There’s an old saying, “while Nero fiddled, Rome burned.” It’s time to update that slightly – while the Eurocrats fiddled, Europe burned.
Certainly, the dream of an economically integrated Europe was noble – decreased threat of another world war because of friendly economic dealings, diminished barriers to trade and immigration, a stronger and more cohesive bargaining position with the nations of Europe speaking as one voice on international affairs. Unfortunately, this dream has become a nightmare.
My favorite member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan (check out one of his epic rants here!) jokes that the heaven imagined by European integrationists would have the cooks be French, the police be British, the mechanics be German, the lovers be Italian, and everything organized by the Swiss. Unfortunately, the hell that has been created in the EU is that the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.
Alas – in the name of “economic integration,” responsible economies like Germany have become inextricably linked to fiscally irresponsible nations such as Italy and Greece through the eurozone and the European Common Bank. Per the terms of the Growth and Stability Pact, member states’ deficits must not exceed 3 percent of GDP and their public debt must not exceed 60 percent of GDP. Obviously, both of these rules have been flagrantly ignored by a number of countries – not to mention that the eurozone as a whole has a debt percentage exceeding 60 percent.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the EU’s “economic integration” plans play out in increasingly burdensome regulations and ridiculous policies such as trying to dictate the acceptable size and shape of bananas – while continuing to restrict the free movement of people and the selective distribution of farm subsidies to wealthy farmers in core European nations (leaving farmers in newer nations like Poland out in the cold.) And let’s not even get into the wasteful spending of bureaucrats, what with traveling back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg and giant expense accounts without transparency.
It’s unsurprising – although unfortunate – that macro-level economic policy has fallen by the wayside. If (or perhaps, when) the European Union’s economy collapses, the global economy is certain to follow. After all, where do they expect the money to come from? China can’t pay everyone’s bills, and the problem nations require significant restructuring – which have been met with strident opposition from their citizens.
If only they had paid attention sooner, and followed their own rules.