Inspections will allow Brussels propose possible budget changes
The fund has rejected complaints from its former chief of mission to Ireland Ashoka Mody who said the austerity policies were doing more harm than good.
It has meanwhile emerged that Ireland will have to remain subject to regular budget inspections for almost two decades despite exiting the bailout this year.
Mr. Mody had said Ireland should consider scaling back its austerity policies. However the IMF says Mr. Mody no longer works for the fund and his views do not represent those of the fund.
The IMF has suggested it wants a full budget package of €3.1 billion in spending cuts and tax increases even if it is more than enough to meet Irish targets.
The Finance Minister has meanwhile confirmed that Ireland will remain subject to Troika inspections for almost two decades.
Michael Noonan says rules agreed by ministers last year will mean Ireland will have regular visits until it has repaid three-quarters of its EU bailout loans. Under our current timetable Ireland will not reach that target until 2032.
The inspections will allow authorities in Brussels to propose possible changes to future Irish budgets long after the bailout programme ends this December.
A group of Irish online publishers say draft European laws could force users to register just to see the homepage of a website.
WEB USERS could be forced to register with a website just to see its homepage, if the current draft of an EU regulation on online data is not changed before becoming law.
That’s according to a group of small and medium-sized Irish digital advertising firms, which says a new data protection regulation being put together in Brussels could make it virtually impossible to show content to casual users.
IAB Ireland, a trade association for the online advertisers, says the current draft of the laws would mean websites could only show content to users who explicitly approve the submission of some of their personal data.
It also extends the definition of ‘personal data’ to include non-personal details like an internet user’s IP address and the cookies stored by their browser.
IAB Ireland’s member firms say the rules could mean the end of an era where users can “serendipitously” discover new websites – as they would have to explicitly approve the submission of their personal data simply to see its homepage.
The group said it was important to realise that the laws would be coming in the form of a European regulation – meaning it would automatically become law in each EU member state, and was not subject to national amendment or discretion.
While this has advantages – making sure that online publishers only have to deal with one set of rules, instead of complying with dozens of separate legal systems – it also requires the unanimous approval of all EU member states, and the European Commission and Parliament, to be changed.
Once the laws were in, therefore, it was almost impossible for individual countries to engineer a change – meaning it was vital that the final regulation be workable and fully thought through.
‘Large parts of the web could disappear’
Eamonn Fallon, chief executive of Distilled Media whose sites include TheJournal.ie, said large parts of the web could “disappear behind login walls” if the regulation was not amended before being brought into law.
He added that users would also have to explicitly agree to send their IP address to different sites, whose content might all appear on one page.
So, for example, a website featuring ads controlled by Google would be asked whether they wanted to give Google their IP address, simply in exchange for allowing the ads to appear on the page. Similarly, Facebook users could be asked to explicitly send their IP address to Facebook just so a ‘Like’ button could appear.
Fallon said that if information like a user’s IP address was considered ‘personal’, “the only way companies like ours can legally run web analytics and third party adservers would be to force all our users to login.”
Digitize director John Patten added it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible, to gather explicit consent on the websites on which ad networks, or site analytics companies, operate.”
This was because the companies delivering ads to users, or compiling readership figures on behalf of a web publisher, “do not have have a direct relationship with the users from whom they would need to obtain explicit consent.”
The group says the regulation’s whole purpose – to try and minimise the data that websites can collect about users – would be totally undermined if it forced websites to actively seek more information from users before allowing them to view content.
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly, who attended an IAB media event this morning, is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the data protection updates. Kelly says he has tabled a number of amendments to the draft regulations, to try and address the concerns of the SMEs.
“We are working hard at an EU level to ensure that the Regulation balances strong protection for consumer rights with the opportunity to facilitate SMEs in Ireland and across Europe to prosper in the digital economy,” he said.
KIEV – Ukraine is being pulled in two directions — on the one hand, towards Russia and its so-called Customs Unions, on the other towards the European Union. Time is running out for Kiev to decide which path to take.
According to Christopher Weil, the German ambassador in Ukraine, freeing Yulia Tymoshenko would be extremely welcome to EU members, and would likely be a major step towards an agreement between Brussels and Kiev — a precursor to Ukraine’s integration into the European Union.
Weil said that if Tymoshenko is released, an agreement could be signed as soon as November, during a planned summit of the “Eastern Partnership,” an organization of former Soviet-block countries that are potential candidates for EU members.
This would only be the first step in a long process towards membership in the European Union. It’s not clear how many years, or decades, eventual membership might take for Ukraine. Right now, Europe is only offering initial observer status, rather than full participation in the elite club, and with uncertainty about the longterm conditions of joining. On the other hand, if Ukraine were to sign on to Russia’s trade pact, it would immediately have the same rights and standing as all of the other members.
It might seem natural to opt for the latter, but there are good arguments in favor of Europe, starting with the fact that the total market of the EU is nearly ten times as large as that of the Customs Union, which is made up of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Still, there is no existing market for Ukrainian goods in the European market, and the country’s large agricultural sector would likely come under strict control, while there are still economic connections that date back to Soviet times between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Finally, Russia has made it very clear that entering its Customs Union is absolutely necessary if Ukraine wants lower gas prices.
While all this is going on, the country’s economic situation grows desperate. Although politicians strike an optimistic tone in public, in conversations with Kommersant, local and national leaders all admitted the dire situation.
“There is no money in the country. Pretty soon the government won’t have the resources to pay salaries or pensions,” said political scientist Konstantin Matvienko. “Neither the IMF or Russia is in a rush to provide a line of credit. The European Union also has its own problems to worry about. The situation is looking like a dead end.”
Viktor Yanukovich continues to negotiate between Moscow and Brussels, looking for the best conditions. But the problem is that nobody is that excited to be negotiating with Kiev. Both Russia and the EU are just dictating their conditions — the Kremlin wants Ukraine to enter the Customs Union, the EU wants political liberalization and freedom for Yulia Tymoshenko.
According to experts, mercy for his most important political competitor is not part of Yanukovich’s plans. Instead, he is already looking ahead to the next national elections, which aren’t until 2015. “In a situation where the standard of living is falling and discontent is rising, the only way to win the election is to shatter the opposition, weaken it, and bring the most odious of the opposition representatives to the second round of voting, so that next to him or her Yanukovich will seem like the lesser evil,” says Ukrainian political scientist Dmitrii Ponamarchuk.
Of all the opposition figures, the most “odious” is obviously Oleg Tyagnyibok, the head of the ultra-nationalist movement called “Freedom”, which got more than 10 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections last October. With his extreme anti-Russian sentiments, Tyagnyibok undoubtedly will repel most of the electorate in the Russian-speaking southeast, as well as a large part of the Ukrainian-speaking center.
Freeing Tymoshenko, as the EU insists, could spoil everything. The “Princess” of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution is still the most important symbol of opposition to Yankovich and his partners. If allowed to run, she has a decent chance of coming out ahead of Tyagnyibok, making it to the second round and winning over Yanukovich. That is why Ukrainian President is unlikely to play by the rules Berlin and Brussels are dictating. Alternative solutions include Yanukovich agreeing to let Tymoshenko off, but delaying her release until after the elections are over.
