What is Europe good for? Rather a lot, actually…

23 January 2014

12:50 PM

23 January 2014

12:50 PM

Europe, eh? Good for nothing, innit? That’s the prevailing narrative you hear these days. But, as so often, this is a matter of perspective. The chart above, plundered courtesy of Anne Applebaum’s twitter feed, shows the respective growths of GDP per capita in Poland and the Ukraine since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact.

One of these countries, as you can see, has done rather better than the other. It’s the country that has made a better fist of democracy. And it’s the country that is a member of the European Union.

Which is one reason why Britain should still be in favour of expanding EU membership. There are doubtless many things that explain why Poland has done so much better than the Ukraine but it is implausible to suppose that being a part of the Brussels Club has played no part in Poland’s success.


Actually, the EU has been vital to that success. Correlation is not the same as causation except when, you know, it is. Something happened in Poland in 2004 that did not happen in the Ukraine and that something was joining the European Union.

It is a reminder that the British perspective on the problems with the EU is often  – albeit unavoidably – a parochial one. The EU can be a frustrating place and it certainly does not want for shortcomings. Nevertheless, it has been a great enterprise for many millions of people across the continent, offering security and opportunities that had not previously been available. As such it has also been a great force for liberty and a means of advancing freedom for millions of individuals and, indeed, entire countries.

That does not mean reform is not required or that everything is splendid in the Brussels and Strasbourg gardens. Yet we too often ignore the EU’s very real successes and sometimes it would be useful to remember that, whatever its frustrations, the European project has many victories to its name too.

Perhaps this matters less to Britons (though Britain has shared in those triumphs too) but I fancy it matters quite a lot to the Poles and, in a different fashion, to the poor Ukrainians too.

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Show comments
  • Two Bob
  • RobertC

    After this rubbish, the Spectator wants me to re-start my subscription?


  • Two Bob

    Something happened in Poland in 2004. Yes millions of them fled abroad resulting in a lower welfare bill for them……

  • arthurenglish

    “Britain should still be in favour of expanding EU membership”

    How far east or south does Europe extend to?

    • Two Bob

      Libya, Egypt, Morocco…. maybe even Syria?

      • arthurenglish

        Well, let’s see. Libya, Egypt and Morocco are on the African continent and Syria is in the Levant – arguably Asia Minor.

        Doesn’t sound European to me but, then again, the EU has always presented fantasy as fact so nothing surprising there then!

        • Two Bob


  • Druth

    Massie typically engaging in the usual superior europhile retrospective justification. If the EU is so fine lets have the debate and then the ballot box. Don’t force it on us and then try and justify your actions after the event.

  • Redvers Cunningham

    The EU is good financially for East European nations as it opens up vast flows of money from the EU Commission paid over by net contributors like the UK.

    • HY

      Yes,the EU has been a godsend for the politicians of those nations with the Communist Party trough having been replaced by a bottomless EU trough. So many of their representatives, MEPs and Commissioners, are “former” communists and/or convicted crooks.

  • Ed_Burroughs

    The graph provided as evidence actually contradicts the contention of the article. What on earth explains the divergent behaviour pre 2004?

    • Jonathan J Lindsell

      Most sensible comment I’ve seen. The 2012 results show roughly where you’d predict the 90s-2004 trends to end up regardless of any EU/nonEU spike.
      This probably has more to do with proximity to Germany, strength of Solidarity (compared to Ukrainian disunity) etc etc

  • MC73

    Why not plot a chart with Poland and China GDP at 100 in 1990 and then track growth since then? Then write an article explaining how democracy has blighted Poland’s growth.

    “Correlation is not the same as causation except when, you know, it is.” No, you know, it is not.

    Massie comes out with more specious rubbish than the rest of the Speccie blogs combined..

  • shaft120

    Oh Alex, you do talk utter tripe sometimes. How long have you been trawling through thr stats to find an example of a country that would backlup the position ypu had already taken? Besides which, joining he EU may well be worthwhile for a country escaping the ruiness effects of he iron curtain. Moving from USSR to EUSSR is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Coming from the other direction it most certainly is not. Without independance to form free trade agreements and decide upon welfare and immigration rules that suit us as an anglosphere nation, we are throwing away the greatest gifts we have given the world. You like to discuss Scottish independence. How feeble and petty the Nationalists are who would be willing to cut there noses off to spite there faces in the name of a historic grudge against the english. Imstead tyimg themselves to the millstone of the EU and jumping into the North sea. It is no different to the sectarian extremists of Eire, fighting an old battle where all the reason was lost generations ago.

