Alphen, the Netherlands. 2 March. Irish wit Oscar Wilde once said, “Before you call for one for one for the road, be sure you know the road”. Europe’s road has now been chosen. With today's signing of the European Fiscal Stability Treaty (or Treaty of Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union to give it the sexy title) who knows where the road will eventually lead. However, the inference is clear – fiscal union. Do the people of Europe have a say?
No. The extent of the changes being pushed through with this treaty go far beyond “fiscal consolidation as an essential condition of higher growth” as called for in a letter by the German and French duarchy. Without any reference to 'we' the European people Herman van Rompuy has been made EU president...again. Maybe it is my age but I do not recall ever having elected ‘Mr’ van Rompuy. As such he is no president of mine. Clearly, being Greek the Onion's euro-aristocracy have decided this democracy thing is not for them. Mr van Rompuy's 're-election' merely confirms that.
PR Meister David Cameron is of course twittering from the margins into which he cast himself by retreating from his principled position of 8 December. Cameron is fast becoming a parody of Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. She once famously said, “U-turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning”. Be it over Europe, health care reform, immigration and asylum policy, Scottish independence and a host of other things that matter to the British people Cameron’s mantra is ‘U-turn if you want to, if you are at all nasty to me I will turn with you’.
To cover his somewhat supine political back he has wrangled 11 other European leaders into signing a wholly meaningless ‘letter for growth’ which he wanted inserted into the final communique of today's summit. Far from demonstrating his influence the letter merely serves to highlight his impotence. Over dinner last night Cameron complained that his calls for a growth-friendly reduction in Omission bureaucracy were being ignored by the European Omission. Really, David?
The true test for Cameron will come when the Omission accelerates efforts to impose a financial services tax of which Britain will pay 80% to save a currency of which it is not part. There is no such thing as a free tax. The very growth which Cameron needs is now under severe threat from the ambitions of Germany, France and the Omission. All the PR-Meister has done has delayed the final battle and what a battle royal it will be. Will Cameron be King Arthur or King Harold (Battle of Hastings and all that)? Sadly, I suspect the latter. The last few months have revealed a sad truth about Cameron – more iron maybe than iron ‘lady’. He is no leader.
Cameron apart what really matters at this summit is what is not in the headlines – the quiet but inexorable retreat from democratic oversight implicit in this treaty. Not for the first time it is the Irish, long used to dealing with over-bearing power, who have revealed a dangerous sleight of political hand. Not far from Cork lies the Blarney Stone, a block of bluestone built into Blarney Castle. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with an ability to tell wonderful tales, to flatter and to coax the unwary. Perhaps the Irish should send the stone to Brussels where it clearly belongs.
The Irish are about to hold their third referendum in four years because of all Europe’s people they know blarney when they see it. Although the new treaty is not an EU-treaty per se the fact and nature of it means it will be seen as such. Sadly, this treaty makes it much easier for the euro-aristocracy to ignore the people of Europe. In the past fundamental changes to the way the EU did business required all member-states to ratify a treaty at national level either via parliamentary vote, popular referendum or both. However, this treaty establishes a precedent which gravely undermines this principle of unanimity and replaces it with a new kind of what is called qualified majority voting in Onion-speak. If there is one principle over which Cameron should have stood his ground this is it. He did not.
The problem for the euro-aristocracy has been the rather annoying tendency of Europe’s people to say 'no'. Back in 2008 the Irish people said ‘no’ to the Lisbon Treaty. They were then told to vote again until they got the answer right. The same happened back in 2005 when French and Dutch voters rejected the putative European Constitution, only for it to reappear in another form pushed through by the euro-aristocracy. To avoid 'we' the euro-peasantry inflicting another such inconvenience on the euro-aristocracy the new treaty now requires the approval of only 12 countries to enter into force.
Even if the Irish people say no it will be meaningless. The leadership of Germany will be confirmed and with it the unaccountable influence of the European Omission will be extended as the Onion takes one more step on the road to Imperium. Of course our Dear Leaders as per usual have omitted to tell we peasantry about all of this as it would be far too hard for us to understand. Rather, the suffocating shroud of the ‘Brussels omerta’ has once again been draped over what passes for democracy these days in Europe.
Why is this important? A close friend of mine was having dinner with a very senior official from the Omission in Washington recently. After a good glass of claret or two the latter explained that the European elite had always pushed forward its integrating project using what he called the “strategy of creative crisis”. By said gambit crises such as the Eurozone crisis are seen by the Omission as an opportunity. The trick, the official explained, was first to create panic and then to use that panic to push for more power for the Omission. Recognise it?
Oscar Wilde also said, “A man who does not think for himself, does not think at all”. Maybe, just maybe, a dose of Irish bravery might just wake up Europe’s slumbering masses to what is taking place in their name...and at their expense.
Erin go Bragh!