Either way, we can be sure that Europe will be watching — and Russia too.
Amnesia, recession, the failure of political elites, divided societies… The free and caring Europe that was the dream of oppressed peoples no longer exists, it is just that European leaders lack the courage to admit it, says a Bulgarian political analyst.
The European Union no longer exists, at least not as we know it. And the question is not what will be the form of the new Union, but rather why this Europe, which was the focus of so many of our dreams no longer exists. The answer is simple: today, all of the pillars that served to build and justify the existence of the European Union have collapsed.
Chief among these was the memory of the Second World War. A survey of German secondary school students in the 14-16 age bracket, which was published a little over a year ago, showed that a third of these young people did not know who Hitler was, and 40 per cent were convinced that human rights had been respected to an equal degree by every German government since 1933. This in no way implies that there is a nostalgia for fascism in Germany. No, it simply means that we now have to contend with a generation that has nothing to do with this history. Today the conviction that the EU continues to derive legitimacy from its roots in the war is in an illusion.
The second element that facilitated the geopolitical emergence of to the Union was the Cold War: once again, a phenomenon that no longer exists. Today, the EU does not have – and cannot have — an enemy that can justify its existence in the same manner as the post-1949 USSR. In short, allusions to the Cold War can in no way contribute to the resolution of the EU’s problems of legitimacy.
The third pillar that has crumbled is prosperity. The EU continues to be very rich – even if this observation does not apply to countries like Bulgaria. However, 60 per cent of Europeans believe that their children will not live as well as they do. With this in mind, the problem is not how we live today, but what kind of life can we expect in the future. The positive prospect constituted by faith in a better future, which was a powerful source of legitimacy, has also disappeared.
Another source of legitimacy was a belief in convergence, which led poor countries joining the EU to expect that they would progressively acquire advantages in tune with membership of a rich man’s club. This still had some basis in fact a few years ago, but today, if the economic forecasts for the next 10 years are to be believed, a country like Greece is likely to remain as poor in comparison to Germany as it was on the day of its accession to the Union.
Everyone says that the EU is an elitist project. It’s true. Today, the problem is not that elites have become anti-European, but that they no longer carry any weight in national debates. The fact that all of them are fundamentally in favour of a united Europe is of no consequence, because no one listens to them anymore; they have lost touch with the people. Take a close look at sociological surveys, and you will see that the legitimacy of the EU has different explanations depending on whether you are in the north or the south of the continent.
In countries like Germany and Sweden, people have confidence in the EU because they also believe in the good faith of their own governments. In Italy, Bulgaria and Greece, people do not trust their own politicians, and that is why they believe in the EU. The logic of this position is that “even if we do not know them, the politicians in Brussels could not be worse than our own.” However, the latest crisis has shown this sentiment is beginning to crumble, and this confidence has been undermined.
Europe is aging
Last but not least, the final pillar is the welfare state. There is no denying that the existence of a strong welfare state is an integral part of the identity of the EU. As it stands, however, the issue is not whether this welfare state should be viewed as good or bad, but whether it can continue to be viable in a context that is not only marked by global competition, but also by major demographic changes in Europe. The problem is that the Europeans are melting away like snow in a hot sun. By 2060, 12 per cent of the EU’s population will be over 80 years old. Europe is aging. So perhaps the fact that the Union often behaves like a senile pensioner in the international arena is not a coincidence. And from whom should we borrow to keep this welfare state which is so vital to the elderly up and running? From future generations? Unfortunately, they are already being tapped to pay for the accumulation of public debt…
Another consequence of the crisis has been the emergence of new divisions on the continent. Within the EU, there is no longer any separation between the West and the East, but other more critical distinctions have taken its place.
EU is not the Eurozone
First and foremost, there is the distinction between Eurozone countries and other states. Very often, when they speak of the EU, the French, the Germans and the Spanish are really thinking about the Eurozone. However, this division will remain irrelevant while strategically important countries like Sweden, Poland and the UK are not included in the euro. The other major division is the one that exists between creditor and debtor countries. When Greece wanted to organise a referendum on the country’s bailout, Berlin made the following objection: “You want to hold a referendum about our money!” There is some sense to this remark … No country should be held hostage by the Eurozone. But that is precisely the problem when you have a currency without a common policy.
How should the crisis be tackled? On close examination, some EU countries are in crisis, while others are not — or are at least not as badly affected. At the same time, in some cases, the crisis has had a positive impact on certain practices. From this standpoint, the main outcome of every policy is that there are winners and losers. This is something that the politicians have been careful not to tell us. However, it is not so much a problem, because it is always the case: there are always winners and losers. The devil is in the detail: how should people be compensated and how should others be convinced that it is in their interest to adopt such a policy in the first place.
We continue to be convinced that win-win policies do in fact exist. Given the current situation in the EU, however, this amounts to wishful thinking, because the natural solidarity that exists in nation states has yet to be established on the level of the Union. Worse still, EU countries do not all share the same history or the same language. It is not unusual to speak of “we” in reference to Europe, but what does this mean exactly? If the EU is to function correctly, the absolute need to define what is meant by “we” in the context Europe will have to be addressed.
The protestors from Ballyhea and Charleville in Co Cork are meeting members of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee, including its chairwoman, Sharon Bowles from Britain’s Liberal Democrats.
The group said the ultimate goal of its travel was to seek assistance in securing a meeting with the European Central Bank, which it holds responsible for pushing Ireland into a sovereign bailout to save its banking sector.
Campaign founder Diarmuid O’Flynn told radioep.ie it was his ultimate goal to get a meeting at the Frankfurt-based bank so he could ask it to explain its actions.
Members have already travelled to Frankfurt to seek such meetings, but have met with little success.
“We’re hoping that first of all as a member of the parliament – but secondly as a member of the Economic Committee – that she [Bowles] has some influence with the ECB,” O’Flynn told radioep.ie’s Karen Coleman. “We’re hoping she can do something for us. I don’t know if she can.”
O’Flynn – a sports writer with the Irish Examiner by day – said ultimately it was his hope to speak and negotiate directly with the bank.
I would like to somebody in the eye in the ECB, and ask them to justify what they have done to the Irish people.
To justify what they have done: all the lies that they told us, all the bullying that went on, all the blackmailing that went on… that unless you accept this bank debt, we’re going to pull the plug on the other funding.
I would like to look someone [in the eye] in the ECB – not somebody at the bottom, somebody at the top – to justify what they have done to us.
The group is bringing a number of letters, directly addressed to Bowles, written by ordinary people in Ireland outlining how they have been affected by the crash and by the austerity that has followed the bailout.
On the group’s Facebook page, O’Flynn acknowledged that trying to unilaterally seek negotiations with the ECB was “a big ask”, but said:
“If you don’t ask, and our highly-paid government negotiators didn’t, then you have no chance.”
What a laugh this report is given that the Minister would not even be capable of organizing a visit to a hospital
MINISTER FOR HEALTH James Reilly has given a personal pledge to “tackle the smoking problem” and called for combined measures to regulate tobacco products.
