Attilio Moro explains why the EU’s only directly elected legislative body is mounting such an energetic voter-turnout campaign.
By Attilio Moro
Special to Consortium News
As the EU approaches what are considered to be the most important elections in the history of its parliament — between May 22 and 26 — the EU has never had so many enemies.
The list starts with U.S. President Donald Trump and extends to the Brexiters in the UK. It goes from Andrze Duda, the Polish premier, to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; from the Czech Republic’s Prime Minster Andrej Babis to the Romanian government.
Italy also makes the list. Its unofficial prime minister, Matteo Salvini, has been advocating, until he took office, the exit from the euro and possibly from the EU altogether. Other anti-EU leaders include Austrian Prime Minister Norbert Hofer, who assumed office on an anti-European platform, and France’s Marine Le Pen.
There is also the AFD Party in Germany and a score of sizable anti-EU minorities in almost all European countries.
The most aggressive of all has been Donald Trump, who went well beyond his “American First” slogan in calling EU countries the trade “enemy” of the U.S. Under his watch, EU-U.S. relations have never been so bad.
Divisions with EU
The Trump administration’s divisions with the EU seem to involve everything, from NATO (Europeans have to pay more, Trump keeps saying) to Iran (Washington trying to block Europe from dealing with Teheran); from trade (too many German cars in the U.S.) to the environment (Trump backed out of the collective reduction of Co2, as internationally agreed in Paris).
Trump has given confidence and strength to Brexiteers and every possible type of EU dissident, to the point that Poland’s Duda has openly defied the EU Commission’s demand to abolish the illiberal law allowing his government to appoint the justices of the Supreme Court.
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Hungary’s Orban could defy the European immigration policy by refusing to take in one single migrant (Trump is building a wall, after all). And, contrary to the “European spirit of openness” (and against the wishes of many of George Soros’s friends in Brussels) — Orban in 2018 managed to force most of operations of the private university in Budapest funded by the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist to move to Vienna.
The Czech Republic’s Babis, the richest man in the country, continues to flout warnings from Brussels about his violations of press freedom and the independence of the judiciary.
Romania is displaying the most conspicuous insubordination in the case of Laura Kovesi, its former chief prosecutor, who oversaw the convictions of thousands of politicians, officials and businesspeople. Now Bucharest, which is holding the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of June, is trying to prevent Kovesi from leading the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which will begin functioning in 2020. Romania’s justice minister has been smearing her in letters to his EU counterparts and the government briefly subjected her to a travel ban. The only government that opposes her nomination is her own.
The ideology that unifies most of the European “enemies” of the EU is sovereignism, the idea that national interests should come before those of Europe and that sharing wealth doesn’t imply sharing policies and values.
In line with Trump, Sovereignists don’t believe that the problems of the modern world can be dealt with through a multilateral approach. They will win, according to most estimates, a sizeable share of the seats in the EU Parliament later this month.
They will be supported by a substantial share of the European public opinion (mainly right-wing) which is at odds with what they consider to be an EU immigration policy that is too permissive.
They will also be supported by plenty who feel that the EU institutions, including the EU Parliament, are bureaucratic and remote from ordinary people, while too close to the lobbies. They have a point. Around 15 thousand lobbyists are active in Brussels. It is not a mystery that they are very influential in the EU Parliament.
Recently, it turned out that the EU’s liberal party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, or ALDE, received hundreds of thousands of euros in donations from Google, Bayer, Microsoft, Uber, Syngenta and Deloitte.
The leftists of the GUE/NGL and the Greens both fiercely oppose corporate lobbying. But with those two exceptions, there is good reason to believe that all the other major political groups have received this much money and more.
One of the most striking cases of EU corporate influence is that of Bayer-Monsanto, which managed last year to renew its European license for the weed killer, Roundup, which has been defined by leading research institutions as an endocrine disrupter with links to cancer.
In addition to corporate corruption, anti-EU sentiment includes those opposed to the neoliberal economic policies (privatizations of public companies, cuts in social spending, deregulation) imposed in the last 20 years by the EU institutions, which not only failed to revive the economy but brought southern European countries to the brink of bankruptcy.
