You are currently browsing the daily archive for June 6, 2011.

Sue from Muffled Vociferation (in the UK links at the bottom of my blogroll) has been giving her readers regular updates on the state of the European Union, our modern-day Tower of Babel.

The recent protests in Spain have spilled into other countries, including the UK, where an international protest took place on May 29, 2011.  On Monday, May 30, Sue wrote:

.. things are not looking so good. Dear Jean-Claude [Trichet — President of the European Central Bank] is obviously hoping that some sort of divine intervention is going to save the Euro and EU. The bickering over bailouts has begun to take its toll and the love affair between Germany and France is way past the mediation stage. They’ve tried just about everything with Greece from handing over millions of Euros to bullying tactics which would make the ECHR’s hair stand on end!

European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn is adamant that Greece will not default and return to the Drachma. The sheer audacity of the man is enough to take any normal person’s breath away ” I do not see a withdrawal from the monetary union as a serious option. It would harm the Greek economy and be a setback for European integration. The euro is more than a currency; it’s the central political project of our community. For this reason, too, we would not accept a Greek withdrawal”.  NOT ACCEPT?

This non-acceptance reminds me of a conversation I had a year ago with someone who, like me, loves Europe but loathes the idea of the European Union He said, ‘Surely, we just withdraw, keeping all our trade agreements in place’I said that if the UK withdrew, the EU would not ‘accept’ our withdrawal and would make an example of us by refusing our products and denying us free trade with our European partners, which has been in place long before there was a bloated EU HQ in Brussels.

What began as freer trade in the latter part of the 20th century has now turned into a bewildering bureaucracy staffed with dozens of people who are unknown — and those are just the ministers and members of the European Parliament!  We are told what size and shape of fruit and vegetables we can buy, just to cite one well-known example.  This helps no one.  Farmers are throwing out loads of produce every year because they cannot bring it to market.  In the UK, our hard-pressed fishermen are forced to dump tonnes of fish a year because they can only catch certain fish at certain times of year.  Yes, it’s a policy intended to conserve fish stocks, yet it results in thousands (at least) of discarded fish per year which could be feeding the British public, the poorest of whom are always being hectored by our Government to improve their diets.  Earlier this year Channel 4 carried a documentary on this subject, fronted by foodie and farmer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall — a shocking exposé.  But, I digress.

Back to Sue, who says the EU officials have underestimated the current and growing discontent among members of the public:

Now led by the Spanish and Greeks, spontaneous demonstrations of dissatisfied citizens are showing their distaste for having to pay with their livelihoods and homes for the incompetence of those who have forcibly thrust them into a club that benefits no-one but themselves.

On May 31, she added (emphases mine):

The people who have gathered in Trafalgar Square, Syntagma Square, Bastille Square and Puerta del Sol Square are not just a young mob of students, social workers and civil servants and UK Uncut troublemakers. They are ordinary people, yes there are socialists, communists, civil servants and students,  but more importantly there are people who have lost their jobs and homes too.

Just remember, even though the PIIGS were recipients of all that EU funding, their citizens were not given a referendum on the EU either. They too, trusted their politicians just as we did, hoping that what they did, would enable them to create better futures for themselves and their children. They may have taken advantage of low interest loans but they were encouraged to do so and if they had been warned of the risks, they would probably have thought twice.

It’s all very well for those of us not caught up in the debt trap to say, ah well, it’s their fault but whether you like it or not, some greedy, corrupt people did very well out of their misery. Even now, the powers that be, are being paid extortionate salaries with solid gold pensions while Europe crumbles under their feet …

And — Sue’s news from June 1 points to a possible return of the Greek drachma.  Are they going ahead with a withdrawal from the euro??  As you can see, the exchange rates from Reuters has no information — yet.

I am cautiously optimistic and hope that this could be the beginning of the end of this rather unhappy experience which has served only to benefit a privileged few bureaucrats.  I’d love to have put ‘public servants’, but they know nothing about service, just lining their pockets with our taxes, more and more of which go towards their salaries and pensions.

A number of Europeans — British included — believed that the EU would represent a model for freedom of travel and employment, linked to a stable common currency.  Some of us here in the UK — myself included — were disappointed when we didn’t adopt the euro.  Now, most of us are relieved.  As my mother always said, ‘Things happen for a reason’.  Thank goodness!

I hope that Greece — and the other euro countries — will be able to do the right thing and wish them the very best in extricating themselves from the current economic turmoil.

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