VABALOG

Kõrged maksud ja töötus, madal majanduskasv ja südimus – teretulemast Euroopasse

Kas olukord Euroopas on tõesti juba nii jube, et isegi ameeriklased hakkavad sellel teemal rohkem sõna võtma?

Viimase aasta jooksul on üha rohkem ja rohkem USA ajakirjanduses ilmunud artikleid, mis ei ennusta Euroopa Liidule just eriti helget tuleviku. Ilmsetest finants- ja majandusprobleemidest, mis on tingitud “heaolu”-ühiskondade üleval pidamisest, on välja kasvamas sotsiaalsed probleemid immigrantide (eriti Lähis-Idast) integreerimisega ühiskonda ja pikaajalised töötud, kes eelistavad tööle riiklike hüvitis. Üllatav on aga see, et vähesed “eurooplased” näevad toimuvas mingit ohtu või probleemi, keskendudes pigem ameeriklaste kritiseerimisele.

Jättes kõrvale CIA psühholoogilised operatsioonid erinevate ennustusmängude näol, mis kahjuks tunduvad rajanevat natuke liigagi palju tõele, on ilmunud ka sisukamaid artikleid neilt, kes peaksid teadma, millest räägivad. Üks sellistest kirjutistest, ilmus ajakirjas Commentary, autoriks Arthur Walden, rahvusvaheliste suhete professor Pennsylvania Ülikoolis. Neile, kes seda blogi on lugenud ei tohiks üllatusena tulla ükski probleemidest, mida professor välja toob. Sellele vaatamata on tegu ülevaatliku artikliga, mida soovitan lugeda kõigil, kellele Euroopa Liit midagi korda läheb. Mõned paremad palad:

The present European Union, comprising 25 states (with 15 more hoping to join), faces unique strategic challenges. Already sharing a border with the newly expanded EU are Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Russia. If and when Turkey joins, Europe will include both it and Cyprus, another “Asian” state, and will then, by its own volition, be sharing borders with Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

In short, the new European Union is forming itself smack in the cockpit of geopolitical danger. At the same time, it lacks either the material or the diplomatic wherewithal to deal with this danger in a forceful or unified manner. As the crisis of freedom in Ukraine developed this past November and December, and as Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and Solidarity hero Lech Walesa headed for Kiev, the stance of the French government was, as a French commentator aptly put it, one of “embarrassment.” “It can scarcely be an accident,” the English columnist Philip Stephens dryly observed in the Financial Times, “that France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder have not missed the opportunity to keep quiet about Ukraine’s orange revolution”—an event of far greater consequence for them, and for the European Union at large, than anything the United States may or may not be doing in Iraq.

The plain fact is that, for 50 years, Europe enjoyed a privileged existence, relieved by the American deterrent of the need to defend itself against the Soviet Union. Those days are gone, but Europeans are only now beginning to understand what that means. “Europe is incapable of guaranteeing, on its territory, the security and freedom of movement of citizens and residents who wish to exercise their freedom of thought and free expression,” lamented the French leftist paper LibE9ration after the van Gogh murder. To which might be added that it is also incapable of guaranteeing its territory against foreign threats.

But here is a place where, inadvertently (or perhaps I should say dialectically), Washington may be playing a helpful role. To reduce matters to their most basic, the security of Europe is no longer an indispensable security requirement of the United States. Of course Americans have values and sympathies, which may eventually add up to interests, but in the most hard-headed strategic terms, now that the USSR is gone, and with a home-based American ability to destroy any target in the world, the details of what happens eight or nine hours east by air from Washington will usually turn out to be of far deeper concern to Europe than to the United States. If we were to wake up one morning and learn that the EU buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg had been destroyed, we would surely be shocked, but we would not in any way be under direct threat ourselves.

