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Irish solidarity despite economic conditions that drive societies apart


In the survey, the Irish showed top ratings in the sub-categories of helpfulness and strength of social networks. Photograph: PA

Despite ongoing economic hardship, a new study indicates that social cohesion in Ireland remains stronger than in Britain, Germany or France.

The survey by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation ranked Ireland 11th on a list of 35 countries that was topped by Nordic countries, Australia and New Zealand.

While economic hardship can drive a society apart, the study noted smaller states such as Ireland, Switzerland and Austria demonstrate a more resilient sense of cohesion than larger neighbours. Using data collated over 25 years, the study attempts to quantify the levels of social cohesion, defined as the level of solidarity exhibited by people living and working in a geographical community.

The researchers studied data from 34 countries including 27 members of the EU – before Croatia’s accession – and seven other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. They found the strongest social cohesion in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. After Australia and New Zealand, Ireland belonged to the next-best group.

The Irish showed top ratings in the sub-categories of solidarity, helpfulness and strength of social networks but only average ratings regarding overall fairness and civic participation.

Researchers noted one negative trend: declining trust in Irish institutions. Looking at the data going back 25 years, researchers suggest the idea of solidarity remains strong in Ireland while respect for social rules, having dipped in about 2008, is again on the rise.

Irish solidarity despite economic conditions that drive societies apart – European News | Latest News from Across Europe | The Irish Times – Wed, Jul 17, 2013.

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Germany Has Created An Accidental Empire


Are we now living in a German Europe? In an interview with EUROPP editors Stuart A Brown and Chris Gilson, Ulrich Beck discusses German dominance of the European Union, the divisive effects of austerity policies, and the relevance of his concept of the ‘risk society’ to the current problems being experienced in the Eurozone.

How has Germany come to dominate the European Union?

Well it happened somehow by accident. Germany has actually created an ‘accidental empire’. There is no master plan; no intention to occupy Europe. It doesn’t have a military basis, so all the talk about a ‘Fourth Reich’ is misplaced. Rather it has an economic basis – it’s about economic power – and it’s interesting to see how in the anticipation of a European catastrophe, with fears that the Eurozone and maybe even the European Union might break down, the landscape of power in Europe has changed fundamentally.

First of all there’s a split between the Eurozone countries and the non-Eurozone countries. Suddenly for example the UK, which is only a member of the EU and not a member of the Eurozone, is losing its veto power. It’s a tragic comedy how the British Prime Minister is trying to tell us that he is still the one who is in charge of changing the European situation. The second split is that among the Eurozone countries there is an important division of power between the lender countries and the debtor countries. As a result Germany, the strongest economic country, has become the most powerful EU state.

Are austerity policies dividing Europe?

Indeed they are, in many ways. First of all we have a new line of division between northern European and southern European countries. Of course this is very evident, but the background from a sociological point of view is that we are experiencing the redistribution of risk from the banks, through the states, to the poor, the unemployed and the elderly. This is an amazing new inequality, but we are still thinking in national terms and trying to locate this redistribution of risk in terms of national categories.

At the same time there are two leading ideologies in relation to austerity policies. The first is pretty much based on what I call the ‘Merkiavelli’ model – by this I mean a combination of Niccolò Machiavelli and Angela Merkel. On a personal level, Merkel takes a long time to make decisions: she’s always waiting until some kind of consensus appears. But this kind of waiting makes the countries depending on Germany’s decision realise that actually Germany holds the power. This deliberate hesitation is quite an interesting strategy in terms of the way that Germany has taken over economically.

The second element is that Germany’s austerity policies are not based simply on pragmatism, but also underlying values. The German objection to countries spending more money than they have is a moral issue which, from a sociological point of view, ties in with the ‘Protestant Ethic’. It’s a perspective which has Martin Luther and Max Weber in the background. But this is not seen as a moral issue in Germany, instead it’s viewed as economic rationality. They don’t see it as a German way of resolving the crisis; they see it as if they are the teachers instructing southern European countries on how to manage their economies.

This creates another ideological split because the strategy doesn’t seem to be working so far and we see many forms of protest, of which Cyprus is the latest example. But on the other hand there is still a very important and powerful neo-liberal faction in Europe which continues to believe that austerity policies are the answer to the crisis.

Is the Eurozone crisis proof that we live in a risk society?

Yes, this is the way I see it. My idea of the risk society could easily be misunderstood because the term ‘risk’ actually signifies that we are in a situation to cope with uncertainty, but to me the risk society is a situation in which we are not able to cope with the uncertainty and consequences that we produce in society.

I make a distinction between ‘first modernity’ and our current situation. First modernity, which lasted from around the 18th century until perhaps the 1960s or 1970s, was a period where there was a great deal of space for experimentation and we had a lot of answers for the uncertainties that we produced: probability models, insurance mechanisms, and so on. But then because of the success of modernity we are now producing consequences for which we don’t have any answers, such as climate change and the financial crisis. The financial crisis is an example of the victory of a specific interpretation of modernity: neo-liberal modernity after the breakdown of the Communist system, which dictates that the market is the solution and that the more we increase the role of the market, the better. But now we see that this model is failing and we don’t have any answers.

