Open Europe Blog

Has anything changed since the 15th century?

Die Welt’s Foreign Affairs Editor Clemens Wergin today has a blistering op-ed on the current state of affairs in Europe, entitled “Why EU mandarins refuse to learn”. Here are the key parts:

“The disastrous decisions regarding the future of Europe have been completely without consequences. Despite all the mistakes made the system appears to be incapable of adapting. The tanker remains on the wrong course.”

“It belongs to the biggest disappointments for convinced democrats that up until now, neither on the European level or on that of the nation states, there are no noteworthy efforts to clarify the causes of the euro crisis… The Bundestag has also not covered itself in glory. There has been no cross-examination of Hans Eichel and Gerhard Schröder why they agreed to let Greece join the euro despite the fact that already then there was a strong suspicion that the Greek figures were problematic.”

“Democracy is adaptive and able to correct itself. However this is out of the question in the worst crisis to hit Europe after the war. Here, the euroscepticism of many of the continent’s citizens is justified. They see that in this crisis that this Europe is not created on transparency, enlightenment and accountability. This creates the impression that they are dealing with a conspiracy of the elite, conspiracy against common sense.”

“EU elites are afraid of washing their dirty laundry for fear it will portray the European project in a bad light… It is part of the pride and ethos of a democratic polity to clarify failures and to draw consequences.”

“With the exception of the changes to the eurozone’s regulatory framework forced through by the Germans there have been no intentions of rethinking the fundamental assumptions of the EU… One gets the justifiable impression that nothing can divert EU mandarins from their current path and their pre-conceived opinions. The euro has not worked? Ok, let’s try an even higher dose of community building… In Brussels they mourn over bad poll numbers and believe that this is only down to national populists who have wrongly explained Europe.” 

“With Portugal, Spain and Greece there was once the quiet hope that good European governance would be diffused via a kind of osmosis process from the EU headquarters in Brussels into the periphery. That has worked only in part. In some respects, the abundant money from the EU’s structural funds has had the opposite effect to that which was intended. They have strengthened clientelistic structures and made people there believe their system somehow works. Ultimately, politicians always had enough money via Brussels assistance to distribute to cronies and voters. As long as money was available, many people profited from this system. Then along came the crisis which showed that it just does not work and carries with it significant competitive disadvantages.” 

“At present, the EU is obviously not an adaptive system. Nothing is solved, no one is held accountable. Responsibility for consequential mistakes is lost somewhere between the many capital cities and the corridors of Brussels. As long as this does not change, one should not be surprised by the bad reputation that this European undertaking enjoys among citizens.”

 Taking no prisoners. For German speakers, it’s worth reading the entire piece. 

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