Mittwoch, November 30, 2005

And They Wonder Why No One Trusts Them...

Ever wonder why the EU Constitution was really rejected? Why there were those who were so steadfastly against it?

On the face of it, European unity sounds great. After the two great wars, enough of squabbling that leads to enmity that leads to antagonism that leads to conflict that leads to war.

So what went wrong?

Well, there is this.

After 11 years, the EU may actually have a budget that normal people can understand and actually make sense of.

Right now, vast monies are off-budget and are controlled by bureaucratic whim. The new nobility - the EU bureaucrats - has a grand total of €105 bn to play with.

Of that €105bn, €43.6bn goes for CAP, the Common Agricultural Policy. Of that, 37% cannot currently be audited. In other words, no one really knows what is going on with over €16bn.

No one.

And for the structural measures, i.e. subsidies for structural change, let me quote the report:

...a high incidence of errors of legality and regularity was detected in the Member States' declarations leading to payments by the Commission.

This on €34.2bn...

And this, again quoting directly:

In the case of internal policies (€7.3 billion euro), despite progress made in certain areas, the Court found weaknesses in supervisory and control systems and a material incidence of error in underlying transactions at beneficiary level. It is likely that the risk of errors will persist unless the legal framework is changed so as to simplify cost reimbursement systems and clarify the procedures and instructions governing the different programmes.

In terms of external actions (€4.6 billion euro), the improvements in the Commission's supervisory and control systems have not yet had an impact at implementing organisation level - NGOs, recipient government , international organisations - where a relatively high incidence of errors at the level of payments was detected. This was linked to poor internal controls in these organisations, and underlines the necessity for the Commission to have a comprehensive approach to their supervision, control and audit.

In other words, of around €105bn, ca €80bn is being spent without controls and without supervision.

Which means that the real problem with the EU is institutionalized corruption.
Duh. After all, the EU Commission has already seen one round of mass resignation because of corruption.

That is what is going wrong with the EU: it's not a political question, but more fundamentally a moral one. The politicians who campaigned AGAINST the EU Constitution are probably the last few non-corrupt politicians around. While I'm willing to stipulate that not all politicians are corrupt, directly taking bribes etc., I am also willing to stipulate that the EU, as it currently is organized, acquiesces to institutionalized political corruption for whatever reasons.

What I repeatedly find amazing is that there are no politicians out there who see how they can use this to gain power and political momentum: even worse, there is no popular backlash against corrupt parties and politics.

I guess that's the American in me, expecting that a populace who bears a heavy tax burden would insist on accountability from their politicians.

From what I can see, however, this institutionalized political corruption is so deep and so widespread that no one with a stake in political and economic development can even think of the repercussions from actually making this open and obvious, since it would mean the collapse of western European poltical culture as we know it. The press isn't interested, no political party is interested (they both live off subsidies and corruption), and the populace is numb.

And that is why the EU Constitution failed: there was too little transparency, no promise of actually improving anything, and people, rightfully, saw it as nothing less than a power grab by bureaucrats to make their position unassailable and permanent.

It's tragic: there is so much human potential being fundamentally wasted in the EU. Why go through the effort of higher education and work like crazy to set up your own business or get that great career when it's a lot easier to play along within a corrupt system and live off the fat of the land?

European political culture is thus severely undermined when politics and commerce combine to further each other's aims at the cost of everyone else.

But no one seems to care. And that is the real tragedy of Europe: not the wars of the 20th century, not the demographic problems, not the economic problems. But rather that the body politic is so corrupt and incapable of change that it will require tragedy before anything can change.

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