Ben Shahn Sideshow, county fair, central Ohio 1938
The only thing that would really go towards beginning to solve the problems with Greece is for Athens to NOT sign a deal. The short version of why that is so: it would leave the EU intact for longer. And the ECB.
Neither have any viable future, but as they go down, they can cause a lot of damage and pain. It’s mitigating that pain which should now be our priority no. 1, the pain that will result from the demise of Europe’s institutions. But we see precisely zero acknowledgment of this. Anywhere.
All that attention for whatever comes out of yesterday’s, and today’s, and tomorrow’s Troika vs Athens talks is very cute and nice and all, and putting on a ‘phantom summit’ is hilarious, but in reality it’s all based on a far too myopic picture.
Maybe that’s what you get when you’re only looking at life as exclusively consisting of things that can be either bought or sold, which seems to be the way the entire world press interprets the negotiations, the only way they have of interpreting anything. But this is not about money.
There’s more to life than money. That is to say, there’s a lot more going on than those talks and the deal-or-no-deal results that may or may not emanate from them. To wit: If the past 5 months or so have made anything clear, it’s that the eurozone has no future at all, and the EU as a whole has very little.
There is no trust left between Brussels and Greece, and therefore at the same time also not between Brussels and Rome, or Madrid. Italy and Spain could be the next to receive a five-month treatment like the one Greece has had, and the people there sense it. Even if their present governments do not.
As I said a few days ago :
None of these institutions, IMF, EU, ECB, has any raison d’être or any claim to fame unless there is explicit trust in what they represent. That trust is now gone, and it’s hard to see how it can ever be recovered.
Whatever happens to Greece going forward, that is perhaps the biggest gain its dramatic crisis will gift to the rest of Europe, and indeed the world. Which therefore owe it a debt of gratitude, and of solidarity.
You know, we’ve heard it said that politics is about seeing ahead. Well, that’s just too bad, because if there’s one thing European politicians, to a (wo)man, show us these days it’s that they lack the ability to see ahead, even just beyond the beam in their own eyes.
These people don’t see ahead, they project ahead. They are under the self-reinforcing collective illusion that the future will bring what they want it to bring. They honestly think they have the power to control history. And control all of Europe. Their vision of the future is one that they look good in.
And that can in turn only possibly bring about mayhem. Or actually, as the Greece crisis tells us, it already has. Something the leadership in Brussels, Paris and Berlin will flatly deny, because, as Paulo Coelho once said: “Collective madness is called sanity”.
The more power they seek to gather in Brussels, the harder the resistance against them, and against that power, will become. But that is not going to stop them. Just read the report issued last week by the “Five Presidents: Completing Europe’ Economic and Monetary Union.
Brussels sees, projects, solutions to its problems exclusively in more Brussels. But nobody in Europe wants more Brussels. Nobody wants to give up more sovereignty, people instead want back what has been given away. Still, the myopic Five Presidents come with this:
Economic Union: A new boost to convergence, jobs and growth
• Creation of a euro area system of Competitiveness Authorities;
• Strengthened implementation of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure;
• Greater focus on employment and social performance;
• Stronger coordination of economic policies within a revamped European Semester.
Financial Union: Complete the Banking Union
• Setting up a bridge financing mechanism for the Single Resolution Fund (SRF);
• Implementing concrete steps towards the common backstop to the SRF;
• Agreeing on a common Deposit Insurance Scheme;
• Improving the effectiveness of the instrument for direct bank recapitalisation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Launch the Capital Markets Union
• Reinforce the European Systemic Risk Board
Fiscal Union: A new advisory European Fiscal Board
• The board would provide a public and independent assessment, at European level, of how budgets – and their execution – perform against the economic objectives and recommendations set out in the EU fiscal framework. Its advice should feed into the decisions taken by the Commission in the context of the European Semester.
Those “Five Presidents” (isn’t it telling enough that that Brussels counts five of them?) are Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Mario Draghi and Martin Schulz. Nice little team you got there. Politico referred to them as the “Five Horsemen Of The Euro’s Future”.
• Juncker, president of the European Commission, was one of the main architects of the chaos we now see, in a long stint as president of the Eurogroup, 2005-2013. For causing the mayhem he was rewarded with his present seat. Not an unfamiliar chain of events in the musical chairs game for career politicians in Brussels.
• Donald Tusk, president of the EC council, has only one claim to fame, but that still gifted him with his present position: he is a vocally rabid anti-Putin orator. They love that in the EU these days.
• Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup who works hard to remain in that seat for another term, is an agricultural economist. Which is fine for telling us what strawberries should go for in winter, but not for defining policies with regards to for instance Greece. He’s so far outclassed by Varoufakis it can only lead to stupidity.
• Mario Draghi, governor of the ECB, is a Goldman Sachs man, and that’s all we need to know. He’s also one of the global class of central bankers who feel omnipotent after discovering the printing press. They will instead bankrupt their economies.
• Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, is just another career EU tool. After 20 years of loyal heel-licking and brown-nosing, he was rewarded with the seat he’s now in. Nobody should be allowed to be in Brussels any longer than perhaps 5 years at the most. It’s the worst of all possible worlds.
