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France-Germany pact resisted

Gavin Hewitt | 17:47 UK time, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Europe's leaders are uneasy, edgy, irritable - even a little offended.

On the surface there is cause for a glimmer of a smile. The much-feared bond markets are becalmed.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Portugal has raised 30% of the funds it needs this year and has avoided being muscled into joining the bail-out queue.

For the past two weeks the European Central Bank has not been buying up bonds from struggling eurozone economies.

And yet nerves remain frayed.

The current bout of angst has its roots in Franco-German schemes to end the eurozone crisis once and for all.

In their own ways both these countries - the shapers and drivers of Europe - have been unsettled too.

Last year France's finance minister actually feared the eurozone might break up. Paris sensed Germany was cooling on the European project.

The bail-outs of Greece and the Irish Republic proved massively unpopular in Germany. All those guarantees before adopting the single currency that they wouldn't have to take on the debts of other countries had proved worthless.

The Germans feared they would become the paymasters in a "transfer union". Not surprisingly, latest polls indicate that 63% of Germans have little or no confidence in the EU.

So French foreign policy was targeted at anchoring Germany to the European project. Essentially the French enticed Angela Markel with a deal. If the Germans were to underwrite any future bail-outs, the French would back them in shaping up the rest of Europe to German standards.

The French had always hankered after closer economic integration. They would get it. The Germans would be able to claim that although they might have to pay now, they would reduce the chance of future bail-outs.

For much of last year officials in Brussels had sniped at the German Chancellor for not putting European interests above national interests. All those pleas for solidarity were largely met with a German stony face.

But Angela Merkel has had something of a conversion. She now not only robustly defends the single currency but makes the case for the euro as a political project.

She and President Sarkozy make the dubious claim that without the euro there would be no Europe.

So a "grand bargain" emerged. Germany would agree to expand the main bail-out fund in scope and size. What Angela Merkel wanted from other countries was a lowering of debts and a re-engineering of their economies to a common standard to make them more competitive.

All of this would be enforced through a "pact of competitiveness".

Last week Germany and France announced there would be a special summit in March where all this could be signed off. As an idea it bombed.

Some countries were simply offended. The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk asked Merkel and Sarkozy "whether they really thought they had the right to treat others in this manner".

Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament denounced the pact. The European Union, he said, was being reduced to deals between governments.

It didn't help that some of the proposals in the "pact" had leaked out.

There was the idea of a common retirement age of 67. The Austrians were not up for that.

Then there was the suggestion of dropping index-linking wages to inflation. Portugal rejected that at once. So did Belgium. Luxembourg and Spain didn't like that either.

As to the idea of countries absorbing a "debt-brake" into their constitutions: that didn't fly either. The Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said "I reject categorically the thought of an EU decision to intervene in all national constitutions".

The Irish, who are in the midst of an election campaign, are most unlikely to be persuaded to give up their low corporate tax rate.

Everyone got prickly. Belgium's caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme said "it was truly a surreal summit". Another leader muttered about not accepting a 'diktat'.

What really happened was this.

It is not difficult for the 17 eurozone heads of government to sit down and agree to a bigger bail-out fund.

The figures are so vast anyway that a few hundred billion more makes little difference. It is hard for voters to determine when money from national accounts actually gets to be paid.

But voters do understand wages, taxes and retirement ages. Suddenly Europe's leaders realised they could be held to account for these plans and that the people who hire them - the voters - might not want to become a "little more like Germany".

So the eurozone's heads of government are full of doubts and questions. These measures may enhance competitiveness but over what period? How long would it take for them to have any impact?

Then "economic governance" - a phrase and idea much-loved by the French - could evolve into "central planning", widely seen as a disaster for Europe.

All of this will lead to weeks of haggling, kites being flown and warnings of the danger of not disagreeing. We are all witnesses to the game.

Germany may appear to have the best cards but it doesn't. It could simply say that without Europe-wide reforms it won't act as guarantor to endless bail-outs.

But its bluff would easily be called. Would Germany allow a country to go under? Most unlikely. So countries may strike a hard bargain.

Comments

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  • 1. At 6:55pm on 08 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    Curious, your report reflects what a mate of mine just told me he heard on the usually rabidly pro-EU media in Belgium, it seems Merkel and Sarkozy have managed to anger most of the other 25 members, what an outstanding success.

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  • 2. At 7:14pm on 08 Feb 2011, TellitAsItis wrote:

    It was denied for decades that there was a hidden agenda to create a European superstate, but that is EXACTLY what the Brussels axis is aiming for.

    The EU elite LIED about Greece's entry to the EU. They LIED in promising Germany it would never have to bail out feckless economies. It is all a LIE. The euro CANNOT encompass such different ceconomies as Germany and Greece and the EU's OWN economists TOLD them this before it was launched. The SIX BILLION foreign service headed by Baroness Ashton who is paid twice as much as the British PM AND pays negligeable taxes, is a humungous power-grabbing waste of money. These peole are destroying the Eueopean ideal. France voted against the pre-Lisbon Treaty but they passed it anyway. Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty and had to vote again till it voted "right". It is all a HUGE CON by people who pay thelmselves VAST salaries and perks.

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  • 3. At 7:48pm on 08 Feb 2011, zorba wrote:

    Germany and France are right to insist upon more fiscal discipline and closer harmonisation of taxes etc. They have correctly identified the divergence of competitiveness within the eurozone as the greatest hurdle for the future. If the 'peripheral' countries do not reduce their debts and reign in worker costs then they will never compete in a global market. Portugal had flat growth during the good times - do they honestly expect that they can compete in a more competitive and aggressive market? I also expect that Germany and France are fully aware that if they simply reduce the debts of the 'peripheral' then they will be back to their bad old ways in no time at all. The only other alternative for the countries who do not sign up to the Franco / German model is to leave the Euro. They cannot have their cake and eat it!

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  • 4. At 7:58pm on 08 Feb 2011, d_m wrote:

    This is all too funny. If the French and the Germans continue doing things like this they may well bring an end to the EU. The worse things are the crazier the ideas for solving them become.

    "Pact of competitiveness", yikes, what next?

    The Germans should be worried. There was an old joke about Arab countries being willing to fight the last Egyptian. Well, my guess is the French are willing to spend every last euro in Germany to save the EU, keeping a few euros for themselves, of course.

    The EU is like bad software--you have to keep patching it to make it work. Better just to rewrite the program.

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  • 5. At 8:06pm on 08 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #2. At 7:14pm on 08 Feb 2011, TellitAsItis

    A bailout is expressly prohibited by the Lisbon treaty yet it went ahead.

    #33. At 7:48pm on 08 Feb 2011, zorba

    closer harmonisation of taxes = higher taxes and costs for the other countries and with the best will in the world they will never be 'German' and capable of what the Germans have done. As for Fiscal discipline lets start with EU's own institutions and reign in the common agricultural policy that the French protect so much and which covers up their own lack of fiscal discipline. Oops, but aren't the French proposing fiscal discipline?

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  • 6. At 8:12pm on 08 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie wrote:

    #3

    "Germany and France are right to insist upon more fiscal discipline and closer harmonisation of taxes etc"

    Its a pity they didnt insist on fiscal harmonisation BEFORE monetary union not AFTER...

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  • 7. At 10:38pm on 08 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Angela Merkel is wrong to say these 'reforms' are essential. The way to judge their essentialness is to ask if they would have prevented the busts in the eurozone if they had already been implemented 5 years ago. Ireland ran a balanced budget up until 2008 and Spain a surplus so clearly constitutionally mandated 'debt brakes' would have made no difference in the eurozone periphery. (A debt-brake would however have prevented the bank-rescues in Ireland, Spain etc. making the last bust and future ones far worse!!). It was not index-linked wage rises that produced inflation in the eurozone periphery; rather the too-low eurozone interest rate fuelled over-borrowing which over-stimulated the economies in the periphery, generating high-levels of inflation with wages rising as an effect rather than a cause of the boom. And raising corporation taxes to German levels would certainly not make the peripheral economies more competitive. Therefore none of these reforms would have prevented the last bust and not only would fail to prevent future busts but actually guarantee the collapse of the financial system in peripheral eurozone economies come the next bust.

    Romani Prodi once called the EMU Stability and Growth pact, the 'stupid pact' and these proposals from Merkel are clearly no more intelligent. So what can explain the motivation for such an obviously economically illiterate 'grand bargain' which clearly has nothing to do with correcting the instability in the eurozone periphery? The truth is that this grand-bargain is a deal purely between Germans, intended to persuade German taxpayers that they are getting their pound of flesh in return for agreeing to a never-ending series of bailouts for the never-ending series of volatile 'Celtic Tiger to Bust' economic cycles that the one-size-fits-all euro interest rate condemns the peripheral countries to. 

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  • 8. At 11:49pm on 08 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    What happened clearly show the supremacy of the method "communautaire" over the intergovernmental approach.

    Germany/France can't ride roughshod over the other member-states. They need to respect the political realities of other countries, and realize that, while they're very important, they don't just simply rule the Eurozone.

    That's exactly why the EU exists: to allow for organized, political conflict, BUT through the institutions, guaranteeing the rights of smaller member states.

    Seems like Merkel and Sarkozy have learned a valuable lesson: if you want the EU to work, you need to accept that only a federal decision making process can work.

    Why? Because otherwise you just have a directoire of big countries - no added value there.

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  • 9. At 01:42am on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken: Under the Lisbon Treaty voting rules, when the 'community method' is used a blocking threshold consists of states representing 35% of total EU27 population. France and Germany together have 30% of population which puts them within touching distance of that threshold easily able to form a blocking minority with the assistance of just a few of their dependable acolytes. 

