Monday, 25 March 2013

Cyprus bank account grab exposes EU's new feudalism

by Marc Glendening
The peasants of Cyprus are now truly revolting, following a decision by Angela Merkel and the other Eurozone heads of government to force Cyprus to grab private bank savings to contribute 5.8 billion towards an EU-IMF bailout. 

This edict demonstrates that the rule of law accounts for very little in the European Union. 

One of the big claims always made by supporters of Brussels-based governance was that the individual EU member states would be subject to a system based upon predictable and impartially applied rules, enforced by a Commission and Court of Justice above sectional, national interest.

The EU, they have argued, was therefore a continuation of the political project commenced by the European Enlightenment in the late eighteenth century. It has heralded, allegedly, another move away feudalism of the ancien regime. 

However, the situation in Cyprus proves what some of us have been arguing for some time. Namely, that the brave new world of the EU represents in reality a return to pre-modern, pre-democratic Europe. 

By Brussels fiat, savers' private property has been seized in an act of retrospective taxation. This is an arbitrary act of raw power befitting Louis XIV. A decision taken in private, passed on as a fait accompli to the EU's local agent in Nicosia, 'president' Nicos Anastasiades, and then imposed by him without reference to the national parliament - the same elected body that last week voted against divesting savers of their already taxed income. 

How convenient that Brussels and the Cypriot president have found a (constitutional?) way to circumvent the impertinent reservations of parliamentarians.

This is not the first time Brussels has made it all up on the hoof and disregarded the apparent rule of law that supposedly lies at the heart of the treaty. 

In 2003, Germany and France both broke the Stability and Growth Pact  rules that supposedly accompanied the single currency. No action was taken by the Commission for exceeding budget deficits of 3% and levels of national debt exceeding 60% of GDP. Portugal and Greece did, however, have their collars felt.

As many politically dissident Germans have argued, the various euro bailouts have contravened the supposedly strict Maastricht rules designed to prevent members of the single currency from becoming responsible for the debts of others. They claim, as a result, the EU treaty is now incompatible with the Germany constitution. 

When Alastair Darling was summoned to Brussels to discuss the eurozone crisis the day after the British general election in 2010, he thought there was no way Britain as a non-euro member could be forced to contribute to the bailouts. Wrong! The European Court of Justice and the Commission suddenly decreed that Article 122 of the EU treaty - a measure originally related to helping member states that had experienced a natural disaster - now covered those countries experiencing economic problems. Our then chancellor was forced to stump up £11 billion in loans.

At the beginning of the Cyprus bailout scandal we were told that this savings grab would be a one off. Now we learn from Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chair of the eurozone finance ministers, that this 'solution' might indeed be applied to other single currency countries as well. 

In Brussels anything goes and anything is possible. The European Enlightenment was about the rule of law and making the exercise of power accountable and transparent to the people. The EU is about reversing this process.

written by Marc Glendening - Campaign director, Democracy Movement

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