We’ve had decades of EU countries variously ignoring EU directives and fiscal requirements – dishonesty coupled with institutional myopia. Greece joined by telling porkies about its economy, then like various other countries received huge amounts of money from the EU for all sorts of infrastructure projects, plus the vast cheap loans that borrowers probably never thought in terms of actually paying off.
Brits regularly fulminate about how we seem to to be the only nation in Europe that complies by its rules. We hugely disadvantage ourselves by being fair and obedient, while other nations profit. But now of course it’s all come home to roost – and looks as though we too must suffer.
Germany wants to stick with the EU’s current structure and rules – only this time actually impose them on the membership, as a precondition to bailing everyone out. This will give Germany unequivocal Euro-leadership, which I suppose might allow German politicians to justify to their electors the huge expense of propping up the EU.
But what makes any of us think that Italy, Greece and the rest of Club Med will in fact abide by the rules? Germany was too busy lending money in order to profit, than to crack the whip. Greece is incapable of collecting taxes from its own people. Italy defines itself through the stylishness of its dishonesty. How could Germany actually impose the rules on such people – not with tanks that’s for sure.
Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski has just said that “I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.”
Britain won the Second World War, but our war effort was funded by the USA which had to be paid back, so we lost the peace; whilst Germany (with Italy) benefited from loans and development assistance. Germany re-unified itself at great expense to the former West Germany. Now it must reunify Europe, beginning with a very clear explanation of exactly how it will ensure that the EU’s economic rules are obeyed by Greece and Italy.
This may well require a re-think of the notion of Europe as being the sum total of its members. The perceptual divide between German workers and Greek something-or-others (for example)… I’m not sure exactly how to describe them, as clearly there are people in Greece who do a fair day’s work – makes it hard to think of Europe as capable of becoming one economic unit. Paying people across the EU according to the actual work they perform and its economic value, rather than to stop them revolting, would be a good start. But how could that be made to happen, and who would enforce it?