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The EU and the squabbles of Spring

Gavin Hewitt | 15:22 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It has been a long, glorious spring in much of Europe, but not in the EU. Division has broken out like a rash. First there was Libya: French President Nicolas Sarkozy shocked his EU colleagues by unilaterally recognising the rebels in Benghazi. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said icily: "The Europeans would do well if they talk about the measures they want to decide on in the meeting and not the day before."

When Europe's leaders could not even bring themselves to use the words "no-fly-zone" at their emergency summit, France and Britain went straight to the UN and won a resolution that led to military intervention. Germany abstained in the UN vote, a decision with far-reaching consequences. It put France and Germany on opposite sides in one of the most important foreign policy issues in a decade.

Berlin denied it was isolated, by pointing out how much support it had. "Many other countries in the EU not only understand our position, not only respect it, but also share it," the German foreign minister said. The Italians - Col Muammar Gaddafi's closest allies in Europe - were equally unhappy. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accused France of taking a "neo-imperialist" approach to confronting the Libyan leader.

When operational command for the military campaign was passed to Nato further divisions followed. Only six Nato nations actually ended up carrying out the air strikes.
The Times concluded in an editorial "a moment that demands unity in European foreign policy is being met with a terrible muddle". Then there was nuclear power.

With the Japanese struggling to prevent a meltdown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her policy overnight. Faced with crucial regional elections she took the country's oldest reactors offline and set Germany on course for giving up nuclear power.
Her allies - in particular France, which operates over 50 reactors - were aghast. There had been no co-ordination of policy.

Angela Merkel said "it was a decisive moment for the world". The French minister Eric Besson responded, saying: "It is a serious accident, not a nuclear disaster." The French Senate's finance committee was scathing: "Germany's decision to shut down the nuclear plants was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction... which could hurt ties with France and should be discussed at the European level."

Then there was the eurozone crisis: the plan was to agree a comprehensive package at a summit in March, which was billed as solving the crisis once and for all. National elections got in the way and the sign-off date has been pushed back to June. But Portugal overshadowed the meeting. Its parliament rejected austerity measures which had in large degree been drawn up by the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Suddenly - with an eye on the voters - some of Europe's politicians were saying "no" to further austerity. Angela Merkel was not pleased. "A lot depends now," she said, "on those who represent Portugal making it clear that Portugal feels obliged to stick to the goals of that 'austerity' programme". The announcement of a bail-out for Portugal went remarkably smoothly and there was no sign of the crisis spreading to other countries like Spain. But then along came Finland.

They are one of the few countries that get to vote on a bail-out package. One party, the True Finns, was set against rescuing the "squanderers" of Portugal. As we now know the party got 19% of the vote. Appeals to European solidarity cut little ice. Their leader put their approach this way: "Finnish cows must be milked in Finland and we shouldn't send milk for charity outside the borders of this country."

It may well be that Finland continues to support a Portuguese bail-out, but it will become harder to get through the Finnish parliament. Charles Grant from the Centre for Economic Reform observed recently that "there may be a time when, even if politicians want to do the right things for the euro, public opinion will not allow them to." For if voters in the richer countries are increasingly unhappy with rescuing others, so too there is resentment at austerity - the price of being saved. The Republic of Ireland's new Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, had promised his voters he would re-negotiate the bail-out deal.

He wanted the interest rate on the loans brought down from 5.8%. In Brussels he ran into a wall of resistance. President Sarkozy insisted Ireland "make some effort" in raising its corporate tax rate. Angela Merkel weighed in that there could only be progress if the other European countries "got something in return." But Enda Kenny knows that its low corporate tax rate is part of the Republic's economic identity and he can't concede.

One European prime minister said: "I'm not happy with the idea that some governments obviously find some pleasure in torturing Ireland in the meetings." Then came the migrants from North Africa. Over 20,000 landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Italians did not want them to stay, and issued them with temporary travel documents knowing that many would try and make it to France, where they had families and friends.

