We are not ruled by a cabal of Lex Luthors and Blofelds. We are ruled by the Three Stooges


rehn doesnt have a cat

Jeroen Dijsselbloem doesn’t actually have a white cat that he strokes during Eurogroup meetings.
Christine Lagarde does however have a whip with a poison Kryptonite tip.

 

One of the most frightening aspects of the crisis is how it appears that our leaders are increasingly at a complete loss as to what to do.

It’s common to come across popular spitting fury at the ‘banksters’ and ‘conmen’ who govern us, as though those with their hands on the levers of the European system are moustache-twiddling cartoon-mastermind villains of unbounded venality (cf. Matt Taibbi’s characterisation of Goldman Sachs as a ‘vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity’).

But as we peer goggle-eyed and gap-jawed at the scale of the debacle of the Great Cypriot Bank Robbery and the blame game that has followed, it is manifest that we are so very, very far from being ruled by a cabal of cat-stroking Lex Luthors and Ernst Stavro Blofelds of finance. On the contrary – we are ruled by the Three Stooges of finance.

Each of the individuals involved in the negotiations last weekend has been eager to stress how he or she was not responsible for coming up with the idea of imposing the ‘stability levy’ on those with under €100,000 in deposits. All actors have been keen to seek out their preferred media outlet to plead their case.

Different outlets have published in the last few days their versions of the inside story. Peter Spiegel’s in the Financial Times is particularly comprehensive and has the ring of truth to it.

(Although I should say here: Why isn’t anybody screaming “Hello? What’s with all the Kremlinology? Why do we have no choice but to report on decision-making of this import and impact on domestic laws and finances in essentially the same way that we report on the election of the Pope? Why does the Eurozone’s de facto legislature operate like a papal conclave?”)

The ECB’s Joerg Asmussen basically said: ‘It wasn’t us.’ Cypriot officials said: ‘It was Schaeuble.’ Schaeuble said: ‘It was the Cypriots, the Commission and the ECB.’ ‘Rehn started it.’ ‘No I didn’t.’ Unnamed officials darkly hint that the Cypriots care more about Russian oligarchs than they do their own people while Nicosia publicly accuses the ECB of blackmail. France says they never supported the plan. Fingers are pointed at the Finns, Slovaks and Dutch as bullies egging the big kids on.

But all we have to do is go read the press statements of Saturday morning to find very few dissenters from the arrangement. Even European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who had nothing to do with the crafting of the deal and should have been free to be more critical publicly if he really felt that way, as of Saturday had only timid concerns, agreeing that depositors should pay for some of the bailout, and only called for an exemption for those with sums under €25,000, however much he is now thundering at the injustice of what has happened.

The most enlightening nugget in the FT’s investigation is when we find out that a proposal to exempt low-level depositors ‘was only actively supported by Ramon Fernandez, the French treasury chief – a fact that supports [French finance minister Pierre] Moscovici’s claim to have been an early opponent of the levy on smaller savers. “The rest did not care.”’

That is to say they all, with the possible exception of France, share the blame.

Over in the UK, British Chancellor George Osborne’s scramble on Sunday to reassure UK depositors in Cyprus that they will be reimbursed (at a back-of-the-envelope cost of £138-200 million), reeks of something of an afterthought, not least because his deputies (underlings? henchmen?) later wobble, saying that only ‘most’ of any monies seized will be recompensed.

And the Eurozone’s conclave of necktied cardinals all quickly row back after the fury on the streets of Nicosia and the Cypriot parliament does its democratic duty and pushes back, rejecting the deal (the first domestic parliament in Europe brave enough to do so).

They all just seem so utterly at a loss as to what to do, other than to stick to the received consensus wisdom of TINA – There Is No Alternative.

Attempting to pin the blame on a particular actor misses the point. We have to remember that not just in the Cypriot case, but for each of the euro-crisis intensive-care patients, there is a role that the ECB plays, that the IMF plays, that the European Commission plays, that the Council of Ministers/Eurogroup/European Council plays, and that local elites play. Positions are often overlapping but conflicting, representing the different elite domestic and/or institutional interests to which a particular actor is most sympathetic.

