Martin Schulz is moving on from the Presidency of the European Parliament to campaign for a senior post in the German government in their election later this year. The full speech Schulz gave to the European Council on 15 December 2016, from which we offer some highlights, is transcribed here.
He is, as usual, strong on dissembling propaganda:
“Although one country has decided to leave, the EU remains indispensable for the rest of us. In the aftermath of the wars and deep divisions on our continent, the EU secured peace, democracy and enabled our countries to prosper.”
“indispensable” – really? None of these claims are credible as we have shown repeatedly (see, for example, State of the Union – 2 (Critical Examination) where we debunk this and many other self-serving EU fictions).
He is addressing the representatives of the heads of government of the member states and does not fail to remind them of their place:
“I hope these words [those quoted above] sound familiar to you, because this is what 27 of you declared solemnly at the end of the Bratislava Summit. You all agreed that you need the EU, that the EU is the only means to tackle the challenges we are facing in this century. This spirit should never be forgotten and should guide your actions for the years to come.”
Of course he chooses not to remind them that most of “the challenges we are facing in this century” were created for the member states by a toxic mix of EU dogma and failures.
He spends some time on Brexit, confirming that in his belief the European Commission should take the lead in the negotiations, and includes another reminder – that member states should not rock the boat:
“I think that inside the EU certain fundamental principles have already been decided upon, and the 27 should be firm on them: we have decided that the four freedoms go together and that Brexit could not be a better deal than remaining in the EU.”
Interesting that he believes that inside the EU, where the UK is now, is the best place to be so, logically, he should believe that no deal outside the Union could be better; or else, presumably, it would already have been implemented within.
Then more blame and implicit threats:
“Since more than one year asylum and migration have become the deepest challenge for the European Union, a challenge we will only master if we help each other and stand together in solidarity.”
“Solidarity is no one-way street, and some among us here have to ask themselves the question whether sharing responsibility is not something that should be self-evident among close partners. Especially when these same partners already benefit from the others’ solidarity starting with major structural funds.”
Here he is having a go at those eastern European states, notably the Visegrad Group, that have refused to take their EU-allocated share of refugees (see Evidence of Fragility (Part 1)).
After some more finger-wagging diversions through defence, terrorism and security, Schulz moves on to the economy, where propaganda and specious claims abound.
“After the financial and economic crisis, we promised our citizens financial stability, and the protection of taxpayers’ money. We have come a long way, and put in place institutions and mechanisms that will help the EU be more resilient, like the Single Supervisory Mechanism or the Single Resolution Mechanism.
“However, our key policy initiative, the Banking Union is still incomplete.”
Ever closer union is ever present – and, as ever, veiled:
“I, as one of the signatories of the Five Presidents Report, call on all of you to continue working on deepening the EMU, strengthening the single currency…. This is not just about economics, this is about the EU as a whole.
And the “EU as a whole” is about the politics of convergence, or completing the various unions.
“Because Europe is about projects and initiatives that protect and improve our citizens’ lives.”
He does not show, because he can’t, how the EU will improve the lives of its citizens; it hasn’t so far. So let’s just get on with completing the Union.
Having mentioned Banking Union, he turns to Fiscal Union:
“To get there, we need you, the Member States. You are the ones that have to ensure that the European race-to-the-bottom approach comes to a halt. You are the ones that are now asked to deliver on the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions, public country-by-country reporting, and the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base.”
By “non-cooperative jurisdictions” he means to scold the Irish for implementing a low corporate tax regime and so attracting foreign investment on a large scale. How annoying for the competing members, who should insist on tax harmonisation to put a stop to this. Tax regimes are designed by national governments to benefit their economies and if they get it wrong the voters will turf them out. This is not good enough for the EU; instead of all that divergence the EU must decide on a tax regime that will fit all members’ economies, and if they get it wrong, well, tough.
If everyone does the same thing there is no room for experiment and copying the best-in-class. It assumes the EU knows best; history suggests it doesn’t, as with all ‘Presidiums’.
What about youth unemployment?
“While we have been able to steadily decrease youth unemployment since it reached its peak in 2013, divergences remain huge in EU Member States.”
Note that “we”, that is the EU, have steadily decreased youth unemployment. He doesn’t tell us how they achieved this small improvement (it doesn’t amount to much, except to the few who got a job). But he does tell us that the member states are responsible for the huge divergences that remain.
Actually he does tell us how they did it; they devoted 6 billion Euros to a Youth Unemployment Initiative and although they didn’t get any money in 2016 they welcome the allocation of half-a-billion Euros “to this important initiative”. What level of importance does a 92% cut signify?
He tells his audience that “it is now upon you to decide what support you want to give to the youngest members of our societies, to the ones our future relies on.” Of course it is. Not our fault: your problem, you fix it. Er, it may have something to do with the Euro’s flaws but I won’t mention that.
Back to sloganeering:
“The EU needs leaders who follow their convictions, even though they may be unpopular to some parts of the electorate in the short-run.”
The EU needs such leaders to impose its agenda on reluctant citizens, the citizens’ needs aren’t his concern, like youth unemployment which he just dismissed as a non-EU problem.
He then joins the fairies for a spell, but it’s all too embarrassing to quote. However, embarrassment turns to annoyance when we read this sort of stuff:
“First, the Brussels blame game has to stop. What we all do in Brussels can only become a success if everybody takes proper ownership. Stop pretending that all success is national and all failure European.”
“Second, strengthen democracy and accountability both at national and European level.”
He is concerned, as its current president, that the European Parliament is not sufficiently consulted and involved in decision making. This brings him back to Brexit and a strange threat, aimed at both the UK and the EU Commission; a fitting conclusion, which needs no comment from us:
“Thirdly, the UK withdrawal agreement is maybe the best illustration of the necessity to involve the European Parliament from day one: you are all well aware that for such an agreement our consent is needed. This consent will be much easier to obtain if we are properly included in its drafting. The European Parliament was very disappointed to see that in the first draft statement of the 27 Heads of State and Government on the Brexit negotiation process it is proposed to relegate the European Parliament to a secondary role…. If we are not adequately involved, we may not be able to give our consent. And in this situation the UK would face the hardest Brexit possible.”