Brexit disrupts the European Union.
Fintech disrupts banksFintech disrupts the banking and insurance industry, (see the previous blog ) The World Economic Forum's insights on the future of banking uses a document from Citi DIGITAL DISRUPTION How FinTech is Forcing Banking to a Tipping Point to project gloom (loss of jobs, etc), because the paper is produced by one of the largest US banks and a leading target of fintech.
Brexit disrupts European Union (EU)
So I ask myself: isn't Brexit disrupting EU, in the same way fintech disrupts banking and insurance?
I wonder how many people know what European Union is and how it works I thought I knew, but I didn't. After some googling and I realized it is a giant labyrinthine bureaucracy. It has reminiscences of Kafka (who in real life was clerk at an insurance company in Prague). Kafka accumulated the famous frustration, we named Kafkaesque ; "something having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality".
The best way to understand EU is to quote in the end of this blog the entire article by Gareth Harding Explaining the EU: United in Complexity
UK exit from EU is not irrational. Brexit is the messenger who tells us that EU must by broken and rebuilt for the 21st century.
After reading, we should spare UK of any accusations, and take our hats off
With over 20 years experience describing how the European Union works, what it does and what challenges it faces in speeches, articles, lectures and trainings, I thought I could explain what the EU is all about in terms that anybody could understand. How wrong I was.
In the last month I have given half a dozen ‘EU in an hour’ talks to visiting groups of American politics, journalism and international relations students - who are all extremely keen, bright and willing to ask questions. But almost invariably, the students leave the classroom flabbergasted at how needlessly complicated the EU is and suspecting that I have made up some of the Byzantine decision-making procedures just to mess with them.
This is how the average talk goes:
Me: So basically, you have three main institutions: The European Commission, Parliament and Council.
Q: I thought there were four?
A: Well, yes, if you include the European Council.
Q: Wasn’t that one of the three you just mentioned?
A: No, that’s the Council of the European Union. Which is different from the Council of Europe, which is a non-EU body that meets in Strasbourg.
Q: Doesn’t the European Parliament meet in Strasbourg?
A: It does. But so does the Council of Europe. And to be precise, the Parliament also meets in Brussels.
Q: So, just to be clear, the Parliament has offices in both Brussels and Strasbourg?
A: Yes, and Luxembourg, where a lot of the support staff are based. But anyway, let’s go back to the institutions I mentioned before. Firstly, the European Commission. This is often called the EU executive body.
Q: So like the U.S. President?
A: Not really. The Commission can’t declare war or veto laws. But it can do trade deals. So it has some executive functions, but also some legislative.
Q: But my textbook says the parliament and EU Council are the two law-making bodies?
A: Correct, but the Commission proposes all draft laws.
Q: Wait. What? How can an unelected body propose laws? Shouldn’t that be the Parliament?
A: No, the Commission has what they call the ‘sole right of initiative’ because it is supposed to represent the European interest and be free from national prejudices.
Q: But don’t EU member states propose Commissioners?
A: Yes they do. But when they arrive in Brussels they have their national hard drives erased. In theory. Unlike the Council of the EU, which represents the naked national interests of the 28 states.
Q: So the Council is a bit like our Senate? One member per state, regardless of size?
A: Yes, except big states like Germany have many more votes than small states like Malta.
Q: So it’s not really like our Senate?
A: Er…no. Anyway, the Council makes laws, along with the Parliament. It also adopts the EU budget, which is about €140 billion a year.
Q: That’s not much. I thought the EU was the world’s biggest economy?
A: Ah, yes, the total GDP of the 28 member states is the biggest in the world but Brussels is only responsible for about 1% of that.
Q: The Council meets in Brussels right?
A: Yes, except in April, June and October, when it meets in Luxembourg.
Q: You’re kidding?
A: I wish I was.
Q: So who’s in charge of the EU?
A: Ah, the Kissinger question. In one word – nobody. In reality, there are three presidents - of the European Council, Commission and Parliament. The first two are basically chosen by EU leaders and the third by MEPs. None are directly elected to the post by voters. Oh, and there’s also a presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Q: Wait, what?
A: Well, every six months a different EU state is in charge of chairing ministerial meetings. At present, that is Latvia but on July 1 that changes to Luxembourg. However, meetings of foreign ministers are presided over by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is also vice-president of the European Commission. And Eurogroup meetings are chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselboem.
Q: Hang on, what’s the Eurogroup?
A: Well, that’s the meeting of EU finance ministers from the 19 EU states that use the euro?
Q: What? I thought the EU had a single currency?
A: It does, but not for all its states. Britain, Denmark and Sweden decided to keep their own currencies and some central European countries are not ready to join the Eurozone yet.
Q: You’re making this up aren’t you? The EU can’t possibly be that complicated.