By GB News Presenter and former MEP Alex Phillips.
A series of crises have rocked the boat over the past few decades, yet the bloc’s ability to use difficulties to push for deeper integration is really rather remarkable.
If there’s one thing we know about the EU, it’s resilient. A series of crises have rocked the boat over the past few decades and yet the bloc’s ability to use difficulties to push for deeper integration is really rather remarkable.
For those like me who regard the European Union with disdain, to put it lightly, their removal of democratically elected heads of state, their raiding the bank accounts of citizens in Cyprus and their ransacking of the Greek economy through the imposition of eye watering austerity measures to save the Euro, plunging hundreds of thousands of families into abject poverty as the Athens sky was streaked with Molotov cocktails, was one of the most historically indecent acts of tyranny since the Second World War. For its proponents it was merely desperate measures for desperate times against member states that had for too long been economic basket cases.
Covid is no different. With the pandemic sweeping the globe, the EU moved quickly to create a European Recovery Fund where all member states paid into central coffers for the Union to redistribute as aid alongside billions of borrowing. Free money? Hardly. Especially if you are a net contributor, and all money borrowed must be repaid by 2058, creating complexities for the already tenuous Euro. But there’s another catch.
The ERF comes with conditions, including the imposition of EU wide rules such as pension reform, which is likely to agitate the Gillet Jaunes when the cent finally drops.
It also leads me on to discussing Poland, which is having a monumental ding dong with Brussels withholding the cash unless Warsaw kowtow to European Courts of Justice demands over various social matters, particularly regarding LGBT rights, which Poland believes undermine the supremacy of its domestic courts.
The bust up is leading to an East-West divide, where Hungary is also accusing the EU of overstepping their position, while Western states believe the two rogue members should be put on the naughty step.
It is interesting to note that it is often the Balkans who push back against Brussels the hardest, pointing out that having left decades of Communist bullying as part of the USSR, they do not want to become a satellite state of another top down, remote bureaucracy.
Meanwhile in France, Macron, rather posturing as Prince of the Empire, is getting his pantalons in a twist over post Brexit fishing rights and talking tough in defence of the United States of Europe while ex Brexit negotiator, Monsieur No Cherry Picking Michel Barnier, has rather mis des batons dans les roues by demanding French concessions from European law as part of his bid to run as Presidential candidate for the Republicans. You couldn’t make it up.
Then, of course, there remains a rather bitter taste following the European Commission President’s antics over the Astra Zeneca vaccine, hardly an edifying moment as Ursula Von Der Leyen demanded the seizure of shipments leaving Italy, even though they were intended for the developing world and tried to stop medicines going to Northern Ireland, before being heavily chastised and revoking the demand within mere hours.
The mask somewhat slipped, leaving normally Europhile elements of the media shocked into silence. Yet how quickly was this shameful episode seemingly forgotten.
Of course, I was a Brexit Party MEP. This is when I had the audacity to wave our national flag in the hemicycle, egged on by my colleagues, and was summarily smacked down for the offence.
But before that, I worked for over a decade on leaving the EU having witnessed first hand its bullying behaviour towards Africa while I was working as a journalist in Ghana, so I am hardly impartial on this issue and have many a yarn to spin when it comes to dodgy dealings, corrupt goings on and strident opinions on the continental bloc.
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© 2021 Alex Phillips