The Corner

All Quiet . . .

Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph:

It is impossible to exaggerate the arrogance, the bone-headed stupidity and above all the brutality and callousness of these Europhiles. Their demented attempt to impose a new economic model on an unworkable political structure has already caused untold suffering. At the heart of their project is an audacious attempt to prove the primacy of politics over economics. Bear in mind that it is an experiment for which the European elite personally do not have to pay a price.

Their experiment has caused depression (not recession as inaccurately reported by pro-European journalists at the BBC and elsewhere) across much of Europe.

True enough. As I am not the first to observe, this is an elite that ought to go rather carefully before labeling anyone else “extremist.”

Oborne:

We are talking about tens of millions of ruined lives, and busted dreams. This reality has already brought about a convulsion in Europe. Entirely new political parties have emerged, from the far-Left and far-Right, brought into existence by a common scream of despair against a broken system.

And some of them have proved rather more receptive to Vladimir Putin than they should. One of the ironies of the current situation is that the EU, which has — to its credit — done so much to anchor Eastern Europe in the West, is now creating the conditions in which a revanchist Russia can find a degree of support in Europe that would have been unimaginable a decade or so ago.

Oborne argues that time is running out:

For the time being, the former political class remains in charge. It has as much legitimacy as the ancien regime in pre-revolutionary France, with the same moral bankruptcy, calculating venality and profound sense of entitlement. This elite has the same distaste for democracy as 18th-century lords, and over the long term the same chances of survival. In its dying convulsions, Jean-Claude Juncker’s political class has abolished democracy. Italy has had three consecutive unelected prime ministers since Silvio Berlusconi’s scepticism about the euro caused the EU elite to recruit an unscrupulous cabal of bankers to remove him….

And beyond the contempt for democracy, there is the disdain for the rule of law. Here (via Dan Hannan) is Christine Lagarde, then the French finance minister and now (disgracefully) in charge of the IMF, explaining how the euro was saved:

We violated all the rules because we wanted to close ranks and really rescue the euro zone. The Treaty of Lisbon was very straightforward. No bailouts.

Or if you prefer, there’s this, reported by Bruno Waterfield for the Daily Telegraph:

Europe’s most senior judge has told Jean-Claude Juncker that his political mission is to prevent Eurosceptics from trampling on “the fruits of European integration”. Vassilios Skouris, the president of the Court of Justice, Europe’s highest judicial body, made the extraordinary comments in a ceremony aimed at upholding the political independence of the European Commission.

He instructed Mr Juncker that his “key task” was to prevent the critics of the European Union from reducing the powers of institutions such as the Luxembourg court he oversees, or the commission in Brussels.

“I would like to say a few words about your mission,” Mr Skouris said.

“You are taking up office during the worst financial and economic crisis that Europe has suffered at a time when the European ideal is beset by criticism from Eurosceptic circles. Thus your key task is to prevent the fruits of European integration being trampled in the dust.”

The European Court of Justice is the EU’s highest legal authority and has the power to override governments or strike down national laws that are judged to be in breach of European legislation.

The ECJ’s critics have frequently accused the court and its judges of using judicial means to expand the EU’s powers.

Not without reason.

The tenaciousness of the EU’s political class should never be underestimated, and in the absence of some dramatic collapse (I suspect that enough money will eventually be thrown at Greece to stave off too dangerous a drama there) most of the EU’s voters will stick with the devils they know. Tick tock perhaps, but the clock is ticking rather more slowly than Oborne thinks.

Oborne wouldn’t agree (he sees “financial catastrophe” ahead), but whatever one’s views on the crisis to come (or not), he is right about what has always been the underlying problem:

The single currency will only work with a single economic policy, a single treasury, a single system of taxation and spending, a single national parliament and single political identity.

And that’s something the voters will (quite rightly) still not buy. Bitter clingers that they are, they still quite think that the nation state should preserve a little meaning.

Oborne believes that financial catastrophe will create a political crisis in which many countries (including Greece and Italy) peel away from the euro and there will be consolidation at the center: “France, Belgium and a few others will realise [EU founding father] Jean Monnet’s dream and come together to form a new state, which will have Germany at its centre.”

Count me unconvinced. My guess is that the long, slow grind continues. Those in charge of the euro zone will continue to do just enough to head off catastrophe, but will remain unable to move ahead and unwilling to change course. And if you think that sounds a bit like the economic and political equivalent of trench warfare, you’d be right.

That’s not a good thing.

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