From Irish Political Review: September 2008
Doha, Lisbon, Offaly . . .
Brian Cowen must have heaved a sigh of relief at the failure of the Doha round of trade liberalisation under the WTO (World Trade Organisation). It is easy to imagine the small mercy of not having to actually exercise his veto over an agreement and of not having to face the fury of the Irish Farmers' Association along with his other problems.
It also took the focus off the EU Lisbon Treaty for a while and the truth is that the consequence of the Doha failure is much more significant for the future of the EU than the legal intricacies of Lisbon.
The failure was largely down to Sarkozy who as President of the Council was clearly opposed to the President of the EU Commission and his Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, on this flagship issue for the Commission. This being an area where the Commission has competence—legally speaking. One President had no confidence in the other President. So who really matters?
What a farcical situation for an organisation with the pretension of being a state. Yet, commentary on this absurdity is minimal. This inherent conflict is now a real issue for the EU, compared to which all the legal rigmarole of the Lisbon Treaty is comparatively insignificant.
Some years ago Sir Robert Mugabe was taken to task in an interview for his lack of progress in establishing political parties in Zimbabwe and after a frustrating effort trying to make the interviewer understand that it was no easy task for him to do so he blurted out something along the lines of: "Lookit, this is Africa, people here understand having a chief in charge, they do not understand the idea of having an opposition chief at the same time."
It is not only Africans who do not understand two chiefs in charge. The Americans always complain that they don't know who the chief of the EU is and the Doha debacle confirms this. Who is and/or who should be in charge of Europe? The Commission or the Council?
The original aim of the EU project was that the Commission would be eventually in charge, gradually gaining the authority for this position by proposing and implementing sensible polices across Europe. It would prove in practice that the nation state was on the way out. It was a most laudable aim. It has failed. The Commission is now a sheer bureaucracy and the nation states are in charge, wheeling and dealing, using and abusing the Commission and everything else to their hearts' content—doing what comes naturally. All the rhetoric in all the languages of Europe cannot hide that fact. That is the real significance of the Doha failure for Europe.
As for Doha itself, Mr. Mandelson was at pains to explain that nobody was at fault and there was no real issue that collapsed the talks—after 7 years of negotiations! The spin-doctor had to spin pure nonsense and disappeared up where the sun doesn't shine. Perhaps there was also no reason why every single WTO Ministerial meeting has also failed—Seattle, Doha, Cancun and now this one.
Maybe Mr. Mandelson has not noticed that the political and economic fault lines in the world have changed. The focus of the real economy of the world is now with China, India, Brazil, Russia etc. and they are simply not going to have rules made for them that they don't want. The WTO, G8, the World Bank and such are simply no longer relevant. The world will not have compulsory Free Trade imposed on it—just enough that suits its individual parts which will be done in a plethora of regional, bilateral and pluri-lateral agreements.
The pretensions and credibility of these international bodies have been shattered along with that of the UN, NATO and the EU itself. International concepts of socialism and communism are long gone and the bourgeois world is following suit.
Yet we hear constant talk of the 'international community' being concerned about this and that and wanting to right the world even though all its actual manifestations are falling apart. How peculiar.
There is of course one real international community across all races and states that is growing in numbers, self-belief and is actually shaping world politics. That is the Moslem world. The achievement of the so-called, self-proclaimed international community may well be to provoke the creation of a real international community in opposition to it.
In Europe the EU is now simply a common trading area within a hulk that was destined to be something more. But European nations do remain a cultural and historic entity and will continue to need a focus to articulate their fundamental beliefs about themselves when necessary. What will now provide this except the Papacy? What else will?
And with a revived Moslem world some very old fault lines indeed could begin to emerge. Has Enlightened Europe run its course in world history?
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