  • Psi

    Tell that to the Greeks, Italians, the Portuguese and most of all to
    the royally shafted Cypriots. That’s what’s coming for the Ukraine.

    That’s a cute deceptive chart you’ve provided. And here is the ugly truth behind that fake prosperity:

    Polish debt chart directly correlates with the “rise” in prosperity
    that you’ve tried to deceive with. It’s a pyramid scheme. They live on
    credit issued by fiat out of nothing , digging themselves deeper and
    deeper a la the Jewnited States.

    • Xix

      “Tell that to the Greeks, Italians, the Portuguese and most of all to
      the royally shafted Cypriots.”

      Who were shafted by their own governments.

      • Psi

        Seizures of the Cypriots’ bank accounts were imposed by the globalist judeo-masonic cabal controlling the EU . The same fate awaits Poland and anyone who decides to live beyond their means
        borrowing “money” created out of nothing by the judeo-masonic banksters. Once again look at the both charts – the one for the deceptive prosperity in the article and the one I’ve provided showing the real origins of this “prosperity” from usury – they match nearly perfectly.

  • Ricky Strong

    “Independence, the freedom of a self-governing nation, is in my estimation the highest political good, for which any disadvantage, if need be, and any sacrifice are a cheap price” John Enoch Powell

  • Jakubbo M

    Try adding Indonesia to the equation 🙂!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gnp_mktp_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:POL:UKR:IDN:ABW&ifdim=region&tstart=412124400000&tend=1327273200000&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    Clearly Europe (Ukraine incuded) is in stagnation, while Asia develops fast. Look at the winners of the game and what they do to succeed, not those far behind

  • McClane

    There are many, many other things that happened in Poland in 2004 that did not happen in the Ukraine. And in 1980, 1981, 1984 and in 1986. To make membership of the EU (or lack of) the single link between Poland as she is in 2014 and the Ukraine as she is in 2014 is naïve in the extreme.

    Membership of the EU simply validated Poland’s struggles before 2004, nothing more. The EU has done nothing for the Ukraine.

  • Fergus Pickering

    So it’s good for them but it ain’t good for us. Next question?

  • Martin Adamson

    Alex, any comparisons with a non-EU member like China over the same period?

  • Jambo25

    Pours large malt whisky and a bowl of salted peanuts; puts Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of the Goldbergs on the CD player: sits down and waits for a stream of posts about EUSSR etc.

    • shaft120

      Pays extra in taxation for the malt whisky than if he bought it outside the EU. His peanut selection is restricted to those companies bothered enough to implement the 500 pages of rules and directives the EU insist upon before a peanut can be traded to the EU. Chokes on nut and at the autopsy it is revealed peanuts were actually 100% horse bone. EU commisioner takes mistress out to dinner on the bribe pocketed from the romanian ‘peanut’ abattoir.

      • Jambo25

        Good reply.

  • black11hawk

    Perhaps it’s the €10 billion in infrastructure and development funds that Poland receives from Europe, or the billions in remittances sent back home by Polish ex-pats which they earn through enjoying the right of freedom of movement in the EU.

  • D Whiggery

    And imagine just how much better off Poland would have been if the EU was just an FTA rather than a customs union.

    More than half that graph is from when Poland was outside the EU as she joined in 2004. In the period before that she experienced stable and sustainable growth, in the period afterwards they experienced exponential growth that was inherently unstable, until bang.

    • sfin

      Well spotted!

  • Mr Grumpy

    What the graphic tells me is that the gap between the two economies was proportionally greater in 2004 than in 2012. Which suggests that the Poles managed their affairs rather well in the interval between getting Moscow off their backs and having Brussels to tell them what laws they can pass. So they certainly don’t need any patronising from Mr Massie.
    Ukraine’s core problem with democracy would seem to be that there is not one demos but two. But that’s not an observation that fits comfortably with the Massie narrative.

    • D Whiggery

      Good point.

