The Rise (and fall?) of the EU

European countries ruled the world for centuries.  Since WWII the fall from grace has accelerated.  Now it remains to be seen how Britain’s EU exit, and mass immigration, pan out.

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The Myth of European Democracy

The Myth of European Democracy  By Alex Gorka, 7 November 2017

It’s an open secret that the “Soros network” has an extensive sphere of influence in the European Parliament and in other European Union institutions. The list of Soros has been made public recently. The document lists 226 MEPs from all sides of political spectrum, including former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, seven vice-presidents, and a number of committee heads, coordinators, and quaestors. These people promote the ideas of Soros, such as bringing in more migrants, same-sex marriages, integration of Ukraine into the EU, and countering Russia. There are 751 members of the European Parliament. It means that the Soros friends have more than one third of seats.

George Soros, a Hungarian-American investor and the founder and owner of Open Society Foundations NGO, was able to meet with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker with “no transparent agenda for their closed-door meeting”, and pointed out how EU proposals to redistribute quotas of migrants across the EU are eerily familiar to Soros’s own self-published plan for dealing with the crisis.

The billionaire financier believes that the European Union should receive millions of immigrants from the Middle East and Northern Africa, provide each one with an annual 15,000 EUR in aid, and resettle these migrants in member-states where they do not wish to go and are not necessarily welcome.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has accused the EU of “eating out of the hand” of Soros. He believes that the billionaire open borders campaigner is behind the attacks on Hungary. The reason is the government’s attempts to take legal action over a new law which requires foreign-supported ‘civil society’ organizations — many funded by Soros — to list their big overseas donors in a public register and be transparent about their funding sources in their publications. The Hungarian government is applying efforts to close the Budapest-based Central European University founded by Soros.

“The whole of the European Union is in trouble because its leaders and bureaucrats adopt decisions like this,” said Orbán. “The people support the ideal of the European Union. At the same time, they can’t stand the leadership of the EU, because it insults the Member-States with things like this, and it abuses its power. Everyone in Europe can see that. This is why the European leadership is not respected.”

The Visegrad group is trying to stand tall under the EU pressure on migrants’ policy. The European Commission of Migration and Home Affairs is pushing a new bill to make migrants quotas obligatory. At least 30 Soros supporters work for the commission.

Many people listed in the document are known for attacks on Russia. For instance, Rebecca Harms, a MEP from German Green Party, regularly calls the European Parliament to toughen the sanctions regime against Moscow. Guy Verhofstadt blames Russia for almost each and every thing going wrong in Europe. His article Putting Putin in his Place made a lot of noise last year. In 2012, former Croatian Primer Tonino Picula, who was the head of an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), slammed the Russian presidential election of 2012 as unfair, saying it was “skewed” in Vladimir Putin’s favor.

The Soros list sheds light on the question of what makes the EU leadership implement policies, which run counter to the interests of Europeans. The answer is corruption. The politicians bribed by Soros dance to his tune. They fight against the attempts of national leaders to protect the interests of their peoples. Quite often those who oppose such policies have to face the resistance of political elites of their own countries. The standoff between Hungarian PM Orbán and the Soros network is a good example to illustrate how it works. The European Parliament under the influence of Soros friends is pushing Europe to suicide by letting millions of migrants in.

It shows that the much-vaunted European democracy is a façade to hide the activities of power structure close to feudal system with local lord holding the reins. It can hardly be called the power of people. The publication of Soros list provides a clue to understanding who rules the EU and who instigates anti-Russia sentiments in Europe. Actually, this is the case when EU member countries like Hungary happen to be in the same boat with Russia opposing the very same US-based forces, while protecting their sovereignty and independence. This is the time for Europeans to think about transforming the system to do away with outside pressure.

