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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: March, 2021|
Europe Wastes A Crisis!
|The EU is in the first place a large-scale administrative project with a political purpose. Administration is basic to it. Its political purpose cannot be pursued directly. Steps towards its realisation can be taken administratively by the competent handling of practical problems that arise. Crisis is opportunity—as Jacques Delors explained. (Another of his pithy remarks was that "you cannot fall in love with a market").
The pursuit of an ideological system is rarely compatible with practical politics, and it is entirely out of place in a multi-national, multi-state body like the European Union.
The European Union has just wasted a major crisis because it has fallen into the grip of an ideologist.
The Covid outbreak required regional European handling, but was not given it.
It intersected with Brexit. The British State can be very competent indeed when it has a mind to be. It handled the crisis by large-scale investment in the production of multiple vaccine projects, at a time when it was unclear which ones would be successfully developed, and then ensuring ample supplies for its own population of whichever vaccines proved to be effective—and by a degree of laxity in the implementation of Lockdowns which made them tolerable to the populace. It also spent money like water.
By contrast, the leadership of the European Union failed to intervene actively to promote a European vaccine. And it made the miscalculation that its premier duty in negotiating supplies of vaccines was to obtain value for money: rather that ensuring plentiful supply. This was a bizarre approach, given the massive costs of developing vaccines.
In particular, the Commission refused to shoulder 'indemnity liability', such as had been negotiated by vaccine producers in the USA and UK. (We are not clear whether such a liability was in the end accepted by the Commission.)
On top of that, the European Medicines Agency, which is tasked under the European Treaties with approving vaccines for use in the EU, has been dilatory in clearing vaccines for use in Europe that have been freely used for months elsewhere.
And there was a 'Cold War'-type attitude to the successful and cheap Chinese and Russian vaccines which, as we go to press, still have not been cleared for use in the EU.
These short-sighted attitudes have disadvantaged Europeans in accessing vaccines.
The major act of the President of the EU Commission was to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit agreement to prevent vaccines produced for Britain in Europe from crossing the Irish border into the UK.
Pressure had previously been applied to Britain to ensure that there was no trade border within Ireland, but then—on the spur of the moment—the old border within Ireland was restored.
That measure was revoked the following day. It was explained away as an accident or a mistake.
A competent administration could not have made such a mistake on a point that had been so much in the limelight during the preceding months. It was a moronic decision by a President of the Commission whose mind was on higher things.
Article 16 was intended for use in dire emergencies. It was a concession to Britain and it was taken for granted that only Britain would invoke it. But it was invoked on a trivial issue by the EU. The subsequent decision not to act on the decision, made after the President of the Commission was told the facts of life, could not de-invoke it.
About six months previously President von der Leyen had sacked the Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, because, while on a visit to Ireland, he had attended a golf dinner organised by a Committee of the Dail. Hogan had broken no Irish law by attending the dinner, and guidelines for EU personnel were much more lax than anything contemplated in Ireland—but the President saw that the sacking of Hogan would go down well in certain quarters in Ireland. The Irish Government was finally in the hands of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach Martin, who was a 'political correctness' extremist, gave no backing to Hogan.
So Hogan was sacked. And President von der Leyen asked that Ireland should nominate Mairead McGuinness as a replacement—having promulgated a novel rule that a male and a female should always be nominated by national governments for her to choose from. Her over-riding object was not good government, but the achievement of gender parity.
The practice that she inherited was that national governments submitted a single nomination for Commissioner.
It seems that Simon Coveney (who had some actual experience of the world, though not as much as Hogan) had considered going for the job until it became clear that Von der Leyen wanted McGuinness for it.
As a result of these Irish miscalculations, Ireland lost the position of Trade Commissioner held by Hogan. McGuinness was given a position more in keeping with her lack of governing experience, Financial Services.
Von der Leyen was a failed German politician with a talent for self-promotion in the ideological sphere of Genderism—which apparently does not yet extend to trans-genderism at this level.
McGuinness also has a talent for self-promotion, but is even less a competent politician or administrator than Von derLeyen.
It must be remarked that previous generations of ambitious lady professionals would have regarded with disdain this kind of crude Genderism: they would rise on their abilities or not at all.
There is a problem about the doctrinaire application of Genderism to affairs of State, and particularly to a complex political structure that is in the process of being created.
