Mittwoch, Februar 07, 2007

The European Problem

In today's FT (link here) there is an interview with the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin.

The real problem in Europe is France.


Because the French cannot let go of trying to bamboozle the rest of Europe into going along with what are ultimately rather destructive French policies. France, as the Fifth Republic exists today, is a body politic that is severely handicapped by institutionalized corruption, coupled with an elite that truly believes in itself and is incapable of learning (after all, they have been imbued with the highest of political training in their elite schools, and if they needed to learn it, they were taught it there) not merely from their own mistakes, but also the mistakes of others.

Here is a key part of the interview:

... I think that economic patriotism is the very foundation of a European vision. Of course, with economic patriotism, I'm talking about European economic patriotism. There are many areas, where to be effective, we must unite our forces. In energy, we must aim to create global champions.

Let me translate that: European economic patriotism = European Protectionism.


FT: What about the obstacles in Brussels that block this economic patriotism?

DdV: We need to think about a better definition of the role of Europe towards its own member states. Europe must pay more attention to protecting its citizens in a globalised world. China protects the Chinese, America protects the Americans, I don't see why Europe should not protect the Europeans. We must correct the excessively liberal vision we have of Europe, which should defend liberty and markets, but also Europeans consumers and producers, just as others do. The idea we have sometimes of a competition pushed to extremes does not correspond to the vision I have of Europe.

As soon as alliances can be formed between big companies within Europe on a friendly basis, which is very important, as once we start to have unfriendly operations between European states we will enter into a dangerous logic of rivalries and competition that are risky. On the other hand, when Europe can gain big global powerhouses in strategic areas, that is part of my vision of how Europe should weigh more on the international scene. What happens in this case. We defend our jobs, our growth, our social model. Otherwise, we are weakening our growth, which is already below where it should be, and suffering consequences of unemployment, when we should be creating conditions of employment and fighting on equal terms with the other big partners of the world. There is a small revolution needed in Europe over the idea we have on the role of Europe and the weapons we give ourselves to act. We should have the means to impose a reciprocity. There's no reason we should always be giving without ever receiving.

So, Europe must pay attention not to improve the lot of its citizens, but rather to protect them from globalization. China protects the Chinese? America the Americans?

This is nothing less than a naked call for European protectionism, bordering on mercantilism. The excessively liberal vision - he almost sounds like a Republican, n'est pas? - isn't the liberalism of politics, but rather a key word for socialists now across the board: he wants to regain state control over the markets. And believe me, competition pushed to the extremes certainly isn't what you have in Europe right now: competition has improved, but it is despte the best efforts, not because of them.

Alliances formed between big companies within Europe on a "friendly basis" is nothing more than double-speak for the establishment of monopolies (the French energy companies are meant here: they've been buying up European competitors right and left, reducing competition and therefore reducing consumer benefit...); unfriendly operations, of course, refer to foreign companies' attempts to buy French companies. Never! Perish the thought! Once the French - excuse me, the Europeans - have companies big enough to actually be global players, then it should start throwing their weight around.

The small revolution that he calls for is nothing less than an abdication to the oh-so-superior French ways of doing things. Reciprocity? The French don't want reciprocity, they want "What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable".

FT: Why do French people think they are the losers in globalisation?

DdV: It is the feeling that the world is changing so fast. Today we have an acceleration of exchanges, a modification of the balance of power, the appearance of new countries on the world stage, so we are constantly having to defend our jobs, growth and activity, as we are subjected to this process of globalisation. The vision sometimes given is that nothing can stop this process, which means spending power falls to make room for everyone in the world. The competencies of countries are being restricted as more and more countries impose themselves in the areas of new technologies and products, creating more competition.

But my conviction is that we have shown in France that we are capable of defending our economic model, providing we take the right measures, like our poles of competitiveness and our agency for industrial innovation. I think French people realise that we are not without resources. We can score points. We have world leaders in numerous sectors, as in oil, electricity, in many other areas of services, like Air France or our carmakers. The French have the impression that for too long Europe only wanted to open up to the world without ever defending its interests in the world.

Slow down, I want to get off: the French don't want to play the dynamic world game any more, but rather are calling for statism, for control over economic growth - not merely their own, but across the world, ensuring that the poor stay where they are - and ultimately over political developments. France is obviously seeing its old ways of manipulating its older colonies and business partners eroded, and wants to prevent anyone else from coming along.

The interview goes on, ending with some rather appalling ideas about what is to be done in Iraq:

I see there is a big debate in the UK and US on how to get out of this. The answer must be a gradual and global response. We must act on every level to be effective. The first level must be an interior mobilisation in Iraq and a taking of responsibility internally in Iraq. We must start a national reconciliation, which means giving a place to everyone, which is not the case now. Everyone must participate in the recovery and reconciliation of Iraq. The second stage is on a regional level. All interests in the region must have an interest in the stability of Iraq. Is that the case at the moment? I am not sure. So we need to reinforce dialogue with the neighbouring states of Iraq, and we must create conditions for these states to have an interest in peace for Iraq and the region. We can clearly see today that lots of countries have ulterior motives and are getting an advantage from the instability in Iraq and the region. So we must act. Each of our countries has its own power or influence, which must be put in common, but there must be an objective.

The man is an unqualified idiot. Sorry: he is qualified, he is a product of the French system for producing elites.

What makes the ideas appalling is that there is absolutely nothing new there: this is exactly what the US has been doing in Iraq. But he is absolutely blind to the fact - the fact - that neither Syria nor Iran want Iraq to be a success: that is, right now, the core of the problem. He calls for blind activism - "So we must act." - but fails utterly to recognize that the only way that Syria or Iran would agree to a peaceful Iraq is for Iraq to basically be divided up between the two of them. Thinking otherwise would be complete ignorance of the historical political and social ties amongst the demographic groups of the area.

It *sounds* all so reasonable. It's the way that things would be worked out in modern-day Europe. But it's not the way the real world works.

Oddly enough, he does say one thing I agree with:

If we want to recreate a dynamic of peace in the Middle East, we must start from reality. The reality is that there is something wrong in Iraq. There are symbols that are stronger than anything else.

The only problem is that he has been listening to John Kerry (or is it the other way around?) and insists that the troops must leave as soon as possible.

The European problem that I refer to isn't that Europe can't compete internationally: it can. It builds great planes, make great machine tools, great cars, great wine, great cultural products as well. Its peoples have solid, good educations, in many cases world-class, and I would even venture to say that if Europeans really set their minds to do things, they can achieve amazing results.

The European problem is that you have a France in Europe that believes that only centralized state control can yield the results needed. This is without a doubt the least sensible way of achieving goals, since the decision-makers in such a system will make errors that will prevent the goals from being achieved.

The European problem is that they have yet to understand the 21st century and its challenges. The Europeans need to be liberated from the strait jacket of the EU and its tentacles of control and manipulation, liberated from a stultifying bureaucracy of technocrats whose only real goal is to protect a status quo that hasn't been viable since the early 1960s.

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