Yet when we take a helicopter view, we see that the shock-therapy course is agreed by all, regardless of nationality, institution or party. Asmussen and Dijsselbloem are social democrats and Anastasiades is a conservative. Truly, anyone who still believes that there is any difference on economic questions between Europe’s social democrats and conservatives any more can only be a member of one of these two rapidly dwindling tribes.

So saying that the Cypriot debacle is all the EU’s fault or all Berlin’s fault may be incorrect, but saying that it’s all the local comprador elites’ fault is also incorrect. It is a complicated interplay of interests between these different actors, just as Greece’s late Pasok prime minister, George Papandreou may have been thrown under the bus by the Frankfurt Group for threatening a referendum on a second bailout – but ideologically he represented nothing different.

Russian vs European oligarchs

And as if the raid on bank account-holders with less than €100 large was the only egregious act performed in the wee hours of last Saturday in Brussels in any case. What about the 70-something couple for whom €120,000 maybe is their life savings? Or the small and medium-sized businesses for whom that sum represents a payroll account?

And if there really is the concern on the part of the rest of Europe about Russian oligarch accounts, could they not have been forfeited instead? Why are no senior bondholders – hedge funds or other holders of Cypriot sovereign debt even talked about as subjects for bearing some of the pain?

All those who signed off on Saturday’s deal endorsed once again a programme of austerity, privatisation (of utilities) and structural adjustment worth some 5.75% of GDP – the same recipe that has such a depression-beating success elsewhere. The record is broken. Beyond its injustice, the strategy plainly is not working. As elsewhere, an economy already in recession will be bludgeoned by additional austerity, likely meaning a second or third kick at the bail-out can somewhere down the line, in turn requiring still further austerity in a vicious cycle.

The focus on who is to blame also occludes the step change from private to public of threats of economic violence from Frankfurt and Berlin that has occurred in the wake of the Cypriot parliament disobedience. The threats aren’t new, but they have been made privately until now. And their wrath is something to behold. So now we have an ultimatum from the ECB that it will cut off its Emergency Liquidity Assistance, snuffing out the oxygen to Cypriot banks. They will collapse, with all the social dislocation that would bring.

Schaeuble, unused to being defied, roared: “The ECB has made it clear that without a reform programme for Cyprus the aid can’t continue. Someone has to explain this to the Cypriots and I think there’s a danger that they won’t be able to open the banks again at all.”

Someone has to explain this to the Cypriots. The same refrain we’ve heard throughout the crisis, but with added bile: Vote how you like, dum-dums, so long as it’s the right way.

And lest we think France somehow gets a gold star in all this, her representative on the Eurogroup Working Group, which comprises deputy finance ministers or senior treasury officials from the 17 eurozone members, as well as representatives of the ECB and Commission, has this to say as regards democracy in Cyprus: “The (Cypriot) parliament is obviously too emotional.”

Lastly, where is this sudden concern about tax havens and Russian oligarchs and organised crime coming from anyway? Leaving aside the bail-out cash that never actually lands in Greece but heads straight back to northern reckless lenders, the ‘oligarchs’ of core European finance, the chutzpah of a Dutch chair of the Eurogroup or a Luxembourgish finance minister making any noise about tax havens is breathtaking.

Ah, I hear you say, but European oligarchs aren’t quite like Russian oligarchs. They aren’t up to their tits in organised crime.

