France after 1945 and from the catastrophic failure of the Soviet planned economy. The Commission regards itself as the central economic steering instrument, which must not only intervene in agriculture and the development of weak regions, but is also competent in research and high technology.
The intention, however, to fight against the proliferation of funding agencies — instead of 58 there are to be “only” 37.
For all new and existing agencies, administrative bodies, control and supervisory authorities there will continue to be, according to ideas of the Commission, sufficient funding.
Perverse concepts of the rule of law and defence
The budget is also to bring innovations.
Thus the Commission would acquire the right to suspend the disbursement of subsidies if the rule of law in a country is infringed. These financial restrictions are to be carried out “in proportion to the nature, gravity and scope of the deficiencies in the rule of law”.
There is a lack of awareness as to the dramatic nature of this idea. The European Union is manifestly in no position to take action against the violation of the basic principles of the rule of law. This is clarified in international law pursuant to the “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties” that a treaty becomes invalid if the preconditions prevailing at the time it was concluded are no longer given. Since a State can become a member of the Union only after ascertainment of what the rule of law is, membership would end upon the violation of the originally ascertained fundamental principles.
The EU Commission intends to enforce the preservation of the principles of the rule of law by the cancellation of a few millions in subsidies. Courts, parliaments and governments are to defend the rule of law, not funding-bureaucrats.
A further innovation concerns the development of defence; that is, an EU army, and the protection of the external borders.
- Up until now, there has been no capability to comprehensively co-ordinate the armies of member countries.
- Based on the Lisbon Treaty, there is an obligation to co-ordinate with NATO. To date there has been no clear definition of the European role. The only question open to debate is the US President Donald Trump’s demand for increased contributions.
- The EU is incapable of installing a coordinated policy on refugees.
- Still valid is the unrealistic Dublin-Regulation, even confirmed the year before by a decision of the European Court of Justice, according to which an EU State must deport refugees to the country in which they entered the EU.
- The EU therefore has no clear policy either for defence or for the protection of borders, yet the EU Commission proposes to spend billions for these purposes.
Conclusion: The EU violates all rules forming the foundation for successful political and economic management. Without concept or direction billions are to be spent. Every actor is moving in a different direction and every actor is free to do so: all have sufficient power to sabotage the Community, but no one has sufficient power to build Europe.
About the Author
Ronald Barazon was editor-in-chief of Salzburger Nachrichten for many years. He is one of the most respected business journalists in Europe and today he is editor-in-chief of the magazine “Der Volkswirt“ as well as moderator at the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (Source: Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten (DWN)).
1. ‘This posture led even the Obama administration into putting the breaks on implementation of the “nuclear deal”….”
The quotations around nuclear deal may be intended to indicate the vague nature of the arrangement, for Iran never signed anything called the Iran Deal or its variants. This is documented in the Obama administration letter to Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) obtained by National Review in their article entitled “State Department: Iran Deal is not ‘Legally Binding’ and Iran didn’t sign it”.
According to this letter, signed by Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs, the so-called Iran deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
…is not a treaty [it was not ratified by the United States Senate] or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document. The JCPOA reflects political commitments between Iran, the P5+1 (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China), and the European Union. [Emphasis added.]
2. “the period 2021 to 2027”:
This is a correction; the original reads “2021 to 2017”.
3. “the ‘planification’ in France after 1945”:
Planification refers to a plan drawn up by Jean Marie Gabriel Monnet (1888-1979). He later played a large part in creating the European Economic Community.
4. “if the rule of law in a country is infringed”:
As can be seen upon further reading, here the “rule of law” does not refer to the law of given countries, but to the rule of International Law as judged by the EU.
5. “These financial restrictions are to be carried out ‘in proportion to the nature, gravity and scope of the deficiencies in the rule of law’“.
This plan puts pressure on countries to conform to EU “rules” on mass immigration to Europe:
Until now, the allocation of cohesion funds have been based on GDP per capita figures across the EU, but the commission now plans to introduce social and environmental indicators, such as youth unemployment and the reception of migrants. [euobserver, 30 April 2018. Emphasis added.]
Also see: “EU Unveils Plans for ‘Drastic’ Funding Cuts to Patriotic Eastern Nations” (Breitbart, 30 May 2018)
6. “a treaty becomes invalid if the preconditions prevailing at the time it was concluded are no longer given.”:
Article 48(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties reads:
A State may invoke an error in a treaty as invalidating its consent to be bound by the treaty if the error relates to a fact or situation which was assumed by that State to exist at the time when the treaty was concluded and formed an essential basis of its consent to be bound by the treaty.