Monday 16 December 2019

Wake-up call needed to save European project

• I believe in European integration but, sadly, Europe is in desperate need of a wake-up call regarding the twin dangers of both micro-management and the strict adherence to their policies.

The history of the world, and in particular of the Mediterranean region, has shown us that pursuing these ideas too zealously can lead to disaster. Think of what happened to the Roman Empire when it tried to both micromanage and push its policies in the Middle East and North Africa instead of allowing local client rulers to rule areas and peoples that they knew far better than any Roman. Rebellion and revolt were the result.

Or we could take a look at the American War of Independence. The British Empire remained while it did not interfere too much and allowed the states to govern themselves. It was only when it tried to micromanage the colonies without the colonists' input -- "taxation without representation" -- and then later try to coerce them -- The Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774 -- that the states successfully revolted.

In modern times, think of the Arab Spring and the leaders who tried, and failed to stop it. The truth is that any kingdom, regime or rule of any kind can only exist in an area if it accepts and adapts to the particular set of social and political circumstances of that region.

I fear that this lesson is lost on Europe's leaders at the moment. With arrogance that may set back or derail the European Project entirely, they seem more concerned with coercing Greeks to pay their bills rather than with co-operating with them to find a solution.

That said, the Greek leaders aren't too impressive either given that they seem to prefer getting money from others to keep their country going and then they refuse to repay the donors.

As Franklin D Roosevelt said in 1940: "Suppose my neighbour's home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? I don't say to him before that operation, 'Neighbour, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.' What is the transaction that goes on? I don't want $15 -- I want my garden hose back after the fire is over."

But when the immovable force of Europe meets the immovable object of Greek division and opposition, then isn't it the next logical step to compromise and co-operate, however bitter those two pills may be to both sides, before Greece is forced to pull out of the single currency and doom befalls, possibly, the entire European Union.

Surely each side has made its point in this struggle: Europe wants its loans to be repaid and Greece refuses to be bullied or coerced. Surely each side realises that if it continues going the way it is going, then it will be mutually assured destruction: Europe's leaders painted as fascistic and bullying and the Greek leaders remembered as the ones who put pride before their impoverished and broken country -- and perhaps both groups dooming Europe.

It should be remembered that in other times when European nations were in the same troubled state, such as the British Isles and the Troubles in the North, they also tailored their laws to suit the circumstances.

The Republic of Ireland declared a State of Emergency, reformed the Special Criminal Court, introduced terrorism legislation and began using the Army to protect money transfers. In the UK, they introduced terrorism laws, the well-known Diplock Courts and took the hitherto unthinkable step of deploying the army to police the population of a major British territory.

I may have rambled a bit there but the point is that we must compromise and co-operate with reality and with each other.

The future of Europe may depend on it.

Colin Smith
Clara, Co Offaly

Irish Independent

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