The EU Summit—a Non-Event?

Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

The EU Summit—a Non-Event?

Last Sunday’s hastily convened European summit tried to mend deepening splits between member states.

“Clayton’s—the drink you have when you’re not having a drink” was the marketing spiel for a fashionable non-alcoholic beverage made popular some years ago in Australasia. Last Sunday’s hastily cobbled together summit of EU member nations appears to have been “the summit you have when you’re not having a summit.”

Sunday’s EU summit was hastily arranged by the current president of the European Union, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. It came just three weeks prior to the regular EU summit scheduled for March 19-20, which itself takes place just two weeks prior to the G-20 meeting, April 2, where President Barack Obama is due to make his international debut. Sunday’s EU summit was called in the wake of fears of protectionist economic policies being enacted by the stronger West European EU member states in reaction to the current global economic crisis.

Initial concerns were raised when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared that British projects should be undertaken only by British workers. These fears were then added to by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy pumping government aid into his country’s ailing auto industry conditional on companies not moving production to Eastern European nations so as to take advantage of cheaper labor costs. Sarkozy reacted to critics by publicly denying his overtly protectionist auto industry stance, preferring to divert attention from reality by falling back on the same old canard that he had used to explain the source of the global economic crisis, calling protectionism “an American problem.”

Smaller EU states remain unconvinced, with some voices even speaking of an economic “iron curtain” being erected between the richer western EU member nations and the poorer nations of Eastern Europe. EUobserver comments that “solidarity among member states is in short supply as several countries grapple with the effects of the crisis and angry citizens.

“Some eastern states—including Hungary and Poland—feeling the cold of being outside the 16-nation eurozone, have asked that the rules for entering the single currency be speeded up. But this has already been rebuffed by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in charge of the eurozone ….” (March 1).

These mounting tensions led to nine Eastern European nations meeting for their own “pre-summit summit” on Sunday morning ahead of the full meeting of all EU member nations on Sunday afternoon. The mini-summit of Eastern bloc countries was convened to try and coordinate action in resistance to the increasing indications of protectionism from the west.

Poland’s Europe minister, Mikolaj Dowgielewicz, said that one of the reasons for Sunday morning’s mini-summit was to put a stop to any “plan for the west and a plan for the rest.” Revealing what was uppermost in the minds of the leaders of these Eastern bloc nations, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told journalists after the meeting, “Always we must resist the temptation of protectionism.” President Sarkozy’s dismissive response to such fears, following the Sunday afternoon meeting of all 27 EU member nations, was a brief throwaway comment to the press declaring that “protectionism was a ‘bad word’ and a ‘bad idea’” (ibid.).

Following the “Clayton’s” EU summit, it seemed that the wind had gone out of the sails of the Eastern bloc countries as their stronger counterparts from the west forcibly put the lid on continuing public statements about EU splits and divisions. EU President Mirek Topolanek, who had convened the Sunday morning pre-summit summit of the Eastern bloc, contritely reported to the press, “We agreed that there is no case that we see as protectionist. … We agreed that this is rather more a media thing than reality.”

A more effective backdown could hardly be imagined. The reality is that the smaller, poorer EU member nations know that the EU tune is called by their far bigger and richer brother nations in the west. Ultimately it’s still the Franco-German economic alliance in control.

Following a pattern that has become de rigueur, little of substance was agreed at this most recent EU summit. The European business group Eurochambres observed that no “tangible actions” resulted. Eurochambres Secretary General Arnaldo Abruzzini declared, “This summit was yet another rather unproductive political showpiece, bringing no concrete solutions to the dramatic economic situation and showing a worrying lack of economic coordination among member states.”

It seemed, after all, nothing but a Clayton’s summit.

Yet, even though each EU summit may appear to the casual observer to be an indecisive non-event, it is in reality adding to the tensions that are destined to soon split this unwieldy entity into 10 separate blocs, the weaker powerfully dominated by the stronger.

As economic disparity accelerates between EU member nations, and as the poorer EU member nations are forced to go cap in hand to the richer, one nation has declared publicly its stance to assist in the bailout of its neighbors to the east: Germany.

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given the strongest signal to date that her country may come to the rescue of embattled eurozone economies. … The credit shortage raises the prospect that one or more eurozone countries may be forced to default on current debt repayments and seek help from Germany or the imf. ‘The first will certainly be a small country, so that can be managed by the bigger countries or the imf,’ former Bundesbank president Karl Otto Poehl said on Thursday in a further indication of possible German action” (ibid., February 27).

One thing is for sure: Any assistance that Germany gives to its eastern neighbors will come with stringent strings attached, strings that will only enhance the power of the donor nation and drastically weaken the power of the nation receiving aid.

Continue to watch the European crisis closely for the signs of a forthcoming drastic revision of the EU’s power structure as Germany takes strategic advantage of that crisis to pursue its own imperialist ends.

For more information on this subject, read our booklet The Rising Beast.