Well, let’s have a look at the shenanigans of UK multinational bank HSBC, ordered twice by US regulators in 2003 and 2010 to tighten its anti-money-laundering activities. Then in November last year, it was found that HSBC had set up offshore accounts in the Channel Islands tax haven of Jersey for suspected drug-dealers and other criminals, prompting Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to launch an investigation. The following month, HSBC was fined $1.9 billion for allegedly laundering some $881 million in drugs cash for cartels. The company turned a blind eye to Mexican drug cartels using its branches to launder millions, with staff also stripping identifying information off transactions from embargoed countries such as Iran and Sudan. The company has also been accused of laundering money for terrorist groups. But of course, as the aforementioned Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi put it in his investigation of the case, HSBC is ‘Too big to jail‘.

There aren’t Russian oligarchs who are eeevil and European oligarchs who are saintly. There are just oligarchs.

And of course the useful idiots – the bungling stooges – who abet them.

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  1. #1 by jon livesey on March 22, 2013 - 8:42 pm

    “.. George Osborne’s scramble on Sunday to reassure UK depositors in Cyprus that they will be reimbursed (at a back-of-the-envelope cost of £138-200 million), reeks of something of an afterthought, ..”

    That’s not really a very coherent comment. Osborne wasn’t in the room when the – amazingly bad – decisions were being taken, and like everyone else he probably thought that a “solution” like giving haircuts to Grannies’ savings were not remotely on the table.

    Osborne actually acted pretty well. He did exactly the thing he could do, and avoided trying to do the thing he could not do.

    He could not get the decision changed, and it would have been a waste of time trying, but the amount of money that British depositors could lose was relatively modest, so he addressed that.

    So that is an “afterthought”? Huh? In what way?

    What reeks here, really, is the way commentators keep trying to use what is a euro mess to play tribal UK domestic party politics. What Osborne has done is what a Labour Chancellor would have done. There are no UK domestic political points to score here.

  2. #2 by Victor on March 23, 2013 - 12:06 am

    This is the first article that actually points out the real problems in the West: corruption of the elites (financiers), incompetence of the middle class (politicians) and powerlessness of the poor (voters). These are self-reinforcing negative elements.

    But the fact is Cyprus can go the way of Iceland or do something similar. It doesn´t need the EU´s permission.

    If Andorra, Monaco or Liechtenstein had to be bailed out, the discussions would also be as tough.

    The fact that it is Russian money involved makes a difference. Compare Germany as regards Switzerland and the Rubik deals vs how it has treated Cyprus.

    The ECB and the other EU institutions are not really autonomous to decide on anything. These political decisions are being taken by the states. And they are not opaque. Each states motivations are quite transparent. The only opacity is when national leaders are running for office, but that is the voters fault for their magical thinking, fed to them by their incompetent journalists and corrupt media owners.

    The European Parliament has consistently pushed for a more balanced and quick decision making, while the amalgamation of national parliaments have failed in solving both the European and the national problems. The question of the European demos also needs to be debated in the light of this fact.

    This crisis in Europe has strengthened the strong and weakened the weak. The EU has failed in containing German nationalism. The French have failed in balancing Germany.

    The ad hoc solutions devised may be right individually but collectively they are a disaster. Moral hazard has not been contained, there has been little reform, the EU has lost legitimacy in its biggest supporters, tax evasion is still rampant and the working class bears the brunt of the pain.

  3. #3 by anon on March 23, 2013 - 2:22 am

    “They aren’t up to their tits in organised crime.”

    If they are – and that implies they have a certain way of dealing with people who confiscate their money – then the problem with the idiotic leadership at the ECB, the European Commission, the Council of Ministers/Eurogroup/European Council, etc. should be solved very soon.

  4. #4 by Leigh Phillips on March 23, 2013 - 2:38 am

    Jon – as far as Osborne is concerned, my point is not that the piggy little man bears any responsibility for the Cypriot debacle. But Cyprus applied for a bailout nine months ago, and Nicosia does not have any major bond payments until this summer. I doubt that the depositors bail-in has not at least been mentioned as a possibility before.

    I also have no skin in the game as far as point-scoring on behalf of Labour against the Tories. I see little difference between them anyway. I’ll at least tip my hat to Gordon Brown’s insistance on some level of European stimulus just before he exited the scene. Otherwise things would have been even more disastrous.

