Brussels now holds the classical sinews of power: the money and the military. David Cameron may stress that “it isn’t right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and all the rest of it” (De Volkskrant, 19/12/2013), but Cameron will soon be gone and Brussels will stay. Moreover, UK’s Cameron is the only one objecting. According to Martin Schulz, Chair European Parliament, and Anders Fog Rasmussen, Chair NATO, Europe’s fragmented military and Europe’s military industry has to unify under Brussels’ command to compete with the US and China. Their opinion is shared by nearly all European national leaders: “close collaboration is vital, also for business and jobs” (Rutte, Dutch prime- minister, 19/12/2013). In 2011 Europe’s military industry grossed 172 billion Euro and employed 730.000 –a potential ally no one can estrange. EU-history shows that when a national leader such as Cameron starts to complain about EU’s agenda of transferring power from the states to Brussels, it’s far too late. The European Union army is on Brussels’ agenda today and backed by Europe’s military it will exist tomorrow.
Opportunistic by nature as they are, national politicians have come to understand this new order very well. Like in any other EU-state leading Dutch politicians compete over the best positions in Brussels and EU-states again compete with each other. The Dutch minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Labour Party), who’s responsible for monitoring Dutch contribution to EU finances also chairs the Eurogroup, the monitoring EU-committee of the finances of the states. According to Dijsselbloem: “the Dutch Cabinet will base its economic plans and necessary cuts on EU’s estimations. What has changed: Cabinets traditionally used the estimations of Centraal Bureau van Statistiek, which was our own political choice. But now the EU estimations are the new reality. The report of the European Commission is leading and the Cabinet will decide accordingly” (ANP, 13/6/2013). Dijsselbloem is just the latest in an endless line of Dutch politicians who effortlessly balance national and EU responsibilities –with the EU always tipping the scale. Brussels stores hundreds of new and highly lucrative and prominent positions –all tax free. With the national parliaments, cabinets, departments and capitals rapidly diminishing in power and prominence, politicians see Brussels as the perfect opportunity to prolong their political livelihood. According to Vivianne Reding, EU Justice: “Brussels now ought to formalize its position: the European Commission is the new government. This body should be checked by two chambers of parliament: the present EU-parliament and a new, additional, Senate” (Brussels, 8/1/2014). What’s more, with Brussels as the triumphant capital of the United States of Europe a position in either the European Parliament or in one of the Commissions, Groups, Committees or Collaborations capitalizes a career. By structuring the 28 states, and with 6 more coming up, Brussels has not only successfully regulated Europe, but added an irresistible topping of imperial power too.
Addressing the Euro-crisis Brussels spent approximately 1750 billion Euro thus far. Meanwhile all the other subsidies didn’t stop for a second. The amount of subsidies even increased. “The pockets of the Eurozone are limitless”, stated the European Central Bank on the 9th of June 2013. The budget of Brussels’ bureaucracy compares only to the wealthiest European empires: imperial Rome, Charles the Fifth Brussels, Victorian London. The EU knows money. It was installed to superstructure the billions of subsidies from and to the states, regions and projects. And since the financial crises outbreak in 2008 Brussels has speedily overtaken European financial monitoring and streamlining from the national banks, the World Bank and IMF –outmanoeuvring Goldman Sachs and its Euro credit default swaps.
In contrast to Europe’s national parliaments Brussels can pay for the best economists and experts. Since the mid-1990ies Brussels understands internet’s importance in regard of arbitrage and virtual banking. The computer system of the European Central Bank is flawless and has been so since 1998 when the different currencies were linked, the exchange rate was fixed, and the Euro-project passed the point of no return. I think it’s funny, therefore, that in 2001 the Euro was launched as a physical coin. To have one currency replacing all the national currencies is pointless if software exchanges in a nanosecond. ATM systems already did faultlessly exchange cash since the early-1990ies. National banks and credit card companies introduced paying with plastic anytime, everywhere by the end of the 1990ies. Tourists from outside the Eurozone can pay anywhere without cash or can get Euros via an ATM. This could have been the same for the Deutsch Mark, the Guilder, the Franc, the Lire, the Peseta and all the other currencies. The inconvenience to have some coins left when going home is nothing compared to the inconvenience of a nation incapable to decide over its own rates and tariffs –to be no longer sovereign. Schengen’s EU free trade is not linked to the Euro: and non-Euro countries and companies don’t complain. For international business the Euro advantages of ten years ago rapidly disappeared –every country in the Eurozone calculates the same prices.
