"Switzerland walks away from EU takeover deal"
The Duran (June 2, 2021)
By Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris
. . . [0:50] Alex Christoforou: “… and they ran into a lot of EU stubbornness and a lot of EU arrogance. One Swiss MP actually told the EU, this is a quote: ‘We are not your milk cow.’ That is some quote. In other words: stop trying to take advantage of us, and stop trying to exploit us, which is something the EU does to every country it touches. It exploits them. It sucks them dry of any life that they have, and everything goes to the center. And you’ve talked about that many times, that the EU is all about weakening the periphery, concentrating everything in the center. And it just destroys everything it touches. And Switzerland said: No thank you. We prefer to be alone.”
[1:36] Alexander Mercouris: “Absolutely. And you’re absolutely right. That is exactly what happened. It’s a classic case of the European Union, or rather, the commission, the bureaucracy in Brussels, the European leaders: Merkel, Macron, all of them. So be clear, they’re all part of this thing. They have learned absolutely nothing from the Brexit experience. And they’re repeating exactly the same mistakes. Only they’re not just repeating them. They’re doubling down on them. It’s as if their failure in Britain made them even more determined to beat Switzerland into line.”
[2:19] Switzerland has had a good relationship with the EU for many years going all the way back to the days of the European Economic Community. But what the Europeans wanted – and if you look at that treaty, what they were proposing, they wanted Switzerland, essentially, to accept the entire regulatory package that the European Union has. They wanted free movement. They wanted indivisibility of the market. They wanted control, in other words, of Switzerland’s borders. Its regulations. Its labor policies. They wanted to essentially stage what would have been a takeover. And Switzerland would have again been subjected, in the same way that Britain would have been subjected, as part of those Brexit negotiations that they were trying to force on Britain via Theresa May’s deal. They would have wanted to do it in a way that would have made Switzerland, essentially, an appendage of the European Union, but one that did not have a vote in the European Council.”
[3:28] “Now Switzerland is an old country, a very old country. It has its own distinctive political culture, has a very highly developed industrial base with a very strong emphasis on machine tools and precision instruments and chemicals. It has, as we all know, a well-developed financial industry, financial services industry. And it has got a very powerful political tradition. And it’s a country which has worked out this political tradition over many centuries. And the Swiss said: ‘No. We prize our independence. We prize our neutrality. We fought hard to be independent and neutral. We are not going to be absorbed by you.’ And the European Union came away again baffled and bewildered that it has been turned away.”
[4:20] “And by the way, the Swiss have many cards to play. A lot of EU traffic passes through Switzerland through the various transport links that crisscross Switzerland. And Switzerland also is an enormously important electricity and energy generator for much of the central EU core. So, it exports energy and electricity and its acts as a sort of transfer point for much of that. So, if the EU wants to try and bully Switzerland in the way that they sometimes do, they may find that it is actually very unpleasant for them. Swallowing a hedgehog, as they say, can be an extremely uncomfortable experience.”
[5:11] “But, again, what this shows is the mindset. They can’t just negotiate on equal terms with a country like Switzerland. They must dominate.”
[5:26] Alex Christoforou: “What is this telling you about the way the world – not even the world, other European countries on the periphery of this EU orb – how they view it? Because you have Brexit. The UK is gone and the UK seems very happy that they’re out. You have Switzerland telling the EU to take a hike. You had about three or four weeks ago the incident in Turkey with Erdogan where he made a fool of Van der Leyden and Michelle. You’ve even had the Turkish foreign minister Çavuşoğlu say: ‘You know what? Don’t try to use getting into the European Union as leverage when dealing with us because the EU will not exist in five years.’ Those were his words. What does this tell you about the overall perception of Europe that is developing? Do you think people – leaders and states – in and around Europe are starting to say, ‘You know what? This thing is not even worth wasting time on. If they want to give us money, then that’s fine. If they want to give us money, great. If you’re Ergogan and you want to make some deals, OK. But it’s not anything to waste our time on.’”