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The EU union of political elites is the enemy of democracy and freedom in Europe

The EU union of political elites is the enemy of democracy and freedom in Europe  By Mick Hume, Spiked Online, 28 October 2017

Amid the millions of words of obfuscation and bull being spouted about Brexit, we witnessed a rare moment of truth this week. European Council president Donald Tusk let the cat out of the Brussels bag when he warned the European Parliament that the EU will be ‘defeated’ in the Brexit talks unless it maintains absolute unity behind its leaders’ tough stance.

The top Eurocrat told MEPs that Brexit is the European Union’s ‘toughest stress test’, and so ‘We must keep our unity regardless of the direction of the talks. If we fail, then the negotiations will end in our defeat.’

What’s that? Defeat for one side and, by implication, victory for the other? Whatever happened to the PR notion of the Brexit negotiations being a diplomatic chat between old allies, to work out amicable arrangements for future friendly relations?

Tusk’s loose talk about the dangers of ‘defeat’ has killed that lie. It confirms that the EU sees the battle over Brexit as a fight to the finish. Diplomacy is simply war by other means.

This war is not between the EU and the UK government or Westminster. They are essentially on the same side, as revealed by Tory prime minister Theresa May’s leaked private plea to EU leaders to agree a deal that can get her off the hook at home.

No, the war is between the EU as the club of Europe’s rulers on one side, and the revolting peoples of European nations on the other. From the Brexit referendum to the results of elections in Germany, Austria or the Czech Republic, every test of European public opinion today is another sign of a ‘populist’ – aka democratic – uprising against the EU elites.

That’s why the EU feels it cannot afford to give significant ground in the battle over Brexit. It fears any concessions to the UK will only encourage others to demand the same freedom. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who has bitter experience of being on the wrong end of EU ‘negotiations’, spelt it out last month. ‘The EU does not want to negotiate with Britain’, he told the UK. ‘The greatest nightmare for Brussels, but also Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, is a mutually advantageous agreement with Britain. This will be interpreted, in their mind, by the rest of the riff-raff of Europe – the Greeks, the Spaniards, the Portuguese – as a sign you can confront the EU’s deep establishment and get a decent deal out of it.’

That is also why we should be seeking the defeat of the EU elites over Brexit, as a victory for UK voters and ‘the rest of the riff-raff of Europe’. Let’s be clear that, in this war, the EU is the army of anti-democracy.

The EU’s aim was never to ‘represent’ the peoples of Europe, but to constrain popular sovereignty and democracy. The European Union is not Europe. It is the anti-democratic union of Europe’s political elites.

The signals were clear as far back as 1951, when the leaders of the six founding nations – West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – signed the famous Europe Declaration on economic cooperation, which set in motion the creation of the European Community and then the EU. It stated that the signatories ‘give proof of their determination to create the first supranational institution and that thus they are laying the true foundation of an organised Europe’.

The prefix ‘supra’, from the Latin, means above, over or beyond. The dream was that the ‘supranational’ institutions of the embryonic EU would operate over and above national politics, and beyond the reach of the citizens of any nation state. The aim was to create a new ‘organised Europe’ managed not in the public realm of democratic politics, but in the closed world of top-level Euro-bureaucracy and diplomacy.

More recently, the clear intention of the European political elites has been to go far beyond sensible economic cooperation, to create a supranational form of unity above and beyond the reach of national parliaments. This was never, however, a case of an alien Brussels empire somehow conquering the major nations of Europe with only an army of paper-pushers. National political elites willingly signed up to the process of political unification, to give themselves more protection from political scrutiny and democratic accountability at home. As the Brussels correspondent Bruno Waterfield puts it, ‘The EU has evolved, not as a federal superstate that crushes nations underfoot, but as an expanding set of structures and practices that have allowed Europe’s political elites to conduct increasing areas of policy without reference to the public’.