    But that’s as far as it goes. The stimulus such as it was was pitiful, largely a bung for car manufacturers and no substantial direction of investment into new areas. Obama’s stimulus was stronger, and has been largely what’s kept the economy ticking over, but still weak sauce. And stimulus even at a fairly robust level still doesn’t address the fact that this is not your run-of-the-mill cyclical crisis, but a structural crisis, in the offing since 1973.

    Much more imaginative options to solve the crisis are required than anything Labour or the Tories even have the imagination of considering, although Theresa May’s recent speech beginning to recognise the structural nature of the crisis is at least interesting, if horrific in that it does seem to shift toward some sort of Keynesian response matched with a hard-right turn on immigration and human rights. I’ve long been worried that the conjuncture is ripe for varieties of a sort of Strasserism for the 21st Century. Keynesianism + anti-immigrant repression.

    More on this last point in a few weeks. I have a paper coming out on this topic.

    • #5 by jon livesey on March 25, 2013 - 3:15 am

      Interesting “piggy” epithet from someone who claims to have “no skin in the game”.

      Then, as usual, you completely change the subject from anything remotely related to my comment.

      Except for one comment, which is that a levy was possibly “mentioned” before. Sure, and compensation for British depositors was also possibly an existing contingency plan.

      All you know is when it was announced. You have not the slightest idea when the Treasury may have planned it.

  5. #6 by Leigh Phillips on March 23, 2013 - 2:52 am

    Victor – There are a number of characters recommending that Cyprus pull an Iceland. Krugman and Lapavitsas to name two. Krugman makes the sound point that Cyprus at least has sun and surf to take advantage of such a devaluation. The difference between the two though is that Iceland wasn’t in a currency union. The logistics of introducing an unplanned-for new currency over a few days, together with the severe destabilisation that this brings, dual-currency circulation problems, etc., means that it will be much harder. That is not to say that Cyprus shouldn’t do this. But just to say it would not be quite as simple as Iceland. Additionally, are we really favouring a domino series of competitive devaluations around the periphery (and potentially into the euro-area core)?

    I have to say that I favour a thorough-going European grassroots transformation of the EU, rather than a disorganised fragmentation.

    As for the autonomy of the EU institutions, the situation is much more complex than you suggest, and as far as the ECB is concerned, it is indeed autonomous, more than any independent central bank has ever been. I’ll try to find some references along these lines for a subsequent post.

    I also don’t buy that there has been any revival in German nationalism. Fiscal chauvinism perhaps, but nationalism? Not as yet. Citation needed, Victor.

    • #7 by Victor on March 23, 2013 - 10:11 pm

      Nationalism usually begins shrouded in a moralistic logical superiority. And as regards the Germans it is not only about fiscal policy. It is also about Schengen, real free movement of workers, transport, energy policy, banking supervision, etc. The Germans talk the talk but don´t walk the walk. They are very much protectionists and fiscal malfeasants.

      It may not be warmongering or use repulsive language but the effects are as bad, in both politics and economics. I would think the pronouncements of people like Sikorski and even Juncker would be wider known. When a person like Juncker draws a paralelism between our current situation and the Wars and when the German President needs to explain how they are not deliberately trying to hurt the rest of Europe, then things need to be seen for what they are.

      People should understand the Treaties better. The ECB is not completely autonomous. It acts actually in many ways under the direction of the Council. Now the European Council´s supremacy has even been enshrined in the treaties themselves. Plus, it is completely disingenous to think that an institution that is nominated by by another actually doesn´t act on the appointers implied will. The autonomy of central bankers is not in any case the autonomy of judges. It doesn´t have the same legal, moral, historical or democratic underpinnings. Central bankers are independent mostly in the sense that agencies are independent, for technocratic reasons. The Germans may think they have brought their concept of the modern Bundesbank into the EU via Maastricht, but this is yet to be seen in both practical and legal terms.