    This means that if France & Germany co-ordinate their position (and they always do) then only their position stands any chance of being accepted. They are able together (with only the assistance of 2-3 others the size of Benelux) to block any competing proposal meaning that as a minimum their proposal sets the agenda for anything that has any chance of getting through. Therefore it is total nonesense to say the community method reduces Franco-German power within the EU.

    Compare that with inter-givermentalism
    characterised by decision-making by unanimity, as used so successfully in all other international organisations in the world. This gives all states all equal weight in the voting, and guarantees that no nation can be forced to do what it's government - representing the national majority - is opposed to. Decision-making by unanimity is therefore the only decision-making method at international level that is consistent with the wishes of all national majorities, and therefore
    has democratic legitimacy. Other international organisations with a larger membership than the EU, e.g. NATO or the WTO, show intergovermentalism could work in the EU and replace supranationalism and greatly help to restore EU democratic legitimacy.

    It is no coincidence that EU democratic legitimacy began to collapse following the 1992 Treaty of Masstricht when the community method began to be widely used and this breakdown in EU legitimacy has accelerated with every new treaty since Maastricht, all of which widened the application of the community method to new and more sensitive areas (where no national majority should be over-ruled) and raised the blocking threshold to make it easier to outvote all likely voting coalitions other than the Franco-German alliance. These treaty changes have all been authored and championed by France & Germany precisely because they know they reinforce the influence of these two countries, even in an enlarged EU. And since influence is a zero-sum game, this obviously means other countries have less.

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  • 10. At 03:24am on 09 Feb 2011, Huaimek wrote:

    I have already written in the last Blog , that the Franco/German pact for European competitiveness is a non starter . I marvel that Merkel and Sarkozy couldn't see the impracticality of it for themselves . I am amazed too , that our stupid national polititions could see that it was an unworkable idea . People are not statistics or figures to be calculated to a precise formular or sum . The people of the nations that make up the EU are very varied , in character and ability in business and industry .
    TellitAsITis has it right ; national governments and people have been Lied to and Lied to , hoodwinked into developing the terrible mess that is the EU today .
    Bright suggestions , like this one , from Merkel and Sarkozy could cause the beginning of the break up of the EU . If the EU EVER becomes a single federal state Germany will pay the major part to finance it .

    The only workable solution for the EU is to scrap it in its present form and to create a federation of nation states ; with no Euro and all financially independent .

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  • 11. At 06:58am on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #9
    The intergovernmental method is successful? Since when? You complain about a blocking minority of France, Germany and at least one other.

    Under the intergovernmental method, Malta could block anything. Look at the EU patent. Thirty years of blockage, during which Europe loses ground to its commercial competitors like the US and China, partly because innovation is so much harder to protect. How efficient is that? How does it advance the citizens of the EU?

    Comparing the EU with other international institutions doesn't work. They have a fundamentally different purpose. The EU is set up to integrate "ever closer union", remember? The EU is a hybrid, with elements of a federation, a confederation and even small elements of a state (e.g. its competition policy - where it is hugely successful).

    Stating that the UN, WTO or any other organization would be more successful than the EU would be a truly unique position. No observer has ever been found to agree with you. It is rather grotesque as a statement. And stating that NATO member states have more influence in its organization than in the EU, will be regarded as a bit of a joke in Washington.

    The EU is most successful where it does not have the intergovernmental approach. Why don't you try giving one example where it has been more efficient because of intergovernmental approach. Go on, one simple example. And the efficiency has to be about the actual content of the policy, of course (i.e., what did it actually achieve?).

    Case in point of the inefficiency of intergovernmental way is exactly the foreign policy, where the EU, and its member-states, endure the unbearable lightness of their division, and having to wait for the slowest member before anything gets agreed. By that time, everyone else (US, China, Turkey, Russia,...) has turned the corner.

    Your observation of influence is dead wrong. France and Germany have less influence, not more, but a more efficient way of using it. Germany often gets outvoted in the Counsel (we need those votes to be public, of course). Besides, by pooling sovereignty, the member states do exactly what is necessary to avoid your zero-sum game conundrum.

    There is an issue of transparency and accountability at the EU level, but the solution to that is not less integration, it's just simply more transparency.



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  • 12. At 08:06am on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #9. At 01:42am on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John

    Don't worry FJ, Manneken has shown in #11 that no matter what the question he/she only has one answer, an EU Institution that is currently existing (unfortunately).

    It takes a minimum of four countries to block a vote, which means France, Germany plus two of Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg can block any motion they so wish. The down side for them of this community method of voting is that if a couple of the G6 largest members get together with a couple others they too can block a vote, thus the UK, Poland, Czech and Denmark can block a vote which I'm sure the French government in their rush to create Lisbon never thought about.
    For a proposal to pass, the supporting side needs to surpass three criteria:
    1. 50% (if proposal was made by the Commission) or 67% (all other cases) of the members states,
    2. 74% of the voting weights,
    3. 62% of the EU population (this criterion is only checked upon request by a Council member).

    Thus a grouping within the big six effectively control the EU and the G6 is Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain and Poland in that order of population and it is also taken for granted that Italy and Spain always toe the line.

    This debacle in the meeting which dismissed the pact of competitiveness shows just how arrogant the East German educated Merkel and the nain Sarkozy have become.

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  • 13. At 08:07am on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:

    @ #11
    Mr Manneken,

    The logic behind your message is somewhat correct for a better Europe. Except for some facts. The comments against Brussels mandarins explicitly target the lying, the cheating, the lack of transparency, the over spending and the sheer rampant arrogance swilling around the Place de Luxembourg.
    I know of employees there who say “you ain’t diddlysquat if you don’t wear an 800 euro suit to work.” So that apart how can people take seriously you message when the human factors point to a nest of greed and unaccountability. Until you purge the temple, Brussels is doomed to be tarred and feathered.

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  • 14. At 08:37am on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #13. At 08:07am on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin

    The Kings of the EU thought they were building the new King Solomon's temple where the great god called the EU would be worshipped and worshippers would flock to pay homage and willingly give their last cent to the bulging coffers. However just like the first King Solomon's temple the Place de Luxembourg is showing every signs of being destroyed, but in this case it is not a marauding invader but the rampant corruption, patronage, incompetence that reminds one of the demise of the Roman Empire. In fact all it needs now is debauchery and slaves and the EU could be a new Roman empire. Hang on a bit, are we not now being turned into slaves with the mandarins as our masters?

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  • 15. At 09:25am on 09 Feb 2011, Benefactor wrote:

    France and Germany not getting what they want = EU rigged so France & Germany always get what they want... ??

    I'm reading some of these comments wrong. Must be.

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  • 16. At 09:44am on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken (11): I am not complaining about the blocking minority of France & Germany, but that the asymmetry whereby France & Germany (working together as they do) have a de-facto veto that no-one else does, and that this leads to decisions being made that have no legitimacy outside of this duo. When all countries have an equal vote then no national majority can be forced to do what their government is opposed to, which is consistent with democracy, and therefore the preferred method of decion-making in all other international organisations that take serious decisions binding on their members.

    If NATO used EU-like block-voting rules, it would reinforce US dominance. Imagine that in NATO the USA had 51% of the total votes based on share of NATO population and simple majorities of population were used. It would be obvious that the US vote alone would determine all decisions no matter how other countries voted. That would be efficient but the resulting decisions would lack legitimacy in all other countries. If the USA had 35% of the votes and the blocking minority in the NATO was 35% (as it is in the EU) then the US alone would have a veto power. No decision would then be possible unless it was the US position. Similarly when the community method is used in the EU the blocking threshold is 35% and France & Germany’s combined vote is so close to this threshold (30%) that while they are not able to guarantee their position prevails (which requires 65% of the vote) they are at least in the position to de-facto guarantee no other position can prevail. That is why EU-like voting rules are not used in NATO or any other international organisation. If they were then the other international organisations would see an EU-like break-down in their legitimacy, and ultimately their collapse.

    Legitimacy is the only sustainable measure of the success of an international organisation. You however interpret (post 11) success as ‘efficiency’. The most efficient form of government is the dictatorship, and its equivalent at international level is the Empire. The breakdown in EU democratic legitimacy is largely a result of the mistaken belief of euro-federalists like yourself that is a good thing to outvote dissenting as easily as possible and force their populations to live under EU laws in perpetuity which they never assented to. Efficiency in forcing through unpopular decisions can never be the measure of the EU success.

    It is also ridiculous to say that innovation is dependent on the EU, and its undemocratic decision-making methods. Innovation is something that happens in the private sector. One only has to look at Galileo, an expensive copy of the free American GPS system, to see that the EU institutions cannot innovate but are merely the means to secure funding for non-innovations that could not succeed in the private marketplace. The core eurozone has been the worst-performing economic region in the western word since the euro was introduced in 1999. 'More Europe' is bad for the real-world economy, not least because it allows bad policy to be imposed on other countries by the community method.

    And it does not matter what people thought the EEC/EU was for in 1957. The living rule the world and the number of people alive today who want a European federal state is tiny, about 7% in most European countries, and totally insufficient in democratic societies to legitimise the powers the EU has today. What is need is to transform the majority opinion that the EU has into political effect by stripping the EU supranational institutions of power and reforming EU voting rules to make them more like normal ones used in all other international organisations.

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  • 17. At 10:14am on 09 Feb 2011, john wrote:

    A little note to all the members which are an happy with the push from Germany/France for a great integration/harmonized for the EU laws.
    From the sign of the Roma treaty 1956 the aim was and it is a Federal state of Europe with one government which will set the fiscal and political direction of Europe.
    Personally i like to give my thank you to all the government which have not forget our goal and in this global world we do not have other choice.
    John

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  • 18. At 10:18am on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken (11): It is also a fact that the WTO is more successful than the EU. It has reduced global tariffs from the 30% region to just 2-4% today in non-agricultural goods, and so fostered the greatest rise in trade and prosperity the world has ever seen over the last 40 years. It did this using decision-making by unanimity in an organisation that now has 153 members.

