Sunday, January 23, 2005

Wimps past and present #2

Having looked at the extraordinary transformation of the former President of the Toy Parliament in Strasbourg, Pat Cox, into a roaring lion of a freedom fighter (well, roaring quietly but roaring nevertheless), let us turn our attention to the somewhat less edifying spectacle of his successor.

As our readers will recall, the Spanish socialist and recently elected MEP, Josep Borrell, was chosen to be the President in a particularly unpleasant bit of pork barrel politics between the two main groups: the Socialists and the European People’s Party, to which our own dear Conservative MEPs are attached.

(Incidentally, what happened to his intention to reform the Toy Parliament, especially with regards to the payment and expenses system? A toy it may be, but it is a very expensive toy and we seem to have no right to to take it back to the shop and demand a refund.)

Here is an interesting little story, written up by Jan Winiecki, a very eminent Polish economist, a professor and chair of International Economics and European Studies at the Rzeszow School of Computer Science and Management and president of the Adam Smith Centre in Poland, in the Wall Street Journal Europe. It was not, so far as I know, mentioned in any of the British media. What would we sophisticated Europeans do without the crude, naïve and narrow-minded Yanks, who do insist on producing good newspapers?

As our readers may recall, the two countries that became closely involved with attempts to sort out the Ukrainian problems after the first, rather dubious presidential election, were Poland and Lithuania. This was not surprising, as they are countries, whose history has been closely intertwined with that of Ukraine. Furthermore, like the other post-Communist states and unlike the older members of the European Union, they are well aware of the need for a transparent and accountable political system and a free media.

The EU itself, on the other hand, played a somewhat ambiguous part. Javier Solana did run around from one important actor in the drama to another, but his aim was to achieve stability. Not the same thing as freedom, democracy and accountability at all. Above all, he and Chancellor Schröder did not want to upset President Putin who was trying to use the Ukrainian election as a stepping stone in his own ambitious power game.

It all reminded some of us with longer memories of the EU’s insistence in the early nineties that no matter what and no matter how but Yugoslavia must stay together, thus, in effect, giving Slobodan Milosevic a go-ahead for some of his most unpleasant policies.

Well, we know what happened in Ukraine and are now waiting eagerly to see what will happen next. Not all of us, it seems. Mr Borrell made some rather curious remarks to the leading Warsaw newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza.

The outcome in Ukraine, according to Mr Borrell, was “a great success for the EU in avoiding a crisis”. Presumably, had Yanukovich managed to push through a fraudulent vote, that, too would have been a success in avoiding a crisis. Nothing could be worse than a crisis for the structure-obsessed EU politicos, not tyranny, not oppression, not cheating in elections.

This success, unnoticed by most people in Ukraine, was achieved despite the intervention by the uppity new members who were clearly acting “under US influence”. Gasp! Hiss! At least, he did not repeat President Chirac’s bêtise about the new members losing a good opportunity to keep quiet.

It seems that one cannot possibly be in favour of free and fair elections. Anyone who says that must be an American agent. And what could be worse than that? Reminds one of the dear dead days of the old Pravda newspaper.

Alas, those uppity new members refused to be lectured to in this way and Mr Borrell, who could not blame his advisers, blamed the translators. It’s a set-up Youronner, he said, I was mistranslated. In return he heard the Polish equivalent of yeah, right.

Professor Winiecki, however, has gone beyond blowing a raspberry in the direction of the tired old socialist at the head of an expensive toy parliament. He sees this rather silly story as the epitome of what is wrong with the whole EU mentality.
“No matter the exact wording, Mr Borrell expressed an obsessive anti-Americanism common in today’s Europe. And that, in turn, reflects the metal state of the Continent whose main characteristic is fear. Fear of nearly everything.”
Pat Cox had written something similar:
“If the EU is to prosper, my dear President Barroso, this is not the time for you to be the conservative leader of a cautious continent.”
Mr Cox was talking largely about economic and social matters; Professor Winiecki sees larger issues. His article enumerates the many things “Europe” is now afraid of to the point of paralysis.

It is afraid of getting involved in and helping the countries that lie between the EU and Russia and would not even have uttered a squeak of protest but for the new members, who know a thing or two about what goes on behind those borders.

It is afraid of the market. It is against
“… a work ethic, competition, and all the paraphernalia of the market regime”.
It is afraid of Islam and tries “to make a virtue of its fear”.

“On the bigger international stage, the obsessive invocation of ‘rule of law’,of ‘multilateralism’ as opposed to ‘unilateralism’, comes down to a search for an excuse not to act.”
Nor is he, unlike certain American commentators, well-protected by that uncouth American power, impressed by what is now more and more often described as the “soft power” of Europe or, rather, the European Union.
“Europe’s invocation of ‘soft power’, i.e. the preference for economic assistance as the solution to violent conflicts, raises psychologically interesting questions. How much does that reflect socialist mythology that throwing money at the problem will overcome obvious obstacles to success? And how much, simply, is it an aversion to risk, a fear of engagement in the world’s problems. The EU’s reluctance to act anywhere, and its instinct to fall back on the least imaginative approach, was most recently on view in its response to the masssacre in Darfur.”
(Oh yes, what did happen to all that money the EU kept sending to Sudan and, specifically, Darfur? Has there been any proper accounting done?)

Europe, in particular “old Europe”, says Professor Winiecki, is trying to ignore reality inside its own structures, which are tied to outdated and disastrous economic ideas, and on the wider international scene.

All this can be summed up in a very simple phrase: Europe is afraid of freedom. The continent that invented the concept has abandoned it and rails against anyone who tries to invoke it. In so far as there is a European identity, the EU and its wimps (that word being the title of Professor Winiecki’s article) are busy destroying it.

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