Writing about the EU some 20 years ago, leading Spanish jurist Miguel Herrero de Minon observed that ‘the lack of “demos”’ – the people – in the political processes of the EU is ‘the main reason for the lack of democracy. And the democratic system without “demos” is just “cratos” – power.’ In the 20 years since then, the EU has gone further still in elevating the power of bureaucracy and technocracy over any sign of national sovereignty and popular democracy – most starkly by replacing elected governments with appointed technocrats to impose austerity in Greece, Italy and Ireland. It now wants to defeat the democratic Brexit revolt by imposing a deal that represents a form of neocolonial rule, whereby the UK leaves the jurisdiction of Euro courts and commissions in name, but remains under their sway in practice.

Many Remainers might concede that the EU is insufficiently democratic, with power invested in the unelected, unaccountable commission and bureaucracy behind the window dressing of the European Parliament (which, unlike real parliaments, can neither elect a government nor propose legislation). Their response is that we should try to change the EU – to ‘Remain and Reform’, as left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has it.

Yet as the left-wing British historian Eric Hobsbawm observed, reviewing the EU at the end of the 20th century, it is ‘misleading to speak of the “democratic deficit” of the European Union. The EU was explicitly constructed on a non-democratic (ie non-electoral) basis, and few would seriously argue that it would have got where it is otherwise.’

Once we appreciate the inherently anti-democratic character of the European Union and its institutions, why bother trying to reform it? It becomes possible to see that as a lost cause before such a futile campaign even begins. To suggest that we could reform the EU in a progressive, democratic way today is on a par with those who suggested it was possible to reform England’s absolute monarchy, to make it less autocratic and meet the needs of the people, right until the morning of the execution of King Charles I in 1649; or those who proposed a reformed, more consensual form of British colonial rule just as the US Declaration of Independence was being signed in 1776.

There are moments in history where the only hope for freedom lies with beheading the tyrant, or kicking out the oppressors. Or leaving, defeating, and hopefully helping to break up, the democracy-eating monster that is the modern EU.

In his speech to the European Parliament this week, Donald Tusk – the unelected, unaccountable ‘president’ of Europe – concluded that ‘It is in fact up to London how this will end: with a good deal, no deal or no Brexit. But in each of these scenarios we will protect our common interest only by being together.’

Those of us fighting for greater freedom in Europe have also got to stand together – for Brexit, for no deal at the expense of democracy or sovereignty, and for the defeat of the EU elites on every front.

Mick Hume is spiked’s editor-at-large. His new book, Revolting! How the Establishment is Undermining Democracy – and What They’re Afraid of, is published by William Collins. Buy it here.

Mick will be speaking at the session, ‘What is… democracy?’, at the Battle of Ideasfestival in London on Sunday 29 October. Get tickets here.

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The disaster of Greece typifies the EU

The disaster of Greece typifies the EU  By Raul Ilargi Maijer, via Zerohedge, 16 Sept 2017

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, famous for his imbibition capacity and uttering -not necessarily in that order- the legendary words “when it becomes serious, you have to lie”, presented his State of the Union today. Which is of pretty much limited interest because, as Yanis Varoufakis’ book ‘Adults in the Room’ once again confirmed, Juncker is nothing but ventriloquist Angela Merkel’s sock puppet.

But of course he had lofty words galore, about how great Europe is doing, and how that provides a window for more Europe, in multiple dimensions. Juncker envisions a European Minister of Finance (Dutch PM Rutte immediately scorned the idea), and he wants to enlarge the EU by inviting more countries in, like Albania, Montenegro and Serbia (but not Turkey!).

Juncker had negative things to say about Britain and Brexit, about Poland, Prague and Hungary who don’t want to obey the decree about letting in migrants and refugees, and obviously about Donald Trump: Brussels apparently wants ‘to make our planet great again’.

What the likes of Jean-Claude don’t seem to be willing to contemplate, let alone understand or acknowledge, is that the EU is a union of sovereign countries. The meaning of ‘sovereignty’ fully escapes much of the pro-EU crowd. And if they keep that up, it will break the union into pieces.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary must accept their migrant ‘quota’, as decided in Brussels, and that, too, constitutes an infringement on these countries’ sovereignty. And don’t forget, sovereignty is not something that can be divided into separate parts, some of which can be upheld while others are discarded. A country is either sovereign or it is not.

