A letter to The Economist: Your article “The European Union – Europe goes to the polls”, May 17, 2014


listening to this week’s leader in your podcast edition I wanted to thank you for it. For once I can full-heartedly disagree with you on the conclusions you draw. Europe needs more integration and federalism and less national, regional and local government!

In a world that moved from a duopoly (US vs USSR) in the second half of the last century to a multi-power structure in present days, we Europeans need to decide if we want to have a say in this world along with the US, China and Russia. Alternatively, we can also mind our own business focussing on our national issues or muddling through with the current EU bureaucracy, and disappear into irrelevance. Given that from the three world powers mentioned, two are undemocratic dictatorships, and one behaves in a sometimes questionable manner when it comes to world politics, I can’t see how we have much of a choice then to opt for playing a role in this game, united as one political unit (the EU), with one voice. If we choose not to, the other three will at some point dictate the rules of our lives, while our children better learn Chinese.

Political strength costs money, and for that we need an even stronger economic union. Further integration, abolition of national or regional bureaucracy and the creation of one truly common and open market are the only way to go. We need less national regulation, less country by country divisions, one common currency, one united legislative and fiscal framework for European companies to thrive and grow strong, like their American or Chinese competitors.

Unfortunately our political track record indicates we’re heading in the wrong direction, if in any direction at all. We fail on every international policy event: Ukraine, Siria, Libya, Egypt, Kosovo, Bosnia – I cannot remember one instance where the EU has come up with a clear and united policy that managed to make a difference and save people from suffering and bloodshed at our doorstep. Not to speak about the total absence of the EU in matters further afar from it’s area of influence. We ridicule ourselves every time we have a chance to matter. In several regions of Europe small-mindedness and provincialism gain traction, leading to potential fragmentation in Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque “country”, Northern Italy, Belgium or real one in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The result is a Europe of micro-states, that is even more difficult to manage.

Citizens in Europe are fed up with the politicians and the political system we have. We pay far too much taxes to aliment ever growing layers of government (EU, national, regional, local). Their main job often seems to consist in proving their necessity by dishing out absurd regulation and squandering money. This beast of a political machine keeps growing, costing more money (ultimately taxes), and producing – nothing sensible really. Corruption cases and obvious politicking for the pure sake of power protection make citizens doubt what politicians worry about most of the time anyway. Europeans vote (if they do), for more and more absurd parties, as you rightly observe, on extreme fringes or even like in Italy against politics altogether. And new movements increasingly manage to gather votes, just to loose them once voters realise they are just more of the same old bunch of politicians.

We Europeans should have a real say with a direct election of the people who matter in Brussels, and get rid of national governments’ sovereignty. There are just a few governments in Europe anyway who want to matter at least sometimes on a global scale (UK, Germany, France), so there is really no need for just more bureaucrats and paper pushers. We should cut down government influence, regulations, and make our “administration” (not “power”, “rulers” or “government”) shows us it is worth the taxpayers’ money by improving our lives and the economy. I want to see transparence, accountability and ROI on my taxes. And I want them to make sure Europe has a say on the global stage and can become the world’s biggest and by far most prosperous democracy. We could be an inspiration for other parts of the world.

Here I stop dreaming, and think about casting my vote soon. It will have no impact at all on changing the situation described above anyway.


Boris Hageney

A European at heart

Barcelona (Europe, maybe Spain, definitely not Catalonia)