Euro-Bureaucrats Bankrupt Europe!
Euro-bureaucrats have practically bankrupted Europe by allowing unconscionable government spending in half a dozen countries.
They have virtually destroyed the safeguards of all of Europe's social welfare systems. These systems are the heart of Europe's civilization.
This year almost a thousand million Euros have been wasted on an economic bailout which should never have become necessary.
It will take at least half a generation for the European continent to recover from this.
But none of these Brussels Eurocrats are going to be lacking a generous pension.
They are not going to be the ones to suffer.
It was clear from the beginning that a substantial part of the EU's political attraction to those in power was the possibility for politicians and bureaucrats to loot the continent of wealth and grant themselves unchecked power.
The EU is not democratic and Europe has a long and sorrowful history of losing democracy with fatal results.
Perhaps it's time for all democratic Europeans to think about limiting the powers of these dangerous and indulgent people.
Every time that Europe has been overtaken by totalitarianism of one type or another, it has failed to see it quietly developing unchecked for a period of years. Europe has always ignored these warnings until too late.
This situation is not much different.
Each anti-democratic upwelling in Europe will inevitably have a different face.
This one has the faceless face of an EU bureaucrat.
It is not necessary to follow each European anti-democratic upwelling into disaster each time in order to learn the recurring lesson that the political elites of Europe are incompetent at best, and irrevocably corrupt at worst.
Unchecked bureaucracy is also a face of totalitarianism. In fact it is the most common face. All forms of totalitarianism are administered by bureaucracies. The true face of totalitarianism is the bureaucrat, not the despot.
The classic defining characteristic of totalitarianism is the lack of diversity in the political spectrum. It seems to me that Brussels is spending a very great deal of money without reference to any opinion other than its own.
Europe can be unified without being ruled by faceless, remote and unelected bureaucrats who have no answerability for any of their policy decisions.
Think about democracy now Europe.
Your future may depend on it.
EU Increases Budget In The Face Of Widespread National Austerity
BBC, 28 October 2010
Ten EU countries have rallied behind the UK's call to limit an increase in the 2011 EU budget to 2.9% - well below the rise that Euro MPs called for.
France and Germany are among the group backing UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the budget.
The issue was not formally on the agenda at the Brussels summit, but Mr Cameron insisted that the EU should set an example of budget prudence.
Tough talks lie ahead with the European Parliament, which wants a 5.9% rise.
The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - is on the parliament's side in calling for 5.9%.
If no compromise is reached by a mid-November deadline the budget will remain frozen at the 2010 figure. A freeze was what Mr Cameron was originally calling for, but other EU leaders refused to back the idea.
In a letter to the European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy, the 11 leaders say the budget proposals from the Commission and the parliament "are especially unacceptable at a time when we are having to take difficult decisions at national level to control public expenditure".
They say they cannot accept any more than 2.9% - the increase agreed earlier this year by the Council.
Fiscal crises threaten Europe's system of social welfare benefits
From AP, May 2010
Michael Weissenstein, May 23, 2010,
LONDON (AP) -- Six weeks of vacation a year. Retirement at 60. Thousands of euros for having a baby. A good university education for less than the cost of a laptop.
The system known as the European welfare state was built after World War II as the keystone of a shared prosperity meant to prevent future conflict. Generous lifelong benefits have since become a defining feature of modern Europe.
Now the welfare state -- cherished by many Europeans as an alternative to what they see as dog-eat-dog American capitalism -- is coming under its most serious threat in decades: Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
Deep budget cuts are under way across Europe. Although the first round is focused mostly on government payrolls -- the least politically explosive target -- welfare benefits are looking increasingly vulnerable.
"The current welfare state is unaffordable," said Uri Dadush, director of the Carnegie Endowment's International Economics Program. "The crisis has made the day of reckoning closer by several years in virtually all the industrial countries."
Germany will decide next month just how to cut at least 3 billion euros ($3.75 billion) from the budget. The government is suggesting for the first time that it could make fresh cuts to unemployment benefits that include giving Germans under 50 about 60 percent of their last salary before taxes for up to a year. That benefit itself emerged after cuts to an even more generous package about five years ago.
"We have to adjust our social security systems in a way that they motivate people to accept regular work and do not give counterproductive incentives," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told news weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Saturday.
The uncertainty over the future of the welfare state is undermining the continent's self-image at a time when other key elements of post-war European identity are fraying.
Large-scale immigration from outside Europe is challenging the continent's assumptions about its dedication to tolerance and liberty as countries move to control individual clothing -- the Islamic veil -- in the name of freedom and equality.
Deeply wary of military conflict, many nations now find themselves nonetheless mired in Afghanistan on behalf of what was supposed to be a North Atlantic alliance, shying away from wholesale pullout while doing their utmost to keep troops from actual combat.
Demographers and economists began warning decades ago that social welfare was doomed by the aging of Europe's baby boomers. Some governments had been trimming and reforming, but now almost all are scrambling to close deficits in order to prevent a wider collapse of confidence in the euro.