From the start the Euro was a solution for a non-existing problem. From the start it was clear that the Euro could not simultaneously serve five masters: North Europe, West Europe, France, East Europe and South Europe. Fourteen years ago it was clear that with internet and plastic the Euro as a coin was archaic by introduction; virtual money of the internet might go real –in 1999 the notion of a ‘bitcoin’ was hovering. Brussels’ bureaucrats and financial experts knew all this and more. Why than was the Euro introduced as it was? Why not a smart coin: a calculating exchange tool in the mainframe to leave the nations enough volatile space to breathe? The replacement of the national currencies by a uniform and pan- European Euro was economically very risky from the start: even now the Euro-zone seems satisfied with a very modest growth of 0,25% in Q1 2014, an unemployment percentage of 12, and accepts the possibility of deflation (ANP, 29/12/2013). Clearly, the Euro was not envisaged to boost the Eurozone economically per se. I think that the national currencies had to vanish to do away with the most prominent expression of national identity: the national coin.
The Euro was implemented in its EU context to symbolically, culturally and politically curb national identity and to end its looming shadow of nationalism.
According to most neutralizing nationalism is the happy end that sanctions any means. To invalidate nationalistic aspirations and nationalistic ideologies and to create and communicate an Ever Closer Union was the job assignment of EU’s leading bureaucrats after the Fall of the Wall in 1989 and has been doctrine ever since (Europa.eu). The notion of a ‘good’ EU curing Europe’s innate ‘bad’ is the creed carrying Brussels’ bureaucrats and national parliaments. On Saturday 9th November 2013 Mark Verheijen, Dutch MP Liberals (VVD) and chair of European Affairs, stated on National Radio (TROS Kamerbreed) that: “The real threat to a United States of Europe is not a right wing party such as Front National, but these so called Europhiles dressed in full body armour such as Guy Verhofstadt, chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament. He scares people into thinking that Brussels overpowers them –a fear which fatally undermines the EU.” Of course, Verheijen was rebuked by his own party and had to apologize for his “slip of the tongue.” Understanding the looming danger that a gaining anxiety over an ever closer United States of Europe might win the popular vote, Brussels charged a counter-attack. The Centre for European Studies and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (the think tank of Angela Merkel’s CDU) published Exposing the Demagogues, a 422 pages volume, which set out to chart Europe’s right-wing, nationalistic and populist parties who are:
“on the upswing, even despite some recent electoral setbacks. They have entered parliaments across Europe and some parties are even participating in national governments. What is remarkable is that right- wing and national populist parties have changed their mobilisation tactics. While predominantly xenophobic in the past, right-wing populists now mobilise against further European integration-and not without success. For all actors involved in EU politics, these developments should be taken seriously. As political think tanks either directly involved in EU politics or deeply committed to the idea of European integration, the Centre for European Studies (CES) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) analyse the reasons behind the advance of Europe’s right-wing populist parties. In addition, this volume discusses possible response strategies for the member parties of the European People’s Party in order to counter the progress of right-wing and national populists.” (Karsten Grabow and Florian Hartleb eds., Exposing the Demagogues. Right-wing and National Populist Parties in Europe (Berlin, 2013).
