April 2, 2005


I'm just another interested observer of the European Union and the political and economic goings on in Europe in general, and I'm alternately amused and mortified by what I see. Two articles I read this week dovetail nicely to reveal the anti-democratic and anti-free market nature of the EU, and to show how that has been both by design and by evolution.

The first was a piece from the Telegraph on the way that Chirac and Schroeder have finally squashed the EU's "services directive", an entirely sensible policy that would have established a free market for fees and rates for all manner of professional services across the entire 25-nation European Union. In the end, they proved that they favor any policy that is good for the EU as a whole, as long as it first serves the interests of France and Germany, or more specifically, the short term political interests of Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder:

The services directive, published in January 2004, was designed to help European companies win business in other EU countries by promoting lighter regulation and more competition, without let or hindrance by local professional associations or trade unions. The document aims to make good the promise of the EU's 1957 founding treaty: a "common market" for services as well as goods.

Today, services count for 70 per cent of European jobs and four out of every five new jobs. The EU's future depends on a dynamic service sector. But Europe is thick with cobwebs that restrict competition across borders. Copenhagen Economics, a research group, reckons the directive would create 600,000 jobs across the EU's 25 countries. But these would come at the expense of Old Europe.

Having fended off competition for five decades, Germany and France are now fighting to destroy it altogether. In the space of 14 months, the services directive has already been watered down 23 times, each waiver pandering to the inefficiencies of various countries. But even its remaining few teeth are too sharp for France or Germany. (via RCP)

Of course they're not the only ones who know what needs to be done, but can't summon the political will to do it. We have our own problems with out-of-control entitlements and all. But I get a kick out of the periodic spectacle of the French government tiptoeing up to the suggestion that just maybe the huge public sector might want to consider increasing the arduous 35-hour work week as one way to address the inefficiencies of the system and to help defuse the economic time bomb that is their "social model". They are inevitably answered by a nationwide hissy-fit shutdown of the public works and services sectors, to which the government always caves and begins anew to negotiate with the tantrum-throwers. As the Telegraph article put it:

The French are a lost tribe these days: they bemoan the decline of their country, yet take to the streets the moment any leader shows the gumption to do something about it.

The Telegraph bemoans the fact that Tony Blair and the UK have signed on to the trashing of the services directive in deference to Europe's "social model", which they refer to as "a euphemism for sclerotic economies, job-destroying labour regulations and enterprise-stifling welfare provisions". All of which is being imposed from above by unaccountable bureaucrats, who are just smarter and wiser than the common folks, thank you. No need to vote on it. Just move along.

It's the EUSSR.

In David Pryce-Jones' new article in National Review (not available online without a subscription to NR Digital) he cites the recent book "The Great Deception", by Christopher Booker and Richard North on the ways in which the EU mirrors the former Soviet state, its structure and its goals:

The last building blocks of the European Union are being set in place, and a weird unfathomable process it is too. A dozen of the 25 countries involved are to hold referendums to ratify the continent-wide constitution already approved by their leaders; the others are ramming the issue through by executive or legislative means. The majority of European governments, in other words, including the all-important German government, have found some way of avoiding the test of public opinion in order to consummate the federal empire now in full view...

...The consistent ambition of the Soviets, and the many Communist parties subservient to them, and fellow-traveling Socialists as well, was to weaken the American presence, and if possible, remove it altogether from the continent. One way or another, the EU has taken up where the Soviets left off, and is proving more successful: Look at the doubtful future of NATO, the growing European army, the relocation of American troops and bases out of Germany, Franco-German efforts to stymie the United States over Iraq, the lifting of the arms embargo on China, uncritical sponsorship of the PLO, and much else besides...

The other work cited by Pryce-Jones that describes what he calls "the structural deception of the EU project", is Vladimir Bukovsky's pamphlet, "EUSSR: The Soviet Roots of European Integration". After studying the personal papers of Mikhail Gorbackev in the Soviet archives, Bukovsky and his co-author Pavel Stroilov document the way the leaders of Western Europe paraded to Moscow and fawned over him;

...As befitted the despot in the Kremlin, Gorbachev was in the habit of receiving visitors from Western Europe, ministers and presidents in their own countries but all of them duly humble to be allowed to approach so close to absolute power. One and all, these visitors flattered Gorbachev. The Left everywhere, they agreed, was in crisis, because the experiment to build socialism had evidently failed and was in need of resuscitation...

Pryce-Jones concludes with these chilling thoughts:

Booker and North are right that the antecedents of the EU long predate Gorbachev, but Bukovsky and Stroilov are also right that the EU is a socialist construct, a statist collectivity comparable to the old USSR, complete with nomenklatura and an ideology aimed against the United States, on all of which the population at large has to be carefully protected from giving its true opinion.

Far-sightedly Bukovsky once predicted the demise of the Soviet Union. Seven of the 24 European commissioners today are former Communist apparatchiks, and in Bukovsky’s warning, “it remains to be seen what kind of Gulag the EU will create.” But the fate of all utopias is the same, he concludes, and “the EU will collapse very much like its prototype,” even though “in doing so it will bury us all under the rubble.” Still, he evidently hopes to activate public opinion in order to prevent the worst. Folly repeats itself but cannot crush the dissident spirit.

UPDATE 4/3: The Pryce-Jones piece is available online after all, at the Benador Associates website.

Posted by dan at April 2, 2005 1:04 PM