The French, aware of how sensitive the issue of immigration is, began patrolling their border with Italy. On Sunday they stopped and searched an Italian train. The Italians were furious. Interior Minister Robert Maroni said: "I wonder if it makes sense staying in the EU." The Italians insisted that the French were breaking the no-borders agreement under the Schengen treaty. Initially the European Commission seemed to agree. "You are not allowed to do checks at the border unless there is a serious threat to public security and, for the moment, that is not the case," said Cecilia Malmstrom.

Yesterday she seemed to back France. None of this impressed Silvio Berlusconi, who earlier said "either Europe is something that's real and concrete or it isn't. And in that case it's better to go back to each going our own way and letting everyone follow his own polices and egotism." New divisions are emerging over Greece. The official line is that any restructuring of Greek debt would be "catastrophic".

And yet increasingly that is what the Greek people seem to want. They are tiring of austerity. Once again European unity will be tested. Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in an interview that "European federalism was a beautiful idea, one I myself believed in. But it's a fact that the concept of the nation-state has [again] gained in strength and significance." That was the Libyan lesson.

When President Sarkozy couldn't get European backing for military action in Libya, he just found another way by embarking on what the French called "blitzkrieg diplomacy".
So what lies behind the squabbles of spring? Politicians are caught between the moods of their voters and the policies of the European Union. Unemployment is a key factor.

Austerity, in some countries, is driving up the dole queues. Countries cutting their budgets have little money to help others. And with immigration, the idea of "burden-sharing" runs counter to the instincts of many of Europe's people. Open borders seem less attractive when youth unemployment is running at 25%. Even with few major European elections on the horizon national leaders are responding to the mood of the voters.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    "leaders are resonding to the mood of the voters"

    Well at least no one would say of them, like we here do:
    : "Watching the speeches and presentations of president Medvedev one ?is haunted by the impression/can't get rid of the idea that this is a president of some other country" :o)))))

  • Comment number 2.

    It was all so easy for them during the good times as well wasn't it? Now that the age of austerity is well and truly here, all the grandiose talk of European unity, European identity and the rest has been binned in the name of domestic political expediency. What a surprise. The concept of a European political union, stretching from the Urals to the shining sea, from the cold north to the sunny Med, can be seen for what it always was: the impossible dreaming of ambitious and self-interested political classes. People are, and always will be, driven by the national self-interest, and if that is threatened then it would be a very foolish domestic politician who didn't respond. We are seeing clearly now that the Schengen accord, just like the Euro, looked far better on the drawing board than it does in the light of day, faced as they always would be by the harsh and unforgiving realities of life. As for a common European foreign or defence policy, that idea lies in tatters.

    If we are making severe cuts to public spending, how about cutting out the cost of running a broken and unloved European Union? The situation as so well defined by Gavin in this blog proves beyond doubt that it is simply not fit for purpose. As well as all the money we could save, think of all the productive jobs that the Brussels gravy train passengers could do instead. Win Win.

  • Comment number 3.

    "It has been a long, glorious spring in much of Europe, but not in the EU. Division has broken out like a rash"
    -----------------------------
    Just the usual squabbles among families.

  • Comment number 4.

    happy Easter to everybody

    P.S. (for the moderators): The above wish is clearly off topic so i suggest you first "refer my comment for further consideration" and then "be removed because moderators found it broke the House Rules."

    [grotesque precede burlesque or viceversa? That's the question]

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 margaret howard
    Just the usual squabbles among families

    One could make that argument about all of the disputes in the world.

    We're all human beings, we're all pretty much the same. The only thing common to EU countries is a certain economic status - now that's coming into question. The eurozone would clearly work better with some non-EU nations in it and some EU nations out of it.

    Why not embrace the World ? Why just these european countries ?

  • Comment number 6.