      In the end it would be the Court which would interpret the relationship between the institutions themselves and the member states (yet the thorniest issues rarely reach the Court, at least not in the heat of the moment).

      But in any case, these are legalistic issues. Monetary and fiscal policy can´t ever fully divorce, specially in societies where government spending is 40% of GDP, as in much of Europe. Neither the Treaties nor autonomy will stand in the way of things like bailouts, bond buying, etc.

      Personally I don´t think the best choice would be for Cyprus to exit the Euro. But seeing what has happened to Greece, national governments should use Euro exit not as a threat against them but as a threat against Germany.

      The German idea of the debt redembtion fund should have been implemented long ago. Slovenia could also have a bank collapse next. Spain nor Italy are barely starting to deal with their problems. And the international plutocracy can´t wait to pick on France (for its refusal to fully toe the line) on radical austerity.

      The real difference between Cyprus and Iceland is that Cyprus actually has the money in its banks, while Iceland was basically overleveraged.

      The real fight in Cyprus is over what category of the rich will get hit (bondholders or depositors). The fact that the small and medium domestic depositors stand to get hit is actually a minor distraction in a fight between international financial elites and states.

      Amongst the bondholders you have sovereigns and other banks (and therefore more sovereigns) and amongst the depositors you have wealthy people hiding assets. The international plutocracy is using the small depositors to fight the takeover of their hidden assets. They want the bondholders and in the end the taxpayers in other states to take another hit.

      The problem for the EU in this case is that while it may be right to ask for depositors to take a hit, it is also opposing touching bondholders, because it is tired of dealing with the ripple effects on other financial systems. After all, Cyprus has only gone bankrupt because Greek banks went bankrupt. Yet after Greece the Eurogroup said there would be no more PSI (hits on bondholders). So it is hard to understand why some many in the press would say it is being inconsistent.

      Misinformation of the media and from the media is a key component of all these tangles of corruption.

      (BTW, I don´t need a citation…not writing a thesis or book or be a professional writer, journalist, blogger, commentator, editor or any of those. This is just a “comment”. You, on the other hand, should have those references ready before asking for my citations. Yet, arguments stand and fall on their merits. A citation doesn´t make an argument more or less amateurish. Otherwise we would read bibliographies instead of articles. I nevertheless apreciate the dialogue.)

    • #8 by Wim Roffel on March 25, 2013 - 11:19 am

      ” Additionally, are we really favouring a domino series of competitive devaluations around the periphery (and potentially into the euro-area core)?”

      I don’t understand how you come to this use of the term “competitive devaluations” as a bogeyman. Fact is that some European economies in the South and the East are not competitive at the moment – meaning that they export much less than they import and get from activities like tourism – and as a consequence they need to do something to balance the books. Whether that can be better done with devaluations or with Baltics-style sinking of the wages is a pragmatic discussion that doesn’t take away from the fact that action is needed and that until now the EU has no vision how such action should happen.

  6. #9 by al on March 24, 2013 - 7:06 am

    Not Lex Luthor but the Three Stooges? Actually, I was under the impression that “we” are ruled by Darkseid.

  7. #10 by Leigh Phillips on March 24, 2013 - 7:35 pm

  8. #12 by Pedro on March 25, 2013 - 3:10 am

    “Certain” commentators from a certain “little” island off the coast of human civilization keep writing doom and gloom nonsense regarding the Euro, Eurozone, and European Union. Are they that envious of the German-Franco founded EU? Must be. In the next twelve months, both the Eurozone and European Union will add member states. On September 18, 2014 the u.k. will begin to crumble as Scotland will hold a successful secessionist referendum. u.k.r.i.p.

    P.S. Envy is a terrible thing.

    • #13 by jon livesey on March 25, 2013 - 3:22 am

      Pedro, in the five years since the crisis began, and the euro-zone has stumbled from one ineffective measure to another, and one over-optimistic prediction after another, the British taxpayer has contributed yet another fifty billion Pounds net to the EU budget.

