January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Here’s Laurent Wauquiez, French Minister for European Affairs, in a speech in Helsinki on bringing Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area (HD to @beranger_v4 for info). “If the Schengen zone’s data-base falls into the hands of international organised criminals, then it’s European internal security in its entirety that is wiped out.” He then argues that it’s in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece that “three quarters of the problem of illegal immigration, arms trafficking, the drugs problem, child trafficking, linked to the entry of persons and goods into the EU are concentrated.”
Let’s have a look at Laurent Wauquiez. Schooled in top lycées Louis-le-Grand and Henri-IV, the young Laurent tops off his studies in ENA, i.e. the Jobcentre for the French political elite. In typical French fashion, he might be a member of the Cabinet, but he isn’t even elected to the National Assembly. His only true democratic claim to lead anyone is that he is Mayor of Le Puy-en-Velay, a backwater in the backwater Auvergne region, with a population of 18,879. How did he get to be mayor of Le Puy-en-Velay? You might want to ask his Mum, Eliane Wauquiez-Motte, mayor of Chambon-sur-Lignon, all of 2,662 souls, also in Auvergne.
Put it like this, it always strikes this blogger as particularly rich to hear a coddled, thrice pistonné confirmed son of the French political elite – a famiglia unto itself in all but name, riddled with corruption at the best of times – to insult the populations of Romania, Greece, Bulgaria as if they were all members of an “international crime organisation”. Once again, those at the top of that so-called club of equals the European Union, of which free movement of citizens is one, if not the only, benefit, are spouting obnoxous nonsense. It’s also an insult to the intelligence, if only to his own, that a man with such a gilded education, can conjure up “international” organised criminals “wiping out” the Schengen area data-base. What is that actually supposed to mean? That you need to be in a Schengen Area computer to do a spot of hacking? Er, I suspect he crossed his fingers when he utttered these inanities.
Indeed, it’s not easy to take anything that seriously emanating from Monsieur Wauquiez, particularly in matters of iffy cross-border dealings, given that on June 28 last year, while his party was floundering in the Woerth affair, with its heady mix of great family fortunes and political affairs, he went to a Mayfair club in London to meet up with the French business elite of the City. The purpose of the meeting? To solicit financial aid for his own private and “confidential” micro-political grouping – a burgeoning industry in France – called Nouvel Oxygène (New Oxygen). Although this is above board if individual donations stop at €7500 (Wauquiez’ Nouvel Oxygène received €34,000 in 2008, the last official figures), there is never anything pretty about the peddling of influence within the sealed off world of international finance (so distinct from international crime). If Monsieur Wauquiez’ speech on the free movement of our fellow Europeans is intended to be New Oxygen, then pass the gas mask.
April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
Europe is being over-run by credit rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s, Fitch, Moody’s et al, who on long legs are walking over our lives. The Financial Times has just broken the news that Standard and Poor’s have downgraded Spain’s credit rating from AA+, which was ok, one imagines, to AA, which is less. This comes just after the same prophetically named organisation (I set Standards, you’re Poor) docked Portugal from an A+ to A-. Not even the end of April, and the nightmare of the worst end of term school report went to Greece. Only yesterday, S&B looked at the Hellenic nation’s smudged copy books with too many crow’s nests and dog-eared corners, tutted and scratched “BB+” with big red pen. Meanwhile, my own native home, Ireland, fears “contagion.”
The press of course drools over the dispatches, and having looked deep into its conscience, says it’s six o’clock and time to roll over. The euro has “dived”, because “market sentiment” is “contaminated”, oil prices are “shaken”, investors have “fears”. Firstly, what is utterly mind-boggling is that abstract entities such as markets and prices and currencies are attributed human emotions. The thrust of such misuse of adjectives is to suggest that they are victims of something i.e. victims of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, who go under the cheerful acronym of PIGS. Secondly, when we speak of investors (but can we now say that this word is in any way related to the root verb – investire – “to clothe in, cover, surround”?), we depict them as beaten kittens rather than cool-headed, quick-thinkers out for financial opportunity. A vocabulary has been developed that first of all does not describe these events as those enacted by real people, but of abstract nouns that behave like people. The idea that our economic life is governed by an agency as arbitrary as clouds is obscene. We are not so stupid as to know that today like any other day, fearful banks and trembling institutionals accumulated wealth.
The problem is that the history of this economic crisis is written daily describing a reality that suits the leading actors. Who hold nations consisting of sprightly, sluggardly, careful, cancerous, bold and balding citizens to account for financial dealings they have had no say in. Paradoxically even these major actors to the drama seem unable to grasp the situation adequately, if only to themselves. Take OECD secretary general Angel Gurria. “This is Ebola,” he gushed. “When you realise you have it you have to cut your leg off in order to survive.” Forgive me if I’m wrong but I remember Ebola as a disease of the nineties where your skin sort of fell off in clumps like in a zombie flick and was supposed to wipe us all out, but didn’t. Surely if one legged Gurria wants to compare the Eurozone crisis to a disease whose threat was hysterically exaggerated, given that it’s all down to PIGS, he should have evoked swine flu. But perhaps a swine flu analogy wouldn’t scare us enough to gulp down the snake oil of bone-crunching austerity that is now, apparently, the only cure.
April 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
The BBC reports that only a few days after Athens was full-nelsoned into appealing for a €40bn-€45bn rescue package from the EU and the IMF… Greek bond yields are just a wee touch below last week’s whopping 9.15%. “The interest rate is 6.14 percentage points higher than that charged to Germany – seen as the safest investment in Europe,” the website chirps, explaining that even with Greece due a bung, investors are still “nervous”.
“Nervous” is an unusual term to denote that hard-nosed community of the tactically-minded who over the past few months like US drone operators have hovered over the nation’s economy, already a puny 0.3% of the EU’s, and reduced it to a smoking pair of old boots. But before we cry into our ouzos, they had it coming, the cheeky beggars. “The fundamental causes of this mess lie in Greece itself… Greeks really need to take a hard look at themselves and the way they have behaved”. So wrote Tony Barber in his Financial Times blog of 23 April, spinning the castastrophe as a kind of mid-life crack up. Come on, Iannis, you know it’s true!
Rolled out relentlessly, the view that the failings of successive Greek governments are actually the personal failings of the Greek people, is rife. And if swallowed will doubtlessly smooth the way for the next couple of decades of scrotum-tightening austerity that that country can look forward to under the lorgnettes of a German-led EU, IMF experts, and rating agencies. But if you think about it, to say that the corrupt Greeks are personally responsible for their country’s disaster sounds a lot like the Victorian prejudice that poverty amongst the lower orders was down to loose morals.
A similar narrative of “we are all in this together” and “we get the leaders we deserve” has allowed the Irish government to crash the country into a wall and then present it with the bill. But we should be wiser. One day after the death of the great Alan Sillitoe, author of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, we should remember one of his best lines – “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not“. When officialdom pronounces over the “Greeks” as irresponsible and reckless we should be as alert to the presumption as when investors are seen as so many shivering calves.
March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment
I was on France 24’s The World this week last week.
Here’s the blurb…
The Germans, too selfish to motor the European Union ? The World This Week’s Friday panel debate reaction to the Greek crisis with the New York Times’ Steve Erlanger, Gerry Feehily of presseurop.eu , Antonio Rodriguez of Agence France-Presse, and France 24’s Annette Young.
For part one, click here…
For part two, here…