  • Eddie

    Yes, but it could be much better. If the EU were a basic trade body and not some undemocratic, corrupt, quasi-Napoleonic bureaucracy – in other words, if it were more British/German and less French – then many Brits would get it and support it.
    The fantasists despots of the EU want to make history by creating a country called Europe despite the fact that the people do not want that.
    We need to be able to protect our borders; we need to recognise that countries are different, so the ideology that countries must give benefits to foreigners if they give them to their own citizens must end – because the playing field is not level (eg Spaniards can claim housing benefit in London; no such benefit exists in Spain so we cannot claim it there).
    I do agree however that Europe is a great place in general. It is just spoilt by EU idiocy, that’s all.

    • Daniel Maris

      Not half as well off, Eddie. Poland will have benefited from huge amounts of loans and grants from the EU to develop its infrastructure and transition to the EU. Its small farmer no doubt benefit handsomely as well.

      • Eddie

        Indeed – and France still refuses to reform the CAP because its farmers are enriched so by our taxes in the form of subsidies. For every Euro they put it they get one back; for every pound we put in we get 50p back in grants. If we reversed those numbers and France was a big loser (and Spain, and Italy etc) would they be such Europhiles eh? All self-interest, national interest and greed at the end of the day.

  • Alexsandr

    stop talking about ‘Europe’ – it is a continent full of great people.
    Talk instead of the dysfunctional EU, a creaking undemocratic behemoth that is running away out of control.
    We should still connect with Europe and its peoples, We should shun the useless EU
    (HAve you considered that Poland may have done well out of EU regional funds. That’s UK taxpayers, i.e our, money spend 1000’s of miles away

  • David Kay

    what idiot is going to fall for the line europe is good for you financially when its destroying your countrys identity? oh right the idiot LibLabCon artist voters

    Happy with the way your country is? Vote LibLabCon artists

    Not happy with the way your country is? Vote UKIP

  • Pip

    The debate over the EU is about Liberty and Democracy, NOT about Economics and anyone with a modicum of good sense realises now that the EU does not represent Democracy, never did and never will.

    • Xix

      “anyone with a modicum of good sense realises now that the EU does not represent Democracy, never did and never will.”

      Really? Please do tell us, how does the EU not represent democracy and liberty.

      • Wessex Man

        if you don’t know you shouldn’t have the vote!

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Because the unelected (got that bit – unelected) European Commission imposes all manner of laws and constraints on member states which their democratically elected parliaments are powerless to prevent. Now that wasn’t hard was it.

        • 10northo

          even if the commission is unelected, the parliament is, and the commission cant set new laws without permission from parliament.

      • IainRMuir

        How many of the EU Big Beasts have you been able to vote for within the last 25 years?

      • Paul Giles

        “Please do tell us, how does the EU not represent democracy and liberty.”

        Democracy is the rule of a demos, and the EU doesn’t have one. That was easy. Next question.

      • DazEng

        Please do tell us, how does the EU not represent democracy and liberty.

        mmmmmmmmmmm IRELAND VOTE AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ian Walker

      I think we should conduct an experment – Britain should leave the EU, purely for scientific purposes. If Mr Massie is correct, then our GDP per capita will fall.

  • Chris

    Force for liberty?!?!?!?!?!?!?
    Are you having a laugh?!?!?!??
    Where my freedom to object to mass immigration? Where’s my liberty to reject laws created with out my/our democratic mandate?

    • James Willby

      You can vote for UKIP. There’s your freedom right there. We will choose to vote differently, there by exercising *our* liberty. See how it works 😉

      • Ed_Burroughs

        Which just goes to show that democracy and liberty are highly incompatible.

    • Xix

      “Where’s my liberty to reject laws created with out my/our democratic mandate?”

      Umm, vote in European elections…?

      • DazEng

        Yes, And if they don’t like the outcome you will be told to vote again until they get what they want.

