From The Telegraph, 02 Jun 2012
By Christopher Booker
So battle-weary have our media become in covering the slow-motion collapse of the euro that it took them quite a while to wake up to the gravity of the crisis building up over the latest episode – the impending bankruptcy of Spain. On Thursday –while even the EU’s economic affairs commissioner was warning of the “disintegration” of the eurozone, and a former Spanish prime minister spoke of “a total emergency, the worst crisis we have ever lived through” – one internet summary of the day’s top stories (headed by “Jeremy Hunt”) ranked Spain only 20th on the list.
Even those commentators who have tried to put this latest crisis into perspective often revealed how hazily informed many of them are about the history of the EU, and what a central role the creation of the euro has played in it. The BBC’s Robert Peston, for instance, was not the only one to “explain” how the idea of a single currency was concocted by Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand after the fall of Communism in 1989. One cannot, however, grasp the significance of the euro without realising that its history goes much further back than that.
As long ago as 1957, Jean Monnet – who was the real organising genius behind the gradual building of “Europe” into a single, unified state – suggested that it was only through monetary and economic union that the “political union which is the goal” could be achieved. “There are no premature ideas,” he wrote, “only opportunities for which we must learn to wait.”
By 1970, Monnet’s ideas were being fleshed out by the Werner report, which saw monetary union as the key step towards political union. But in 1978, another report for the European Commission, by Sir Donald McDougall, warned that it would be reckless to create a single currency unless Europe was first given an all-powerful government, with the power to tax, and to make a massive transfer of resources from the richer states to the poorer.
In the 1980s, though, that other great integrator Jacques Delors (second only to Monnet in his influence on the drive to European political union) decided to ignore the advice of McDougall and others and to launch the single currency without the suggested preconditions. To move straight to fiscal union, he knew, was not on the cards. But if the single currency was put in place first, it would create exactly the kind of strains which had been foreseen – making fiscal union the only way out.
Delors was banking on that same principle that Monnet had relied on ever since the “European project” was launched in 1950: the “beneficial crisis” – one which can be used, as so often in the EU’s history, to justify giving a whole new tranche of powers to Brussels. Those responsible for setting up the euro in the 1990s knew that it would eventually bring about the kind of strains between richer and poorer countries that could justify their moving on to the fiscal and political union that was always the real goal.
What they hadn’t reckoned with was that the crisis, when it came, would be so immense that it would spiral out of anyone’s control. Thus, amid the present shambles, we hear distracted voices calling for “more Europe” – more powers for Brussels, a new treaty – but the truth is that the chaos has gone way beyond their ability to solve it. They are not going to get their new powers, their “eurobonds”, their fiscal union.
As the ultimate “beneficial crisis” that the architects of Europe dreamt of arrives – it is not turning out to be so beneficial after all. As Shakespeare put it, they have been “hoist with their own petard”, as “purposes mistook fall on the inventors’ heads”.
They have been horribly caught out, and the result, as we begin to see, is a catastrophe which could be about to take a great deal more of their “European dream” with it.
Clarke asleep on the job again
That unreconstructed old 1960s Europhile Kenneth Clarke gets so many things wrong that even when he gets something right he does so for the wrong reason. Apart from being photographed sleeping at a Test match, his major contribution to public life last week was the noisy scorn he poured on the “frenzied Eurosceptics” who are calling for an EU referendum.
It might seem odd for him to be so dissmissive of a proposal apparently favoured by 83 per cent of the members of the party he nominally represents (70 per cent of whom, according to the same survey, want to see Britain leave the EU altogether). But if he was as clever as that similarly besotted EU-addict Lord Mandelson – who is now calling for a referendum – Mr Clarke would see how this might actually serve his purpose. However hostile to the EU most British people have become, the fact is that an “in or out” referendum campaign might well present us with a similar line-up to the one we saw in 1975.
The leaderships of our major parties, along with the BBC and the rest of the politically correct establishment, would all be calling for Britain to stay in. Over the years, the public has been so consistently misinformed about the EU that, without an honest debate to lay bare the real damage that membership has done to Britain, and how we could overcome the difficulties involved in leaving – and without a proper vision of what our role in the world might be once we had escaped the clutches of this dying incubus – we could well end up, as in 1975, with precisely the result that would make Mr Clarke happy.
Unable to see that, though, he simply falls back on his usual line in empty and contemptuous bluster.
Facing mounting economic woes, Prime minister Mariano Rajoy calls for a new eurozone body to manage nations’ debts and budgets
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday called for the establishment of a central authority that would oversee and harmonize fiscal policy in the euro zone, according to media reports.