The European Union, in pursuit of an austerity agenda supported only by the elite, has now effectively suspended democracy in two European countries. We have now, within the space of a week, entered the age of the Technocrat government (described brilliantly by one writer in The Times as ‘a form of civilian junta’). It is unclear when this new era will be behind us.
Yesterday’s Independent provided an excellent and very worrying analysis of the extent to which Europe’s technocratic elite are almost a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, providing yet more evidence – as if we needed more – that the austerity project is being carried out for the benefit of financial institutions. (“The [Goldman Sachs] Project is to create such a deep exchange of people and ideas and money that it is impossible to tell the difference between the public interest and the Goldman Sachs interest.” Read the full thing here: http://ind.pn/snfaQ7).
This is not simply an attack on democracy in the form of the suspension of the democratic process, but the destruction of any relationship between public opinion and government policy. The concerns of Europe’s citizenry – mass unemployment, public services, pensions etc. – will not be addressed until Europe’s financial interests start to share these worries, an unlikely contingency.
What I want to ask is: why is support for this institution still considered progressive? It doesn’t matter that many of the arguments against the European project are often cogent, reasonable and progressive; there remains a nagging feeling that its still all a bit too UKIP. The assumption remains that to be pro-Europe is to be a good progressive type with the correct opinions, whereas to oppose the EU makes you a reactionary Little Englander.
This makes little sense when you look at the politics of other European countries in which the assumptions are the exact opposite. Both Sarkozy and Merkel represent the main conservative parties in their respective countries. In Scandinavia, the tradition has always been protecting the institutions of social democracy from encroachment by Brussels. It is almost as if our politics concerning Europe are the wrong way around.
The case used to be made that even before we begin to argue about fishing quotas, butter mountains, sovereignty or the CAP, we had to concede that the European Union has been a bastion of peace and stability for the continent after the horrors of the Second World War. It is an argument with which I had much sympathy. But is it not now perfectly clear that the European elite, by bypassing democracy and condemning millions of European workers to years of austerity, threatens that very stability? The EU may once have protected peace in the continent – it is now its principal threat.