      I think that entitles us to have an opinion on how our money is being (mis)spent.

      And exactly what are we supposed to be in envy of? The euro-zone sixth successive quarter of economic contraction? Unemployment of 11.7% and over 10% for a decade? 20% unemployment in Spain and Greece, and youth unemployment pushing 50%.

      The only people left in the UK who envy the EU are the readers of the New Statesman,

      All 25,000 of them. The rest of us just watch in awe and amusement.

  9. #14 by Pedro on March 25, 2013 - 3:41 am

    jon livesey, the british commonwealth is a joke (nothing more than an insignificant, sixth rate sporting event taking place every few years). The british founded EFTA (European Free Trade Area) is defunct. Nearly all its members (including britain) abandoned it to join the German-Franco founded EEC (predecessor to the EU). Envious of leadership provided by the French and Germans, of course. Seems it takes Germans and French to accomplish the seemingly impossible, unite Europe. The english don’t even have what it takes to unite a little island off the coast of civilization (Europe). SCOTLAND 2014!! u.k. r.i.p. (rest in pieces).

  10. #15 by Bastian on March 25, 2013 - 1:33 pm

    You have a good discussion here.
    I am tending to side with Victor’s analysis, however not with his preferences/evaluations.
    It is good for the EU that the EC and not a faceless self intersted eurocracy runs the place. Further, there is no EU demos, hence substantial legitimation can only come from the nation states electorate.

    • #16 by Victor on March 25, 2013 - 9:38 pm

      The alternative so far for Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Ireland, Latvia, Hungary, Romania, etc, has been been either internal or external devaluation. Even most of the non-Euro have had to do mostly internal devaluation.

      In Latin America and Asia this recipe comes from the IMF. For small and medium non-highly developed countries their economic recipes are usually decided abroad.

      In the case of Europe, the EU intervenes. But it´s the same, because Europe controls the IMF anyway.

      The Scandinavians were an exception to the rule. The Scandinavian social model made it possible to do reform without the kind of everyone for himself reaction that we see elsewhere. (Even with this the Scandinavians themselves are also seeing a bit of trouble again.)

      That kind of reform doesn´t happen easily. Even countries like Ireland and Spain that seemed rather well managed are all of a sudden in serious political trouble.

      If we compare Ireland and Spain we will see how Ireland is able to get back on track more quickly because of the composition of its economy.

      The countries whose economy is highly related to either Germany or domestic players suffer more. German workers and voters will not have their companies cut jobs domestically as easily as is done even in those countries known for their strikes.

      The smaller and poorer countries will take dictats. The question is whether they will take dictats from factions in the German Bundestag and Bundesrat or whether they will at least get some say in the European Parliament and Council.

      Democracy in a small poor country usually leads to high levels of corruption, because the little wealth there is has to be quickly stolen and there is no real balance or separation of powers.

      In big countries corruption doesn´t become an issue until it starts having systemic effects. Which usually come into play during major transitions. This is why Europe and America are suffering. Because the transition to the power shift to Asia is being mismanaged. Our Western multinationals have bought our political class to level our standards of living and working to Asian standards.

      Europe will take as much time as Asia and Latin America to understand how to protect itself from being in the receiving end of financiers whims.

      But unlike those two continents Europeans have a structure that could, if properly used, serve the demos (the people, regardless of nationality or culture).

      National democracies are more responsive to people´s will and therefore more efficient and legitimate. But efficiency and legitimacy are not enough when you can´t pay the bills or when you have to slash wages or devalue savings.

      The EU has suffered because Germany has used it to have its will. It has used the Council and the ECB to impose austerity. The European Parliament has mostly gone along because, after all, its current composition is right of center.

      But what would have happened if the EP had been left wing? If it carried a motion of censure and fired the Commission and stopped lawmaking?

      Would it be considered legitimate if the Parliament, instead of only having the right to complain, actually had the power to stop the Council and the ECB from mismanaging this crisis with the non-ending improvisation and deadline pushing.

