Monday, 11 February 2013

Oh what a lovely war...

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the "Great War".  Most of it happened on a front no wider than what you'd need to put a modern shopping mall on, which ran from the English Channel to the Swiss border. The total butcher's bill was over 18 million dead, of whom 7 million were civilians. It only lasted four years. Most of the people who will commemorate this conflict will have hardly heard of it and have only the vaguest notions of history anyway, since it is being pushed off school curricula in most European countries. They are not learning either that the EU has made war in Europe a thing of the past.

The EU budget that has now been adopted in Brussels (at least by the Heads of government, the European Parliament may still find the courage to throw it out) represents around 1% of total EU GDP. The marathon debate in the European Council was about app. 1% of that 1%.

According to official figures from Eurostat, in 2011, EU member states spent 49.1% of national GDP through general government expenditure. The cost of government overheads (wage bills, etc.) has continued to rise in those countries which were the most drastic cost cutters in Brussels last week. Much of European austerity (outside Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain) is not what it seems.

Right on queue, Europe was hit by a scandal about horse meat of obscure origin in Findus hamburgers, put there by dodgy wholesalers playing nooky with our food chain. The single market so beloved of the British government seems to need more Europe -  not less - to police it. So does consumer protection, the Erasmus programme of student exchange, regional development, etc. The claim that this is a budget for growth and jobs is laughable.

Mr Cameron has hailed it as "a good deal for Britain" as usual, and he will no doubt attend the war commemoration ceremonies next year with the solemnity and stiff upper lip that is expected from him. But he won't have the slightest idea about the worrying historical link between that war and the way his government is wrecking the European project.


Carel Edwards, Brussels, 11 February 2013