The single euro currency is already shirking awfully close to violating sovereignty, if not passing over an invisible line, and a European Finance Minister would certainly constitute such a violation. At some point, the politicians in all these countries will have to tell their voters that they’re about to surrender -more of- their sovereignty and become citizens of Merkel Land. But they don’t want to do that, because as soon as people would realize this, the pitchforks would come out and the union would be history.

The EU will be able to muddle on for a while longer, but Europe is not at all doing great economically (however, to maintain the illusion ECB head Draghi buys €60 billion a month in ‘assets’), and when the next crisis comes people will demand their sovereignty back. It really is that simple. And what will the negotiations look like to make that happen? 27 times Brexit?

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The real Europe is not the one Juncker paints a portrait of. The real Europe is Greece. That’s where you can see the economic reality as well as the political one. Greece has no sovereignty left to speak of, despite the fact that it is guaranteed it in EU law. Europe’s political reality is about raw power. About the rich waterboarding the poor, to the point that they are turned from sovereign citizens of their countries into lost souls in debt prisons.

This week, another chapter has been added to the dismal annals of the Greek adventures in the European Union. It’s like the Odyssee, I kid you not. Like the previous chapters, this one will not solve the Greek crisis, or even alleviate it, but instead it will deepen it further, and not a little bit. This chapter concerns the forced auctioning of -real estate- properties.

Not to Greeks, 90% of whom can’t afford to buy anything at all, let alone property, but to foreigners, often institutional investors. At the same time, bad loans, including mortgage loans, will be offloaded for pennies on the dollar to that same class of ‘investors’. Once the Troika is done with this chapter, Greece will have seen capital destruction the likes of which the world has seldom if ever witnessed.

People in the country have a hard time understanding the impact:

Greece Property Auctions Certain To Drive Market Prices Even Lower

Ilias Ziogas, head of property consultancy company NAI Hellas and one of the founding members of the Chartered Surveyors Association, said that the property market is certain to suffer further as a result of the auctions: “The impact on prices will be clearly negative, not because the price of a property will be far lower at the auction than a nearby property, but because it will diminish demand for the neighboring property.”

 

[..]Giorgos Litsas, head of the GLP Values chartered surveyor company, which cooperates with PQH [..] told Kathimerini that the only way is down for market rates. “I believe that unless there is an unlikely coordination among the parties involved – i.e. the state (tax authorities, social security funds etc.), the banks and the clearing firms – in order to prevent too many properties coming onto the market at the same time, rates will go down by at least 10%.”

 

He noted that “we estimate the stock of unsold properties of all types comes to 270,000-280,000, in a market with no more than 15,000 transactions per year.Therefore the rise in supply will send prices tumbling.” Yiannis Xylas, founder of Geoaxis surveyors, added, “I fear the auctions will create an oversupply of properties without the corresponding demand, which translates into an immediate drop in rates that may be rapid if one adds the portfolios of bad loans secured on properties that will be sold to foreign funds at a fraction of their price.”

A 10% drop? Excuse me? Even in the center of Athens, rental prices for apartments that are not yet absorbed by Airbnb have plummeted. With so many people making just a few hundred euro a month that is inevitable. You can rent a decent place for €200 a month, and if you keep looking I’m sure you can find one for €100. An 80% drop?! But property prices would only go down by 10% in a market that has 20 times more unsold properties than it sells in a year?