It's a man-made world in public affairs. During the past half-century this world has been trivialising and marginalising domestic affairs. There is brutal competition between men in political affairs, ensuring that the most able get to the top. In a well-established state, operating by routine, it may be a matter of no consequence if gender equality at the top is established by law, instead of by women entering the political process in equal numbers with men and fighting their way to the top in competition with them.
But the EU is a work in progress, in a disorderly world, and it is therefore a matter of consequence if people are effectively brought from outside the system and placed in positions of power just because they are women.
Elizabeth Bowen is a feminist icon, but her feminism was fundamentally different from Ursula Von der Leyen's. She, Elizabeth Bowen, was the equal of any man in this world made by men: and she would prove it without fear or favour.
Angela Merkel is that kind of feminist. But she promoted Von der Leyen from a position of mediocrity in German politics to a position of authority in European affairs, and Von der Leyen replaces Phil Hogan with Mairead McGuinness.
The European Commission is being made the 'House of Lords' of European politics—a prestigious dumping ground.
Another recent EU initiative connected with Covid is the attempt to establish "conditional budgeting". What this means is that allocation of EU Budget funds to the various states should be applied to discipline these states into behaving in accordance with whatever the fashionable idea of good conduct is.
The intention was to apply this approach against Hungary and Poland, who are regarded as being out of order because they have introduced measures to support family values and grow their populations, and they refuse to seal off the Judiciary from the conduct of government and place it in authority over the Government—a thing which is not done in the West European states themselves, not even in the goody-goody Irish state of recent times.
It was assumed that the Hungarians and Poles, having recently emerged from the misadventures of the 20th century—from 1914 to 1990—and been taken in hand by the EU, could only live under West European tutelage. The EU found it was mistaken. The Hungarians and Poles showed that they were willing to block the Budget unless the authoritarian element directed against them was removed. It was removed.
On February 14th Ireland's largest circulation paper, the Sunday Independent, asked "Why Has The EU Remained Silent About Fascist Regimes Operating Within Its Borders?". The "fascist regimes" are the elected Governments of Hungary and Poland, along with Russia. The article has the title, "EU is timidly complicit in allowing democracy to be dismantled". It is illustrated with a photo of Alexei Navalny, with the caption, "J'Accuse!". That, as far as we recall, was the title of Zola's book about the anti-Semitic Alfred Dreyfus trial.
The blurb on the Sunday Independent article says: "Our obsession with Trump blinds us to the real fascism going on under our noses".
It would have been sensible if the author of the piece, Eoin O'Malley, had told the EU to tend to its own affairs before laying down the law for the USA and Russia, over which it has no semblance of jurisdiction and no influence. He does not do that. He dismisses the futile propaganda campaign directed towards the USA, but takes Russian affairs to be EU business.
The US is not image-conscious in its relations with Europe. The US is a self-sufficient absolute state sovereignty. It is the creator of modern Europe, and it does not look at itself in the mirror of its creature. It currently demands that its European creature should break off relations with Russia, or else it will be chastised. The basic demand is that Germany should break its contract with Russia for the supply of cheap gas.
Thirty years ago Russia was in the doldrums. The Soviet system had broken down under the stress of the arms race with the United States, which began immediately after it had destroyed the power of Nazi Germany and Truman took over from Roosevelt. Its organised economy broke down and a market economy took over. But the elements of a market economy were not there waiting to spring into action. Russia, for about a decade of anarchic democracy, was America's to do what it pleased with. What it pleased America to do was plunder it.
A Russian State was reconstructed out of the anarchy, from a base in the security apparatus of the Soviet State. It set about restoring a national economy, on a market basis, and introduced a stable political party to the electoral system.
In the Yeltsin period, when destruction of what had existed was the name of the game, there was a wide variety of fly-by-night parties, without continuous existence from one election to the next, which made political construction impossible.
The present Russian system is crudely representative. The wonder is that it exists at all, not that it lacks some of the finer touches of functioning States that have been evolving for generations or centuries. Fully-fledged democratic states are not constructed by revolutions. They are modifications of well-established nationalist states. British democracy came about as a modification of a strictly aristocratic system that had been operating for a couple of centuries.
What is lacking in Russia is an Opposition Party which is part of the system established by Putin. It is not within Putin's gift to create an Opposition Party of that kind, which aspires to govern the existing system with marginal modifications. Navalny's Party—if his sloganising following can be called a Party—does not have that aspiration.
