The EU expansion recipe
I seldom travel outside of the Schengen space. I really hate borders, and going through the border checkpoints can waste my mood for a whole day. The Schengen space is wide and full of wonders, why would I need to cross over?
When I do cross over, I make sure it is for really far away places. Somehow, the distance makes the official nosiness of the checkpoints more bearable. But for once I decided to go check out what's right outside of the EU. The Balkans.
And, now that I see the European Union from outside, but not from too far, I understand it much better.
First of all, I suddenly remembered something I had been wondering some 5 years ago: Who gets to decide which countries get in and which don't? Crossing the Balkans, I've seen regions that seem much more developed than Poland was in 2004 or Spain in 1996. And actually, some regions that are candidates are more developed that today's Bulgaria. So how come Bulgaria got in and they (Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia) don't. When I was planning my trip, people told me "Don't go the short way through Romania, take a detour through Serbia. The road system in Romania is way too fucked up". So how come Romania got in, and Serbia not?
Of course I found answers. And it's not too good looking. First, Romania and Bulgaria are the biggest, most populous countries of the region. They represent the most interesting market for west-european corporations, while only forcing 2 additional countries down the throat of the notoriously xenophobic population of the contemporary countries. In comparison, the opinion would have never accepted the inclusion of the 7 countries forming Yugoslavia, when the concerned population is comparable to that of Romania alone. And if you think that there is no profit to be made from them poor economies, you should have a look at the size of the shopping malls in central Europe. The biggest fortunes are made selling cheap stuff to poor people. Think Coca Cola.
Secondly, adding Bulgaria allows to create a bottleneck for Middle-eastern illegal immigrants, that must transit trough the small stretch of Turkish border leading into Bulgaria or Greece. That's a lot easier to militarise than the formerly massive border running from Poland to Slovenia. Both points would deserve to be reflected upon. I will concentrate here on the former.
The purpose of the EU
The European Union is old now. It's almost as old as the USSR was when it collapsed. In a way it has extended beyond its founding father's intentions. With the end of the USSR, it could extend past the iron curtain. But in many ways, it is not even the shadow of what was on the blueprint. Back in the day, there was an ideology behind the union. An ideology that sprang out of the desolation of war. That we must unite to prevent the next massacre. That by slowly taking down our borders, we would slowly stop being defiant of each other... The founders of the union actually believed in that ideological singsong.
One of the means to reach that goal was to strengthen the trade between the states of the union. As trade ties are getting stronger and stronger, and more and more intricate, each state must realize that its economy is completely dependent on everyone else's economy, and that their interest is common. The trade union started with the famous Maastricht treaty.
Other means were enabled later. The Schengen space allowed for free movement of people, the ERASMUS program was a strong incentive for them to mingle, the Euro strengthened the Maastricht treaty by enabling people (and not only businesses) to buy stuff from each other.
But the means have slowly evolved into the goal. Now, war is prevented, and the next ideological mission of the union shall be maximizing the playground of a few economical interests, shan't it? Let's just make boatloads of cash by controlling more market. Fuck that!
I traveled in Poland in 2006, little after they got in. Shopping malls were popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Carrefour, Tesco and Kaufland were slicing the pie, choking the existing polish businesses, choking the potential polish start-ups that could have striven on the new economic perspective. Five years later, I cross Slovakia, and I see it is now thoroughly colonized by the big western names, and it really seems like every market space is spoken for. Slovakian enterprising youth have nowhere to turn their enterprisingness, appart from joining forces with the invader: Getting a job at Carrefour.The same process starting in Bulgaria.
It could be worse for the people. Some remember times of greater impeachment. Ok, they've been turned into clients of their own economies, but at least they can get a job at Tesco. And now that trade is facilitated, the west-european big names open production facilities that take advantage of the low-cost wages. And as long as the wages stay low, the westerners will keep employing them. Enter the EU regulations.
You will be assimilated
There are many standards that a member-country of the EU is expected to live up to. Standards of hygiene, transparency and whatnot that the country is supposed to enforce. The idea behind such regulation is of course that hygiene and traceability benefit the citizen. Here again the ideal behind the concept is beaten by its implementation. As it collides with the reality of direct sale: In Bulgaria and Romania, farmers traditionally sell the goods they have produced in stalls by the roadside. People see them on their way, and if they need some fruits and veggies, they can just stop and buy it there. It's convenient to the people because it's on their way, and they're everywhere, it's convenient to the farmers because they control the whole chain, from the earth to the customer, and they pocket 100% of the price paid.
European regulations are utterly incompatible with this practice. And it's very easy to convince deciders with the argument that a few distribution bottlenecks will be so much easier to tax. Of course, it is also the interest of the distribution lobby. In the name of hygiene and traceability, the people will now need to go to the supermarket, that just happens to be a west-european franchise. Everybody wins! The government, the companies. Just the farmers and the customers lose. Goods become more expensive for the latter and, interestingly, they lose in traceability. Customers that used to know the producer directly now have to deal with labels and certifications. At the same time, distributors that find themselves in strong bargaining position demand lower prices to the farmers. And, as the price of life increases, in great part due to west-european lobbying, people will demand higher wages. That's usually when the providential west-european job machine ceases to provide and moves to a cheaper labor-land. What's not wrong with that picture?
And now that I think of it, in my home country, Reunion Island, there used to be roadside vendors. We used to buy our fried chicken from there on the way to picnic in the mountain. They disappeared after a zealous governor decided it was time to enforce those damn EU regulations. Now we buy our fried chicken from Carrefour. It's twice as expensive and has half the taste.
Everyone loses in that scheme. Except the Carrefour shareholders of course.
There is very little the citizens can do about this appalling state of affairs. And just that sentence should be enough to make all reasonable democracy-gauges ring red. The people actually deciding the fate of Romania-as-we-know-it are not elected by the Romanians. They are not elected at all. I am at serious loss trying to find what can be done. This is allowed by the very nature of representative democracy. Well then, let's do away with it. There are probably a bunch of people currently protesting against just that. Save Europe and join them.
Enough already with blog articles?