    European unity is a great thing, but not when re election depends on not asking your voters to fork out again. It's all falling apart isn't it ? Though the lovers of the EU will pretend it isn't ; hopefully the present difficulties will force some of our most esteemed leaders to face the truth and offer referenda on something worth voting for ; getting us out of the EU.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4 Ellinas
    ..and a Happy Easter to you.... and if he gets moderated, he said Happy Easter to everyone... and if I get moderated - wait three days and we'll be back.

  • Comment number 8.

    3. At 18:10pm 19th Apr 2011, margaret howard,

    As a Scot you would know all about that wouldn't you, what a pity you still carry on with the fruitless pursuit of ancient history.

  • Comment number 9.

    And still you do not see it?

    The European dream - if ever there was such a thing - is being mindlessly slaughtered on the alter of national self interest. Did you ever trust or believe in them? I did. I was that naive and stupid. I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the spectacular failure of the current generation of 'leaders' to lead.

    If the future of Europe is Merkel and Sarkozy, Ashton and van Rompuy, Barosso et al, I will admit defeat and - in British parliamentary terms - cross the floor. This house has no confidence in any of the above.

  • Comment number 10.

    Is it Easter today in Greece and elsewhere?! Jesus Christ then I forgot to congratulate ALL! ;o))) Living by the Russian calendar, you know :o))))
    Happy Easter blog-friends here! friend-bloggers?
    blends? froggers? blendroggers? :o)))))-nevermind. Happy Easter!

    On the other hand how come, it's not yet Sunday. ?

  • Comment number 11.

    9 threnodio writes:
    "The European dream - if ever there was such a thing - is being mindlessly slaughtered on the alter of national self interest."
    ----------------------------------
    Mindlessly slaughtered? We are not in the trenches of the First World War!
    Cross the floor? Where would you rather live? America, Africa, China etc.? No, Europe for all its fault, is the only place worth living in and we've had far worse leaders than the ones you mentioned above, especially Merkel who is calm, shrewd and seemingly without personal vanity, just the sort of leader we can do with at the moment.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think the EU is on the right path of development, everybody does what it wants,
    :o)))))) I mean, that's independence, a happy sign.
    _______
    start vaguely remembering some egg-shaped strange symbols in the google logo...
    a while ago....I didn't think them Easter eggs back then... were they? looked something technical to me, like some machines? google always change their logo on various memorial days...
    ?
    was that foreign Easter?
    Margaret, when was/is/will be Easter this year on your side?

  • Comment number 13.

    #11 margaret howard
    ...especially Merkel who is calm, shrewd and seemingly without personal vanity, just the sort of leader we can do with at the moment.

    I don't disagree with her personal characteristics - although the shrewdness looks a bit thin at the minute - but she is showing the political personality of John Major.

    She is reacting to every headline. Her party got slaughtered (to use that term) in Baden-Württemberg and she is a kind of lame duck until the federal elections in 2013.

    She obviously hopes that by these measures which closely follow German public opinion - dumping nuclear power, staying out of Libya - she might survive.

    The same could be said of Nicolas Sarkozy who faces election even sooner - and the vultures are circling. Dominique Strauss-Kahn may unify the Socialists - if that's not an oxymoron - and Marine Le Pen will nibble or even bite his right wing.

    He already looks desperate with the Libyan adventure. The French love an emperor. Unfortunately, Libya looks a bit messy. Napoleon had a bad time in North Africa too.

    We may be looking at a completely new set of major EU politicians in a couple of years. Possibly Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Ségolène Royal from France; Frank-Walter Steinmeier from Germany possibly with the FDP wiped out and the Greens much more prominent.

    In the UK, if the AV vote goes No then there could be a leadership challenge in the LibDems with Vince Cable winning over Nick Clegg. He may stand on a platform of a demand for renegotiation of the coalition agreement. That would give the Tories an excuse to call a general election.

    In that event, I think as things are the Tories would win even more seats and the LibDems would be badly beaten but hey, it would not be now, it would be then.

