on Sat Feb 18 02:29:56 2012, in response to EUEUEUEUEU Olog, posted by RockParkMan on Sat Nov 12 14:58:17 2011.
The callous cruelty of the EU is destroying Greece, a once-proud country
Britain should play its part to end this Greek tragedy by standing up for the underdog.
By Peter OborneFor all of my adult life, support for the European Union has been seen as the mark of a civilized, reasonable and above all compassionate politician. It has guaranteed him or her access to leader columns, TV studios, lavish expense accounts and overseas trips.
8:44PM GMT 15 Feb 2012
The reason for this special treatment is that the British establishment has tended to view the EU as perhaps a little incompetent and corrupt, but certainly benign and generally a force for good in a troubled world. This attitude is becoming harder and harder to sustain, as this partnership of nations is suddenly starting to look very nasty indeed: a brutal oppressor that is scornful of democracy, national identity and the livelihoods of ordinary people.
The turning point may have come this week with the latest intervention by Brussels: bureaucrats are threatening to bankrupt an entire country unless opposition parties promise to support the EU-backed austerity plan.
Let’s put the Greek problem in its proper perspective. Britain’s Great Depression in the Thirties has become part of our national myth. It was the era of soup kitchens, mass unemployment and the Jarrow March, immortalized in George Orwell’s wonderful novels and still remembered in Labour Party rhetoric.
Yet the fall in national output during the Depression — from peak to trough — was never more than 10 percent. In Greece, gross domestic product is already down about 13 percent since 2008, and according to experts is likely to fall a further 7 percent by the end of this year. In other words, by this Christmas, Greece’s depression will have been twice as deep as the infamous economic catastrophe that struck Britain 80 years ago.
Yet all the evidence suggests that the European elite could not give a damn. Earlier this week Olli Rehn, the EU’s top economist, warned of “devastating consequences” if Greece defaults. The context of his comments suggests, however, that he was thinking just as much of the devastating consequences that would flow for the rest of Europe, rather than for the Greeks themselves.
Another official was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that Germany, Finland and the Netherlands are “losing patience” with Greece, with apparently not even a passing thought for the real victims of this increasingly horrific saga. Though the euro-elite seems not to care, life in Greece, the home of European civilization, has become unbearable.
Perhaps 100,000 businesses have folded, and many more are collapsing. Suicides are sharply up, homicides have reportedly doubled, with tens of thousands being made homeless. Life in the rural areas, which are returning to barter, is bearable. In the towns it is harsh and for minorities — above all the Albanians, who have no rights and have long taken the jobs Greeks did not want — it is terrifying.
This is only the start, however. Matters will get much worse over the coming months, and this social and moral disaster has already started to spread to other southern European countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. It is not just families that are suffering — Greek institutions are being torn to shreds. Unlike Britain amid the economic devastation of the Thirties, Greece cannot look back towards centuries of more or less stable parliamentary democracy. It is scarcely a generation since the country emerged from a military dictatorship and, with parts of the country now lawless, sinister forces are once again on the rise. Only last autumn, extremist parties accounted for about 30 percent of the popular vote. Now the hard Left and hard Right stand at about 50 percent and surging. It must be said that this disenchantment with democracy has been fanned by the EU’s own meddling, and in particular its imposition of Lucas Papademos as a puppet prime minister.
Late last year I was sharply criticized, and indeed removed from a Newsnight studio by a very chilly producer, after I called Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, a European Union spokesman, “that idiot from Brussels”. Well-intentioned intermediaries have since gone out of their way to assure me that Mr. Altafaj-Tardio is an intelligent and also a charming man. I have no powerful reason to doubt this, and it should furthermore be borne in mind that he is simply the mouthpiece and paid hireling for Mr. Rehn, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner I mentioned earlier.
But looking back at that Newsnight appearance, it is clear that my remarks were far too generous, and I would like to explain myself more fully, and with greater force. Idiocy is, of course, an important part of the problem in Brussels, explaining many of the errors of judgment and basic competence over the past few years. But what is more striking by far is the sheer callousness and inhumanity of EU commissioners such as Mr. Rehn, as they preside over a Brussels regime that is in the course of destroying what used to be a proud, famous and reasonably well-functioning country.
In these terrible circumstances, how can the British liberal Left, which claims to place such value on compassion and decency, continue to support the EU? I am old enough to recall their rhetoric when Margaret Thatcher was driving through her monetarist policies as a response to the recession of the early Eighties. Many of the attacks were incredibly personal and vicious. The British prime minister (who, of course, was later to warn so presciently against monetary union) was accused of lacking any kind of compassion or humanity. Yet the loss of economic output during the 1979-82 recession was scarcely 6 percent, less than a third of the scale of the depression now being suffered by the unfortunate Greeks. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent, just over half of where Greece is now.
The reality is that Margaret Thatcher was an infinitely more compassionate and pragmatic figure than Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio’s boss Olli Rehn and his appalling associates. She would never have destroyed an entire nation on the back of an economic dogma.
One of the basic truths of politics is that the Left is far more oblivious to human suffering than the Right. The Left always speaks the language of compassion, but rarely means it. It favors ends over means. The crushing of Greece, and the bankruptcy of her citizens, is of little consequence if it serves the greater good of monetary union.
Nevertheless, for more than a generation, politicians such as Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Nick Clegg and David Miliband have used their sympathy for the aims and aspirations of the European Union as a badge of decency. Now it ties them to a bankruptcy machine that is wiping out jobs, wealth and — potentially — democracy itself.
The presence of the Lib Dems, fervent euro supporters, as part of the Coalition, has become a problem. It can no longer be morally right for Britain to support the European single currency, a catastrophic experiment that is inflicting human devastation on such a scale. Britain has historically stood up for the underdog, but shamefully, George Osborne has steadily lent his support to the eurozone.
Thus far only one British political leader, UKIP’s Nigel Farrage, has had the clarity of purpose to state the obvious — that Greece must be allowed to default and devalue. Leaving all other considerations to one side, humanity alone should press David Cameron into splitting with Brussels and belatedly coming to the rescue of Greece.