Welcome to the EU

by on May 1st, 2004

M e m o

To: New East European EU Members

From: “Old Europe”

cc: Malta, Cyprus

Re: Rights and Responsibilities

So welcome, friends, to the European Union. In a sense you never left, but those Soviets kept you from participating in the real affairs of The Continent for quite a while. But it’s good to have you back. When your celebratory hangover passes, we have a few things for you to think about:

The Economy. To be frank, we’re in dire straits. GDP growth has slowed to a virtual standstill from Rome to Amsterdam, and the strong Euro is making it harder to sell goods to the Scheiss-Amis (Les Americains). Plus which there are some of us (in places like Berlin, London and Paris) that keep exceeding the 3% EU budget deficit target; we’re really not anxious to start paying the mandatory fines. This is where we’re hoping you will come in. We know that many of you are in the upper-single digit GDP growth rates, and we’re hoping to invest in your countries once things are official (we’ll retain ownership and profits, of course, but your people can do the work). That’s fair, right?

Taxes. Quite frankly, we’re looking forward to a little more revenue. Portugal just hasn’t been pulling its weight since we let them in 18 years ago, and some of us have actually had to lower taxes recently to kick-start our economies (don’t tell Washington — they’ll claim it proves George Bush’s point). So you’ll be expected to raise your Value-Added Tax (VAT) to at least 15% in line with EU regulations and you’ll probably have to raise your income taxes as well to cover EU dues. Plus which there will be excise taxes, “sin” taxes, business taxes, etc. But don’t exceed those 3% deficit targets or we’ll have to fine you — and we mean it. Don’t worry too much, though; we’re all in this together. The average marginal tax rate in the EU is 42% compared to America’s 29% — we’re more socially compassionate.

Regulation and Cooperation. We know you folks have been used to authoritarian governments in the past, but we’re looking forward to introducing you to the real European way of doing things. First of all, we’ll send you copies of our regulations. Look for a lorry to arrive in your respective capitals sometime this week with the first shipment. They may seem arcane and difficult to follow, but believe us, it’s imperative that we regulate everything. Labor, commerce, shipping, security, civil rights, human rights, property rights, environment, you name it — we’ve got a regulation to cover it and more are on the way. So start reading. And another thing: we do everything here by committee. You’re going to have to be a little bit less contentious as members of the EU than you have been as new NATO members. Some of us who’ve been in both clubs for a while now have noticed that there are those among you who have delusions of grandeur. Remember that you’re the newbies here and that ceding a little bit of one’s sovereignty may be necessary for the greater good. And don’t try playing our members off against each other like Poland did with Spain last year against Germany & France; it may have worked then, but the larger and more important countries in the EU are wise to that game. Plus which there’s a new government in Spain which should be more, umm, cooperative.

Foreign Policy. Here’s where we recognize we have some work to do with you. We know in the past you were very close to the Americans, but you’re going to have to re-assess that. This means you in particular, Warsaw. The Americans may be our biggest market, but they’re also everyone’s biggest competitor, and we have to take measures to protect ourselves. This may mean additional tarriffs on American goods coming into the EU; be prepared to fall into line on that one because Washington will certainly fight it with some free-trade merde. You’re also going to have to learn to take some heat from Washington on this whole terrorism thing. We all know that the Madrid attacks were, honestly, an aberration; as long as we don’t stir up trouble with the Muslims they’ll leave us alone. The less we get caught up in Bush’s Crusade, the better. And another thing: when Colin Powell gets all twitchy about us continuing to trade with rogue states like Iran, Syria, Belarus and North Korea, remind him that we’re pursuing a “critical dialogue” policy; we’re arguing strenuously in favor of democracy, and we’re prepared to issue as many strongly-worded statements as necessary to back up our convictions. But we do have business interests — even that nasty little man Donald Rumsfeld can’t argue there.

Borders. We can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that soon you’ll be taking over border controls for the Eastern Front. It’s been something of a drain on our resources lately (what with Bush’s “Guerre contre le Terrorisme”) and we’ll be happy to know that you’re taking care of it. Of course, you’re going to have to upgrade all of your passport control facilities and border protection infrastructure to make sure the unwashed from Ukraine, Russia and the Caucasus don’t get in. So get cracking; you’ve only got a couple of years until we make you members of Schengenland.

Once again, wilkommen and bienvenue to the EU. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the first Ministerial Plenary Session in Bruxelles in June. Do check out that great little cafe on the Grande Place — you can probably even afford it.

Marc C. Johnson