    During that same period, the EU, and especially its eurozone core, have slowed to only a little more than 1% per year growth per annum on average, as its politicians subordinated sound and stable economics to out-of-date federalist theories from the 1950s that have no popular support and which are now seriously de-stabilising peripheral economies and causing even national bankruptcies. Euro-federalists with a myopic definition of success as forcing through unpopular policies that do not work in practice as ‘efficiently’ as possible, miss the bigger picture of the true success elsewhere in the world in raising living standards and spreading democracy.

    Brussels increasingly contributes directly to the relative decline of European nations with out-of-focus centralised planning that prevents individual governments from making what each regards as the best choices for their own populations. Inter-governmentalism in other international organisations like the WTO allows each nation-state to pursue their own interests directly and achieve better overall results too.

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  • 19. At 10:38am on 09 Feb 2011, DurstigerMann wrote:

    "Portugal has raised 30% of the funds it needs this year and has avoided being muscled into joining the bail-out queue.

    For the past two weeks the European Central Bank has not been buying up bonds from struggling eurozone economies."

    This reminds me of a German TV-show which can be roughtly translated as "out of the debt trap". A credit counselor tries to help some people who are overly indebted and in the end, they often have to go into private insolvency.

    Except there are no private businesses buying their bonds, because anybody with a clue knows that such a thing borders on economic insanity.


    But isn`t this what the EU is? Institutionalised insanity. Now they can go around and literally throw money out of the window like no private institutions could ever do. But what do they care, there is a jade plant growing right next to their ivory tower.

    And what they think of democracy and an actual system of checks and balance to control EU-institutions could be seen quite figuratively two years ago, when Vaclav Klaus held a speech in the European Parliament.

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  • 20. At 11:16am on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #16
    It is a remarkable fact that you endorse the typical dictator-ship propaganda about dictatorships being more efficient. They are not. By a mile.

    Democracies are substantially more efficient than dictatorships. The reasons are very simple: in a dictatorship, no-one cares about the public good (why would they) or does even pretend to. Incompetent people are much more difficult to replace (that's one of the core functions of elections), there is always a lot more corruption in a dictatorship, and by definition, there are no checks and balances.

    I strongly disagree that WTO is more efficient than the EU. You are very selective in your facts.

    You are also fundamentally wrong in stating that anyone is "forced" to obey the EU rules. Any member-state is free to leave, at any time. It is a voluntary system.

    Also, wehn you say that "innovation is done by the private sector", are you stating that innovation would be rewarded without the existence of publicly instituted monopolies such as Intellectual Property Rights? A truly revolutionary statement - but probably not what you intended. I'm sure anyone can come up with examples of state funded research they disagree with or they don't find innovative enough. The point I made was that, to be effective, IPRs must be EU wide (as is the case for copyright). Patents have been left out because of silly national veto's. We can now circumvent those, to the benefit of innovation in Europe. But you're just changing subjects because you're afraid to tackle the real argument.

    The real argument is that France and Germany have lost a lot of power through the community system, AND that this is a much more efficient decision making system than intergovernmental.

    It is true, of course, that if you only want to achieve inter-governmental collaboration, the federal nature of part of the EU institutions (and it is growing, I agree with that), is abhorrent to you. But that is a dogmatic position, not a pragmatic one.

    Dogma's are fine, once you're dead. That's the only time you get to go to heaven. In the mean time, we on earth must make live better.

    # 14
    I've said it before, and I'll repeat it. These silly and badly formulated insults strongly reduce the Eurosceptic argument. You're just calling names, and in a manner that is greatly uninspiring from a literary point of view (i.e. it's badly written and boring). A pity, but in the end you're strengthening my position.

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  • 21. At 11:21am on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #17. At 10:14am on 09 Feb 2011, john

    I'm sure the legions of corrupt, incompetent politicians of the EU will be eternally grateful of your unbridled support so that they can keep their snouts in the public trough, and I'm sure you'll be more than content to contribute even more to the EU's coffers through higher taxes so that they can elevate their lifestyle even more. After all do not such excellent politicians deserve lush palatial palaces as residence with expensive paintings and gold taps everywhere, so keep on giving until they have your last cent. It's what you want isn't it?

    #19. At 10:38am on 09 Feb 2011, DurstigerMann

    It looks like after the Chinese invasion of Africa it is now the Chinese take-over of certain EU members that are bankrupt as I guess it's mostly them that are buying the bonds if the ECB is not.

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  • 22. At 11:31am on 09 Feb 2011, notus wrote:

    We have a saying in Germany: He who pays the bill is the one to decide.
    So, it's all about money. Does anyone really think the German leadership want to "dictate" or "dominate" the EU? But how explain to their people the huge amounts of money that is being paid into bail-outs, EU fund, ECB? A European Federal Union would live or die only with German money and that's why many Germans are not fond of this idea.

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  • 23. At 11:49am on 09 Feb 2011, DurstigerMann wrote:

    @21 Buzet23

    "It looks like after the Chinese invasion of Africa it is now the Chinese take-over of certain EU members that are bankrupt as I guess it's mostly them that are buying the bonds if the ECB is not."

    We could also look at it from another angle: what does this say about China`s faith in the US-dollar?

    They are certainly not doing it, because it`s such a terribly good investment.

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  • 24. At 12:06pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken (20) said “I strongly disagree that WTO is more efficient than the EU. You are very selective in your facts….”

    You are not paying attention. I did not say the WTO was more efficient than the EU. It is only you that is fixated on dictatorship-like efficiency. I said the WTO was a more successful organisation than the EU, e.g. in raising the living standards of the citizens of its member states (whereas eurozone instability destroys wealth in the periphery of the EU core) and also that WTO decisions have greater democratic legitimacy because its use of the conventional ‘decision-making by unanimity’ rule such that no national government can be forced to implement measures that it (representing the majority opinion of its voters as voted for them in democratic eletcions) disagrees with.

    You are extraordinarily disingenuous in claiming the EU is voluntary. First of all it is an obligation of EU membership to implement EU decisions reached by the community method, including those that the current government voted against, and even those when the voters change their mind and elect a new government that disagrees with previously existing EU rules. Decisions reached by the EU are therefore certainly not voluntary in any state that remains in the EU. And since you are not advocating any state leaves the EU, you clearly support states being subject to the coercive nature of the community method (and indeed have repeatedly championed that method over more legitimacy-preserving decision-making rules on grounds of the ‘efficiency’ by which it allows decisions to be forced through). Furthermore you are not advocating any citizens of EU member-states be allowed to vote on EU membership. Indeed you repeatedly argue against referendums, so you are clearly against any practical means by which voters could initiate the leaving that would be necessary for them to restore democratic control over the law and policy they live under.

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  • 25. At 12:25pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #20. At 11:16am on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken

    Coming from you I'll take your criticism as to my literary skills as a complement since I didn't need to raise the skill level above basic for it to be understood by you. The use of an analogy to illustrate the inherent corruption, patronage, incompetence of the EU in its current form is an excellent way of attracting the attention of pro-EUites that never read past the first few words of any post since their answer to it is always the same.

    If you wish to be a Luddite then that's fine by me, but thankfully there are an ever increasing number of EU citizens who want the EU to change, and it seems some politicians may be opening their ears ever so slightly now as the vote on the topic of this thread suggests.

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  • 26. At 12:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, Ulkomaalainen wrote:

    I've been reading these blogs for a couple of months now. There are many things I don't understand....

    Why would harmonising economic decisions at an EU level through a common currency and political integration or even pacts designed to control the behaviour of the member states be of economic benefit to the member states in question?

    Within individual countries there are always areas that are better off and worse off and the differences can be quite striking and yet these are already unified politically and economically. One need only look to the East West divide in Germany and the North South divide in the UK. If closer integration is the key to solving economic problems, why does the former East Germany lag so far behind the West and why is the North of England so much poorer than the South?



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  • 27. At 1:07pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #26. At 12:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, Ulkomaalainen

    You put you finger on the problem very well.

    It's a bit like the reason Socialism will never work, equality relies on there being winners and losers, the winners (the so called poor) gain from the losers (the so called rich). As a result the losers get disgruntled because their hard earned money has been given away and the winners think that effort is unnecessary to gain. Translated into an EU scenario the ever increasing integration results in an over regulated stagnant economy where innovation is suppressed by swathes of red tape, thus the healthy nations lose incentive to be efficient and the unhealthy nations think they can spend at will.

    Changing generations of inbred ways in the various member states cannot be done by a competitiveness pact, that is a typical Socialist trait, create more regulation for everything and anything. It needs incentives for change to happen and the EU can never offer that as it is now formed.

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  • 28. At 1:10pm on 09 Feb 2011, MacTurk wrote:

    TellitAsItis(no 2) wrote "It was denied for decades that there was a hidden agenda to create a European superstate, but that is EXACTLY what the Brussels axis is aiming for" Brussels axis? What is that? The EU is at heart, still very much an intergovernmental organisation. The Commission has a mandate to initiate legislation, but such legislation must be approved by both the Eurpopean Parliament and the European Council - the gathered Heads of Government/State, If the national governments do not want something to happen, it does not happen. Also, the committment to "An ever-closer union" is part of the Acquis Communutaire, which Britain signed up to.

    "The EU elite LIED about Greece's entry to the EU". Rather, the Greek government has been lying about its finances since before it joined.

    "They LIED in promising Germany it would never have to bail out feckless economies". Agreed, but circumstances change. How Germany would benefit from a collapse of half of the member nations is hard to see.

    "It is all a LIE". Not so. "The euro CANNOT encompass such different ceconomies(sic) as Germany and Greece". This remains to be seen. Ultimately, any currency/currency union is a political business.

