Many situation that arise in member countries can be managed by the countries, possible in conjunction with their nearest neighbours. For example, the foot and mouth disease outbreak that hit the UK in 2001 (and which ultimately cost £8000 million) [*1].
But there are some events which require the coordinate efforts of most, or all, the member states. The obvious example is the crisis in the numbers of refugees approaching the EU and seeking asylum here. [*2]
The clear absence of any workable process of cooperation must be a considerable stumbling block. Why is such a process not a tested part of the EU’s wider processes?
The clear inability of heads of state and their courtiers to agree what to do, or to know how to agree anything (even which pub to go to for a drink) is not just disappointing, it’s an outrageous dereliction of duty.
The failure of anything helpful to arise by chance out of the mêlée is disappointing, though hardly surprising.
There are two further ‘events’ which the EU has been wholly incompetent at managing:
Global warming (whatever its cause)
The EU now has targets [*3]:
Key EU targets for 2020 (2030):
- 20% (40%) cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990
- 20% (27%) of total energy consumption from renewable energy
- 20% (27%) increase in energy efficiency
By 2050, the EU aims to cut its emissions substantially – by 80-95% compared to 1990 levels as part of the efforts required by developed countries as a group.
The EU is pursuing its climate targets through a combination of financial support and regulation.
One can only note
> Are these figures high enough or soon enough?
> Given that the concept of member states flouting EU regulations as a matter of course is hardly novel, how many, if any, member states will met the targets and what sanctions will be applied if they don’t? (Presumably none.)
> This is a subject which has been in the air, so to speak, for decades—at least forty years—how come so little, so late?
Well, we know the answer to that: politicians in power act in their one self-interest first and, often, solely; that self-interest is bound up in the interests of the country they represent to the exclusion of that of other member states. The idea of consensus seems to be entirely absent from the EU.
The crisis in antibiotic (mis)use (particularly in farming)
Bacteria, damaging or fatal to hums, which antibiotics have been developed to kill, are becoming increasingly resistant to them [*4][*5]. This is extremely serious and could result in imminent deaths in the way that global climate change won’t bring about, and the refugee crisis and the euro crisis can’t directly bring about.
It is interesting that most of the literature on this seems to be form 2015 and 16. Of course, there are earlier scientific papers but the absence of action papers form earlier on is telling enough. In july 2014, in a government press release, “Prime Minister warns of global threat of antibiotic resistance” [*6]. We learn that
The Prime Minister wants Britain to lead the way, using its international leadership and world-class pharmaceutical sector…
Mr Cameron has commissioned a wide reaching independent review, led by the internationally renowned economist Jim O’Neill and co-funded and hosted by the world’s second largest medical research foundation, the Wellcome Trust…
Jim O’Neill will work independently of government, and will have full freedom to approach the issues and the evidence as he sees fit.
As it happens, to zero interest in the media, the report was published this month [*7]. Whether Mr O’Neill had the carte blanche that the press release suggested he might is unknown. Whether any of the recommendations will be actioned by the government is unknown, of course. But, why wasn’t this an EU-wide initiative? Does every member country have to commission its own report? What measures are in place to encourage other EU countries to follow O’Neil’s recommendations? Presumably none.
In fact, the report recommends a global response: the tenth recommendation is “Build a global coalition for real action – via the G20 and the UN”. But that is hopelessly unwieldy. The EU would be an excellent large bloc of nations, in which to implement the other recommendations, to act in a leadership capacity vis à vis other blocs, such as the USA, and, at least partially, actually to solve the problem.
Pausing only to shudder at the remains of the euro crisis as we pass (“We [heads of EU states] all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it”, as the sparkling and inspirational Jean-Claude Juncker pointed out at the time), it is clear, as we reach the conclusion, that the EU has no ability to manage large scale events which threaten the majority or all member states and that this is not least because, I surmise, there are no previously agreed processes which would determine how such crisis might be handled.
The mentality of EU heads of state (in terms of their cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence and knowledge of the subjects, let alone their capacity to defer to others and to reach consensus) means that the EU will never be able to manage situations that cross EU borders—at least not without banging some heads together first, hard.
[*1] 2001 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak (Wikipedia)
[*2] There is such a wealth of good articles on this on the web that I have just selected a recent one as a placeholder:
Western governments have mishandled refugee crisis for decades (Jarlath Kearney, Irish News, 18 may 2016)
[*3] EU climate action (European commission website, anonymous, 12 april 2016)
[*4] The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis (C. Lee Ventola, MS, National Center for Biotechnology Information website, april 2015)
[*5] Antibiotic resistance (anonymous, World health organisation website, october 2015)
[*6] Prime Minister warns of global threat of antibiotic resistance (UK government website, anonymous, 2 july 2014)
[*7] Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (Jim O’Neill chair, pdf)
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© Jeremy Marchant 2016 . image: Free images