Speaking in Brussels in a meeting of the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, Reilly also called for comprehensive assistance to smokers who want to quit and media information campaigns.
The committee was discussing the proposal to revise the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive which focuses on smokeless tobacco products, packaging and labelling, ingredients or additives, cross-border distance sales and traceability and security issues. It also aims to harmonise the implementation of international obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Speaking about the proposal before the committee Commissioner Tonio Borg said tobacco “should look like tobacco and taste like tobacco as well, not like vanilla or other sweets”.
“These products are produced in this way to be attractive to the young. Let’s not forget that most people start smoking below the age of 25 and the majority when they are still minors,” he said. Several other MEPs echoed his call for flavoured tobacco products to be abolished.
However Danish MEP, Anna Rosbach, said that the committee should not forget that governments need the revenues generated by tobacco. “The fiscal impact is something we have to bear in mind”, she said. “Any smoker who stops is a good investment.”
Minister Reilly said that economically, it is a “no brainer”, because of the heavy costs that smoking imposes on health systems and on the economy, through absenteeism from work.
Italian MEP Oreste Rossi said he was worried that too many limits place upon people would result in an increase in the trade of illegal cigarettes. However Borg reassured the committee that security and tracking provisions were also proposed in the directive.
The Political Basis of the EU and its effects on Ireland- Part 2 follows tomorrow
All States and aspiring States have their myths of origin. The myth of origin of the EU is that it is a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France – as if a tendency to go to war is somehow genetically inherited.
The actual facts are however that the first step towards supranational economic integration, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was to facilitate German rearmament at the start of the Cold War with Russia and to reconcile France to that fact. The US wanted a rearmed West Germany inside NATO. This greatly alarmed France which had been occupied by Germany just a few years before.
Jean Monnet, who was America’s man in the affair, came up with the solution. To assuage France’s fears he drafted the Schuman Declaration proposing to put the coal and steel industries of France, Germany and Benelux under a supranational High Authority as “the first step in the federation of Europe”. A federation is a State, so the political aim of establishing a State or quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony has been there from the start. The EU celebrates 9 May, the date of this Declaration, as “Europe Day” each year. Monnet became secretary of the supranational High Authority, the predecessor of today’s Brussels Commission.
Thus historically the EU is in its origin an out-of-date legacy of the Cold War, pushed by the USA in the 1950s to provide an economic underpinning to NATO in Europe.
Simultaneously “Europeanism” became the creed of a legion of intellectuals across the continent, disillusioned by the failed ideologies of the 20th century. They provided ideological arguments in support of their assault on all things national. Their central assertion was that conflict between Europe’s States could be prevented by putting their national democracies under the control of a supranational high authority of non-elected technocrats – namely themselves or people like themselves – while trying to merge their peoples in a kind of jellybowl of nations.
They developed the doctrine that by “pooling” sovereignty small States increase their influence over bigger ones, whereas in practical reality it is the other way round. Classically, the concept of sovereignty means that a State is the sole author of the laws prevailing in its territory. For EU members however most laws now come from Brussels. Talk of pooling sovereignty is like referring to a woman as being half-pregnant. Sovereignty “pooled” is sovereignty surrendered.
Forty years after the 1951 Coal and Steel Community, and the 1957 Treaty of Rome setting up the European Economic Community(EEC) which followed, another shift in Franco-German power, Germany’s reunification as a side-effect of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, led these two countries to establish the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and its single currency, the euro.
The big increase in Germany’s population and territory on reunification greatly alarmed France. However France had nuclear weapons, which Germany was precluded from having under the post-War treaties. The deal between the two of them was EU Monetary Union for Political Union or, put crudely, the Deutschemark for the Euro-bomb. Germany would give up its national currency, the symbol of its post-war economic achievement, and share the running of a new supranational EU currency with France, while France agreed to work jointly with Germany towards a supranational EU political union with its own common foreign, security and defence policy.
This would give Germany a central role in running a potential EU world power, with its finger on a nuclear trigger in due time. France in turn hoped the euro would give it a political lock on Germany. “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency and we have changed that,” exulted EU Commission President Romano Prodi. A Franco-German army brigade with joint officers and a joint command was simultaneously set up as a symbol and prototype of the EU army of the future. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have since joined this as contributors to a common “Eurocorps”.
France and Germany are said to share a common interest in being joint engines of the EU integration project. The conventional wisdom has been that if they stay together they can push through the Brussels institutions whatever policy suits their interests, while between them they are strong enough to prevent any other group of EU States from adopting policies they do not like. The reality is somewhat different however, as Germany was always going to be the big winner in moves towards an EU monetary and political union.
The Intoxication of Big Powerdom:
That political realist, Germany’s 19th century chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, once said: “I have always found the word ‘Europe’ on the lips of those powers which wanted something from others which they dared not demand in their own names.”
The rhetoric of Euro-federalism, talk of “the European ideal”, the requirements of “the EU project”, the supposed “necessity” of Europe’s unification and the like, is essentially political cover for the national interests of the States concerned, as mediated by their political and economic elites.
Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung put the point succinctly:
“One formula for understanding the EU is this: Take five broken empires – Germany, France, Italy, Holland and Belgium – add a sixth one later, Great Britain, and try to make one grand neo-colonial empire out of it all.”
The founding members of the original EEC, apart from Luxembourg, had all been imperial powers for centuries. They were all defeated, occupied and ravaged during World War 2. After 1945 they found themselves in a world dominated by the two military superpowers, the USA and USSR. The European governmental elites, who were used to thinking in imperial terms, said to themselves: if we cannot be Big Powers in the world on our own any longer, let us try to be a Big Power collectively.
Germany in particular saw EU integration as the way back to world power following its reunification, with France ever more desperately pretending to be her equal partner in the process.
This is not the whole story of the EU, but it is fundamental to understanding its development.
Different countries had their own motives for embracing supranationalism. Britain wanted to prevent the continent being dominated by the Franco-Germans. She sought either to prise them apart or else be co-opted by them in running the EU as a triumvirate. Both aims proved illusory, and this is the root of British Euro-scepticism.
Spain, Portugal and Greece saw the EU as guaranteeing democracy following long periods of dictatorship. The East Europeans saw it as a way of moving out of Russia’s sphere of influence. Their representatives in the EU bureaucracy, the European Parliament, the Court of Justice, Central Bank etc. are paid salaries which are typically ten times higher than what they would get at home. This makes Brussels a specially attractive career prospect.
For them as for politicians, senior bureaucrats, media people and social science academics in the smaller EU States generally there is the sense of importance of having wider fields to conquer, side by side with representatives of the big countries, and the intoxication of helping to build a superpower. ”It is much nicer to be running Europe than running Slovakia,“ as one of them put it.
The Economic Basis of the EU:
The Franco-German economic deal which was embodied in the original 1957 Treaty of Rome offered protection for French farmers in return for free trade for German industry. The Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) kept European food prices high for decades by reducing food imports from the rest of the world. Farmers like high food prices. As CAP supports were tied to volume of production, this benefited big farmers most, French and Irish ones particularly.
