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Hannan offers a few relatively familiar examples of just how undemocratic the EU is. To begin with, the EU Commission, which wields formidable executive and legislative power, is unelected. The French and Dutch votes against the European Constitution were “simply disregarded”; when the Danes rejected the Maastricht Treaty, and the Irish nixed the Nice and Lisbon treaties, they “were told to go away and try again.” But not only is the EU undemocratic; it also subverts its members’ democracies. Vaclav Klaus in the Czech Republic, Bertie Ahern in Ireland, George Papandreou in Greece, and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy: in various ways, as Hannan details, all these elected heads of government “got on the wrong side of the EU’s hideous strength” and were punished for it. As of 2011, Hannan notes, “[a]pparatchiks in Brussels now ruled direly through apparatchiks in Athens and Rome. The voters and their tribunes were cut out altogether. There was no longer any pretense.”
In his New York Times piece, Garton Ash offered what he described as a “new case for European unification.” That case was as follows: in the years to come, the economies of more and more countries around the world will dwarf even the largest national economies of Europe, so that if Europeans wish “to preserve the remarkable combination of prosperity, peace, relative social security and quality of life that they have achieved over the last 60 years, they need the scale that only the European Union can provide.” He repeats this argument in Foreign Affairs. Hannan takes the opposite view, pointing out that centuries ago, when one would have expected China to dominate the world economy, “Europe’s disunity turned out to be its strength.” While a united China remained stuck in its ways and got bogged down in bureaucracy, Europe’s division into a multitude of duchies, principalities, confederacies, and so on sparked competition, innovation, and enterprise – as a result of which Europe became the planet’s powerhouse. The EU, Hannan wryly observes, is determined to be a united entity taking orders from Brussels “at the very moment that the great nations of Asia have discovered the virtues of devolution and decentralisation.”
I thought I knew quite a bit about the EU, but Hannan taught me a thing or two. Did you know its employees – in other words, those unelected bureaucrats who decide how to spend the tax money forwarded to Brussels from its member states – are actually exempt from paying tax in their own countries? And how about this scam: “Virtually every field of activity has some approved, EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration: the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby, the European Cyclists’ Federation. These are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds. They are, in most cases, creatures of the European Commission, wholly dependent on Brussels for their existence.” In other words, the EU lines their pockets, and in turn they speak up for the EU – supposedly on behalf of journalists, women, cyclists, whatever. And on and on it goes: “The Commission pays Friends of the Earth to urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change. It pays the WWF to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters. It pays the European Trade Uunion Congress to demand more Brussels employment laws.” Thus does the EU arrogate more and more power to itself, all the while claiming that it’s doing so at the behest of the people.
Hannan paints a vivid picture of EU power. But “the real power of the EU,” he underscores, “is to be found in the wider corps of interested parties: the businesses which are invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques from the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy]; the local councils with their EU departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and professional association; and…the charities and NGOs which, once they reach a certain size, almost always begin a financial relationship with the EU.” Then there are the Brussels politicos themselves. Hannan recalls a February 2012 debate in which he told a Greek member of the European Parliament that “Greece wouldn’t begin to recover until it decoupled, defaulted and devalued.” His opponent was horrified: “But this wasn’t about the economics, he spluttered. It was about the European ideal.” For Greece to leave the EU “would be a calamity for Greece and for Europe!” No, Hannan found himself thinking: “it would be a calamity for you personally.” Bingo.
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