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What international role should the EU have?

10:53 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, says Europe has a "once in a generation opportunity" to build a robust new diplomatic service. Do you agree?

Lady Ashton pointed to EU successes in the post-conflict Western Balkans as a model for future action. She also said the EU's despatch of a monitoring mission to war-ravaged Georgia showed what the union could do "when we fully mobilise our resources".

MEPs are discussing the structure of a new European External Action Service - a key part of the structural changes envisaged by the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

Lady Ashton said European leaders negotiated the Lisbon Treaty to "build a stronger, more assertive European foreign policy, at the service of EU citizens".

Where has the EU succeeded and failed internationally? How should the EU act on the world stage? Could a "stronger and more assertive" EU foreign policy make a positive impact?

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    The EU policy in Afghanistan has been a disaster. When it comes to taking real political risks EU just isn't up to it. The US and the UK are pretty well on their own because of EU member state weakness.

    So I agree. Much more unified robustness is needed.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Iraq war showed how easily Europe can be divided, and the recent dispute in the Falklands has shown how South American countries can unite when one of them is under threat. A more united Europe pursuing common interests would benefit us all.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm in favour of the EU as trade organisation, not some kind new super power.

    For that reason I think it has little or no role to play on the international stage.

    Besides, its rare to get full agreement on most issues from all the member states, so it would be a bit rich for the EU to claim to represent the political position of Europe.

  • Comment number 4.

    The EU should have no say at all. It is not a 'nation' state although it thinks it is. They are always poking their nose in where they are not wanted. 'At the service of EU citizens' - don't make me laugh.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's an interesting thought and could be a force for good... but only if there is sufficient consensus amongst EU member states on each issue an EU Diplomatic Service was tasked to address. It would only serve to discredit it should a member state's stance on an issue be at odds with that of the EU as a whole - to whom should the target of their representations pay attention?

    The command and control of such an EU Diplomatic Service would be fraught with difficulties, and it could prove slow to react - or run the risk of acting against the national interests or wishes of a member state if time is not taken for consensus to be reached.

    Nice idea, but I don't think that the EU is mature enough as a democratic institution to sustain it yet. Once the EU is under direct control of EU citizens rather than the current unaccountable system of appointment the idea should be revisited and perhaps implemented.

  • Comment number 6.

    None

    How many of us were given the opportunity to vote on whether we wanted a European superstate with a single currency/army/foreign policy as opposed to a free trade association

  • Comment number 7.

    The EU does not speak for me. It is bad enough to have the Mps in Parliament controlling my life, most were elected, the ones in Brussels like Catherine Ashton were not. The sooner we vote in the Ukip and get out of Europe the better.

  • Comment number 8.

    Our foreign policies have in the past stood us in good stead and had a noticeable impact. Sadly,the EU does not carry the same clout as we used to and our standing in the world has been adversely affected by ineffective foreign secretaries over the past 11 years.Catherine Ashton is not a suitable office holder and does not command respect. Another example of bad selection on the part of this dire Labour 'government'. Time for a radical change!

  • Comment number 9.

    At the climate change talks last year the US, China, India etc showed up the EU and it’s leaders for exactly what it is, a very small player in a very big pond with no power or influence whatsoever over world affairs.

    This new EU diplomatic service is just another back door to the formation of a European army (the aim of this being the control of our armed forces and overseas policies) which would be controlled from Brussels which is their main goal at the moment so it would be goodbye to the Falklands and our nuclear deterrent for a start.

    Why we have to be part of this group I will never understand, we put in vast amounts of cash and get very little back except for unwanted immigration, asylum and human rights legislation and countless amounts of red tape and from faceless plebs who are only interested in defending their own countries interests, not ours.

    The sooner we return to the original EEC (A trading block only) and restart our own manufacturing industry the better it will be for this country and its people.

  • Comment number 10.

    To me, the EU just seems like another wanna-be superpower with as much diplomatic capabilities as a monkey. Not many of them were voted in, and certainly none of them have the undying respect from Britain seeing as we didn't get a referendum anyway. Does Lady Ashton seriously hope to unify the EU when Britain is losing its sovereignty, it is controlled by untried mps who weren't even elected?

    To me it seems they're trying to hammer out individual countries and make eurpoe more like the US with a single currency, a single law making panel and a single army. They have no real policies, except expanding trade under THEIR rules ... pointless in my opinion considering Europe had good enough trade when it was free.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well if it ends up being as bad for us as NATO ,where one country drags others into wars, I say NO ROLE AT ALL.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's a good example of Power corrupting.

    This lady has been given power and now she wants more.

    It's the same with all people we go for a promotion get it and automatically adjust and want the next one.

    We get a good salary, then want more, but when we get it, it does not satisfy as we want more.

    So I can't blame her for wanting more power, staff and an ability to do a job she thinks she should be doing. The problem is that's not her job. The job she got was as a figure head a sounding board, a little like the queen.

    She has power to talk and influence but not to control and direct. Can't blame her for trying but I don't want another tier of diplomatic services, the British government do that well enough for me.

    I also tend to agree the EU is ok once the hard work is done, but in terms of standing up to Russia and in the Balkans that was done by the US, the EU only stepped in to be monitors once the game was already settled.

  • Comment number 13.

    A simple no. Has it ever occurred to anyone that it is international role of the EU that is stirring up trouble? If what Catherine Ashton said is true... and so far it seems to be so... then the people who propagated this inaccurate rubbish must be held to account. Oh for god’s sake, what a typical EU discussion the answer is obviously no. Sometimes pointing out the obvious seems to be a revelation...

  • Comment number 14.

    6000 new pointless Eurocrat posts....Express Gravy Train now leaving Platform 1.

  • Comment number 15.