On the free trade side the EU Treaties make it illegal under supranational EU law for governments to put obstacles in the way of the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour between the 27 EU Member States. National Governments are legally forbidden to discriminate in favour of their own citizens or business firms by adopting any such measures, whether liberal or restrictive, although the possibility of doing that if it is judged to be in the interest of a people’s economic welfare is one of the main reasons why countries want to have their own governments in the first place.
From the standpoint of private capital it is normal to want minimal interference by the State with private profit-making activities. EU law drastically limits the possibility of such interference. Any national law which seeks to enforce a national common good in the economic sphere must give way to EU law in areas covered by the Treaties.
This is what makes transnational capital, firms with branches in different EU countries, the principal lobbyists for ever further EU economic integration.
Most EU laws and court cases before the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) are concerned with enforcing these rules. The constitution of the EU, the Treaty of Rome and its amending treaties, is in effect the first State or quasi-State constitution in history to be drawn up entirely in the interest of big business, without the slightest popular or democratic input into its making.
The EU’s foundational “four freedoms” – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour – enshrine the basic principles of classical laissez-faire as constitutional imperatives which no government or elected parliament may legally change or violate, regardless of the wishes of their voters.
The Succession of EU Treaties:
Each successive EU Treaty was sold to the different peoples across Europe as a modest incremental step towards getting more jobs, growth and higher living standards. Yet each took powers away from national parliaments and governments and the citizens which elected these, turning the Nation States of Europe into provincial shells, subverting their national democracy and making their citizens subject to a supranational political and economic elite which runs an EU system whose workings most people poorly understand.
This is the “Great Deception” of the EU integration project, a constitutional revolution by stealth.
– THE 1957 TREATY OF ROME set up the European Economic Community(EEC) to complement the supranational Coal and Steel Community of 1951. This principal EU foundation treaty established the four supranational institutions, the European Commission, Council, Court and Parliament – the latter originally called an Assembly – to enforce free movement of goods, services, capital and labour among the original six Member States, and to manage the Common Agricultural Policy.
Over the next half-century membership of the EU went from the original six founding members – Germany, France, Italy and Benelux – to nine to twelve to fifteen to twenty-seven in 2012 and twenty-eight in 2013 with Croatia’s accession. Thirty years after the Treaty of Rome came the next major push to Euro-federalism, the treaty called the Single European Act.
– THE 1987 SINGLE EUROPEAN ACT (SEA) set up the so-called “single market”. This made non-tariff barriers to trade illegal under EU law, ranging from State aids to public purchasing to discriminatory health and safety measures at national level. The SEA led to a host of harmonization directives to iron out national differences in product standards and specifications. To enforce these rules, unanimity was replaced by qualified or weighted majority voting across most economic areas in the EU.
Brussels regards all sorts of unrelated issues as single market ones – for example working hours, emissions trading, driving tests, vitamin supplements – for this shifts what are essentially domestic matters to the supranational level where they can be decided by means of qualified majority voting.
The cost of such measures to national economies is enormous. Yet most economists tend to ignore them when working out whether a country is a net contributor to or a net beneficiary from the EU. They just subtract the flows of funds between national treasuries and Brussels.
Taking the onerous regulatory burden of the “acquis communautaire” into account greatly changes the calculation of the economic costs of EU membership. New EU Member States are compelled to adopt every single one of this vast superstructure of rules.
– THE 1992 MAASTRICHT TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION required all EU Members apart from Britain and Denmark to abolish their national currencies and adopt a single EU currency, the euro. So far 17 of the 27 have done this. The internal “price” of a currency is the rate of interest, the external “price” the rate of exchange. So by joining the Eurozone the 17 countries concerned have abandoned national control of their rates of interest and their exchange rates. They have thereby surrendered vital economic tools for influencing the supply of credit and their economic competitiveness in the interest of the common good of their own peoples. The European Central Bank(ECB) decides credit conditions for the Eurozone as a whole. In practice this means what suits Germany and France, for they constitute half the Eurozone’s population.
– THE 1998 AMSTERDAM TREATY extended qualified majority voting to a number of new areas. It gave the EU its own code of human rights, its own external border and immigration policy, a harmonised approach to civil and criminal law across the EU and its own foreign and security policy.
– THE 2001 NICE TREATY increased the relative voting weight of the Big States in making EU laws. It abolished the national veto and extended qualified majority voting in a range of non-economic areas. It allowed sub-groups of Member States to integrate more closely among themselves, using the EU institutions for that purpose, thereby moving away from the original concept of the EU as a partnership of legal equals.
– THE 2009 TREATY OF LISBON embodied the provisions of the 2004 Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which sought to establish the European Union DIRECTLY on the basis of its own Constitution, just as with any State. When this was rejected in 2005 by French and Dutch voters in referendums its provisions were repackaged virtually unchanged and adopted INDIRECTLY in the form of amendments to the existing EU Treaties in the Lisbon Treaty.
Lisbon provided for the abolition of the European Community, which was the legal repository of supranational powers up to then, and its replacement by a constitutionally new European Union, with full legal personality separate from that of Member States for the first time. It made citizens of the different EU Member States into real citizens of this constitutionally new federal-type Union for the first time also, giving them a real second citizenship IN ADDITION TO their national citizenships, just as citizens of regional states like California or Bavaria are citizens also of their respective Federal States. EU law has primacy over national law and the claims of EU citizenship have primacy over the claims of national citizenship in any cases of conflict between the two.
Lisbon also provides that from 2014 law-making in the EU will be put on a population basis just as in any State. From that year a qualified majority for purposes of making EU laws on the Council of Ministers will consist of 55% of the States – which means 15 out of the then 28 – as long as that 15 comprise 65% of the EU’s total population of some 500 million.
Germany and France between them have half that percentage, which gives them a blocking minority vote. As Germany is the most populous EU State this means that from 2014 Germany’s voting weight in making EU laws will rise from its current 8% of Council votes – 29 votes for each big State out of a total of 345, Ireland having 7 votes – to 16% on a population basis. The voting weight of France, Italy and Britain will rise from their present 8% each to 12% each, and the relative voting weight of smaller States will fall, in Ireland’s case from its present 2% to less than 1%.
Lisbon also makes the “European Council” of Prime Ministers and Presidents into a formal EU institution for the first time, bringing this “intergovernmental” grouping within the ambit of the treaties and making it the constitutional driving force for ever further integration, especially for the Eurozone.
How the EU is Run… No Separation of Powers:
For the past three centuries the separation of powers and functions between the Executive (Government), Legislature(Parliament) and Judiciary has been acknowledged as the necessary basis of democratic states and fundamental to maintaining the liberty of citizens.
This principle goes out the window in the EU. There the exclusive power of proposing new supranational laws rests with the EU’s Executive or Government, the Commission in Brussels . . .
– THE COMMISSION is more a government than a commission. Its members are nominated by national governments, not elected. Thus a condition for proposing supranational laws in the EU is that one should NOT be elected. Once appointed Commissioners’ allegiance is to the EU, not their own countries. French President Charles De Gaulle once described this body aptly as “a conclave of technocrats without a country, responsible to no one”.