We have to make a distinction between a risk society and a catastrophe society. A catastrophe society would be one in which the motto is ‘too late’: where we give in to the panic of desperation. A risk society in contrast is about the anticipation of future catastrophes in order to prevent them from happening. But because these potential catastrophes are not supposed to happen – the financial system could collapse, or nuclear technology could be a threat to the whole world – we don’t have the basis for experimentation. The rationality of calculating risk doesn’t work anymore. We are trying to anticipate something that is not supposed to happen, which is an entirely new situation.

Take Germany as an example. If we look at Angela Merkel, a few years ago she didn’t believe that Greece posed a major problem, or that she needed to engage with it as an issue. Yet now we are in a completely different situation because she has learned that if you look into the eyes of a potential catastrophe, suddenly new things become possible. Suddenly you think about new institutions, or about the fiscal compact, or about a banking union, because you anticipate a catastrophe which is not supposed to happen. This is a huge mobilising force, but it’s highly ambivalent because it can be used in different ways. It could be used to develop a new vision for Europe, or it could be used to justify leaving the European Union.

How should Europe solve its problems?

I would say that the first thing we have to think about is what the purpose of the European Union actually is. Is there any purpose? Why Europe and not the whole world? Why not do it alone in Germany, or the UK, or France?

I think there are four answers in this respect. First, the European Union is about enemies becoming neighbours. In the context of European history this actually constitutes something of a miracle. The second purpose of the European Union is that it can prevent countries from being lost in world politics. A post-European Britain, or a post-European Germany, is a lost Britain, and a lost Germany. Europe is part of what makes these countries important from a global perspective.

The third point is that we should not only think about a new Europe, we also have to think about how the European nations have to change. They are part of the process and I would say that Europe is about redefining the national interest in a European way. Europe is not an obstacle to national sovereignty; it is the necessary means to improve national sovereignty. Nationalism is now the enemy of the nation because only through the European Union can these countries have genuine sovereignty.

The fourth point is that European modernity, which has been distributed all over the world, is a suicidal project. It’s producing all kinds of basic problems, such as climate change and the financial crisis. It’s a bit like if a car company created a car without any brakes and it started to cause accidents: the company would take these cars back to redesign them and that’s exactly what Europe should do with modernity. Reinventing modernity could be a specific purpose for Europe.

Taken together these four points form what you could say is a grand narrative of Europe, but one basic issue is missing in the whole design. So far we’ve thought about things like institutions, law, and economics, but we haven’t asked what the European Union means for individuals. What do individuals gain from the European project? First of all I would say that, particularly in terms of the younger generation, more Europe is producing more freedom. It’s not only about the free movement of people across Europe; it’s also about opening up your own perspective and living in a space which is essentially grounded on law.

Second, European workers, but also students as well, are now confronted with the kind of existential uncertainty which needs an answer. Half of the best educated generation in Spanish and Greek history lack any future prospects. So what we need is a vision for a social Europe in the sense that the individual can see that there is not necessarily social security, but that there is less uncertainty. Finally we need to redefine democracy from the bottom up. We need to ask how an individual can become engaged with the European project. In that respect I have made a manifesto, along with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, called “We Are Europe”, arguing that we need a free year for everyone to do a project in another country with other Europeans in order to start a European civil society.

A more detailed discussion of the topics covered in this article is available in Ulrich Beck’s latest book, German Europe (Polity 2013). This interview was first published on EUROPP@LSE

via Germany Has Created An Accidental Empire.

Draft EU data law could kill casual web browsing, digital SMEs warn


A group of Irish online publishers say draft European laws could force users to register just to see the homepage of a website.

Justin Cullen of Core Media, Sean Kelly MEP, Agata Nowacka of IAB Europe, Suzanne McElligott of IAB Ireland, Eamonn Fallon of Distilled Media and John Patten of Digitize.

WEB USERS could be forced to register with a website just to see its homepage, if the current draft of an EU regulation on online data is not changed before becoming law.

That’s according to a group of small and medium-sized Irish digital advertising firms, which says a new data protection regulation being put together in Brussels could make it virtually impossible to show content to casual users.

IAB Ireland, a trade association for the online advertisers, says the current draft of the laws would mean websites could only show content to users who explicitly approve the submission of some of their personal data.

It also extends the definition of ‘personal data’ to include non-personal details like an internet user’s IP address and the cookies stored by their browser.

IAB Ireland’s member firms say the rules could mean the end of an era where users can “serendipitously” discover new websites – as they would have to explicitly approve the submission of their personal data simply to see its homepage.