The Troika creditors found they had to deal with attempts to prevent the wholesale fire sale of Greek properties. They now think they’ve found the solution. First, they will force the government to lower official valuations concerning the so-called “primary residence protection”, which protected homes valued at below €300,000 from foreclosure. Second, they will bypass the associations of notaries who refused to cooperate in ‘physical’ auctions, as well as protesters, by doing the fire sale electronically:

E-Auctions Of Foreclosed Property For First Time This Month In Greece

Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis confirmed the development in statements to a local television station, announcing the relevant justice ministry is ready to begin electronic auctions in the middle of next week.At the same time, Stathakis noted that a law protecting a debtor’s primary residence from creditors will be expanded until the end of 2018. According to reports, the e-auctions will take place every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday over a four-hour period, i.e. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Some 5,000 foreclosed commercial properties will be up for sale by the end of the year, which translates into 1,250 properties per month, on average.

 

Currently, the primary residence protection against foreclosure extends to properties valued (by the State tax bureau) at under €300,000, a very high threshold that shields the “lion’s share” of mortgaged residential real estate in the country, if judged by current commercial property values in Greece. Creditors and local lenders have called for a decrease in the protection threshold, a prospect that is very likely.

 

The development is also expected to generate another round of acrimonious political skirmishing, given that both leftist SYRIZA, and its junior coalition partner, the rightist-populist Independent Greeks party, rode to power in January 2015 on a election campaign platform that included an almost universal protection of residential property from bank foreclosures and auctions.

 

Associations representing notaries – professionals who in Greece are law school graduates specializing in drawing up contracts and maintaining registries of deeds, property transactions, wills etc. – had also blocked old-style auctions from taking place in district courts by ordering their members not to take part. The e-auction process aims to bypass this opposition, as well as disruptions and occupations of courtrooms by anti-austerity protesters.

The claim is that Greek banks must be made healthy again by removing bad loans from their books. The question is if selling both properties and bad loans to foreign institutional investors for pennies on the buck is a healthy way to achieve that. But yeah, if 50% of your outstanding loans are bad, you have a problem. Still, at the same time, the problem with that is that many if not most of those loans have turned sour because of the neverending carrousel of austerity measures unleashed upon the country. It’s a proverbial chicken and egg issue.

If Brussels were serious about Greek sovereignty, it would make sure that Greek homes were to remain in Greek hands. You can’t be sovereign if foreigners own most of your real estate. By bleeding the country dry, and forcing the sale of Greek property to Germans, Americans, Russians and Arabs, the Troika infringes upon Greek sovereignty in ways that will scare the heebees out of other EU nations.

It’s not for nothing that the entire Italian opposition is talking about a parallel currency next to the euro. That is about sovereignty.

5,000 Greek Properties Under the Electronic Auction System by End of 2017

Auctions of foreclosed properties to settle bad debts are seen as key to returning Greek banks to health by helping reduce the burden of non-performing loans. These currently stand at roughly €110 billion, or 50% of the banks’ total loans. Under pressure from its lenders, in the summer of 2016 the Greek government passed measures allowing the sale of delinquent mortgages and small business loans to international funds, a move seen by many as yet another betrayal by the SYRIZA-led government.

Greek banks won’t return to health, they’ll simply shrink the same way the people do who can’t afford to rent a home or eat decent food. Austerity kills entire societies, including banks. If Mario Draghi would decide tomorrow morning to include Greece in his €60 billion a month QE bond-buying program, and Greece could use that money to stop squeezing pensions and wages, and no longer raise taxes and unemployment, both the people AND the banks could return to health. It would take a number of years, but still.

 

Whatever you call what happens to Greece, and what’s been happening for nearly 10 years now, whether you call it fiscal waterboarding or Shock Doctrine, it is definitely not something that has a place in a union of sovereign nations bound together in mutual respect and dignity. And that will ensure the demise of that union.

 

Another aspect of the fire sale is the valuation of the properties austerity has caused to crumble (so many buildings in Athens are empty and falling apart, it’s deeply tragic, at times it feels like the entire city is dying). The press calls it a hard task, but that doesn’t quite cover it.

It’s not just about mortgages, many Greeks simply give up their properties because they can’t afford the taxes on them. People that inherit property refuse to accept their inheritance, even if it’s been in their families for generations, and it’s where they grew up. In that sense, it may be good to lower valuations to more realistic levels. But tax revenues will plunge along with the valuations, and the government is already stretched silly. Add a new tax, then?