"We need to change, to adapt ... for the sake of the protection of our social model," European Union Commissioner Joaquin Almunia of Spain told reporters in Stockholm Thursday.
The move is risky: experts warn the cuts could undermine the growth needed to pull budgets back on a sustainable path.
On Monday, Britain unveils 6 billion pounds ($8.6 billion) in cuts -- mostly to government payrolls and expenses. The government has promised to raise the age at which citizens receive a state pension -- up from 60 to 65 for women, and from 65 to 66 for men. It also plans to toughen the welfare regime, requiring the unemployed to try to find jobs in order to collect benefits.
Britain says it will limit child tax credits and scrap a 250-pound ($360) payment to the families of every newborn. Ministers are reviewing the long-term affordability of the country's generous public sector pensions.
Funding for Britain's nationalized health care service will be protected under the new government, however, and should rise each year to 2015.
France's conservative government is focusing on raising the retirement age. Many workers can now retire at 60 with 50 percent of their average salary. Extra funds are available for retired civil servants, those with three or more children, military veterans and others.
A parliamentary debate is planned for September. Unions in France are organizing a national day of protest marches and strikes on Thursday to demand protection of wages and the retirement age.
In Spain, billions in cuts to state salaries go into effect next month, and the Socialist government has frozen increases in pensions meant to compensate for inflation for at least two years.
"They've hit us really hard," said Federico Carbonero, 92, a retired soldier. He said he was unlikely to live long enough to see the worst of the pension freeze, but had no doubts he would have to start relying on savings to maintain his lifestyle.
Spain is cutting assistance payments for disabled people by 300 million euros ($375 million) and did away with a three-year-old bonus of 2,500 euros ($3,124.25) per new baby. It also has proposed hiking the retirement age for men from 65 to 67.
Countries in northern Europe have done a far better of reforming social welfare and have unemployment systems that focus on re-employing people instead of making their unemployment comfortable, said Gayle Allard, a professor of economic environment and country analysis at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid.
Denmark and other Nordic countries are known for the world's highest taxes and most generous cradle-to-grave benefits. Denmark has implemented a system known broadly as "flexicurity," which combines flexibility for employers to hire and fire workers with financial security and training to prepare for new jobs.
Denmark had a 7.5 percent unemployment rate in the first quarter of this year, well below the EU average of 9.6 percent. Swedish and Finnish unemployment stood at 8.9 percent. Norway, with some of the world's most generous unemployment benefits fully funded by oil for the forseeable future, has Europe's lowest jobless rate, just 3 percent in April.
Southern European countries that have not moved toward reforming welfare in the same ways are paying a steep price.
After sharp cutbacks imposed as the condition of an international bailout this month, Greeks must now contribute to pension funds for 40 instead of 37 years before retiring, and the age of early retirement is set to 60 at the earliest.
Civil servants with monthly salaries of above 3,000 euros ($3,750) will lose two extra months of salary -- one paid at Christmas, the other split between Easter and summer vacation.
In Portugal, seen as another potential candidate for bailout, the government is focusing on hikes in income, corporate and sales taxes and has avoided drastic changes to welfare entitlements. Unemployment benefits will be cut somewhat and the out-of-work will have to accept any job paying more than 10 percent more than what they would receive in unemployment benefits.
The government is also stepping up checks on welfare claims, freezing public sector pay and slicing public investment.
"There's been a lack of willingness to shift away from welfare as purely social protection towards an approach which has been in much of northern Europe in recent years, which is welfare as social investment," said Iain Begg, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science's European Institute.
Otto Fricke, a budget expert for the Free Democrats, the coalition partner of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told The Associated Press that no decisions on cuts have been made, but everything is on the table except education, pension funds and financial aid to developing countries. At least one high-ranking CDU member has called for the idea of protecting education to be re-examined, however.
German public education, which was virtually free until 2005, when some of Germany's 16 states started charging tuition fees of 1000 euros ($1,250) a year.
Virtually all Germany's students pay that much or less to attend state-funded universities, including elite institutions. Education isn't as cheap elsewhere in Europe but the 3,290 pounds ($4,720) per year paid by British students at Cambridge is still far less than Americans pay at comparable schools like Harvard, where annual tuition comes in just shy of $35,000.
The idea of cutting education is proving hard to swallow in the face of Germany's promise to contribute up to 147.6 billion euros ($184.5 billion) in loan guarantees to protect Greece and other countries that use the euro from bankruptcy.
"I am worried that this crisis will also affect me on a personal level, for example, that universities in Germany will raise the tuition in order to pay the loan they give to Greece," said Karoline Daederich, a 22-year-old university student from Berlin.
Associated Press writers Juergen Baetz and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Malin Rising and Karl Ritter in Stockholm, David Stringer in London, Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna, Harold Heckle in Madrid, Elaine Ganley in Paris, Elena Becatoros in Athens and Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report.
