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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Austria and why EU members are running scared

It starts with the bees. And human greed. This part of Austria is home to the Carniolan bee, and government legislation prohibits the introduction of foreign bee varieties. In this, it is strongly supported by the region's amateur beekeepers (of whom I hope to be one later this year) who work hard to keep alive traditional apiculture in the valleys and heights. Indeed, Wald Honig or honey made 'in the forest' sells at a premium and is quite delicious. So far, the purity of our unique bee sub-species is being maintained in a sustainable and committed way. 

The villains are the 'professional' bee keepers. Like many Austrians, they've become used over the past twenty years to high incomes for little work. So they keep more hives than they can manage, don't have time for the hour a week hygiene routine that each hive needs, and the Varroa parasite loads on their colonies (or 'bee people' in the local lingo) are through the roof. Their answer to high Varroa mortality is to keep even more bees and factor the loss of up to 20% of hives, like Great War generals throwing whole divisions into the slaughter. Secondly, they're too greedy for the valuable honey, and don't leave the bees enough of their own to get through the harsh -20deg winters, substituting with cheap sucrose the healthy gold they overharvest. Thirdly, they want to introduce the higher yielding Buckfast bee to force out the Carniolan natives. All to help maintain their income. I'm pleased to say they've been seen off for now, but we're all watching like hawks as no-one trusts them an inch.   

The fruit growers are the same. They've introduced foreign heavier cropping varieties that bud and flower much earlier in the season than the native plants, which have learnt over several thousand years all about late frosts. The consequence is inevitable; a late frost decimates their foreign fruit crops and they whine for compensation. It's greed. It's just happened again.

This is macho country, where a man needs to be a man and must drive a 4 x 4 resembling a Humvee and weighing two tonnes to prove it. They all lie that of course they've bought them for cash, but most know that they're all purchased under the universal 5 year leases that keep the motor industry afloat. More debt.

This is a protectionist economy where no-one has to work too hard. Estate agent fees are fixed by law at 3%, so they don't even have to pretend to be competitive and the product is dire. Property adverts on the web are often little more than a couple of blurred and wonky cellphone pictures and a couple of lines of text - why should they bother? 

The generation at fault is the boomers, roughly my own age cohort. Their parents proudly owned without debt their own homes, many of them small hobby farms, frequently with enough land for the son or daughter to build their own home on when they married, but always fully owned. Then came the pre-2008 financial tsunami with the crooked, now bust, Alpe Adria bank lending absurd huge sums for junk security. And boy did the younger Austrians load up on debt. The end result is most of that previously debt-free real estate is now heavily mortgaged. One generation has squandered the wealth of all its forebears, and now has nothing but debt and liability to pass on. A jerk in interest rates, a shock to the shaky debt structure and the whole lot will come tumbling down.

Austria is a country that's quite good at forgetting. In this case, they want to forget that the country was actually quite poor until the last generation; my cousins here used a horse until the 1980s for farm muscle, and their mother lived her life in a wooden blockhouse with an outside lavvy and the cowshed connected by passage to the kitchen. However, their reluctance to admit the recent past (even more than the more distant past) is mistaken - it's not the past rural poverty that's shameful, but the current debt and greed. They're unwilling to work for competitive rates, and rely on protectionist measures including the Finance Police raiding firms using cheaper Slovenian workers, but such measures are doomed to failure.

There's an article in the Telegraph by Peter Foster that I commend. And yes, I blame the EU for the coming earthquake; they bought the silence of Europe's people with crooked bribes and false wealth. They have destroyed whole countries and communities in their lust for power, and the bill is still to pay. No wonder they're terrified by Brexit into drunken braggadocio. 

The horse was called Lottie. Shamed that I can't readily recall my cousin's name


Nick Drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Drew said...

This makes me wonder if the Kohldorf hobby-farms in Germany are also financed thus

anyone know?

DeeDee99 said...

Interesting read Raedwald.

I know nothing about bees, but I do know that the French (another greedy, protectionist country) have just voted to keep the EU merry-go-ground spinning for a few more years.

