This is Madness

I believe in the European dream. I believe that it is absolutely essential towards achieving peace, prosperity and cooperation in a continent once ravaged by war and bloodshed. And yes, I also believe that it is beneficial for states like Malta not merely from an economic perspective (the single market) but also because less national sovereignty is likely to translate into enhanced social, consumer, and environmental protection; better access to justice and enforcement of justice; less clientelism, cronyism, nepotism and other such 'isms' - and, above all, a sense of openness towards basic civil liberties and human rights that some forces in this country still want to brand taboo. I believe that a day might come when we shall vote for a local governor and a local legislature to enact local laws and regulations but that this would be merely ancillary to voting for a European president and parliament. I do not fear that day should it ever dawn upon us. Perhaps it shall never come to pass.

Yet, I am not comfortable in the manner we are approaching (at a snail's pace, admittedly) that day. Federalism should not be created inter-governmentally. It is a paradox which makes no sense whatsoever. Federalism should be, above all, democratic and supranational. If countries like the United Kingdom fear Europe than so be it. In fact, it is better for countries such as the UK, that revel in traditionalist-nationalistic pride to leave the Union once and for all. Good riddance I'd say. However, although France and Germany represent (historically, culturally and ideologically) the very heart of the Continent, there is no democracy in giving them carte-blanche to decide what's best for the rest. It simply does not work that way for it reinforces the so-called 'democratic deficit' that has plagued Europe since its conception. As things stand, the purely intergovernmental Franco-German compact, leading to a 'two-speed' Europe, is simply the lesser of two evils. 

I also have deep doubts about the workability of the new fiscal treaty that is being proposed. I agree that fiscal prudence and discipline should be key and especially endorse the notion that countries should not spend more than they have. The constitutionalisation of such measures can work and act as a good incentive for governments but only if it is couched in vague and flexible terms, to at least leave some room for manoeuvre in times of emergency. But I am not so sure whether the German concept of 'discipline' (which is extremely strict) can work everywhere. This would be a huge culture-shock to southern states like Malta where issues like public healthcare and stipends make or break governments. Surely, being restricted to a 0.5% deficit would translate to the erosion of social services, pensions, stipends and free healthcare. These would, at best, be replaced by a system of means-testing and, at worst, gradually abolished. Choosing Heavy-Fuel-Oil because it is cheaper would become the default rule of thumb thus casting aside any long-term scope for proper environmental protection. Basically, politicians would have to master the art of spending less and less in a country like Malta whose major source of income is tourism, financial services and betting. In a perfect world it could, perhaps, discourage flagrant spending in useless capital projects and dissuade the spend-spend-spend rush before general elections. But this is not a perfect world and not all economies are like Germany. It is also hypocritical that many in Europe ridicule, say, Republican presidential candidates for their economic follies (eg cutting spending in times of recession when governments should spend more to incentivise job-creation that lead to more overall wealth) but then pursue the same policy back home to rounds of applause. I believe that such measures would legitimise the austerity-culture that has taken root in Europe and which frankly did nothing to calm the markets and only to stoke the fury of ordinary workers.

Time will tell.        

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