Despite the announcement of a 750 billion EU aid package for the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that old stereotypes and misgivings about who should benefit and by how much still remain. That, along with media publications stirring up negative images about the North-South divide in the EU is disrupting the so-called EU Solidarity movement to say the least. Christos Mouzeviris responds.
On the 19th of May the French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel jointly announced a 500 billion-euro Covid-19 aid package. The initiative received the EU Commission’s support for all countries that have been badly affected by the pandemic. Yet some countries, two of which are euro currency users already and one, Sweden, which is obliged to join by their accession treaty but dragging their feet, are not happy with this goal, or just do not share it any longer, maybe they should follow Britain and leave.
In the past, the four “Frugal Four” states which include Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, have made accusations towards Greece but now they have a problem with Italy and Spain and in the future, if they can continue with this demeanour, who will they have to blame? Most likely it will be Bulgaria and Croatia, two countries about to join the euro within the next two to three years. Bulgaria has already been blocked by the Netherlands from joining the Schengen area so the Dutch are not making themselves too popular these days in EU. They are scapegoating weaker nations to excuse their financial nationalism and self-serving interests.
Ten years ago, their finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem acted like a Spanish Inquisitor towards Greece, demanding the country to open its financial books and records, for the Troika to examine. I discussed the outcome of that in my previous piece on this subject but suffice to say, it didn’t go well for those states in financial difficulty. Europe’s periphery became the fiscal dumping ground for euro-zone banks’ debt. Now the Dutch refuse to share the debt burden while previously, they were happy forcing others to do so.
Perhaps we could also now demand from the likes of the Dutch to allow us to have a close look into their finances and see how many millions in lost taxes from other countries they earn, while acting as a tax haven, and then we will see who’s money it is to give. The justification for their actions back then was that Greece lied about its debt to enter the euro-zone but it is highly unlikely that the rest of European leadership did not know about this already and in addition, that Greece was the only nation that acted in such manner.
Alternatively, we could ask every member to allow EU institutions to scrutinize their finances more closely. However, I am sure it will not be Greece objecting to this, rather Germany, the Netherlands and other richer EU member states. And usually, it seems like it is always the prosperous nations that flout EU laws first.
Has the time come for European leaders. to tell the truth to their citizens about EU budget fees and the benefits of their membership for their countries? Because whenever one less developed country, such as Greece in the early 1980’s becomes a member, richer nations tend to buy up most of their resources and assets. Since Greece’s admission, most of the country’s industries have passed into German, French and other countries’ hands and, while the Netherlands like to get all the benefits of EU membership and maintain access to other members’ markets, they do not like to share the profits that they make. Not only that, Southern states are facing accusations of corruption by their media with derogatory articles in magazines such as the latest cover of Elsevier Weekblad – a Dutch economically liberal and socially conservative magazine which has incurred angry reactions across Europe.
With a cover that resembles a Nazi propaganda press release, it seems to portray dark-haired people relaxing and enjoying wine and a coffee, while blond individuals toil. The image is accompanied by a title against the 500 billion deal, while stating “No more money to South Europe”. This is preposterous and outrageous; we have been in this position before when ten years ago, we had the Germans portraying the Greeks, together with all the PIGS countries in same manner. In response Greek and Spanish media portrayed German officials as Nazis, which was the lowest point Europe has reached since WWII.
A question that needs to be asked is, why bother only about Italy and not their frugal buddies the Danish or any other from this group? There seems to be little complaining about the Danske Bank scandal for example, where Russian money was laundered and siphoned into Denmark and the UK primarily, through the bank’s Baltic branches in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. There also seems to be less mistrust in that direction, even though Russian money has been flowing into Europe since the euro-zone crisis and not only did the Danish maintain their reputation, but Europeans cry foul whenever there is Russian meddling in Europe. Perhaps if we stopped harboring their dirty money, we could achieve more in dealing with their oligarchs.
In the future, we will all need to compromise and realise that we are entering a world in which Europe cannot rely on anyone but itself and we may need to collectively utilise our resources to help every country in Europe reach the same living and economic standards.
Going around in circles and blocking or postponing decisions that should have been implemented decades ago, along with the launching of the euro, is short-sighted and defeatist. And the Dutch together with the “Frugal” collaborators, are disappointing Europe right now.