      This crisis could have been dealt with in completely different ways. It is not the European project that has failed, but a particular ideology and approach to governance.

      A European demos is not incompatible with the national ones. Nowadays for the national ones to actually have a say, the European one will have to be rethought.

      Parliament has to be strenghtened so the Council can´t improvise. Policy in codecision is more transparent and effective than what usually comes from the muddling in the Council.

      Unanimity which leads to deadlock instead of compromise has proven to have the unintended effect of having things like raising VAT and corporate taxes and retirement ages imposed by the Eurogroup/Ecofin without public debate instead of being decided democratically. Is there a national veto when Germany says take it or leave it?

      The European project was not created on the idea of a race to the bottom, but rather on catching up. And everyone soon accepted that living standards would not be the same everywhere without a transfer system (hence the idea of Cohesion), because competitive advantages coming from both geography and history can´t simply be wished away.

      Just like in societies wealth tends to concentrate in the hands of a few, so it does among nations. And just like in societies you can have successful people that rise from poor to rich even in unfair systems, so too it can be in globalization. But those cases and their struggles prove the inherent unfairness of the system rather than deny it.

      Just like many of those individuals see other people then as inferior, that is the root that leads a society as a whole to also see another as culturally inferior, while failing to understand the complex factors behind every individual personal or collective status quo.

  11. #17 by Roger Cole on March 26, 2013 - 10:57 am

    Victor,

    There is no European Demos, there never was. The efforts to create one by transforming a European Free Trade Area into a centralised, militarised neo-liberal Superstate that offers nothing but perpetual austerity at home and perpetual war abroad has not created one. All it has done is to build a resistance based on opposition to the emerging European Empire based on national democracies where the demos of each state has taken generations to build.

  12. #18 by LF on March 26, 2013 - 2:56 pm

    To butt in rather late, I think the idea of a European ‘demos’ and even national ones are rather simplistic.

    Identities, if anything, are moving simultaneously to the regional and to the transnational levels (e.g. regional autonomy, spread of identity via social media, shared entertainments and values across the world, blogs, etc.). Both the idea of the European identity, focused on MEPs and the Commission and the idea of national identity wrapped up in a national flag and backed by national hymns seem dated.

    So the idea that we’re moving towards values based on generations of ‘hard work’ seems a bit silly when you consider that most of the nation states of Europe are simply constructs of the 17-20th centuries, and moreover likely to be transient in the long run. This idea may be popular to parties like UKIP and politicised papers with dwindling readerships, but is a million miles from the people on the streets protesting against unemployment, house repossessions, economic inequality, environmental degradation and a sheer lack of democracy.

    The real question is to what level we need to become decentralised yet regionally federal, with some overarching structures (such as the UN/EU), and how much we need to renegotiate what economic globalisation actually means to us. China and other nations will soon reverse the rationale for opening up markets, and threaten to leave Europe utterly unable to compete if this discussion doesn’t happen beforehand.

    But then, that would be harking back to the anti-globalisation movement, who somehow would have foretold this car crash of an economic disaster and were literally shot off the streets and then overwhelmed by the consequences of the twin towers attacks.

  13. #19 by Chris Venables on March 27, 2013 - 5:42 pm

    Nice to read some informed comment. Not sure I agree on all the point, indeed I don’t know enough to, but Europe badly needs more of this!

  14. #20 by Marcel on April 3, 2013 - 11:48 pm

    Did Anastasiades warn his family and friends what was going to happen? What did Anastasiades know and when did he know it? Looks like the friends of the rich and powerful were warned just in time.

  15. #21 by Jeanmarie Mineau on April 19, 2013 - 4:14 pm

    I would also like to add that when you do not now have an insurance policy otherwise you do not participate in any group insurance, you could well take advantage of seeking assistance from a health broker. Self-employed or people who have medical conditions normally seek the help of one health insurance brokerage. Thanks for your post.