    Just who the hell do these people think they are..?
    They've never been democratically elected - just 'installed' by the Eurocrats.
    'Europe' is a geographic area - it is NOT a nation state..!
    When we in the UK need a foreign policy view, we have a Foreign Secretary who fulfils that role - unless of course our politicians at Westminster are happy to play 'parish council' to the government in Brussels.
    Apparently the EU has recently decided to add some additional tax to fuel throughout the EU as part of its 'green' agenda - thus overriding any such policy at Westminster.
    Seems we could save the cost of 650 MP's and all their staff - in the country's straitened financial circumstances, perhaps that's not a bad idea...

  • Comment number 16.

    Simply more gravy for the boys on the train that will not achieve anything that is not already being done.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is nonsense - the EU is only interested in Britain when it needs our military.

    As someone who was there at the end of the Balkans war I saw first hand how the EU likes to get involved - not by providing soldiers, they were mostly American or British, but by sending in organisations like The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe who promptly filled the best hotels, demanded new cars for transportation & gave their expense accounts a good thrashing! All paid for by the EU. While our soldiers were living in leaky portacabins, driving 15 year old Land Rovers doing the jobs that other EU countries didnt want to do.

    The sooner we pull the plug on the EU the better for this country.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've corrected the following line for you...

    "European leaders negotiated the Lisbon Treaty to 'build a stronger, more assertive European foreign policy, at the *expense* of EU citizens'"

    A lot of us were not consulted about this. A lot of us didn't want this. As for negotiation - I don't think the average MEP knows what that word means...much less the word 'democratic' - anathema to most MEP's apparently.

    Since the EU cannot possibly say is it acting with the support of it's citizens, I forecast that it's impact on the world stage will be hovering around the zero mark.

  • Comment number 19.

    Bash the Eu, Bash the EU again and again and again. Christ I and the leader writers from the Daily Mail/Sun could have written almost all the posts on this thread.

    As if!

    The UK is not the world superpower everyone thinks we are or have a right to be.

    The British Foriegn Office has NEVER been for the concerns of the ordinary person in this country. Get into trouble and you find they just do not want to know. The FO is an Oxbridge elite, who think in world order terms (a word in your ear your excellency).

    The EU is there to speak for ALL its members and could not do a worse job in looking out for the average UK resident if it was stuffed to the gills with grumpy Frenchmen.

  • Comment number 20.

    Catherine Ashton????? Would you buy a used car off this unelected, ineffective woman? The EU has grown into an unelected beaurocratic undemocratic monster that should be slain. A free market is one thing, anything more is not acceptable in a true democracy.

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't know, it definitely sounds expensive though.

    A diplomatic corps trades on its weight or blat, the armies it can muster or trade it can supply. The EU can never agree on anything so a diplomatic mission to (say) China or India isn't going to have much impact, they'll just sassume we'll flip flop for a few months then end up with a vastly watered down solution excluding France/Germany/Spain/UK/etc [delete where applicable.]


    I'm no longer keen on Europe, I don't think we get value for money as it is. A new foreign diplomatic corps? Nah, it's just some euro-crats wet dream of an empire.

  • Comment number 22.

    No, we voted to join a trading organisation.

    Had Ted Heath not been economical with the truth we almost certtainly would have kept our distance.

    The EU now rules every aspect of our lives aided and abetted by the current government.

    The cost of membership of what is now an unelected super state far outweighs the benefits.

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes, the role of the EU in foreign affairs should be developed. The days when a medium sized national state like the UK could exert significant international influence by itself are over. Nationalism, which allowed our leaders to demand the sacrifices made in the two 20th century world wars, is now much weaker. The choice is between relying on an alliance with the US, which has obliged us to get involved in two pointless wars intended to extend US influence during the last decade alone, or to get more closely involved with our EU partners in Europe.

    In my opinion the European option is much better. Geography means that we have greater common interest with Europe. The US has a Pacific as well as an Atlantic seaboard and will, for example, see China as a rival superpower, and the centre of gravity of our politics is closer to that of our European neighbours. The neo - conservative views of a substantial group of US voters is way off to the right of our political spectrum, as the debate over health insurance in the US clearly illustrates.

  • Comment number 24.

    The 'EU' is not a country (nor should it ever be) so it should have no international role. The sooner the unelected, unwanted, undemocratic little-Napoleons realise that they speak for no-one but themselves, the better.

  • Comment number 25.

    Create even bigger water-head above the EU, without dismantling the existing one? No, thank you.
    Would be nice to know who is who and doing exatly what in Brussels...

  • Comment number 26.

    7. At 11:44am on 10 Mar 2010, happybrian123 wrote:

    "The EU does not speak for me. It is bad enough to have the MPs in Parliament controlling my life. Most were elected, the ones in Brussels like Catherine Ashton were not. The sooner we vote in UKIP and get out of the EU, the better."

    Recommended!

    To be a 'superstate', we need to have a common identity. The only consistency we have in that direction is that we all disagree. I'm not an EU citizen, I am a British subject.

  • Comment number 27.

    Until we've all had a vote on membership of the EU it should have absolutely no role whatsoever.

    It's a disgrace we've been rail-roaded into a federal European Union without our consent. That the EU allows this to happen is a clear sign that it is nothing more than a tyranny.

    Love Europe - hate the EU.


  • Comment number 28.

    I welcome a new direction for UK diplomatic activity and foreign policy. It is time to break away from the stranglehold of US foreign policy - i.e. their big business needs. We have paid off the US loan from WW2 after all.

    And I trust the US even less than I trust anyone else. Let them fight their outdated oil wars on their own. Our future is with Europe.

  • Comment number 29.

    What international role should the EU have?

    I'd rather follow the EU than be continually dragged into disasterous American wars and economic policies.

  • Comment number 30.

