Can Europe Make It?

Spying, Bulgaria and the long road to Ithaka - weekly comments roundup


A look at this week's best reader comments on our Can Europe make it? debate.

Alex Sakalis
11 July 2013

We begin with an important article by Ben Hayes on the timidity and hypocrisy in the EU’s response to the NSA spying scandal, which produced some insightful comments. 

This from Mark Warren:

Proof that the spineless Europeans are going to do nothing (with the possible exception of Germany), about being spied upon, is what has just happened to Evo Morales and the grounding of his official jet by the Europeans. Its obvious that they received the order to ground the plane from Washington. The Europeans do what they are told. So the knowledge of massive spying, if not long known, does not seem to worry them very much.


The Germans are most concerned because they are spied on more than Russia, China, and probably the rest of the world put together. This if we include the slimy British spying on Germany. And as I am posting this comment from Germany, its ironic because Germany allows America massive military intelligence facilities to be built on its land, not to mention the, to date, 57 German soldiers killed fighting in Afghanistan.


But even going back to the early days of Airbus in the 1970's. The Europeans could never understand why it
was that at the last minute of clinching a deal with a buyer, Boeing would always snatch it away. This went on for years until they eventually got wise. After this Airbus executives took to conduct their conferences in the forest.


But now the spying on Germany is so massive that it goes beyond mere industrial espionage, there is something else involved here. Something more sinister. Its directed not just at German industry, but Germans themselves.

And from cantloginas_Momo:

I am not so optimistic that Germany will use anything remotely resembling pressure. That’s because we have a atlanticist government that shows even more contempt for the constitution than usual. Merkel has been pressured by the public opinion into sending a delegation to Washington to protest. That was the good news. The bad news is that she is sending interior minister Friedrich, who has no objections against total surveillance. By the way: that’s typically Merkel.


I find very worrying that despite the undisputed illegality of US American, British, and French snooping in our communication data, there was always total cooperation of German authorities. Think of it: throughout the Cold War every single mail piece between East Germany and West Germany was illegally opened—and without any civil servant refusing to cooperate, as would have been their duty.


This was only possible because the spin of the Warsaw Pact being a threat was efficient and was widely believed. This is now different: no sane being can see any threat. The surveillance’s only purposes are suppression of legitimate
political activism and the economic interests of corporations. Our oppressors claim that their secret services protect us against terrorism. The idea that terrorists use facebook or twitter is ridiculous, and I have yet to meet a sane being believing that spin.


This is where our hope lies: it is clear that the snooping is entirely to our detriment. Pressure on the German government can only increase, especially with elections coming. This affair will harm Atlanticism severely, especially in the long run.

Clive George’s takedown of the EU-US trade deal is equally prescient. Jeremy Fox comments:

What an excellent analysis! I would like to add a comment on an aspect of the US domestic economic framework which is not well understood in other countries.


While the US government is free to conclude free-trade agreements (subject to congressional approval), the individual States of the Union retain control of some important areas of economic strategy - as do smaller localities like counties and cities. They often compete with each other to attract investment and they do so through the use of both direct and indirect subsidies: cheap land, "spec: industrial and office buildings financed locally; and above all, local tax breaks. The US federal government has no authority over these activities whose effect is to reduce business costs for US firms which in turn gives them a competitive advantage in international markets.


Federally, the US also invests very heavily in R & D through a variety of direct and indirect mechanisms; and many of fruits of that investment filter through to the private sector. Anyone who thinks that US domestic economic activities are based on 100% free-market fundamentalist principles doesn't truly understand how that country operates. Americans don't do level playing-fields....

Philippe Marlière adds:

Excellent article. At long last, someone in a major British media is telling the truth about this calamitous transatlantic trade agreement. This trade agreement is so bad that it has to be fought back and stopped as soon as possible.

In contrast to the Turkish, Brazilian and Egyptian protests, the Bulgarian popular opposition has been small, but no less important. Borislav Gizdavkov contributed an informative and passionate response on Bulgaria's belated struggle for democracy. As Dr Brian Robinson notes:

I chose to read this article largely because, as it states, there's been next to nothing about this in the mainstream press (I hardly ever tune in to TV / radio news these days). A very good introduction and summary I found it too, so thanks.

An interesting article came by way of Ilektra Tsakalidou, who channeled the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy into her account of youth unemployment in Europe. Anna Triandafyllidou offered her view:

As Constantine Cavafy said the pleasure is in the journey not in Ithaka. And Cavafy in another poem said also something about the barbarians "what will we do now [that the barbarians will not come]? These people were some kind of a solution". I think youngsters of today are confronting a difficult moment, like we all are indeed. They have higher unemployment rates but no mortgages to pay, no kids to send to schools, no elderly parents to attend to, like we those in our 40s and 50s do. In addition these youngsters have often been very picky in their employment in the past (when unemployment was at 10% not 25% or 35%). Perhaps then the crisis, with all the pain that it brings, is also an opportunity for rediscovering Ithaka, i.e. the pleasure of the journey rather than the destination...

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to two new debates we are running.

The first is a new addition to our Joining the dots series. Previously we looked at the media in Europe, and now we have turned our attention to the fascinating world of football in Europe, looking at the way football and national politics conflate in the different European countries.

The second is a debate on the meaning of "populism" within a European political context. The debate was originally between Philippe Marlière and Catherine Fieschi, but has now expanded to include other academics and contributors. Populism: bird, plane, style, ideology? You decide.

Look out for some major changes to the Can Europe Make it? page in the near future, and thanks for all your comments.


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