    The point is that these French and German parties with their history of support for 'ever closer union' would be even further distant from their electorates. Difficult to see what effect that would have. It has already been the case with Angela Merkel and look what's happening to her party.

  • Comment number 14.

    11. At 20:13pm 19th Apr 2011, margaret howard

    Regarding Merkel and your opinion of her why do the words deluded, fooled, hook, line and sinker keep springing to mind.

  • Comment number 15.

    #11 - margaret howard
    #14 - Buzet23 wrote:

    "springing to mind".

    That presupposes that there is a mind to which to spring.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good blog Gavin,encapsulating everything that is wrong with the EU.The sooner its
    administered the last rites the better.

    I was speaking to an elderly couple today who remember well the referendum on
    joining the Common Market.One of the "selling points" they recall is being told that
    we in Britain would no longer have to import apples,butter,cheese and lamb from
    New Zealand,but instead Europe would fulfill that need and it would be cheaper for
    consumers.

    Mmmmh,what a lie people were sold then,and we are still being lied to by those who
    through stupidity,obstinacy and ignorance will not see that their dream has turned
    into a nightmare.

  • Comment number 17.

    Mr.Hewitt and most of the Brits will only be happy if Germany turns its industrial might into military might.

    --- Unfortunately (for them), Germany will remain a society with more interest in looking after its citizens than killing others.

    Maggie Thatcher was against German re-unification --and now the Brits want to see the jackboot --or rather lick it --to prove Maggie´s argument ?

    ---let a sleeping dog lie and accept a non-warmongering Germany !

  • Comment number 18.

    12 webalice writes:
    "Margaret, when was/is/will be Easter this year on your side?"
    ------------------------------
    Next Sunday, 24 April. The bluebells are out in our nearby wood and that's where we shall be hunting our Easter Eggs (chocolate ones)! Nature at its best. When is your Easter?

  • Comment number 19.

    16 sevenstargreen writes:
    "....they recall is being told that we in Britain would no longer have to import apples,butter,cheese and lamb from New Zealand,but instead Europe would fulfill that need and it would be cheaper for consumers."
    ----------------------------------------
    If you could remember what butter, cheese etc from New Zealand tasted like, you would be grateful for the EU products. Salty, artificial yellow butter, plastic cheese and frozen, stringy lamb. I used to spend a fortune shopping at the only delicatessen within a 30 mile radius for proper French cheese, German bread that didn't come as standard white sliced and tasting of cotton wool and Italian salami. Pre-common market the food was dire.

  • Comment number 20.

    #16 sevenstargreen

    ---you are obviously too young to remember (and were not told) the British nightmare was always present -- long before the EU came into existence.

    Almost every British family had (has) members living abroad ---they did not leave ´A heaven on earth´ -- ask that question to the ´elderly couple´

    --- Yes, Britain has not changed --- is that your point ?

  • Comment number 21.

    Aha, haven't missed all Easters yet :o), thank you, Margaret.
    Same here, coming Sunday.

    Usually Western Easters are about 2 weeks earlier than Russian ones, once I remember was a whole month earlier! But last year strangely it was on the same day, I thought it takes place once in a century :o) - but see this year the calendars and calculations chimed the same day.

  • Comment number 22.

    Gavin,

    Yesterday I had to attend a meeting in the European Union district of Brussels (Schuman) which you well know. It had been a while since I had actually visited this area of the city.

    It is still a building site!!!

    As I mentioned to my colleague "I first came here over 10 years ago and it was a building site then.......and it is still a building site!!. Do they ever finish anything here!!"

    I only mention this as it appears to reflect the working of the European Union. It is still very much work in progress.

    In passing a quick question - "Is anyone going to the 'Week of durable energy' advertised on the European Commission building (Berlaymont)."

    Hey - lets talk about wind farms in Latvia again!

  • Comment number 23.

    #20 quietoaktree
    Almost every British family had (has) members living abroad ---they did not leave ´A heaven on earth´ -- ask that question to the ´elderly couple´

    Slightly irrational in that there has been net immigration to Britain since WW2.

