Is Europe a country?
No, Europe is not a country, and that’s the problem. Europe is landmass and some islands to the left of Asia, plus some far-flung colonial leftovers. The European Union is made up of 27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. To complicate matters, not all EU member states are part of the Euro, which is a distinct currency. 19 EU countries use the Euro, in what is known as the Eurozone: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The European Union loves existential crises
The EU seems to stumble from existential crisis to existential crisis, while failing to create and communicate Big Ideas. COVID-19 is just the latest, but this time real lives are at stake, not just banks’ balance sheets or trade with Britain.
After the fiasco of the 2008 financial collapse, which saw taxpayers in Ireland, Greece, Spain and other EU countries forced into lifetimes of austerity to reward the stupid greed of French and German banks, the EU failed to prevent Britain from leaving the greater union. The EU’s failure over Brexit was mainly because it lacked a Big Idea that would keep the greater union together, exposing itself to the bullshit peddled by the British and Russian propaganda union (with some help from loser Trump). Russia won in the end, and Putin is still laughing at the stupidity of the British Conservative Party for doing his bidding so well. Divide and conquer still works.
Coronavirus has reopened septic wounds
And so the coronavirus crisis has divided Europe again. The ‘rich’ northern countries insisting on keeping the ‘poor’ countries’ indebtedness separate from the feast at the top table. A €500 billion stimulus package separates emergency healthcare spending from debt relief, but it will virtually all be debt-based after the Netherlands forced its strength against Italy’s disaster. Earlier this week, Mauro Ferrari, the EU’s chief scientist, resigned from his position at the head of the European Research Council blaming the EU’s dysfunctional response to the pandemic.
The Eurogroup’s underlying message to a large majority of Italians, Spaniards, Greeks etc (given that 97% of the stimulus is new national debt that must be repaid through austerity): “We shall help you get up now. But, as you begin to rise, expect a wallop.”Yanis Varoufakis, 10 April, 2020
Big Ideas – What the EU can do now to make itself relevant
The European Union, under the new leadership of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, can certainly progress its external vision as the world leader in sustainability and democracy. But it must also progress a new, internal vision. It must first make the lives of its citizens, and its member states that are struggling, tangibly better. Here are three Big Ideas that the EU can progress quickly, before the pandemic causes the entire European Union to unravel:
1. Universal, free healthcare for all EU citizens
Universal, free healthcare for all EU citizens is necessary and achievable. Let’s take the E111 card a step further, learning from successful health systems in the EU to mandate a seamless, borderless, world-class healthcare network for all Europe’s citizens. This would immediately include a centralised resource management system, so that ventilators and experienced healthcare staff can be deployed where needed most. We must also centralise our learnings on how to most-effectively treat our sick.
2. Make the Euro work for the people, not the other way round
As was exposed during the 2008 financial meltdown, caused by greed and stupidity among the ‘financial wizards’, the Euro is more important than those who use it every day. We need to stop trying to become like the US dollar, with growth only achievable by spinning more consumer debt out of thin air. The currency, like the economic system around it, is just a fiction. It has no material value. It is a story. So why does that fictional story work for the markets and the wealthy while crushing the poor? Why not make the economic story work for the people? Right now, this would mean mutualising the debt of all Eurozone countries, printing trillions more cash and putting it into peoples’ pockets, and creating a new fiscal policy which is not a slave to corrupt and useless markets. The Eurozone needs to accept the gravity of the pandemic and cancel all debt, mortgage and rent payments for 6 months, while building a plan for 100% employment in sustainable industries (including hemp) once people can get back to work. Historically, the cancellation of all debt was a relatively common event, known as a jubilee.
3. Build a fabulous future for every EU citizen
What is the European Union that we want to live in? I would say that it has sustainable jobs for all, and a Universal Basic Income to ensure that carers, artists and parents can work at what are compelled to do without being pushed to the margins. Our teachers, healthcare workers, retail and hospitality staff are now recognised as far more important to the wellbeing of society than financial market traders, politicians or bankers. So we need to reimagine how we value our citizens and how we reward them.
We are Europe
So, in answering the question ‘Is Europe a country?’ the honest answer is not even close. The European Union must move towards becoming a single country if it is to succeed. Europe has a bloody history of global exploitation and persecution, war and genocide. We haven’t yet reconciled our basic human desires with our past. We are 447 million people, with hopes and dreams that are constantly torn from us by incompetent bureaucracy and vested interests. We can and must do better. And time is running out.
CNN: The EU has bungled its response to coronavirus and it might never fully recover: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/10/europe/eu-bungled-coronavirus-response-analysis-intl/index.html
Guardian: EU strikes €500bn relief deal for countries hit hardest by pandemic: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/09/eu-risks-break-up-over-coronabonds-row-warns-italian-pm
Wikipedia: The EU: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union
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