Some people have started saying the Germans want to take over Europe. But since they are the principle source of our largesse, they have a right to tell us how it’s spent.
Recently I have heard people knocking Germany for her insistence that nations receiving bail-outs from the European Union adopt prudent economic policies. “They failed in two world wars; now they are trying a different way of taking us over” is the gist of what some are saying on both sides of the Irish Sea.
It seems to me that this betrays a complete lack of understanding of recent history. Those nations that now have to make difficult and unpopular decisions are the same nations that for the last couple of decades have been milking the EU for all it was worth. When I first arrived in Ireland towards the end of 2006 I encountered a forest of signs pointing out that this sewerage scheme or that motorway or the other new railway rolling stock was financed “with assistance from the European Regional Development Fund” or some other EU scheme.
When I did some work on a voluntary basis for a local development agency many of the projects the agency facilitated were part funded under one or more European “Directives” aimed at increasing social inclusion and helping reduce the disparity between the relative wealth of the more successful members of the European community of nations.
The CAP Boosts Farmers’ Incomes
As I cycle around the Irish countryside I marvel at the huge number of abandoned houses and cottages each with one or more smart modern houses built alongside and evidence of the success of the Common Agricultural Policy in boosting the incomes of farmers.
With each of theses examples I am struck by the fact that all of this European money comes from the taxes that French, British and German citizens contribute to the EU budget. Believe it or not I do not resent, in principle, any of it. I support the general idea that wealth should be redistributed from rich to poor both on a personal basis and between nations. But what I certainly do find disturbing is the extent to which the corruption in Irish politics ensured that much of this money ended up in places and pockets that did not deserve to receive it.
Parish Pump Politics Ruined Ireland
It was not just that developers were enabled to pocket vast sums of public money. The tradition in Ireland of “Parish Pump Politics” ensured that developments happened in places where local representatives could point to them as achievements that would not have taken place without their intervention rather than in the most appropriate and cost effective situation.
Whilst the banks were busy lending vast multiples of the money deposited in their vaults on the assumption that this gravy train would go on for ever, politicians were busy lining the pockets of their constituents, including public servants and the recipients of social welfare, on the basis of an identical assumption. Now, having received billions of Euros in grants and loans those banks and politicians are looking for yet more loans to keep things ticking over. Is it really too much for the lenders to ask that they dictate how those loans are distributed?