Friday, April 27, 2007

Intelligent but blind?

The Economist produced a special report, last March, about the European Union. Good and well informed in general, I got badly surprised with the last paragraph of the piece titled “Are you sitting comfortably?”, describing the different government bodies of the EU. Goes like that (italics are mine).

“The EU has a plethora of other agencies, as well as the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank, the world’s biggest multilateral borrower. Among the more puzzling are two Brussels-based advisory bodies: the Economic and Social Committee, which brings together the “social partners”, and the eponymous Committee of the Regions. Between them they cost some 150m Euro ($200m) a year to run, and nobody can remember what they are for. But this being the EU, nobody dares to scrap them either.”

I like The Economist. I think it’s a serious, well informed, quite fair and truly liberal product. Having said that, the above paragraph shows very well the no-so-nice face of the magazine’s background ideology. Mainly two points to comment here:

Every human group has a religion, in a broad sense. For some people is their god, for others their culture or language, for others is race or ethnic group. The Economist has its own religion, the biggest god in Anglo-Saxon societies: the almighty Market. Fair to say that historically the so-called Left has showed a narrow-minded attitude towards the potentiality of the market, underestimating it. But you can go to the other extreme and think, as The Economist does, that the market will solve every single problem in any society at any time. Is in this ideological context where we should place the arrogance showed by the magazine snubbing a body which encompasses the social partners of any society. Do they really think it is viable to solve gross basic problems without counting, for instances, with unions, employers associations and main social movements like the green or immigration charities? What kind of democracy has The Economist in mind where they say things like that? The classical XIX c one with just a vote every 4 years and a Parliament who thinks knows everything?

The other shameful point is the description they do of the Committee of the Regions. It seems The Economist think it’s useless and should be scraped. I won’t argue that at the moment this body is quite a flowerpot and empty shell but I would say that the right step is to give this (or another similar body) more powers and not less. Why? I know what some people will say immediately, this body is not representative as their members are not elected. True, but it seems that is not the only organ which has this illness in the EU, and some very serious people don’t criticize those other bodies. The Economist shows here the typical blindness of any group of people who, being members of a big ethnic group (in this case English, with the UK state of their own) don’t see the need of any kind of representation for sub-states national realities. They think these organs are not needed and are just a waste of resources. Wrong, dead wrong. With this point of view, looking at any national claim like a “romantic” posture you will never understand the deep frustrations that some small minorities accumulate after years of cultural and linguistic colonization (some of them gentle, some of them brutal). With this arrogant attitude you will never understand what’s going on in Wales, Brittany, Scotland, Corsica, Ireland, Catalonia, Frisland, Galicia, Quebec, Basque Country or Belgium, which is falling apart in a very polite way. Collective identity issues are one of the main reason behind a range of conflicts.

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