The European Union is Destroying European Unity

So we know that the pro-bailout parties in Greece have failed to form a coalition, and that this will either mean an anti-bailout, anti-austerity government, or new elections, and that this will probably mean that the Greek default is about to become extremely messy (because let’s face it the chances of the Greek people electing a pro-austerity, pro-bailout government is about as likely as Hillary Clinton quitting her job at the State Department and seeking a job shaking her booty at Spearmint Rhino).

It was said that the E.U.’s existence was justified in the name of preventing the return of nationalism and fascism to European politics.

Well, as a result of the austerity terms imposed upon Greece by their European cousins in Brussels and Frankfurt, Greeks just put a fully-blown fascist party into Parliament.

From the Telegraph:

The ultra nationalist far right party Golden Dawn supporters celebrated on Sunday after exit polls showed them winning between 5 to 7 per cent of the vote, enough for them to gain representation in parliament for the first time in Greek history. Golden Dawn Leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos shouted “The Europe of the nations returns, Greece is only the beginning” as he walked towards party headquaters and pledged to deal with illegal immigrants first.

For doubters of their intellectual lineage, here’s their logo:

I (among many others) have argued since at least last year that increased nationalism would be a result of the status quo, which is of course deeply ironic.

Winston Churchill famously noted that a new European unity was the path to the people of Europe forgetting the “rivers of blood that have flowed for thousands of years”.

Well it looks like some of the memories of those rivers of blood are about to be unleashed. How was it possible that a regime set up ostensibly to create more and deeper European unity seems to have sown the seeds for division and nationalism? Quite easily, really.

By designing a system that allowed for governments to spend freely in a fiat currency they could not print more of, Brussels effectively set up member states for fiscal crises. But the fiscal crisis hit at the worst possible time, one of global economic contraction. And by enforcing contractionary policies on states that were already in a depression, economies in Europe are getting to Great Depression levels:

The key here is that the Euro system is not giving the public the idea that all peoples are in the same boat. It is giving the impression that some nations are benefiting at the expense of others.

For there can be no doubting the perception on the ground in Europe that Germany (the first nation, lest we forget, to violate the Stability and Growth Pact) is sado-masochistically brutalising the periphery in the name of its own prosperity. And the facts back that up:

Certainly, the steep austerity policies have in Portugal, Spain and Greece only produced bigger deficits as tax revenues have fallen. But what really matters is that Europeans more and more are coming to see the E.U. and the policies it enforces as counter to their interests and harmful.

While Britons have long resented the E.U. and its micro-managerial regulatory regime, it is becoming clear that much of Europe is coming to distrust the E.U. and its institutions:

In the wake of WW2 there was deep and genuine grassroots concern throughout Europe for unity, and Europe should never have to go through another war. Yet the actions of this bureaucratic, centralising, technocratic institution are jeopardising that reality. This is top-down fragility transmitted throughout Europe by the actions of misguided planners.

I don’t believe that many Europeans really want to go down this path again. But as the European economies continue to bleed, as millions of youths remain jobless, those deep scars that thousands of years of war and violence created, culminating in the rise of Nazism and WW2, are rising again to the surface.

Voters become radical when they are denied economic opportunity. That’s the reality I think we should all take from Hitler’s rise to power, and that’s the reality of Europe today.

50 thoughts on “The European Union is Destroying European Unity

  1. Quit being such an alarmist. The Greek Extreme Right only got 7% of the vote. We’ve got more fascists than that in America. What the elections in France and Greece really show is that the game is over for the Right Wing governments trying to force average citizen in countries to pay back ill-advised loans to international bankers. So we now can really start to deal with tthe problem in an intelligent way and save the European Union on a popular basis.

    • Is it? Is the EU destroying unity anymore than the fragmented Europe of the 14th – 20th centuries destroyed unity?

    • More like wishful thinking you’re right and Aziz is wrong. What popular basis? The EU has overridden the wishes of its constituent nations’ peoples, ignoring referenda and outright propaganda used to tilt public perception.

      Apart from the freeloading elites, which are mostly leftist, the Euro takes away the one true way for sovereign nations to remain competitive. Indeed, the EU has stealthily sucked away sovereignty from member states.

    • Why is it that the current system is fine as long as it is African or South American countries that are being torn to shreds by it, but as soon as it hits Europe, people say the system needs reconfigured? I’m sorry, but Europe has lived by this economic sword, and now it must prepare to die by it.