    Since the French will only do what is in their national & business interests the only possible way forward is for Frenc foreign policy to become the EU's foreign policy. I guess that means we can start blowing up environmentalists boats under the EU flag !!

  • Comment number 31.

    As simple and harsh as it may seem, there are only two workable solutions to EU as an entity - either it must be dissolved and a completely new framework decided, based on the shape of Europe now (and not the Europe of 40 years ago with add-ons), or individual governments must give up most of their power to allow an entity that can actually do something.
    The problem is neatly summed up by another unwitting commentator, who said that USA and UK are doing well, but EU is a shambles. UK is part of EU, but EU cannot be effective when member states make their own decisions about how they approach problems.
    I would like to see a strong and fully functioning EU, with UK having a few policy-facilitators at Westminster and none of our top-heavy politics and Civil Service. It'd save us money. The other alternative is to pull out of Europe completely, which would also save money and give us autonomy.

  • Comment number 32.

    The EU should be disbanded. It is a communist regime in everything but name.

  • Comment number 33.

    NONE! Scrap the EU and save us Billions of pounds and thousands of unworkable, ridiculous laws introduced by an unelected dictatorship.

  • Comment number 34.

    The EU should have a bread roll. Anything more complicated could spark debates and then they would never get anywhere (dont mention a filling for the roll!).

    The EU needs to be collapsed and all the countries allowed to continue on their own with trade agreements and no interference with their laws.

  • Comment number 35.

    It is anticipated that the EU will collapse completely within the next few years, so any foreign policy agreements are pointless and would be inept and totally useless anyway!

  • Comment number 36.

    The EU should have no international role.

    It is a trading club, no more.

  • Comment number 37.

    The EU should have no international role. The constituent countries rarely agree on actions outside of the EU and there are vast differences between countries on the amount of military action they will take.

  • Comment number 38.

    And now, on order of the EU, all new cars will be fitted with tyre pressure sensors from 2012. Almost certainly another electronic gadget that will inevitably go wrong and cost an arm and a leg to replace.

    The majority of people are more than capable of checking tyre pressures.

    Too many warnings in cars are ignored anyway so this will be as well.

  • Comment number 39.

    The EU with it's "damp rag" apparatchiks should continue with the role in which it has had most success, namely appeasing islamist fascism and assisting in the birth of Eurabia.

  • Comment number 40.

    'At 11:44am on 10 Mar 2010, happybrian123 wrote:
    The EU does not speak for me. It is bad enough to have the Mps in Parliament controlling my life, most were elected, the ones in Brussels like Catherine Ashton were not. The sooner we vote in the Ukip and get out of Europe the better.'

    In the Eu we vote for MEP's every fives years democratically. In the UK we vote every five years democratically for 600 MPs. The laws that MPs pass on our behalf can be over ruled by the unelected 900 peers in the House of Lords.

    The EU parliament is more democratic than the UK parliament.

    I think the EU is quite right to have a more robust foreign policy, especially in light of American self-interest.

  • Comment number 41.

    If the EU was truly "at the service of EU citizens" we would be able to vote for ALL members.
    Franlly I would be saitsfied if the UK left the EU as we are currently the dumping ground of the EU and pay handsomely for the "privilege"

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 20.
    Almost every main EU institution is elected or held accountable to an elected institution.

    @ 25.
    Its not a secret you know, you can find out.

    @ 26.
    Then you ARE an EU citizen, it comes automatically with being a British citizen. Saying you are not doesn't make it true.

  • Comment number 43.

    The EU is not like the USA and therefore only individual states should have this sort of International Role. This position is a stich up job for the boys/girls at excessive salaries for unelected incompetents and with no wish to be rude - will this woman please use some of her excessive salary to buy some decent clothes and a decent hairstyle!

  • Comment number 44.

    None.

  • Comment number 45.

    The EU should become, over time, the Unites States of Europe.

    I think it would be a positive thing - with the EU providing a counterbalance to the US and Eastern Bloc/Asian Countries.

    There are too many racist or jingoistic Eurosceptics in this country who like to scare everyone.

  • Comment number 46.

    The EU should have no influence whatsoever as the people making the decisions / choices are / were never elected mostly a bunch of failed politicians. It is laughable that for 50-60 years the west fought against Communism whereby a ruling elite ruled over numerous countries undemocratically only to be replaced by the commisioners in Brussels doing exactly the same.

    Unfortunately, we in the UK have politicians who lack the backbone to ask us what we the people think and therefore give in to every whim and stupidity that comes out of Brussels...You have to wonder how this country survived for centuries until we were sold down the river by both the Tories and New Labour

  • Comment number 47.

    The EU showed how weak they are with the recent Falklands issue we had, when we needed them they backed off and whimped out, no show of support. They expect us to put money and man power in, but when we need them we get nothing back. Forget the EU, it's been forced on us and is a massive burden.

  • Comment number 48.

    I hope any international role will not be about spreading democracy,i mean the union was created agianst the will of many Europeans and British and look what they did to the poor Irish when they said NO.
    Oh and let us not forget when Europe tried to solve the Yugoslavian civil war,Srebrenica anyone.
    I think the Fourth Reich should concetrate on paying French farmers to do nothing and telling us Britians that we cannot deport anyone because of "human rights".

  • Comment number 49.

    "The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton [Foreign Minister?]"....."structure of a new European External Action Service [Army?]"....."build a stronger, more assertive European foreign policy, at the service of EU citizens [nationhood?]".

    Clearly the pro-Europeans have deceived us, Lisbon was far more than a 'tidying up excersize', where and when was the mandate for all these European super-state trappings?

    We want our referendum, we want out of the European super-state!

  • Comment number 50.

    The EU is the only way we can hope to stand up to other international powers in the future. Regardless of what people say, the EU sure has our interests closer to heart than the other powers out there!