As well as administering the existing EU rules and having the monopoly of proposing new ones, the Commission has quasi-judicial powers as well. It can adjudicate on competition cases and impose fines on EU members. Even though there may be an appeal to the Court of Justice, the Commission acts as if it were a lower court. It draws up and administers its own budget, with minimal democratic control. Its president can hire, move and sack individual Commissioners. It is supported by some 3000 “secret” working groups, whose members are not publicly known, where most Commission decisions are actually made and where corporate lobbyists wield their influence. Only 2% of Commission decisions come up at meetings of the full Commission.
– THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS is called a Council, but it makes laws just like a Parliament, on the basis of the Commission’s proposals. It makes these laws in secret, often in the form of package-deals between its members, and it takes some executive decisions. Approximately 85% of EU directives and regulations are agreed privately in some 300 committees of civil servants from the EU Member States which service the Council and they are approved without debate at Council level. Only 15% of EU laws are actually discussed or negotiated at Council level. The formal adoption of these laws now takes place in public, although the negotiations leading up to them are private. The Council of Ministers is responsible as a collectivity to nobody and is irremoveable as a body.
– THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT is more a Council than a Parliament. It cannot initiate any EU law although it can amend draft laws which come from the Commission and Council as long as the Commission agrees. If the Commission disagrees, all 27 Member States must agree to allow an amendment by the Parliament to be adopted. If the Parliament by an absolute majority of its members opposes a draft directive from the Commission it cannot become law, but this rarely happens. The Parliament has the final say over the EU budget except for agriculture. If it vetoes new budget proposals, the previous year’s EU budget is repeated.
– The COURT OF JUSTICE is not just a Court but is also a Constitution-maker, with constitutional powers similar to what some Parliaments have, as set out below.
It is easy to see from the above that the executive, legislative and judicial functions of government are not separated in the EU institutions, but are inextricably intertwined. There is none of the separation of powers which characterises normal democracies. Moreover, the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice share a common interest in having ever more powers shifted from the national to the supranational level where the three institutions are involved together in exercising them.
The EU Court as Constitution-Maker:
The Court of Justice(ECJ) is a highly political Court. It continually interprets the treaties in such a way as to extend the legal powers of the EU to the maximum, moving the EU in directions which were never envisaged by the people originally involved. Here are some revolutionary verdicts of the ECJ:-
– Van Gend en Loos, C-26/62 of 1963: EU Treaty rules have direct effect inside Member States;
– Costa v. Enel C-6/64: EU law has primacy over national law;
– Internationale Handelgesellschaft C-11/70 and Simmenthal C-106/77: EU law has primacy over national Constitutions;
– AETR C-22/70: the EU may enter into common international agreements instead of Member States in areas where EU powers are internally exercised, bolstering its external powers;
– Van Duyn C-41/74: EU directives have direct effect inside Member States and national courts must enforce them;
– Dassonville C-8/74 and Cassis de Dijon C-120/78: the lowest national standards for product specifications can apply throughout the EU, leading to the Internal Market on the basis of qualified majority voting after 1987;
– Hauer C-44/79: Fundamental human rights form part of the supranational EU legal order;
– Les Verts C-294/83: the EU Treaties have the character of a Constitution;
– Frankovich C-6/90: Member States are financially liable for violations of EU law within their borders;
– Kohll C-158/96: Internal market rules entitle national citizens to get medical treatment in other Member States and be reimbursed on the same basis as the locals;
– Environment verdict C-176/03: The EU may decide on criminal sanctions for breaches of EU law;
– Pringle C-370/12: the amendment to the EU Treaty ostensibly authorizing a permanent bailout fund for the Eurozone, which comes into force during 2013, is redundant and legally unnecessary, for the 17 Eurozone States had the right to establish this fund “intergovernmentally” among themselves anyway, which they did the year before, in 2012, by means of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)Treaty.
The Extent of EU Laws:
It is hard to think of a single area of national life nowadays that is unaffected by EU law. In most years the majority of laws and statutory instruments put through national Parliaments now come from Brussels. There are over 100,000 EU rules, international agreements and legal acts binding on or affecting citizens across the EU.
It is calculated that in 2013 there are in force
8,937 EU Regulations;
1,953 EU Directives;
2,948 Other Legal Acts;
4,733 international agreements;
4,843 non-binding legal acts, which may however bind if agreed;
52,000 agreed EU international standards from CEN, Cenelec, Etsi etc. and
11,961 verdicts from the EU Court of Justice.
The EU Treaties prevent voters at national level, their Parliaments and Governments from abolishing or amending a single one of these legal measures.
Why National Politicians Surrender Powers to the EU:
Every time new EU treaties abolish further national vetoes and shift law-making for new policy areas from the national to the supranational level, national Parliaments and citizens lose power correspondingly, for they no longer have the final say in the areas concerned.
Simultaneously individual Government Ministers, who are members of the executive arm of government at national level and must have a national parliamentary majority behind them for their policies, are turned into legislators for 500 million Europeans as members of the 27-person Council of Ministers which makes EU laws and rules. This body constitutes a committee of legislators, which is the classical definition of an oligarchy.
National politicians thereby obtain an intoxicating increase of personal power for themselves at the expense of their national Parliaments and voters, even though they may be open to being outvoted by a qualified majority on the EU Council. This is the reason Government Ministers tend to be so Europhile and to cooperate so willingly in denuding their own Parliaments and peoples of power.
The more policy areas shift from the national level to Brussels, the more power shifts simultaneously from national legislatures to national executives, and the more the power of individual Ministers and bureaucrats increases. Keeping on good terms with their fellow members of the exclusive Council of Ministers “club” of EU lawmakers becomes more important for national Ministers at EU level than being awkward in defence of their own peoples’ interests. Increasingly they have come to see their function vis-a-vis one another as delivering their national electorates in support of further EU or Eurozone integration.
The EU’s Assault on National Democracy:
A Member State on its own cannot decide a single European law. Its people, parliament and government may be opposed to an EU law, its government representative on the Council of Ministers may vote against it, but they are bound to obey it nonetheless once it is adopted by qualified majority Council vote. This devalues the vote of every individual citizen. Each policy area that is transferred from the national level to the supranational level devalues it further.
This reduces the political ability of citizens to decide what is the national common good and deprives them of the most fundamental right of membership of a democracy, the right to make their own laws, to elect their representatives to make them, and to change those representatives if they dislike the laws they make.
European integration is therefore not just a process of depriving Europe’s Nation States and peoples of their national democracy and independence, within each Member State it represents a gradual coup by government executives against legislatures and by politicians against the citizens who elect them.
What was once national politics becomes provincial politics. Citizens more and more sense this and it depoliticizes them in turn. The EU has hollowed out the Nation States of the EU, leaving their traditional institutions formally in place but with their most important functions transferred outside, to the external EU level. It turns the State itself into an enemy of its own people, while clamping a form of financial feudalism on Europe.
