Gwynne Dyer: EU crisis summit shows how deluded Europe’s leaders are

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      One senior European politician said angrily that British prime minister David Cameron was “like a man who comes to a wife-swapping party without his wife”, and there was some truth in that. Britain does not even use the euro currency, shared by 17 of the 27 EU members, but Cameron insisted on being part of the discussion in Brussels about how to save it. And in the end, he vetoed the solution that all the others had agreed on.

      It was the eighth crisis summit of the European Union’s leaders this year, and it produced the fourth “comprehensive package” of financial measures to deal with the debt crisis. (The other three have already failed.) And if you judged the importance of the meeting by the scale of the uproar when Britain vetoed the EU treaty that was meant to stop the rot, it must have been a very important summit indeed.

      But in fact they were all barking up the wrong tree in Brussels: the financial crisis over the euro will roll on, and the collapse of the common EU currency continues to be a real possibility. What the summit actually showed was how divided, distracted, and deluded Europe’s leaders still are.

      David Cameron went to Brussels knowing that his partners intended to come up with a treaty that would enshrine new financial rules for EU members, in order to reassure the “markets”, which have been demanding higher and higher interest rates to roll over the debts of EU members. He also knew that the nationalistic, “europhobe” faction in his own Conservative Party would never vote for such a treaty. They want out of the EU, not further in.

      The only way out of Cameron’s dilemma, therefore, was to make sure that there would not be such a treaty. His stated reason for vetoing it was to avoid more stringent regulation, and possibly taxation, of the London financial markets, but his real reason was naked self-interest: a new treaty would split his own party and probably destroy his government.

      His stated reason was nonsense. Any new financial regulations that would affect the London markets would have to be agreed unanimously by the EU countries at a later date; there was no need to veto the treaty if he just wanted to protect the free-wheeling, “casino” aspect of the London markets that had done so much to precipitate the crisis in the first place. Cameron just needed a cover story.

      The other EU members feigned great anger at this, but some of them were secretly quite grateful for Cameron’s bad behaviour. They agreed to adopt the same rules anyway, but to do it outside the legal framework of the EU in order to get around the British veto. This had two great advantages: it meant that no referendums would be necessary—and if these new measures failed to reassure the markets, they could all blame Britain.

      What were these fabulous new measures? They were all about “balanced budgets” in the eurozone countries, which would face sanctions if they let their budget deficit exceed three percent of GDP. They would even have to submit their national budgets to the European Commission, which would have the power to ask that they be revised.

      These are exactly the steps that will be needed if the euro is to have a long-term future: it cannot survive if the countries using it do not have a unified fiscal regime. But the markets don’t give a damn about the long-term future of the euro; they just want to know for sure that they will get back the money they lend to eurozone countries, and until they have that assurance they will demand exorbitant interest rates on their loans.

      In this context, the decisions taken in Brussels this week are merely a displacement activity. The bigger EU governments are using the crisis as a pretext to force through centralizing measures that they have long wanted to impose on the weaker economies. But they are still not doing what the markets want, which is to take responsibility for the weaker countries’ debts.

      Can it really be that simple? Can they really be that irresponsible? Yes, and yes again. Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, explained why this sort of thing happens in politics seventy years ago. “All politics is local,” he said, and that is true in spades in Europe today.

      It’s not just David Cameron who is putting his local political interests above the interests of a broader European community. So is German chancellor Angela Merkel, who refuses to allow the EU to make a collective commitment to honour the debts of the weaker members.

      That’s the only thing that will calm the markets, but Merkel’s voters are fiercely opposed to hard-working, thrifty Germans covering the debts of lazy, spendthrift Greeks and Italians (as many of them would put it), so she will not permit it. And so the euro crisis rolls on interminably.

      But don’t worry: interminably is not the same as forever. Sooner or later there will be a real crash, and all these people will be duly punished for their fecklessness. Unfortunately, everybody else in the EU will be punished too.

      Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

      Comments

      8 Comments

      Bankrupt Neo-Con's

      Dec 12, 2011 at 4:44pm

      It seems to be headed that way.

      But the British via their Neo-Con Bots Govt., also seem to want to put the boot into the EU while they are down.

      This is typical behavior from the former Imperial Robbers, Rapists & Murders this Imperial power once was of it's Colonies.

      If you don't believe that go study the history of the British Empire.