  • Comment number 51.

    Europe can't even agree with itself.

    So how does it expect to have a credible voice outside itself?

  • Comment number 52.

    None whatosever. The EU can't even audit its books.If it was a business it would have been shut down years ago. The president is a nobody elected by nobodies. Why should the EU command a shred of respecton the international stage?

  • Comment number 53.

    The EU will continue to be quasie political state until someone splits Germany and France up. Even with the Eastern expansion these two dominate the EU. Trade yes political understanding yes United States of Europe no no no!!! One of the last things we have is the best diplomatic service in the world which other countries recognise and seek advice from why ruin for some pretentious bunch of europhiles.

  • Comment number 54.

    42. At 12:53pm on 10 Mar 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    "Then you ARE an EU citizen, it comes automatically with being a British citizen. Saying you are not doesn't make it true."

    Great stuff! I'm looking forward to voting for my president... what do you mean I can't?

  • Comment number 55.

    The Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty both passed by Parliament(no referendum required)tranferred more decison making to the EU institutions than the Lisbon Treaty, both measures enacted under Thatcher's watch.
    When the Balkan crisis arose in the '90s the problem for Europe was there was no military structures in place except NATO and NATO is controlled by the US. Until the US could be persuaded that it was in their interest to intervene, the Serbs had a free run. The lesson learned from that was that Cold War structures designed to face of the Warsaw Pact did not work in the new order in Europe.
    European nations need to act together on the major political problems facing us, the EU should be able to provide the structures. If you don't like the democratic deficit of appointed Commissioners then promote and increase the powers of the European Parliament, after all the MEPs are directly elected.
    UKIP are isolationists, the UK cannot stand outside the big economic blocs than dominate the world. Historically and geographically, Europe is where we should be.

  • Comment number 56.

    I see that Catherine Ashton in the EU publication is given the title HR marvellous not only an unelected member of the Lords here but also entitled and unelected within Europe as well as head of some Super Quango. It is about time she started doing something to improve the security of European troops in Afghanistan... Be they Dutch French German or British etc. But then again like all these EU institutions they are a mere talking shop, costing millions to European tax payers acheiving very little other than to fulfill the Federalist European dream to create a European superstate

  • Comment number 57.

    The EU should be scrapped and National identies should be restored. The EU is one huge club for the elite. I'm old enough to remember the advent of what was the Common Market (EEC) which meant free trade across Europe, that was fine, rule from mainland europe is not my idea of being Anglo-Saxon. By the way most of the crazy laws coming out of Brussels are of British government origin, its just they haven't the balls to suggest them in their own country. World socialist domination is what the EU are after but God forbid the tide will turn!

  • Comment number 58.

    They just continually look for more and more areas to control policy, take control of decision making, and stake claim to act on behalf of every person in the EU. It is worrisome to say the least.

    I would like to see the EU machine scale back it's areas of influence, not continually increase them.

  • Comment number 59.

    The problem would be getting the member states to agree, the EU is not like the United States were the president can make a decision on behalf of the country, although I suspect some of the senior officials think it is.
    I would see big problems if the EU decided to employ British troops in a conflict situation that was not supported by the General public. We already have enough problems when the decision is left to the British Government.

  • Comment number 60.

    As most of the Euro bureaucrats have been voted in by nobody except their friends (eg who voted in Herman Van Rompuy - no one had heard of him), they are vastly overpaid, there is fraudulent use of money to great excess making our own MPs' expenses claims appear insignificant (including the largest and apparently fraudulent ones), most EU countries ignore EU regulations if they don't suit them, the Euro zone came close to collapse recently - I don't see that the EU has a role internationally at all, or that it is proper that it should.

    Unless it is that it should NOT involve itself in issues that countries within the EU wish to resolve themselves.

  • Comment number 61.

    24. At 12:20pm on 10 Mar 2010, Graham in Leeds wrote:
    "The 'EU' is not a country (nor should it ever be) so it should have no international role. The sooner the unelected, unwanted, undemocratic little-Napoleons realise that they speak for no-one but themselves, the better."

    Funny that, I think the same thing about Little Englanders.

    By the way, NATO and the UN aren't countries either; does that mean they should have no international roles either? (And if so, doesn't that mean they cease to exist?)

  • Comment number 62.

    Anything the EU does in fine by me I am proud to be a citizen of this organisation!

  • Comment number 63.

    International unions meddle with conflicts and cause more violence. Two nations in a bitter disagreement should meet and bargain for peace.

  • Comment number 64.

    So now you all are "EU citizens". Good for you. All that Great Briton, United Kingdom, England/Ireland/Northern Ireland stuff was too confusing anyway.

  • Comment number 65.

    45 BOB

    You lost your argument by claiming to many people were "racialist" or "Eurosceptic" Does that mean we are not allowed to have any opinions? We have this New Labour tactic for 13 years and on every issue its been the government that was wrong!

    And as to the election of Catherine Ashton I don`t recall seeing any voting paper in my house, she was elected behind closed doors is that really Democracy? I think not

  • Comment number 66.

    "MEPs are discussing the structure of a new European External Action Service - a key part of the structural changes envisaged by the EU's Lisbon Treaty."

    I thought Duff Brown & his gang said it was only a 'tidying-up' exercise.
    Lied to by Labour again.
    Duff, I want that referendum.

  • Comment number 67.

    Lady Ashton represents a gaggle of self serving, self appointed European politicians, she does not represent me. The EU is not a sovereign state and hopefully will never be, so cannot have an independent voice on the world stage.

  • Comment number 68.

    Surely only a sovereign state can have a foreign minister or a foreign office!? Last time I checked I thought the EU was an economic trading group - with a strategy of economic harmonisation across the various states of Europe for economic and social organisation!

