The EU’s latest step to “solve” the Eurozone crisis is the pillaging of the savings stored in Cypriot banks. It’s not hard to see the various harmful implications – a collapse of confidence in bank saving in Cyprus itself, a blow to the already miniscule levels of confidence in banking elsewhere in the EU, further reductions in bank capitalisation as savers realise the mattress is the safest place for the cash and so on.
One aspect of the affair that has yet to be widely considered, though, is the opportunities this offers to Russian foreign policy. Russians are the largest group of foreign savers in Cyprus (some legitimately, others less so), and the Russian government has loaned billions to keep the faltering Cypriot state and banking sector afloat.
Now, with Cyprus plunged into a new crisis, Putin’s Kremlin is reportedly “considering” the generous step of extending the existing loans and possibly offering more. The question this raises is simple: what will the Russians want in return for their kind helping hand?
The answer is disturbingly self-evident. Only this morning, the Russian navy announced it was to establish a new, permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean – the first since the post-Soviet retreat of the early 1990s.
At the moment, the Russians have a naval facility in Tartus, a port in Syria. Their shameful solidarity with Bashar al-Assad has been motivated at least in part by the desire to keep a foothold in the Med, but their ally’s position of power is now in doubt. At any time the Syrian regime could fall, and be replaced by a government of rebels who are unlikely to look kindly on hosting a naval base for the chums of the dictator they have just unseated.
So the Russian Mediterranean Naval presence needs a new home. Cyprus seems the natural place – it’s at the Eastern end of the sea, close to allies in Syria and potential enemies in Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran. Most compellingly of all, Cyprus is broke – and evidently ready to do just about anything for cash.
When the Eurozone’s fans say the single currency protects our security, I’m not sure a new Russian naval base on our doorstep was what they had in mind.
When the ludicrous news that the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize was first announced back in October, I compiled a “Nomination in Pictures” exploring the supposed peace that Brussels has brought to the streets of Portugal, Spain and Greece.
Herman van Rompuy, Martin Schulz and José Manuel Barroso collected the award yesterday in Norway – a country which is outside the EU, and therefore presumably riven with civil war and cross-border aggression. A reader has produced the following video tribute to the most absurd Nobel award to date:
Six months ago, the EU was forced to withdraw a racist video using stereotyped foreigners to portray international trading partners as a violent threat to Europe’s safety. Today, in a video highlighted by the Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield, they’ve repeated their mistake in a clear sign that Brussels hasn’t learned a thing.
This time the topic is the energy markets, and your friends in the European Union are claiming credit for the, ahem, innovation that you can change supplier. Having had to apologise for protecting you from kung-fu fighting Chinese people and sword wielding Indians back in March, now they are the only thing that stands betwen you and greedy, fez-wearing Arabs.
How long will it be before Brussels apologises for this new racist piece of propaganda?
When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, comedy songrwiter Tom Lehrer declared that satire had become obsolete. Today we learn that the Peace Prize has been given to the European Union - accordingly, satire has now been dragged out of her retirement home and beaten by riot police.
In case you were wondering why the EU could possibly be given the Nobel Peace Prize, here is a short, pictorial summary of the peace Brussels has brought to Greece and Spain in the last 18 months:
The reaction of pro-EU voices to David Cameron’s refusal to support fiscal union has been very revealing.
It has been revealing in that it has demonstrated clearly that the tiny pro-EU rump left in this country are actually happy with the idea that unelected EU officials should be able to overrule democratically elected Governments to dictate how member states’ financial affairs are run.
It has been very revealing that the EU establishment clearly never intended for vetoes to be used, and in fact is happy to circumvent them – ie that they have been a smokescreen all along.
It has also revealed what many of us have been saying in and around Westminster for some time – voters are sick of seeing British leaders roll over to have their tummy tickled at the EU negotiating table. Voters overwhelmingly agree with David Cameron on this one, and he’ll gain from that. Paddy Ashdown, by contrast, must be counting himself lucky that he’s no longer accountable to the electorate, so he can safely run round town shouting the EU’s message.
Most revealing of all, in my view, is the stark demonstration that the pro-EU side of British politics deeply and fundamentally lack faith in the abilities and potential of modern Britain. Without the protective wing of Mother Brussels and her trade barriers to shelter us, we are surely lost, they claim. Not for a second do they mull the idea that Britain has the capability to stand on its own two feet.
When they talk of retaining British “influence”, they mean that we can only retain influence in a reputational sense by sacrificing it in a practical sense. They mean that only by giving up our actual control over how we run our economy, our criminal justice system, our food production, our trading relationships and much more can we retain the cosy feeling of attending EU leaders’ banquets.
This is an insidious and depressing philosophy – talking Britain down, and automatically assuming that British scientists, entrepreneurs, business people and ordinary workers can never make their own way in the world. To use a 1970s term, they want a return to managing the nation’s decline.
For far too long the EU’s cheerleaders have been able to portray themselves as being on the sunny side of the street. They loved to make out that they were the friendly, positive optimists who saw sunny uplands in Britain’s future.
Contrast that to their message today:
“Suez seems mild in comparison. What sort of nation is it that rejoices in its own defeat?” – Labourlist
“At a time of economic crisis, we have made it more attractive for investors to go to northern Europe.” – Paddy Ashdown
“A Britain which leaves the EU would be considered irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world.” – Nick Clegg
“In a world in which the influences of the old powers is diminishing by the day, Britain’s prime minister has attacked his closest partners and left our country weaker and more isolated” – Chris Davies MEP
There are plenty more bits of negativity where those came from, too. The peculiar and rare strain of politics that is Euro-enthusiasm is now essentially united around the core belief that Britain is a basket case. That’s not an idea which will set the electorate on fire with enthusiasm.
It is time to seize properly on this issue, and for eurosceptics to become the voice of positivity.
Where those who believe in integration see only weakness, we see great potential in Britain. Where they want protectionism, even at the cost of our economic health and starving bellies in the Third World, we want free trade and new enterprise. Where they look to secure a bed in the Little European retirement home, slowly dwindling away with the rest of the EU’s outdated economies, we want to reach out to trade with the whole world – India, China, Brazil and others.
When you talk to voters about the great issues of the day, they want to know what the future will look like for their children. Would they rather hear someone say “we think they’re done for, so we’ll give up their democratic rights in order to buy a seat in a declining economic bloc”, or “we’ll have faith in them to innovate and trade with the whole world”? The Lib Dems’ reluctance to collapse the Coalition and face an election rather answers that.