      You know the same British who sold us Canadians rusted Subs with holes that leak for about a Billion. Nice eh? :)

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      Bruce

      Dec 12, 2011 at 5:52pm

      No...they didn't 'sell' us rusted subs...we 'bought' rusted subs! They're going to sell them to any nitwits willing to buy them.

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      British Imperialists Almost Bankrupt :)

      Dec 13, 2011 at 8:31am

      @Bruce (Lee? I'm a big fan :) If someone sells me something for a Billion I expect it to work not be scrap.

      Canada bought the rusty leaky Death Trap Subs in good faith from a fellow NATO ALLY! You don't expect to be screwed over by your Strategic Allies.

      Don't forget we lost Canadian Naval Personnel, those brave Men & Women who died serving our Great Country, in the faulty Sub Fire/Tragedy (& those in War Zones). R.I.P.

      We as Canadians should not accept a Foreign State Welfare Dependent Old Bag as our Ceremonial Head of State, we are not some failed former Colony.

      Get rid of that Royal Bull Shit & put those who sacrifice for our Country on our Money not that old bag lady.

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      R2

      Dec 13, 2011 at 4:35pm

      David Cameron was "like a man that comes to a wife swapping party without his wife" don't you hate those guys?
      It's the end of the world as we know it (And I Feel Fine)

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      Tesla1

      Dec 13, 2011 at 9:00pm

      Those rusty subs didn't leak when Chretien first turned them down...

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      Bill Phillips

      Dec 15, 2011 at 3:37pm

      What's "Neo" about Cameron's Conservatives? They've been around for centuries. If anything they're "Paleo-Cons."

      Let's take the trouble to learn the political terms before shooting off our mouths.

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      Bill Phillips

      Dec 15, 2011 at 3:52pm

      Where are we getting the notion that the British non-nuke subs were defective? The fire and fatalities on the HMCS Chicoutimi occurred because the Canadian crew left a hatch open. The subs were "pre-owned" but well designed and built

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      British Want to Charge Canada for Rescue

      Dec 15, 2011 at 4:21pm

      The British ass holes wanted to charge Canada for Rescue Service...

      Maybe we should charge the British for Canadians Dying due to Faulty Subs.

      Source Wiki / News....

      Following claims made in the Canadian media about the cause of the fire, blaming the UK for supplying an unsafe vessel, the situation was further exacerbated by controversial comments made by Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon.

      He accompanied his condolences for Saunders with a proposal that the Royal Navy would charge Canada for the cost of the rescue while also stating that Canada as the buyer had to beware. In Canada, many World War II veterans were outraged by his comments.

      a CBC News investigation found that the British refit didn't fix all the technical problems on the sub, and two of those problems played a central role in the fire that broke out on the vessel, killing one officer:

      An air vent in Chicoutimi's tower wasn't working because a nut had fallen off, just 24 hours into the vessel's first trip to Canada. Crewmembers had to leave two hatches open to fix the problem, and were working on it when a wave broke over the vessel, flooding the compartments below.
      A series of electrical connectors in the captain's room that were soaked in the flooding had only one layer of waterproof sealant instead of the three layers that British navy specifications required.

      The investigation also found that the British navy upgraded its specifications for insulating the electrical connections on Upholder-class vessels in the 1990s. Two additional layers of sealant were recommended to provide "backup protection." The sealant was added to the other three British subs as they were being built, but not to HMS Upholder, the vessel that would later be named HMCS Chicoutimi and sold to Canada.

      On May 5, 2005, a Canadian naval board of inquiry released a 700-page report on the accident. It found that no one was to blame for the series of events that led to the fire.

      "This was a combination of human, technical and operational factors that led to a tragic death," said Admiral Bruce MacLean, commander of the Canadian navy, at a news conference in Halifax.

      The report concluded that Luc Pelletier, the Chicoutimi's captain, made rational and reasonable decisions the day the fire broke out.

      Pelletier's decision to leave both hatches on the submarine open because of the mechanical problem with their vents was at the root of the inquiry. The board found that there was no way he could have predicted that a rogue wave would wash in, flooding the submarine with 2,000 litres of water and cause the events that led to the fire.

      The board also recommended upgrading the electrical cables in the four Victoria-class submarines leased by the Canadian navy in 1998 from the Royal Navy. Other recommendations include placing more breathing masks in the submarines and in places that are easily accessible.

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