    • Azizonomics correctly summarized in the article the devastation of Europe in the hands of the European Union, (which European Union I greatly applauded when it was first formed many years ago)! Now I see that the European Union is actually enslaving most Europeans, by throwing them hungry in the streets, as the new homeless class. This European Union chocking-machine may actually be worse than traditional slavery, because as slaves, people at least had daily meals, a bed, and a roof to sleep under! I now sincerely hope that one European country after another will bravely abandon the European Union. No matter what the results are, it will be better for the Europeans, so that they can have meals and a bed, and a roof above their heads for survival. Now Europe has descended to a Society of ruthlessness! Even people at the top 1% of wealth in the USA realize the cruel injustice!!! Enough is Enough!
      Written in Florida, USA

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  3. You’re using Taleb’s terminology. Recently he said that he’s got some euros as a hedge for his stocks and USD because the politicians in Europe understand the problems (something like that). I wonder what he meant by that…

    • Here’s the thing: I figure the PIGS leaving the Euro and going their own way will leave the core an ultra-strong currency.

      It’d be like the Deutschmark+++

      • I don’t know, currently the PIGS are more pro-euro. Yes, they’re anti-austerity but pro-euro. Pretty schizophrenic, but that’s what it is. I’ve heard a few days ago that 70% of Greeks want to retain the euro. That doesn’t mean that’s going to happen necessarily (unless it’s put to a poll in Greece and they vote yes/no: austerity with the euro, or chaos with “hope” outside of the euro).

        • They want to stay in the Euro because they remember the bad old days of hyperinflation. Unfortunately for them, being in a strong currency like the Euro run by Berlin/Frankfurt/Brussels by the fiscal austerity hawks means you can’t just print money to pay debts, which was the norm before for Greece, etc.

          That’s the reality. I disagree with Germany’s policy, but that’s Germany’s policy and if they want to stay in the Euro they have to play along, and I don’t think they will.

        • They can’t have their cake and it eat it too, but either way, they’re screwed. There’s just no way of getting into massive debt without suffering heavy consequences. But the Euro is making it worse, as their uncompetitiveness has become structural as a result. The only way to remove the structural uncompetitiveness is to go back to the drachma. It doesn’t solve the debt problem, but it enables Greece to be viable economically if it’s debt gets written off. Otherwise, debt will be necessary for Greece to function, which will cause precisely the same result. Hands up those who want to give Greece money for nothing forever? No? Then they must leave the Euro.

      • Maybe you can ask him about that. He didn’t give me that impression, because he said something like “they understand the problems” not “I’m holding it as a speculative hedge”. It was more like “you can’t solve debt problems by throwing more money at the problem” (which is the wishful thinking Krugmanite way – which might work, but only under very specific circumstances). Although, in another interview he referred to the euro as “flawed”.

        Not that I’m necessarily expecting to find out the real “truth” about things from him – people mostly describe things in hindsight and take credit when they can.

        And I don’t know about that super-strong euro hypothesis. Even the current one seems too strong even for France or the Netherlands. Everyone seems to just love destroying their currencies.

        • Wait a minute. I think it’s quite obvious and unremarkable to state: throwing more money at a problem won’t fix it; that is, if you imply carelessness when referring to the effort taken in “throwing the money.” Obviously if you “throw” money at a mafia-esque govt it probably want be too effective. But to somehow suggest that adding more money in a managed way wont fix inefficiency is wrong. You don’t believe that anyway. Businesses “throw”, or rather, direct money at problems all the time. You just don’t believe govts can ever be efficient. So you set up a strawman to imply that Krugman simply thinks “throwing” money at any problem will always make it better. I think Krugman is assuming you have a competent and reasonable govt in place.

        • I actually don’t believe that adding money in a managed way by a govt. is always ineffective. I also don’t believe that businesses throwing money at problems is always effective. But I think the PIGS govts. have a good track record showing their throwing money didn’t do too much good for creating a healthy self-sustaining economy (and probably the US as well) – and they don’t really have a mafiaesque government. And I don’t know whether anyone in the world (IMF, ECB, IMF sans ECB etc.) would be willing to lend them (PIGS) unlimited amounts of money hoping that this time they’ll get spending right. And the PIGS can (and probably will) be left to their own devices so that they won’t have the euro to blame. I agree with your previous comment – the article doesn’t seem to be very balanced: doesn’t show anything good about the EU – and I can tell the EU did a lot of good (a guiding light for ex-communist countries etc.)

          But bottom line, I don’t really care about the above philosophizing; I just wanted to know what Taleb meant – because people that think long and hard about certain problems are worth listening to.

