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Schadenfreude: so what is the EU actually for, Your Holiness?

UKIP was one thing, telling the world that the European Union is a mess. Now His Holiness the Pope, who has a hot-line to Heaven, has added his voice to dissatisfaction with what the EU is doing, or not. He insists that when would-be immigrants try to cross the Mediterranean to seek a new life in Italy or elsewhere in the EU they should be rescued if their makeshift crafts founder. Italy had been talking about reducing its sea patrols and rescue operations. More widely the Pope considers that the EU has ceased to respond to the peoples’ aspirations, writes Schadenfreude, our secret columnist in Brussels.

His meaning seems to be that the EU is doing wrong things and should be devoting more attention to the welfare of its inhabitants. This is the opposite of most of the demands of the antis, which is that the EU should curtail its addiction to regulating economic activities, both in the form of new measures and retroactively. Less Europe.

One of the clarion calls is that the EU should keep out of “politics” – it is OK as an economic organisation but not a political force. But “politics” is about the forms and actions of governmental bodies in the communal activities of their citizens including their individual search for economic security.

So what is the EU for ? Veterans remember that in the founding days one of the factors was the prospect of the end of the incessant European Civil War. With half a century of European peace this is now irrelevant. It was notable that in the recent commemoration of the Great War (now known as WW1) there was no mention of European Union as a force for peace. Perhaps both pros and antis should acknowledge that the core of the EU is the Common Market and that the only task is to complete it.

Does this include free movement of workers? Yes, i.e. of workers, employees and job- seekers, but not benefit tourists. It boils down to a simple rule – if you are not a citizen of the state you do not get state benefits until you contribute to the state. Surely the great minds of Brussels can define the distinction.

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