“Today’s public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can’t read them either. ” ― Gore Vidal, American writer and actor.
President Macron has surprised Europe with an election manifesto for Europe. He talks about the need for reforms that push 3 goals: Freedom, Protection and Progress.
Most of us can agree that these three goals are important. Freedom depends on maintaining democracy, something the Facebook and Google are directly and indirectly destroying. They are killing out independent media by starving it of advertising, they are stealing news as if it was theirs, and they are allowing fake news to be planted and distributed in a manner that harms our democratic values.
He is right that we need a united Europe to limit these giants who put money and power before democracy.
Without open and transparent democracy there is little Freedom.
Democratic Freedom also demands protection. Our biggest social and physical threat today is from climate change caused by fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture and forest practices. It results in rising seas, violent weather, and strife leading to mass migration. He is right that we need a united Europe to get the US, China, India and many other huge regions to deal with this threat to our planet, and not just our European corner.
Protection also means that our European borders must be secure while we actively work for peace and co-existence. We need a European defence force with our allies to stop Russian and other military threats and keep a lid on terrorist activities from other parts of the world.
Mass migration from Africa and the Middle East is no solution. Climate change needs much more attention as does finding real solutions to stop mass migration. Much more needs to be done, but the French insistence on protecting its car industry does little to convince others about the French attitude to climate change policy…
Democratic Freedom and Protection demands education, healthcare, security, and the other basic services that we have developed in Europe. All of these cost money and that can only be collected through taxes and fees. These revenues can only come from people working and from healthy business activities. We know that Soviet style government and dictatorships just do not produce economic benefits except for the few. Labor markets and business need to be fairly regulated without one part taking unfair advantage of the other. This is the important role of politicians who need to ensure that the basic services are managed well and that the legislative process is fair and honest. Here Macron starts to falter again. His own political ship is failing, Dissatisfaction is rife in France and we know that there is a longer story of dissatisfaction that dates back to the foundation of the “popular” xenophobic nationalist movement under the Le Pen clan starting in 1972. Jean-Marie Le Pen and now his daughter, Marine Le Pen, can claim a large slice of the electorate.
His paper also says nothing about the lack of transparency, and corruption in the EU with decisions, money and appointments. He also mentions nothing about the lack of democratic legitimacy of the bloated Parliament that flits between 2 cities at huge expense. He mentions nothing about how Germany and France want to decide EU policy while smaller countries must just compromise on important topics… The Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s goldmine for France (some 40% of EU budget), also needs a big reform, but there is no mention here.
Macron talks about the success of the Euro, a claim that his own government, like past governments, has trampled on. France still has a budget deficit and public debt that exceeds the EU’s rules… Still we have the Euro and it has brought some important advantages, but we must admit that it also has serious expensive flaws in its structure and in the weak and selective application of its regulations.
Macron says that we cannot suffer in silence… Even though he was talking about competition rules and strategic interests, there is another meaning to that verb “to suffer”. It has an older meaning which is “to allow”. Here we could use the phrase that we should “not suffer fools gladly” which means that we should be impatient or intolerant towards people one regards as foolish or unintelligent.
The quote at the beginning of this column by Gore Vidal is appropriate, because we can be sure that Mr. Macron has speech writers and media consultants penning his column. Politicians have become a new breed of the “new helpless” who are carried forward by the twitters of lobbyists and spin doctors.
He states in the closing part of his column that “the Brexit impasse is a lesson for us all.” He could not be more right on that topic. Europe is a great project between 27 cooperating independent nations, and not a federal state administered by Paris and Berlin. Brexit should never have happened, but the EU must take its share of responsibility for this “impasse”.
The coming EU elections are just too important to be left to the present breed of politicians, but unfortunately, our choices are limited by big forces that the ordinary person and small countries cannot control easily. So let’s vote but use our common sense when putting that cross in the ballot box.