The year 1945 – we fought them on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and streets, and we never surrendered. After years of countless lives and blood shed at the cost of war, the peoples of European arose united, unified and unioned. The greatest product of the Second War World is, undoubtedly, the European Union, and its greatest achievement is clearly maintaining peace in Europe.
The year 2012 – the Nobel Committee decides to honour the European Union with the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” Historically, the EU has a good claim to the prize. It brought together after the Second World War had ended European nations which hated each other and helped to form viable cooperation and allegiances between the two, namely France and Germany. It played its part in the transition of Portugal and Spain from dictatorships to democracies and contributed immensely to the building of these two countries into two successful nations. The EU was a beacon of hope for those on the other side of the Iron Curtain, and after its fall, it incorporated them too.
However, it is important not to forget that politics is the EU’s Sunday morning football; something it dabbles in when necessary, and usually when it plays to its advantage. The EU’s 9 to 5 job, however, is the economy, and its historical development is a steadfast record to this fact.
Starting with the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, through the European Economic Community, the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties, to the formation of the Single Market, the institutions of the EU have always reformed the economy first and then subsequently brought about political reform.
The Single Currency is the EU’s biggest economical project; it has put all its eggs in one big Euro basket and will not let it fall apart, no matter what the human cost.
Unemployment across the south of Europe is at an unprecedented level and rising. Putting aside the international factors which have brought about this crisis, the EU must acknowledge the role it has played in the fiscal destruction of countries, such as Greece and Portugal.
The Single Market has lead to many products being massed produce in a single place and sold around the continent, kicking local businesses out of the market (and in this case ‘local’ means ‘national’). Take Poland for example, where a plethora of German products are imported and sold at euro prices, even though the Poles are still earning significantly lower wages in Polish zlotys. A value-pack of 4 German yoghurts (and very often there are no local options in supermarkets) can cost only 1.50EUR – cheap for a Western European – but that’s 6PLN, and for many Poles that’s an hours work before tax!
The Euro, albeit a great historical achievement, has lead to governments being unable to control their debts and interest rates. Take Greece for example, if it still had the Drachma, then the Greek government could devalue the currency by 50%, which would lead to 50% less debt. However, Greece can’t do that because the men (yes, the men) who control the currency’s interest rates sit in offices in Germany – interestingly a country which has not been hit particularly badly by the crisis and where the Single Currency plays well in their economic stimuli.
Yesterday, images came out of Greece showing more riots by the people in protest against the austerity measures; last week from Spain images were beamed of nation-wide manifestations against the cuts which have to be undertaken to consolidate the country’s debts to the EU; a year ago the same kind of images were seen across the continent. No one should be under the impression that the EU will put the people of Europe first: it will defend its economic project until the very end, even if that means a 1920-style depression for the people.
Even if the unelected Mr Barroso were to hold up his hands and recognise the EU’s failings in the economy, there still remains its shortcomings in human rights.
If the EU were truly interested in the rights of people and generating equality in society, it would not allow governments, such as the British one, to remove legal aid; it would impose gender and sexual-orientation equality laws on all member states; it would abolish idiotic employment laws, such as in Bulgaria where only Bulgarian citizens may be promoted to a position higher than that of ‘assistant’ in Bulgarian universities; it would enforce countries to recognise the power of Trade Unions and assist in maintaining them; it would make education at all levels free and accessible to all.
Above all, it would put the people and humanity first, not the Euro.