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If the Belgians Can’t even govern themselves, doesn’t that forecast the fate of the rest of the EU?

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The European Union as Humpty Dumpty

If the Belgians Can’t even govern themselves, doesn’t that forecast the fate of the rest of the EU?

From the beginning, tiny Belgium has been at the very core of the European Union nee European Community nee European Economic Community nee European Coal Board.  It was one of the ‘Original Five’ countries which created the EU’s predecessor trade body in the early 50’s.

Over the decades, Belgium has changed quite a bit. 

With each new treaty came new laws, new regulations, and new bureaucracies.  Eventually a strange 3-headed monster appeared, being part democratic — the European Parliament, and part bureaucratic:  the unelected Executive branch, run by a committee and which is called the European Commission. 

Brussels grew from a tiny city to a sprawling metropolis that looks much like Washington, D.C., complete with giant office buildings bulging with outside consultants and lobbyists. It seems strangely familiar.

Belgium in some ways reflects internally what a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic, multi-government beast the EU has become.  Charged originally with the sole task of lowering certain commodity tariffs among its members, the original European adventure in free trade has morphed into a political union with its own currency, and soon, its own foreign policy and its own foreign embassies.  There will be a new EU President too.

This is scheduled to happen by 2009 as soon as the new ‘non-constitution’ constitutional treaty takes effect. 

So far, none of the 27 EU countries have decided to call a referendum to allow their citizens to vote on creating this new superstate.  Only Ireland will submit the 2007 ‘Lisbon Treaty’ to a popular vote. But only because its own constitution requires it.

It’s just as well.  Polls in half a dozen countries, especially including the United Kingdom, show that the non-constitution constitutional treaty would be voted down handily. 

Democratic voting rights issues and minority groups scrabbling in Belgium spells Trouble at the heart of the EU — which at its heart is an essentially non-democratic top-down commissar-structured organization.  Over the years its legitimacy has continued to drop.  Once again — just last week — the 13th annual audit of the EU books by the European Audit Court has flunked a passing grade.  Lots of money has been misplaced by the raging EU bureaucracy.

It seems like Belgium has been rather successfully operating for the past 6 months without a central government for itself.  The French and Flemish parts of the country aren’t speaking to each other.  And now the pressure is increasing on them to split up into two separate new nation states.  While that is unlikely at this point, once again the observation that all political power is ultimately local may be proven true.

If the EU loses its momentum to push to "ever closer union", it’s possible that some of the nation states will start spinning off to the outer edges — a la centrifugal force at work. 

And at the edge of the EU is the EFTA: the European Free Trade Area.  EFTA, as it turns out, actually works quite well.  It has stayed true to its original design as a free trade area.  And it currently consists of real rich countries like Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Lichtenstein.  It has all the same free trade and open borders benefits between its members and the EU — but is far more independent of Brussels — and the EU central bank and Euro.

So why would anyone want to be in the "new improved" EU hankering to open up its own foreign embassies and apply its ever-expanding veto over formerly sovereign member nations? 

If you scan the crystal ball for a realistic EU future, could you see, for example, a German general in charge of the French and/or English nuclear arsenals?  Or a German banker in charge of all financial decisions of the now-subservient nation states?  Remember, the European Central Bank is located in Frankfurt, not Paris or London. 

Then there is the possibility of a single foreign minister controlling all EU foreign policy.  From Paris, of course.

Back in the British Isles, the Scot-controlled Labor Party unleashed a slowly-growing monster in their decade in power in Westminster.  As a result, the pressure is mounting north of the English border for Scotland to succeed from the UK and apply under EU rules to be admitted as a new independent country.  You can count on this happening within the next 10 years — maybe less.  (You’ve heard it here first). 

They will then join the United Nations with their own seat, and create their own foreign ministry and military.  But how will England and Scotland divvy up the military bases in Scotland?  This matter — along with the “Scottish” oil will be relatively easily resolved. England (the UK) will retain its nuclear capability and Security Council seat.  In return, England will agree not to veto Scotland’s entry into the EU.

One island over, Northern Ireland — after the next census in 2011 — will likely swing to majority Catholic population (they have more babies than Protestants) — and most likely will vote to merge with the now wealthier (!) Eire. (Thanks to truckloads of German monies).

The rump UK, consisting of England and Wales will immediately be dominated by the Conservatives — who will no longer be forced to subsidize the Scots from south of the border as they’ve been doing for decades now.

While Scotland and N. Ireland will immediately adopt the Euro, England will stay with the Pound — and most likely vote to remove itself from the EU and rejoin the EFTA.

If this happens, count on at least five other EU countries also leaving the EU and joining EFTA.  These include several of the Baltic states, several other Eastern European states – who have discovered that Brussels — without the German money — is beginning to look a lot like their former task masters in Moscow.  Turkey would successfully join the EFTA, not the EU.

So any weakening in the EU fabric — however slight — will be perceived by the Brussels as a threat to the group unity and a sign to those at the edges (like the UK) that there can be a break-up process which would provide a better more democratic method of home governance and group hugs. 

When the threat to the EU polity comes from Brussels, the near city-state at the very heart of the EU, this is indeed a big deal in the power brokers and bureaucrats offices throughout the EU (and who work mostly in Brussels itself).

Picture Washington, D.C. deciding that it will become an independent state and not a vassal of the U.S.  federal government.  Impossible?  Perhaps.  But only because the US constitution is real: the European Union’s constitution-cum-treaty lacks that one essential characteristic.

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Mr. Easton teaches University economics and is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. He is rosy about the long-term future: ‚??The glass isn‚??t half full, it‚??s overflowing!‚?Ě

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