  • Eyesee

    Well, I’m not sure who you hope will be taken in by this tripe. Take two completely unconnected, but simultaneous events and claim one is responsible for the other! Canada is next door to the United States and yet it has managed to do what we are told is impossible; it has prospered on its own. Britain however, must be in the EU otherwise these near neighbours will turn on us (what, like in 1939?). The reason is democracy and the rule of law. Yet you say the saving grace for Poland is and for the Ukraine would be joining an anti-democratic construct, whose end goal is the creation of a Marxist oriented Soviet Union of Europe. In the Ukraine, the government ignores the will of the people, In Brussels the government ignores the will of the Greek people (and Denmark, France, Ireland). In Canada this doesn’t happen and woe betide a government that tried it. This is because it is a sovereign national not ruled by a pack calling itself ‘elite’, basing their actions on Marxist principles of State control. I would point out to you that Britain’s success has been based on Magna Carta and the Common Law, except both of these have been deleted in this land, as they put power in the hands of the people not the State and so are directly opposite the power structure in the EU. Yes, Britain and all the other idiots in the EU are heading towards being just like the Ukraine, with Greece and the Euro maybe leading the way.

    • tjamesjones

      Still, the facts are inconvenient for you aren’t they. Polish GDP has grown remarkably in the last 20 years, and Ukraine hasn’t. As cumbersome as EU bureaucracy is, I’d rather be living in the EU than in the Ukraine. I’m not sure what point you think you’re making regarding Canada, but you could look up NAFTA.

      • Eyesee

        Ooh, NAFTA, a free trade agreement. It might be regionalised, but it has no unifying political nature let alone control. So no comparison there. The Soviet Union on the other hand is a fair parallel, not least that it was as economically inept as the EU. The only success within the EU currently is due to the fact the Project isn’t complete yet. Mexico gets better trade terms with the EU than we do, but last time I looked it wasn’t in the EU. Norway is doing fine trading with EU countries without being in the club. And don’t talk about influence; the EU receives most of the rules and regulations it implements from other international bodies where it is just one member (representing a raft of countries) whereas Norway has a voice of its own. The EU hasn’t cured any of the imaginary problems it was set up to ‘deal with’, but it has created plenty. Without the EU countries could trade exactly the same, be more free and democratic with no downside. Oh and be a lot wealthier too.

        • tjamesjones

          Hey, if a post that says the Soviet Union is a “fair parallel” to the EU gets 10 upvotes and no downs, then I’ve clearly crashed the wrong party.

      • Wessex Man

        The point Eyesee is making is that you don’t need to be swallowed up by your next door neighbour to trade with them, at least that how I read it.

        Me personally, I would rather be living in a free democratic country trading with our European friends and the only way to do that is by voting UKip!

      • William Haworth

        Polish GDP has risen remarkably over the past 20 years. Fine. They’ve been in the EU for 9 of those years; how do you explain the rise relative to Ukraine in the preceding 11?

        • tjamesjones

          That’s a fair point. But I’m not some lover or defender of the EU, I just don’t think it’s the root of all evil or a Marxist state as the UKIPPERS seem to do in any spectator thread they find themselves in. Clearly joining the EU hasn’t stopped Poland’s progress, and in fact the free movement of capital and labour are no doubt important to maintaining growth from the 5000 dollars a person level towards the 15000 which is starting to get proper ‘first world’ standards of living. Yes in some ideal world they’d get the free movement of goods and services with Europe without some of the bureaucracy, but Poland was hardly in a position to negotiate that on entry to the EU.

          • Eyesee

            The reason I laugh at the EU’s attempt to pull the wool over our eyes with their ‘United States of Europe’ claims, is because I apply a test to what I see. That test could be described here as ‘if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck’. The EU is run by a bureaucratic elite, who have special shops that only they can use (discounted of course), special cars and all the rest. They build themselves palaces all the time and brook no argument (how dare Greece try to work themselves out of a crash? They must have their government replaced by EU placemen immediately!). In the actual US, states have a great deal of power with national interests held in the centre (and then constrained). The EU pulls power to the centre and never lets it go (no matter how much Cameron might try to kid you otherwise). Then there is the comedy of MEP’s. These exist only to make the people think they are governed by a democracy. In fact the MEP’s vote in minutes on hundreds of laws they have almost no idea about and if they don’t agree to what the bureaucrats (unelected) want, they have to keep trying until they get it ‘right’.

            • tjamesjones

              In the actual US they also have Federal Income tax and a national Army, Navy and Airforce. Is this what you want in Europe? Almost nobody likes the EU bureaucracy, I know I don’t, but it’s some way down my list of concerns. Higher on my list is Ed Balls, who wants to increase spending, increase income tax and no doubt introduce property taxes as well.