Search This Blog

Monday, 21 January 2013

David Cameron and his designated speech on Europe: my in-depth analysis.

Prime Minister David Cameron is now planning his long-anticipated speech on the relation between the United Kingdom and the European Union this Wednesday, January 23, 2013 in London.

I already wrote two articles on this speech:
The first focussed on the poor planning of his speech and on the fact that Cameron must please two parties with his speech that almost can’t be pleased both at the same time: the European government leaders and his Tory grassroots at home.

In the second article I stated that it would be a great idea for Cameron to just forget this speech. Something that he obviously didn’t do.

Nevertheless, as the Romans said: “Reddite ergo quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari”. You have to give Caesar (i.e. the emperor) what is his!

Most populists all over Europe and (I truly regret to say it) some of the European government leaders too (a.o. Finland, The Netherlands), talk almost exclusively about their pet topics, when it comes to Europe and the European Union: 
  • Who to blame for the euro-crisis in the PIIGS countries; 
  • How to help Greece without losing one penny on it; 
  • The lazy South of Europe versus the greedy North; 
  • Which country should be kicked out of the Euro-zone; 
  • The dangers of the open borders within the Schengen zone; 
  • The “invasion” of workers from the low-wage countries in Europe (Bulgaria, Romania etc.) and the consequences of this invasion for their own workers; 
  • Those bureaucrats in Brussels that mess everything up; 
  • The importance of keeping the European budget within the thresholds of the Stability and Growth Pact.
In this way, these interesting topics (in theory) became platitudes, uttered by politicians that didn’t listen to each other anymore, but just delivered their own punchlines and soundbites.

I have to admit that PM David Cameron is not such a person in these eyes. To the contrary, I think he is an erudite man, who is currently in a very awkward position.

Cameron has well-considered and outspoken opinions on the European Union. Opinions that I often agree with and sometimes not.

After my two, very critical articles about him, I owe David Cameron an in-depth analysis of his designated speech. Last weekend, Reuters printed a synopsis of it. Here are the pertinent snips of this article, combined with my comments:

Britain will drift out of the European Union and the European project will fail unless the bloc tackles three serious problems it faces, British Prime Minister David Cameron had planned to say in a postponed speech on Friday.

Ernst: Britain drifting out of the EU is a serious risk currently, but I don’t see how the EU could reverse this process easily.

One of the trademarks of this crisis is: people, focussing on their own country, home town and white pickett fence. As the United Kingdom is an island society, these inbound pointed feelings are often stronger than with people who live on the continent and meet their neighbours abroad very regularly.

The globalisation and neoliberalisation policy of the last few decades in the EU and beyond went much too quickly for many European citizens. In the years before the crisis there was already a movement towards more nationalism and regionalism (think about the anti-globalistic movement and the failed referendae about the European Constitution in France and The Netherlands).

Idealism about Europe and the EU was replaced with dissatisfaction about the democratic level of the EU and a feeling that “Europe” decided everything for the people, not with the people. 

This dissatisfaction has been force-fed by the many populistic politicians that came up like weeds on freshly ploughed turf and by spineless government leaders that didn’t want to take responsibility for their own decisions, but instead blamed Brussels for it.

Cameron had been planning to say that the EU faces three major challenges: the euro zone debt crisis, faltering competitiveness and declining public support, particularly in Britain.

Ernst: Concerning the declining public support, that is a logical and unfortunately yet unstoppable process (see the previous comment). The only thing that the EU can and must do is making all necessary moves to become more democratic and transparent on the shortest possible notice.

The EU should not be France, Germany and the rest anymore… There should be a really democratic foundation underneath it that entrusts the European citizens with real decisions on the future of the EU and not the ‘token’ democratic layer that is the current European Parliament: a “fake” institution without any real democratic power.

However, as the EU is like the proverbial twenty frogs in the wheel-barrow, this process will take lots of time. In the meantime the EU – i.e. the government leaders (!) – should manage the process of the declining support in their home-countries.

