Aida 204 Europe ………

MAASTRICHT NOSEDIVES

IT is no secret that the European Community, with its ruthless erosion of national authority and destruction of the European nation states, was widely seen as the role model for world government. EC Vice President Bangeman made that clear when he said: "The European Community is a preparation for a global economic structure."

Today, thankfully, the tides of history are running against the globalists. Europeans themselves are in an increasingly sceptical mood about the EU. It is calculated that some 70% of Europe does not now favour the EU. In present conditions, it is very unlikely that a single currency will proceed safely toward its target date of January, 1999: which speaks ominously for the survival of the EU in its present form.

Patterns are emerging in Europe that cannot be denied. In particular there is enormous, if as yet little publicised, anti-European Monetary Union hostility among continental businessmen, media, politicians and voters alike. Even among the most powerful, many Euro-zealots are suddenly suspicious of their god.

Bogged down in political bickering, beset by lack of popular support and increasing animosity to the huge Brussels machine of international officials, remote, arbitrary, anonymous, insatiably interfering, often blisteringly incompetent, the EU is steadily more discredited. As so many predicted, Maastricht looks like a disaster for Europe; the whole costly structure with its bogus "parliament," its unelected and unaccountable government, seen as fraudulent.

In particular the sordid and secretive manner in which the ill-written, barely comprehensible Maastricht Treaty was prepared and rammed through is being remembered with growing bitterness and fury, all of this slowly wiping the smirk off the faces of the much-hated Brussels one-worlders.

The tart-tongued Tory heavyweight, Norman Tebbit, has described the whole immense project as "based on make believe, an optical illusion."

The great promise of European unity was that it would bring economic prosperity to the entire continent. The reverse is proving true. Europe is saddled with a lethal combination: superpower envy (one of the main forces behind the drive for union was France's desire to reduce US influence in Europe) and the legacy of post-war socialist Utopianism: Social welfare engineering and planning, collective bargaining, high taxes, to which the EMU would add still further layers of uncountable cost.

Sweden has already asked to be left out of the new currency bloc entirely. The Swiss daily Neue Zuricher Zeitung says "The house of cards has begun to collapse."

Edmund Stoiber, Prime Minister of Bavaria, says he will "do everything in my power to prevent a federal state of Europe … what we need is a Europe of individual nations, not ever more centralism in the form of a supranational European state." He urges that specific action be taken to protect national identity.

The Bundesbank's chief economist, Professor Otmar Issig, said last month that the single currency could destroy the European Union, partly because rich states would have to transfer so much money to poor ones."

While EU Commissioner President Jacques Santer still insists that the monetary union is "irreversible, we are all committed to it," he also adds: "If we do not achieve it within the time table set out in Maastricht Treaty, there will be the risk that it will never be achieved at all. I do not know how the internal market would survive such a blow."

Many of the suppositions on which the EU was built are proving day dreams. This was supposed to be a United States of Western Europe, based on the US model. But the fact remains that Europe is still made up of many different countries. And Europe does not possess a US-type infrastructure.

Where Americans can travel freely from state to state in search of jobs or a better life, Europeans are largely immobilised by linguistic and social differences. Of the union's 370 million citizens, only about 5 million live outside their country of birth and only 3,1 million, scarcely 1% work outside it in another EU state.

The scheme to merge national currencies for economies as diverse as Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain is visibly becoming unravelled. Even the laymen can now see that the three main pillars of the EU - a common monetary, foreign and security policy - are groaning and shaking under the strain of irresponsible fiscal policies.

The first big question mark over the future of the European accords came late in 1995 when France was rocked by huge nationwide strikes. These went directly against the Maastricht treaties, after the French government began using treaty requirements to justify its drastic fiscal austerity programme. The alarming weakness of the French economy has since been reflected in big corporate and banking collapses, continually rising unemployment, including a 30% youth unemployment; farmers' protests and other forms of social unrest.

Of the four prime criteria to join the new currency group, one is that affected states must reduce total public debt to no more than 60% of GDP. At present only one state qualifies: Luxembourg. Most potential members grossly exceed that limit: Italy has gross debt of 125% to GDP; Belgium, 134%; Greece, 115%.

What this exposes is that the socialist straitjacket imposed on the Europeans is not only a scam, but is simply not working, that the whole sorry misshapen muddle is in urgent need of a profound shake-up. Word is now quietly going out that the original Maastricht Treaty, agreed to go into full effect in January 1999, will have to be re-written and adjusted to the realities of 1997/8 and world recession.

If there is one lesson from this, it is that collective planning is not the wave of the future. Pre-toria please note.

EC Headquarters, Brussels.

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