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IT’S BEEN a bad week so far for the concerted propaganda drive to portray the EU as a rock of stability in contrast to the chaos that is Brexit Britain.
In the Irish Republic, the Taoiseach and his Foreign Minister demanded written pledges from Britain on the post-Brexit north-south Irish border, despite countless verbal ones and the refusal of the EU to even begin discussing post-Brexit arrangements between Britain, including Northern Ireland, and the EU, including the south.
These fanatically pro-EU Irish politicians then took a break from issuing their demands and threats at the bidding of the EU Commission, in order to defuse a crisis that nearly brought down their rickety government.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s talks to form a coalition government collapsed when the increasingly Eurosceptic Free Democrats walked out.
She’s now banking on Martin Schulz and his divided Social Democrats not to demand too high a price for their latest set of principles.
Until recently the president of the EU Parliament, Schulz is believed to support the proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron for the eurozone states to set up their own budget and appoint their own finance minister.
It’s a policy that would integrate one half of the EU while separating it from the other half.
Meanwhile, most of the anti-integrationist governments have been meeting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Budapest this week.
He has been in the Hungarian capital attending the latest summit of the so-called “16 + 1” group of central and eastern European countries, plus China.
The purpose of the “16 + 1” initiative is to develop the industrial, energy and transport infrastructure of eastern Europe, with China providing much of technological and financial assistance.
From China’s perspective, it is the “Eurasian Bridge” extension of the “Belt and Road” programme to promote development in 64 nations from China across the Asian subcontinent to the Baltic Sea and the Caucasus.
Already, mostly state-owned Chinese banks, construction, engineering and energy companies have begun building motorways, high-speed railways, canals and thermal power facilities in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Many are joint ventures with the host governments and local businesses.
Not surprisingly, the Western European business leaders, politicians and bureaucrats who decide EU policies are deeply uneasy about these developments.
Their strategic approach to eastern Europe has been to see the former socialist countries as sources of cheap labour, food and raw materials and as subordinate political and military allies in the pursuit of EU and Nato foreign policy.
The “16 + 1” project treats them as partners of the world’s rising economic and political superpower, worthy of balanced and modern economic development in their own right.
While China’s financial stake has been modest so far, in comparison with the strings-attached money from EU structural funds, that could change — not least if Britain refuses to pay an extortionate alimony settlement.
Another EU concern is that some of the “16 + 1” contracts have been awarded to Chinese companies in possible breach of EU procurement rules.
Not surprisingly, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is stepping up the pressure for the EU to establish an inward investment vetting procedure that will obstruct the ownership of key industrial, technological and military concerns in Europe by non-EU interests.
It all seems a long way from the united, open, outward-looking European Union of the anti-Brexit propagandists.
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