Everybody knows that the solution of the Euro-crisis takes way too long time. However, this remark by Cameron is a bit cheap. He knows that the Euro-zone consists of 17 countries with 17 independent governments who all have a right to veto: a democratic nightmare. On top of that, Cameron is very much responsible for politics having sometimes been out of control within the EU, since 2011.

Cameron is totally right about the faltering competitiveness.

One thing that I blame the European leaders for, is the single focus on the financial and fiscal aspects of the Euro-crisis and the almost total lack of attention for the economic aspects of this crisis. 
  • Greece and Spain are both post-touristical, post-agricultural and post-dictatorial economies that suffer from excess debt and a massive (corrupted) government apparatus. Besides that, both have huge unemployment problems and totally lack competitiveness within Europe in any kind of way.
  • France and Italy both have theoretically strong economies, with a vivid, innovative industry and a healthy financial system. Their problem is, however, that these economies have been faltering for decades and their politicians fail to find a solution for this longterm economic stand-still.
  • The Eastern-European and Baltic countries are still in a build-up phase in which they have to deal with:
    •        “post-communistic stress syndrome”;
    •        a generally low standard of living in combination with (often) an extremely rich top-layer of the population;
    •        widespread corruption;
    •        (in a number of cases) populistic, clientelistic and amateuristic local and central governments.
  • The other countries, like the BeNeLux countries (Belgium / Netherlands / Luxemburg) , Austria, the Scandinavian countries, The Germany and the UK are more or less doing fine. However,  they also struggle with the consequences of the current crisis and they are more and more reluctant to pay for the EU countries in need.

What currently happens is that countries are willing to help other countries when it (indirectly) benefits their own country and banking system, but refuse to pay when only the receiver benefits from it. 

The result is that the EU misses a general master-plan (“a Marshall plan”) to make all  European economies more competitive: it is more or less “everyone for themselves and God for us all”.

Cameron’s intentions here are good, but talk is cheap. He does not only have to show good will, but also well-executable ideas and good money too. That didn’t happen yet.

"If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit," Cameron had been due to say, according to extracts of his postponed speech released by his office.

"I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it."

But, he intended to say there was growing frustration about the widening gap between the EU and its 500 million citizens and that the status quo was untenable.

Ernst: Again, Cameron’s analysis is spot on, but he fails to shed light on his own role in these proceedings. Almost never, during the last three years, the government leaders made the impression that they really wanted to solve the Euro-crisis and the (fatal) flaws of the European Union. If this attitude doesn’t change among all European leaders AND Cameron, the latter might be right after all.

Harsh austerity measures imposed in many European states are making the problem worse, Cameron planned to say.

"There is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems," he was going to say.

Ernst: Regular readers of my blog know that I totally and utterly agree with him on this topic. However, his “buddy”, PM Mark Rutte of The Netherlands and German chancellor Angela Merkel have been the people most responsible for this doomed policy.

In this case, France had not enough influence on Merkel to stop this policy and Cameron’s performance in this matter also did not make a lasting impression.

To make things worse, there is the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe, Germany (i.e. the constitutional court).  This respectable institute is holding the German government and thus the whole European Union hostage with its unrealistic demands concerning the German approval of EU policy versus the German constitution. If every small and medium decision, concerning the EU, needs to be approved in advance by the German parliament, then the EU will become a lame duck. Talking about total lack of democracy…

"People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent."

Ernst: Cameron is true about this, but still I don’t agree with him. The United Kingdom and especially the London City has profited enormously from the EU free-trade zone too and they were always there to profit from the benefits, structure-funds and subsidies of the Union. Then you cannot chicken out when other countries are in need. The marital vows say: for better and for worse. Perhaps Cameron should remember this.

"There is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain," he was to have said.

"Europe's leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. And we have a duty to act on them," he was going to say.

Ernst: Amen… (see my previous comments)

All in all this is not a bad speech and there is either not much in it that needs to be argued with or that people could really be offended about. 

On the other hand, Cameron downplays his own role in the political chaos that seemed to emerge within the EU and the Euro-zone during the last years. 

It would have been a really strong speech if he would have looked at his own flaws too.

No comments:

Post a Comment