The Malta Independent 21 May 2024, Tuesday
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Still incomplete, still mediocre

Noel Grima Sunday, 21 April 2024, 07:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

Five years ago I happened to write an article which was moderately critical of the European Parliament and of the EU in general.

To my great astonishment I was blasted by a person I hardly knew who damned me for writing what I knew nothing about.

Five years later this person is one of the frontrunners in the MEP race. He has worked hard and in my opinion stands a good chance of being elected.

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But five years later the EU is still in a mess. It is still a very good ideal as proposed by its founding fathers but it is still incomplete.

Its economic growth is anemic. It has not reached its potential although there are still peoples and countries queueing for membership.

It has developed its own currency and a strong one but there are still member states who refuse to have it.

It has a customs union but this is a union restricted to manufacturing. There are attempts to widen it to eg ICT but there are massive problems in the way.

The EU does not speak with one voice in foreign affairs and this has become patent with regards to Russia and its ambitions.

It is perhaps more united with regards to the Middle East but is seen as having been taken over by the pro-Hamas crowds on the streets.

Again, its attitude regards the US is widely fluctuating and this divergence hurts the overall relationship between this bloc and the US one.

Now some members have started to discuss a defence union but this has run into opposition including from Malta still fixed on a 1980s myth of non-alignment, when the overall parameters were very different from the ones of today.

For the past years the EU has been led by an unelected Ursula von der Leyen, a result of a backroom deal between Christian Democrats and Socialists.

This time this former German minister has signalled she would like to repeat the experience but so far she has refused to take part in debates. And she has been hit by a scandal only averted at the last minute.

Roberta Metsola, who has worked well as president of Parliament is seen as hitched to von der Leyen and will probably sink with her – a pity seeing the hard work put in.

Over the past years I have taken part in numerous EP and Commission meetings and have seen, time and again the way the EU rides roughshod over any little divergence from its chosen position.

This is what brought the UK to leave, even if Brexit has hurt the UK economy. The other countries who could have exited have been bought off with huge sums of money in concessions. This is nothing new when one considers the way French farmers were cossetted by the farming concessions even before the single market.

Then there is the long-standing argument by Malta and other small states that the EU is ‘one size fits all ‘ thus forcing the smaller states to carry a heavier burden.

All these complaints are nothing new and keep coming up all the time but despite so-called reforms remain there.

And finally one arrives at the conclusion that the EU either does not want to change or else cannot change.

It is now a huge bloc between the US and Russia rendered innocuous by the majority rule of membership with a structure based on unanimity.

The past session has been characterised by issues which carried MEP support of an elite, progressive sort which may not have the support of the voter base. Or the other way round. Issues like hunting or abortion come to mind.

The EP has become known also for some signal quirks – like relocating thousands of miles away to Strasbourg just because France says so. Or the MEP who recently donned a Torino shirt and ended his speech by declaiming “Juve m…..a”

Every time especially when the EP elections come round there is talk of reforms but time and again nothing happens.

So my advice is to vote if that’s what you want but avoid turning the vote into a foretaste of the national elections. Vote for people who know the EU and who want to change and reform it.

 

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