The fact that the European Union is facing an existential crisis is not an original insight. The crisis has been evident at least since the Brexit vote of 23 June 2016. Up to then, it had been almost unimaginable that the second largest European economy might quit. The vote was a tremendous affront to the elites.
I suggest that this crisis had long been foreseeable, that it is rooted in a wrong decision of 1991 and that by 2008 at the latest it could be seen clearly that European integration had taken a path leading to a dead end.
Up to the German reunification in 1990, Customs Union, Economic Community and finally the internal market characterised the main nucleus of European cooperation. Until then, integration was an economic success story. When it became clear that the Soviet Union and the United States would agree to the reunification of Germany, alarm bells started ringing in London, Paris and Rome. The German potential was to be limited and kept under control – and, mainly from a French perspective, the Maastricht Treaty agreed upon in December 1991 served exactly this purpose, as by this a monetary union was established and with it the disempowerment of the leading European monetary authority, namely the Deutsche Bundesbank. I was convinced already at that time that the monetary union would not work, and that it would serve to divide Europe rather than to unify it. It took until about 2008 for this realistic assessment to be proved correct. With the Maastricht Treaty, the EU had undertaken too much for the first time. It has meanwhile exceeded the optimum of its usefulness.
And then came the attempt at accelerating the pace with a European Constitution. The French and the Dutch rejected the Constitutional Treaty by public votes in 2005. By then at the latest, the elites should have been aware that the European peoples would not allow more centralization and less self-determination to be enforced upon them.
The elites did not by any chance respond to this by a change of thinking, no, they finagled the constitutional treaty – with a few cuts and changes – into the new Lisbon Treaty. When the Irish rejected even this by in a referendum in the summer of 2008, they had to repeat the ballot one year later – this time “correctly” – and the Treaty finally became effective on 1 December 2009. Since then it forms the legal basis of the EU with its 28 members.
Now the question arises, where to find the design flaws and deficiencies responsible for today’s existential crisis of the Union. And this quite apart from the well-known fact that the EU not only has a democratic deficit, but as well disregards democratic principles such as the separation of powers, one of the great achievements of European legal history.
First, the hybrid construction of this EU must be mentioned. A community of this sort can theoretically work either as a confederation respecting the sovereignty of its members, or as a federal state establishing a superordinated European sovereignty. The latter not only in the French book meant taking it too far. In reality, the Europeans – with the exception of the Germans – are still cherishing the principle of the nation-state. Their vision and their feelings are national. According to the latest surveys, only 36 per cent of the French regard the EU as positive, while in Germany there are only 29 per cent who see it this way. In other words, resistance to centralisation and to the usurpation of power is fast becoming the growing new European consciousness. This is particularly pronounced in and Middle-Eastern Europe, which is reluctant to exchange Soviet hegemony of the past with a new one from Brussels. The EU elites’ idea was to pacify the Hungarians, Czechs and Poles by means of enormous net payments. But it became apparent that while they like to take the money, yet they cannot be bought.
The EU’s present condition can be characterised by saying that the national sovereignty of the members has been to a large extent vaporised, without a European sovereignty having taken their place. The nations are defending themselves against the basically Marxist determinism of the Lisbon Treaty, or more precisely against the formula of the “ever closer union”.
Secondly, for large political entities nothing is more dangerous than delegitimation. According to Gaetano Mosca, the Italian legal scholar, any “ruling class”, in our case the EU elite, requires a political formula to justify the existing power relations. If the formula becomes outdated, if it is no longer convincing, then the power relationships begin to totter. For a long time people believed and respected the formula according to which European integration guarantees peace, although in doing so they confused cause and effect. Because the EEC and later the EC did not guarantee peace in Europe, it was the other way round: They were only possible and successful because peace prevailed on the continent.
Quite apart from this, the EU was not able to prevent the wars in the Balkans, Germany became the logistical hub for the US wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, the EU financed the eastern expansion of NATO right up to the borders of the former Soviet Union, and the EU also allowed itself to be instrumentalised for the aims of US geopolitics, especially in the case of Ukraine. It is in any case more than strange that more than 500 million Europeans let 320 million Americans defend them against 140 million Russians. Pride in Europe cannot develop like this.
