EU Treaty: Which Part Of “NO!” Don’t They Understand?

images.jpgRight. When is a constitution not a constitution? Is there still anybody left in Europe who is not fully aware that the document that was signed in Lisbon on Thursday is the old, rejected European Constitution in all but name? When Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, Chamberlain-like, returned home one day saying “I have here a piece of paper which we call a Reforming Treaty. It is nothing like that earlier piece of paper which you democratically binned” he gave as an example of the way he had fought tooth and nail for Dutch interests the assurance that there would be no question of a European flag and a European anthem. The Dutch people, after all, had made very clear to him that they already have a flag they like a lot and an anthem they like only slightly less. To trade these in for a blue cloth with an ever increasing number of stars on it and a few poorly sung verses of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy was, the people had intimated, both unnecessary and undesirable. You know: national identity and all that. Phew, the nation sighed, that was close. Maybe there was now a good reason for giving the new treaty the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps our elected representatives were right in saying that a new referendum, given the totally different nature of the revised text, was no longer required.

But lo! Or is it behold? We’re to be lumbered with an EU flag and anthem after all. True, thanks to Balkenende’s tireless campaigning on our behalf the main text of the treaty no longer makes mention of either. But what is a good treaty without appendages? So there, in an annex included at the insistence of our good neighbour Germany, both flag and anthem mysteriously come back to life. What Brussels has given with one hand it has taken back with the other. It would be nice if the Dutch Prime Minister, knowing he’s been had, were to fly into a rage and threaten the EU with serious consequences. Other government leaders do when they feel slighted. But no. Jan Peter faces this betrayal with perfect equanimity. “Thank God we’ve signed the Reforming Treaty” he says, “now the European Union can at last move forward.”

The question is: forward to what? Future expansion, that’s what. The power-crazed aparatchiks at the heart of the EU won’t rest until they’ve pulled half the world into their sphere of influence. After Poland, Bulgaria and Rumania expect Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Moldova. After that, who? OK, let’s have Israel, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Turks? Yes, they can join too, if they learn to be as good at democracy as we are. Kazakhstan, no problem. Next stop: North Africa. Already there are almost as many Moroccans in the Netherlands as there are in Morocco so why not? OK, I’m exaggerating, but you can be sure we have more Moroccans than we have Bulgarians. 

I’m a gregarious sort of guy and I have absolutely nothing against foreigners of any plumage. But this kind of burgeoning expansion is the road to hell. The European Union started many years ago as a smallish club of reasonably well-off countries. Begun as an instrument for pooling coal and steel resources, the European Coal and Steel Community (1951) comprised France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. In 1957 these countries renamed the club European Economic Community and in a sense that’s when the trouble started. There were still a number of affluent nations willing to join: the UK, Denmark and later Sweden and Austria, but the number of poorer nations accepted into the EEC and later versions of it (including the current 27-member EU) grew even more rapidly. The effect: the rich core of the Union has to share its wealth with ever more impecunious newcomers.

Roughly, the countries of the EU fall into two categories: the givers and the takers. It should come as no surprise that, at grassroot level (though not necessarily among the political classes) Euro-enthusiasm is greatest among the takers. Countries like Ireland and Spain, once among the economically backward nations in Europe, have done fantastically well out of the Union, not merely because of their own efforts but also thanks to generous grants from the Brussels coffers. Coffers which had been mostly filled by the likes of Germany, France, Belgium and especially the Netherlands. This country, under successive governments, has allowed itself to be squeezed as a “net super donor” till our pips squeaked. If you’re the leader of a small country and you want to play big on the international stage there’s always a price to pay and boy, have we Dutch paid it! We’ve paid it through some of the highest taxes, fuel duties and VAT rates in the entire European Union, not to mention a bungled entry into the common currency the Euro which wiped about ten percent off our combined national wealth.

The prospect now looms of a European Union that becomes ever larger and diverse and at the same time ever more centralised. More and more national sovereign powers will have to be sacrificed on the altar of some indistinct greater good. And will we have a say in this? No. Our punishment for rejecting the European Constitution is that we won’t be asked again. For those who, like me, believe that the changes that are going to be imposed on us are so enormous and so drastic as to warrant a new referendum: tough luck. There won’t be one. But then, there’s always the next election. We can turn that into a referendum on Europe. That is, if we don’t fall asleep in the meantime. Or else we can always move to Switzerland. Great little country, that.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Iain said,

    On the contrary, Rob, please do mention the Great Dutch Euro Riip-off. Preferably at some length. I’d rather like to hear your fulminations in this matter. And I’m sure there are countless global citizens out there who will be completely unaware of it.


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