events archive

It’s Christmas in Euroland

7:00pm, Thursday 15 December 2011, Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ

‘No one should take it for granted that there will be peace and affluence in Europe in the next half century’, Angela Merkel

“Only those Europeans in their late eighties will have any idea about how bad it could get”, EU official

“Heads of government are transforming the European project into its opposite: the first democratically legalised supranational community will be transformed into an effective arrangement that results in non-transparent post-democratic domination”, Jürgen Habermas

As 2011 comes to an end, what was unthinkable at its start is now on all our lips: member states could leave and the Euro could fail. The dream of European unity – to consign the prospect of war to the bloody annals of the early twentieth century – is no longer assured.

The fiction that Greece could pay back its debts through austerity is in shreds: Papandreou’s refusal to let his electorate silently follow the Irish into impoverishment and ignominy saw the swift imposition of a ‘national unity government’ at the behest of the EU, ECB and IMF troika. Within days the party was finally over for Berlusconi as Italy’s debts, that of the EU’s fourth-largest population and third-largest Eurozone economy, were declared unsustainable and another unelected technocracy imposed on its citizens.

It has long been known that the EU project was insulated from public accountability in the widest sense of the public: from both national electorates and national business interests. What is much clearer to many now is the degree to which – as a Franco-German project – it operates in their interests and not all of Europe’s. Yet with France’s need to protect an increasingly uncompetitive economy coming into conflict with a German desire to avoid 1920s-style inflation (but not at the cost of its trade surplus), even this project seems doomed. Might France be the next to go?

With Sarkozy and Merkel trying to square these circles, the interests of other countries are an increasing irritation. Europe is becoming a matter of winners and losers again with the language of force and domination (albeit economic) back on the political table. The option routinely trotted out is ‘unite or perish’: with the rise of populist, nationalist parties in Finland, Holland and Hungary seemingly showing the risks of a European future in which the public are allowed to have their say.

At a special Institute of Ideas Christmas Lecture, lecturers will reflect on the above, what has brought us to this point and what next year may hold for us. Are the fears of a coming depression or a populist backlash real or being stoked up to make sure the Eurocrats get their way? Is democracy at a national level really an obstacle to our only salvation: forced Euro-integration? Or is it more freedom and more democracy, demands for referenda, that we should put our faith in, even if it might risk the breakup of the Eurozone? Might it be Europe’s only chance of avoiding a future in which nobody is pro-European?

SPEAKER(S)

Phil Mullan: economist; business transformation director, Easynet Global Services; author, The Imaginary Time Bomb

Simon Nixon: European editor, Wall Street Journal’s Heard on the Street column; author, The Credit Crunch: how safe is your money?

Mark Seddon: writer and broadcaster; author, Standing for Something: life in the awkward squad

READINGS

In defence of Europe’s technocrats, Philip Oltermann, Guardian, 16 November 2011
Outside Britain, experts have often played a positive role in politics. Is it time we stopped knocking the technocrats?

Bruno Waterfield on the EU crisis, Bruno Waterfield, spiked, 10 November 2011
Amid the uncertainty created by Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis, there is one thing we can be absolutely sure of: the Greeks won’t be getting to vote on the European Union’s ‘fiscal discipline’, the austerity medicine that is being rammed down their necks - and nor will anyone else. For the first time in the history of the EU, even governments that stand in the way of EU diktats have been toppled.

A new Europe must be built on the ruins of the old, Simon Jenkins, Guardian, 10 November 2011
Only a redrafted constitution will revive the EU: there could be no worse end to this saga than imposition of German ‘discipline’

Greece’s austerity junta: Regime of the Technocrats, Brendan O’Neill, spiked, 10 November 2011
Brendan O’Neill reports from Athens on how the EU is using financial blackmail to force cash-strapped Greece to suspend democratic politics.

Merkel and Sarkozy Have Lost Credibility, Simon Nixon, Wall Street Journal, 7 November 2011
All that can end Europe’s debt crisis now is evidence that debt burdens are actually falling. Instead, the evidence suggests the euro-zone economy is disappearing down a sink-hole

Beware of Greeks bearing votes!, Mick Hume, spiked, 3 November 2011
The Euro-elites’ horror at the proposal to hold a Greek referendum on the bailout shows that Europe is at risk of democratic bankruptcy.

Jürgen Habermas: democracy is at stake, Jürgen Habermas, presseurop, 27 October 2011
The Eurozone crisis has raised calls for greater political integration of the EU. However, sociologist Jürgen Habermas argues that the tactics adopted by European leaders have sidelined what should be their main priority: the well-being of citizens, established within a democratic framework.

La mort de l’Europe, Angus Kennedy, spiked, August 2011
David Marquand wants to sound an alarm about the state of the EU, but his hostility to the ideals of the West only serves to express the cancer at the heart of the European project.

Phil Mullan on the Eurozone crisis, Phil Mullan, spiked, 14 July 2011
The crisis in the Eurozone has been lurching from one country to another over the past year or so. After bailouts for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and with a second bailout for Greece in the offing, the financial markets this week turned their attention to Italy, a far larger economy than those previously affected. Spain, another country struggling to pay its way, has also been hit by austerity measures and political turmoil. But while it is easy to get caught up in the specifics of each new stage of the crisis, it is worth taking a step back to understand what is going on and the possibilities for the future.

A referendum on Europe is long overdue, Mark Seddon, Daily Telegraph, 15 March 2011
Where’s the problem in giving the British public a say in our membership of the EU?