Despite the widespread frustrations, most European citizens consider the EU as vital in the era of globalization. And a reasonable percentage of the European constituency will turn out to elect their delegates to Brussels.
But the EU Parliament senses the threat it is facing and is running an unprecedented voter turnout campaign. In every European airport now, huge (and very expensive) billboards inform travelers of what the EU has done for their country.
Had parliamentarians arranged more transparency in the way they do business, or had they passed a proposal that has been languishing for decades for passage – which would oblige lobbies to register — that might have been more effective than billboards.
Attilio Moro is a veteran Italian journalist who was a correspondent for the daily Il Giorno from New York and worked earlier in both radio (Italia Radio) and TV. He has travelled extensively, covering the first Iraq war, the first elections in Cambodia and South Africa, and has reported from Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan and several Latin American countries, including Cuba, Ecuador and Argentina. Presently, he is a correspondent on European affairs based in Brussels.
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The EU is a totalitarian cancer. The sooner it disappeards, the better.
The EU has gone our of its way to create enemies by catering to speculators and other undemocratic elements.
Canadian-American Jane Jacobs ( Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Vintage Books 1985) pointed out years ago that Supra-national currencies such as the Euro are unnecessary is an age of computers. Computerized cash registers can calculate exchange rates in a
second. The advent of smart-ass cell phones allows the customer to calculate exchange rates before reaching the computerized cash register or bank teller.
The euro is now the instrument of speculators, usurers, and economy crashers. But for the euro the speculators would have taken well deserved haircuts.
BTW the best thing about the Green New Deal is the financing. It uses the same kind of financing the original New Deal used to reduce unemployment from 25% to 9% before the US entered WWII.
Speaking as an American who despises the US dollar in terms of aesthetics and mechanics (which can be another subject on its own), I must sadly agree; each EU member state had not only its own economy (i.e. the financial woes of one country weren’t tied to another), but also its own designs of coins and banknotes. Some people in Germany are even yearning for a return to the Deutschmark (which IIRC was the second most traded currency until 2002).
On the other hand, I will continue to support alternatives to the US dollar. IIRC the euro was created as a competitor to the US dollar in international trade, and this was also the very same currency Hussein tried to sell oil in before his execution. Then again, my guess is that once the euro is abolished in favor of the pre-euro national currencies, international trade would be done in them the same way China and Russia have begun doing trade in rubles and yuan.
Thanks for this article and the excellent comments, CN. Living in the EU I feel quite powerless, and I now feel especially upset that the EU is not only very weakly supporting the Palestinians being destroyed by Israel, but actually seems to agree with the USA Dems and Repubs that Venezuela needs to be destroyed to be “democratized”.
I always thought that “The West’s” frantic effort to incorporate all those former Warsaw pact countries into the EU would be like holding an asp to their breast and potentially a fatal mistake. The political incorporation of all these diverse countries into a single union has, in fact, proceeded at a blinding pace. I’m old enough that I remember no EU, not even the EEC but the only union was BENELUX. So now there’s all these people who have discovered that some of their most important decisions aren’t made by their country but by the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Hell, they’re not even made in Brussels; they’re made by the regime in Washington and handed to the Europeans for implementation.
The EU did nothing to prevent the US from imposing it’s malign behavior on Europe by enthusiastically supporting our insane wars in the Middle East. The EU has not delivered prosperity to Europe because it insists on neo-liberal economics that work for nobody but the already rich. What’s to like?
At least their slaughtering each other on an industrial scale, like they used to. Cf WW I, WW II, Bosnia….
The EU’s ONLY elected body.
Would this be the same EU that, with its UN-elected “bodies”, impose vicious austerity constraints ON the people and even on “lesser”nations within their own ranks? You know where a certain nation can effectively impoverish a poorer nation, often made that way by elite financial interest in that certain country which has done very well, compared to most others in the EU, until lately when massive cheating scandals around environmental issues have cropped up?
