Europe should come clean about the future

21st February 2001

EUROPE is coming to a crossroads. There is a fundamental question to be answered. Is the EU to be a community of nations or a unitary state?

As an internationalist, I believe that we need European institutions, just as we need broader global institutions. Therefore I have always supported the EU.

But like many others I have been wary. Each time there is a treaty, now about once a year, the EU institutions get more powers and the nation state gets fewer.

The EU, or some part of it, wants Ireland to reduce the legal alcohol driving limit from 80ml/mg to 50ml/mg. I find this absolutely infuriating.

What has this got to do with Europe? Why should people in Greece or Sweden be concerned what the drink-drive limit in Ireland is?

It might seem a trivial point but at the time of the Maastrict Treaty, particularly after French voters came very close to rejecting it, we were told about the importance of ‘subsidiary’. This meant that only those subjects vital to Europe would be decided in Europe.

Well that’s been completely forgotten.

And there is no honesty about this process. Each small step is explained away as a necessary adjustment, with no larger implications.

Time after time we were told that the EU would not affect our neutrality. Steadily, and without a single clear and honest decision, neutrality has been whittled down to nothing while the real intention has become clear – to turn the EU into a military superpower.

I want to forever reject the notion that those people who reject this concept are ‘eurosceptic’.

I want to see a Europe of many communities, each running their own affairs as far as practical. I don’t want to see Europe being run by a few thousand bureaucrats and their friends in business and the transnational media while European citizens are so removed from the centre of power that they have no influence over the policies that are crucial to their everyday lives.

The sight of Charlie McCreevy being brought to task by the EU Commission shows us how far and how dangerous the integration process has become.

The Euro is a very good idea. It doesn’t follow that because each country has the same currency, they all must follow the same economic policy.

The Commission might be right by the letter of some obscure sub-paragraph of the law but in reality they are trying to use the Euro to centralise power when there is no case for it.

It’s just another example of how disingenuous this process is.

But maybe I shouldn’t worry.

Because every time this happens it brings a brittleness into the European project. At some point in the future the EU will face a shock to the system – like a state leaving the union or a war between two member states.

Then, because all the flexibility has been taken out of the structure, the EU will break up because of the pent up fissures that have been masked by this false unity. It’s asking for trouble.

There are other reasons why we should reject a single Europe. “Boston or Berlin?” asks Mary Harney.

Why not Beijing, Calcutta, Johannesburg or Rio? 85% of the globe’s inhabitants do not live in Europe or the US. Right at the moment, when a global community is a possibility, is not the time to throw in our lot with the current jet set.

The common foreign and security policy, and its soon-to-be military wing, is a huge mistake for Ireland. We have the opportunity to play a far more positive role in global affairs than a united Europe ever can.

But maybe that’s a slightly different issue. What I want to know is: what is the ideology that underpins the direction of the EU?

I think we should stop now until someone tells us where we are going. We can do this by rejecting the Nice Treaty.

In three or four months we will get the opportunity to vote on this treaty (unless Fianna Fail can think of some spurious reason why we shouldn’t, as in the PfP case).

We should take our courage in our hands and call a stop now and in the process do the people of Europe a huge favour.

As well as that…

Rounding up

WE’RE now just ten and a half months from the arrival of euro notes and coins. It’s going to be great craic.

Just under one third of the population are old enough to remember the last great currency upheaval – the arrival of decimalisation.

Arguably, this was a far more confusing process. All we are faced with now is new notes and shifted prices. Back then a whole new way of thinking was required.

One of the things that the old folks remember about the change is the alleged profiteering that took place during it. They believe that shopkeepers used the changeover to diddle their customers out of a few new pennies.

Officially this is denied. Apparently the inflation records show that nothing untoward happened over the period in question.

And officially nothing will happen this time.

But beware the rounding up process. The National Lottery ticket, for example, is now £1.50. That’s 1.85 euros or thereabouts.

Something tells me that 1.85 is not a nice round figure and that some attempt, perhaps not in the first month, will be made to make it nicely round.

So keep an eye out. There are a lot of coin machines that will only take one euro coins and they won’t be going out of operation.

Filed under: