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Why Europe is cracking

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Old 17-05-11, 09:56 AM
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Default Why Europe is cracking



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Denmark has reintroduced border controls with the populist excuse of controlling crime. By taking the step, the country that was once a model of democracy, tolerance and social justice has placed itself on the frontlines of a Europe that is increasingly surrendering to fear and xenophobia. Greece, meanwhile, has spent more than a year teetering on a cliff edge and few fellow European governments seem disappointed that it may abandon the euro - some of them are even secretly supporting the markets against Athens. Finland has thrown itself into the arms of xenophobic populism and, following in the footsteps of Slovakia, has refused to finance the bailout of Portugal. With elections around the corner, France and Italy have taken advantage of the Tunisian uprising to restrict the free movement of people within the European Union. And Germany, unhappy at managing the euro crisis amid regional elections, has broken ranks with France and the United Kingdom in the United Nations Security Council, ignoring the Libya crisis and undermining 10 years of European security policy.

With the future of the euro in doubt and the Arab world erupting, European leaders are governing on the basis of opinion polls and electoral processes, hanging on to power through any means possible even if that results in undoing the Europe that it took so much time and so many sacrifices to build. Few times in the past has the European project been so questioned and its disgraces so publicly exposed. It would seem that in the Europe of today, having a large xenophobic political party is obligatory. The truth is that Europe is cracking along four fault lines: its values, the euro, foreign policy and leadership. If there is no radical change, the integration process could collapse, leaving the future of Europe as an economically and politically relevant entity up in the air.

JOSÉ IGNACIO TORREBLANCA, Five reasons why Europe is cracking
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Old 17-05-11, 09:17 PM
Kubalivre Kubalivre is offline
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This very much concerns me. Yet, I'm absolutely at loss with words.
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Old 17-05-11, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Héctor View Post
The truth is that Europe is cracking along four fault lines: its values, the euro, foreign policy and leadership.
Taking them one at a time: values. It's no coincidence that the European commitment to human rights has come under pressure since the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of the functions of Western human rights was to rub the Russians' nose in it and to ensure that Western workers weren't attracted by the Big Red Bear.

Free trade unions, no police torture cellars, habeas corpus, decent social services, schools, hospitals, etc. were all part of the great anti-Communist inoculation.

All that's unnecessary now. The Communist disease is cured. So why, Western capitalist leaders ask, retain the anti-Communist medicine? Why not become more like, say, China?

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Old 17-05-11, 10:57 PM
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China? Not at all. The common link seems to be neoliberalism. Most European states have been treating this last recession ('07?) as an oil crash or something along those lines. Except this time Europe does not have a beacon like Jacques Delors to counter it and move the european plan forward.
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Old 17-05-11, 11:06 PM
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Having spent much of my working life involved in the institutions of the European Union, I find the article that Héctor posted accurate and sad. The rise of xenophobia and the closing of borders especially so - the two are linked, since politicians are using the latter in the face of a non-existent threat to try and buy off the former. It's interesting to see that the author links the UK in with the countries that have moved to the Right - this is almost certainly because the British Conservative Party is allied with the lunatic fringe in the European Parliament, and because of UKIP.

The problem is at heart economics - the new Europe is a much more economically heterogenous place than it used to be, because some of the new member states, especially those from the former Soviet bloc, are at such a frankly backward stage of development. Free-market and free-trade doctrines essentially favour economies which have already developed a strong position; applying those doctrines to places like Estonia and Romania can only have catastrophic economic results. I have long been a supporter of the Euro as a political move, but for it to work economically requires a vision and an understanding of economic history and development which, frankly, advocates of market economics, blinded by ideology, simply don't have. Having said that, I'd have said there is too much political capital invested in the Euro project for it to be allowed to fail.

And I'm afraid that while European governments continue to apply the economic shock doctrine - using the economic crisis to cut public expenditure and jobs, while allowing the bankers to cause the crisis to enrich themselves, it will only get worse. People need to realise how great a bastion of stability a large, properly-unionised public sector is, and how the decline of unions can help xenophobia and racism to take hold as workers - especially skilled manufacturing workers who have seen their industries devastated by twenty-five years of market ideology - can be coaxed into blaming their lot on immigration.

And there is also I think a growing crisis of political legitimacy. Britain is governed by the provisional wing of the Bullingdon Club, kept in power by a small gang of proven liars in yellow ties; France and Italy are led by political figureheads who are buffoons; the social democratic consensus in Scandinavia has been falling apart for years. Belgium has virtually ceased to exist as a political entity. I think this is inevitable when choice is removed from democracy - there is no major, mainstream party which is challenging the intellectually hollow brand of market economics that holds sway in Europe. That challenge seems to be articulated only on the nationalistic right, who have - in countries like the Netherlands and Denmark - realised that they can get more of their agendas enacted by staying out of Government and undermining it than by entering into Government.

My own belief is that the only real challange to the economic and political disasters that look like a real risk in Europe can come from a reinvigorated, economically-literate left that is prepared to defend jobs and services and is prepared to advocate a strong, enabling, democratically-responsive state. That is an idea that is so unfashionable it is difficult to see how it can gain ground; but, faced with the risk of economic and political collapse across the continent, the alternative is too awful to contemplate.
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