Non-believer among diehard Europhiles

Derk Jan Eppink (54) became involved in the Brussels' scene at age 26. He has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009. As opposed to many of his colleagues, he is not a supporter of a federal Europe. A day with the euro-critical insider. "In Brussels you do not ask how long someone has been here, but how many kilos he has put on".

Joining Member of European Parliament Derk Jan Eppink

No round of swimming for Derk Jan Eppink this morning. Angry dairy-farmers have blocked the European quarter in Brussels. This member of the European Parliament is happy he reached the Parliament at all.

Eppink has a subscription at sports club Aspria, where he arrives from his pied-a-terre around seven in the morning on the days he is in Brussels. "It's pretty expensive, swimming fifty times for €1,000, but the water is nice and warm there", he says.

The popular Brussels' activity of networking starts early in the morning at Aspria. High ranking officials, lobbyists and politicians exchange gossip and news while swimming. Eppink considers this healthy start to the day a necessity. "In Brussels you don't ask how long someone has been here, but how many kilos they have put on."

How great will Great Britain remain?

Both the UK and the EU have rough times ahead. Neither one knows in what form they will exist in several years. In the UK there is a growing group of citizens wanting to leave the EU, while in Scotland more and more voices are calling for leaving the UK and then joining the EU. There is a growing sense of feeling in France that the obstructive Great Britain should rather leave the EU so France, together with Germany, can dominate a continental European system.

"I wished to found a European system, a European Code of Laws, a European judiciary: there would be but one people in Europe." These words, spoken by Napoleon, can simply be repeated 200 years later by the advocates of a 'United States of Europe'. Napoleon saw himself as a protagonist of the idea, but was unable to subjugate Great Britain. That is why he then set up a trade blockade in order to weaken the Brits. The British government once again learned that a united continent will turn against Great Britain. Napoleon eventually dug his own grave with his march against Moscow. On the Congress of Vienna the British diplomats were guided by only one thing: involvement with Europe, to avoid unity of the continent. In other words: in Europe, not run by Europe!

This continental unity seems to occur 200 years later, not through Napoleonic wars, but through a peaceful process of European legislation. The Euro zone in particular is becoming more and more a Brussels-dominated continental system - call it a fiscal union - which is threatening to marginalise the UK. The British are seizing the euro crisis to pry themselves loose from Brussels regulations and to aim for looser ties. The European Union is by far the largest market for British export. The political and economic elites in London want to keep it that way. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is the most pro European organisation and the financial centre of the City lies outside the Euro zone, but is the largest trade centre in Euros.

What did European leaders accomplish?

Resentment, Europe's old enemy, is being resurrected under the leadership of Van Rompuy, Barroso and Schulz. Do they get the Nobel Peace Prize for that?

The European Parliament had the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony on display on a big screen in front of the entrance yesterday in Strasbourg. Three complacent gentlemen - Jose Barroso (European Commission), Herman Van Rompuy (European Council) and Martin Schulz (European Parliament) - listened intensely to all the praise. Three gentlemen with a distinctly above-average income, who never took one single physical risk in the quest for peace. Three gentlemen who reside safely within the Brussels' bubble, in their ivory towers. It was laughable, if not a reason for tears.

The Nobel Prize Committee decided to award the Peace Prize to the EU because of its role in maintaining peace in Europe. This is the daily job of those three gentlemen, something that earns Barroso and Van Rompuy a monthly remuneration of over 30,000 Euros. They simply have to do their jobs. Compare that with Nelson Mandela, who was in prison for 20 years, or Andrej Sakharov, who was under house arrest in Gorki, like Aung San Suu Kyi was in Burma. Or Lech Walesa, Mother Teresa, or Doctors Without Borders. These people deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. They risked their lives and often ended up in the fringes of society. This is something that surely cannot be said of the troika of Barroso, Van Rompuy and Schulz, basking in the glow of power and the accompanying privileges. They employ people who open doors for them, who make sure elevators are waiting for them so they can avoid unwanted contact with 'ordinary people'. The only thing they have to do themselves is sleep and go to the bathroom. They should have sent three 'ordinary' Europeans to the ceremony in Oslo: an unemployed Spanish youth, an impoverished Greek and a struggling Flemish running a small business. They deserve the prize. Not the Trinity of Complacency.  

Who is alienating whom?

Driving into the European quarter of Brussels, one does not see crisis. Construction cranes are everywhere. The new headquarters of EU President Herman Van Rompuy, estimated to cost 240mln euro, is slowly but surely being completed. This construction frenzy cannot cover up the EU's fragile foundations. The budget crisis is the next chapter in the permanent quarrel over money. The EU is trying to decide on a multiannual budget for 2014-2020, but leaders of governments are divided on the topic. At the same time, several correspondents in Brussels criticize the culture of spending of the European institutions.

The article by Nikolas Busse in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (26-11-2012) called 'Spaceship Brussels' was right on the mark. 'No less than 21 of the 27 Member States have to reduce their budget deficit. The European Commission ordered Greece, Portugal and Ireland to lower the salaries of public servants or even had them fired. In these dire times Brussels in all seriousness demands a bigger budget for itself.' The Commission and the Parliament demand an increase of the multiannual budget of 5%. Busse: 'In a certain way British Prime Minister Cameron is right: Brussels is living in a parallel universe'.

The Budget Committee responded in disbelief. The German MEP Helga Trüpel, member of the Greens, called the European correspondents 'court writers'. 'They look to the European Council because that is where the power is. They are court writers who turn against us. The outside world isolates itself from us.' The Bulgarian socialist Ivailo Kalfin said: 'there is a political consensus emerging on the budget independent of us. It is the wrong consensus, but the public believes it. The public is wrong'.

What went wrong?

Intellectual honesty forces me to reflect on the question why my prediction - Romney wins the presidential election - did not become reality. Instead of an "on the one hand, on the other hand" type of story on election night I took the risk of coming up with a prediction. But I was wrong, and I adMitt it.

I favoured Romney. The wish might have been the father to the thought. Siding with Romney however was democratic and legitimate. In 2008 I favoured Obama, but I find his economical policy mediocre. He tries to turn the US into a European welfare state, while those welfare states are sinking away into a permanent crisis. Europe does not gain anything from an America repeating European mistakes. Romney is a moderate Republican and an experienced businessman and governor. More than 58 million Americans agreed.

Sometimes I got the impression that in Europe support for Romney was considered to be indecent and criminal. Thomas von der Dunk, in the Volkskrant (11.11.2012) called me 'The Dutch Donald Trump' because the property magnate supported Romney. I lack both the haircut and wealth of Trump necessary in order to claim that title. In Belgium it was even worse. On election night I appeared on the Flemish television and turned out to be the only politician in favour of Romney. There was none among the guests; neither in the studio. Ah yes, a journalist made some phone calls and came up with someone: Filip Dewinter of the Vlaams Belang. This gave me the impression of having ended up at a Neurenberg Tribunal. The Belgian support for Obama was 99.9 per cent. The 'pro-Romney one man lobby' was a lonely road through a sea of Obama groupies.

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