        • PS: To be thorough, spending was a problem only for Greece and the US from my above mentioned countries. For Spain and Ireland it was the unregulated banking system that blew up and had/has to be rescued by the govt. (maybe they can come up with better solutions in Spain than in Ireland). Italy was a current account surplus country, but the investors suddenly got scared about the high level of debt (a sentiment that was amplified by what happened in Greece and the fact that Italy can’t print her own currency – so the situation in Italy was mostly sentiment driven).

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  8. Another thing: that graphic with the current account balances is global, not intra-EMU. I also read that Italy for example lost her edge in competitiveness (most of it) not with Germany but with China. The traditional anti-euro answer was: well, if Italy wasn’t in the euro, it could have devalued her way to competitiveness with China.

    I’m writing this in the context of the phrase “Germany brutalizing the periphery” which I find a bit removed from reality. A more balanced view here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100013600/germany-is-the-ultimate-victim-of-emu/ – not that I agree with all that he’s saying.

    • Germany brutalising the periphery is not necessarily the reality. There was an advantage there, and they used it as most of us would.

      But the problem is that that is the perception of a lot of people in Europe. I’m not really writing about reality today; I’m writing more about perceptions.

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    • It looks like the middle ground between a swastika and a shekel.

      However the most salient feature for me is the colour scheme, which is absolutely Nazified.

    • Thanks but I think that is specuating a little. Here is my source (Wiki so take it with a grain of salt ) for the Hellenistic meander symbol:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Dawn_(Greece)

      Accusations of neo-Nazism
      The flag of Golden Dawn appears reminiscent of the flag of Nazi Germany.The party is regularly described as neo-Nazi and fascist by the international news media, based on their use of the nazi salute and the obvious resemblance of their logo to a swastika.[73][74] However, they do not currently describe themselves by either of these labels. According to Michaloliakos, the use of the Roman salute is a tribute to National Youth Organisation, a World War II-era youth organization connected with the 4th of August Regime whose membership was open to Jews. The group’s logo is actually a traditional Greek meander. Golden Dawn often criticizes media reports about it.[1]

      The original 1979 charter of an organization run by Michaloliakos allegedly mandated the use of a “Nazi salute”, encouraged the use of other Nazi emblems, and required that members be of “Aryan blood and Greek origin”, and these practices remained in place for much of the next decade, according to the left-wing paper Eleftherotypia.[2] Michaloliakos says that Golden Dawn has no mandatory salute.[75]

      • The original 1979 charter of an organization run by Michaloliakos allegedly mandated the use of a “Nazi salute”, encouraged the use of other Nazi emblems, and required that members be of “Aryan blood and Greek origin”

        Yeah, that tells me all I need to know.

        • “It’s a hellenisation of a swastika. That’s the most accurate thing I can say.”

          Agreed.

        • Aziz, it’s not hellinisation of a swastika. It’s the ancient Greek maiandros, as has been discussed, and it symbolizes victory and unity, and the infinite and eternal life. It’s the shape of 2 hands clasped. As for red and white, I don’t know if that’s some official color scheme. In their official appearances on tv it’s black and white.. And more importantly, what’s missing is the laurel leafs on each side. Take out the red, and add the laurels and the image does not seem as threatening, nor bring to mind ‘hypnotic’ and ‘death’.

          They also do not use a Nazi salute, it’s the salute used in the days of Ioannis Metaxas, and there’s a good chance it predates Metaxas as well. There’s footage of Metaxas and the salute floating around on youtube. Metaxas is a hero in Greece, he is the famous “OXI” or NO, to Mussolini’s ultimatums, which is a national holiday.

          Now, does this group have non-democratic tendencies? It seems so, it seems they want to be the next Metaxas or Colonels of the late 60’s-early 70’s junta. A large part of their group is military (the leader is a former commando in the special forces).However, believing the mass media labels as Hitler worshippers is wrong. It’s apparent the establishment and the system is very afraid of them. They alternate between slandering and ridiculing them, and use every sly and dirty trick in the book against them.

          I infer from TPTB’s actions against them that they are outside of the system and incorruptible. They are patriots, there is no doubt about it and I can tell you stories of what their members have done for Greeks who needed help when everyone- including the state- failed them, and they don’t advertise this. When you understand that the majority know their politicians have sold them out, that the parliament is stocked with traitors, it’s easy to see why they chose to vote for whom they perceive as the only patriots in the political system, even if they have authoritarian tendencies, and despite the oligarchy’s media efforts to paint them as Hitler loving Nazis.

        • Hey I’m not saying the establishment is good. The establishment has been terrible for Greece, just as the establishment during the Weimar years was quite terrible for Germany.

          The maiandros is not one single swirl, it is a series going from left to right. If they used the series it would look nothing like a swastika.