[6:40] Alexander Mercouris:“They absolutely are saying it. Look at all the countries that surround the EU. Norway. There are problems between Norway and the EU now. We haven't come to that, but the relationship is deteriorating. Norway is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the EU. Britain has left. That's Brexit. Switzerland. Well, we've seen the breakdown in teh negotiations. Turkey. Well, you've just described the situation with Turkey. Russia? Well, we don't even start with Russia. We've seen it so horrifying what the situation is there. Every single country that borders the EU. Belarus. Every single country that borders the EU is either in a crisis because of its relation with the EU -- Ukraine, Modova -- or it is in a state of conflict with the EU. That is an astonishing state of affairs.”
[7:48] "And, the amazing thing is: the EU doesn't learn. It is still, in its own self-conception, imagines itself to be the force that's going to sweep every body through. It still talks about, you know, how it embodies human rights and civilized values and all that. And, of course, the reality is absolutely the diamietric opposite. And everybody around can see it."
[8:13] Alex Christoforou: "Do you think that the EU wanted to get its hands on Switzerland to completely exploit the country in kind of like a last-ditch effort to just find whatever it could get its hands on to just suck the life out of it; exploit whatever money they can exploit from it; to kind of keep the racket going; so they said 'We need to close a deal with Switzerland. We're going to take a hard line with Switzerland. We're going to extract everything we possibly can, because if we do not get a deal with Switzerland, I don't know how long we can keep this show on the road.' It's almost like a travelling rock band. They've got a certain amount of money. And they've already spent a ton of money on coke and drugs and women and parties and they're now saying: We've got to find some more, you know, some more funds here or else we can't keep driving this van around doing our conerts and partying like rock stars.
[9:17] “So, the UK is out. Switzerland is out. Turkey, they can't figure it out yet. What do you make of the EU's attitude? Was that their goal? Did they really want to exploit the country?”
[9:28] Alexander Mercouris: “Oh, absolutely. Of course they did. I mean, this is the other side of it. It is extremely predatory ultimately. They want to move in and they want to reorder everything. They don’t want politicians – and, you know, that’s the other thing about Switzerland: it’s a very democratic country. They have plebiscites. Many of the cantons work on a direct democracy basis. It’s a very, very democratic place. They [the EU bureaucracy] don’t like that. They don’t want people questioning what the people in Brussels decide.
So, they want to move in. They want to bring it to heel. They want to assimilate its great industries, its pharmaceutical industries, its mechanical engineering and instrument making industries, its financial services industry. That, of course, is extremely important. They want to absorb it all and to run it centrally from Brussels, and impose EU standards on it. And tax it. Get Switzerland to make its very big contributions – which would be very big because it’s a rich country – to the EU budget. They want to do all of those things. Of course they do. And you’re absolutely right what would happen if they managed to do that at is that Switzerland would become increasingly run down. Its industries would start to decay as industries right across Europe have started to decay. It would lose its competitive edge. It would gradually and inexorably become another middling European country: Belgium in the Alps. That’s what they would achieve if they were to get their hands on Switzerland. But the Swiss don’t want to be Belgium in the Alps. They want to be themselves.”
[11:22] Alex Christoforou: “So my final question is actually an interesting one, I think. There was a time when, you know, you would read about countries trying to get into the Euro, and which country is going to adopt the Euro next. And it seems that recently – the last two or three years – you don’t really read about it that much. I know there’s a plan to bring Hungary and Romania and, I believe, the Czech Republic, Poland that aren’t in the Euro. I believe there is some sort of plan to bring them into the Euro. But my hunch is, that with everything going on, these countries don’t really have much of an appetite to enter the Euro: the monetary union. They don’t really want to talk about it. The European Union doesn’t seem to want to talk about it. No one is really dealing with it. And I think that also signals the fact that a lot of the member countries inside the European Union are also looking at things and saying, you know, we could probably learn from the UK by not adopting the Euro currency because looking at the UK, looking at Switzerland now maybe it’s good to kind of have one foot in the door but also keep another foot outside the door, i.e. keep using our own currency just in case we wanted to make a quick exit out of this burning building. Isn’t it strange that no one is talking about the growing Euro – and what I mean by the Euro, the monetary union – it’s kind of taking a back seat. I think that also signals something.”