    Why would the EU need a foreign office type institution? And surely it must ensure democratic process and election to such offices! It would be a dictatorship if these 'Ministers' were merely appointed by other unelected commissioners?

    Can anyone enlighten me? I must be very confused about this subject! I cannot imagine why the EU would need any diplomats - I think every member 'sovereign state' already has a well developed diplomatic service! Very puzzling development don't you think?

    What could possibly be the 'long term' aim of such a move?

  • Comment number 69.

    happybrian123 wrote:
    "The EU does not speak for me. It is bad enough to have the Mps in Parliament controlling my life, most were elected, the ones in Brussels like Catherine Ashton were not. The sooner we vote in the Ukip and get out of Europe the better."

    I agree, except I think if you vote Ukip this time you are sure to get Labour back. That will give them the mandate to further wreck the country, as a precursor to handing us over bound & gagged to their EU masters. Then we would only have one of two choices (for England at least; the Scots can do what they want): meek acquiescence, or outright, full on insurrection.

  • Comment number 70.

    Did not like the E E C when we were taken in o it buy Ted Heath when we had the vote to leave or stay in I for one wanted out as it was believed then it would get bigger look at it now.I now think we should have a vote to stay in or leave

  • Comment number 71.

    "Lynn from Sussex wrote:
    No, we voted to join a trading organisation.

    Had Ted Heath not been economical with the truth we almost certtainly would have kept our distance.

    The EU now rules every aspect of our lives aided and abetted by the current government.

    The cost of membership of what is now an unelected super state far outweighs the benefits."

    The EU controls how 1% of Britain's GDP is spent; the UK government controls about 40%. So in what way can you seriously say "The EU now rules every aspect of our lives"? It is not a serious claim supported by the facts. You compalain far more about the actions of the government at Westminster than you could ever do about specfic (as opposed to abstract concepts such as "sovereignty" - meaningless in a globalised world) actions from the EU. Maybe a bit more EU regulation of the banking sector and a bit more imposition of the Euro stability pact rules may have prevented the banking sector collapse we have experienced!

    The NET cost of being in the EU is about £5B per year - less than £100 per citizen. we get far more back from that simply becausae of the single market. You can recover that on a day's shopping in Calais.

    And I remember Britain's entry to the EEC and the 1975 referendum. The goals of the Treaty of Rome were clear. Ted Heath held back nothing from you. The fact Tony Benn and Enoch Powell stood on the same platform to spell it out. However, one told us all it would end in a Capitalist superstate and the other that it would end in a socialist superstate tells you why they were not believed at the time. Eurosceptics say the same today and still can't agree whether it's a capitalist plot or a communist one.

  • Comment number 72.

    At 12:50pm on 10 Mar 2010, Iain wrote:

    "In the Eu we vote for MEP's every fives years democratically. In the UK we vote every five years democratically for 600 MPs. The laws that MPs pass on our behalf can be over ruled by the unelected 900 peers in the House of Lords.

    The EU parliament is more democratic than the UK parliament."

    There are 587 members of the House of Lords, which has absolutely no power to "over rule" laws or the House of Commons - the elected chamber has clearly established supremacy. The Lords exists in a largely supervisory role, and can amend or delay legislation but if no agreement can be reached then the Commons, through the Parliament Act, can over-rule the Lords although this is rarely necessary.

    If you're going to complain about your own country's legislative process, at least find out how it actually works rather than making vacuous and incorrect assertions in public.




  • Comment number 73.

    I wondered how long it would be before Thatcher got the blame and of course it did not take long!
    Perhaps the pro europeans should look beyond the UK borders and realise that majority of Europeans also did not want the EU as it stands now that was why a couple of countries (who were allowed to) voted against the Lisbon Treaty but true to the undemocratic process they HAD to vote again until the result wanted was gained not really democratic was it. During the election of 2005 the government promised this country a vote and then not surprisingly renaged on this once it became obvious to the voters what was actually behind the treaty. I am also unsure as to how the millions of voters within the EU block can "promote and increase" the powers of the MEP`s when nobody listens to us (do we really care about ben banana`s?)I am also unsure as we can become the "united States of Europe" when we do not have a common language common herotage etc
    and finally come someone please explain the term "Little Englander" as its often bandied around by people who do not respect others point of view and is a derogatory comment to make

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm just wondering here; Catherine Ashton moaned to the press about not having her own plane, you know, as part of her '£270,000 per annum starting salary, chauffeured car, full housing allowance, expense allowance, and a staff of 20'. Would there be, somewhere within her idea for a new EU diplomatic corps, a plane with her name on it? Perhaps one of those giant Airbus planes, so it's bigger than Obama's 747 Airforce One?

    This is a woman who has never been elected to public office yet has been given a 'top' job within the EU.

  • Comment number 75.

    So how would the EU deal with say the 'Gibralter Issue'? ......Spain & the UK have differing views on this 'International Issue'....I'd be interested to hear her views on this

  • Comment number 76.

    How does the unelected "Lady" plan to integrate the foreign policy obectives of disparate european nations - when the truth is they all have differing objectives. When did I ever sign up to this madness?
    I want the EU disbanded. Nigel Farage actually does represent my views of the EU. Hopefully the UKIP will do so well in the next UK elections, that he'll form the next Government. Then he will control the UK's armed forces - and can order them to invade Belgium and arrest Herman Van Rompuy & Lady Ashton.
    Now THAT would be an excellent Foreign Policy. It would make really good telly too.

  • Comment number 77.

    Without a doubt - its time for the revolution!

    Viva La Revolution

  • Comment number 78.

    "Why we have to be part of this group I will never understand, we put in vast amounts of cash and get very little back"

    We put in less than 1% of our GDP and get over half of that back in rebates, subsidies etc. More is lost within the UK on tax and benefit fraud and government project overspends tahn we ever contribute to the EU.