Summarized: it’s incredible and insane that such a set of clowns can actually present a paper about Europe’s future. They all come with a huge agenda, and their own future is far more important to them than doing what’s best for Europe. As the Greeks know better than anyone.
A structure such as the EU, we’ve said it before, selects for the exact wrong people. Power is accumulated is non-transparent and only pseudo-democratic ways, and the accumulation continues unabated if left unchecked. A certain class of wannabe ‘leaders’ feeds on just that.
And now the only conclusion is that the EU as an experiment has failed. There is nothing anyone can do anymore to repair it, there is nothing that can be done to undo the damage. Trust is broken, and will never return. Pushing one nation into utter misery, for everyone to see. is all it took.
The only remaining question now is how to dissolve the union. But that of course is not what those whose income and status depend on that union want to even contemplate, let alone discuss. So who’s going to do it? Who’s going to do it for them? People in the street, that’s who. They’re the only option there is. National governments are not willing to perform that function for them.
To do what everyone should be able to see, should be done. Because if you look hard enough, it’s awfully obvious that the euro is finished. Perhaps not the EU, but that can only continue to exist if the entire structure built around and on top of it is thrown out the window, and if European countries start again from scratch to organize their ‘channels’ of cooperation.
If they stick to the present structure, that can only lead to nasty ugliness, because they are tied together in a union that constraints their freedom and their cultures far more than people are comfortable with.
Something that could always only ever have become clear in less prosperous times. Well, we have those. And with them the gaping cracks in the political edifice. As any builder will tell you, cracks in a foundation are a death sentence.
And those times have made painfully obvious that monetary union without fiscal union, or even political union, can not work. It never could. But a political union would never be accepted. European countries want to remain sovereign.
Anything else is unacceptable. The only reason the euro was ever accepted is that hardly anyone understood at the time that it would imply handing over a substantial part of sovereign powers to increasingly dodgy bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg (well, Britain sort of understood).
In the Greek case, what we’ve seen is that the troika did not go into the negotiations on an equal partners basis. Although the EU is an equal partners union, that’s its very foundation. But it still could have worked, and the problems worked out, though only temporarily, if Brussels had resisted the temptation to turn the EU into a power game. Then again, a structure such as the EU exclusively selects for ‘leaders’ drawn to power games, removed from the everyday public scrutiny national leaders have.
The national leaders, it should be obvious, have also fallen into the power game trap. It is not hard to go out and play bully to a country like Greece, and kick it while it’s down. It’s not even hard to lure such a country, a small player when it comes to population and economy, into yet another trap: that of unpayable debts.
Certainly not if and when you can nominate technocrats to lead nations. Which Brussels has done in Greece, in Italy and in Spain. The problem with that is it’s a blind and unwinnable game in a set-up like the EU. Because the nations you attempt to force into submission, politically and economically, will always remain sovereign nations.
It’s a game you can’t win, because you can’t take over power forever in foreign sovereign nations. The EU has 29 of those. One day an election will take place in which the people will elect a government that seeks to protect the people’s personal and sovereign interests. And until you take away that option, you will never win the game, you will only cause a lot of misery. Again, in Greece this is duly noted.
We’re not entirely comfortable with the far right being the only side that thoroughly understands this, but we’ll take it; we have no choice. Besides, what happens on the left in Greece, Spain, and Portugal may yet balance this out. The crucial mistake the left makes is that so far it’s seeking to remain part of the Europe that Brussels is seeking to construct. Not a wise idea.
So we have Marine Le Pen who speaks most clearly about Europe, and who understands best of everyone in public office what is going on, or at least expresses it best:
Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner in France’s 2017 presidential election, says a Greek exit from the euro is inevitable. And if it’s up to her, France won’t be far behind. “We’ve won a few months’ respite but the problem will come back,” Le Pen said of Greece[..]. “Today we’re talking about Grexit, tomorrow it will be Brexit, and the day after tomorrow it will be Frexit.”
Le Pen, 46, is leading first-round presidential election polls in France, ahead of President Francois Hollande, ex-leader Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Manuel Valls. She’s the only one of the four calling for France to exit the euro, banking on people’s exasperation with the Greek crisis and Britain’s proposed referendum on the European Union to win over voters.
“I’ll be Madame Frexit if the European Union doesn’t give us back our monetary, legislative, territorial and budget sovereignty,” Le Pen said. She’s calling for an orderly breakup of the common currency, with France and Germany sitting around the table to dismantle the 15-year-old monetary union. [..]
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern about the level of support Le Pen will receive in 2017 and how that power might weigh on French economic policy. “She knows perfectly well that if France leaves, there’s no more euro,” Le Pen said. Although Le Pen hasn’t given a full, detailed plan of how she would lead her country out of the euro, she says she doesn’t believe France would be shut out of the borrowing market or rejected by investors as a result.
We shouldn’t need Le Pen to voice the obvious. But that no other ‘leader’, save for Nigel Farage, puts it into these crystal clear terms, does tell us a lot about all other European leaders. And unfortunately that includes Alexis Tsipras. Though we hold out some hope for him yet.
Here’s hoping he will not sign that deal, whichever it may be in the end, and thereby set in motion the disintegration of the unholy Union.