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German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance


 

Justice Minister: US Using ‘Cold War‘ Methods

Recent revelations about the NSA’s broad surveillance of German phone and Internet communications have fueled major concerns in the country, as Federal Prosecutors say they are preparing criminal charges against US and British spies involved.

Hessian prosecutors were the first to receive complaints about the matter, but that is likely to grow precipitously after German media outlets reported the US surveillance has collected more than half a billion phone calls and emails per month in Germany alone.

Though broad internal surveillance is also an issue in the US, the NSA’s policies don’t make spying on Germans illegal as such. The US lists Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand as “second party” nations exempt from surveillance, but considers Germany fair game. The program also explicitly targeted European Union diplomats.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the US policy was “beyond comprehension,” and said that such “Cold War” methods were unacceptable toward allies. Officials are urging the EU to take direct action to stop the surveillance.

via German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance — News from Antiwar.com.

“U.S. state on alert after nuclear waste leak” — Governor: “This is most disturbing news”… No ‘immediate’ public health threat #Hanford


The Australian.

US state on alert after nuclear waste leak […] HEIGHTENED radioactivity levels have been found outside a nuclear waste tank in the US state of Washington, officials say, in a new alert about a site used to make Cold War-era bombs. Governor Jay Inslee said there was no immediate public health threat […] A spokeswoman for Washington state’s Ecology Department explained why the new finding was so disturbing. “Until last night, it was thought the leak was contained in the outer shell, but workers detected elevated radioactivity levels within the leak detection pit,” Erica Holmes said.

CNN

The elevated reading, however, doesn’t pose an immediate public health threat, [Washington Gov. Jay Inslee] said. “This is most disturbing news for Washington,” the governor said in a statement. […]

KING 5 News

[…] It appears the most dangerous material on earth is out of its tank and out of their control, and there’s no immediate plan on how to solve the problem. […]

Now it appears the worst case scenario has happened, the waste has eaten through the outer tank wall. […]

But no one expected this […]

A crew working on the leak detection pit pulled a piece of equipment from it and measured a whopping contamination reading — 800,000 dpm,or disintegrations per minute. […]

via “U.S. state on alert after nuclear waste leak” — Governor: “This is most disturbing news”… No ‘immediate’ public health threat #Hanford.

The “Green Nuclear” – Can Thorium Be The Clean, Cheap Energy Of The Future?


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Mankind currently uses three basic types of energy: fossil energy (coal, gas and oil), “sustainable” energy (wind-powered, solar, geothermal, hydraulic) and nuclear energy.

None of the above passes the test of being clean, abundant, cheap and secure all at the same time. Whatever solution that would comprise all of these elements would be considered our modern society’s philosopher’s stone!

As a matter of fact, in the 1960s, American physicist Alvin Martin Weinberg, managed to create a molten salt nuclear reactor capable of withholding temperatures of several hundred degrees Celsius under ambient pressure — a discovery that ruled out the risks of explosions.

Alvin Martin Weinberg in 1967 – Photo: ornl.gov

These fourth-generation reactors use thorium as fuel. This component is as common on our planet as lead. Just like Swiss physicist Jean-Christophe de Mestral observed in his recent opus “L’Atome vert” (“The Green Atom”), if used inside a molten salt reactor, the thorium waste will disintegrate 1000 times faster than uranium. Its efficiency is remarkable: one kilogram of thorium can produce the same energy as 200 kilos of uranium.

If this technology has been an option since the 1960s, why haven’t we exploited it yet? At that time, uranium-based nuclear energy was the fuel-of-choice for military reasons.  Research on thorium-based reactors was no good for Cold War armies and therefore received no funding.

But today, thorium is back on the table. China and India have invested massively in it to develop their next-generation nuclear devices. NASA is also looking into it as a cheap option to create energy on the Moon or Mars. If researchers find encouraging results, they may turn the nuclear industry upside-down, for we could indeed end up with an energy that is clean, abundant, cheap and safe.

via The “Green Nuclear” – Can Thorium Be The Clean, Cheap Energy Of The Future? – All News Is Global |.

What happened to the European dream?


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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.

Ivan Krastev

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.

Convergence myth

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.

Political Resources on the Net – StumbleUpon.

via Political Resources on the Net – StumbleUpon.