Frankness Would Serve Europe Well
New York Times
May 24, 2010
By JOHN VINOCUR
PARIS — In talking about how to approach problems like Europe’s new prospects of misery, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has referred to the utility of “the ruthlessness of truth.”
In explaining how the European Union got to the battered place it finds itself in, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, president of the French Financial Markets Authority, has spoken of a “culture of connivance.”
Involving cooked books, the averted eyes of officials, and the E.U. big players’ painless disregard of the euro zone’s deficit criteria, Europe’s disdain for frankness with itself lasted for a good part of a decade until markets and ratings agencies caught on, leaving Europe to a financial and monetary crisis without a sure resolution in sight.
Now, Europe as a political project of remarkable ambition is entering a new phase where its supply of grace and favor are nearly exhausted. The suspension of disbelief granted for years by much of the world to the idea Europe might soon function as a superpower — the same gift of plausibility that a theater audience extends a play’s actors and fairly incredible plot — is worn thin.
The European Union is not dead: its regulatory network alone brings vast and practical meaning to the idea of a single Europe. But held up against the reality of political performance and economic perspective, the E.U.’s grand aspirations to relevance and world decision-making, based on its claims to internal unity and solidarity, are devalued.
In all its ruthlessness, truth, for starters, says that Europe, in full comprehension of what it was doing, decided last year to give the posts of president and high representative for foreign affairs created in its new constitution to two earnest but modest candidates who could not lead.
Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, specifically, did not want the presidential candidacy of Tony Blair. Just months later, in a time of crisis, their decision has left the E.U. without a person capable of embodying the kind of notional authority the constitution was meant to provide.
Truth also insists, concerning the E.U.’s business reality, that the Lisbon Agenda of 2000, a growth strategy for a decade, devised to complement the coming of the euro in 2002 and to make the E.U. economy the “most competitive and dynamic in the world,” wound up officially (although very quietly) described in Brussels as “a synonym for missed objectives and failed promises.”
And Europe’s coming of age as a global force, unified politically and bolstered by a palpably developing European defense structure giving European foreign policy an element of independent power projection? These days, there are next to no takers for such long-shot bets.
A pitiless irony enters at this point: while the E.U. looked the other way, miscreant Greece, because of the questionable Greek-Turkish confrontation, has had one of the highest per capita levels of defense spending among NATO’s European members — with the French and Germans getting a big share of Athens’s arms purchases.
This is the context of (and contrast between) the European Union’s dreams and issues of probity in 2010. It’s against this background that a number of its government leaders leaped to insist to their electors that the euro zone’s problems, beyond a Greek hiccup, were the work of “wolf packs,” “wild animals” and “armies” of “speculators.”
Instead, according to Mr. Jouyet, who is no gadfly but a European mandarin and formerly France’s secretary of state for European affairs, you could liken the role of the markets and rating agencies in the Greek crisis to that of justices of the peace in a cowboy film.
Karel de Gucht, the current European commissioner for trade, has dated the E.U.’s knowledge of Greek fraudulence back to 2001. Mr. Jouyet told me a couple of weeks ago he attended a meeting in Brussels in 2004 with representatives of the Commission and European Central bank where Greek cheating was established.
But for political reasons nothing was done. Mr. Jouyet’s description of the pathology at hand: “A culture of connivance.”
Then, in 2005, France and Germany both exceeded the euro area’s debt and deficit constraints, contained in the E.U.’s Security and Growth pact, without suffering political penalties or anything else resembling serious inconvenience.
“This was viewed by the smaller countries as a kind of preferential exemption,” Mr. Jouyet said. “After that, countries felt there were no rules. The notion of rigor was gone. If you have a problem for 10 years and do nothing, when people begin to see a hole in your defensive wall, a lot of them will come marching through.”
The problem now that the wall has been breached is that the European response so far can do little to restore the old suspension of disbelief. The idea that Europe can muddle through without cathartic change looks feeble, particularly when the circumstances suggest German solidarity is weakened and French readiness to submit to heavy doses of fiscal pain is subject to the difficult enactment of a constitutional amendment.
Big, game-changing solutions seem in order to deal with the E.U.’s debt and deficit disparities.
But a Belgian suggestion that euro zone debt go into a pool with a blanket guarantee for all the zone’s members got no discussion at a finance ministers meeting Friday. As for the notion of binding and centralized economic governance, with genuine independent oversight of members’ budgets, its possibilities collide with a decision last year by Germany’s constitutional court that essentially rejected the notion.
That leaves the idea of a patchwork of new stopgaps and penalties to overlay the existing Maastricht Treaty rules governing the euro that went into effect at its birth in 2002. Those rules were virtually drawn up by the Bundesbank in its own image — and stand, then as now, a German framework for European probity — but they did not stop E.U. members, including Germany and France, from swerving around them.
A committee set up last week by the E.U. to look at the harder and more unlikely measures, involving treaty changes, doesn’t have to report back until the autumn.
At that rate, this question holds for now: How does Europe advance from what has been described as its culture of connivance to a community convincingly committed to “the ruthlessness of truth”?
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