The history of attempts over the past three-quarters of a century to manufacture democratic states around the world according to a master-plan, each with inbuilt party-antagonisms which somehow produce stability, should raise doubts about whether it is a realisable project, rather than lead to the idea that, if it fails to happen, the reason lies in the personal qualities of leaders.
The Sunday Independent writer tells us that "the trial of Alexei Navalny shows the further dismantling of human rights and the rule of law in Russia".
The Russian democracy which Putin dismantled (i.e., the anarchy which he curbed) reduced life expectancy in the mass of the people by almost half, but allowed complete freedom in the use of money. All that was needed for the enjoyment of every conceivable Human Right was sufficient money. For a people accustomed to living on means supplied by State arrangements, life in market freedom was crushing.
Edmund Burke, in a campaign against the ideology of Human Rights introduced by the French Revolution, said that the basic human right was the right to be governed in an orderly and tolerable way. Given that as a base, other things might be added. He exerted a major influence in warding off revolution in England in the 1790s, and preserving the existing system—with all its acknowledged corruption and inequities—because it was an existing system. Democratisation of it began very gradually about half a century later, after French revolutionary democracy had collapsed.
All of that has little or no bearing on life in Western Europe today, but it remains relevant to the condition of the greater part of the population of the world.
The Sunday Independent complains that EU Minister Josep Borrell was humiliated on a visit to Moscow. He had to stand in silence while Foreign Minister Lavrov "harangued the EU". What Lavrov did was point to the undeniable fact that the EU was proving not to be a reliable body with which one could make a deal, because it was not independent. It was still bound to the will of its creator by both financial and spiritual ties.
Russia had asserted its independence as a condition of its survival and development out of the American-inspired anarchy of the 1990s. The choice was to be plundered out of existence, or assert a national will, whatever the cost. Europe, on the other hand, was a beneficiary, material and political, of American policy against Russia after Russia had broken the power of Nazi Germany.
Nationalism equals Fascism: that seems to be a reasonable equation in the mindlessness of "post-national" Ireland:
"But we don't even have to go as far as Moscow to see fascism in action. It is happening within the EU's own borders. Tonight Klubradio, Hungary's first radio station in the post-communist era, goes off the air—having lost its broadcasting licence… Viktor Orban's Fidesz party decided the radio station broke administrative rules. The station appealed, but it was hardly surprising that it lost that appeal. The Hungarian courts are also controlled by the Fidesz party…
"Orban effectively shut down the country's premier university when it became a source of criticism of his government. He took control of the judiciary by first reducing the retirement age of judges… He then took control of judicial appointments and reduced the power of the Constitutional Courts…
"The upshot is that Hungary is regarded as only “partly free” by Freedom House, a measure of how democratic a country is.
"Hungary offended Western sensibilities with its attempts to stop migrants crossing its borders during the migrant crisis…
"Orban frankly declared Hungary an 'illiberal democracy', one where Christian values would be supported…
"Hungary is a model for Poland, where the Law & Justice Party has undermined judicial and media independence.
"Why has the EU allowed this to happen?" (Freedom House is an American Government-founded and -financed non-Governmental organisation.)
All securely-established states have effective control over law-making, the administration of law, academic life, and broadcasting.
Broadcasting was a State monopoly in Britain and Ireland until quite recently. When commercial broadcasting was introduced it was under licence from the State.
Britain recently stopped Chinese State-funded broadcasts into Britain. When China retaliated in kind, the BBC responded with a hymn of praise to British broadcasting by its Foreign Affairs correspondent, Kevin Connolly, who declared that Lillibulero was the signature tune of the Truth throughout the world (BBC Radio 4, February 13). It is the signature tune of the BBC's World Service. It is an anti-Catholic jingle that helped William of Orange to power in the Glorious Revolution coup of 1688, and is a regular feature in July 12th events in the North.
There is a very close overlap between Government and Judiciary in England, and in Ireland too. And, when Roosevelt found his New Deal obstructed by the Supreme Court, he took steps to change the composition of the Court.
And, as to academic life: Ireland is the only state in Western Europe which placed it under foreign hegemony. That was when it set about de-nationalising itself, under Jack Lynch, in the 1970s—when it was unable to cope in a national spirit with the insurrection in the North, over which its Constitution asserted a right of sovereignty.
Hungary and Poland,—when being reconstructed out of the wreckage of the Soviet system (which in turn had constructed them out of the wreckage of their own fascist past)—were lumbered with idealistic Constitutions which got in the way of national development.