[12:57] Alexander Mercouris: “It does signal something. And you’re absolutely right that the topic has faded. The whole point of European monetary union was that it was supposed, eventually, to bring all the states within the European Union into the Euro zone. The two were supposed to become co-terminus. And, increasingly, the momentum to do that has stopped. Fewer and fewer countries have shown any desire or interest to do it. And more and more of them, as you absolutely and rightly say have shown a great reluctance to go there. And in some countries, Poland and Hungary being just two examples, it has gone beyond that. And in fact you actually see a rise in anti-EU sentiments in both. They don’t want to be part of the EU at all. A lot of the people there, they’re becoming – and they have to be for the moment because they see it in their economic interests to be – but their heart is not in it any longer. And that is a radical, fundamental shift. It’s a big change. And it’s true, by the way, also in the Balkans and it’s true in many places. And so the whole thing is starting to lose momentum. The momentum is gradually beginning to run down as people see it increasingly for what it is. And God help us this episode with Switzerland is another example of showing what it is [emphasis added].”
[14:32] “I mean, they had a perfectly good relationship with Switzerland. They could have built on that. They could have worked with the Swiss to develop it. There need to be no problems with it. But, of course, they weren’t going to do that. They wanted to expand the empire of Brussels to include the Swiss cantons and they found the Swiss don’t want it. And trying to do that has exposed both the limits of that power and the ultimate ugliness of the whole thing. [emphasis added].”
[15:05] Alex Christoforou: “Here’s my final question. This kind of goes off what you said. And I think about this a lot. We bash the EU a lot. Everyone knows we bash the EU. I’m not a fan, but there are some smart people there in Europe and the EU and I’m sure in the halls of Brussels that understand geopolitics and understand diplomacy. And listening to what you said, I think to myself, who in Europe is pushing this type of authoritarian, we’re going to take everything type of negotiation. I mean who are the people who are telling them? Is someone telling Van der Layne and Michelle and Barney? Are they saying ‘We want you guys to take Switzerland and just bleed them dry’? ‘We want you guys to go at them hard and to just take whatever you can from them and no backing down’? There must be. I know there are more moderate voices in Europe or in Brussels that are saying: ‘look, Ursula. Look Barnier. Look , Michelle – like you said, Alexander – we have a good relationship with Switzerland. Let’s build on that. Let’s you, know, keep on going down this path of good relations and one union helping the country and the country Switzerland helping the union, and so on and so forth. Who is giving such terrible guidance to the EU as they’re negotiating? And the same holds true with Brexit because there definitely are some smart people in Europe who must be saying: ‘Guys, what are you doing?’
[16:43] Alexander Mercouris:“I think there’s two things to say. Firstly, there is a functional aspect to all of this which is, of course, the EU is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies like to expand and they would like to expand their influence. And the EU bureaucracy has a particular bias to do that because so many of the people who work there are lawyers. Lawyers are very steeped in the system of European law. The aquis [?] that has been developed and in the European Court of Justice. And, of course, the whole nature of a legal system is that it wants to expand itself. So there is a functional side to this and you find that some of these lawyers may be extremely clever and intelligent people. But, as lawyers dedicated to a particular type of system, they will go along with it.”
[17:33] “But, of course, there is the overriding ideology which connects them if you like to the greater world beyond the ideology, which is a globalist ideology which sees the world as something that should be integrated. There should be no borders. There should be freedom of movement, freedom of capital, freedom of big businesses, that sort of thing. And of course a lot of people are connected to that world of that ideology and of course, personally, and it’s always good to remember this, will do very well from it.
[18:17] “Now, at the core of this globalist system there are two types of people. Firstly, there are the beneficiaries of it. The people who run these big companies who, to some extent, own these big companies. The so-called billionaire oligarch class who are mistrustful of countries, mistrustful of states, mistrustful of borders; who want to see them all knocked down because that way they can accumulate and centralize wealth to themselves [emphasis added].”
