Wednesday, 21 August 2013

"Today the German Bundestag will decide the fate of Greece"

Some phrases that caught my eye from an article in the London Review of Books (including the title of this post).

"Un New Deal pour l’Europe" - the title of a book. The book apparently points out that "The euro is essentially a foreign currency for every Eurozone country", and does so using what is a foreign language for every Eurozone country.

"The EU that has emerged from this epic battle is significantly more autocratic, German-dominated and right-wing, while lacking any compensatory charm." - The LRB's worst nightmare?

"The Troika issues Memoranda of Understanding ... : ‘The government will ensure that the legislation’ – for cuts in health and education, public sector redundancies, reductions in the state pension – ‘is presented to Parliament in Quarter 3 and agreed by Parliament in Quarter 4’; ‘the government will present a Privatisation Plan to Parliament and ensure it is speedily passed’; even, ‘the government will consult ex ante on the adoption of policies not included in this Memorandum.’" - The LRB's on to something here. These provisions sound like what one might find a defeated country agreeing to in the treaty that ends a war. We can all agree that it's pretty undemocratic.

"The most aggressive component of the Troika is the European Commission’s Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs. Its public face is the beefy blond Olli Rehn, usually photographed haranguing Mediterranean lawmakers in viceregal style. ... Like many European commissioners, Rehn had been summarily rejected by his own electorate. Educated in the US and at St Antony’s College, Oxford ..." - ah, someone who knows where the phrase "New Deal" comes from. And a beefy blond to boot! Must be a baddy ...

"[In] Gekaufte Zeit, a book that is provoking debate in Germany[, Cologne-based sociologist Wolfgang] Streeck argues that since Western economic growth rates began falling in the 1970s, it has been increasingly hard for politicians to square the requirements of profitability and electoral success ... The outcome in Europe will be either one or the other, capitalist or democratic, Streeck argues; given the balance of forces, the former appears most likely to prevail. Citizens will have nothing at their disposal but words – and cobblestones." - It's a view, anyway. The LRB does like its cobblestones.

Meanwhile, in an alternative universe not hitherto known to humankind, "J├╝rgen Habermas devotes The Crisis of the European Union: A Response to demonstrating that the balance of power ‘has shifted dramatically within the organisational structure in favour of the European citizens’." The LRB continues, discussing Habermas, "'Only the Federal Republic of Germany is capable of undertaking such a difficult initiative,’ he concludes, with a flourish of the sort of provincial arrogance that used to be a British prerogative but has become common in the German media."

Inhabiting yet another alternative universe, but perhaps a more worrying one, we find: "For Europe!, a manifesto co-authored by the German Green Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the Belgian Liberal Guy Verhofstadt, has even wilder pretensions. ‘Only the European Union’ is able to ‘guarantee the social rights of all European citizens and to eradicate poverty’; ‘only Europe’ can solve the problems of globalisation, climate change and social injustice; the ‘shining example’ of Europe has ‘inspired other continents to go down the path of regional co-operation’; ‘no continent is better equipped to renounce its violent past and strive for a more peaceful world.’ Cohn-Bendit and Verhofstadt out-catastrophise Habermas: if the single currency fails, so does the European Union – ‘two thousand years of history risk being wiped out.’" - Gosh, would that really happen? (Clue: no.)

Finally, the title: "The Munich sociologist Ulrich Beck’s German Europe ... opens with his incredulity on hearing a radio newsreader announce in late February 2012: ‘Today the German Bundestag will decide the fate of Greece.’"

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