This article was originally published on the City AM website.
On Wednesday, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will give his annual State of the Union address in Strasbourg.
He will have you believe that all is well in the EU Land of Milk and Honey.
But let us take a closer look at the real state of the EU.
For a start, the migrant crisis is well into its third year, with hundreds of thousands still arriving, and new routes being opened up all the time.
The EU’s solution to this has been to pay billions into the pockets of Turkish and North African governments. Not only is this EU policy failing, but it is actively encouraging people to risk their lives at the hands of human smugglers and traffickers.
The EU has also overridden the governments of member states, most notably the Eastern European members, forcing them to settle migrants against their governments’ wishes.
This year, the EU has taken a member state – Poland – to court over the country’s constitutional reforms, and is issuing a similar threat to Hungary over its refugee resettlement programme refusal. In doing so, Brussels has reminded all member states that it is the EU – not their national governments – that rules supreme.
The EU has now decided to abandon the use of Treaties to expand its powers, and, without consent, has begun its biggest ever power grab as it seeks to take control of all EU energy production and financial services. In addition, it has finally come clean about initiating its own EU armed forces programme.
Failed economic policies
EU economic policy is no better. Despite a €2.1 trillion stimulus programme, the economies of the EU still look weak.
Youth unemployment in Greece is still around 50 per cent, in Spain it is 40 per cent, in Italy 37 per cent – and none of these economies are showing the faintest signs of growth. Banks in Italy and Spain have had to be bailed out again in 2017.
The “success” of the European Central Bank’s policy of quantitative easing (QE) has been questionable.
While pillaging savers and pensioners and sending the EU’s debt mountain sky high, the ECB has decided to soldier on and extend this economically lethal policy beyond 2017 and into the foreseen future, risking a global collapse.
Oblivious to its failed economic programme, the EU has enlarged its budget for 2018 by eight per cent.
Blow to democracy
In another blow to democracy, this year the EU announced that it plans to deny national and regional assemblies a veto over future trade deals. This allows the likes of the highly criticised Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to slip through via the backdoor, with no scrutiny by the member state democratic institutions.
Despite its vocal promises of greater transparency in EU decision-making, Brussels has continued to drag its heels in generating an effective system that would allow public scrutiny of the EU institutions.
Small wonder when there are an estimated 30,000 lobbyists beavering away in the EU corridors of power, enjoying thousands of closed-door meetings, known as “Trilogues”, with the Commission and its staff.
This opaque nature is so alarming that even the EU’s ombudsman, Emma O’Reilly, declared: “it is difficult to find out when Trilogues are taking place, what is being discussed, and by whom”. This situation has also drawn fierce criticism from anti-corruption NGOs such as Transparency International.
This year, the EU maintained its stiff sanctions against Russia, as the Crimean situation remains unresolved. This might sound laudable, until one learns that gas imports from Russia into the EU are exempt from the sanctions.
Despite global condemnation for Moscow’s activities in Ukraine, the EU is pushing ahead with a new Russia-owned gas pipeline, Nordstream 2, to import millions of cubic meters of Russian gas into Germany. The new chief executive of the pipeline company is former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder – coincidence, of course.
All this is in the public domain, and it is really no surprise then that 66 per cent of Europeans stated in a recent survey that they were dissatisfied by the direction being taken by Brussels.
Bullied over Brexit
And that brings us to Brexit, the democratically supported decision by the UK to quit the EU.
The EU though is not giving up without a fight. It is insisting on the continuation of European legal jurisdiction in the UK post-Brexit, it is maintaining that UK businesses must remain compliant with existing and future EU laws, and it is demanding a legally disputable exit bill of €100bn. It is trying to bully the UK into staying in the Union in all but name.
I can sum up the “state of the Union” in one word: dismal
I doubt though that this word will feature in president’s Juncker’s address on Wednesday.