They were quickly recruited into the EU as an anti-Russian measure. They tried to live according to the empty ideals projected onto them by the EU as an institution. The Western states of the EU lived in realistic national frameworks. All that Hungary and Poland have done in recent years is establish for themselves actual national frameworks of life, such as the other states had, and refuse to be disciplined for it. That is their 'fascism'.
Because Hungary and Poland have a will to maintain national existence, and support each other against attempts to hold them in subordination to an impractical ideal, the EU is unable to discipline them. If by tolerating them the EU makes itself complicit in 'fascism', the only alternative is to get rid of them. If post-national Ireland had its way, that is what would be done. Ireland has led the assault on them. But fortunately there are others who live in the real world.
The hollowness of post-national Ireland was demonstrated in the recent debate between Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne and Hungarian Minister for Justice Judit Varga (see What Is the EU's Rule Of Law?' in this magazine). Byrne had a litany that he repeated: . Varga, a feminist of the Bowen kind, listened to what was said, thought about it, and gave a reasoned response to it. And she demonstrated that the case being made against Hungary had nothing to do with law and everything to do with west European media fashions of the moment.
If Ireland had not taken Joyce's advice and brainwashed its history out of its mind, it would be well placed to make a positive contribution to EU development at this juncture. It ought in particular to be well-informed about Hungary.
Sinn Fein was founded under Hungarian inspiration. Hungary established itself on terms of parity with Austria in the Hapsburg Empire by refusing to attend the Imperial Parliament. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Beust, criticised the Home Rule Party for swearing a false oath of allegiance so it could attend the Imperial Parliament, though committed by party rules against participating in the governing of the Constitutional system to which it swore allegiance, instead of meeting as a Parliament at home.
The Dual Monarchy of Austrians and Hungarians seemed to be on the way towards establishing a third national component of the Hapsburg Monarchy, a Slav component, when Tsarist Russia, Republican France, and Imperial Britain launched the Great War on Germany and Turkey. Hungary was heavily punished in 1919 for being part of the Hapsburg State. Large tracts of territory and population were stripped from it and made part of the make-believe nation-state of Czechoslovakia.
The Home Rule MP, T.P. O'Connor, who became a thorough British Imperialist through the duplicity of Redmondite Oath-taking, resented only the success of "the Orangemen" in getting themselves excluded from the Irish settlement. But he found consolation by somehow imagining the Hungarians to be the Orangemen of Europe, and it gave him satisfaction to contemplate their humiliation by the 'Treaty' (Trianon, 1920) which destroyed the Hapsburg State. He wrote a Foreword to Major C.J.C. Street's Hungary And Democracy (1923).
Major Street was a high level propagandist of the Empire. He was based in Dublin Castle during the war on the 1919 Republic, and published a book on the Administration Of Ireland, 1920. Subsequently he published books against post-War French policy, and in defence of the Versailles settlement in Eastern Europe. O'Connor wrote in his Foreword to the book on Hungary:
"a large body of Magyars have been placed under the control of men of another race… 800,000 under the Rumanians, 636,000 under the Czechoslovakians, and a 100,000 under the control of Yugoslavia.
"That such a transfer of allegiance should be bitter to a proud race like the Magyars is intelligible… But the answer to the complaint must be found in their own inexcusable and almost incredible persecutions of these other races, while they held omnipotent sway… The Magyar ascendancy had nothing like it in the modern world outside, perhaps, the Orange regime in the six counties of Ulster…
"It is a misfortune of these Magyar peoples who have been transferred that geography has so intermingled them with the majorities of the other races and new kingdoms that you could no more separate them from their present habitations than cut out the heart of a body and expect the body to live…"
There was in fact no Czechoslovakian race or nation. There was no Czechoslovakian heart to be torn out. The state was a combination of minorities under Czech ascendancy. Fifteen years after O'Connor wrote those words it fell apart at a touch, and a word from its creator, Britain. The German region was transferred itself to Germany, the Hungarians to Hungary, the Poles to Poland, and the Slovaks set up a government for themselves.
The 2nd World War grew out of the thoroughly bad re-arrangement of Europe made by Britain as the dominant Power in 1919. Ireland asserted its independence by refusing to participate in that War. It could now be playing a useful part in European affairs, if it had maintained the spirit of independence which motivated it in standing apart from the War, and stating facts as an independent observer.