EU in tatters
Recall the self-satisfied EU celebrations of recent years – the inauguration of the euro and the famous blue Euro passport, the accession of all the Eastern European and ex-Soviet statelets, the gloating as the euro steadily revalued. Fortress Europe was strong and united at last. The 21st century belonged to the new Old World.
But then a few cracks began to appear in the shiny facade. The Poles, especially, carped about just about everything – the thought of giving up their precious zloty (boy, are they sorry now), the EU farming rules, the lack of Euro-support for US wars, and the Euro-cowardice in facing down the Russian bear. They and the Czechs revealed Fortress Europe for what it was by welcoming US missile bases, provoking the Russians into threatening to make Europe once again the world’s nuclear battlefield. Kosovo managed to divide even the big boys, with Spain refusing to recognise this latest US-German plaything, and ratcheting up the tensions between Serbs, Croats – even the Slovenes. The Balkan cauldron is as hot as ever.
The world financial meltdown was the proverbial straw that has left the Euro-camel paralysed. The collapse of the government of the Czech prime minister – the Euro-president himself – was a fitting symbol for the collapsing house of cards. No doubt someday there will be a musical about this Euro-Camelot, this once-and-never-land.
The comeuppance of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was not the result of his recent snub of US President Barack Obama (he called Obama’s stimulus spending “a way to hell” that will “undermine the stability of the global financial market”). Rather it was the modest but unflagging campaigning by the Czech Nonviolent Movement (CNM), which has been fighting the installation of the US missile base outside Prague for two years now. They mounted an ongoing series of nonviolent actions – petitions, hunger strikes, rallies, protests, electioneering – building a grassroots campaign uniting the 70 per cent of the Czech population who oppose the base, nibbling away at the right-centre majority till it finally fell.
CNM organiser Jan Tomas called for “all invading armies to withdraw from all occupied territories” (you can fill in the blanks), and for nuclear disarmament. “Now in the Czech Republic a new chapter of our struggle begins.”
Topolanek is welcoming Obama to the G20 meeting in London as the European president and hosting Obama a few days later at a US-EU summit in Prague . Obama will then go to Strasbourg for NATO celebrations. Topolanek’s undiplomatic remark actually represents the EU consensus and is surely not so far from the mark. Obama’s ad hoc measures to deal with the crisis have been praised by almost no one but the bankers, who are being treated to trillions of dollars with no assurance that this massive bill will do any good whatsoever – except of course for the bankers. One-third of his stimulus package is in the form of tax cuts and is unlikely to have any long-term effect.
Not that the Eurocrats are coming up with anything more likely to succeed. The EU is a hodge-podge of very different states with radically different governments and economies, with no parallel Europe-wide budget to allow for fast and broad stimulus measures. The US budget deficit will be 10 per cent of GDP this year and the next and the next. This is impossible for the EU, which has a 3 per cent limit per country and which, unlike the US, cannot print its currency as if there was no tomorrow.