    The EEC referendum was in 1975. Britain had taken a large net immigration of Ugandan asians in 1973 because Idi Amin threatened to kill them all. Do you remember that quietoaktree ?

    I was happy with the arrival of the Ugandan asians because Idi Amin was a prototype of Saddam Husein. Muammar Gaddafi is a pale imitation of both but I would not want to leave the people of eastern Libya at his mercy. Is that what you want quietoaktree ?

    I also worked for the 'Get Britain Out' campaign which spent about £250,000 to the 'Yes' campaign's £1,250,000 in figures published just afterwards. Big business wanted to be in the EEC and they bought it.

    In my area the GBO campaign was run by the Communists and the Labour Party Young Socialists, although I was a member of the Liberal Party.

    I wanted to belong to the World. I still do.

  • Comment number 24.

    Democracy is called organized disagreement.

    In a democracy, it is a good and proper thing for people to disagree on both analysis and the right course of action. Incremental small changes are always better than "start from scratch" (as if ever there was such a thing).

    And then the institutional framework has to provide for a way to get to some kind of a decision, and muddle through.

    Only in regimes like the ones trembling in the Middle East is disunity a problem - listen to the rhetoric of the Qaddafi's, Assads and (no more) Mubaraks of this world. A healthy democracy is built on, and requires, disagreement.

    We see the same in the US, where political disagreement is making the decision-making process on how to handle their debt problem (Ireland, but then 100 times larger) very painful and slow. However, that slow and painful process of democracy is still manifestly more efficient than any other political system humanity has invented.

    So Gavin is missing a key point: the disunity shows that the debate, at EU level, is increasing. It's a good thing he reports on it. It's a pity he consistently refuses, or is incapable, to see the bigger picture.

  • Comment number 25.

    @GAvin Hewitt
    "The Republic of Ireland's new Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, had promised his voters he would re-negotiate the bail-out deal.
    He wanted the interest rate on the loans brought down from 5.8%. In Brussels he ran into a wall of resistance. President Sarkozy insisted Ireland "make some effort" in raising its corporate tax rate. Angela Merkel weighed in that there could only be progress if the other European countries "got something in return." "

    Mrs Merkel is definitely the most dangerous European and German leader since 1945.

    She had not a clue about economics. She is being led by her secretary of state in the German chancellory, who is pulling all the strings, together with his pal, a secretary of state in the German finance ministry. These two were student friends and studied together at Bonn university. Their professor their Axel Weber, who has just resigned as the head of the German Central Bank, the Bundesbank.

    These three arethe people who have made sure that the EUrocrisis was made worse at every turn. WHo has benefited from this? Hedge-funds and speculators, who made loads of money each time the crisis worsened.

    Any more questions. If Ireland is serious about getting the interest rates down, it should remind Germany that the exploitation of Europe by the Germans should have stopped in 1945. Now the rates should be as low as possible, ie, less than 3%, if Germany is serious with helping Ireland.

    Time for Merkel to go. She is as dangerous as another female natural scientist in charge of big European country, who equally did not have a clue about economics and caused untold damage!

  • Comment number 26.

    Ah, Mr. M_US,

    You mean I glean, Ms. Thatcher, yes? Why do I think you are Not an American?..But thank you for your sweet love of "us." We will remember it always!

    I'm going to be nice (for my Karma(?)) and not mention CDS, since That might ignite ..your "passionate" response. Many Easter eggs for you and yours, I wish.

    Here is a song for you..and WEB ALICE:

    http://youtu.be/LZc2fUqmaXE

  • Comment number 27.

    With those 4 photos above and the likes of Barroso, Von Rompuy, Ashton etc. in frame it brings to mind a corrupted slogan from the campaign trail of JFK about Nixon:

    'Would you buy a used car never mind an EU from this person?'

    An emphatic 'No!' Seems the only appropriate response.

  • Comment number 28.