The group said it was important to realise that the laws would be coming in the form of a European regulation – meaning it would automatically become law in each EU member state, and was not subject to national amendment or discretion.

While this has advantages – making sure that online publishers only have to deal with one set of rules, instead of complying with dozens of separate legal systems – it also requires the unanimous approval of all EU member states, and the European Commission and Parliament, to be changed.

Once the laws were in, therefore, it was almost impossible for individual countries to engineer a change – meaning it was vital that the final regulation be workable and fully thought through.

‘Large parts of the web could disappear’

Eamonn Fallon, chief executive of Distilled Media whose sites include TheJournal.ie, said large parts of the web could “disappear behind login walls” if the regulation was not amended before being brought into law.

He added that users would also have to explicitly agree to send their IP address to different sites, whose content might all appear on one page.

So, for example, a website featuring ads controlled by Google would be asked whether they wanted to give Google their IP address, simply in exchange for allowing the ads to appear on the page. Similarly, Facebook users could be asked to explicitly send their IP address to Facebook just so a ‘Like’ button could appear.

Fallon said that if information like a user’s IP address was considered ‘personal’, “the only way companies like ours can legally run web analytics and third party adservers would be to force all our users to login.”

Digitize director John Patten added it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible, to gather explicit consent on the websites on which ad networks, or site analytics companies, operate.”

This was because the companies delivering ads to users, or compiling readership figures on behalf of a web publisher, “do not have have a direct relationship with the users from whom they would need to obtain explicit consent.”

The group says the regulation’s whole purpose – to try and minimise the data that websites can collect about users – would be totally undermined if it forced websites to actively seek more information from users before allowing them to view content.

Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly, who attended an IAB media event this morning, is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the data protection updates. Kelly says he has tabled a number of amendments to the draft regulations, to try and address the concerns of the SMEs.

“We are working hard at an EU level to ensure that the Regulation balances strong protection for consumer rights with the opportunity to facilitate SMEs in Ireland and across Europe to prosper in the digital economy,” he said.

via Draft EU data law could kill casual web browsing, digital SMEs warn.

EURO Press Release – The G8 summit in Lough Erne (UK) on 17-18 June 2013: the European Union’s role and actions


What are the main topics on this year’s agenda?

The United Kingdom, who is holding this year’s annual G8 presidency, has set out three main topics for their G8 presidency: trade, taxation and transparency (“the three Ts”). The three Ts will feature high on the summit’s agenda together with discussions of the global economy and foreign and security policy.

What are the EU’s role and actions regarding these topics?

1) TRADE

The European Union is the world’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 17% of global imports and exports of goods and commercial services. Trade is a key engine to boost growth and jobs in the EU. Almost one quarter of EU growth comes from international trade, and about 30 million jobs in the EU, or more than 10 % of the total workforce, depend on sales to the rest of the world, an increase of almost 50 % since 1995. To foster trade, EU policy translates into following actions: negotiating bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, ensuring that the rules agreed are actually applied, and working closely with the WTO and other multilateral institutions. This allows tackling international trade and customs barriers, backed up where needed with EU legislation.

In the field of bilateral trade agreements, prominent examples are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States, on which negotiations will be launched shortly, the free trade agreement that the EU has started negotiating recently with Japan, and the EU-Canada trade negotiations are now in their final stretch. In total, the EU has 28 trade agreements already in place, has finished negotiations on 9 trade agreements that yet have to enter into force, has 11 trade negotiations actively under way and several more trade and development negotiations on-going (for a full list see MEMO/13/282). If the EU was to complete all its current free trade talks tomorrow, it would add 2.2% to the EU’s GDP or €275 billion. This is equivalent of adding a country as big as Austria or Denmark to the EU economy. In terms of employment, these agreements could generate 2.2 million new jobs or additional 1% of the EU total workforce.

Complementing its bilateral trade relations, the EU continues to move forward with the multilateral trade agenda. For example, it is fully engaged to conclude a WTO trade facilitation agreement, on which the deal should be closed at December’s WTO ministerial meeting in Bali. Also, the EU is making the case to further trade in Africa, for example by lowering trade costs, stimulating infrastructure financing and coordinating support better. The EU is the world’s largest provider of development assistance in support of increased international and regional trade (“Aid for Trade”), with around 32% of total Aid for Trade flows – reaching more than €10.7 billion in 2010.