From EU to Eurozone:
Seventeen of the 27 EU Member States in 2012 have adopted the euro. Ten EU Members retain their national currencies. The Eurozone rather than the overall EU is now the main terrain of Franco-German ambitions to establish a European superpower with themselves in the driving seat although, as stated above, it is increasingly obvious that Germany is the real driver, with France occasionally helping with the steering. Their leaders are frank in stating their ambitions:-
Here is Germany’s Chancellor Merkel on the current debt crisis:
“We have a shared currency but no real economic or political union. This must change. If we were to achieve this, therein lies the opportunity of the crisis… And beyond the economic, after the shared currency, we will perhaps dare to take further steps, for example for a European army” (Karlspreis speech, May 2010).
Here is French President Sarkozy a year later:
“By the end of the summer Angela Merkel and I will be making joint proposals on economic government in the eurozone. We will give a clearer vision of the way we see the Eurozone evolving. Our ambition is to seize the Greek crisis to make a quantum leap in Eurozone government…The very words were once taboo. (Now) it has entered the European vocabulary” (Irish Times, 23 July 2011).
And Sarkozy again in November 2011:
“There are 27 of us. Clearly, down the line, we will have to include the Balkans. There will be 32, 33 or 34 of us. No one thinks that federalism, total integration, will be possible with 33, 34 or 35 states. Clearly there will be a two-speed Europe: one speed that moves towards a Federation for the Eurozone and one speed for a Confederation within the European Union.”
Chancellor Merkel backed him up the same month:
“The debt crisis is a decisive moment, a chance to go a new way. The time and opportunity is there for a breakthrough to a new Europe … That will mean more Europe, not less Europe” (10-11-2011).
No EU “Demos” Which Could Democratise the EU:
There is no example in history of a lasting monetary union which was not part of one State, and therefore also a fiscal union. And there are of course many examples of States that were at once monetary unions, fiscal unions and political unions, which existed for long periods and which have disappeared into history. Where now is the USSR rouble, the Czechoslovak crown, the Yugoslav dinar or the Austro-Hungarian thaler?
A fiscal union means that a State has common taxes and public spending programmes whereby the richer areas and social groups within that State transfer resources to the poorer on the basis of a sense of common citizenship and an accompanying national solidarity. The Eurozone is a monetary union but not a fiscal union. It has no income transfer system comparable to that which exists within national States.
Within the monetary union there are big gaps in living standards, public sector deficits, balance of payments positions and competitiveness levels between the North European Eurozone countries and the so-called PIIGS countries – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. It was always economic folly to try to establish one interest rate and exchange rate for such diverse national economies, political cultures and institutional traditions, but that is what the political project of “Union-building” requires.
Yet it is obvious that there is no underlying EU or Eurozone “demos” or people, no sense among voters of a common European “We” which would make citizens in richer Eurozone countries willing to bear higher taxes to finance resource transfers to poorer ones in the name of a pan-EU or cross-Eurozone solidarity. The mutual identification and fellow-feeling among citizens which exists at national level and gives democratic legitimacy to National States, does not exist supranationally. Democratising the EU in the absence of a European people or “demos” is impossible. And such a demos cannot be artificially created.
This has always been the fundamental flaw in the European integration project. That however does not stop the EU elite, and particularly the Germans and French, the Brussels bureaucracy and their acolytes in the different Member States, from frantically seeking to get the peoples of the Eurozone countries to give up what is left of their democracy at national level in order to “save” the euro-currency.
Hence the current calls for direct EU supervision of national budgets and for a Eurozone Banking Union, Fiscal Union, Tax Union and Political Union, to take advantage of the current financial crisis to centralise more power in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin.
The more European integration is pushed ahead and the more the national democracy of the EU member states is undermined in the process, the more the EU loses legitimacy and authority in the eyes of ordinary citizens.
Consequently the greater and more certain the eventual popular reaction against it. To align oneself with such a misguided, inevitably doomed project is to be out of tune with history. It is to side with a supranational elite against the democracy of one’s own people, to spurn genuine internationalism for the heady illusion of building a superpower.
Adopting the Euro the Biggest Mistake Ever Made by the Irish State:
The value of an independent currency for Ireland was shown clearly in the years 1993-2000. This was the only period in the history of the Irish State that it followed an independent exchange rate policy and let the currency effectively float while it gave priority to the real economy of maximising output and employment rather than maintaining a particular exchange rate.
The highly competitive exchange rate of those years was the principal factor underlying the 7% average annual growth rates of the “Celtic Tiger” period, although supporters of the euro project rarely mention this for obvious reasons.
In 1999 Ireland’s ultra-Europhile politicians decided to join the Eurozone on the assumption that the British would shortly do the same, which they did not and will not. In a step of utterly irresponsible folly the State’s main political parties decided to adopt the currency of an area with which Ireland does just one-third of its trade (40% of exports, 25% of imports).
At the time the State needed higher interest rates to restrain the “Celtic Tiger“ boom. But Eurozone interest rates in the early 2000s, which were now decided by the European Central Bank, were low to suit Germany and France, then in recession. This made the Irish boom “boomier”, as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern put it. The ECB looked on with blithe indifference. Unsuitably low interest rates stoked the Irish property bubble of those years, as they did also in Spain.
When the bubble burst in 2008 and Anglo-Irish Bank and other Irish banks became effectively insolvent, the ECB and the Brussels Commission forbade the Irish Government from letting them go bust, thereby imposing the burden of paying their bad debts on the Irish State and on Irish taxpayers who were not responsible for them. In that way the German, French, British and other banks which were the principal creditors of the Irish banks were assured of getting their money back.
Preventing bust Irish banks from suffering the consequences of their foolish borrowing would not therefore be copied by the other PIIGS countries and the “contagion” of putting national interests first in face of the debt crisis would not spread to them, thereby putting the very survival of the euro-currency in question.
In 2010 when the Irish Government’s burgeoning public sector deficit consequent on taking on this private bank debt threatened to shut it out of the international bond markets, the ECB pressurized Dublin into a Eurozone bailout programme. A foreign Troika representing the ECB, the Commission and the IMF took over the effective economic running of the Irish State to enforce that programme.
After ninety years existence of the Irish State the bankruptcy of its party political elite stemming from their uncritical Europhilia could not be more obvious. In May 2012 the State’s main political parties pushed through the Fiscal Treaty referendum to meet Germany’s demand that basic fiscal deficits for Eurozone countries should never henceforth be greater than 0.5% of GDP.
Later that year the Irish Supreme Court established retrospectively that the Government had in effect used unconstitutional means to do this by financing a partisan referendum information campaign out of public funds to secure a Yes result. This had happened likewise in the two Lisbon Treaty referendums.
One important effect of Irish Eurozone membership is that as Germany and France push for more integration to “save the euro”, the UK, including Northern Ireland, has no intention of joining the Eurozone and may well move towards a looser relation with the EU as a whole. This must lead to the political-economic divide between the North and South of Ireland growing deeper and a new dimension being added to Partition.
The above are some of the pleasures of “our currency the euro”, to use a favourite phrase of Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton. Yet in 2016 these same Irish politicians will seek to identify themselves with the men and women of the 1916 Rising who set out to achieve “the unfettered control of Irish destinies” and establish a State which would be “a beacon-light to the oppressed of every land” !