Certainly this author must know the reason for Trump’s triumph and the reason Brexit came about have a common cause? That being the aforementioned austerity and a firm (and confirmed) awareness that “democracy” is a sham, that the “wishes” and desperate needs of the many Never really affect policy which is, equally clearly in the hands of those who effectively have “bought” governments almost anywhere one cares (or is even reluctant) to l00k.
Doubtless, the author is at least somewhat aware of this all too evident reality?
Would this the very same UN-elected EU that supports Trump’s assault against Venezuela?
The same EU that has used NATO, perhaps only as lackeys to the US, to march right up to Russia’s front door?
(Surely, the EU MUST have a few observers as astute and rational about Russia affairs and sensibilities as Stephen Cohen? No?)
Is it wise to antagonize? Does the EU really benefit from being a potential nuclear battleground? If so, and we follow the money, who, specifically,benefits before the big bangs? Would it be the many? Really? Or the few?
Is this the same EU that has supported US policies that have led to vast numbers of human beings being made homeless and threatened by wars throughout the Mid-East and North Africa (indeed, all over the African continent)?
And is this the same EU that has experienced frustration and hostility toward those unfortunate people, having fled to the EU, by citizens in EU nations already hard-pressed by de industrialization and what is benignly referred to as “outsourcing” in the US? One notes, in the US, great concern about the “millions” who would lose their jobs in the “insurance sector”, were Medicare for all thrust upon the poor unsuspecting US public who seem (idiotically, we are assured, to be considering that “socialism” might be better for them than capitalism).
That concern is admirable. It is just simply too bad it was not raised when the manufacturing sector workers were being told they needed to learn some new computer skill “to compete”. Ponder, for just a moment, that true innovation and new ideas spring precisely from that group who were told that what they knew no longer mattered. I do not recall any serious effort to provide decent paying jobs to those people. My Brit friends tell that the same thing happened there. And England was once a center of engineering prowess and capacity. But hey! Profit above all else for the elites.
Speaking of Elites, in much of the EU, but let us look at France, how are the EU elites behaving there? How is Macron doing? Does the working class have any issues with EU financial policy which has benefitted Macron and cronies in a fashion already seen in the US and in the U.K. and elsewhere in the EU following the financial FRAUD, never punished or even acknowledged, in 2008?
Is it possible that the author is unaware of this pattern, this vast injustice?
Let him be assured that the many are very aware.
My appreciation to Consortium News for publishing articles of this ilk, that we readers may exercise and flex our vex muscles.
A verity of perspectives leads to lively discussion.
It might even serve an educational purpose.
That might even go both ways.
Excellent repost, DW Bartoo.
EU elites have created the reality they ;now seek to whitewash with billboards exhorting people to “turn out.”
This might just backfire. If voters “turn out” while not remembering the advantages of globalization “a global era”—that is nothing more than an empty buzzword, BTW) but instead remembering the pricks and stabs of austerity.
I certainly hope the Greeks at least have the common sense to vote their pocketbooks, their health care, their national monuments and incomparable islands—not a vague “globalization”/Euro ideology.
I am Greek and let me tell you this: Tsipras, the latest phony prime minister is on a fast-track course mandated by EU to legalize and give voting rights to at least 800.000 illegal “immigrants”. Even even if we vote against the EU, there will other “naturalized” greeks who will vote in favor.
Hello DW Bartoo;
You make many useful comments here. You ask how is France doing.
As a citizen of France (as well as of the U.S.), let me mention that Macron is not doing very well. One of his fuctions is to implement major policies of the European Commission, for example to promote “free and fair competition” by privatizing what has always been public operations such as the postal service, telephone service, railroads and most recently the major airports of Paris. Such transformatiion of once public services has imposed major hardships on a very large segment of the population, which is why the “gilet jaune” ( yellow vest) movement has been so persistant in spite of major police crackdowns which have caused many severe injuries and one death.
Macron is basically an errand boy for the European Commission in spite of the royal airs (he is known as Jupiter) he puts on in France.