To complete this admittedly incomplete list: In the form of the euro, the EU has thirdly placed a bomb in its own midst. However exiting, the story of how the euro could have slipped down into its current misery must be left out at this point. I will only observe here that the euro will not last as it is now against the backdrop of the current framework conditions. At some point the Brexit will be followed by the first euro-exit. Just think of the fact that the Italian economy has grown at all since the start of monetary union in 1999, i.e. for 17 years. The explanation is simple: In the 17 years before 1999, the lira was devalued by a total of 61 per cent, and so Italy remained competitive. But also if you add everything together, the euro has had a history of failure. Since 1999, the economy has not grown as little any-where in the world as it has in the euro zone. Incidentally, the proportion of German exports to this currency area has also dropped significantly, from 44 per cent in 1999 to lately 35 per cent.
What will happen? Either the monetary union will prescribe itself an economic and financial government with any sort whatsoever of debt communitarisation including the establishment of a common security system for bank deposits – or its weaker members will not bear up and hang on; they will capitulate and resign, because their domestic political pressure is becoming too great. Since the outbreak of the 2010 euro crisis, Euroland is being held together by the rescue packages and especially by the non-contractual policy of the ECB. This is not a permanent solution, as the ECB has only bought politics some time. It depends on Germany whether a complete debt community will evolve. This would mean nothing less than an unimaginable redistribution and a radical leveling of German prosperity and also of the financial viability still enjoyed by the Federal Republic today. I doubt that the Merkel government or any successor government can enforce this.
As regards the EU as a whole, it will initially survive even the Brexit. The British will retain access to the common market, not least because the rest of the EU exports more to Britain than vice versa, and because especially the German export economy does not feel any desire to cut off its own nose to spite its face. I also believe, and this will surprise you, that Brussels will sacrifice the hitherto sacred principle of free movement of people, because London will insist on this concession. This will increase the chances for Switzerland to get a similar deal.
My conclusion is that the EU will not disappear, but only be eroded, in the foreseeable future. A dictator is easy to topple, but a super-bureaucracy with its acquis communautaire, which by now counts no fewer than 95,000 pages, clings stubbornly to life. Most likely is a fairly long period of infirmity. The European Union has certainly passed its peak. •
* Dr phil Bruno Bandulet is a German publicist and journalist with decades of political experience. Already his dissertation in 1970, “Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland zwischen den USA, der Sowjetunion und Frankreich. Alternativen der deutschen Aussenpolitik von 1952 bis 1963“ (The Federal Republic of Germany between the United States, the Soviet Union and France. Alternatives of German foreign policy from 1952 to 1963) was devoted to a contemporary historical political issue. Bruno Bandulet was speaker for German politics and Ostpolitik in the party headquarters of the CSU in Bavaria, managing editor at the German daily “Die Welt” and member of the editorial Quick magazine. From 1979 to 2013, he was editor of the financial service Gold & Money Intelligence, since 1995 of the background service Deutschlandbrief, which appears as a column in the magazin eigentümlich frei since 2009. Bruno Bandulet has written numerous books about historical and political topics, among others: “Tatort Brüssel” (Site of crime Brussels) (1999), “Die letzten Jahre des Euro” (The last years of the Euro) (2010), “Als Deutschland Grossmacht war. Ein Bericht über das Kariserreich, seine Feinde und die Entfesselung des Ersten Weltkriegs“ (When Germany was a great power. A report on the Empire’s enemies and the unleashing of the First World War) (2014) and newly “Beuteland. Die systematische Plünderung Deutschlands seit 1945“ (Looted Country. The systematic looting of Germany since 1945) (2016). The article published here is the presentation, held by Bruno Bandulet on 2 September 2016 at the September talks of the European Working Group “Mut zur Ethik“.
(Translation Current Concerns)
“The European Court of Justice deforms the right instead of protecting it […]. Ongoing since 2010, the survival of the euro has been based on breaches of the law. The separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary, one of the great achievements of the European civilisation, is being undermined. Concerning democracy, the EU would run into problems – even while assuming best intentions – because democracy is all the more difficult to realise the larger a state or a state-like entity becomes. The barely concealed aversion of the leading EU circles against Switzerland is no coincidence: Just the right of the Swiss to have the final say in public votes (an attribute of true democracy) is enough to render an EU membership impossible. For European centralism could not work if only one member had the right to reject laws passed in Brussels”. (Bruno Bandulet. Beuteland. Die systematische Plünderung Deutschlands seit 1945, 2016, S. 206) (Looted Country, The systematic looting of Germany since 1945)
(Translation Current Concerns)
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