How the Eurozone Prevents Us Dealing Sensibly With Our Debt Crisis:
Logically there are only three ways of dealing with the immense burden of debt which now rests on the governments, private citizens and business firms in the PIIGS countries:
(a) to pay off the debt out of real economic growth;
(b) to forgive it or remit it or restructure it wholly or in part – these are all euphemisms for the same thing; or
(c) to inflate it away by printing money and depreciating the currency in which debtors pay back creditors. In practice the best course may be a mixture of the three.
But Eurozone membership is a major obstacle to each one. The austerity measures insisted on by the ECB, the Germans, Finns, Dutch and Austrians are causing recession throughout the Eurozone, so there is virtually no economic growth. Debt forgiveness means that Governments and taxpayers in the creditor countries pay the bills of the PIIGS countries, but the pan-EU solidarity and fellow-feeling which would be required for that to happen does not exist. Inflating the euro-currency would require the ECB to do the opposite of what it is charged with doing under the Maastricht Treaty and would outrage opinion in Germany and elsewhere.
So Eurozone membership rules out all sensible ways out of the crisis. Consequently the prospect ahead is one of years of stagnation as long as the Eurozone holds together.
Contrast Iceland, a small country which Ireland and the other PIIGS countries should take as exemplar. Iceland’s debt crisis in proportion to its population was much worse than Ireland’s. Its banks had borrowed much more abroad than the Irish ones had. Iceland let its insolvent banks go bust and set up new clean banks to keep credit flowing.
It forced its foreign creditors to take a €60 billion loss on their improvident loans and came to an agreement with them on longterm repayment of the remainder. Iceland kept its own currency and restored its economic competitiveness by allowing its value to fall, imposing capital controls to assist it in the process.
Since the crisis broke in 2008 Iceland has entered and exited an IMF lending programme and returned to borrowing on the international bond markets. Instead of the Icelandic State taking on past private bank losses as the ECB pressurized Ireland into doing, foreign investors see Iceland as facing the future rather than the past and the State there as being in a much better position to repay future borrowings.
Iceland’s economic growth in 2012 is estimated to be 3% – Ireland’s being virtually zero.
Iceland’s unemployment rate is now 5%, one-third of Ireland’s near 15%, which would be 20% but for heavy emigration – over 80,000, mainly young people, in the year to April 2011 alone. Compare Portugal’s 16% unemployment rate, Spain.s 20% and Greece’s 25%.
In the initial panic in 2008 Iceland’s Government applied to join the EU in the hope of a quick fix, but Icelandic public opinion has now turned strongly against that course. Back in autumn 2008 the joke used be that the only difference between Ireland and Iceland was one letter and six months, but that joke is now on us. The economic experts who predicted doom for Iceland and salvation for Ireland by following their very differen courses, have proved catastrophically wrong.
Tackling the EU/Eurozone Leviathan:
The project of EU/Eurozone integration is at bottom an attempt to overturn the democratic heritage of the French Revolution, the right of nations to self-determination, national independence and national democracy, across much of Europe in the interest of powerful political and economic elites.
As the world moves towards 200 States and more, this collective right to democracy within a State is now accepted as a basic principle of international law and the foundational value of democratic States and democratic politics within them – but not by the elites of the EU, who have subverted their own national democracies.
The Euro-integration project therefore makes the classical “national question”, the issue of national independence, of who makes the laws and rules of a society, whether the elected representatives of Europe’s different national communities, or unelected rulers and elites from outside, the key issue of European politics in our time. This is true even for countries like France, Germany, Britain, Spain etc. which were imperial powers themselves not long ago, with centuries of history behind them in which they dominated and laid down the law for others.
At year’s end 2012 Mr Dan O’Brien, Economics Editor of the Irish Times, a paper which editorially has for decades been a missionary for Euro-federalism, wrote:
“A banking union for the Eurozone has been agreed in mid-summer and it became increasingly obvious that the next change to the EU treaties will have to create something akin to a united states of Europe if the euro is to last” (28-12-2012).
Of course people were not told this when they agreed to adopt the euro in the first place.
So the vision of the Eurocrats is that the 17 peoples of the Eurozone must completely abandon their national independence and democracy, reversing centuries of European history in the process, in order to save the ill-starred euro-currency.
And assuming that that objective is attained, what happens then? Does European history come to a halt? Will the European Army of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Karlspreis speech hold the resultant rickety edifice together? Can anyone seriously imagine that the PIIGS countries will rest content with being turned into the collective Mezzogiorno of a fully federal Eurozone?
The more the EU-elites and bureaucracy push ahead with the integration project, the more national voters everywhere dislike it and resent it. The more hostile will be popular reactions against its proponents when it implodes, as eventually it must. The ever-growing numbers of opponents of EU-integration across Europe now constitute an international movement in defence of national democracy and the Nation State as the locus of that democracy.
That is why genuine democrats everywhere who wish to advance the common good of their respective peoples, need to oppose every step towards further EU integration and to have as their objective the winning back of the State powers their governing elites have cooperated to take from them. This holds whether people are on the political Right or Left or Centre on other issues. This is now the guiding principle of progressive national and international politics for our time whether in Ireland or the other EU countries.
Good Sources of Information on the EU:
http://www.EUobserver.com – daily news for free ;
http://www.EUabc.com – an EU dictionary with 1200 index words and thousands of links ;
http://en.euabc.com/upload/books/lisbon-treaty-3edition.pdf, with Index, Glossary and links to individual provisions, edited by former Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde, at en.euabc.com ;
Christopher Booker and Richard North, “The Great Deception, Can the European Union Survive?” ISBN: 0-8264-8014-4, probably the best book in English on the historical development of the EU.
This document has been drafted for public information by Anthony Coughlan, Director of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, 24 Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9; Tel.: 01-8305792; Web-site: nationalplatform.org It is issued to mark the 40th anniversary of Ireland joining the then EEC in January 2013. Please feel free to adapt it wholly or or in part and circulate it to others if one wishes without need of reference to or acknowledgement of its source.
Related Link: http://www.nationalplatform.org
As the crow flies, it’s 320 kilometers (199 miles) between Brussels and London. But at 8 a.m. sharp on Wednesday, when British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped up to the microphone in the basement auditorium of US media company Bloomsberg’s European headquarters on Finsbury Square, the Channel suddenly got a lot wider.
n Brussels, the lack of desire to even react to Cameron’s challenge made itself felt – and if it hadn’t been for loud calls of protest, the spokeswoman for EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso would just as soon have broken up the midday press conference after delivering three succinct statements.
But the fact is that — even if both sides affirm that they don’t want to pull up the drawbridge — Wednesday’s speech put two questions out there front and center: Can there be a European Union without the British? And can the British manage without the EU?
The clear answer to both questions is: Yes. Of course they can manage without each other. Whether they would manage better is another issue. None of the 27 and soon to be 28 (Croatia) EU countries – not even the French – want Britain to leave. Brussels is a bazaar, and at the negotiating table the British are heavyweights that others happily align with.
A case in point is the EU 2014-2020 budget, which an alliance of countries led by London and Berlin recently rejected much to the anger of many Brussels functionaries and parliamentarians. The British and Germans were also long-time partners on environmental issues.