          Now, does this group have non-democratic tendencies? It seems so, it seems they want to be the next Metaxas or Colonels of the late 60′s-early 70′s junta. A large part of their group is military (the leader is a former commando in the special forces).

          Again, that says a lot. They don’t have to be Hitler worshippers (although the various similarities says a lot).

          The Greek establishment has completely failed and I expect this party to do well in coming months/years.

        • I can’t argue with you there my friend. I agree, they will at least continue to be a presence in Parliament. Unless they do something really stupid, like come out and say they believe in nazism. That would be the end of them. Incidentally, the latest poll on the June elections (if there is an election) has them coming in around 5% IIRC.

          It’s interesting to note, if you ask older Greeks the best economic time period in Greece, the biggest response you will hear will be the time of the Generals’ junta. Even a decades-old voter for the KKE(communist party) said it to me.

  10. I don’t have much confidence in the voting public. When their elders pass on , nobody will be around to warn the youth. Give it 5 years and people like my Grandmother will be gone to tell the story (She was only a teenager so knew nothing of politics pre war.) Impoverished youths will seek out a leader who provides hope. It is scary but I can see how history repeats. The gullible masses are the ones driving us over the cliff, and people like myself who see the impending doom, don’t have enough influence to stop it.

  11. And another thing pre WW1 most of Europe was large member states. A quasi Euro. Rabble rousing nationalists promoted national identity, which fed partisan politics and all out war.

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  13. Thanks for the detailed response Nick. I am sure they have a real love of Greece and it’s future, but I think they did a disservice to themselves adopting the colour scheme. Would have been better off Traditional Greek Blue and White. Greece needs a new hope. I hope evil elements don’t hijack it. I am concerned about Neo Pagan mythology in its history. Greeks are mostly Christian. The Nazis tried this too.

    I know ethnic Albanians are targeted in Greece. Let’s hope they are not the next scapegoat.

    • That flag in blue and white without the salutes would be much closer to what I’d call a patriotic Greek movement. They are absolutely doing a disservice to themselves, and discrediting themselves.

      • You guys are right about blue and white. These guys seem to have no sense of public relations. Which seems to be good and bad. They have decided to not accept the full salary of a parliamentarian(reputedly the highest in the EU), but of a military pay level of antisyntagmartachis. They say they will deposit the difference into a fund for a program they plan to launch (which might be ‘doctors with borders’). Now, if PASOK had done something like this(hardy harhar!), they would hold numerous news conferences to pat themselves on the back. These guys simply announced it during the election night news conference, and that was it.

        I watched an interview of their leader today, Mr. Michaloliakis. A rare appearance on TV. Let me say that he’s correct (though not groundbreaking) about journalists being yellow. These 2 journalists were pathetically obvious in their attempts to trip him up; changing the rules on the fly, cutting him off, trying to trap him, making inane comments and questions, etc etc. I watched it with an emphatically anti-Golden Dawn friend, and she gagged at the interviewers’ antics. This is par for the course for the Greek media. The public dislikes them for it and you hear many people lump together with the politicians as traitors. It borders on hatred as a reporter for SKAI news (who is pro-bailout) was attacked and sent to the hospital yesterday (he was not seriously hurt).

        Let me say Mr. Michaloliakos was very polite, and is very smart and quick on his feet. Many times during the interview he turned the tables on his opponents/journalists, at times with humor and at times with biting sarcasm and criticism. Unfortunately, there was no in-depth analysis of the issues or his platform.

        They did manage to bring up health, and the ‘doctors with borders’ program. It’s a program to give free and quick medical service to Greeks. The health insurance here is notoriously problematic. Many instances people wait on line all day, only to receive an appointment to see a doctor in 6 months. Another problem is that health insurance isn’t free anymore–for Greeks. For illegal and legal immigrants, it’s completely free. The injustice of it is infuriating–which is adding fuel to the fire of the immigrant problem, and it’s a very complicated problem.

        Golden Dawn’s stance according to Michaliakos is that it’s wrong to seperate the immigrants into legal and illegal categories. He claims there are very few true legal immigrants here. The ones the media and other parties label as legal, they consider illegal because they snuck through the borders. And when it was convenient for the establishment parties (ie to buy votes), they simply handed them a piece of paper and suddenly they’re legal. He wants them all out. Only immigrants that were invited here are welcome.

        He was asked if he was going to throw out the children of “legal” immigrants born here in Greece. His reply was the only rights they have here is to their private property and inheritance rights, such as their parents houses.

        That was it on issues, the rest was mostly fluff, farce and neo-nazism, which he emphatically denied over and over.

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