Politics as Unusual

A Political Column

By Robert van Schaik

“Who exactly makes up the European troika?” Last week, this question was asked in the Dutch TV-show In search for a Prime Minister. The would-be-PM was not able to answer it. Are you? I would hope the actual Netherlands’ PM can. And seeing how we have been struggling for almost five years now, let’s hope our next PM can.

In the wake of the Euro crisis, any leader in the Eurozone suddenly has to be a simultaneous expert on European law, specialist in macroeconomics and a financial systems geek. On top of that, he’d better understand the psychology behind nocturnal Brussels negotiations and the math behind the European Stability Mechanism’s billions. It might seem absurd, but the truth is that when the twenty-seven EU Heads of State met up on 18 October in Brussels, only a handful were brainy enough to get involved with the extremely technical legislation being discussed. The others simply sat and stared with glazed eyes, played with their smartphones or burned the midnight oil having little dialogues about this and that with their advisors.

Where to find such an all-knowing superman? Well, If anywhere, maybe we could find him (or her) at UCU. If at any university, and if at all, students obtain interdisciplinary excellence, aren’t we then trained to understand the complex mechanisms of European law, to master the Machiavellian machineries of international relations, and to grasp the European economy in its global context? Ask us and we’ll tell you which way to go forward. But then again – why is it that at UCU where many law courses are offered, European Union Law only comes at a three hundred level?  And why does the professor then need to take out eight weeks for a moot court about the legality of the ESM treaty? So far, not a single student has been able to devote their thesis to offering a solution to any of the financial aspect of the current chaos.

If UCU’s law students need to work through three 7.5 ECTS courses before getting the faintest technical clue what Europe is currently up to, then what  should the average voter think? Last summer, when taking driving lessons, I asked my instructor what his thoughts were of the current PM. He indifferently remarked: “That’s that Harry Potter guy with the glasses, right, Balkenende?”.

Now, he may not have been the average voter, but if a driving instructor already has trouble thinking up who leads the country nowadays, he will probably not know about a foreign policy issue like the current Euro crisis, let alone what led to it. And forget about a sensible contribution to actually solving the problem. Europe is difficult and technocratic. No wonder even the Brussels bureaucrats aren’t able to put an end to the current chaos.

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