Have It Your Way…at McDonald’s


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Last week , McDonald’s, the international fast-food juggernaut, was surprised and, one hopes, publicly embarrassed when a group of student “guest workers” in central Pennsylvania called an impromptu strike to protest working conditions. According to these guest workers, McDonald’s failed to comply with the terms of their agreement, and used intimidation and threats or retaliation to keep them at bay.

These “guests” (from Latin America and Asia) came to the U.S. under the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program, part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (AKA the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961). A J-1 is a “non-immigrant visa,” given to visitors who participate in programs designed to promote cultural exchange. Inaugurated in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the program was both a valid attempt to introduce foreigners to the American Way of Life as well as a standard propaganda tool.

Originally, the program’s charter had it focusing primarily on medical or business training, along with visiting scholars who were in the U.S. temporarily to teach and do research. And because it was specifically a cultural exchange program, the J-1 visa fell under the auspices of the now defunct USIA (United States Information Agency) rather than the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service). How it evolved from medical and business training to flipping hamburgers is easily explained. Business interests lobbied hard for its expansion.

These visiting workers have turned out to be a bonanza. Each year hundreds of thousands of them are brought to the United States under programs like J-1, and, according to the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the agency that keeps track of them (and who encouraged and supported the McDonald’s protest), these so-called “cultural exchanges” have, over the years, been badly compromised. Given the overwhelming temptation to engage in mischief, employee abuse is now rampant.

What’s happened is that guest workers are now viewed by American businesses as a “captive workforce”—a gullible and needy collection of workers unschooled in American customs and expectations, and without recourse to labor laws or union representation. Not surprisingly, these visitors are being systematically screwed over. According to the NGA, the McDonald’s “employees” had paid approximately $3,000 each for the opportunity to work in the United States. Presumably, that money was spent on transportation costs and fees to GeoVision, the for-profit organization that sponsored them.

Among the “abuses” alleged by McDonald’s guest workers: (1) They’d been promised full-time jobs, but most were given only a few hours a week. (2) They were nonetheless forced to be on call twenty-four hours a day, and were intimidated and threatened if they complained. (3) The company failed to pay them overtime they were entitled to. (5) According to NGA, their employer is also their landlord, and even though there are as many as half a dozen co-workers sharing a room, their rent (which is automatically taken out of their paycheck) renders them making less than minimum wage. Any complaints, and they’re threatened with being sent back home.

None of this should come as a surprise. When there’s an opportunity to lower operating costs by exploiting labor, management will usually take advantage of it. Call it the Law of the Jungle, call it succumbing to market forces, call it “gaining a competitive edge.” But whatever we choose to call it, it’s the workers who get skinned.

Southern California’s restaurant and car-washing industries are sparkling examples of this phenomenon. These businesses are notorious for exploiting frightened, undocumented Mexican workers by paying them less than minimum wage, and breaking with impunity every labor and safety statute in the book. Why? Because they CAN. After all, who’s going to report them?

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via Have It Your Way…at McDonald’s » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

via Have It Your Way…at McDonald’s » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

A History of Iniquity, I: The EU and Eurozone Assault on National Democracy


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;

15,561 Decisions;

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://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm, official data base of EU laws http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm;

http://www.openeurope.org.uk daily European press summary from http://www.openeurope.org.uk ;

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

via A History of Iniquity, I: The EU & Eurozone Assault on National Democracy – Indymedia Ireland.

via A History of Iniquity, I: The EU & Eurozone Assault on National Democracy – Indymedia Ireland.

Soviet World War II propaganda Posters part 1


Here are several posters of Soviet World War II agitation.

“Mercilessly annihilate fascist saboteurs”

via The propaganda of Soviet Union during World War II · Russia travel blog.

via The propaganda of Soviet Union during World War II · Russia travel blog.

A History of Iniquity, I: The EU & Eurozone Assault on National Democracy


eu_flag_burned

Where we are on the 40th anniversary of joining the EEC.

This is part one of a two part series. The second article will be published tomorrow

The Political Basis of the EU:

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;

15,561 Decisions;

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://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm, official data base of EU laws http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/index.htm;

http://www.openeurope.org.uk daily European press summary from http://www.openeurope.org.uk ;

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.

via A History of Iniquity, I: The EU & Eurozone Assault on National Democracy – Indymedia Ireland.

via A History of Iniquity, I: The EU & Eurozone Assault on National Democracy – Indymedia Ireland.