    "The SIX BILLION foreign service headed by Baroness Ashton who is paid twice as much as the British PM AND pays negligeable taxes, is a humungous power-grabbing waste of money". Again, this remains to be seen. The EU's External Action Service is barely 1.5 months old. The EU is a giant in trade terms, a dwarf in diplomacy, and an amoeba in defence or hard power projection. Hopefully, the EAS will redress the failings in the diplomatic/soft power area. The defence/hard power area is dependent of Franco-British agreement, as these are the two large nations with the most expedionary-ready forces, and the willingness to use them. It would be hard for Germany to be part of this.

    "These peole are destroying the Eueopean ideal". First, define the "European Ideal", please.

    "It is all a HUGE CON by people who pay thelmselves VAST salaries and perks". Compared to Irish and Italian politicians, I really cannot agree. Besides, the sheer tinyness of the total staff of all the institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg means that the spend on salaries is miniscule. If you want to talk about vast wastes of money, try the CAP, try the British MOD(the Nimrod vandalism comes to mind), try the Common Fisheries Policy(another reasonable idea ruined by politicians acting for their own national interests) or try Germany's now discontinued coal mining subsidies.

    Freeborn John(no24) wrote "You are extraordinarily disingenuous in claiming the EU is voluntary. First of all it is an obligation of EU membership to implement EU decisions reached by the community method, including those that the current government voted against, and even those when the voters change their mind and elect a new government that disagrees with previously existing EU rules. Decisions reached by the EU are therefore certainly not voluntary in any state that remains in the EU."

    Please, who is being disengenous now? When you join a club, any club, you automatically accept, as part of joining, that you give up untrammelled freedom of action. If not, why join? This is not coercion. Secondly, the point about "....when the voters change their mind and elect a new government that disagrees with previously existing EU rules" is a normal part of international diplomacy. It is the principle of "Pacta servanda sunt", a basic principle of civil law and of international law. Basically, treaties in force is binding on the states who signed. You can try to renegotiate them, but you are obliged to respect them while you attempt to do so. You simply cannot unilaterally abandon obligations incurred without losing your national reputation.

    The EU is an organisation which is sui generis in terms of the degree of sovereignty-sharing involved. The fact that the British people have been lied to by most of their media about the nature of the organisation is not the fault of the EU. When Nigel Farage goes on Finnish TV and claims that Britain and Finland only became aware of the existence of the Commission some 30 and 15 years after respectively joining, he is either ignorant or lying.

    And yes, I am advocating that you in Britain please hold your referendum, then depending on the result, either get out or shut up.

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  • 29. At 1:17pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken: You also exaggerate the impact of the cost of applying for patents in different countries on as a barrier to innovation. The cost of filing a patent is about 800 euro. The cost of introducing a new drug worldwide is measured in many billions to pay for decades of R&D and testing so patents are a drop in the ocean of overall cost. The costs of the EU far, far outweigh any savings in patent costs. Galileo-alone is projected to cost 10 billion euro> Besides being no advert for the merits of the patent system (eing a rip-off of 20-year American technology) it probably reduces innovation in Europe by diverting engineering resources from more promising areas in the private sector. Only the largest multinational technology firms can afford these real costs of innovation today and they already operate at a global level such that patent costs are nothing to them.

    Also the European Patent Offices have existed since 1977 so clearly pre-date the treaties of Maastricht (1992) and later which have de-legitimised the EU by extending the community method into areas where it is unsuitable and raising the blocking threshold to very near the Franco-German combined voting weight to make it easier for them to ensure that nothing gets agreed at EU level that is not based upon their pre-cooked deals. It is clearly possible to have an international patent system without political union because this was the case between 1977 and 1992. What is impossible to do is to make a case that an undemocratic super-state should be constructed on the pin-head of reduced patent fees.

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  • 30. At 2:06pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    MacTurk (28) said “When you join a club, any club, you automatically accept, as part of joining, that you give up untrammelled freedom of action.”

    That is not the case when joining intergovernmental organizations, otherwise nation-states would not be sovereign. The norm, i.e. as used in all such bodies taking serious decisions other than the EU, is that international organizations make decisions by unanimity such that every state has the opportunity to reject things which the nation (as represented by their elected government) disagrees with. This is the only way to preserve democratic legitimacy at international level. The EU collapse of democratic legitimacy can be dated to precisely the moment (beginning in 1992 with Maastricht when it began to abandon this norm, and accelerating with every treaty since).

    MacTurk said “"....when the voters change their mind and elect a new government that disagrees with previously existing EU rules" is a normal part of international diplomacy.

    It is not a normal part of international diplomacy. There is no other international organization in the world which has its own body of autonomous law (EU secondary legislation; not the treaties) superior to national law which can be put on the statute-books of a state despite the government of that that state disagreeing with it, and which the voters of that state cannot later repeal by electing a new government. The UN, NATO, WTO etc.,(nor any bilateral agreement between governments) have their own body of law and their own legislative institutions, so clearly this is not 'normal international diplomacy'. Only the EU can do that, and it is the ‘community method’ which allows it do it, i.e. with a proposal from the undemocratic EU Commission supported by only a qualified majority of member states (and the unrepresentative EU Parliament which represent no interest other than that of its own members in the increase to their own power that comes from an expansion in the body of EU law).

    Do not confuse international law and EU law. Only the EU treaties are international law. The secondary EU legislation produced by the EU institutions under the EU treaties has no equivalent anywhere else on Earth. And it is this body of law and the ‘community method’ used to enact it which Manneken is mistaken is championing. It is not necessary anywhere else in the democratic world and is not needed in Europe either.

    And forget the ‘sui generis’ stuff. Human beings have been creating political organizations for at least 2000 years and there is nothing new about the EU. The sui generis camoflauge cannot disguise that the EU is a throwback to the type of undemocratic multinational state which existed in Europe in the 19th century before being replaced by the rise of liberal democracy in the form of the nation-state.

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  • 31. At 2:12pm on 09 Feb 2011, bbony wrote:

    It doesn't matter if the others become more competitive or not. The euro has become an instrument in German hands to discipline the others. With the French as policemen. They both start to play fast and loose. A "hard bargain" is hardly better than an illusion.

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  • 32. At 2:37pm on 09 Feb 2011, EuroSider wrote:

    Here we go again.

    France decides on what Europe is -
    Germany pays for it.

    No-one else gets a look-in.

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  • 33. At 2:40pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #29 FJ
    I love the way you turn arguments on their head, based on almost complete ignorance.

    First: the EPO is not an EU institution, it is a purely intergovernmental institution. A mistake many also make about the Strasbourg Human Rights courts ("EU FORCES VOTING RIGHTS FOR PRISONERS ON BRITAIN" - now where did I read that blatant lie?).

    Second, if you think 800 euro is the cost of a patent throughout the European internal market, remind me to run as far away as I can from anything you would invest in or would recommend.

    It's funny, you're arguing on the basis of points that nobody actually makes. Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, agrees that the patent system in Europe today is cumbersome, very expensive and extremely inefficient. Certainly if you compare with the US. That is, those who bother to check the actual facts. The main reason is - to come back to the actual discussion - because it is purely intergovernmental and anyone (in this case Spain and Italy) can block it at will, against the interests of the whole of the European economy and internal market.

    Luckily, the Lisbon Treaty now provides for a way forward, and we can circumvent the silly Italian and Spanish veto (if you want to know why they veto, it's because of use of language. If you want to find out facts about this, see how many patents in Italy are filed in the Italian language. Then look at what the US does, and how Google offers to translate patents.)

    The interesting thing of course is that even here, your reasoning is completely bogus, because even though the rest of the Union can no longer be blocked by Italy or Spain, the Union is not, in the process of enhanced cooperation, enforcing this solution on either Italy or Spain. Either can stay out of the EU patent as long as they want, stay in the EPO system, and continue to translate at will, and drive up cost for business (good luck to them). Unfortunately for you, the EU is cutting red tape and cost for business here. More unfortunately for you, the process shows that intergovernmental does not work at all.

    Incidently, I love they way you use the WTO as a democratic institution. Is that based on the membership of China, or Zimbabwe, or Mauritania, Pakistan perhaps, or Saudi-Arabia, or any other member of that joyful club that supports your legitimacy argument?

    As for efficiency, it's true that the current overrun of the Doha round is a mere five years behind schedule (after 14 years of initial work), with no tangible results so far. Seems to work fantastically - almost as efficient as a dictatorship (you're the one who came up with this, not me). It must be that a single decision or agreement every twenty years is responsible for the whole of the world's economic development in the last fifty years.

    And finally, as so often for Eurosceptics, you reduce a decision making process (in our out of the EU) to a referendum. Ever heard of actual elections, where people can make a point that is more complex than simple yes/no? Oh, and why is it that parties who want a country out of the EU, get hardly any votes at all? (just as well, their representatives are typically of the more clownish kind, and tend to go for the money first - it takes one to know one, eh...).

    The rule of the EU is very simple: if you want to be in the club, you follow the rules. Don't like it, you're free to go. Same rule applies in that wonderful WTO of yours, by the way.

    Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too, that would be simply disingenuous.

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  • 34. At 2:44pm on 09 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie wrote:

    #28

    macturk;

    "And yes, I am advocating that you in Britain please hold your referendum, then depending on the result, either get out or shut up."

    Well that referendum aint gonna happen. So I think we'll carry on slowing the silent procession of the moo-baa-oinkers to the abattoir for a few more decades yet. Shut up? Britain? Haha, not bloody likely chum.
    Doing the opposite of what the EUdrones want is far too much fun.

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  • 35. At 2:55pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    MacTurk said “I am advocating that you in Britain please hold your referendum, then depending on the result, either get out or shut up.”