More info on EU trade policy: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/

2) TAXATION

Every year, around one trillion euros is lost to tax evasion and avoidance in the EU – the equivalent to the EU’s next seven years’ budget. The global losses are much higher. Tax fraud and tax evasion limit the capacity governments to raise money and implement their economic and social policies. Against the backdrop of developments like the so-called off-shore leaks and the need for consolidating public finances, a new political momentum towards greater tax fairness in Europe and globally is gaining ground. Concrete measures of legal, administrative and political nature are deployed to further step up the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance. The EU is actively promoting and pioneering this agenda, at home, with neighbouring countries and with its global partners in the context of the G8, the G20 and the OECD. Just in May 2013, the European Council of Heads of State and Government marked important progress in this regard: it confirmed that all Member States are committed to adopt the EU savings directive by the end of 2013. After years of stand-still, this would establish the automatic exchange of information as the common standard in the EU. It also will help to promote the automatic exchange of information further internationally in the context of the OECD. The EU, also in May, has agreed the mandates to negotiate agreements on automatic information exchange with its neighbouring countries, including Switzerland (see press release 9487/13). On 12 June 2013, the European Commission proposed the widest possible scope for the automatic exchange of information between EU tax administrations (see IP/13/530 and MEMO/13/533). This proposal paves the way for the EU to have the most comprehensive system of automatic information exchange in the world. The European Council in May also called on the Council to adopt measures to counter VAT fraud by end of June. The measures include the Quick Reaction Mechanism, which will enable rapid intervention by Member States in cases of sudden and massive fraud, and the Reverse Charge Mechanism, which specifically targets carrousel fraud. The European Commission’s Action Plan to fight tax fraud and tax evasion, presented in December 2012 complements this toolbox including action on tax havens and on aggressive tax planning.

International groups of companies use and abuse opportunities to shift taxable profits to low tax countries or tax havens. As a result some big multinationals pay extremely little corporate income tax in Member States, as illustrated by several recent high profile cases. The EU is fully supportive and contributes to the global efforts in the OECD, G20 and G8 to limit base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), including through the Commission’s December 2012 Action Plan to strengthen the fight against tax fraud and evasion and its Recommendations on good tax governance and aggressive tax planning.

More info on EU fight against tax fraud and tax evasion: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/tax_fraud_evasion/index_en.htm

3) TRANSPARENCY

The EU very recently (see MEMO/13/546) updated its transparency and accounting directives on 12 June (see MEMO/13/546), which is a huge step in the global fight against corruption and for more transparency in extractive industries and forestry. This legislation, once fully in place in the Member States, will greatly benefit developing countries, providing them with instruments to reduce corruption and to boost revenues from the exploitation of minerals, fossil fuels or wood.

In the context of this G8 summit’s ‘Land Transparency initiative’ and within the framework of its development policy (the Agenda for Change), the EU has been supporting the implementation of the 2012 Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests through 40 projects and programmes on land issues. Alone for 2013 the EU made a further commitment of €31 million to implement the land governance guidelines in 10 more countries.

On Open government data, the EU is currently finalising the revision of the 2003 Public Sector Information Directive, which will open-up public sector data for re-use across Europe. Developers, programmers, businesses and citizens will be able to get and re-use public sector data at zero or very low cost in most cases. They will also have access to more exciting and inspirational content, for example including materials in national museums, libraries and archives. For the Commission, opening up public data means opening up business opportunities, creating jobs and building communities. (see Vice-President Kroes’ statement: IP/13/316)

Shortly before the G8 summit in Lough Erne will also be the occasion for the EU to announce specific partnerships with African countries to promote transparency.

4) OTHER ISSUES

Other issues likely to top the agenda of the G8 leaders are the discussion of the global economy and how to boost jobs and growth as well as international and security issues. The crisis in Syria will figure particularly high on the agenda. The EU is appalled by the escalating violence and the continued violations of human rights. The EU has also reiterated its support for the American-Russian initiative for an international peace conference on Syria and has announced its willingness to support preparatory efforts. The solution to the conflict lies in facilitating a Syrian-led political process. The EU is also with more than 840 million euros already the largest humanitarian donor for the crisis and will mobilize an additional 400 million euros for Syria and neighbouring countries – in particular Lebanon and Jordan, including the host communities there, which are most severely affected (read President Barroso’s statement of 6 June on the crisis in Syria: MEMO/13/515 or watch the video of the statement). The situation in Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, Mali, the tensions on the Korean Peninsula or the transition process in the Southern Mediterranean through the G8 Deauville partnership are also likely to be touched upon.

The EU is the biggest donor in the world – more than half of global development aid is provided by Europeans. Aid constitutes about 9% of the EU budget (this includes the European Development fund, which is not part of the EU budget).