America’s forgotten war –


IN THE EUPHORIC FIRST WEEKS after the fall of the Berlin Wall, East German protesters who had risked everything to overthrow their government and were now jockeying for position in the emerging new Germany were puzzled by a growing number of news reports from the other side of the Atlantic.

American conservatives, they kept hearing, were claiming credit for ending the Cold War and “liberating” them from the yoke of Soviet communism.

They were puzzled not just because the names of these conservatives — Gingrich, Buchanan, Kemp — were unfamiliar. What baffled them was more fundamental: they hadn’t received American help at all. The CIA, by its own later admission, was entirely absent during the long months and years when East German dissidents organized covert meetings in churches and semi-derelict apartment buildings, usually no more than a step or two ahead of the Stasi, the all-pervasive secret police.

No Americans had helped the protesters organize a massive rally on the 40th anniversary of East Germany’s founding, on October 7, 1989, which embarrassed the leadership in the presence of the visiting Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. It was not the Americans, but rather a coalition of civic leaders, including the celebrated conductor Kurt Masur, who negotiated a truce in Leipzig two days later and convinced the security forces not to open fire on the 70,000 people in the crowd. Many of the officers, who had been given live rounds and instructed to emulate the Chinese massacre in Tiananmen Square if necessary, put down their weapons and joined the protests instead.

I was in Leipzig as a young reporter just a few days after the Wall fell on November 9, and remember being struck by the hundreds of thousands of people filling the town center on a freezing winter’s night, and the enormous pride they expressed as they pushed to topple the regime. This was their victory, the triumph of “people power,” and they had done it overwhelmingly by themselves. The only discernible American presence was the Tracy Chapman song “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” blaring from loudspeakers in the market square.

And yet, back in the United States, a mythology took hold. Ronald Reagan had set this train in motion, the narrative went, because he had gone to the Berlin Wall in June 1987 and fearlessly told Gorbachev to “tear down this Wall.” And now it had happened. The mythology grew strong enough over time that many people developed the erroneous impression Reagan was still president when the Wall came down. (In fact, he had been replaced 10 months earlier by George H.W. Bush.)

Reagan himself traveled back to Berlin in late 1990 and gave a speech congratulating himself on engineering the end of the Cold War. His signal achievement, he said, had been the decision to station nuclear cruise missiles in West Germany and his pursuit of the Strategic Defense Initiative, the missile shield program also known as Star Wars. But this, as Berliners knew better than anybody, was a convenient and self-serving rewrite of history. It was not true, as Reagan and other conservatives liked to argue, that aggressive increases in military spending had caused the Soviet empire to bankrupt itself as it scrambled for a response; the Soviet economy was already in tatters when Reagan took over, and there was no evidence of significant change in Soviet military spending in the 1980s. Reagan’s 1987 visit to Berlin had been a diplomatic near-disaster, marked by rioting young westerners angry about the cruise missile deployment, and about US policy in central America. The president’s call to tear down the Wall seemed generic at the time — every western political leader who passed through said much the same thing — and had no discernible effect on either the East Germans or the Soviet leadership.

Far from giving Reagan a hero’s welcome on his return, Berliners ignored him; he spoke to row upon row of empty seats. If any foreign leader deserved credit, they felt, it was Gorbachev, who had promised to keep his tanks and troops out of Eastern Europe and issued a striking warning to Honecker on that anniversary visit, that “life punishes those who drag their feet.” Still, it was not Gorbachev who ordered the Wall to be opened. He was in no position to, because it happened largely by accident.

By early November 1989, Honecker had stepped down, East Germans were leaving for the West in droves via Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and the Communist Party was desperate to offer the population a sop so it could retain its grip on power. Günter Schabowski, the government spokesman, was handed a hastily drafted document before his daily news briefing on November 9 and instructed to announce that travel directly into West Germany would now be permitted. The leadership intended to draw up detailed plans establishing ground rules over the following 24 hours, but Schabowski did not know that. So, when asked about the timeline, he peered quizzically at his papers and said the freedom to travel took effect “immediately, without delay.” The sheer weight of people rushing to the border crossings along the Wall that night made it impossible for the regime to backtrack.

