Wednesday, June 04, 2008
A Letter from Limburg
The Mammoth in the Room
In one way or another, in one country or another, I have been living in Europe since the late 1970s. Apart from my native English, I am fluent in French, German, and Dutch, with some Spanish, and a smattering of Italian. I have lived, studied and worked in France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I earned the right to permanent residence in the Netherlands long before the EU came along.
After more than 25 years away from England, I had come to consider myself more European than English. Living with foreign rules and foreign laws was often difficult at first and more than a little frustrating, but at least the local authorities knew their way around and once you had overcome the language barrier things usually become pretty workable.
However, slowly, over the years I have seen freedom of choice diminish, diversity vanish, I have watched regional and national treasures disappear under a bland coat of EU uniformity. I am not saying that the EU is to blame for the changes, or that the changes might not have happened without it, but the EU has not made Europe better for its ordinary working people. In fact, it has made things far, far worse. I am tired of having to argue European law with local officials, fighting to get my children into into school, fighting to get them student grants, fighting to get my wife language lessons at an affordable price, fighting with tax laws, pensions laws, residence laws ... and so dreadfully tired of trying to explain to government officials up and down the country that the national law they knew so well has now been overruled by European law that they neither know nor understand.
Yesterday, the Dutch parliament rejected the proposal for a law enabling a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, with only the Socialist Party holding to its committment that a referendum was necessary. On Thursday 5th June, the Netherlands will become the 16th country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, so ending a long and sorry trail of broken election promises and deceit. And saddest of all, the betrayal of trust will continue.
Listening to a Dutch Labour Party politician defending his vote against the referendum on the car radio on the way home this evening I felt a wave of deep sadness wash over me. They talk of the EU and Europe in turn as if they were synonymous. This collection of arrogant, self-satisfied, pompous politicians are not Europe, not my Europe. The EU is not Europe, and because of the EU Europe is becoming so much a poorer place. Europe was a vibrant, exciting place to be; with the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty it will become the EU, a very different place.
Richard calls the EU the elephant in the room and, though I am loathe to disagree with my big brother, I beg to differ. The EU is not an elephant, it's a woolly mammoth. A prehistoric beast that should have passed into extinction a long time ago. It's been brain dead for years, and it's only the wriggling and writhing of the corruption inside it that gives it the illusion of any vitality.
Image: woolly mammoth: replica. Online Photograph. Britannica Student Encyclopædia.