Since 2004, thanks to the EU support, more than 9 million pupils have been enrolled in primary education, and more than 720,000 primary school teachers have been trained; 5 million children received immunisation against measles; 750,000 persons received antiretroviral combination therapy; 32 million households have been connected to drinking water and 9 million to sanitation facilities; More than 600,000 families were provided access to electricity; The Commission has helped to protect 1.5 million km² of forests and to conserve and 1.1 million km² of protected areas; the EU as a whole helped build and rehabilitate around 36 000 km of roads. (for more info, see http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/what/index_en.htm)

Boosting agriculture and food security is a top priority of the EU’s development policy: every year around €1 billion is invested to that end. In 2010-2011 alone, the Commission allocated nearly €5 billion to improve food security. A recent report on the EU’s Food Facility – the €1 billion facility set up in 2008 on initiative of President Barroso to counter the negative effects of the food crisis – shows that in three years, the EU food facility has improved the lives of over 59 million people in 49 countries, and provided indirect support for another 93 million others, particularly farmers. On Saturday 15 June the European Commission will be awarded the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Jacques Diouf prize for its contribution towards to the improvement of global food security. (see http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/what/food-security/index_en.htm)

Today, 870 million people are still going hungry and malnutrition is responsible for over 3 million child deaths annually. Only a few days ago, at the Nutrition for Growth event of the UK G8 Presidency, the EU announced that it will spend an unprecedented €3.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 on improving nutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries. The policy framework will seek a stronger mobilisation and political commitment for nutrition at country and international level, will scale up nutrition interventions, and will allow the EU to invest in applied research and support information systems. (more info: see IP/13/516)

See also the UK G8 Presidency’s accountability report published on 7 June 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/lough-erne-accountability-report

At this summit, also the fight against climate change is expected to be on the agenda and provide the global negotiations towards an agreement in 2015 additional momentum.

5) THE EU AS G8 MEMBER

Who represents the European Union at the G8 summit?

The European Union is a full member in the annual G8 Summits and is represented by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council. Commission President Barroso, who attended the G8 for the first time in Gleneagles in 2005, is participating for the 9th time, while Council President Van Rompuy has been attending the G8 since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

Since when does the EU participate in the G8 summits?

In 1977, representatives of the then European Community began participating in the London Summit. The first G8 summit was held two years earlier, in 1975 in Rambouillet (France). Originally, the EU had a limited role to those areas in which it had exclusive competences, but the EU’s role has grown with time. The European Commission was gradually included in all political discussions on the summit agenda and took part in all summit working sessions, as of the Ottawa Summit (1981).

Because the European Union is a unique supranational organisation – not a sovereign Member State – the name G8, ‘Group of Eight Nations’, still stands. For the same reason, the EU does not assume the rotating G8 presidency. The European Union has all the privileges and obligations of membership except the right to host and chair a Summit. The Commission and the Council have all the responsibilities of membership, and what the Presidents of the Commission and the Council endorse at the Summit is politically binding.

Which countries will hold the G8 presidency next?

The UK will hand over the Presidency to Russia for 2014. The Presidency will continue in its rotation to Germany in 2015, Japan in 2016, Italy in 2017, Canada in 2018, France in 2019, and the USA in 2020.

6) MORE NEWS ON THE 2013 G8 SUMMIT IN LOUGH ERNE:

President Barroso’s G8 website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/g20/index_en.htm

President Van Rompuy’s G8 website: http://www.european-council.europa.eu/the-president/summits-with-third-countries?lang=en

UK Government G8 website: https://www.gov.uk/g8

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BarrosoEU and http://www.twitter.com/euHvr

Video material: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ebs/schedule.cfm

and http://tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/

Press Material:

IP/13/535 The European Union at the G8 summit in Lough Erne (UK) on 17-18 June 2013

MEMO/13/548 Promoting global fairness through trade, taxation and transparency, says President Barroso ahead of G8 Summit

via EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press Release – The G8 summit in Lough Erne (UK) on 17-18 June 2013: the European Union’s role and actions.

The agricultural revolution – UK pushes Europe to embrace GM crops


Britain is to push the European Union to relax restrictions on the licensing of genetically modified crops for human consumption amid growing scientific evidence that they are safe, and surveys showing they are supported by farmers. The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, is expected to use a speech next week to outline the start of a new government approach to GM to ensure Britain “is not left behind” in agricultural science.

The move comes as 61 per cent of UK farmers now say they would like to grow GM crops after a disastrous 12-month cycle of poor weather that is expected significantly to reduce harvest yields. Senior government officials said that ministers are increasingly concerned that the potential moral and ethical benefits of GM are being ignored by costly and bureaucratic licensing regulations.

With one-twelfth of global arable land under GM cultivation they have privately warned that Britain faces being left behind in an important technology that has the potential to improve crop yields, help the UK’s agricultural industry and provide benefits to human health through vitamin fortification.

Government sources added that GM also had applications beyond food including the potential to combat diseases such as ash dieback and in developing new medicines.

“The point about GM is not simply about food production,” they said. “There are wider potential environmental and economic benefits to the technology both in the UK and internationally.

“What we want to do is start a dialogue within Europe on GM based upon the science.”

Ministers are hopeful of building support in Brussels for a change of heart on GM, with Germany seen as a key swing voter. However, any attempts to relax the rules could face opposition from countries such as Poland which in April became the eighth EU member state to ban the cultivation of GM crops.

Mr Paterson is said to believe that Britain should take the lead in moving the debate on from the knee-jerk reaction against GM for much of the last decade.

