When a vision ceases to create prosperity for the great masses it suddenly becomes a nightmare. This is what I wrote in this column on 1 July 2012 while addressing the banking crisis that subjugated the majority of citizens in most of then-27 member states of the EU. In fact, exactly one year later, the EU welcomed Croatia as its 28th member that came in carrying a five-year heavy recession and an unbearable 21% unemployment rate.
But how did we ever reach a point where European peoples were dragging such a burden of bad loans around where wages had been slashed to 60 or 70 percent compared to salaries back in 2010 while individual workers’ debts had been doubled? How did the tax payer end up footing the bill to cover losses that the banks created using magic tricks and muddled procedures straight out of the textbook of golden boys and politicians?
The hollowed-out education they have been shoving down the throats of minors, who are now old enough to vote, makes it difficult to differentiate between Nazis and Ninja Heroes
How about government administrations that would never allow “systemic” banks to fail because the whole country would collapse but somehow they let entire communities go poor? And like this, health was turned into an open wound, the environment became a dump, and education a neglected child. When and how will the tax payers be compensated since the banks now got their “tools” and money? Apparently never.
And so the only weapon left to citizens is their vote. And this is where the fabric that makes up the EU starts to get unwoven. Let me explain. In 1943, in the whirlwind of World War II, French visionary Jean Monnet, the man who professed European unity while on exile in Algiers, declared: “There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty. The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation."
Gluing things together
Monnet, who was also a businessman and a financier, knew full well that a tormented Europe brought to its knees by a disastrous war would need rapid reconstruction that would put food on the table and do much more for people on the Old Continent.
In the second half of the 20th century it appeared that the European project had several chances to succeed. It was set as the goal of the Action Committee for a United States of Europe which was founded by Monnet in 1954 and became the forerunner of today’s EU. But this meant that Europe in the end would need to come under a federation that was, according to Monnet, the blueprint for European peoples’ much needed peace, prosperity, social progress, and a guarantee for peace.
The EU is closer to anti-democratic trends facing over 100 right-extremists who sought seats in the European Parliament, all made worse by the burden due to bad debt crisis for millions of citizens and no prospect of having salaries restored to pre-crisis levels. And this is because big players in the EU were after “national gains” while ignoring Monnet’s decree that the completion of the European project and keeping the federation glued together required members to yield “national sovereignty” to a central power.
The Orbans of the world
Over the last 65 years, after conservatives, then socialists, then conservatives again all have failed to steer the European ship towards Monnet’s strong federation, overburdened citizens desperately look elsewhere seeking an alternative.
But the hollowed-out education they have been shoving down the throats of minors, who are now old enough to vote, seems to make it difficult to differentiate between Nazis and Ninja Heroes on television. And so we are doomed in a few years from now to have the Orbans of the world ruling Europe, who would use the curtailment of political freedoms as a whip while fascism would be creeping over it.
The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 26 May 2019