By Cassandra in the Netherlands:
In the Southern half of the Eurozone, people feel crushed because their lives and future have been sacrificed on the altar of the Holy Euro. I’m writing from the Netherlands, so from the Northern side of the Great Divide in the soon-to-be-established cozy, happy Political Union and Paradise.
Here we are not suffering as much as the people in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Not yet. But our politicians are bent on continuing on this road to a federal state which incorporates enormous cultural and economic differences. Oh, these will of course miraculously disappear as soon as the United States of Europe is ordained. Just as they did in the past after the euro was introduced.
People south of the Great Divide are paying now, but the bill for the Germans and the Dutch and the Finns will arrive sooner or later. The euro and a political union can only survive if it is a transfer union, which means that the economically most competitive countries in the Eurozone will have to pass part of their wealth to the non-competitive countries. Forever and ever. A fact that our politicians try to hide as long as possible.
They succeed well in this deception, I must say. The general public is only interested in their own wallets: will my house rise in value, will I get a good pension, and how much in taxes do I have to pay? They don’t see the big picture and are not interested in the long term and the deeper causes of the crisis. They desperately want to believe that the current uptick in the economy is real and the housing market (in a deep slump in the Netherlands) will recover soon.
So they vote, like people historically always have done, for politicians who lie to them and tell them fairy tales. Like: we will give you more pensions and benefits, and lower the taxes. But also: we won’t give up national sovereignty to Brussels and the euro is good for you. Voters don’t really want to hear bad news. Politicians who tell the (unvarnished) truth don’t get re-elected.
But most Dutch are deeply suspicious about the lust for power of European technocrats. In 2005, the Dutch got (with the French) the chance to vote on a new European Treaty. The political elite only allowed this referendum because it was convinced the Dutch (who have a reputation for being very cosmopolitan and ‘international minded’) would vote in favor of the European Dream. Lo and behold: the population threw the Treaty in the dustbin.
Panic in The Hague. So there were some small cosmetic changes made to the treaty text to make it appear a new treaty on which a new vote was necessary. Of course this time, the rabble didn’t get a chance to vote. The treaty was swiftly approved in parliament by career politicians.
In the US, there is a problem with politicians that can be bought because they are directly elected and need a lot of money for their personal election campaign. In the Netherlands and most other European countries politicians get elected when they suck up to the party leadership, because it’s them who decide if the aspiring politician gets an electable spot on the party list. Those party leaders would like a job at an international institution like the European Commission, the IMF of the World Bank when they are finished in The Hague, and are therefore more European-minded than the average Dutch who don’t profit, but must pay the bill for the europhoria.
Only they don’t really know this because they’re not that interested in the workings of the European political bureaucracy. For ordinary voters, Europe is still a sideshow to Dutch internal policies. The people here don’t grasp yet what European unification will eventually cost them.
It’s not only leftist politicians who worship at the temple of the Holy Euro. The centrist, liberal-democrats are maybe a little less enthusiastic in their utterances about the subject, but their policies aren’t that different. Our Prime Minister Mark Rutte (a liberal-democrat) says for national consumption in Parliament that he will stand firm for Dutch interests in Brussels and that he will never allow European autocrats to reign supreme in the Netherlands. Then he turns around and embraces and backslaps Guy Verhofstadt, one of the most vocal prophets of the United States of Europe, and supports his candidacy for President of the European Commission.
Soon there will be European elections. Apart from the general apathy about European politics – participation will surely set a new record low – voters don’t have much to choose either. None of the established parties in the Netherlands is really euroskeptic. The one exception is the Freedom Party, the anti-immigration party for whom most Dutch won’t vote out of principle. And so it will be a big victory for more Europe, more bureaucracy, and less democracy in the Netherlands. I suspect in Germany as well.
And so the Titanic keeps going full steam ahead towards the iceberg, while the band is playing on and the people are dancing. By Cassandra in the Netherlands.