    Sorry MacTurk: Finland is as euro-skeptic as the UK with only 4% of the population saying their primary identification is with Europe rather than Finland. Such rock-bottom levels of support for European identity in Finland cannot possibly justify the gradual replacement of the Finnish nation-state by a European federal-state.

    You euro-federalists have no significant levels of popular support anywhere. And you cannot sustain a single argument. So we EU-sceptics are not going to “get-out or shut-up”. We are going to win (and are winning) the battle of public opinion not just in the UK, but everywhere. And that means eradicating supra-nationalism not just from one country (by that country leaving the EU) but permanently eradicating it from the free world by removing the Brussels institutions themselves.

    The better alternative is a Global Free Trade Area and democratic nation-states that co-operate using purely inter-governmental means. From Eygpt to Burma we see that this is the preference of free people everywhere. Neither the self-interest of Brussels insiders, nor the tiny band of happy-clappy euro-federalists intellectually incapable of distinguishing EU supra-nationalism from normal relations between democratic governments, is going to stand in the way of this progress of mankind.

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  • 36. At 3:25pm on 09 Feb 2011, MacTurk wrote:

    Freeborn John(no30) wrote "That is not the case when joining intergovernmental organizations, otherwise nation-states would not be sovereign" First, any state joining any intergovernmental organization accepts this limitation of sovereignty. Committments are made and have to be abided by.

    You are well aware that there is no such thing as unlimited sovereignty. If you are not, then it is time to either wake up, or stop being disengenuous.

    You also must be aware that the EU, from the foundation of the European Coal & Steel Community in 1951 onwards, has always involved a pooling of sovereignty. What else can you call oversight and rationalisation of the main means of armaments production?

    Lastly, you must be aware that joining the EU means accepting that the body of European law, known as the Acquis Communitaire" is binding on your state and citizens, and is superior to national law.

    If you are NOT aware of these three ideas, then you must have been living on Mars/under a rock for the last 60 years.

    So, please deal with your national politicians, have your referendum, and then abide by the result.

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  • 37. At 3:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:

    To McTurk and Manneken:
    It is not enough to say go one way or the other, are you in or are you out, put up or shut up, rules are rules and the rest. The facts speak for themselves. The Brussels PR machine is loosing the fight on the ground. Never mind the buzzcocks here is the message. People see the project as corrupt and lost. Remember the entire commission had to resign only 10 years ago over these very same allegations. Fix it.

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  • 38. At 3:42pm on 09 Feb 2011, Ulkomaalainen wrote:

    #33 Manneken

    Manneken,"Second, if you think 800 euro is the cost of a patent throughout the European internal market, remind me to run as far away as I can from anything you would invest in or would recommend."

    Patent costs are much higher than the fee mentioned here. There are also fees for maintaining patents. It is not enough to file and then be awarded the patent, patents often need defending particularly if they are commercially valuable.

    Manneke, "Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, agrees that the patent system in Europe today is cumbersome, very expensive and extremely inefficient. Certainly if you compare with the US."

    "The systems in both the US and Europe both suffer from the problems you mention. The US authorities are very pernickety and can be really difficult. However the systems appear on paper they are administered by real people and the reality is that when you are going through the process of filing a patent neither system is easy to complete."

    Mannelen, "Luckily, the Lisbon Treaty now provides for a way forward, and we can circumvent the silly Italian and Spanish veto (if you want to know why they veto, it's because of use of language. If you want to find out facts about this, see how many patents in Italy are filed in the Italian language. Then look at what the US does, and how Google offers to translate patents.)"

    Many patents are available as machine translations. Just don't try reading them.

    Manneken, "Unfortunately for you, the EU is cutting red tape and cost for business here. More unfortunately for you, the process shows that intergovernmental does not work at all."

    The biggest obstacle I face when writing a patent is REACH which is EU legislation. Sorry, but you are mistaken. The REACH regulations from the EU have a, well earned, truly terrible reputation amongst chemists.

    Manneken, "Oh, and why is it that parties who want a country out of the EU, get hardly any votes at all? (just as well, their representatives are typically of the more clownish kind, and tend to go for the money first - it takes one to know one, eh...)."

    Please! You are normally better than this. Denmark, Sweden, the UK all have significant political movements opposed to the EU. These are just the ones that I am aware of...

    Manneken. "The rule of the EU is very simple: if you want to be in the club, you follow the rules. Don't like it, you're free to go."

    This is true, and given a referendum on the matter the UK, Swedish, Danish electorate could well chose to leave. However in the case of the UK, which is a big net contributor to the EU, their money if not their politics would be sorely missed.

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  • 39. At 3:45pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #29
    Incidentally, on the issue of legitimacy: when was the last referendum on WTO? Must have missed that one.

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  • 40. At 3:48pm on 09 Feb 2011, Huaimek wrote:

    #28 MacTurk

    Thank you for your kind thought to Advocate that we in Britain have our referendum . We British would be more than happy to vote to leave the EU ; but until that time we will not shut up .

    British politicians Must know very well that the majority of British people do not support British membership of the EU . Despite the British Euroscepticism , Britain is seen as one of the cornerstones of the EU and is one of the biggest financial contributors . It is possible that successive British governments feel a sense of responsibility and loyalty to friends across the English Channel . It is possible that if Britain left the EU , the whole structure would crumble causing a domino effect . In my view that would be a benefit to all the peoples of Europe .

    Manneken

    When you are deploring the poor literary skill of commenters in this blog , in fact no less than your own ; I suggest you take a look at the comments on Mark Mardell's BBC US Blog .

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  • 41. At 3:57pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken said “It's funny, you're arguing on the basis of points that nobody actually makes.”

    Speak for yourself. Where for example did i say the EPO was an EU institution, or mention the ECHR?

    Manneken said “Incidently, I love they way you use the WTO as a democratic institution.”

    Again, I did not say the WTO was a democratic institution. There is no democracy (from ‘demos’ = people, kratos = power) at international level because there is, by definition, no international people. So clearly the concept of any democratic international organisation is a political oxymoron. Majority voting at international level is just a means by which populous countries would tell smaller nations what to do, which is not democratic at all. All that international organisations can do is respect the democracy that exists at the national level where alone there is a community that does agree to live by its own majority. That is why all international organisations (except the EU) use decision-making by unanimity to prevent that any nation is forced to do things by the international community which the majority of their own citizens is opposed to. The EU singularly has failed to show such respect (i.e. when introducing QMV) and its growing democratic legitimacy problem is the direct consequence.

    Manneken said “Is that based on the membership of China, or Zimbabwe, or Mauritania, Pakistan perhaps, or Saudi-Arabia, or any other member of that joyful club that supports your legitimacy argument?”

    Pathetic. Obviously there are still non-democratic states in the world but that is hardly an argument for making more of them is it? The WTO is about trade, and one can trade freely with non-democratic countries without wanting to part of a political union with their despotic leaderships.

    I am afraid Manneken, that any pretence from you at rationale argument has long dried up. Rather than make diversionary points about things i have not said, why not try to provide a better alternative explanation to mine for why EU democratic legitimacy was not a problem in the 1970s but became so after Maastricht (when unanimity in politically-sensitive policy areas began to be abandoned in the EU) and has got worse with each EU treaty since? After all, if you cannot do that, then people reading your comments might begin to assume you are simply regurgitating one stock answer (‘more Europe’) to every problem, even when 30 years of evidence shows that the federalising agenda (e.g. more powers to the EU Parliament) made the EU democracy problem worse.

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  • 42. At 3:58pm on 09 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie wrote:

    #35

    FBJ;

    "MacTurk said “I am advocating that you in Britain please hold your referendum, then depending on the result, either get out or shut up.”

    What makes that statement even more vomit inducing is the fact that MacTurk is Irish - a citizen of the biggest per capita beneficiary nation telling citizens of the one of the biggest contributor nations to "get out or shut up". Funny how we never heard that when were taking British taxpayers money...MY money.

    "We have a saying in Germany: He who pays the bill is the one to decide."

    Tell that to MacTurk. Perhaps he might have a change of heart now that EUire has to pay its own way...after the bailout money has been repaid that is.

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  • 43. At 3:58pm on 09 Feb 2011, cool_brush_work wrote:

    QUERY to MODERATORS:


    'The EUro Zone Crisis and the Voters'

    On 27th January the above article by Mr Hewitt had 14 Comments (8 in a row) REFERRED FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION by the Moderators.

    It is 9th FEBRUARY.


    May one enquire as to when MODERATORS will have the COURTESY & RESPECT for those of us who were REFERRED to actually INFORM US of the reasons under House Rules WHY WE are still waiting for an EXPLANATION??????????????????

    So far as I aware the flagrant DELAY in e-Mailing an explanation of the referral is COMPULSORY under BBC House Rules: Either abide by MODERATION PROCEDURES & do the job properly or DON'T DO IT AT ALL!

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  • 44. At 4:09pm on 09 Feb 2011, cool_brush_work wrote:

    33. At 2:40pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    "A mistake many also make about the Strasbourg Human Rights courts ("EU FORCES VOTING RIGHTS FOR PRISONERS ON BRITAIN" - now where did I read that blatant lie?)."


    YES PLEASE!

    Do tell us all WHERE did You READ that "blatant lie"?

    The European Court of Human Rights is NOTHING to do with the EU: Almost every Briton 'knows' that fact.

    The ECHR Judgement has caused widespread consternation & anger across the UK: Unsurprisingly - - the thought that a felon convicted & imprisoned for buggering a child could have the EQUAL VOTING RIGHT to myself & other law abiding Citizens horrifies me even if You see nothing wrong with such a miserable misconception of Human Rights - - doubtless You feel the child victim will be compensated by one day receiving the Right to Vote!

    Like many 'pro' & 'anti' EU I keep myself reasonably informed via UK & Foreign media of every description - - I've not seen or heard a UK Commentary on this ECHR Judgement confusing it with the EUropean Court of Justice - - so, EXACTLY where, when, who are You referring to with that "blatant lie" accusation?