    25. At 08:03am 20th Apr 2011, matt_us,

    Firstly let me congratulate you for not mentioning CDS even once in this post as it improved the quality of the post immensely.

    Now you have identified one of the most important power brokers responsible for the EU's actions over recent years and especially for Germany's use of its banks to finance its export led power house reputation. Had not German (and French) banks lent the struggling countries vast sums of cash with which to buy imports they could not afford they might not now be struggling with debt.

    as for "Time for Merkel to go. She is as dangerous as another female natural scientist in charge of big European country, who equally did not have a clue about economics and caused untold damage!". If you are referring to Mrs T then I'm sure every far left trade union activist of her time would agree with you, as would the EU politicians she handbagged over the rebate. She was from shopkeeping family I believe and felt all accounts should run like household accounts or shop accounts in that books should balance. Her take on economics was something that many EU members would do well to follow now as mounting debt was not in there. One other point about her is that she was a breath of fresh air in that whether you agreed or disagreed with her, what she said she would do, she did, unlike all other politicians who swim with the tide, like Merkel is now doing.

  • Comment number 29.

    24. At 07:26am 20th Apr 2011, Manneken wrote:

    "So Gavin is missing a key point: the disunity shows that the debate, at EU level, is increasing. It's a good thing he reports on it. It's a pity he consistently refuses, or is incapable, to see the bigger picture."



    What 'debate'?

    Substantial numbers of the Citizens in various General & Regional Elections across the EU27 have expressed via the Ballot box disenchantment with the EU political process - - there has been no response whatsoever at Brussels - - the monolitihic, dangerously anti-Democratic EU ploughs on regardless in every matter.


    What 'debate'?

    In 3 nations of the EUro-zone there have been numerous rallies, marches, demonstrations protesting the EU-Brussels imposition of blanket 'Austerity' measures viciously anti-the weakest/most vulnerable Citizens - - even changes of Government elected by those Citizens - - still the monolithic, dangerously anti-Democratic EU ploughs on, demanding its Budget is raised, insisting its 'Foreign Representative' body be fully funded worldwide, maintaining its apparatchiks must have Increased Salaries & Benefits whilst all-the-time Refusing to allow Public sight of Expenses in all matters.

    Manneken, if you seriously believe, "And then the institutional framework has to provide for a way to get to some kind of a decision, and muddle through." Is given good account of by the present charlatan Representatives & Political process of the EU-Brussels then you must surely still believe babies are delivered via a stork to the bottom of the garden!

  • Comment number 30.

    19. At 23:58pm 19th Apr 2011, margaret howard wrote:
    "If you could remember what butter, cheese etc from New Zealand tasted like, you would be grateful for the EU products. Salty, artificial yellow butter, plastic cheese and frozen, stringy lamb."


    Completely untrue: A gross slander on NZ farm produce - - even in the 1950s-60s NZ dairy products were sold worldwide and as now have a superb reputation for quality.
    Obviously, despite the marvellous ingedients & flavours of NZ butter & cheese not even those could compensate for MH applying them to her haggis!

  • Comment number 31.

    30. At 09:40am 20th Apr 2011, can-bin-win

    You are quite right, the taste of haggis and its cooking (the fault of my ex) was one of the most awful things I've ever endured, and unlike the Scots, once was enough as we could smell it for a week afterwards.

    Have you noticed that the UK imports the lovely NZ lamb, which comes ready seasoned due to the wonderful countryside in NZ, and exports its own British lamb to mainland Europe who laud its quality over mainland lamb. This has long amused me here in Belgium, especially when I mention the glowing quality of Chernobyl steaks from the Welsh mountains some years back.

  • Comment number 32.

    You reap what you sow.

    When the EU leaders decided not to put internationally recognised politicians into the respective jobs of POTEU and High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, then they effectively bought about the current outcome.

    Namely a rudderless EU at the very top, when there should be clear direction.

