A gulf is growing between France and Germany over the future of the eurozone.
February 19, 2012 "The Telegraph" -- Behind all the spin, smoke and fury of recent days, we see unfolding the greatest crisis in the history of the “European project”. What is emerging is a fundamental split which threatens to inflict on it by far the most serious reverse in its 62-year history. It is apt that this conflict should centre on what was always designed to be the supreme symbol of the drive to full European integration, the euro.
As Greece plunges into meltdown – its economy shrinking by more than a fifth, Athens burning, 200,000 businesses already closed or on the brink, unemployment approaching 25 per cent – it is clear that the EU is separating into two irreconcilable camps. On one hand, the defenders of the orthodoxy, led by the Commission and supported by France (which is exposed to a Greek default more than any other country), is battling to hold the line with another massive bail-out. They know that for Greece to leave the euro would be an unprecedented defeat for integration, with almost unimaginable consequences as other overborrowed countries follow suit. To avert this they are prepared to work as closely as possible with the puppet prime minister the EU has imposed on Athens to do its bidding.
On the other hand, it becomes increasingly clear that Germany, supported by Holland and Finland, has had enough. They see no point in throwing colossal sums of money into what Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, calls “the bottomless pit” of Greek debt. It is they who have wanted to pile ever more impossible demands on Greece to hurry on a default. If other debtor countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain follow suit and leave the euro that they should never have been allowed to join – so be it.
What makes this moment so significant is not just that the disintegration of the eurozone will be by far the most serious check to the hitherto seemingly irresistible drive for “ever closer union”, but that it marks the rending apart of that Franco-German alliance which has been seen, ever since the Elysee Treaty of 1963, as the central “motor” of European integration. As the slow-motion crisis inches towards breaking point, France and the European institutions are on one side of an unbridgeable divide, and Germany and its increasingly restive people on the other. The latter see that the gamble of the euro has failed just as dismally as the Bundesbank had warned it would back in the 1980s – before being ruthlessly outmanoeuvred by Jacques Delors and Helmut Kohl.
National interest is reasserting its sway over a project that was inspired, above all, by the desire to suppress national interest. However the chips fall in coming days and months, the eurozone will disintegrate. The European dream has entered a nightmare stage from which there is no rational escape and the consequences will be horrendous, for Europe and the world.
Britain, itself sitting on a national debt which has doubled in five years and is still rising, is scarcely even a bit-player on the edge of this tragedy. If only Edward Heath could look up to see where his hubris has led us to.
Alex Salmond’s wind scam doesn’t ruffle Cameron
When David Cameron flew to Edinburgh for his testy exchanges over Alex Salmond’s plans for a referendum on Scottish independence, one rather important issue was not on the agenda. The same day, National Grid Plc announced that it is to spend £1 billion on the world’s longest undersea interconnector cable between Ayrshire and Cheshire, to enable Scotland to send up to 2.2 gigawatts of electricity down to England (with another to follow, down the east coast).
The declared purpose of these cables – in line with Mr Salmond’s pledge that Scotland will have enough wind turbines, within eight years, to ensure that 100 per cent of its electricity needs are met from renewables – is that all the surplus power they produce when the wind is blowing at adequate speeds can be exported to the English. What gets left out of this rosy picture (as I reported on January 21) is that, when Mr Salmond has closed down all Scotland’s nuclear and fossil-fuel power stations and the wind is not blowing at the right speed, the Scots will be relying on those same cables to import some three-quarters of the power they need from conventional power stations in England.
Furthermore, thanks to the ludicrous subsidies for wind energy, the Scots will be able to sell their electricity to the English at two to three times the price they pay for the much larger amount of power they import. This almighty rip-off will be paid for by the English through their electricity bills (not to mention the £2 billion cost of those two cables). Of course Mr Cameron – with his enthusiasm for windmills of the type which earn his father-in-law £1,000 a day – would not worry about a little thing like that.
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