The move comes as a poll of over 600 British farmers found a considerable shift in their stance toward GM in the past year, with nearly a third saying they would be more likely to grow GM crops if it were legal now than they were 12 months ago – about half of them a “lot more” so.

On top of the advocated benefits of improving yields and cutting down on costs such as pesticides, the increasingly extreme weather has concentrated farmers’ minds on the need to guard against climate change.

“The weather has definitely had an impact,” said Martin Haworth, director of policy at the National Farmers Union. “Farmers are becoming more and more aware that climate change doesn’t mean a gradual rise in temperatures but rather a stream of extreme weather events. GM technology is one possible way of mitigating this.

“Last summer was disastrous for potatoes, for example. The potential for growing potatoes resistant to blight has had an impact on some farmers’ attitudes,” he said, adding that farmers were “very frustrated” at not being able to grow GM crops.

One of the survey’s respondents said they wanted to grow GM crops because “the terrible weather in the past two years has meant that yields have been down and the cost of fertiliser and pesticides have been rising ever since”.

GM crops can be engineered to grow faster, increase their resistance to weeds, pests and pesticides, produce extra nutrients or survive harsher weather conditions. They are created by taking genes with beneficial qualities from other organisms and injecting them into the plant. A gene from bacteria found in soil has proved particularly effective at warding off pests from cotton plants, for example.

But while they are widely grown in North and South America, GM crops are effectively banned in the UK and Europe where they are considered on an extremely strict case-by-case basis.

Since the first GM food was produced in 1994 – a delayed-ripening tomato, which had a longer shelf-life – the EU has granted just two licences to cultivate GM crops, neither of them grown in the UK. One was for plants engineered to resist corn borers and the other for a starchy potato used to make paper.

Apart from that, Europe’s exposure to GM products has been confined to imports of genetically modified animal feed, while much of the meat, eggs and milk comes from animals that have been reared on engineered grains.

Science Minister David Willetts said that controls on GM crops should be weakened to make it easier for Britain’s farmers to grow them.

“We believe that GM crops can help make agriculture more efficient and also just as importantly more sustainable, by, for example, reducing the use of pesticides and the use of fossil fuels,” he said.

“There are just too m any 21st-Century technologies that Europe is just being very slow to adopt… one productive way forward is to have this discussion as part of a wider need for Europe to remain innovative rather than a museum of 20th century technology,” he added.

A European Commission analysis of 130 research projects carried out by 500 groups over 25 years concluded in December 2010 that there is “no scientific evidence associating genetically modified organisms with higher risks for the environment or food and feed safety than conventional plants or organisms”.

However, the evidence is not conclusive and the technique continues to be highly controversial. Opponents to GM crops argue that it is far too early to conclude that the technique is safe – including many farmers, with a quarter saying they would not cultivate them under any circumstances.

They are concerned that adopting GM crops could foster stronger pests, diseases and weeds as their foes evolve to adapt to engineered plant and that the injected “rogue” genes could cause problems by spreading to other plants.

The report was conducted by Farmers Weekly magazine and the Reed publishing group and commissioned by Barclays.

Underlining the scale of public opposition to GM foods, a separate new survey out today by YouGov found that only 21 per cent of the population supported the technology, while 35 per cent opposed it.

via Exclusive: The agricultural revolution – UK pushes Europe to embrace GM crops – UK Politics – UK – The Independent.

Austerity could only ever bring Europe so far


There can be no solution to the European Union’s crisis without restructuring economic and monetary union

By

László Andor, Pervenche Berès, Joan Burton, Yves Leterme and Henri Malosse- The Guardian 

spain unemployment

Demonstrators in tents protest in Madrid about a youth unemployment rate of 40%. ‘The target must be full employment.’ Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Economic prosperity and social progress are key European Union goals. But for the past five years it has delivered neither. It has been in a double-dip recession since mid-2011, with unemployment now at a record high of 11% and no tangible improvement in sight.

The crisis has lasted longer in Europe than in the US or the rest of the world mainly because of poorly designed monetary union, without an appropriate framework of rules for banks and other financial institutions or sufficiently robust budgetary instruments.

So far the EU has only deployed the minimum collective response necessary for the euro’s survival: conditional emergency loans to troubled countries, conditional bond-buying by the European Central Bank, tougher economic policy co-ordination, and tighter restrictions on governments’ debts to assure markets of countries’ responsibility.

However, the reality of today’s eurozone is far too many people out of work, falling internal demand, increasing polarisation within societies – and a yawning chasm dividing relatively prosperous core countries from a periphery destined for depression. Without boosting macroeconomic demand, making labour markets more flexible in troubled EU countries – while often necessary – will not in itself create sufficient jobs.

Moreover, the pressure to make far-reaching “adjustments” often means that there is limited time to discuss reforms with trade unions and employers’ organisations before they are introduced, undermining reforms’ sustainability and sometimes leading to social unrest. Many citizens feel increasingly disconnected from national politics, and even more so from European decision-making, over which they feel they have little influence.

