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Post Europe News: Franco-Italian Crisis, and Brexit Looms
Created by John Eipper on 02/11/19 3:05 AM

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Europe News: Franco-Italian Crisis, and Brexit Looms (Phyllis Gardner, USA, 02/11/19 3:05 am)

I have just come from two nights in Paris, where Le Monde and other papers are filled with the France-Italy schism. Now I am in London, where the Brexit issue is boiling. It makes me wonder if the EU will be severely weakened in the future.

I was hoping for more erudite thoughts from WAIS members.

JE comments:  Brexit Day (March 29th) quickly approacheth, and WAISers indeed have been silent as we sail into the eye of the storm.  Nor have we scrutinized the standoff between Macron, the bureaucratic centrist, and the populist Italians, who among other things have been egging on the Yellow Vests.  Rome says "the Alps got taller," while Paris warns its neighbors that "playtime is over."  Are Franco-Italian relations at their worst since 1940?

Great to hear from WAIS Chair Emerita Phyllis Gardner, by the way.  Best to you and yours for 2019, Phyllis!


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  • A Weakened EU? Bravo (Nigel Jones, UK 02/11/19 12:06 PM)
    Phyllis Gardner (11 February) wonders whether the multiple current existential crises of the EU means that the organisation will be "severely weakened in the future."

    To which my answer would be: We live in hope.


    It must be apparent now to even the most purblind and fanatical follower of the so-called "European project" that it has gone horribly (and for itself fatally) wrong.


    Leaving Brexit aside, the evidence is clear: Southern Europe beggared by the Euro, with catastrophically high youth unemployment.  Eastern Europe resisting mass Muslim migration.  Populist parties everywhere on the rise, and likely to make sweeping gains in May's European Parliamentary elections.


    The fundamental mistake made by the EU's founding fathers was to convert sensible economic co-operation into an unattainable ideological aim of enforcing political unity on diverse states with nothing in common. To do so, they erected a vast and corrupt bureaucratic edifice resembling nothing so much (as Gorbachev pointed out) the old USSR. And we all know how that ended.


    Britain has been the first nation to recognise the disaster for what it is and attempt to escape. It will not be the last.


    JE comments:  March 29th is Brexit Day, but might the bigger existential threat to the EU be the Franco-Italian spat?  The former event, on the Rumsfeld Scale, is a known unknown, but the Rome-Paris schism is both unknown and unknown.


    My friend Nigel Jones has predicted the EU's demise for nearly as long as I've sat in the editor's chair.  Nigel is enjoying the spectacle, but what about the world economy?  Markets hate nothing more than uncertainty, and 2019 promises a lot of it.  And economic upheaval can drag politics along for the ride.


    What is Brussels doing to prepare for, or perhaps forestall, a total meltdown?


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  • Spanish Attitudes Towards the EU (Henry Levin, USA 02/11/19 2:12 PM)
    In response to Phyllis Gardner, I issue a caveat: This is not erudite.

    At the expense of creating controversy, here are some observations of 47 years of a Spanish wife and American husband who spend part of each year in Spain at our Spanish home. These observations are casual and not scientific in any sense, so I am aware that they may be viewed as superficial without a deeper understanding. Consider them as observations and anecdotes, but based upon many experiences in the Basque Country, Extremadura, Galicia, Levante, Andalucia, Madrid, Catalunya, Mallorca, and Tenerife. None of them suggest the appeal of a Brexit to the Spanish.


    1. Catalan nationalism raises serious challenges for the EU because if it were to happen, it would encourage latent and active separatist groups of regions and peoples across Europe to do the same. This would be a catastrophe for the EU.


    2. After entering the EU, many Spanish appreciated the EU membership because they felt that they benefited by the recognition of the "original European Club" in becoming an integral part of the European core rather than a "Southern European" country. We have heard this expressed very often. But, soon this pride was countered by complaints of rising prices created by the Euro and the loss of autonomy in monetary policy. In street conversations, all price inflation was due to the Euro.


    3. Another attraction was the European passport as tangible evidence of European membership and its attendant rights to education and work in other countries and to cross borders freely. This is often expressed with pride to Americans, who have no such privilege.


    4. It is not clear that the Spanish feel that cultural equality is manifested across the EU or even in Spain. As an outsider I hear disparaging remarks about other European countries, but even the rhetoric about Spanish regions still display the historical prejudices that were common before the entrance to the EU. That is, we still hear of regional stereotypes such as Basque workaholics (or terrorists), jokes at the expense of Gallegos, references to lazy Andalucians and to smug and pretentious Madrileños. Apparently, culture takes a long time to change.


    A unified Europe seems to be more evident in the laws and formal agreements than in the emotions and sentiments from history. Finally, we still hear a lot of negative remarks about Sudacas (Latin Americans), Panchitos (Latin Americans with indigenous characteristics), and Moros (North Africans).


    JE comments: Culture takes a very long time to change.  Hank Levin's observations line up exactly with what I've witnessed from Spain and Spaniards during 30+ years.  Possibly the biggest point of pride for Spaniards is being admitted to the European "Club" on an equal footing long before the other "peripheral" members--and having the passport to prove it.

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