Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

The Rise of the Euro-Middle.

Posted by Jason O on Dec 11, 2011 in European Union |

I have been discussing the European Union with various groups of friends this week, and what’s remarkable is the common position that is emerging. Nearly all have regular interaction with the EU in one form or another, although none are what I would call “inside the bubble” of BrusselsSpeak, you know, where people get outraged that the ordinaries are actually asked to vote on stuff, and vote the wrong way.

The talk of a new treaty is met with a mixture of frustration, shoulder shrugging and in one case, anger. All were on the Yes side in every one of the last treaties. All believe that European integration is, on balance, a good thing. All regard the phrase eurosceptic as an insult, and some (me) don’t particularly regard the word federalist as being all that terrible. Yet all are embarrassed when they have to defend the EU, because whereas the idea is very noble, the practice is getting downright grubby.

The fact is, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, the eurosceptics have some valid points. The way some opponents of the EU are treated for raising very modest questions about the EU, particularly in the European Parliament, is nothing short of a disgrace and an affront to the values we purport to be building this union on. Not every eurosceptic is an extremist. The problem is that there seems to be no accepted middle-space between the “Destroy the EU now!” crowd and the “Brussels is always right” fanatics, yet that is where the majority of Europeans are. As one of my friends said: ” You can’t criticise the EU because you get automatically associated with people you don’t want to be seen with.”

Despite what many eurosceptics claim, the EU is not hated by most Europeans. But it has almost no popular consent either. The idea, for example, that the European Parliament speaks for the people of Europe is laughable. A bomb in Westminster, wiping out the House of Commons, would have an emotional effect in Britain. The same cannot be said for the EP. Well, not a negative emotional effect, anyway.

The EU is, at best, tolerated, and so needs to build not love, which is just not possible, but a popular acceptance that it is a necessity. It needs to be like a water authority. It doesn’t excite, but people know what it’s for and why they need it. Criticising the water authority does not mean that you are against clean drinking water, and that same value needs to be permitted in our debates about the EU. It’s time for a Euro-Middle.

P.s. Hugo Brady of the CER, one of those shockingly clever chaps who will end up secretly running the world, has an interesting (if depressing) take on the direction of the EU here which he wrote last year. His point is very valid: The biggest challenge to Europe could well be a generation who think that shrugging their shoulders and going “Meh” to problems is a legitimate response.

8 Comments

Anne
Oct 26, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Yeah, interesting. A eurosceptic of the elderly lady they will bring in abortion type said to me the other day – “didn’t they say that if we voted yes to Lisbon, we’d have loads of jobs, where are they?” My argument that we would have even fewer jobs without sounded a bit feeble – though entirely true, I believe. Anyway, if there is a new treaty, at least it will be about something rather than Lisbon which, as you know, was a dog’s dinner of a treaty addressing the institutional difficulties rather than any big idea.


 
Jason O
Oct 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm

That’s a problem about us pro-EU people, we’re always apologising. Your vote is equal to hers. Next time you meet her, demand she explain how voting No would have saved jobs!


 

[...] is dead – long live Europe” just to be followed by Jason Mahony discovering “The Rise of the Euro-Middle”, we at Bloggingportal.eu knew that it wasn’t enough just to pimp the European Council [...]


 
rz
Dec 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

I do not want to be to critical about your post, but tell me, have you ever actually met a “Brussels is always right” fanatic?

Can you provide a link to an article along these lines or maybe point me to some relevant politicians?

There is plenty of “Destroy the EU now!” out there in the British news media, but is the other “extreme” really there? In my opinion most pro-Europe commentary is exactly along the lines you propose: about the EU as a necessary yet imperfect institution.


 
Jason O
Dec 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

Ok. Guy Verhofstadt. If you want to lose a referendum in Ireland, get him on Irish TV as much as possible.


 
Peter
Dec 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm

People who want to vote No don’t have to defend anything, certainly not accepting your premises. We said that we would end up in a fiscal union with harmonised taxes – and that’s exactly where we are headed. You want to know where the Euro middle is? David Cameron. In the EU, benefitting from free trade, but not tied to a monetary and fiscal union with the French and Germans which will always, always, operate in their interests.


 
Jason O
Dec 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Just a free trade area. Hmmm. I don’t remember the No campaign advocating the scrapping of workers rights or the abolition of CAP or regional aid as Cameron does. but you are right. We do have a choice.


 
Joe
Dec 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

The way I see it, the Europhile-Europhobe Godzilla vs. Megalon clash has now spilled over into any issue that 10 Downing Street rings in on, and it isn’t necessarily good since most everything you hear right now from the commenting general public is a stunning display of economic illiteracy and goofy platitudes.

So I’m very much with Jason – forget what they say, watch what they do, and take any and every position taken seriously whilst ignoring the slimy film of inept political bitchslapping that comes with it.

The only existential issue at the moment is that of bank capitalization and stabilizing the cost of borrowing. (The other exitential issues to follow.)

Central bank and governmental solutions to economic problems normally come in the form of a blunt instrument with long-term consequences, so if Cameron or those Eurozoners deeply vested in the Eurozone, or anyone else is right about something, it’s worthy of some attention.

The folks to ignore are the ones who think that the EZ will spontaneously break apart or the currnecy will crash. In reality, there will be some kinf of devaluation on the order of 10% inside of 3 months, and while this will seem to turn Granny’s savings into Weimar Papiermark to the overdramatic, it will largely be good for the economy as a whole because the EZ is an exporting, erm, “zone”.

And if that doesn’t work, we can always send a planetary distress signal out into the dark matter. Or something. But I don’t see it coming to that.

But the gist of the schlagkampf on Herr Cameron is down to his scepticism for the carry-trade that will be created by the ECB lending to banks for 1% so that they can buy herpetic national bonds*, and the notion that rules will make the world aright. Calling for more laws when one is desperae for resolution is not bright: after all, the fact is that financial regulations would not have stopped Bernie Madoff from fleecing charities, or the board of Olympus from playing ‘hied the weenie’.

On the other hand, the UK has already engaged in institutional recaptialization, and did it quicker an more responsibly than the clucks who are finally getting around to it, and are holding out their hats, who see themselves as the antithesis of the British model. In fact they are finally gettig around tro doing the same thing London and Washington did, and should shut their gaping pie-holes about “UK isolationism” when the come as late to the intervention party as they have.

* – as brainless as the investment is, those with something to invest can capialize on this sort of government-dropping-a-monetary-bunker-buster, by the by.


 

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