The real economy is being stifled by debt incurred by poorly regulated and supervised banks and other financial institutions in the pre-2008 age of easy money. As banks need to shrink their balance sheets, they are reluctant to lend to companies in the real economy. Meanwhile, the recession is pushing more households and companies into serious financial difficulties. All in all, Europe has not yet succeeded in eliminating uncertainty, and its people have paid a high price for this. The conclusion is clear: we will not recover through incremental steps that just appease the financial markets for a few months.

In the past year the EU policy debate has rightly shifted towards growth, as opposed to “austerity only”. But we still lack a robust recovery strategy worthy of the name. Such a strategy would require a new policy mix based on the following elements.

First, we must urgently set up an EU-level banking union to restructure or close down failed banks. Companies need access to more credit, under better conditions, to invest and grow. Europe’s financial sector must cut its debts faster, including through greater debt write-offs and shaking up banking structures.

Second, consolidation in weaker member states needs to be balanced by higher consumption in stronger EU countries. The monetary union cannot rely solely on squeezing troubled countries, which depresses overall demand. “Symmetrical rebalancing” requires structural measures in stronger countries, such as allowing wages to catch up with productivity and adequate minimum wages to prevent in-work poverty.

Third, if weaker member states are to regain competitiveness while keeping the euro, they need investment in the real economy. This must be based on sophisticated industrial policy and support for entrepreneurship, so that restructuring produces sustainable business models. If used wisely, EU funds such as the European social fund can be a major source of financial support, together with the European Investment Bank.

Fourth, Europe’s monetary policy must become more expansionary. The ECB has bought Europe time through its bond-buying pledge, turning itself into a conditional lender of last resort. That is to be welcomed. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Europe’s financial crisis cannot be overcome in a deflationary environment, so a different inflation outlook is necessary. We must rethink the ECB’s role and powers.

Fifth, Europe must invest in human capital – creating opportunities for people. EU ministers have agreed  a youth guarantee, to ensure that every young person gets a job, apprenticeship or learning opportunity within four months of becoming unemployed. Now individual member states must put it into practice. Similar “social investment” must be boosted across the board – for example, through the provision of quality childcare and the re-skilling of older workers. The target must be full employment.

European leaders should focus on finding a systemic, long-term solution to the crisis, restoring each country’s growth potential and convergence within the monetary union. Europe should convene a Bretton Woods-type conference to put in place an economic and monetary arrangement for the coming decades.

For such a lasting arrangement, a grand bargain between surplus and deficit countries is needed, ensuring a sustainable economic future for each. Some pooling of government debt, and cross-country automatic stabilisers (where, for example, the costs of cyclical unemployment are shared between the member states by using common European funds) should be seriously considered for Europe’s monetary union.

Rebalancing through aggressive reduction of government spending and similar measures in deficit countries (under the euphemism “internal devaluation”) is, without higher domestic demand in the surplus countries, a recipe for long-lasting recession and disintegration. There is no solution to the crisis without reconstructing Europe’s economic and monetary union, and without shifting the focus on to people’s needs and potential. Austerity could only ever bring us so far. We must now move to the next stage.

via Austerity could only ever bring Europe so far | László Andor | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December


Some good newsimages (9)

Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December

A restriction on the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoid family was today adopted by the Commission. These pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) were identified as being harmful to Europe’s honeybee population. This restriction will enter into force as from 1 December 2013 and will be reviewed, at the latest, within two years. It targets pesticides used in the treatment of plants and cereals that are attractive to bees and pollinators.

“Last month, I pledged that, based on the number of risks identified by the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific opinion, I would do my utmost to ensure that our honeybee population is protected. Today’s adoption delivers on that pledge and marks another milestone towards ensuring a healthier future for our honeybees, as bees have two important roles to play: not only that of producing honey but primarily to be a pollinator. About 80 % of all pollination is due to the activity of bees – this is natural and free of costs” said Tonio Borg, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

Today’s measure forms part of the Commission’s overall strategy1 to tackle the decline of Europe’s bee population. Since the publication of the Commission’s bee health strategy in 2010, several actions have been taken or are underway. These include: the designation of a EU Reference Laboratory for bee health; increased EU co-financing for national apiculture programmes, co-financing to carry out surveillance studies in 17 voluntary Member States (€3.3 million were allocated in 2012) and EU research programmes such as BeeDoc and STEP which look into the multifactorial aspects that could be attributed to Europe’s bee decline.

Next steps

Member States must withdraw or amend existing authorisations to comply with the EU restrictions by 30 September 2013. They can allow the use of existing stocks until 30 November at the latest. National authorities are responsible for ensuring that the restrictions are correctly applied.

