If the mythical European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) contained as many Euros as empty Eurospeak the Eurozone crisis would have been solved in a trice. Indeed, the two most meaningless words in the grand lexicon of Eurospeak are ‘strategy’ and ‘solidarity’ and I have heard more than enough of both over the past two days of G-Plenty. ‘Strategy’ has been so long lost to the bottomless pit of Euro-jargon that it now suffers a new meaning; to not know what to do, where to go or how. My university, Oxford, might wish to consider an Oxford Eurospeak Dictionary to explain to the former European voter the real meaning of such gibberish.
However, the emptiest word by far in Eurospeak is ‘solidarity’. They are at it again. Peter Altmeier, a German MP close to Chancellor Merkel, called on Britain to show ‘solidarity’ with the Eurozone by contributing more British taxpayers to the EFSF, whilst at the same time ruling out more money from the German taxpayer. French President Nicholas Sarkozy was plain insulting to the British in response to a question posed at Cannes by a BBC journalist. “The British can’t understand Europe as they’re from an island … from an island you can’t understand the subtleties of the European construction”. In Yorkshire, Monsieur le President, someone might call you an arrogant toe-rag for that kind of stupid and prejudiced statement. What we British do understand is rubbish when we hear it! Indeed, it is precisely because we British do understand the ‘subtleties’ of your European ‘construction’ that we are not right now up to our necks (only our elbows) in your mess.
The Germans and French use solidarity a lot; normally when they are defending their national interests to the hilt and often at the expense of we British. Indeed, the one thing that neither France nor Germany have ever offered Britain is solidarity. Germany actively worked against Britain in the early 1990s to force London out of the infamous ‘snake’, the precursor to the Euro at a similar moment of economics-defying politics. Over the past decade neither France nor Germany has shown any solidarity with the British in Afghanistan, with the result that as of this morning 388 British soldiers are dead. Our lads have done too much of the dying for ‘Europe’. But it has been always thus.
What thanks do we get? At the 26 October Eurozone summit Germany and France consigned the British citizen to that of a second-class European citizen through an ‘enhanced’ form of ‘integration’ from which the second biggest paymaster of the EU will be excluded. I think that is what Berlin and Paris call ‘democracy’, the third emptiest and most over-used word in Eurospeak.
So, let us get back to real reality (not the Euro version). The reason that the Eurocrisis is daily deepening is that for too long Eurospeak and the empty politics behind it has polluted economic reality. Germany and France are still trying to solve this crisis politically rather than economically. Eurospeak has thus become the problem as it underpins the alternative reality that created this mess in the first place.
Economic reality is simple; Greece must default and be removed from the Eurozone, supported thereafter by all of us via the IMF; the northern, western European taxpayer (me) must be clobbered so that the EFSF can save Italy and the rest; and the European Central Bank must be empowered to administer my money with the likelihood that more Euros will need to put into the system (I think they call it quantitative printing or ink inflation – something like that). Or, the Euro must fail. As a Dutch taxpayer I can see the train wreck heading towards me but what from what I can see rather than the brake being applied a committee meeting is underway.
Now, as a Briton, I know I am going to have to contribute more in some way because it is in my country’s interest to do so. However, before Britain does indeed contribute more of its own debt to the crisis I would rather like to see a real strategy in place as PR-Meister Cameron is about to announce said increase. It will be via the IMF and in support of individual Eurozone members and it will cost each British household around about €2000. And this at a time of real financial suffering. That is real solidarity M. le President and Mr Altmeier.
My respect for the French and German people remains absolute – my annoyance is not with my fellow European sufferers. Our solidarity is real. The problem is the increasingly dismissive and arrogant European elite. Indeed, if you M. le President really understood ‘solidarity’ and acted in its spirit perhaps you might also better understand the European ‘construction’, as you put it. Maybe solidarity means something different in German and French?
So, if you want our money stop using the silly solidarity word if you do not mean it. We Britons know that when we are in trouble you will of course vanish. And please, M. le President, we know you do not like us, but if you expect us to pay please show a little more respect. We did after all liberate you French twice last century…from the Germans.
Julian Lindley-French is Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy, Fellow of Respublica in London, Associate Fellow of the Austrian Institute for European and Security Studies and a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Atlantic Council. He is also a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the NATO Defence College in Rome. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.