Triste Est Omne Animal

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the entry of ten new states into the EU. It was an anniversary generally celebrated amidst a notable lack of champagne and fireworks. Perhaps we are living in more discrete and austere times. Nonetheless there have been articles here and there in the press, amongst them the one in the Economist which I allude to in the title.

The Economist quote actually comes from one of the founding fathers of modern medicine – the second century Greek physician Galen – and the full quote is “Triste est omne animal post coitum” (no prizes for guessing the use to which the Economist puts this idea in the context of the recent enlargement, although if any of our commentators feels moved to provide anecdotal testimony on the soundness of Galen’s original idea, then please don’t let me stand in your way).

The article is provocatively entitled “Now that we are all bundled inside, let’s shut the door“, and is a survey of all the various kinds of ambivalences and ambiguities which can now be found among the 25 member states about the enlargement process in general. An interesting if not profoundly novel assessment of the state of play. Perhaps the most surprising discovery for me was the level of tension which currently seems to exist along the Brussels/Bucharest axis.

Perhaps a more balanced assessment can be found in today’s EU observer. Unusually for me I find myself entirely in agreement with the sentiments expressed by European Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso who is quoted as saying that the anniversary “is a happy event for all Europeans” calling the enlargement “a reunification of not only nations and peoples but also of cultures”.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

3 thoughts on “Triste Est Omne Animal

  1. I think where Romania is concerned the tension is far more between the Elysee Palace and the Romanian seat of government, rather than Brussels. I don’t expect the tension to amount to much more than an exchange of rhetoric between the two heads of state as the French are big investors in Romania.

    I do agree that the accession of the 10 new members last year was a “happy event”. I would also add that without the economic, political, and legislative blueprint that the EU offers prospective members, the countries of Central Europe would not be where they are today in terms of economic growth, and democratic stability. Gripes about freedom of movement, Schengen etc. tend to be exaggerated by the media and politicians. It is widely accepted that it will take as long as 40 to 50 years before some of these states gain parity with the old EU; the people have been told that on numerous occasions in the past few years, as least they have in Hungary.

    As for the Franco-German “axis”. The sooner Chirac and Schroeder are out of the way the better off the EU will be. They, and those of a like mind, are holding back progress, and, for populist reasons, struggling to retain the illusion of Franco-German supremacy in an EU in which they can now be outvoted.

  2. “The sooner Chirac and Schroeder are out of the way the better off the EU will be.”

    Be careful here, it depends what comes next. Change may or may not be an improvement.

    “Gripes about freedom of movement, Schengen etc.”
    Couldn’t agree more. People seem to forget that it is a lot easier to knock walls down than it is to build anything. We’re seeing that now in Iraq, but the lesson was already there to be see in the eastern european transition. 15 years after things are begining to find a level.

    “40 to 50 years before some of these states gain parity with the old EU”

    Keynes famously said that in the long run the only thing we know for sure is that we’re all dead. 40 to 50 years from now I certainly will be.

    All things are – as Heraclitus notoriously suggested – relative. With the quickening pace of change I am reluctant to take too seriously anything which claims to look too far ahead in economic, social or political terms. 2010 seems like the long term to me.

    Obviously with things like climatic change, or demographic processes, the situation is different: you need to make some kind of long term projections if you are to take any kind of decision now.

    What I am saying is that on the economic and social level I am sure we will see many changes, and most of them we won’t be expecting.

  3. On the subject of change the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has the following:-

    “Speaking to a receptive audience, Dennis L. Meadows of MIT drew up a dark future for the Earth at HAS on 29 April. We only have approximately 30 years before a devastating ecological and social crisis sets in, provided we do not move quickly towards sustainability, he said. Professor Meadows came to Budapest to launch the new Hungarian edition of his 1972 ?Limits of Growth? volume that he had co-authored and since revised. ….

    Cont @ The Limits of Growth Revisited

    Seems a bit alarmist to me but then Prof Meadows is trying to re-launch a book he wrote over 30 years ago!

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