June 14, 2005

Stefania Lapenna, THE JERUSALEM POST

Stefania Lapenna, THE JERUSALEM POST

With the defeat of the European constitution in France and the Netherlands, and the indefinite postponement of a vote in the UK, the fate of the European Union hangs in the balance. The continent's mainstream elites have almost all blamed the defeat on "extreme Right, nationalist and hard leftist parties." Others have considered the votes as a blow to the French and Dutch governments. What Euro enthusiasts seem unwilling to concede is that a great blow has been inflicted on the idea of the EU in its totality.
Even those who haven't given up on the EU are belatedly recognizing that Europeans are growing sick of this institution. These stalwarts tend to argue that its leadership must re-think its social, economic and foreign policies.
Really? It is not that easy to change what has been in the minds of an entrenched unelected bureaucracy for years. Ironically, the main reason behind the French "non" might be one many tend to disagree with. Many of the opponents object to what they claim is an extremely pro-free market approach in the proposed constitution. These French, in other words, prefer to keep their archaic socialist and statist policies, even if they have failed.
The Dutch voted "nee" as a sign of disapproval from a different perspective toward the economic and immigration policies adopted by the union. Unlike the French, they see the EU's socialist policies as one of the causes of the growing unemployment across the continent. And, following the assassination of the film-maker Theo Van Gogh, immigration is one of the major concerns of the Dutch citizens.
If many more nations were granted the right to express themselves on key issues, including the membership of Turkey, the result would be very similar.
But it seems that the Europe's governing elites are not willing to allow a repeat of what occurred in France and the Netherlands. They are scared of what the ordinary citizen might think about the so-called "Europeanist dream." Worse, they show no tolerance for those who refuse to endorse what is imposed on them by the Eurocracy.
Opponents of European consolidation are considered as "dissidents" at best, and are often subject to worse labels such as "extreme right-winger" and "nationalist." It is easy to conclude that to Europe's enthusiasts either you accept all the EU stands for or you're a dangerous individual.
Such arrogance has clearly backfired. The German government is now thinking to drop the euro and return to the old currency. According to several polls, a majority of Germans would go back to the deutschmark.
The same goes for Italy as well. A growing number of Italians are growing sick of the European Union's policies, from immigration to taxes and public expenditure regulations. Some Italian political parties are planning to collect enough signatures to call a referendum on whether Italy should remain in the euro zone or not.
IN LIGHT of all this, are the European leaders going to change their policies? Don't bet on it. For years, the economic policy has been based on high taxes and irresponsible public expenditures. Incompetence is combined with highhandedness: The EU strictly monitors the policies of every sovereign nation and imposes what it claims fits better.
A country has no other choice but to decide whether to accept the Bruxelles' diktats or risk facing sanctions – yes , you read correctly. Europe will not change this.
If this weren't enough, Europe's foreign policy has been based on continued appeasement of the world's worst tyrants and terrorists regimes. Such policies have fed into anti-Semitic sentiment, along with anti-Israel lies and pro-Palestinian propaganda. Eurocrats oppose the democratization of the Middle East, and parrot the same tired claim that Arab leaders do to justify the oppression of their peoples: that the core issue is still the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though 9/11 should have rendered such a notion risible.
When it comes to Iran, the European attitude is more than absurd. It amounts to granting the mullahs a sort of immunity and further time to complete all they need to destroy Israel and the West at large.
Europe is aware that more than a year of pointless negotiations with Iran have resolved nothing. And yet, Europe's only idea is to call for more talks as a way to avert the involvement of the United States in "internal Iranian affairs."
The Eurocrats are well aware that if the Iranian people bring down the Islamic Republic with America's moral and economic help, it may be the end of their economic contracts and looting of Iran's national resources. Out of fear of losing its cozy relationship with Middle Eastern autocrats, the European Union turns a blind eye to the gross human rights abuses committed in the region.
Europe will not change this, either.
We need to face the fact that the principal goal of this bureaucratic and obsolete institution was to serve as a counter-weight to American power. Whatever the reasons of the European citizens' growing dislike of the institution, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Europeanists' utopian dreams will never be realized.

The writer is an Italian activist and author of the weblog Free Thoughts.

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