Saturday, June 21, 2008

Small Countries Versus Centralization

In the Financial Times (June 19) Samuel Brittan aptly qualifies as “nonsense” the reactions of the European establishment to the Irish No vote in the referendum on the Lisbon treaty. It is not a “defeat for Europe” as the establishment would have it but a defeat for a certain, centralizing, vision of Europe. This vision took over from the original liberal trade area project that was clearly beneficial in the world of the 50s, fragmented by trade barriers. It is less so today in a globalized economy. The new goal of politicians and bureaucrats since the 80s has been to shift more and more decisions to the EU level, even to the point of extending to the Brussels level decisions that are left to the state level in the US.

Samuel Brittan adds that – in spite of John Major confidence – one still cannot find an example of a newly Europeanized decision turned back to the member states after having been centralized. And he defines – rightly - as “corporatist” the second eurocrat ambition: to entrench the so-called “European social model” which, in eurospeak, is often confused with democracy.

Not so says Brittan who warns:
“There are dangers in policies determined by producer bodies selected neither by the market nor by a recognized political process”.

A growing “democratic deficit” in other terms, or more exactly an anti-democratic trend, characterizes the whole enterprise. It is thus not surprising that smaller states are reluctant to participate in the process since they are the most likely losers from centralization. When a single policy is adopted, large states have their say but smaller ones cannot prevail. The more “different” they are, the more they can expect to lose. But the Irish want to keep their freedom to choose tax policies, while the Czech, freshly emancipated from a heavy centralizing hand in the East are not keen on submitting to another one in the West.

The confirmed refusal of the Czech Republic, on Friday, to give an explicit promise to approve the treaty illustrates the difficulty. Expect more on the way since the European elites’ thinking is still firmly rooted in the old XXth century realities, the century of empires, power through bigness, and economies of scale, while the late XXth and early XXIst belong in the information age of “small is beautiful” and “decentralization is optimal”.

The opposition to the centralization of Europe is mounting, step after step, from the special conditions obtained by Britain and Denmark, to the French No of 2005, the Irish one of today, and maybe the Czech one of tomorrow. The corporatists should reexamine their creed.

No comments: