The past, present and the future of the European Union was examined by Greek-Belgian journalist, Basil Coronakis's new book, "The Deep State of Europe". The journalist shared his views about the European Union through the scope of the immigration crisis, the EU enlargement, the security measures, human rights, the quality of political leadership, and the "Macedonia" name dispute. Basil Coronakis gave a compelling interview to New Greek TV's journalist, Despina Afentouli, about his book.
Judging his book, B. Coronakis wrote that a reader might find it "irrelevant", "provocative", "insulting", or "malicious" but as he said, his purpose was "to motivate citizens [...] to win back Europe." As he further stated in his book, "The European Union must survive, because if it doesn't, we will never be able to remake it".
He described himself as a strong supporter of Europe and at the same time, Europhobic, however, not Eurosceptic: "A European cannot be Eurosceptic. Europe is our house; how can one be against his house? Europhobics are those who do not trust the European administration...".
Regarding the legislative procedure, he mentioned that "In the case of the European Union, the only legitimately elected body by the people is the European Parliament, which does not have the right to table legislation. It can only approve or reject the legislation introduced by the Commission, a body of non-elected administrators with no moral or democratic legitimization".
He also highlighted that all laws "are decided behind closed doors by few civil servants and the representatives of two or three big Member States, the so-called overlords."
Comparing the EU with the USA, he said that "If the European Union were a real Union like the USA, there would be nothing wrong, as laws in the US are proposed and approved by the Congress and the Senate, two political and democratically elected bodies by the American people."
Coronakis referred to ten cases in his book "against the European Project" and stated that he noticed the following critical element in all of them: "The common denominator in all such cases is that, if they had occurred in any of the Member States or in the USA, in all such cases, several people would have been in jail. The European Commission has the right to violate the law, claiming its "discretionary powers", as it [the EU Commission] claims that it acts "in the interest of the service".
Regarding the initial vision of the European Union to nowadays, he said that "It is [...] very far from the vision of the founding fathers of Europe", adding: "That was a dream for a United Europe that would secure peace, prosperity and freedom."
Explaining to what extent EU decisions affected EU citizens' lives, he said "To the minimum detail": "EU laws under any form, Treaties, Regulations, Decisions and even Decisions of the European Court of Justice (case law) are Community law and are all applicable in all Member States."
In other words, he stated that "over 110,000 pieces of European Legislation are above national law and national Constitutions", referring however to "one exception": "Articles 1 and 20 of the German Constitution are above EU law. Why? ...Because!"...
Therefore, it was not surprising that in his book, B. Coronakis often compared Europe to George Orwell's "Animal Farm" novel in which "all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".
But who would be in charge to control if there were any double standards within the EU Member-States? As he explained, "There is no such a control", because he stressed that "The European Union is ruled by a close circle of very few Commission executives, plus two or three representatives of the German Chancellery and l'Elysee and this is it- this close circle decides, implements and audits itself."
So, how could a EU Member-State best protect its rights and support its interests at the EU level? B. Coronakis said that "By sending in Brussels best politicians; It has a Commissioner, the best of the best as Members of the European Parliament, and it has the best diplomat as Head of the Permanent Delegation of the country to the European Union, that instructs them to fully exert their rights they are provided by the Treaties".
Regarding the EU awareness of EU citizens, B. Coronakis said that the great majority of citizens in Europe were "purposely" not fully informed about their rights. "The Commission spends hundreds of millions every year for political communication, citizens learn about their right to freely relocate within the EU [...], but nobody ever told citizens about their right of Access to Documents, a Regulation similar to the Freedom of Information Act, nor are they informed about the right to file Complaints."
Ηe said that Europeans were not fully informed about the EU matters: "There is a lot of Media, but most mainstream media prefer to be in good terms with the spokespersons service of the European Commission".
As he further clarified, "In Brussels, if you do not cooperate with the "system" you are excluded, from everything" and "In this way, Europeans are selectively informed."
But how then could transparency on policy making be best achieved at the EU level? "It is simple, but not easy", he argued, referring to certain actions that could be taken: "Revoke the diplomatic immunity of all EU executives and publish any activity involving payments from the EU budget on the internet [...]. Provide a five-year rotation for all executives serving in sensitive posts and limit and restore direct relations of the Commissioner with his services."
He also referred to "change the internal statute by allowing the Commissioners [...] to appoint and dismiss the Director General of their Department."
Considering the forthcoming Brexit, B. Coronakis foresaw that "The UK, no matter what, will not stop playing a key role in Europe".
"Brexit, at a first reading seems that it will harm Great Britain, however, I am afraid that the big looser in this development will be the European Union, as Germany will think that it remained the only overlord in the Union, and will attempt total dominion", he stressed.
Besides, the migration crisis in Europe had been a major issue among EU Member-States and so, one would wonder how well the European identity had been developed within the EU Member-States.
How close was the European Union after all, to the equivalent model of the United States of America? "There is no European identity and we are far away from the American equivalent model", he underlined. "Americans are first Americans and then Texans [...]. We are Italians, or Greeks, or French [...]. Very rarely will someone say, I am a European", he argued.
Consequently, he explained that it "is impossible to view the immigration crisis as a European crisis. [...] There is not a common policy of the matter and every country tries to get rid of the problem and pass it to somebody else."
B. Coronakis also mentioned in his book that the European Union further reduced citizens' freedoms "under the pretext of fighting terrorism and tax evasion".
"Needless to say, we need such legislation [...]" however, "Such a legislation should not be used as an excuse to play political games, as it happens in certain new Member States which have not forgotten their Stalinist past", he highlighted.
Regarding the EU enlargement, he mentioned in his book that "We experienced the large trauma the European Union has suffered up to-date with the integration of East Germany. [...] The [EU] Enlargement with 11 former Communist states is even a larger trauma, too large, which is still in progress".
So, how far should the EU Enlargement go and why? "The big enlargement was a great mistake", he said, adding that "Once former communist countries joined NATO, for them there is no return under Russian influence."
Besides, he said, "If they want to ally with Russia, only NATO can stop them. Therefore, we should have given them a special status of loose association [...]."
He thought that "the problem with former communist countries is that while they enjoy all benefits and rights of the Internal Market and sell their products freely all over the Union without any limitation, they do not apply strict labor and social security contribution laws, although valid all over the Union."
He also added that, "...they do not have trade unions the way the traditional Western countries of the EU have", noting that "their governments are very relaxed when it comes to controls while taxation is very low."
Considering though, that the EU enlargement broadened towards new applicants from the Western Balkans, B. Coronakis stressed that "Economic underdevelopment is not that important", since he mentioned that "...the question is political, and the EU is rather short-sighted."
"We are talking about Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and Montenegro", he specified, emphasizing that Albania and Bosnia are Muslim countries, including the Kosovo region of Serbia, which declared independence that had been recognized by most countries of the world, that happened to be Islamic states with strong Turkish and Saudi presence there.
"...By giving official presence to Islamic states in the European Union will accelerate its dismemberment", he said.
Regarding the naming dispute of Macedonia, he said that the naming issue of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, known with the interim name FYROM, was rather complicated as more than two players are involved.
Comparing Greece and FYROM, he said that Greece was militarily, economically and politically stronger than FYROM, and a member of EU and NATO, whereas the population of FYROM was little more than half of the population of the Greek province of Macedonia.
"Taking into account the Melian Conference, as reported by [ancient Greek historian,] Thucydides, which is the axiom of international relations, especially between neighbors, Greece has any legitimate right to impose its own will on this dispute", he said.
He also argued that FYROM was trying to survive as a former Yugoslav republic and build an identity to participate in NATO and the EU, so as to "be protected from its aggressive neighbors", specifying that he meant Albania and Bulgaria.
However, referring to the role of the EU and NATO, he said, "... the EU has no army to protect anyone, not even its own borders, and once FYROM gets in to NATO, the Alliance will not intervene in disputes between its members."
He further added that "Albania and Bulgaria are already members of NATO, so in the case of a conflict, the Alliance can only play a diplomatic role".
He acknowledged however, that "greater interests are at stake": "The European Union considers that after the Brexit, it must make a bold move to repair the damage and it seems to have decided that it should react with further expansion" and "...excluding Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova for obvious reasons, the only area EU can potentially expand is Western Balkans."
"That is why the EU wants the Greeks to resolve the question of the name so not to veto negotiations for FYROM accession", he explained, adding that "Americans want FYROM to get into NATO, so to block the Russians from settling in the area."
"It is important for the Russians to keep FYROM and Serbia out of NATO because [...] they wish to establish a permanent presence in the mid of a very sensitive NATO/EU zone, at any cost", he argued.
"[...] The solution is in the hands of the Greeks because they will keep obstructing EU and NATO entry, unless the name question is satisfactory addressed for Greece", he said.
