Friday, 24 October 2014

Yes it’s the Oliver syndrome…more!

The UK has been told it must pay an extra £1.7bn (2.1bn euros) towards the European Union's budget because the economy has performed better than expected in recent years. The additional payment was requested after the European Commission's statistics agency, Eurostat, reviewed the economic performances of member states since 1995, and readjusted the contributions made by each state over the last four years - based on their pace of growth.   Patrizio Fiorilli, a European Commission spokesman, said the additional request for funds ‘reflects an increase in wealth…Just as in Britain you pay more to the Inland Revenue if your earnings go up’.  It is hardly surprising that a government source said the budget demand was ‘not acceptable’.

Whether the request for additional funds is within EU rules or not, it is a politically inept decision by the Commission.  With the growing intensity of the debate in Britain over whether it should remain in the EU, the resurgence of support for UKIP and the forthcoming Rochester by-election, the timing of this announcement could not be worse.  It gives the impression that the EU bureaucracy has no sense of what is politically expedient  and inexpedient but is only concerned with following the rules come what may.  It has its agenda and seems unwilling or unable to step outside its own tunnel vision to appreciate that this vision is not acceptable to many people…it’s a closer union at all costs.  Now some may see this as politically and ideologically inspired…a vision of a more prosperous and politically united European state rather than the fragmented and aggressive nationalism that existed prior to 1945…others take a different view..the EU as a top-down, bureaucratically-centred, undemocratic, technocracy trying to imposed a uniformity on the diverse and ‘un-uniform’ nations of Europe.

The problem with the rule-oriented, treaty-based conception of the EU is that rules and treaties are difficult to change quickly…this requires, as it should, the agreement of all the member states.  So what happens when some aspect of these rules and treaties is not working for member states?  Well often little in the short-term as making changes to rules and treaties is a long, frequently drawn-out process.  Once something has been enshrined in rules or treaties—whether good or bad—the EU constitutional structures make it very difficult to reverse them even if they are clearly not in the interests of member states.  The EU has become a leviathan, if not quite yet in the Hobbesian mode.  Its unidirectional approach to development seems premised on the notion of more not less interference in the affairs of nation states coupled with an unwillingness to recognise that alternative ways of developing Europe have any real validity at all.      

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