The EU has been having hard times recently. Several countries announced an intention to pull out from the Union. A wave of protests swept across Europe over the weekend. Pravda.Ru asked expert opinion about basic contradictions in the EU: the system is arranged for wealthy countries to get wealthier, and for poor to get poorer. And it was Germany that built the whole system.
According to the European Statistics Agency, about 124 million EU citizens (24.8 percent) live below the poverty line today. The situation is most complicated in Bulgaria - 50 percent, followed by Romania and Latvia - 42 and 37 percent respectively, Lithuania (33), Poland (27.2), Estonia (23.1). Those living in better developed countries of the European Union have a lot of problems to deal with as well: unemployment, higher taxes and immigration. According to conclusions from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, in 2014, every fourth member of the EU (mostly advanced economies of France, Britain, the Netherlands and Finland) will seek to pull out from the Union and tighten immigration policies.
Last week, protest actions were held in many countries of Europe. The people want their governments to finally look into internal problems. Farmers and truck drivers in France went on strikes demanding the abolition of the environmental tax. According to forecasts, the French National Front of Marine Le Pen is to overtake other right-wing forces in the country at next elections to the European Parliament. As many as 33 percent of the French believe that Le Pen should play an important role in their society.
In Italy, the fourth EU economy, mass protests took place at the weekend under separatist slogans. The leader of the Northern League urged supporters to move to Rome - a historical appeal, with which Mussolini came to power in 1922.
Britain is extremely concerned about the influx of migrants. Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly said that he was preparing to defy European laws to restrict migration from Bulgaria, Romania and other Eastern European countries through economic methods. European officials accused Britain of xenophobia and moves to understate social benefits for migrants. Nevertheless, the issue is very serious, and there is an active campaign in the British press for the withdrawal from the EU. An adequate referendum is scheduled for 2017. Britain's position on the reform of the rules on freedom of movement in the EU was supported in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. These countries, and Finland, continue to take a fairly tough stance against new bailout programs.
Polls conducted throughout Europe predict an increase of the number of far-right forces in the elections to the European Parliament next year. Marine Le Pen and her counterpart from the Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, form a unified nationalist faction in the European Parliament and advocate radical reduction in the EU's influence and, ultimately, withdrawal from it. They found support at the Austrian Freedom Part , Vlaams Belang Partt (VB), Swedish Democrats and the Italian Northern League. The day, when an alliance with the French was created, Wilders called "the day of liberation of Europe from the Brussels monster."
Centrifugal sentiments are so strong that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called Europeans on December 8 to show resistance to growing populism and extremism that finds support in a number of EU member states. "We must have the courage to stand for united Europe. We must have the courage to deal with these very negative forces," he added.
"There are deep contradictions that are the catalyst of disintegration processes in Europe, - Anatoly Bazhan, deputy director of Banks and Credit Policy Center of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences told Pravda.Ru. - The contradiction is that with single currency, EU member states keep their significant sovereignty. The countries that have lower levels of economic development suffer in this competition. The problems of the current balance of trade worsen as well, which leads to the growth of their national debts. This contradiction can be eliminated if there is a single budget and the United States of Europe are created. In this case, budget deficits of individual countries will be covered on the federal level, like in the United States of America. The EU will not be able to come to this in the foreseeable future, because no one, not even Germany, wants to fund imbalances of other countries' budgets."
"On the other hand, Germany, using the euro, captures markets and acts as one of the causes of these imbalances," said the expert.
Indeed, the EU has interbank settlement system called TARGET2, which exacerbates the debt crisis in the eurozone. This system allows the free flow of funds from peripheral countries of the monetary union to developed countries, especially Germany. For example, the amount of net loans of German banks in the system has reached about 500 billion euros at the end of 2011, while banks of Italy and Spain showed nearly the same increase in net borrowings. On the basis of this contradiction, the threat of collapse of the European Union exists," said Anatoly Bazhan.
Why do Serbia and Ukraine want to join the EU? Don't they see the obvious failure of this integration association that leads to exacerbation of social problems? According to Anatoly Bazhan, "many have naive beliefs that if they join more powerful states in economic terms, they will live as well as Germany and France does." "But it's naive, because the improvement of living standards can only be associated with economic growth, which Europe does not have. For Ukraine, it would be better economically to join the Customs Union, because the economic growth is faster there. The Ukrainians would find their niche in the division of labor, which could be expanded, significantly reducing economic difficulties that exist," said Anatoly Bazhan.
Unfortunately, European integration is based on politics, rather than economy. "The experience of the Balkans shows that the attractiveness of European integration can be used as a condition for handling unruly or politically pliable countries," Elena Guskova, the director of the Center for the Study of the Balkan Crisis at the Institute of Slavic Studies told Pravda.Ru. They wanted Serbia to extradite war criminals to the Hague Tribunal, then to recognize independence of Kosovo and then - to recognize its integrity, that is to abandon non-Serbs in Kosovska Mitrovica.
"Serbia's experience shows that any country should calculate what it will gain and what it will lose. Interestingly, they put most complicated requirements to Orthodox Slavic countries, so Ukraine will have to think twice before doing anything, because the basic requirement of the EU will be to cool the relations with Russia," said the expert.
Elena Guskova believes that should political factors play the major role in the European integration, the EU will decay.
What about Germany? It seems that it is only Germany that supports the preservation of the eurozone. "Merkel's new government will continue the course on solidarity and strengthening of finances of the European Union, because Germany, in contrast to all other countries within the EU, received the greatest gains from the EU. The Germans earn a lot from duty-free marketing throughout the EU, on the entire European market, which is very good for the German economy. Therefore, the Germans, in any case, the German elite, support the euro with both hands," Alexander Rahr, scientific director of the German-Russian Forum told Pravda.Ru.
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