Curiously, only parties on the far right are considered a threat to EU’s unifying aspirations. EU-critical parties on the far left of the political spectrum, such as Die Linke in Germany or the Socialistische Partij in the Netherlands, apparently are harmless. The sixteen authors of chapters such as: Andreas M. Klein, The End of Solidarity? On the Development of Right-wing Populist Parties in Denmark and Sweden; and Paul Lucardie and Gerrit Voerman, Geert Wilders and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands: A Political Entrepreneur in the Polder, discern a pan-European and shared agenda. Exposing the Demagogues aims at assisting the accepted parties, which are of course pro-EU, in their fencing off the political deviants with threatening opinions such as: 1) being against or highly critical about the EU; 2) pro national sovereignty; 3) a stop on immigration from outside Europe and a wish for assimilation; 4) emphasizing Europe’s Christian roots; 5) criticizing Islam; 6) against Turkey’s EU membership; 7) a demand for far more direct democracy such as referenda; 8) a firm agenda against corruption; 9) a focus on the economic wants and needs of small and local businesses; 10) the welfare state’s structure and expenditure ought to address the needs and interests of the citizens of the particular state only.
In Europe’s mainstream politics, and one may define Merkel’s CDU and The Netherlands’ PvdA as such, to oppose Brussels’ irenic and inclusive ideology is now considered treacherous –a possibly nationalistic sentiment to eradicate root and branch.
José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the European Commission, calls any criticism about EU’s integration and immigration “narrow minded, chauvinistic and dangerous”; “It’s good for all to enjoy all of Europe’s freedom. The EU has to be open and it’s not about protectionism of the member states”; “to undermine this notion is to spread fear and disarray” (Elsevier, 16/1/2014). Politically, criticasters of Brussels’ Ever Closer Union are now ostracized and may fear for their careers, but intellectually their defence of national sovereignty is ridiculed too –finishing any scholarly ambition in the passing. Emeritus Professor Meindert Fennema, leading political scientist at the University of Amsterdam and author of Geert Wilders: tovenaarsleerling [sorcerer’s apprentice] (Amsterdam, 2010) hails the EU as a success because it has ended any nationalistic aspiration: “The EU was the geopolitical alternative for imperial aspirations […] to consider the European project a failure is historically seen hilarious. The opponents of the Euro are anarchic-nationalists. The Germans used to call this sentiment Kleinstaaterei” (Meindert Fennema, De Volkskrant 5/7/2013).
Politicians who promise the repossession of their states’ sovereignty sell a swindle, and they know it. Perhaps in twenty years from now we will able to figure out who was who in Brussels’ clique of the Ever Closer Union’s coup d’état, but for now it’s sufficiently to know that coup’s what, where, when, how, and why is proudly boasted on Europa.eu. The official website of the EU makes crystal clear that the ‘who-done-it’ question is as futile as resistance is: all Europe’s sinews run via Brussels and Brussels runs Europe. A British politician such as Nigel Farage (UKIP) might eloquently object, meanwhile he’s on Brussels’ payroll too. To consider that the European project can change track to go back is “historically seen hilarious”, indeed. The notion of national control is a passed station.
During my Summer seminars at Utrecht University only the Dutch students were surprised and objected to my thesis, but their frenetic Googling couldn’t prove me wrong. The Americans merely laughed: “Of course,” they said after Googling ‘Eurocrisis’, ‘Van Rompuy’, ‘Barroso’, ‘Budget Tsar’ and ‘Europa.eu’, “when states doctor together a superstructure with a final and overarching sovereignty with respect to the supporting nations’ Currency, Law, Bank, Budget, Tax, Economy, Industry, International Politics, Pension- and Welfare System, Private Banks, and so on, then this Frankenstein with its Euro, Bank, Budget, Court, Law, Police and penal system might become a super state on its own, which, consequently, influences, controls and acts on an individual level. Even more so when this Ever Closer Structure gains an all-overseeing and law making government including a Secretary of Foreign Affairs and a President, which houses in a real Capital with 7500 devoted bureaucrats, and soon will have its own Public Prosecutor and Military. To deny or underestimate this obvious shift of power, is dangerously silly.”
The regime change on the European continent is silly obvious and, historically seen, shouldn’t surprise anyone. The consequences, however, are dangerous and ought to be obvious too.