Northern European countries align with Britain when it comes to Commission involvement in the labor market, for example in opposing quotas for women on boards. Britain is also a powerful advocate for all those who favor EU enlargement.
And of course the vision of a European Defence Community without Britain is a paper tiger. “London has to be part of any joint European foreign and security policies if they are to be taken seriously,” Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a European Parliament member from Germany’s Free Democratic Party, told Die Welt.
Fate of The City
However, even before the outbreak of the crisis such visions had moved to the bottom of the agenda. And what with the challenge of ensuring that their joint currency has a solid future, the euro-zone countries have other more important things on their plate right now than going over dozens of agreements with Cameron’s people.
“Renegotiating contracts that London signed is an illusion,” German Christian Democratic Union politician Gunther Krichbaum, who chairs the German Parliament’s Committee on European Union affairs, told Die Welt. “All the other states would have something they wanted to renegotiate too and at the end of the day you would have the same compromises.”
If London really does decided to push for an ultimate confrontation, draw the consequences and pull out of the Union, what it loses – access to the largest market in the world, with 500 million consumers — would be far greater than what it gains. And in a free-trade zone, the British would have to accept rules they had no hand in creating.
A “Brexit” might not shatter the Union – but Britain itself just might end up shattered: in 2014, the Scots, will be voting for their independence, and some may be more inclined to separate from the UK, if it is leaving Europe. If that were the case, Cameron would have burned both hands with his referendums.
Just how serious leaving the EU would be for the British economy is something economists and business folk disagree on. However the fact is that half of the country’s exports go to EU member states and some 3 million jobs depend on it. The common market is hugely important for Britain, indeed Cameron stressed that in his speech.
However, there is the possibility for the UK to hammer out a free trade agreement with the EU as the Swiss have done. Last fall, a study conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the London-based free market think tank, concluded that that option would mean that leaving the EU would only cost Britain one percent of its GDP.
Still, British companies and business associations are worried about the country’s current tendency to cut itself off. And rightly so: many multinationals use Britain as a base from which to drive continental business. With the British out of the Union, these firms might soon be moving their headquarters to Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.
London as a financial hub would without a doubt take the biggest hit. Said Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of TheCityUK, an influential lobbyist from the London financial industry, after Cameron’s speech: “Our recent Competitiveness Report found that 40% of financial services firms choose the UK as a place to set up and grow their business because of our access to the EU.” In this sector particularly firms are very mobile and would not hesitate to move.
Tom Brown, head of the loans department at the Norddeutsche Landesbank in London, is even more direct. “Without the EU, London as a financial hub would be reduced to a fraction of the size it is now,” he said, adding that the reason London grew to become Europe’s largest banking center was because Britain joined the EU. “Without the possibility to move offices and workers freely around the EU, the City would be washed up.”
Read the article in the original language.
Photo by – Bertrand Hauger
A recently unveiled EU poster sports the oppressive Soviet hammer and sickle symbol numerous times
BRUSSELS – Belgium – The EU’s Soviet agenda was laid bare today with the unveiling of a new EU poster that finally puts to rest the bloc’s Soviet credentials.
The new poster is a clear signal that the EU is a Soviet Fascist bloc and is a direct threat to freedom, democracy and humanity as a whole.
A warning from history
“Not only are we laughing in the face of all citizens within the European Union, we are also revealing ourselves to be truly a Soviet system where we amalgamate and assimilate all within our borders. We destroy all individuality, all nationality, and dictate all economic policy. This is the EU, and when we get our stormtroopers goose stepping on the streets, you will see what you have got yourselves into. Remember that evil is allowed to happen when good men stand by and do nothing. The EU was allowed to happen, as was Stalin’s Soviet bloc, and Hitler‘s Reich. No one did anything, nations stood by until it was too late, banks financed them until it was too late. The same is up with the EU, no one did anything, and unelected EU bureaucrats now rule over you. You pay for my unlimited expense account and my diamond encrusted pension plan, my unlimited global travel perks and my laughter at you pleb citizens, the scum that you are, I laugh at you,” an unelected EU bureaucrat said from the EU parliament yesterday.
British premier, David Cameron, who knows very well what the EU is and how it will finally reveal itself to be a totalitarian Soviet Fascist state, was all too eager to proffer his congratulations to the EU for its recent Nobel Peace Prize.
“I have been told to say this by my superiors in Brussels. I say to the British people that the key to joining the Eurozone will be Scotland. When they embrace the EU, as Southern Ireland did, then we as England will be given no choice but to join the EU as well. I know the plan, as do many other cabinet members. A referendum in Scotland is the key to the Scottish people breaking up Britain until it is ultimately weakened. Divide and conquer, as always, a British Empire trick is being used against us, and I am complicit with my masters, as a traitor to Britain. I have emphatically denied the British people an In/Out EU referendum, because I know that the British people do not want any part of the EU. To this end, I am a liar and traitor to my own people but my masters have promised me great things for delivering the UK to them on a platter. Our laws in Britain are fully managed by Brussels/Germany now and it is going to get even more insidious in the future. We were not defeated in WW1 and WW2 but Britain will be defeated by me denying the people their rights to determine their destiny. You say we live in a democracy, I say you do, but that democracy is under EU regulations now and they will tell me what to do about how much democracy you are allowed from now on. So please carry on as you are, watch your Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent shows. Do not think for one second about what is going to happen to you, or your children in the future. Why not just text away and read your Facebook page. There is nothing to worry about.”
Vanna Mendaleni is a middle aged Greek woman who until now has not had vehement feelings about the crisis that has engulfed her country. But that changed when the softly spoken undertaker, closing her family-run funeral parlour, joined thousands of protesters on Thursday in a mass outpouring of fury over austerity policies that have plunged ever growing numbers of Greeks into poverty and fear.
“After three years of non-stop taxes and wage cuts it’s got to the point where nothing has been left standing,” she said drawing on a cigarette. “It’s so bad families can no longer afford to even bury their dead. Bodies lie unclaimed at public hospitals so that the local municipality can bury them.”
As Greece was brought to a grinding halt by its second general strike in less than a month, Mendaleni wanted to send a message to the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and other EU leaders meeting in Brussels……………………………………………….
full article at source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/18/greece-protests-general-strike-austerity
MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly and Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall will meet this week after she strongly restated her position in the row over the siting of primary care centres.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday indicated he was satisfied Dr Reilly’s decision to add two towns in his constituency to a priority list of locations based largely on deprivation originally drawn up by Ms Shortall was taken on a “balanced basis”.
Ms Shortall said all decisions must be made in a transparent way after the country had been “profiled” in terms of population and age as well as urban and rural deprivation.
“The guiding concern from my point of view is that resources go where they’re most needed, where there is established health need,” she said.
“We need to identify where are those areas of greatest need and we have very, very good information on that . . . It would be very foolish not to take heed of all of that important data that is available to us.”
She confirmed she had spoken to Dr Reilly yesterday and said they had arranged to meet later in the week.
Mr Gilmore said reports of feuding between the two Ministers were overdone.
“I think some of this can be exaggerated. I think that what we have to be clear about is what we’re trying to do here,” he told reporters in Brussels.