Slices of the toppled Wall now grace the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and a handful of other sites across the United States. But for the most part history has not been kind to the triumphalist conservative account of the end of the Cold War. Reagan’s most valuable contribution may not have been an offensive move at all, but rather the willingness he showed at the Reykjavik Summit in 1986 to phase out all offensive nuclear missiles, a gesture toward détente that appalled his hawkish fellow conservatives but emboldened Gorbachev in his own quest for glasnost, a new openness in domestic and international affairs.

If the triumphalist account is wrong — if the West, led by the United States, did not bring the mighty Soviet bear to its knees — then that raises some troubling questions. In what meaningful way did we win the Cold War? And, if we didn’t win it, what exactly was the point of those 45 nerve-racking years when every geopolitical tremor threatened to trigger our nuclear annihilation?

Such are the questions at the heart of Jon Wiener’s provocative and fascinating new book, How We Forgot The Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America. Wiener is a historian at the University of California at Irvine and a regular contributor to The Nation, among other publications. But he is not conducting a historical analysis here so much as an idiosyncratic sort of investigation. His premise is simple: if, as certain politicians love to tell us, the Cold War was a grand historical struggle, a story of good triumphing over evil and freedom prevailing over communist tyranny, one would imagine the country dotted with memorials and museums attracting the same crowds that flock to World War II memorials and presidential libraries.

And so Wiener goes looking, only to discover that the memorials scattered from coast to coast, while numerous, are hard to find, scarcely visited, and often focus on topics other than the Cold War itself. (Even the Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, site of the famous Iron Curtain speech, prefers to dwell on World War II and the Battle of Britain.) A couple of places — the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas — are so ruggedly non-triumphalist they offer critiques of the very conflict that their principal subjects waged so assiduously. “Some historians,” Wiener reads with amazement in a display at the Truman Library, “question the wisdom of the President’s actions during the early Cold War years. They argue that a less confrontational approach toward the Soviets — one which sought to understand the fears the Soviet Union had about its vulnerability to invasion from the West — might have prevented a long and costly confrontation that lasted decades.”

If a museum dedicated to Harry Truman — who first articulated the with-us-or-against-us Cold War mentality and vowed to prevent the spread of communism at all costs — can’t toot its horn without mixed feelings, who can? Wiener finds, throughout his travels, that the only people still actively cheering for America’s role in the Cold War are conservative ideologues and lobbyists. But the monuments and memorials they have erected, or attempted to erect, have invariably been met with hostility, or blank indifference. A plan to build a $100 million Victims of Communism Museum, proposed by Congress in 1993 and approved by President Bill Clinton, sputtered so badly that the museum was eventually downgraded to a single memorial statue on a forgettable corner of Massachusetts Avenue in Washington DC and unveiled, to a modest crowd of a few hundred, 17 years after the project was first proposed. There is something called the Cold War Museum, but it exists only online and concentrates almost exclusively on Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. What about actual victory monuments? Wiener found just one, a Strategic Air Command plaque tucked into the corner of a garden at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, of all places. And it’s hardly a model of bombastic triumphalism. In fact, its slogan pulls off the odd feat of being both tentative and over-insistent at the same time. “The Cold War didn’t just end,” it reads. “It was won.”

Wiener rightly points out that the hawks in the fight against communism were on the losing side of the Cold War from the beginning. They may have wanted to take the fight directly to the Soviets, but containment and détente were the prevailing watchwords of Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Yes, there were covert operations and military interventions to topple unfriendly regimes and ward off communist takeovers, but no challenges to the immediate Soviet sphere of influence. Berlin was the closest thing to a flashpoint between the superpowers in the early years of the Cold War, but the construction of the Wall in 1961, paradoxically, cemented an uneasy truce that significantly reduced the risk of direct confrontation. The most hawkish American interventions — in Korea, at the Bay of Pigs, in Vietnam — almost invariably proved to be destabilizing, tragic failures. Even under Reagan, who swept to office promising to reassert American power in the world, conservatives advocating “rollback” instead of containment of the Soviet threat were themselves contained; they pushed successfully for a new arms build-up and intervention in central America, but they were never more than second-rung players — Team B, as they were known — and ended up badly embarrassed by the Iran-Contra scandal.

