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Monday, 14 November 2011

Different points of view ...

I have watched and read with interest a number of different blogs, news items and newspapers in recent days all with different points of view on the €uro and the efforts to save it and prevent the debt crises in Greece, Italy and other southern European countries, from getting out of hand. Many of the British blogs and newspapers seem to be following the theme of "good riddance to the €uro, no body wants it," or "EU/Brussels/France/Germany have removed the democratic rights of Greece and Italy" or "Germany is trying to takeover Europe ..."

It is very interesting to note that there is a strong anti-German theme in many of these posts, most of which focus on the attempt to bail out the various governments whose profligate spending has precipitated the crisis. All the old propaganda is being paraded again. Germany wants to suppress democracy, Germany wants to control Europe, Germany wants ... Living in Germany I can only say that the Germans are themselves utterly bemused by all this.

As for those claiming that the Italians have been denied a "democratic right" that certainly isn't the impression one gets watching them celebrating Berlusconi's departure. Anyone would think, watching Italian, Swiss and German newscasts, that the Italians felt that his being forced to resign by the EU rescue deal was a good thing. Interestingly, this is not what is being reported (I can't watch BBC or UK Channels because they don't allow people outside the UK to do so!) in the UK according to the online newspapers. Is this just a different perspective, or is it a deliberate attempt to put a different spin on things?

An interesting question. But what is the motive behind it?

As far as I can see from the news reports and blogs I follow, it is all about forcing the UK Government to hold a Referendum on membership of the EU. It seems the bloggers and the media want to see the UK out of Europe, many with the fond idea that the former colonial and Dominion members of the Empire that form the Commonwealth will welcome them back with open arms and help form an anti-Europe trading bloc. Some might, but I suspect that a majority won't.

I also find the glee with which many of these reports contemplate the "failure of the €uro" disturbing. They seem to have no concept of how the money values work or what and who is likely to suffer most if it does - and it certainly won't be any of the political classes or the really wealthy. No, it will be the ordinary people, the workers, the Middle Classes who will suddenly find that everything they have worked for has collapsed around them. Do these reporters and "experts" ("x" is an unknown factor and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure) really want to see this happen?

Much was made last week of warnings from Germany that allowing the collapse of the €uro might see wars break out in Europe again. This was trumpeted by some as "proof" that "German militarism" was rising and a "threat" to stability. In fact, Germany has cut its armed forces even more drastically than the UK at the moment, scrapping all seven of an entire class of frigates in its Navy and slashing the number of soldiers, sailors and airmen to less than half the figure they were. Reading the full German text of the speech so badly reported in the UK presents a slightly different picture. The reference was to a rise in civil strife which could overspill borders once the economies of some of the states just emerging from the Communist desert collapse. It was not a reference to the sort of wholesale conquests attempted in the last century at all.

Much is made in some quarters about the "lack of democracy" in Europe, yet almost all of Europe uses Alternative Voting or some variant of Proportional Representation. In the UK, if you don't vote according to the "tribal preference" of your local constituency, you might as well not bother - and many don't. I would agree that the Commission should be directly elected and perhaps certain other key posts as well, but here comes the difficulty. It would have to be done on some sort of "Collegiate" system such as that used in the US for presidential elections and we all know the problems that can arise from that! The UK population is currently 62 million, Germany some 85 million, France about the same. It figures that if you get "bloc" voting, your population counts, but is a Collegiate system going to equilise or further disadvantage member states and their voters? Interestingly the German population is declining by about 0.1% per year, while the UKs is rising by 1% per year. Changing demographics can change the voting patterns as well as the economics of a situation. And, how democratic is democratic? Or better still, how do we define it? Let us not forget that all the Communist regimes did, and some still do, claim to be the only democratic states in the world ...

This leads on to one of the things so exercising the UK media and blogs at the moment. As Mr Cameron discovered in his very own "West Lothian" moment - the seventeen €uro States in the EU are not about to take any advice from him or anyone else who isn't in the €uro about how to save it, manage it or work with it. And why should they? After all, the UK has made it clear it is staying out, the Pound is a rival currency and the UK hopes in some quarters, that the failure of the €uro will somehow strengthen the Pound isn't likely to endear then to it or him. In fact the consensus among economists seems to be that the failure of the €uro will damage everyone, perhaps bringing a total failure of the economies of a large number of struggling states.

Sometimes I have the very clear impression that some commentators live on a planet where the view is very confined, so confined that it could almost be unrealistic. There is a larger picture here, one that is slowly becoming clearer. No one seems to have asked why the UK is running its armed forces to such a low ebb. Despite the government's protestations that they are as big and strong as they need be to meet the UK Defence needs, the truth is that they are not. Numerous defence experts have pointed this out and so have the armed forces themselves. But across Europe Defence forces are being reduced and the only conclusion one can draw is that somewhere in this are a bunch of bureaucrats beavering away and planning for a single European Army, Navy and Airforce. Similar activity is affecting police services and many other services - so just how "independent" is anyone these days.

The same applies to may EU member economies, they are now so intertwined that the events in Greece threaten everyone, not just the Eurozone members. Ah well, as a small player and a single vote in a very big pond of voters, I guess I, like everybody else, will just have to wait and see. I just hope the more vociferous among the anti-€uro, anti-EU lobbies are wrong ...    

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