[18:49] “And then, of course, there are the functionaries who assist these people, who are, obviously partly invested in all of this financially because they get paid an awful lot for doing it, but who are also part of the system of ideas that goes along with it. And some of these people have developed ideological ideas that work with that, too. And they are people, you know, and let’s be very clear about this, we’re not talking about abstractions. There are actual people who think of these things. For legal reasons, it’s always difficult in these programs to actually identify them because, obviously we don’t want to expose ourselves to the counteraction that they can certainly take. And there are actual people and they have places where they meet with each other. They meet in places like Davos. They have institutions that bring them together. Various clubs. The World Economic Forum is one. And others of them. And they talk to each other all the time. And people like Ursula Von der Leyden and all of those sorts of people are part of that world. That is why they are chosen to be where they are. It is something that holds together and works in a certain way.”
[20:20] “Some of these people are highly intelligent and very strong minded. And they may be pursuing this because it is in their interests, too, but they may also at some level believe in the ideology that goes along with this. They may believe, at some level, in this utopian vision in which borders disappear, you know. Everybody lives in this world in which markets – they’re no longer real markets – but capital moves and workers move, and technology replaces everything and people don’t own things. That sort of thing. There are people who genuinely believe that.”
[21:02] “But, of course, there are also people who are extremely focused on doing very well for themselves, and they go along with the flow because it serves their interests. But to be very clear, there is a group of people at the core of this system. They do exist. They do sit down and talk to each other. They are of every nationality, including non-Western ones, people from around the world. They do exist and they do have ultimately decisive influence on decision making in places like Brussels. Brussels, in some ways, precisely because the European Union is a supranational entity is the place that suits them best.”
[21:55] "Even the United States is too much of a state for them to be entirely comfortable there. The European Union, because it is not a state, because it is this amorphous entity is exactly what I suspect they would like the world to become."
[22:14] Alex Christoforou: "I mean, my question, there must be some people there that tell them: 'Guys, put on the brakes. Enough is enough.' Or is it just like a case of Nigel Farage, guys that tell the European Union we need to stop all this expansionist authoritarian stuff. Guys like that just get chewed out of the system."
[22:35] Alexander Mercouris: "Absolutely. Of course they do. I mean, in any closed system of ideas, that invariably happens. If you start coming along and saying to these people. Look we've got to slow down, We're pushing things too far. We're running up against obstacles. We're antagonizing the Swiss who were, you know, motivated to be our friends and partners. People who say that are going to be immediately branded by the others as heretics and people who are not really fully on board. And they're going to be thrown off. That is the nature of ideological enterprises. Either you are fully signed up to them or you are not. And if you appear to be slackening in your belief and commitment, then that makes you suspect."
"If you go back to other countries, if you go back, say, to the Soviet Union in the '30s or to France in the 1790s, or to China in the Cultural Revolution, you see the phenomenon in action. Raising doubts is not the way forward in these kind of places. On the contrary, it's a way to have all the doors closed to you. It's a way to find that you don't get invited to Davos next year."
[23:58] Alex Christoforou: "You just rattled off some very sinister forms of government that have come about in the past, Alexander. It sounds like you've described the EU as more of a cult than anything else."
[24:08] Alexander Mercouris: "I think it is. I think that at a great level it is. And, of course, it's a cult with believers. You know, one has to understand that. And, of course, there are ordinary people who live their lives -- in Greece we see many people like that -- who have suffered appalling punishment. But you find it very difficult, sometimes, to reason with people who are sold on this idea of Europe as they call it. And quite often, they see their own personal interests bound up with that. But they are also sold on an overarching vision. Perhaps they don't fully understand, and they certainly don't fully understand the implications of it. But they don't want to see beyond it. And, of course, at the center of this system there are the people who control the ideology, who also believe in it, too, and who are driving the whole enterprise."