    Or, could it be You're prejudice against 'anti-EU' voices is as scurrilously anti-democratic as Your support for Voting Rights for convicted Criminals!?

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  • 45. At 4:18pm on 09 Feb 2011, Benefactor wrote:

    "32. At 2:37pm on 09 Feb 2011, EuroSider wrote:

    Here we go again.
    France decides on what Europe is -
    Germany pays for it.
    No-one else gets a look-in."

    What article did you read? ...

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  • 46. At 4:24pm on 09 Feb 2011, Huaimek wrote:

    #33 Manneken

    "The rule of the EU is very simple ; If you want to be in the club , you follow the rules ".
    British people do not want to be members of the club . John Major should never have signed Maastricht ; perhaps he did so out of misplaced loyalty to other countries , because every EU country had to sign it for the EU project to go forward . John Major signed under fierce opposition , getting the bill passed with the tiniest majority . John Major recommended enlargement of the EU ; I believe because he thought that with a large number of member states , it could only work as a confederation . I think that is being proven true .

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  • 47. At 4:57pm on 09 Feb 2011, threnodio_II wrote:

    #1 - Buzet23

    I try to resist the temptation to be excessively provocative but, for once, I excuse myself. I will be delighted if France and Germany really have upset the rest of Europe. I shall be even more happy if they queue up at the microphone to say so in no uncertain terms. Merkel may very well be a dull, unimaginative and uninspiring leader but she has been around a while, has earned her spurs and really should know better than to fly in the face of German public opinion and the feelings of many of her European colleagues apparently seduced by the Sarkozy bait.

    As for Sarkozy, I have concluded that he is an insignificant little twerp whom France would be very well advised to consign to the scrapheap of history at the earliest available opportunity.

    But I really do wish both the tedious beggars would stop assuming they have a God given right to tell the rest of us what to do.

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  • 48. At 5:16pm on 09 Feb 2011, threnodio_II wrote:

    #46 - Huaimek

    For heavens sake, get you facts right. John Major fought the general election of April 1992 on a mandate which included a commitment to ratify Maastricht. To everyone's amazement - not least his - he won it but only with a tiny majority and probably only because Kinnock threw it all away at the notorious Sheffield rally.

    The bottom line is that not only did he have a mandate but he had a clear obligation. Had his rebels become out of hand, both Labour and the Liberals would have bailed him out. It was a done deal.

    You are right, however, about enlargement - and so was he. Watching the increasingly flagrant attempts by France and Germany to demonstrate that they run the whole show, just imagine how easy that would have been without several more governments to deal with. If that is Major's legacy, let's hear it for the man.

    As it happens, you have struck a nerve with me. I happen to believe that John Major was an exceptionally astute and perceptive man whose ability to hold together a government with such a tiny majority for a full term bears out. He was and is also a fundamentally decent human being and arguably the most underrated figure in British political history since Alec Douglas-Home. The new Europe may currently appear to be in something of a mess but it would be in a lot worse shape were it not for Major's legacy.

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  • 49. At 5:29pm on 09 Feb 2011, Jan_Keeskop wrote:

    Freeborn John:

    If NATO used EU-like block-voting rules, it would reinforce US dominance. Imagine that in NATO the USA had 51% of the total votes based on share of NATO population and simple majorities of population were used. It would be obvious that the US vote alone would determine all decisions no matter how other countries voted. That would be efficient but the resulting decisions would lack legitimacy in all other countries. If the USA had 35% of the votes and the blocking minority in the NATO was 35% (as it is in the EU) then the US alone would have a veto power. No decision would then be possible unless it was the US position.


    on post 16: curiously enough, by tweaking that last part a bit,

    […] If the USA had 17% of the votes (based on shares held) and the blocking minority in the IMF and the World Bank were 15%, then the US alone would have a veto power. No decision would then be possible unless it were the US position.

    one would have a description of the way things are with these two international organisations.

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  • 50. At 5:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, DurstigerMann wrote:

    @33 Manneken

    "The rule of the EU is very simple: if you want to be in the club, you follow the rules. Don't like it, you're free to go. Same rule applies in that wonderful WTO of yours, by the way."


    You have to seriously consider the possibility that a party critical of the EU / EMU could get to participate in a German government within this decade.
    Several have been formed already, most notably the party "Die Freiheit".


    When that happens, will you still say "take it or leave it"?

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  • 51. At 6:21pm on 09 Feb 2011, threnodio_II wrote:

    #50- DurstigerMann

    No, of course not. There is this very blinkered view of Euroscepticism as a peculiarly British disease. It does not fit in at all with their way of thinking that it is in fact a Europe wide phenomenon which is growing in strength all the time.

    A true Europhile would be taking this very seriously and looking at ways to address the concerns of the disaffected. Those who take it for granted that the present formula is the correct one and Europe is simply fulfilling some kind of preplanned destiny not only delude themselves but may ultimately prove the architects of its downfall.

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  • 52. At 6:56pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jan Keeskop: The USA certainly has significant influence in the IMF and especially World Bank under those voting rules. But the World Bank is only a provider of loans to developing countries and the IMF a Keynesian stimulus provider of last resort used occasionally by very heavily indebted countries. Beyond lending money these institutions have no powers and are certainly not comparable to serious international organisations like NATO, UNSC, EU, WTO that take decisions on serious matters ranging from sending soldiers to fight and die, to trade matters, to (in the case of the EU) replacing our domestic law in almost all areas.

    When the nature of the decisions taken by an international organisation is very minor, as at the World Bank today and the early EEC, then political divisions cannot be generated by majority votes because no voter cares much about the issue being voted on. If the US had no veto in the World Bank i cannot see US voters getting agitated about the resulting decisions. But as soon as the issues being decided at international level are politically-sensitive, as was always the case with NATO or UNSC decisions to send in troops, or WTO trading rules, and is certainly now the case with EU decisions, then decision-making by unanimity is absolutely essential to prevent important decisions being imposed upon countries against the majority opinion of any nation. NATO and the WTO both have larger memberships than the EU showing that efficiency is no reason not to use decision-making by unanimity in an organisation making important decisions binding on only 27 members.

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  • 53. At 7:36pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #41
    Well FJ, we both state that the other changes subject in answering. It's a classical way of debating: people don't disagree, but just talk about different things.

    I'll give it a try though, and attempt to answer your question about why the
    "why EU democratic legitimacy was not a problem in the 1970s but became so after Maastricht (when unanimity in politically-sensitive policy areas began to be abandoned in the EU) and has got worse with each EU treaty since?"

    First, this is not a question, it's a political statement. If I would answer it as such, I would seem to agree with your underlying political statements (like the very fact that the EU would have lost legitimacy since the 70s) which I do not. The problem here is that, what you state as a question, should be your conclusion, after you brought arguments; you don't explain why you think the democratic legitimacy would have gone down. That makes the question unfair, part of circular reasoning, and failing the "QED" reply. So, while I'm happy to address the question whether or not the EU's democratic legitimacy has increased or decreased since the 70s, I cannot answer your question in the way you formulate it, because you start from a foregone conclusion that is, or should be, the actual topic of debate.

    Democratic legitimacy comes in many ways and forms, and anyone who focuses on one technique (be it referendums or elections) falls short of making a convincing argument. The basis of democratic legitimacy comes from empowering citizens, transparency and accountability, and checks and balances.

    In the 70s, the EEC had a commission appointed through the counsel without any real interference of the Parliament. The EP was not elected, but appointed by national parliaments, and it had no voting rights, only an advisory function.
    Legislation was proposed by the commission, and adopted by the counsel, in secrecy. While the Treaties foresaw clearly a majority rule, this was not applied as a result of the French "empty seat" policy in the sixties.

    It's level of legitimacy was actually quite low.

    Since then, a number of things happened.

    First, the EU got a lot more power. All of this power was given to it by the Member States, in accordance with their own internal constitutional function. Contrary to what the Eurosceptics state, "Brussels" has no authority to expand its own powers. Every expansion of EU powers has been initiated by and agreed by the member states. At the level of the Treaties, this is always (always) done on a fully unanimous basis. According to your theory, this has the highest level of legitimacy possible. Moreover, the internal ratification has always done in strict compliance of internal constitutional process within the member states.

    Second, the number of checks and balances rose significantly. The Counsel got more power vs the Commission, and Parliament got a lot more power and direct elections. The Commission got substantially more scrutiny by the EP (resulting in the sacking of the Commission by the EP). It has been forced by the EP to be much more open and transparent in its dealings.

    Parliament has a real say in legislation. It has pushed through substantial changes and modifications, including those that directly benefit consumers, such as the cap on gsm tariffs inside the internal market.

    How can such an increased system of checks and balances decrease legitimacy?

    It is clear that the power of citizens has increased (direct voting, and a lot of provisions in the Lisbon Treaty). It is also clear that both transparency and checks and balances have increased.

    I'd be interested in real arguments against increased legitimacy. Please note that I take the liberty of considering perception by Rupert Murdoch's propaganda machine to be grotesquely insufficient in considering what "legitimacy" means. Same goes for "opinion polls" - they are an argument for simple minded people only. You can prove anything with them, including that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

    Stating that the EP "lacks legitimacy" is, again, an argument you need to make, not a statement of fact. By any means of comparison, the US Congress has no more legitimacy than the EP.

    So, to answer your point: I can't give you a satisfactory explanation why the legitimacy of the EU institutions has decreased, because an honest observation clearly shows that that legitimacy has gone up, not down.

    As to why its perceived legitimacy in certain circles has gone down (arguably from a very low level to start with), my personal opinion is that it serves a purpose that has nothing to do with the EU as such, but just with the fact that it is a hindrance to more unlimited power of certain groups, lobbies or industries, within member-states.

