Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy

One flew over the EU's mess

Opinion piece (The Wall Street Journal)
19 March 2012

Welcome to the European Union Home for the Economically Insane. We care for nations dealing with status anxiety, paranoia and low self-esteem, or those who are simply drifting into a senile old age. Please follow me on the guided tour.

Upstairs we have the Acropolis Room. This is where Dr. Draghi and Nurse Merkel tend to chronically ill patients, some of whom are hooked up to life-support machines. Nurse Merkel spends a lot of her time tending personally to one Mr. We-Invented-Democracy-You-Know, sadly comatose since 2008. Sometimes she sits beside him all day, as he lies in his blue-and-white striped pajamas, a pillow resting on her lap.

Dr. Draghi and Nurse Merkel would never dream of disagreeing openly in front of the patients or other staff. Yet they have quiet differences over therapeutic matters. Nurse Merkel is a big believer in electric shocks that, when administered to the head, can get a patient on their feet again. Privately, the good doctor finds this risky and a bit Neanderthal. He prefers injections of anti-depressants and other drugs to ease the patients' suffering while leaving their personalities intact. The hospital orderly, Mr. Sarkozy, tries to join in their exchanges. But the truth is that he does not know very much about medicine.

Next is the common Security and Defense Room, where patients can divert themselves with puzzles, games and activities. These mainly focus on geography. Some patients used to be professional explorers in a former life. And Sir Mother-of-All-Parliaments and Mme. We-Invented-Human-Rights were also rivals at international chess tournaments long, long ago. Now, most patients limit themselves to ping-pong or the occasional bingo night where they get to argue pointlessly about the score.

Very occasionally, we venture abroad on little day trips. However these are less and less common and rarely far afield. Indeed, though we have parking facilities at the Home, most patients are getting rid of their old automobiles as they are expensive to run and maintain. Concerned relatives tell them that this means a loss of independence. But they do not seem to care very much about that.

The Schengen Wing is our unfinished double extension. The hospital administrators muse glumly over some advice that they have received recently from quantity surveyors: It may not be safe to complete the building work as scheduled because the newly laid foundations are still unstable. But to heed this warning would spoil the original blueprints and more space is urgently needed for new patients. So we are likely to carry on regardless. Bigger is better.

We have a few troublesome patients, though Sir Mother-of-All-Parliaments is the most difficult. He has a real problem with authority and often quarrels with the hospital administrators. Nurse Merkel and Head Orderly Sarkozy do not care for him at all. Some days he refuses to accept that he needed to be institutionalized in the first place, and has pretensions to lead the other patients in rebellion. Recently, he even refused to sign one of the Compacts that we intermittently require of our patients, in which they promise to be good forever and ever.

But, thankfully, Sir Mother-of-All-Parliaments is not very articulate and never properly expresses what it is that has upset him so much. He is a troublemaker and very obstinate: a potential candidate for a lobotomy.

In the lobby, we pass Big Chief Voter, another longstanding patient and a native of these parts. We assume that he is both deaf and dumb since we never hear him speak. He seems to go along with all our decisions—however painful—without protest. That is fortunate as he is freakishly big and powerful. We sometimes joke that one day he might snap and use his incredible strength to break through the institution's wall to escape.

This is our little asylum, where we have retreated from an outside world that is too tiresomely hectic. Here, we and the patients have each other. And there are still a few places left. If you think you are crazy enough, why not apply to join?