A hot autumn after a cool summer for Europe

Boris Johnson (on the left) never loses the opportunity to attract the interest of photographers. In this case as Major of London he received Johannes Hahn, Member of the European Commission. Date: 28/02/2014. Location: London - Trafalgar Square. © European Union , 2014 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Justin Tallis.

Boris Johnson (on the left) never loses the opportunity to draw the attention of photographers. In this case as Major of London he received Johannes Hahn, Member of the European Commission. Date: 28/02/2014. Location: London – Trafalgar Square. © European Union , 2014 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Justin Tallis.

This autumn Europe has everything it…didn’t need. A frozen Spain, a hot Britain who says will stay in EU’s Foreign and Security Policy, a self-centered Ireland and a revolutionary France. In the most interesting development the British Foreign Secretary, the infamous for his gaffes and lies Boris Johnson, said that despite the impending Brexit, his country will continue participating in EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy structures. CFSP apart from its full scale foreign service around the world also operates a number of strategic and tactic military operations in Africa and the Middle East.

About Brexit

Last Friday in Bratislava, Slovakia, ahead of the 27+Britain meeting of the EU foreign ministers, Johnson said, “The British government, under Theresa May, is absolutely committed to participation in the European foreign policy cooperation and the European defense and security cooperation”. In short, London aspires to continue participating in EU’s CFSP even after the country leaves the club.

Add to that London’s demand for Britain to maintain full access to the continental European markets and the Brexit may become a golden age for Britons, getting from the EU all the honey for no money. This is a strong indication of the strategy that the London government is to adopt during the forthcoming negotiations to conclude the terms of the Brexit.

What about London’s City?

If this is truly what PM Teresa May has in mind about the consultations approach, then Brussels should respond with a full and vertical ousting of Britain from all and every EU activity and then start talking about economic relations. Regrettably, such a development will lead to dead-ends and unwanted confrontation.

In such an eventuality, the first to suffer will be the financial hub of London’s City, the one square mile of British soil, which produces 10% of the country’s GDP. Incidentally, one of the most important reasons why the nonmetropolitan Britons voted for Brexit, is that this 10% of the GDP is exclusively pocketed by just a few hundreds of bankers and real estate magnates based in London. It was exactly those who desperately fought for the ‘stay’ option in the 23 June referendum.

It rains in Spain

Landing now on the other big EU member state, Spain, which also suffers from bad political weather, the country is now heading for a third general election in a few months. The country’s political landscape is completely frozen. The case of Belgium in 2010 – 2011, when this central European nation lived for 541 days under a caretaker administration was different, in the sense that it didn’t lead to repeat elections. In the case of the large Iberian EU member state though, the inability of the electorate to produce a viable government, has already iced up the economic and political life.

The problem with Spain is that, the fourth largest euro area economy cannot decisively intervene in the currently loaded EU agenda. In the Merkel – Hollande – Renzi ‘Relaunching Europe’ meeting of 22 August in Naples, the absence of a strong Spanish leader was crying out. Politically insecure Matteo Renzi couldn’t  defend the South all by himself. The meeting turned out to be a full Merkel victory. The German Chancellor refused to even reflect on the North-South schism, which has profoundly and, possibly, irreparably traumatized Eurozone. If Spain continues to be absent from the European process, and Germany maintains its obstinate, austere and dangerous attitude the EU boat will certainly hit the rocks at some point.

The Irish blow

Eurozone is further shocked by the Dublin government’s decision to side with Apple, in contesting the €13 billion in back taxes fine, imposed by the European Commission on the US technology giant. The government coalition junior partner, Independent Alliance, had second thoughts about this issue, but, the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, won last Friday’s vote in the cabinet. Thus, Ireland bizarrely sided with Apple, not Brussels. In this way, the Republic forfeits the €13bn windfall tax income, as the Commission’s decision entails.

Politically, this decision by the Irish cabinet is rather awkward. A heavily indebted country, suffering from high unemployment and unable to finance an effective public health system, denies collecting a tax fine imposed by Brussels on an immensely affluent US information company. To be noted, this Commission’s decision to impose a fine on Apple of €13bn in back taxes, has triggered an EU-US financial confrontation, which can possibly lead to a real economic war.

Vive la Revolution

Last but not least, the French farmers who every year loose a good part of their income honored the revolutionary tradition of their country. They ‘locked’ the EU ministers of Agriculture in the splendidly refurbished Chateau de Chambord in the Loire region. They demonstrated outside and shouted “Ministres au château, paysans dans la rue”; ministers in the castle farmers in the streets.

The organization ‘Cooperation Rurale’ staged the protest, on the account of the shocking antithesis between the degrading state of French farming sector and the luxury of the meeting venue of the EU Agriculture ministers. The twenty European ministers who attended were supposed to discuss the future of the European agriculture. In the meantime the future of the once mighty French agribusiness is constantly fading out. This year it’s the cereals production that has gone down due to severe spring rainfalls. As for the prices of meat and milk, they have been constantly falling for years now, making French husbandry progressively unsustainable.

It’s the globalization stupid

The French farmers are in a permanent state of rage because Brussels progressively opens EU’s borders to cheap imports of agricultural products from abroad. It’s more than twenty years now that Brussels has abandoned the good old principle of ‘self sufficiency’, which guided Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) until the early 1990s. Instead, since then, the EU applies its own version of a ‘globalization’ strategy. It’s not by chance then that extreme political parties of the right and the left thrive in the French provinces.

In all the above discussed cases, the Brexit, the Spanish freeze, the Irish dilemma and the French farmer’s revolution, the deeper cause of the popular anger is the EU’s long time policy to ‘export jobs’ in both the farming and the industrial sectors. Ireland was an agricultural country now desperately trying – with destructive means -to become industrialized. The same is true to a large extent for Spain, without, however, the Irish distortion of the minimal tax breaks on profits.

France, Italy like Britain

As for Britain and France, already from the 1980s the export of jobs has taken its toll in both the industry and agriculture. The political and economic results are now on hand for everybody to see. If Germany, the only major EU country to thrive from globalization and open borders, is so egotistic as to ignore the existential problems of its European partners, the unraveling of the EU will accelerate. If Italy says ‘no’ to Renzi’s referendum for a constitutional reform, the boot may also kick Brussels. The next meeting of the 27 EU heads of state or government which will take place on 16 September in Bratislava will surely turn on the temperature this autumn.

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