Greece Property Value Review A Hard Task

The government is facing a daunting task in adjusting the so-called objective values (the property rates used for tax purposes) to market levels by the end of the year, as its bailout agreement dictates. The huge slump in transactions and the forced sales of properties due to their owners’ debts do not lead to any safe conclusions for the values per area. One in four sales are conducted with prices that lag the objective value by 60-70%, and the prices of 2008 by 70-80%. The Finance Ministry must overcome all the obstacles to bring to Parliament all the necessary adjustments and regulations.

 

Moreover, once the objective values are brought in line with market rates, the government will have to maintain the same amount of revenues from the Single Property Tax (ENFIA) either by raising the tax’s rates or by introducing a new tax in the form of the old Large Property Tax.

 

Furthermore, once the objective values are reduced by 40-50% to match the going prices, banks may see problems with their capital adequacy, as lenders will incur losses by having to revise the collateral they get. Mortgage loans in Greece amount to €59.44 billion, of which 42%, or €25.4 billion are nonperforming.

Yeah, there’s the health of the banks again. And the government. And the people. A wholesale fire sale is the worst possible thing that could happen at this point in time. Greece needs help, stimulus, hope, not more austerity and fire sales. Juncker and his Berlin ventriloquist have this all upside down and backwards, squared. The one thing the EU cannot afford itself to do, is the one thing it engages in.

They may as well pack in the whole thing today, and go home. Actually, that would be by far the best option, because more of this will inevitably lead to the very thing Europe prides itself in preventing for the past 70 years: battle, struggle, war, fighting in the streets, and worse. If the EU cannot show it exists for the good and benefit of its people, it no longer has a reason to exist.

Saving the banks in the richer countries by waterboarding an entire other country is not just the worst thing they could have thought of, it’s entirely unnecessary too. The EU and ECB could easily have saved Greece from 90% of what it has gone through, and will go through going forward, at virtually no cost at all. But yes, German, French, Dutch banks would likely have had to cut the bonuses of their bankers, and their vulture funds couldn’t have snapped up the real estate quite that cheaply.

Summarized: the EU is a disgrace, morally, politically, economically. I know that French President Macron on the one side, and Yanis Varoufakis’ DiEM25 movement on the other, talk about reforming the EU. But the EU is the mob, and you don’t reform the mob. You dismantle their organization and then you lock them up.

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About Peter Senior

I’m a very experienced and pragmatic management consultant. I’ve reviewed and led the restructuring of many organisations – large and small corporations and Government Departments, much of the time as President of the New Zealand Institute of Management Consultants.
Before that I was General Manager of a major NZ newspaper; earlier, an analyst for IBM UK. I gained an honours degree in engineering at London University, and studied management at Cambridge University.
This wide range of experience has left me frustrated: I continue to see too many examples of really bad management. Sometimes small easily fixed issues; sometimes fundamental faults; and sometimes really tricky problems. Mostly these issues can be fixed using a mixture of common sense, ‘management 101’ and applying lessons from years of management experience.
Unfortunately, all too often, politics, bureaucracy and daft government regulations get in the way; internal factors such as poor culture and out-of-date strategies are often evident.
So what’s gone wrong, and why, and most importantly, how to fix ‘it’? I hope there are like-minded people ‘out there’ who will share their thoughts enabling ‘us’ to improve some significant management failures that affect the general public.
If you just accept bad management, you don’t have the right to complain! If you’d like to share thoughts on any aspects of management, send me an email to petersenior42@gmail.com .
My latest project has the interim title ‘You’ve been conned. Much of what you were taught and read is largely irrelevant, misleading or plain wrong – this is the REAL story of life: past, present and our possible future.’ The working paper so far comprises 105 pages, many listing references and interim conclusions. The main problem is finding sufficient credible evidence, and realising the more Iearn, the more I realise I don’t know!

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