    " except for unwanted immigration,"

    the UK agreed to take immigrants from the 2004 EU expansion. The EU did not force us to and we could have done what other nations did and impose transitional measures.


    " asylum"

    Britain's obligations to asylum seekers come from agreements with the UN, not the EU. In fact, a common EU foreign minister might get some consistent agreement there!


    " and human rights legislation"

    Briatin signed up to the ECHR in the early 1950s before the EEC was formed. If we left teh EU we would still be bound by it.

    " and countless amounts of red tape"

    which we woudl still have if we left the EU as to be able to tarde with the EU we would have to apply its rules but ahve no say in setting them.

    " and from faceless plebs who are only interested in defending their own countries interests, not ours."

    Funny, apparently the French and Germans appear concerned that Ashton is only interested in defending Britain's interests!

    As usual, the Eurosceptics engage in inconsistent and incorrect assertions.

  • Comment number 79.

    As the EU is made up of sovereign states all of whom are full members of the UN, does the EU REALLY need any more presence than it has already?

  • Comment number 80.

    James T kirk

    You stated

    Maybe a bit more EU regulation of the banking sector and a bit more imposition of the Euro stability pact rules may have prevented the banking sector collapse we have experienced!

    Perhaps you could expand on the EURO Crisis in relation to Greece which was caused by the one currency fits all approach and was never going to work because EUR-land is not one country. I also fail to see what is meant by comparing the GDP of the UK to the influence of the EU on our lives. Enough has been written in the press on this without going into it again

  • Comment number 81.

    Catherine Ashton has not been elected by anyone, and she is unaccountable to any electorate. She therefore has no mandate to do anything. The fact of the matter is that within the EU, even when we get a vote, the 'distance' between our own slip over paper and what politicians do is too far. The democratic link is but tenuous at best. If we wish our vote to count, if we do not wish to become disenfranchised, serious decision making in foreign policy must remain with a unit small enough for the people to feel that they can change the course of events through democratic action. But perhaps that is the purpose of the EU anyway - to allow a 'political class' (I hate the term) to get on with running the place without having to worry about 'ordinary people'.

  • Comment number 82.

    Sorry for being technical here but Europe is a continent, not a country. So therefore each country within Europe has their own foreign policy. Also this is another way that the EU is trying to take more control. No, I say that it is good that countries within Europe support and help each other, but it is going too far. All this EU government and paying taxes to people who have a job title but nothing to do so they dream up these ridiculous PC laws and human rights rubbish that just annoys everyone and you wonder sometimes if they make them up because they want a reaction from the public of disbelief. Well, it is a joke and Labour winning the General Election would be the biggest of them all.

  • Comment number 83.

    The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, says Europe has a "once in a generation opportunity" to build a robust new diplomatic service. Do you agree?
    Absolutely.
    I know that some European countries have been reluctant to place their citizens under EU “Federal” type control, but this is exactly what is required: “a stronger, more assertive European foreign policy, at the service of EU citizens".
    I would recommend more than this; I would recommend something akin to a "United States of Europe", with a division of powers (state/federal) simular to that of the United States of America. (I have also supported Gaddafi in his proposal for a United States of Africa).
    EU’s latest success:
    European officials are calling on the US to join in a crackdown on speculation (i.e. Stop those financial institutions that bet against Europe’s currency.) The EU has warned it can and will ban some credit default swaps – financial instruments blamed for worsening the world financial crisis and creating sovereign debt (e.g. Greece).
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “quick action is needed,” calling on the US to curb all such trades. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, visiting Washington was therefore in a much more powerful position to meet with President Barack Obama. He was empowered to tell Obama that he blames default swaps for making his country’s debt crisis worse, and he wants the "gambling" stopped.
    The EU should act on the world stage as the primary force behind each EU member-state. A EU federation has amazing financial prowess, diplomatic power, and the best opportunity to maintain the values of her European children in a world full of corruption, bail-out, speculation and deceit.

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    No.Each European country should have it's own foreign policy as some leaders are more morally principled than others.Today,there is hardly a European leader anywhere that has any more principles than a woodlouse or more scrupples than a mobster as they for the most part support the U.S. and Great Britain in their insidious quest for the Middle East.

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    "You lost your argument by claiming to many people were "racialist" or "Eurosceptic" Does that mean we are not allowed to have any opinions? We have this New Labour tactic for 13 years and on every issue its been the government that was wrong!"

    I actually said racist but lets not split hairs. I think too many people are racist. I find it abhorrent. Notice I said racist or eurosceptic though. I was not implying that if you are eurosceptic you are necessarily racist although I think the reverse is probably true.

    I agree that of course racists and eurosceptics are allowed an opinion. I just disagree including about the government being wrong on every issue. I happen to believe a eurosceptic government would be a disaster for this country.

  • Comment number 88.

    28. At 12:25pm on 10 Mar 2010, Clevor Trever wrote:

    I welcome a new direction for UK diplomatic activity and foreign policy. It is time to break away from the stranglehold of US foreign policy - i.e. their big business needs. We have paid off the US loan from WW2 after all.

    And I trust the US even less than I trust anyone else. Let them fight their outdated oil wars on their own. Our future is with Europe.

    ------------------------

    So you trust the US less than-

    france: hates us. Stopped us from being invited to the EU in the first place! Complain that we wont fully join the EU and euro. Has worse border protection than us (which is how so many illegals get here!). Moaned about our rebate (thatcher fought for, blair gave up).

    germany: I will stop at 2 world wars.

    italy: supporters of nazis in ww2

    That is off the top of my head. We had no vote to join the EU. We pay them vast sums and they make laws to override our own. The taliban and terrorist buddies kill civilians in the west and western civilians in the east. The US and UK go after the terrorists who are also invading afghanistan. The EU is thinking about the correct shape of a bannana.