But that's good: it will give us a bit longer to get well away and prepare ourselves for the earthquake when it comes.

RAC said...

I too know nothing about bees but it would seem CDF to me that if you take the natural honey away from them and replace it with junk food it is a recipe for trouble.

English Pensioner said...

Enjoy your bees. I used to keep bees until I was no longer able to lift the weight of the 'supers' to carry out the necessary regular inspections. They also became a bit of a problem if one wanted to take a summer holiday.
@ RAC.
It's normal procedure to feed the bees with sugar once the honey has been taken from the hives, if you steal their winter food store they will die without an alternative supply. But not too much so that it becomes part of the following year's honey crop.

Wildgoose said...

One generation has squandered the wealth of all its forebears

So true.

Whether it be the wholesale sell-off of the mutual building societies or similar squandering of material and cultural capital built up over centuries.

For example, most of the Water Companies were built, paid for and owned via the subscriptions of local rate-payers. They were first nationalised (stolen) from the local Municipal Corporations by Labour, without recompense, and then later sold off for a pittance by the Conservatives.

And to what end? They are in essence nationalised once more in that they are owned by foreign governments. And in whose interests do those governments act? Our people or their people?

rapscallion said...

Protectionism is a double-edged sword isn't it? Yes, it is right to protect the quality of the honey by using only the Carniolan bee. It is quite another where Estate Agent fees are fixed at 3% by law, and as you rightly point out - why make the effort? No one else will.

This is a perfect example of where the EU seeks to "protect" everything, not realising that a) you can't, and B)You discourage competition and raise the cost of everything.

Yes, the EU has bought off the people's of Europe, because as ever, so many people don't see further than the tip of their nose. it's always short-termisn, and that is what's going to ruin them in the end.

mike fowle said...

The comment about estate agents' fees is very interesting, (I'm assuming it's all correct), when in the UK agents on line are now offering fee free services!

RAC said...

@English Pensioner Yes but if the artificial sugar feed was best for them they would have evolved to produce that themselves instead of honey. Perhaps generations of malnutrition is a factor in their die off.

John M said...

There is no small irony in the current noisy 'demands' from the EU Commission to Britain for a settlement fee when you consider that the EU's own accounts haven't been successfully signed off by auditors for the last 22 years,

The whole thing is a crooked Ponzi scheme (like most Government spending, but the fewer Ponzi layers the better!) for the benefit of the parasitical layer of bureaucrats, MEPs and Presidents it employs and expenses.

raedwald said...

Mike, astonishing but yes!

You're lucky if there are 2 pics on the web - one of which will be a photo of the heating boiler or the electric switchboard (really) there are no floorplans, no boundary plans and as few location details as possible - in case buyers and sellers transact directly and cut the estate agents out. And remember there's no google street view here as it violates privacy.

On the upside, cash buyers can find bargains - some of which you can buy on a credit card. I recently missed out on a 2 bed holzhaus on 400m2 of land in a rural spot that was inhabitable and which went for €2,200. An offer here if accepted constitutes a sale.

Try if interested. Today's bargain is a run-down forest house in Styria up for €14.5k - but I'm sure they'd take an offer

mike fowle said...

Thanks for the info, Radders and the link. Remarkable isn't it.

Mike Spilligan said...

This probably doesn't add much to this discussion, certainly nothing about bees, but I live in Vienna for 18 months in 1991/2 and the first thing I noticed was how "perfectly old-fashioned" it was. On Sundays there were families (2 or 3 generations) strolling through the city with paper cones of sweets and the trees and lamp-posts in the Graben would have (romantic?) poems attached to them with contact phone numbers. All was pleasant and peaceful
An Austrian colleague told me that there had been flats with communal bathrooms into the 1980s - or was that just the Karl Marx Estate?
My occasional visits over the years have seen nothing but decline; the last was three years ago when I was accosted in the city several times by beggars - moderately well-dressed ones - calling, in English, for "Money, money, money". What a fall there has been.