Triumphalism is almost entirely absent from Wiener’s tour of Cold War monuments; he is assailed, rather, by stories of waste and failure at every turn. Missile silos and sites like the former plutonium production facility at Hanford, Washington, carry the legacy of cancer clusters and expensive clean-ups, overlaid with the uncomfortable taint of official denial. On a tour of the Nevada Test Site, Wiener hears from one of his fellow tourists that inhaling one millionth of a gram of plutonium would be sure to give him lung cancer; the group is advised to stay on the bus with the windows closed. Pregnant women, he learns, are discouraged from taking the tour — not because of the risk of birth defects from contact with radioactive materials, about which the tour operators are strangely quiet, but “because of the long bus ride and uneven terrain.”

Sites memorializing fall-out shelters are more alarming than nostalgic, and the notion, once seriously touted, that nuclear war is survivable invariably collapses under the weight of its own sinister ridiculousness. This is especially true of the giant facility beneath the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, built in the 1950s, where congressmen (but not their wives or families) were expected to hide out, and keep working, through a nuclear Armageddon. It’s not lost on any visitor that the five-hour distance from Washington alone would have made the facility next to useless; the government itself gave up on it in the 1980s and prepared instead — under the auspices of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — for an emergency government in which Congress played no role whatsoever.

Similar institutional bumbling is evident throughout Wiener’s travels, much of it with tragic overtones. It becomes clear, even at an exhibit as casual as the International Spy Museum in Washington, that the courts and the FBI were overzealous in their prosecution of the Rosenbergs, because Ethel was more than likely entirely innocent, and Julius gave the Soviets nothing of value to further their atomic weapons program. (Wiener contrasts their death sentences with the free pass given to Ted Hall, another scientist at Los Alamos who by his own later admission gave valuable secrets to the Soviets.) The prosecution of Alger Hiss was similarly flawed and clearly over-politicized; a farcical attempt by conservative ideologues to establish a National Historic Landmark to Hiss’s nemesis, Whittaker Chambers, at the site of the Maryland pumpkin patch where Chambers recovered a microfilm supposed to contain incriminating documents, provides Wiener with one of his most humorous stories.

The idea that America did not win the Cold War so much as outlast it is not a new one. As early as April 1990, five months after the Berlin Wall fell, the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wondered why Americans seemed so uninterested in celebrating and decided it was because they didn’t entirely know what they had been fighting for. No less a figure than George Kennan — the tortured, occasionally ambivalent but undeniably visionary architect of America’s doctrine of containment at the start of the Cold War — believed that the country’s anti-communist belligerence had served only to harden attitudes in Moscow and prolong the conflict. “Nobody ‘won’ the Cold War,” he argued in his book At a Century’s Ending. “It was a long and costly political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other side.”

What Wiener’s book suggests, most originally, is a possible correlation between the litany of failures he catalogues through his travels, and the adamant insistence of conservatives that the Cold War was a good and noble cause vindicating their political positions. Wiener draws a direct line between the Cold Warriors who once advocated “rollback” and the ideologues who deployed very similar arguments (and were, in several instances, the selfsame people) to push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

One might go a step further and argue that the ultranationalism of the conservative hawks was in fact born and nurtured out of their thwarted desire, over decades, to drive national policy, and out of the failures their ideology weathered when it did push through — in the McCarthy witch hunts, in the FBI’s illegal spying on civil rights leaders and the 1960s anti-war movement and, most strikingly, in the ill-fated attempt at rollback in Vietnam. European history teaches us that ultranationalism is more often born from defeat than from victory — just look at the Serbs, who even before the excesses of the secessionist wars of the 1990s were still clinging to the memory of their historic drubbing by the Turks in 1389. The bitterness of defeat with which the post-Vietnam generation had to contend led directly to the strain of ultranationalism now most commonly labeled neo-conservatism, which promised a more muscular America projecting moral as well as military superiority over the rest of the world.

Much of the country may have chosen to forget the Cold War, or at a minimum not to celebrate it, but for the neocons and veterans of Team B, victory over communism remains a necessary battle cry driving their agenda — in the wars unleashed over the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the ongoing “war on terrorism,” and in the wars they are still itching to fight.

via America’s forgotten war – Salon.com.

via America’s forgotten war – Salon.com.

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