    As for the US-

    Supplied us and then joined in WW2! Has a close and strong relationship and history with us. Worked well with us to try to keep the peace. Has much less infighting and more decision making. Has a good currency which (while they are in recession) is doing better than the Euro in greece (which drags down the whole EU). And above all else is far more competent than the EU.

    I am sure more good can be added about the US and I am sure very little good can be added about the EU

  • Comment number 89.

    "I wondered how long it would be before Thatcher got the blame and of course it did not take long!
    Perhaps the pro europeans should look beyond the UK borders and realise that majority of Europeans also did not want the EU as it stands now that was why a couple of countries (who were allowed to) voted against the Lisbon Treaty but true to the undemocratic process they HAD to vote again until the result wanted was gained not really democratic was it. During the election of 2005 the government promised this country a vote and then not surprisingly renaged on this once it became obvious to the voters what was actually behind the treaty."

    It was Thatcher who transferred more powers to the EU than any PM before or since in the Single European Act. It was this act that created the EU single market and allows you to bring in unlimited imports from EU countries, rather than one litre of spirits and £50 of other goods that prevailed before that. If you wish to explain the benefits of going back to the old duty free limits and the ability of (say) car makers to impose discriminatory pricing in different countries (eg charge a premium for right hand drive to keep prices high in the UK - something that is now illegal) as well as for mobile operators to charge exorbitant roaming fees, please feel free to do so.

    Lisbon was really a tidying up exercise to bring together the existing treaties into a (more) coherent document. You can't object (surely!) to streamlining decision making and improving democratic accountability of the commission, surely? Now the EU and national parliaments play a much stronger role in reviewing and revising proposals coming out of the commission. Why would you object to that if you want greater democratic accounatbility? Why would you object to fewer commissioners rather than one for each country so every time the EU expands, the number of commissioners grows? Saying it "not surprisingly renaged on this once it became obvious to the voters what was actually behind the treaty" then essentially says "I don't care what was in the treaty, I'd have voted against it". Hardly rational and simply proves the electorate would vote on factors irrelevant to the treaty (as actually happened in Ireland).

    The reason Blair agreed to a referendum on the "Constitution" was to force France to hold one first. He gambled correctly that they would reject it and so he could get some of the more ambitious bits changed or removed. On this he was successful, so the Constitution got severely watereed down, became the Lisbon Treaty and so they (and most of the other 27 nations) decided not to hold referenda. The fact both Lisbon and the "Constitution" redrafted most of the existing treaties into one document does mean that it is hardly surprising large parts of both are similar if not identical. Constitutionally the UK decides legislation via its sovereign parliament (it is a represntative democracy, after all) so Lisbon and all EEC/EU treaties have been decided in this way. The 1975 referendum was an anomaly and was done because Harold Wilson had a cabinet that was divided on Europe and the referendum was his way of saying "put up or shut up".

    At this point none of the major parties would think of having a referendum on leaving the EU. The concern is that a referendum on Lisbon would result in "No" and a referendum on the EU would result in a "Yes" (though we can argue about by how much). We woudl tehn find ourselves in the position of wanting to be in a club but not agreeing with its rulebook. That would hardly be a sensible proposition as Ireland discovered after it rejected Lisbon the first time.

    On the question in hand, the EU does need a foreign representative: who does anyone call at the time of a crisis when coordinated European action is desireable or necessary? It is unlikley that the EU would take an independent line in controversial areas that were not agreed across the EU. Similarly with an "EU Army": countries can opt out of joint action and there is no requirement to fund or staff an army for an action any country disagrees with. Check out the EU website if you think Lisbon can ride roughshod over the wishes of a member in either of these areas. It can't in theory, let alone in practise.

  • Comment number 90.

    'EU United'' football team...like the forthcoming Great British Olympic football(Great BO FC) team.

  • Comment number 91.

    The EU is not a federal state in the manner of the USA, and never can be. One size does not fit all, whether that is the currency (look at the mess in Greece!), social policy (UK's got the most generous benefits in the EU and is thus a magnet)or foreign policy. The current Commissioner (unelected and unaccountable) is clearly out of her depth and about as pointless a nonentity as it would be possible to find. We need to renegotiate our membership of this mediocre club which currently is too incompetent even to appoint strong, capable people. If the economic impact of our membership continues to grow at the present rate, we will end up subsidising the subsuming of our own country into a super state that not one of us has had the chance to vote on through a referendum Democracy! Oh, puhleeeeeese!! BBC, this new HYS is absolutely ghastly!!

  • Comment number 92.

    A unified Europe is far stronger than any individual state. All countries share the same principles. Therefore it's imperative to have a common external policy.
    Differences will always exist. They exist within individual countries. That is not enough reason to postpone the unification of Europe.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    22. At 12:18pm on 10 Mar 2010, Lynn from Sussex wrote:

    The EU now rules every aspect of our lives aided and abetted by the current government.

    ---

    exceptional paranoia. every aspect?

    I don't recall the EU preventing us from going into Iraq.

    The EU doesn't set exorbitant VAT in the UK, nor does it force us to impose the huge duties on alcohol, tobacco and fuel that our government sets.

    It did provide northern England with Objective 1 funding at the start of this century, without which large swathes of ex pit towns would still be completely dead.

  • Comment number 95.

    "At 2:27pm on 10 Mar 2010, cartwright wrote:
    James T kirk

    You stated

    Maybe a bit more EU regulation of the banking sector and a bit more imposition of the Euro stability pact rules may have prevented the banking sector collapse we have experienced!

