There is much Ireland can learn from other European countries at this present moment.
For instance, Great Britain and Denmark, though members of the EU, have chosen to remain outside the European Monetary Union. They have retained their own national currencies and full sovereignty over their monetary and fiscal affairs.
In addition, Denmark has successfully negotiated opt-outs from Europe in the fields of Common Defence, Justice and Home Affairs, and Union Citizenship.
Norway and Iceland are neither members of the European Union nor the Monetary Union. However, they both belong to the European Economic Area (EEA) and enjoy the same advantageous terms governing internal markets as full EU member states. European countries can negotiate terms with the European Union that do not necessitate full membership or monetary union.
But such successful negotiations demand a clear vision for national solidarity and strong courageous leadership.
Then there is Iceland. Prior to her financial meltdown in 2008, 60% of her citizens favoured entering EU membership and monetary union.
Today, more than 70% oppose the move. Why? Because had Iceland been in the Eurozone when their banks collapsed, Brussels would have stepped in.
And in return for bailing them out, Brussels would have seized Iceland’s 200 mile limit fishing grounds – the richest in the world – and control over their thermal energy supply, which powers 90% of Iceland’s electricity.
In contrast, as a sovereign nation with sovereign control, Iceland has managed to successfully restructure her banking system, devalue her currency, boost her exports of fish, and restrict foreign imports. Three new banks have been established – one with state majority share.
Her GDP growth in 2009 was –6.5%. Today it stands at 0%. The unemployment rate in 2009 was 9.4%. Today it has been reduced to 7%. Then compare these figures with Ireland’s disastrous catalogue of economic blunders.
A large degree of resistance exists in each of these countries to further encroachments by Europe into their national affairs - its immigration policies, labour rights, foreign affairs, and military development.
This prevailing climate of unease should be regarded in Ireland as a favourable omen for advancing a new vision.
Although it is by no means certain that such advances would be welcomed, considering Ireland’s current economic crisis and dysfunctional government, a strong case can be made for Ireland’s positive contributions to a new alliance.
1. A new economic union, comprising Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Ireland, to be known as the North Atlantic Corridor, would be formed. Ireland would withdraw from both the EU and the Euro Zone and revert to the Irish Punt. All national currencies would be guaranteed by the Bank of England. However, the Central Bank in each individual country would retain control over its own national monetary and fiscal policies.
2. Ireland would reclaim the 200 - mile international sea limit around its national boundaries and reclaim all fishing rights ceded to Europe in 1973. She would then renegotiate new terms for all energy exploration within her reclaimed continental shelf.
3. Ireland would actively pursue innovation and research into the development of wind, wave, and biofuel energy. A stimulus package for green energy research and development would be advanced and Ireland’s potential to become an exporter rather than importer of green energy would be exploited.
4. Ireland would halt the current rapid decline in its rural communities by re-establishing innovative agricultural colleges and resurrecting the sugar beet industry - closed by the European Union under false information and false directives.
5. This can be done by utilising the pension fund recently raided to shore up the banks – again by directive of the EU. Use the remaining funds to rebuild our native industries now. The cattle, sheep, and pig industries would be freed from the restrictive policies enforced by the EU.
6. And although the current subsidies paid to farmers would disappear, the Common Agricultural Policy that governs these benefits will be reviewed in 2011 and substantially reduced or eliminated altogether. Benefits accrued from a newly energised Irish farming sector, with the potential for becoming the safe food breadbasket of Europe, cannot be overstated.
7. The vision for a United Ireland by 2016 would seem to be illusionary at best, considering the current calamitous economic climate and the need for ordinary people to deal with bread and butter issues.
8. However, by withdrawing from the Euro Zone and reverting to the Irish punt, which in turn would have parity with the pound sterling, the border with Northern Ireland would be dissembled by uniting the country financially and economically. The current status, where two island economies compete to the detriment of both, would be effectively be undone.
What can Great Britain, Norway, Denmark and Iceland hope to gain from this new alliance? The simple answer is that we do not know. Organise a forum, invite representatives and interested parties from these countries, and find out what they can contribute and what they can gain from a new alliance.
Every day we see the way large-scale international systems have become increasingly unstable by constantly accelerating at the real cost to community needs and the waste of natural and human resources. The European Union and the Monetary Union have become an economic and political unit – and the recent riots and citizen uprising in Greece demonstrate the outrage that people feel when they are no longer masters of their own homes. There can be a better way. And there is no better time than now for a party such as Sinn Fein to find it.