    Also, the EU is clearly a pain in the neck for people who like simplistic reasonings, such as the fact that citizens "must" have a primary political identification at one level (e.g. their nation-state). This is exactly the kind of reasoning that has helped to cause the Yugoslav civil war, and, arguably, events like the Rwanda genocide.

    People have multiple layers of identity. They can be Catalan, AND Spanish, AND European.

    Nobody has the right to deny them that multiple identity. But most nationalists try very hard. It is the one aspect of their political philosophy that is very dark. I would not recommend any political argument on that basis - it lacks intellectual honesty and credibility, and is quite dangerous. Cue 1914.


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  • 54. At 8:02pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #28. At 1:10pm on 09 Feb 2011, MacTurk

    So sad that anyone can come up with that after all the evidence, "The fact that the British people have been lied to by most of their media about the nature of the organisation is not the fault of the EU". Ridiculous, after having lived in the Non UK part of the EU and watched the media there who has been deceived, the indoctrinated population of the original EU entrants or the UK. The Times They Are A Changin!

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  • 55. At 8:15pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    @50
    Yes, of course.

    If Germany were to leave the Union, from a political prospect, that would probably finish the Union, or break it in, at least, two bits.

    But it would be perfectly acceptable from an EU institutional perspective.

    It would most probably also be an economic disaster, for the whole of Europe.

    #51

    It would of course help if the concerns of the Eurosceptics were elaborated a bit more clearly, and would not be reduced, as happens, very unfortunately, so often on this blog, to mere shouts of corruption etc...

    I don't think anybody believes the current situation to be fully satisfactory. But both those who advocate deeper integration and those who are against it must make their point.

    It would add to the credibility of the Eurosceptic position if they could make their case in a positive way, i.e. on how things would be better for Europe (i.e. more democracy, more growth, a stronger position in the world, better for the environment, a guarantee for peace, etc....) if their solution (which remains to be set out) would be implemented.

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  • 56. At 8:15pm on 09 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie wrote:

    #53

    manneken;

    "The basis of democratic legitimacy comes from empowering citizens, transparency and accountability, and checks and balances."

    And you think the European Union ,in its current state,successfully fulfills these basic criteria better than the individual nation states do you?

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  • 57. At 8:19pm on 09 Feb 2011, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio_II (47):

    I really can't understand why do you and others feel so bad on German and French leaders getting together and hatching up a plan for Europe? At the end of the day any plan will have to be decided democratically by the European Council and Parliament. Before things reach to that point there has been lots of discussions, alternative solutions and compromises done. Why does it matter who proposes what, shouldn't in only matter on what is proposed, not on who proposes it?

    And if we go to the proposals themselves, they seem largely rational, things that are needed to be done no matter what. So what is the problem?

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  • 58. At 8:42pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #48. At 5:16pm on 09 Feb 2011, threnodio_II

    Quite so, John Major was from a circus family living in Brixton, and never went to Uni, the worst nightmare of the other parties, it was such a shame that he was not clarismatic as he was very intelligent.

    As for Sarkozy, the nain, well it is still amazing what I receive from France in the way of commentaries, regarding the pact of competitiveness he apparently excelled himself and the Belg are probably still laughing.

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  • 59. At 8:49pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #56

    Difficult question to answer - I don't know the 27 member states that well individually. There's probably a PhD in there, but not for me.

    Certainly, I would state that the institutions have a fairly large degree of transparency, that can easily be set besides most of the member states. The EU does not have a monarch or other hereditary positions with political power, and pretty much all of its power levels are either directly or indirectly elected or approved by directly elected bodies, and there is clearly a system of checks and balances. It may be a bit complex, but not necessarily more than e.g. in Washington.

    The EP is independent, and a source of power, in a way very few national parliaments are.

    That is not to say things couldn't be better. As I've stated repeatedly, the voting in the Counsel should be public - it would avoid a lot of hypocrisy and hand-wringing by national governments ("Brussels made me do this" "Oh yeah, then why did you vote in favor at the Counsel?". I'd love to see this.)

    Also, it is clear that the EU must work very hard to make sure that its internal processes are transparent. It would help if everyone in Brussels was not so terribly "pro-european". Again, a call for a well-argumented, consistent Eurosceptic story. Brussels needs more debate, and more heated, open, honest debate.

    Let me reverse the question. Which country, in your opinion, outperforms the institutions? With some clear arguments and facts please - it could come in useful as suggestions.

    On the other hand, if you ask the question whether the EU fulfills the criteria at its own level (i.e. as a supranational body), the answer is, I think, clearly yes. No other international organization comes even close - even if I don't think they are useful comparison.

    So, in the end, a qualified yes, with the clear statement it could be a lot better, and that it would be great if positive contributions were made to make it more transparent & accountable.

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  • 60. At 8:56pm on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:

    manneken # 53

    Do I sense a mode of real debate, From this entry you make a statement we can listen to. The argument for you is clear but it is not so for those on the street. Never forget it's on the street that matters. Make it clear to Brussels either listen to the street or be sent away. This year is make or brake for tipping the balance towards a future European federation. I hope Brussels realises, the stakes are very high.

    martin nangle

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  • 61. At 8:57pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #55. At 8:15pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken

    "It would add to the credibility of the Eurosceptic position if they could make their case in a positive way, i.e. on how things would be better for Europe (i.e. more democracy, more growth, a stronger position in the world, better for the environment, a guarantee for peace, etc....) if their solution (which remains to be set out) would be implemented."

    Easy one but unacceptable for people like you, dissolve the EU and its treaties and reform as a simple trading block or confederacy. The exact details are subject to negotiation that can be voted on by referendum of all interested countries who can be relied on, unlike those who failed the convergence test for the Euro, the rest can, well, go their own way, glug, glug glug.

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  • 62. At 9:02pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken (53): It cannot be that EU democratic legitimacy is increasing when the EU treaties since Maastricht have been rejected by an increasing number of national electorates in referendums.

    Nor is parliamentary ratification of an EU treaty ratification any substitute for legitimisation by the people themselves in a referendum. Indeed parliamentary votes on agreements made in EU Councils (where EU treaties are effectively negotiated by heads of government) are a foregone conclusion because the people in the EU Council are heads of government by sole virtue of the majority they command in those national parliaments! To expect a national parliament to vote against an EU treaty negotiated by the prime minister who commands it's majority is a complete misunderstanding of how parliamentary democracy works. Such votes are rubber-stamp exercises and cannot confer democratic legitimacy on treaties like Lisbon which had already been rejected in 3 national referendums, and would certainly have been rejected in many many more if the promised votes on the EU Constitution/Lisbon had not been cancelled in certain knowledge of what the results would be.

    So unfortunately your explanation for what you see as an increase in EU legitimacy parts company with the real world. You have to resort to mental gymantistics to sustain your self-deception whereby rubber-stamp votes in legislatures whipped by the very people who wrote the EU treaties are somehow a more authentic indication of popular consent for  EU powers than the free votes of hundreds of millions of actual voters who rejected those treaties.

    So stop trying to deny there is a breakdown in EU legitimacy and instead provide an explanation for why this had occurred despite federalists always saying more powers for EU parliament (which was included in these treaties) was the answer. 

    The legitimacy of the federal institutions in Washington, Berlin or Canberra actually depends entirely on them being national institutions whereas the federal EU institutions in Brussels lack legitimacy precisely because they are not national institutions. Only national institutions have a democratic legitimacy because politics is about representing 'the People'; and the EU does not have one. Monnet assumed that the mere creation of self-aggrandising European institutions would generate the strong European indentity necessary to legitimise his institutions but unlike in 19th century Germany or Italy (which were already nations before political unification) it has not happened at the European level. European identity has actually been getting weaker since Masstracht as the world globalises and voters across Europe increasingly reject the Brussels institutions as an artificial transplant into their body politics.

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  • 63. At 9:19pm on 09 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #59. At 8:49pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken

    Please stop the foolish responses.

    "Let me reverse the question. Which country, in your opinion, outperforms the institutions? With some clear arguments and facts please - it could come in useful as suggestions."

    Just how can a controlled by EU bureaucracy, incompetency and corruption, member state that pays into a non producing, ever consuming EU institution ever out perform it other than by being even more corrupt, inept, inefficient, incompetent, or to put it another way be a blood sucker.

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  • 64. At 9:29pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (57) said "if we go to the proposals themselves, they seem largely rational, things that are needed to be done no matter what. So what is the problem?"

    Rubbish. As explained in comment 7 none of these proposals would have prevented the last eurozone bust, and would in fact have made it worse with the 'debt-brake' that would have prohibited bank rescues and so led to the collapse of the financial system. These proposals have nothing to do with actual problems of the euro, being purely for domestic consumption in Germany.

    Please explain how they would have helped had they been in place in the last 5 Years? If you cannot do that one must assume you are just blindly supporting franco-German proposals because of who authored them rather than for the likely policy outcomes.

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  • 65. At 9:36pm on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:

    Freeborn,

    To say European identity is not evolving is not factual. It has taken root and this can only be a positive thing. Needs a bit of fertilizer and maybe a re pot but it in all honesty Manneken makes some good points which we should listen to.

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  • 66. At 10:01pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Euromartin (65). It is a fact that European identity as measured by the EU Commission's own polling in the subject peaked in the late 1980's has been in decline ever since  and is now at an all-time low since polling began.

    http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=399020&section=1.2.1

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  • 67. At 10:19pm on 09 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:

    freeborn,

    This stood out in the link you sent

    ...while European identity is only in its infancy, and hence has to be constructed, but it is a well-known historical fact that national identities are also the result of a centrally-engineered process of nation-building which in many cases is relatively recent. It is, of course, another, quite different, matter as to how far the EU would want to go along the path of constructing a European identity....ends...