    Perhaps you could expand on the EURO Crisis in relation to Greece which was caused by the one currency fits all approach and was never going to work because EUR-land is not one country. I also fail to see what is meant by comparing the GDP of the UK to the influence of the EU on our lives. Enough has been written in the press on this without going into it again"

    Be happy to expand: I said the Euro stability pact rules, not membership of the Euro. Had we been members of the Euro you may have had a point that its lower interest rates until recently would have driven higher house price inflation and lending in the UK. However, application of a 3% maximum budget deficit on the UK may have restricted Labours' tax and spend and meant we would not have to borrow so much now.

    As for the influence of GDP expenditure. Most people here would agree (surely) that the NHS, Education, Military, Social Security, Transport, Police, security etc expenditure actually has far greater influence over our lives than the paltry agricultural and certain infrastructure project spend that the EU controls. All the policies on those things is determined almost exclusively in Westminster (plus devolved parliaments) not in Brussels. Which has greater REAL impact on your lives: the curvature of bananas or (say) speed cameras, fox hunting, 42 day detention, taxation etc? I'm sure you can give a very long list of Westminster policies that affect you but can give very few specific examples out of Brussels. And before anyone says things like "privatisation of the Royal Mail" or similar, this is the result of policies that Britain since Thatcher has insisted the EU apply to liberalise the market in services, if we want (for instance) Vodafone to become the biggest mobile operator in Europe.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    I am British and proud. The EU has been a disaster for our country. Firstly we know that our mines, ship building, steel, agriculture and fishing have been decimated through Eu policy. Then the fact that it costs us billions as members. I like it when the say partly funded by the EU when it is our money in the first place.

    Secondly we are an Island 21 miles off Europe. Morroco is only 8 miles from Europe is it European along with Africa. No of cause not and nore are we.

    History tells us that we have been invaded by these so called friends,Roman,French,German,Dutch,Spain and lets not forget the Vikings who would come in the night when all were sleeping and unsuspecting but were sent packing when it came to a proper battle like Stamford Bridge. The Vikings were the vangard only used to weaken Harolds army and tire them as they covered the length of England twice. Whilst trying to defend our lands from the European Mercinaries, Their payment our lands and wealth and freedom, after they murdered raped and pilliaged.

    We fourt two world wars freeing Europe and now we find we are being incarcerated into somthing we freed them from, by the ones we freed. I did not have a say back in the seventies but do remember it was a trading idea, not a super state eg EEC before it was EU. Globalisation is somthing I disagree with like the EU it has been forced upon us by this new world governance which I don't want either.


  • Comment number 98.

    "france: hates us. Stopped us from being invited to the EU in the first place! Complain that we wont fully join the EU and euro. Has worse border protection than us (which is how so many illegals get here!). Moaned about our rebate (thatcher fought for, blair gave up).

    germany: I will stop at 2 world wars.

    italy: supporters of nazis in ww2"

    I don't wish to bring reality into this, but in WW2 many EU countries (France, Benelux, Poland, Italy, Greece) suffered far more than the UK ever did. Poland lost far greater part of its population than any other country, France had been invaded and occuppied by Germany 3 times since 1870, etc. If these countries can put the past behind them in order to collaborate to build a better future together based on shared democartic values, trade etc, why do Britons have to keep raising the war as if it were the reason not to join them?

    As for the rebate: Thatcher negotiated that when Briatin's GDP/capita was one of the lowest in the EEC and when we got little benefit from the CAP agricultural subsidies. By 2004, Britain's GDP/capita was one of the highest in Europe and was the highest of the major economies (it may not be now, but that's a different subject) and the CAP had been reformed (still some way to go, but...) so the need for a rebate was less necessary.

    Put it this way: if your neighbour got certain state benefits (eg housing benefit) when they were in a low paid job, do you think they should continue should he get a much higher paid job simply because he got them once? Be careful how you answer as you could get reminded!

  • Comment number 99.

    5. At 12:55pm on 10 Mar 2010, Bob wrote:
    The EU should become, over time, the Unites States of Europe.
    I think it would be a positive thing - with the EU providing a counterbalance to the US and Eastern Bloc/Asian Countries.
    There are too many racist or jingoistic Eurosceptics in this country who like to scare everyone.

    Absolutely, Bob. But it will be a very long-term thing. Nothing much can happen in the UK at least until the anti EU people get to understand that 'the EU' is not some dangerous and untrustworthy bunch of Johnny Foreigners, whose sole task is to be beastly to poor little Britain. It's an institution within which we are already a leading member, and could be more leading still if we didn't have to look over our shoulders and have to bear the embarrassment of the crass rudeness and lack of comprehension shown by people like Mr Farage.
    As for the Diplomatic Service, it has to be a long way off. It's not just a matter of Ambassadors going to parties and lower levels trying to do something helpful when booze - swilling tourists land themselves in trouble. I think the best start we could make is within worldwide organisations, like the UN and its Agencies, where we could have EU officials speaking on behalf of the whole Union, after EU national GOVERNMENTS had decided together what the combined EU position was to be. The World Trade Organisation and perhaps humanitarian aid are possible starting points.
    Its very unlikely that Governments will want to see an EU intelligence agency, or an EU diplomatic service taking over bilateral issues until there really is a superstate. Which I'd bet my pension on never happening, even though I'm at heart a Europhile.

  • Comment number 100.

    1.For an organisation to be at the service of it's citizens it must, by definition, be accountable to them. The new EU foriegn policy unit is not. It is accountable to people who are accountable(ish) to people who won an election once (maybe).
    2. I would say the only once in a lifetime thing here is (I can't win an election so I've been made a) Lady Ashton's chance to ride the EU gravy train first class.
    3. As the EU is suposed to be a trade organiation why does it need anything other than trade negotiators? Surely a foriegn policy unit implies a nation state?

 

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