As soon as new information is available, and at the latest within 2 years, the Commission will review this restriction to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

Background

Following the absence of an agreement (qualified majority) between Member States during the appeal committee of 29 April 2013, the Commission announced that it will proceed with the restriction as foreseen.

The restriction applies to the use of 3 neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on plants and cereals (with the exception of winter cereals) that are attractive to bees. The remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals. Exceptions will be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.

Pesticides have been identified as one of several factors which may be responsible for the decline in number of bees. Other factors also include parasites, other pathogens, lack of veterinary medicines or sometimes their misuse, apiculture management and environmental factors such as lack of habitat and feed and climate change.

For more information:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/bees/neonicotinoids_en.htm

EFSA’s website:

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/beehealth.htm?wtrl=01

via EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press Release – Bee Health: EU-wide restrictions on Pesticide use to enter into force on 1 December.

Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Corn Fields


Hungary has taken a bold stand against biotech giant Monsanto and genetic modification by destroying 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, according to Hungary deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar. Unlike many European Union countries, Hungary is a nation where genetically modified (GM) seeds are banned. In a similar stance against GM ingredients, Peru has also passed a 10 year ban on GM foods.

Almost 1000 acres of maize found to have been ground with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed throughout Hungary, deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development Lajos Bognar said. The GMO maize has been ploughed under, said Lajos Bognar, but pollen has not spread from the maize, he added.

Unlike several EU members, GMO seeds are banned in Hungary. The checks will continue despite the fact that seek traders are obliged to make sure that their products are GMO free, Bognar said.

During the invesigation, controllers have found Pioneer Monsanto products among the seeds planted.

The free movement of goods within the EU means that authorities will not investigate how the seeds arrived in Hungary, but they will check where the goods can be found, Bognar said. Regional public radio reported that the two biggest international seed producing companies are affected in the matter and GMO seeds could have been sown on up to the thousands of hectares in the country. Most of the local farmers have complained since they just discovered they were using GMO seeds.

With season already under way, it is too late to sow new seeds, so this years harvest has been lost.

And to make things even worse for the farmers, the company that distributed the seeds in Baranya county is under liquidation. Therefore, if any compensation is paid by the international seed producers, the money will be paid primarily to that company’s creditors, rather than the farmers.

via Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Corn Fields | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information.

via Hungary Destroys All Monsanto GMO Corn Fields | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information.

US says EU rules on biotech crops ‘unnecessary’


The United States on Monday criticized “unnecessary” European Union rules against genetically modified US crop imports as it prepares to enter free-trade talks with the EU. The United States on Monday criticized “unnecessary” European Union rules against genetically modified US crop imports as it prepares to enter free-trade talks with the EU.

EU restrictions notably have resulted in delays in the approval of new GM traits “despite positive assessments by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),” the US Trade Representative‘s office said in a report on reducing trade sanitary barriers.

The USTR also criticized the EU for imposing “commercially infeasible requirements” on GE content in food products under EU Traceability and Labeling regulations.

“Foreign governments continue to impose discriminatory or otherwise unwarranted measures on US agricultural exports,” Demetrios Marantis, the acting USTR, said in a conference call.

“These barriers not only harm US ranchers and farmers… but they also deprive consumers around the world an access to safe, high-quality US food and agricultural goods,” Marantis said.

The US and the EU are planning to launch negotiations aimed at creating the world’s biggest free-trade area that will cover the politically sensitive question of genetically modified crops.

Allowed in the US, they are strictly regulated in the EU where only two GM crops have been authorized. Eight member states, including Germany and France, have adopted measures to keep them out.

The USTR pointed to the EU’s “unnecessary and burdensome coexistence requirements to planting of GE crops alongside non-GE crops by certain EU member states.”

A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity last month, said that France did not want the upcoming trade negotiations to cover genetically modified crops.

via US says EU rules on biotech crops ‘unnecessary’.

via US says EU rules on biotech crops ‘unnecessary’.

Carrot And Stick -Latest Thwack! Keep moving debt-donkeys. –


Ireland received a significant boost in its bid to seek an extension to the maturities of its bailout loans last night after finance ministers of the countries that share the euro currency backed the deal.

Finance ministers from all 27 EU states will consider the issue at a scheduled meeting in Brussels this morning, which is being chaired by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

EU commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn said he expected an arrangement to be concluded by next month’s meeting of finance ministers, which is scheduled to take place in Dublin.

Yum. Tasty carrot.

While agreement has been reached in principle to extend the maturities, the scope and technical detail of how the extension of maturities will be implemented have yet to be worked out. If agreed by European finance ministers today, it will fall to the bailout troika to devise the technical details of the proposal.

Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem declined to comment on the scale of the adjustments or whether new conditions would be imposed on Ireland and Portugal as a result of any deal.

Thwack! Keep moving debt-donkeys.

austerity

via Carrot And Stick Latest | Broadsheet.ie.

via Carrot And Stick Latest | Broadsheet.ie.

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.

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


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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.

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