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.