Monday, March 02, 2009
We will send you our ravening hordes
"Give us your money, or we will send over our unemployed millions," is the message from Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Hungarian prime minister. And, goes the subtext, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop us. This is what Gawain Towler over at England Expects is reporting, with the benefit of having seen a letter from Gyurcsany, which he publishes in full.
That theme is picked up by Bruno Waterfield in The Telegraph, who retails Gyurcsany's warning. Issued on behalf of the Central and Eastern European members of the EU, it states that the economic crisis threatens to split Europe, with the economic equivalent of an "Iron Curtain" – the rich countries on one side and the poor on the other.
Gyurcsany then goes on to say that unless €190 billion is thrown across the line, to prevent the curtain falling, there would be, "A significant economic crisis in Eastern Europe". This, he writes, "would trigger political tensions and immigration pressures."
Then comes the punch-line: "With a Central and East European population of around 350 million of which 100 million are in the EU, a 10 percent increase would lead to at least five million additional unemployed within the EU." The result would be "a flood of unemployed immigrants travelling to Western Europe in search of jobs."
The message was apparently adopted by nine Central and Eastern European countries – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania. They held an "unprecedented breakaway summit" before the meeting of all 27 EU member states in Brussels yesterday, and presented the rest with what amounted to an ultimatum.
The reporting from the likes of The Guardian, however, presents a different picture. Its hacks together with most of the others (pictured above), dutifully followed the EU commission script, telling us that "European leaders" had sought to banish the spectre of protectionism stalking the EU, responding to the financial crisis by underlining the "sanctity" of Europe's single market.
The use of "sanctity" is a very interesting choice of word for something that is supposed to be part of a political system. Perhaps "integrity" would have been a better choice, but the term actually used betrays the mindset … this is a quasi-religious institution, not a political movement.
Another word with quasi-religious overtones, very much in evidence was "unity". This was, we are told, the Holy Grail for which the "colleagues" were struggling – and in vain, so it seems. The heads of government from the member states "remained deeply divided".
That much was echoed by The Times, which followed Bruno with the "apocalyptic warning". It too retails the threat that if the Central and Eastern European countries do not get their money, we will be submerged by the "Eastern hordes" of unemployed workers heading west to steal the jobs from under the very noses of our suckling babes.
The response of the "colleagues" to this is rather interesting. With Merkel in the vanguard, the call for an "Eastern Europe aid fund" was summarily dismissed. Merkel went so far as to say: "I see a very different situation among eastern countries, I do not advise going into the debate with massive figures."
We then got the ritual incantations. Up went the cry that the only thing standing between us and the ravening hordes was the benign intervention of our masters in Brussels. Thus do we get the call for holy "unity" which will bind us all together and ensure that the misery is equally spread – except in the restaurants of Brussels of course.
Somewhere in all that lot is Gordon Brown. He seems to want shed-loads of (other peoples') money thrown at the problem, and is calling for the International Monetary Fund to intervene, although he has been somewhat vague about where he thinks the IMF will get the money.
What is worrying the shit out of the "colleagues" is indeed the prospect of a significant crisis in Eastern Europe and the reality of "political tensions". That is a cosy euphemism for the great unwashed taking to the streets and ripping the throats out of their benign leaders. It is a fear that rather explains their resort to quasi-religious slogans – in much the same way that Stalin reverted to calls to save "Mother Russia" when the ravening Nazi hordes were at the gates of Moscow.
Basically, though, they do not have the shed-loads of money, being rather too busy bailing out their own collapsing economic systems. The only thing the "colleagues" were able to manage, therefore, was a rather lame statement fromn José Manuel Barroso declaring: "There was consensus on the need to avoid any unilateral protectionist measures."
Little José is beginning to sound a bit like Marie Antoinette - "let them eat consensus", he is saying. Mr Gyurcsany seems to have other ideas.