    While the argument centres around brussels and its behaviour towards democratic values, I think europe is a vastly different political and social landscape since 1980's. Is there a credibile alternative to the EU thingymajig. Maybe not but it sure needs a kick in the ***

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  • 68. At 10:28pm on 09 Feb 2011, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn John (64):

    You are fighting the last battle, not the one we are facing right now or the one that is coming.

    The battle that we are now facing is a battle for growth. We must get our economies to grow, to produce more so that we can sustain our way of life in a situation where we have less and less people working and more and more people in benefits. For example by raising the retirement age to 67, we will have more labour resource at our disposal. And by dropping index-linking wages to inflation and letting the markets do their job, we encourage optimal usage and guidance of labour resources were they produce the most.

    If we go back to the last battle, the Eurozone crisis and the world financial crisis, remedies for these troubles have largely been already found and administrated. Eurozone states have to submit their incoming budgets for closer scrutiny, Eurozone banks are supervised more closely, bank bonuses are deferred to help manager to think in long term, and beginning in 2013 bonds from the Eurozone states have clauses that allow debt restructuring in a normalised way.

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  • 69. At 11:17pm on 09 Feb 2011, phillipwest wrote:

    62. At 9:02pm on 09 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    "Nor is parliamentary ratification of an EU treaty ratification any substitute for legitimisation by the people themselves in a referendum. Indeed parliamentary votes on agreements made in EU Councils (where EU treaties are effectively negotiated by heads of government) are a foregone conclusion because the people in the EU Council are heads of government by sole virtue of the majority they command in those national parliaments! To expect a national parliament to vote against an EU treaty negotiated by the prime minister who commands it's majority is a complete misunderstanding of how parliamentary democracy works. Such votes are rubber-stamp exercises and cannot confer democratic legitimacy on treaties like Lisbon which had already been rejected in 3 national referendums, and would certainly have been rejected in many many more if the promised votes on the EU Constitution/Lisbon had not been cancelled in certain knowledge of what the results would be."

    This comment of yours is imo a devastating and so far unrebutted indictment of the governing structure of the EU ... seems hopelessly flawed as a democratic institution. Really interesting discussion today.

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  • 70. At 11:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #62
    The ratification of EU treaties is not an act of the EU, but of the member states. If you say that acts of parliament are not sufficient, you're making a statement that is, as such, irrelevant to the EU legitimacy.

    You do seem to criticize the process at national level severely, though, and seem to attack the legitimacy of the nation-state process when it produces an outcome you don't happen to like.

    I'm totally unconvinced that referendums give more legitimacy. They are inappropriate of complex questions, they don't respect minorities very well, they put a lot of power in the hands of bureaucrats who ask the question, and, typically, people answer a different question (most likely, it is: "would you like to give the current government a bit of a bloody nose". Foregone conclusion, most of the time).

    I agree with # 67 that identities change. And as I said before, no-one is entitled to force people to choose between identities. Now that would not be legitimate.

    People have such short memories; most "national" identities we take for granted today hardly existed before the 19th century advent of mass education; in pre-1648 Europe, no-one would have considered the nation-state a viable political structure, and the European identity would have been considered much stronger. Both the pre-nation state system and the nation-state system led to horrible wars (the 30 year war in Germany killed 1/3 of the population, the 1914-1945 conflict ruined the European economy and its world leading position). Time for something a bit different, perhaps?

    #60 Good point. The street has its rights. But they are not absolute either. Interestingly, surveys seem to point out that the power most EU-citizens would like to transfer to the EU is actually foreign policy and defense. I know we can't trust opinion polls, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

    #63 Buzet23. I bow before the superiority of your "glug glug" argument. It simply never occurred to me. Never before has the Eurosceptic position been put so well, and so eloquent. Keep up the good work, and your dream of the world as blubber may come true!

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  • 71. At 11:51pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:

    #62
    Oh, by the way, 50% of referendums held on the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty said Yes.

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  • 72. At 00:18am on 10 Feb 2011, euormartin wrote:


    careful with that axe manneken

    "surveys seem to point out that the power most EU-citizens would like to transfer to the EU is actually foreign policy and defense."

    before you start on the "lets have a go at the world" defense budget and all that jazz, can we sort out your immediate future please. Don't loose sight on reality. The E.U. is one stop short of its own execution, by right or by wrong.

    You seem to have a have a grip on the subject. But try to get your message out for immediate existance, before planning a bombing mission.

    martin nangle

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  • 73. At 02:04am on 10 Feb 2011, oeichler wrote:

    44. At 4:09pm on 09 Feb 2011, cool_brush_work wrote:
    33. At 2:40pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken wrote:
    "A mistake many also make about the Strasbourg Human Rights courts ("EU FORCES VOTING RIGHTS FOR PRISONERS ON BRITAIN" - now where did I read that blatant lie?)."

    YES PLEASE!
    Do tell us all WHERE did You READ that "blatant lie"?
    The European Court of Human Rights is NOTHING to do with the EU: Almost every Briton 'knows' that fact.



    REALLY... THEN IT MUST BE A LIE FROM THE USUAL SUSPECTS...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1355376/Prisoners-vote-MPs-stand-UK-rights-overturn-EU-ruling.html

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  • 74. At 04:13am on 10 Feb 2011, Huaimek wrote:

    #48 Threnodio_II

    I accept your correction . However I was enlisted to Canvass for the Conservatives North Wilts in Bath and I was unaware of Maastricht being on the agenda . To raise a point flaunted by Manneken ; in a British general election , voters are concerned with who will govern Britain internally , international matters are seconday . John Majors crisis over getting support to sign Maastricht , brought the treaty to public attention . There was great public opposition to Maastricht . Following the signing of the Mastricht Treaty , in my constituency conservatives refused to make financial contributions to the party .

    I was very strongly opposed to Britain signing the Maastricht Treaty and blamed John Major at the time . Afterwards I seem to remember him recommending expansion of the EU ; it would indeed be interesting to hear directly what he has to say today .

    I agree that John Major was a fundamentally decent man , greatly underated as was Douglas-Home .

    The problem with the EU is that it lacks brilliant men/women with great foresight ; decisions are made on the moment without forethought . Nobody saw that expansion of member states would be the undoing of the EU , but I believe John Major saw that many member states could only work as a confederation of nation states , which would have been very similar to a continuation of the EEC , acceptible to the British public .

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  • 75. At 04:38am on 10 Feb 2011, Huaimek wrote:

    #57 Jukka Rohila

    The proposal was an utterly stupid one ; not worthy of even convening the Council of Europe ; that reflected badly on Merkel and Sarcozy .
    Eu members do not like Germany and France proposing to run the whole show , especially when they put forward impractical unworkable ideas .

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  • 76. At 07:20am on 10 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie wrote:

    #73

    oeichler;

    Did you read the article? I accept that the word "EU" appears in the web address, but as far as I can see "European Union" or "EU" is not used in the article's title or in any part of the body of text.

    There are numerous references to "ECHR" and "Strasbourg" and "Europe" which given that it operates under the Council of Europe is reasonable.

    That said, I disagree with CBW on this one - most British people do not know the difference between the Council of Europe, the European Union and their constituent bodies. I am absolutely sure of that - heck I dont mind admitting I had to look some of it up just to be sure.

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  • 77. At 08:25am on 10 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #76. At 07:20am on 10 Feb 2011, champagne_charlie

    True, and I suspect the same across Europe, I'm sure few know there is a Council of Europe with 80 odd members (unelected) that controls such things as human rights, and a Council of the European Union that has just 27 unelected members and controls the EU. In both cases the judges for the court of human rights and ECJ are appointed by patronage which means political persuasion can take precedence over justice.

    However, the UK people are probably slightly better informed than their continental cousins are as there is more media exposure of these institutions in the UK due to political correctness.

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  • 78. At 08:32am on 10 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    #70. At 11:32pm on 09 Feb 2011, Manneken

    As long as you keep posing foolish self evident questions you will be treated as a little child, my response in #63 reflected my exasperation that anyone could post such a self evident question.

    i.e. "Let me reverse the question. Which country, in your opinion, outperforms the institutions? With some clear arguments and facts please - it could come in useful as suggestions."

    I'll make it a bit clearer for you, how can a member state out perform the European parliament, Commission, Council of the European Union, European Court of Justice as these are the main EU Institutions?

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  • 79. At 08:50am on 10 Feb 2011, Buzet23 wrote:

    A correction to my post #77

    The Council of Europe has 47 members (unelected) and 800 million citizens.

    I mixed the 47 and 80(800).

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  • 80. At 11:29am on 10 Feb 2011, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manneken (70): You did not provide any alternative explanation for the breakdown in EU democratic legitimacy. You just try to redefine what democracy is to support your delusional architecture that the EU has popular consent for the powers that recent treaties have given it.

    You may be unconvinced by referendums, but the referendum is the standard mechanism the world-over by which advanced democracies legitimise changes to the political system. The interests of politicians and people are not automatically aligned unless the system forces it, so politicians cannot be allowed on their own to change the political rules they operate within.

    Please don’t try to say the EU is about peace once again. Europe suffered wars in the past because of a lack of democratic states and not a lack of supranational structures. In 1945 it was time to try something new, i.e. the establishment for the first time of the democratic nation-state as the prevalent form of political institution on the Continent. And for a couple of decades all was well. However Continental politicians then discovered the Achilles Heel in parliamentary democracy that allows them to use international treaties (i.e. the EU treaties) to make quasi-constitutional changes to the political system to their benefit which have progressively disenfranchised voters. And democracy, upon which peace depends, has been the retreat in Europe ever since. So yes it is time to make some changes for peace, i.e. to strip-away this undemocratic over-growth to re-empower the democratic nation-state and classical inter-governmental relations as used so successfully in the rest of the world.

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