By Sam Vaknin
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Author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
The current global financial crisis should have been the European Union's finest hour. The countries comprising this much coveted club could have joined to battle the waves of bank failures, industrial closures, layoffs, and bankruptcies that are threatening to overwhelm their economies from Iceland to Italy.
The European Union finance ministers should have come with a coherent plan to introduce cross-border regulation, a Europe-wide bank bailout fund, clear, continent-wide guidelines as to state subsidies and export stimulation, and other joint policies. Instead, pompous declarations aside, each government rushed to implement unilateral steps, regardless of the needs of their allies and the risks to the Union. The EU was reduced to pathetic and disheartening caricature in the space of less than a week. Iceland was so disgusted by the spectacle that it asked Russia for a loan rather than approach the EU.
But the cracks in the Union were evident long ago. A much-trumpeted EU Constitution was soundly and multiply rejected by the French, the Dutch, and the Irish. Rows erupted over the dispatch of a contingent of soldiers to Afghanistan and 24 helicopters (!) to Darfur. An EU-brokered truce in Georgia was humiliatingly ignored by Russia. Members disagree on virtually every issue: from how to treat Kosovo to how to deal with terrorism.
Both passport-free travel (the Schengen Agreement) and the single currency, the euro, do not apply to the entire EU. The process of enlargement to the Balkans and to Turkey is contentious and may not come to pass. "What's the point of having an EU?" - wondered the Associated Press last week. The Financial Times called the current disarray "a suicidal position".
Moreover, the EU's new (formerly communist or socialist) members differ strongly from old members (Germany, France) on a host of topics, including the extent of collaboration with the United States and whether to nationalize crumbling financial institutions. "The politicians in Europe are crazy. We didn't live under communism for 40 years just to return to it on EU soil," said Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East.
He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com