Referring to Europe and the future of EU-USA relations, B. Coronakis argued that "The situation here in Europe is deteriorating every day (austerity, anti-system vote in Italy [...] while more are coming, over-regulations are killing private initiative, etc.) and so, EU-US relations are deteriorating (US-Germany striving Cold War, Brexit which ultimately will increase Russian influence in Europe through Germany, Turkey, etc)."
However, he believed that "the United States has the historical responsibility and the strategic necessity to keep Europe in the Western Alliance and avoid the German driven (with the Russians behind) Finlandization of Europe."
To be noted, according to the "English Oxford Living Dictionaries", "Finlandization" (British Finlandisation) is "The process whereby a country is induced to favour, or refrain from opposing, the interests of a more powerful country, despite not being politically allied to it (originally with reference to the influence of the former Soviet Union on its neighbour Finland)".
The same source also mentioned that the origin of that word was introduced in the 1960s, as a "translation of German "Finnlandisierung", referring to the situation of Finland after 1944".
In addition, referring to US-German relations, he wrote in his book that "...The Ukraine crisis triggered the new Cold War in Europe" and "This explains the ongoing Cold War between the US and Germany..."
"Russia is under western embargo, but Germany is purchasing Russian gas ...", he said.
"However, the embargo is a strategic decision affecting NATO and all members of the alliance must comply", he highlighted. He also reminds that "...after the Second World War, Germany, the looser of the war, was financially supported by the US to survive and Europe withdrew its claims for war damages".
In his book, B. Coronakis described the crisis in the EU mainly as socio-political, and not as much economic for two main reasons: first, he explained, due to the Euro currency, that led to austerity, unemployment and recession, and second, that the crisis became "a deep social crisis."
The European administration were trying to resolve the crisis with technocratic recipes and civil servants were good to do the things right, he mentioned. However, he argued, politicians did the right things, but Europe was not ruled by politicians.
Referring to leadership quality in his book, he said that "The Second World War and the subsequent Cold War gave birth to strong leaders in Europe...", however, "The transition from the 1980s to the 1990s brought [...] leaders of compromise".
He further believes that Europe had been changing due to austerity, as traditional leaders cut their bridges with ordinary people: "You see austerity and over-regulation cannot survive for long in democratic countries."
Regarding the leadership quality needed in the EU nowadays, he said that "It needs strong leaders to take bold political decisions" on issues, such as exiting the Euro currency and immigration.
He also named such examples of politicians, such as [the French François] Mitterrand, [the British Margaret] Thatcher, and [the American Ronald] Reagan.
Referring to the middle class and its importance, he said: "In Europe, there is no middle class any more. You have a huge lower class of employees and workers and the ruling elite. Middle class is what sustains a sane society and in Europe, it has been depleted during the last two decades."
He went on to say, the elections in the US of Donald Trump, and in Europe of Beppe Grillo in Italy, have shown that people needed a change.
"American society wanted change from the old fashion political establishment to something new..." and in Italy "... the change is becoming the new status quo and [...] the anti-system will expand rapidly in most Europe, from Hungary to Poland and to Spain and to the north", he said.
He believed that EU overregulation led people with ideas to invent, produce, prosper, and escape from Europe: "Today, we have no peace, in less than two decades South-east Europe was in war, we have no prosperity but instead we have recession, austerity and growing unemployment, especially amongst the young educated people, which leads to a substantial brain drain".
Regarding Germany's relation to the Euro, he said: "At this moment, Germany has dominated Europe economically with the Euro, which in reality is the German Mark under a different name. However, Germany occupied Europe twice in the past in two World Wars, and it has not been able to keep it".
"I think the same may happen now. Sooner or later the Euro currency will collapse overnight, and Europe will be once again liberated", he further argued.
However, "The Euro is not a national currency", he said, "It is a currency union and historically no currency union lasted for long. The more so, that the Euro is responsible for deepening recession and austerity and galloping unemployment in the Euro zone".
Making it clear that he referred to the Democratic world, North America and Europe, he said that "Globalization and digitalization, go together, they are the future and this we cannot avoid....", adding that "...because of globalization both in Europe and in America, jobs are lost".
"We are witnessing the big change of our times, and unfortunately, very few have realized this", B. Coronakis said, suggesting that "We must first understand this new reality and then find ways to take advantage of it, avoiding disorders, which may bring a chaotic social explosion."
"Certainly, chaos will bring order, but nobody knows what kind of order it will be and how much behind it will take us", he concluded.
*Photos of interview courtesy: B. Coronakis' personal archive.
Pic.: B. Coronakis' book cover (1st edition).
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