The European Union pipe dream

Once upon a time, there was a group of farmers, each one producing his fruit and vegetables, some producing more, some producing less, living in a place called Euroland and governed by a class called Eurocrats. Sometimes there were quarrels when a farmer decided to expand his lands but in general they all got along.

They lived this way for thousands of years, each one and his villagers enjoying their own traditions and lore, with their own laws and customs.

One fine day, one of the Eurocrats had an idea and called his fellows together from the other lands. "I know!" he said, "Why don't we create a common market?" Asked what that was, he explained, "Well, why don't we all join together and instead of having so many different markets for our customers in our villages, why don't we have one massive market and sell our produce to the people living in other villages?"

"Wow!" thought the other Eurocrats, "That's a good idea!" "But that isn't the end of it," said the first. "Just imagine, how is this going to be regulated? We must create a Parliament, a Commission and a Council!" "And how is that going to be staffed?" asked the others. "Well, your son is finding difficulty getting a job, isn't he?"

A collective smile swept across the now enthusiastic faces of the Eurocrats when it dawned upon them that they would never, ever be out of a job, neither would their extended families or friends. "But how are we going to fund this?" asked the member from the Isle, a triangular island off the west coast of northern Europe, who liked to poke fun at his fellows (behind their backs of course) accusing them of being "Continentals" and having "Continental habits" such as eating onions and driving on the wrong side of the road.

"Well," said the first, Klaus, "We will create a special Euro tax which will be one per cent of everything people buy. We will call it the Free Admission Tariff Comprehending All Taxpayers, FATCAT. Let's call it FAT, for short!"

And so the party began. At first there was a glut of produce in the new common markets and people chuckled and chortled in a self-satisfied way about butter mountains, wine lakes and potato piles. Some asked why such produce was left to rot rather than be distributed among the developing farmers outside Euroland. "Because it would cost them more than to produce their own," came the reply.

Soon there were limits imposed upon the farmers and quotas were handed out. Klaus and Françoise, former enemies after Klaus invaded Françoise's farm three times in a few years but now best buddies after Françoise allowed Klaus to share his bed, decided to finance the other farmers, particularly those in the south, not to produce. "We will pay you to sit around in the sun scratching your bottoms," said Klaus, a sentence received with eager nods and whimpers of excitement as he patted the southern farmers on the head, called them "good boys" and threw them a handful of dog chocs from his pocket.

As time went by, the three echelons of Eurocracy had expanded into hundreds of organisms, each one with thousands of members of staff and each one of these with an army of advisors, as it was decided for example to have a common insurance policy, which involved twenty-six meetings over six years in places like Cyprus, Slovenia and Crete, all expenses paid by the farmers and their customers, including the social programme for "the ladies".

FAT was increased to five percent as expenses grew, then seven point five, then nine, then twelve, then fifteen, then seventeen, then nineteen, then twenty-one, then twenty-three and finally, twenty-five. The meetings and parties continued and the money ran out.

"Well, how irresponsible people haf been!" said Klaus, suddenly with a sinister look in his eye. "Some volks haf been partying vile ve haf been vorking! Zey haf been spending too much money!" "Just a second here," said a farmer from the south, "We have been doing everything you asked of us, now we have no agriculture, no industries and no fisheries because you financed us to destroy them and now we have no jobs for our children! And now you accuse US of spending the money? How much have you and your Eurocrats spent over the last forty years? And on what?"

"Silence!!" roared Klaus, "How dare you question our plan! The way forward is AUSTERITY!"

And the Eurocrats started to impose austerity plans. It began by imposing the same set of rules and measures in all of Euroland despite the different climate and geographical conditions and forgetting the fact that the southern economies had been destroyed by the Great Project. Then when these economies could not find the money to compete on equal terms, Klaus and Françoise decided to lend them money, but with enormous interest rates attached.

Not only could the southern farmers not afford the primary capital and the interest rate, to make matters worse, the interest they paid was controlled by three farm agencies in the Great Western Land over the Ocean, called Standard and Poor, Moody and Fitch and the worse their economic situation got, the higher the risk factor attached to their farms and the more interest they had to pay.

As the reality of the situation started to dawn upon them, and they saw that with such huge debt repayments to meet, they would have to restructure their societies to breaking point, would never raise the capital for the original loan in any case and far less the rising interest, chaos started to break out on the farms.

The authorities tried to fight back, using repressive police tactics and in one country, after demonstrators threw stones at police outside the country's parliament, a police baton charge saw women with babies, old men and women beaten on the back, and those detained forced to strip naked, including young women, allegedly held illegally in a police station which did not have the right for such detentions, forced to do press-ups, denied the right to see a lawyer or to make a telephone call, and forced to sign blank pieces of paper, said some.

The demonstrations continued, some of the demonstrators remembered to fill their beer bottles with petrol, some remembered to bring their guns and Euroland was transported to a different planet. Burglaries and street crime increased, people no longer felt safe and the response from the authorities was to cut back policing because of "the crisis" while at the same time political nominations continued unabated. There was no turning back inside the great project because... when sections of society see other sections as "them", the authorities can wield symbolic power. When the various sections of society come together and regard the authorities as "them", the rule is some sort of new order.

The Eurocrats only saw it when it was far too late...something had lunged behind the eyes of the farmers and their customers, something different, something dark and something dangerous.

Once upon a time, there was a group of farmers, each one producing his fruit and vegetables, some producing more, some producing less, living in a place called Euroland and governed by a class called Eurocrats. Sometimes there were quarrels when a farmer decided to expand his lands but in general they all got along...

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey