Saturday, 31 January 2015

Red Gold and the curse of EU conformity

In a telling article about Greece, Nick Cohen say this about the European 'project':

The EU cannot take responsibility for what it has done and be magnanimous for reasons British readers may not grasp. Raised in a Eurosceptic country, we do not understand how an absolute commitment to the European project was a mark of respectability on the continent. Like going to church and saying your prayers for previous generations, a public demonstration of commitment to the EU ensured that the world saw you as a worthy citizen. If you wanted to advance in Europe's governing parties, judiciaries, bureaucracies and culture industries, you had to subscribe to the belief that ever-greater union was self-evidently worthwhile.

And this is true. But Nick Cohen needs to look closely into the UK's public sector and corporatist business sector where being anti-EU is the badge of the sinner. I recall my election campaign of 2001 in Keighley where we were handing out those much sneered at 'Save the Pound' leaflet. A senior local Labour politician was aghast that I - what he patronisingly called 'the decent sort of Tory' - could possibly oppose the single currency.

In my perambulations around public funding both as a councillor and also as someone working in the voluntary sector, I have encountered the unquestioning commitment to the EU project, to the funding it provides and to the opportunities for pleasant junkets to nice European cities that come with the EU game. To conform to the mindset of the public sector - especially in my field of regeneration - you have to do just what Cohen describes, to have that "absolute commitment to the European project".

To borrow from David Eddings, the EU has spread its red gold across the continent - funding this project and that scheme, supporting international exchanges and generally making people feel that the project is a great big cuddly Father Christmas sort spreading joy and happiness. Very different from the stern and questioning national and local governments.

Greece - and soon Spain, Italy and France - are reaping the full cost of this red gold. Suckered into its spell they hooked their fortune to the fortune of Germany believing that this magical union of currencies would lead them to that better, richer, more Germanic world. As Nick Cohen concludes:

Europe does not seem pleasant, prosperous or peaceful today. When historians write about the end of its postmodern utopia, they will note that it was not destroyed by invading armies anxious to plunder Europe's wealth or totalitarian ideologues determined to install a dictatorship, but by politicians and bureaucrats, who appeared to be pillars of respectability, but turned out to be fanatics after all.


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