A New-Old Strategic Agenda

New Strategic AgendaTowards the end of last year the EU produced a guide to how it sees its future, titled A New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024. If voting for EU federal governance were allowed, this document would stand as a political manifesto—in support of its present leadership, since there is no alternative on offer.

It is, as we would expect, full of platitudes, propaganda, assumptions and self-congratulation; self-criticism can nowhere be found, though it may be implicit in some of the things they want to change. It is surely meant to be read by ‘believers’, because it’s hard to believe that anyone who doesn’t already accept the claptrap would be converted. As the picture suggests, it’s just blowing in the wind.

A few extracts will give the flavour of the ‘agenda’ without, we hope, annoying the reader too much. Here is the opening, which sets the scene for the platitudes that follow:

In recent years, the world has become increasingly unsettled, complex and subject to rapid change….Over the next five years, the EU can and will strengthen its role in this changing environment. Together, we will be determined and focused, building on our values and the strengths of our model. This is the only effective way to shape the future world, promote the interests of our citizens, businesses and societies, and safeguard our way of life.”

We commented on EU values in Only Believe and on “our way of life” in The Meaning of Life. Then follows a list of their specious claims to moral and practical superiority over other arrangements:

The common values underpinning our democratic and societal models are the foundation of European freedom, security and prosperity. The rule of law, with its crucial role in all our democracies, is a key guarantor that these values are well protected…”.

They insist, without noting that the reality is different, that the EU is democratic. For a demolition of this false claim see any of our posts in the Democracy series (Themes-15: Democracy has links to relevant posts).

A strong economic base is of key importance for Europe’s competitiveness, prosperity and role on the global stage and for the creation of jobs….[W]e need to renew the basis for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth and strengthen cohesion in the EU. This requires achieving the upward convergence of our economies”.

Right pathWe can understand why people may feel that the EU is on the right path despite any problems it may face at times. Sometimes intuition is all we have to make a judgement but in this case there is no shortage of data and evidence we can check. Of course some interpretations of the facts are controversial but how can anyone justify massive youth unemployment, minimal economic growth, plus vast and increasing differences between the wealth of member nations? Isn’t this directly contrary to the Union’s stated aims? It isn’t as though these are short-term issues that are on the way to being overcome, they’ve been there for decades and made dramatically worse and more difficult to solve by ideologically-driven policy choices, especially by the common currency, the euro.

We must ensure that the euro works for our citizens and remains resilient, deepening the Economic and Monetary Union in all its dimensions, completing the Banking and Capital Markets Union and strengthening the international role of the euro.”

They must but they give no indication of how this is to be achieved; they probably can’t, given that they believe (or want us to believe) that the euro “remains resilient” in the face of continuing ‘challenges’ (to put it mildly). Again, they don’t say how the euro will work for citizens (of Greece, Italy and every other member of the eurozone, given its vulnerability). There has been a lot of talk, including in this agenda, about completing financial union. This would be strongly opposed by those, including Germany, who would have to pay to level up the weaker economies. While the EU’s economy continues to decline as a share of the global one, the currency is fragile—the market hasn’t yet reacted dramatically to the now obvious fact that the euro has very weak foundations—and the regulatory regime they need to keep it going is unlikely to be a winner either inside or outside the EU (see Global Britain or Little Britain?).

In a world where common rules and standards are increasingly questioned, it will be vital to promote a level playing field, including in the area of trade. This means ensuring fair competition within the EU and on the global stage, promoting market access, fighting unfair practices, extraterritorial measures and security risks from third countries…”. (our emphases)

Rule breaking 1The EU doesn’t question its own rules and standards, it simply ignores them when it suits (see Themes-10: Breaking EU Rules and its links). The gap between what the EU professes and what is does is huge and unbridgeable because its leaders are determined to hold to their true strategic agenda while professing a radically different one. We provided an outline of the gap in several posts, notably Aspirations and Outcomes.

An ambitious and robust trade policy ensuring fair competition, reciprocity and mutual benefits is a central element…in bilateral relations between the EU and its partners.”

In relation to its future relationship with the UK, the EU is determined to set the agenda and to define its terms. The term “partners” is misleading, as the EU intends to keep the UK in a position of subservience, on what they also call (see above) “a level playing field”, by which they mean that to get a “fair” trade deal the UK must follow the EU’s regime of standards and regulations (see The Levellers). The EU will tell us what is ‘fair’.

An important feature of the EU’s New Strategic Agenda concerns the digital world:

EU must work on all aspects of the digital revolution and artificial intelligence: infrastructure, connectivity, services, data, regulation and investment.”

For a change we offer a comment from a confirmed EU supporter:

Europe is both gnome and giant in the tech world. The continent has lots of cutting-edge technology but hardly any significant digital platforms. It accounts for less than 4% of the market capitalisation of the world’s 70 largest platforms (America boasts 73% and China 18%).”

“[T]he EU, where politicians tend to favour stricter regulation, may overdo it…the data strategy could easily turn protectionist. If the EU’s digital plans became restrictive policy driven by protectionism, that would limit Europe’s ability to set global rules which could help to give its firms a much-needed leg up.”

(The Economist 26/02/20 The Brussels effect, continued [1])Delivering

The final section of the paper is titled, ‘Delivering on our priorities’. Much of what they call “delivering” begins with the word “must”, which tells us nothing about what they will deliver in practice, let alone how they will deliver it. Here is almost the only statement of what they “will” do, although we may assume from experience that they don’t mean it, whatever it means:

Our Institutions will work in accordance with the spirit and the letter of the Treaties. They will respect the principles of democracy, rule of law, transparency and equality between citizens and between Member States. Good governance also depends on the rigorous implementation and enforcement of agreed policies and rules...”.

Useful commentary is provided by a newspaper that is reliably critical of the EU:

Brussels is icily acting according to its own perverse, bureaucratic logic. This is driven by a compulsion for one thing only: total control.”

How ironic that…as the world changes rapidly around it, the EU, in its obsessive-compulsive quest for orderly direction, is actually standing still.”

(Daily Telegraph 27/02/20 Sherelle Jacobs [2])

[1] https://www.economist.com/business/2020/02/20/the-eu-wants-to-set-the-rules-for-the-world-of-technology?frsc=dg%7Ce

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/02/27/chilling-logic-lurks-beneath-eus-farcical-brexit-strategy/?li_source=LI&li_medium=li-recommendation-widget


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