Structural unemployment, itself intimately related to European welfare policies, is imbedded in the system. In France, unemployment runs to 10 percent; in Belgium, it is at almost 9 percent in the relatively prosperous Flemish-speaking areas, 19 percent in French-speaking Wallonia, and an astonishing 22 percent in the capital city of Brussels. Germany, where an individual unemployed for more than a year can receive up to half his previous net wages for an unlimited period of time, has created a system unique in the world for discouraging the energetic search for work.

Fertility rates make the future look even more ominous. In the United States, the average woman produces 2.06 children, just about replacement level; in the 25-nation EU, the average number of children is only 1.46, which means populations will shrink, more immigrants will be needed, and, as longevity increases, the young will be increasingly burdened by the old.

if Europe is to be secure, it will have to reform its economy to support its military. So far, opportunism and complacency about the steadily declining economy have been the rule, but some influential figures are considering how to go about changing this, in the first place by acknowledging the magnitude of the impending crisis. An authoritative but little studied report by Michel Camdessus, former director of the International Monetary Fund, has put matters starkly: “We are engaged in a process of descent that cannot but lead us, if nothing is done, to a situation that, in a dozen years, will be irreversible.” But it need not happen that way. Europe’s current condition has identifiable causes, and if those can be addressed, the situation can be improved.

Reactions to the Ukrainian crisis, as I have already suggested, underscored the difference; new Europeans instantly grasped its significance, old Europeans fell back into silence. As a letter writer to the Guardian observed, “Clearly it still only takes a growl from Russia for Western Europe to abandon all support for human rights on its eastern borders.” One might add that it likewise takes only a growl from Beijing to silence any protest at Chinese actions which, if carried out far more gently by white people, would most certainly be labeled war crimes.

Õnneks leidub artiklis ka nii mõndagi positiivset, mille põhjal võib öelda, et kui “eurooplased” ennast kokku võtavad, siis on võiamlik suuremaid kriise ja veel teravamaid sotsiaalprobleeme ära hoida. Kahju ainult, et Euroopa poliitiline eliit on rohkem huvitatud võimul püsimisest kui tõsiselt võetavatest reformidest.

Isegi Eestis, mida peetakse Euroopa üheks majanduslikult dünaamilisemaks riigiks, on vabast turumajandusest üha keerulisem rääkida nagu ka maksukoormuse alandamisest, sest kohe lastakse käiku demagoogia, mida Euroopa suurriikide sotsiaaldemokraadid ja eurofiilid väsimatult välja pumpavad. Räägitakse riigikulude vähendamisest, kuid kuidas seda teha pole nagu keegi välja käinud.

Üks suuremaid kuluallikaid ja probleem on riiklik ravikindlustus, kuid jälginud eelmise aasta lõpus alanud “tõsisemat” debatti ei ole ma veel lugenud ühestki lahendusest, ainult probleemide edasi lükkamisest. Jah, pensionile mineku vanust võib tõsta nagu ka makse, kuid vaatamata sündimuse mõningasele kasvule ei ole see pikemas perspektiivis mingi lahendus.

Millest aga praegu aru ei saada Euroopas ega Eestis on tõsiasi, et kuni valijaskonnas on vähem pensionääre kui töötajaid, kes pensionäride ravikulusid katavad, on võimalik ka demokraatlikus süsteemis läbi viia ulatuslike muudatusi. Praktiliselt võimatuks teeb aga igasugused suuremad muudatused olukord, kus enamus inimesi on kas pensionil või pensionile minemas. Vaevalt soovivad nad loobuda hüvitistest, mille eest kõikide nende aastate jooksul makse maksid.

Võib-olla on olukord selleks hetkeks piisavalt lootusetu, et muud võimalust lihtsalt ei ole ja ka pensionärid mõistavad seda, kuid mina ei julge sellele lootma jääda ja ei soovita seda teha ka teistel.


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One Comment

  1. I am looking for a book, I think it was called "Calculating Cal", a wonderful counting book, braille and print with fabulous raised lines and shapes. Anyone know where this is?

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