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It is getting harder to like Europe and its failing institutions

July 7, 2015

Sometime in the next two years the UK will be asked to vote in a referendum on its continuing membership of the European Union. The most likely outcome of that has always been a fairly clear vote to remain members: now I am not so sure.

Is Europe still a beacon of democracy?

Is Europe still a beacon of democracy?

Forget the charade of Cameron’s renegotiation as that is very unlikely to make much difference as to how people vote. It is the growing crisis surrounding Greece that is causing people to question the role and nature of European institutions. To many, like me, who have long believed that European co-operation through the institutions of the EU is a valuable contribution to greater political and economic stability in what has historically been a troubled continent the response of those institutions to the economic crisis has been been blinkered from the start. Their brutal response to Greece and its people has reinforced those concerns.

Euro is now deeply flawed
Europe clearly has some deep flaws running right through its institutions and at the core lies the Euro. It was a once idealistic project of some promise but was rushed and ill-conceived in its execution. Greece, along with other weaker southern European economies, should never have been in the Euro but they were needed because without them the Euro would have been too strong and German exports (in particular) would have suffered. Germany’s ability to ride out the global financial crisis so successfully would have been undermined without them.

The trouble was that those economies were always going to struggle to play on the same pitch as the stronger economies. They were cut alot of slack to get them into the Euro club when it suited Germany and its allies. There is no hint today of recognition of the debt the rest of the Eurozone owes Greece, Spain, Portugal Italy and, to a lesser extent, Ireland. Where is the concern for the youth of those countries who are without jobs and bereft of hope? That alone is a huge condemnation of the Euro project – it cares nothing for people.

Where is the Europe that cares?
The underlying problems in the Greek economy were there ten years ago but those weaknesses were useful to the Eurozone then. Now they are no longer useful Europe has turned nasty and it leaves a very bad taste. A Europe that cared would put its arm around its weaker brethren and pick them up, not kick them while they are down.

There is also a disturbing disregard for democracy. Like it or loath it, the Greek people have spoken clearly twice in the last six months. Does that mean nothing in Berlin and Brussels? That we can even ask that should send shiver down the spine of anyone who claims to value democracy. And many commentators are asking that question today.

From there we are inevitably led to ask: what are Europe and its institutions for and do we want to be part of them? Many more people in the UK will now be hesitating in their answers and very few will feel able to make a persuasive case for them when the referendum comes.

Will the UK vote to stay in? I’m now not so sure and it will be Europe and its failing institutions – not UKIP or the Tories – that will be to blame if we do leave.

From → Politics

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