In large measure the central EU institutions are heavily influenced by the major banks. For example the European Central Bank is forbidden to lend money to the governments of EU members. If a government needs to borrow money it is required to borrow from a private bank at the current normal interest rate. The private bank can in turn borrow the equivalent sum from the ECB at a much lower interest rate, so in lending to an EU member government it is guaranteed a huge profit.
The story line is that the EU is good for the well being of all member countries. So look at the incredible poverty of the population of countries like Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria, and severe hardship of the population of several other EU countries.
Here in France the France Insoumise movement has a list of candidates in the May 26 election for the EU parliament. It is for close ties with people in need in all EU countries. I will vote for this lest an hope it does well.
Thank for your most informative response, James Whitney.
I consider that one of the problems people all over the globe face, in terms of having any idea what is going on elsewhere, is that most mainstream media in most nations is now little more than a propaganda organ for the corporate and financial elite who now control most of the world.
Your insights, especially the push toward privatization in France are, unfortunately little known to U$ians as indeed is that trend in all EU nations.
I would hope that informal networks among residents (“citizens” is a term which implies an effective agency long dispersed, if ever existent) from all over might make use of Consortium News and any other sites not at the whim of Facebook or other private entity well harnessed to the aforementioned elites and the “governments” they own and control, to share information and sentiment, to build international bonds of trust and support.
Governments, if we are honest, are subservient to corporate interests and have long been so, even before WW II, but certainly thereafter.
I hope you will continue to provide us, on the ground and in the street perspectives about France and especially about the conditions faced by the many.
Right now, your Yellow Vests are an international inspiration and worthy of worldwide support from all of us, the many, being squeezed and pummeled by vicious neoliberal policies of extortion, extraction, and extinction.
Again, my appreciation, James.
Strangely, PUTIN, the mister enemy of “the west” is missing from the enemy list. That, I suppose, makes Attilio Moro a Putin troll.
Relax – I am joking.
The bigger the bureaucracy, the more corruption and lack of public accountability become the defining characteristics. The USA and the EU are prime examples of abuse of power by the 1%.
When corporate power rules to the extend it has the resulting beneficial outcomes is less about people as it is all about corporate profit. The EU is a mini-USA for the fact it has many corporate lobbyists who implement corporate agendas short of what is needed for the commons. As you know Skip it’s all about the Benjamin’s. Take care shipmate. Joe
There’s no doubt that the EU sees itself as an upcoming power on the planet. The problem is it is an undemocratic, elitist, globalist tool. The unelected Commission is plowing a lone furrow with its ideals and ideology. The parliament is about as useless as it gets. Meanwhile the people – some 700 million of them are ignored – it is not going to end well.
The financial system is in chaos, Greece and Italy are the scapegoats; the UK wants to leave but the eu is doing its damnest to stop it by playing ‘hardball’ to deter others; Miltary Union is up for grabs but silence on it in the UK is extreme – nobody knows noffink – the eu has to purloin/steal/co-opt the military of all its sovereign states to survive in its power quest. That would mean all staes lose their sovereignty. Europe as we know it would disappear into the EU and the people will be eu citizens, not british or german or greek. The eu venture planned following world war two is a dictatorial exercise for the elites – hopefully it will FAIL
Whatever you think, every union between two or more countries dies sooner or later. If you see EU as a IV Reich it’s obvious that more and more people starting to understand that it’s bad for them. Everyone except Germany.
“… more and more people starting to understand that it’s bad for them. Everyone except Germany.”
I wouldn’t be too sure about that.
The German citizens do realize that the EU is not what it was supposed to be. The elites think differently because they are the profititeers. The whole German government is nothing but the lackey to the US. Germany is still under US occupation but the elite seems to like that. It’s obedience to orders from the US is digusting. The worst is the war mongering activities of the Mainstream Media against Russia. A famous TV moderator even regretted that the citizens are so very reluctant to take the Russian people for an enemy. There is no true information in the Media wich is the voice of the government only. One has to look up foreign and German blogs, Russia Today, Sputnik or youtube to get information. No, Germany is no exception.