    The next time they have the opportunity to elect to these posts, maybe these politicians might manage to put their egos to one side for the greater good of European citizens.

  • Comment number 33.

    @buzet23
    "She was from shopkeeping family I believe and felt all accounts should run like household accounts or shop accounts in that books should balance. Her take on economics was something that many EU members would do well to follow now as mounting debt was not in there. "

    This is the problem for eveybody. they know how to run their household accounts, or at a push a small grocer's shop, and they think they can run the 4th or 5th largest economies in the world.

    It is different. Very different.

    And if you think hand-bagging for the galleries is good European politics, well, fine. But it is not. But reining in the excessive power of the unions, there you are right. That is about the only thing which Thatcher got right. She should have done that, conquered back that god-forsaken place in the South Atlantic, and resigned.

    And Merkel, she has absolutely none of these positive attributes. I believe she does not even know how to run a shop. How could she, having been brought up in East Germany? That is pretty much exploited, by the con-artists around her, who dress up their fraudulent activities as neo-economic politics. They are fraudsters, liers an trick merchants, out to steal our money in this Eurocrisis with (sorry I have to mention it again), CDS.

    Let's at least ban these Credit Default Swaps, then they could not enrich themselves on our behalf.

    And it is of course right, that excessive credit by the German Banks (and others in Europe, actually) to the Europeriphery made the problem worse, but aides to the chancellor and finance minister, and especially the Bundesbank boss should know about that, and the dangers it entailed. It is right he resigned. And the rest of the German government should resign, too. They are the biggest danger to Europe since the government in Germany which ran the show from 1933 to 1945.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 matt_us
    Here's a paper you might want to read. It's on the website of the European Commission. It was published in February 2011 and takes in the Greek and Irish but not the Portuguese bailouts.

    At the end of the Introduction you will find this: Finally, we do not find evidence in favour of the hypothesis that speculation in the CDS market, including the Greek one, is a major force driving the eurozone debt crisis. This does not imply that CDS speculation is not taking place or it does not drive EMU spreads at higher data frequencies. What it implies is that in the longer-term perspective captured by our monthly data frequency, EMU spreads are mainly driven by accumulated intra-EMU macroeconomic imbalances and international risk conditions. Although the latter may improve as global economic activity gradually picks-up, the former is unlikely do so without significant intra-EMU economic/institutional reforms outlined in the concluding section.

    They conclude that the reason the crisis happened was that the market was taking too optimistic a view of eurozone sovereign bonds until the credit crunch. At that point they started looking rationally at national economic fundamentals and found Greece wanting. Then the contagion started.

    I still agree that naked CDS's should be banned or possibly taxed (like a betting levy) but I believe other CDS's perform a legitimate function in the market.

    Note also that they refer to ' intra-EMU macroeconomic imbalances' which I assume means the dominance of the German economy as an exporter.

    Incidentally, for Nik; Ellinas; vassilis and friends, the paper is by Michael G. Arghyrou
    and Alexandros Kontonikas.

  • Comment number 35.

    33. At 11:03am 20th Apr 2011, matt_us wrote:

    "And the rest of the German government should resign, too. They are the biggest danger to Europe since the government in Germany which ran the show from 1933 to 1945."


    I wholly opposed to the centralising EU, completely averse to a federalised Europe inc. the UK.

    However, that paragraph by you is scurrilously unfair to the German Politicians & to the German Citizens of the 21st Century.
    This is the second such sweeping generalisation by you (1st being the attack on the 20% Finns who voted for TF as all far right racists who'd never seen a foreigner!).
    With such shoddily inaccurate appraisal of fellow Europeans it is no wonder you find almost no one will back your viewpoint on any topic so far discussed.

  • Comment number 36.

    32. At 11:02am 20th Apr 2011, JohnConstable,

    I'm afraid you missed one very salient point about these posts and it was not who should stand when they come round for being replaced, it is that there is no need for these posts in the first place. They are an expensive duplication of effort and as the last few months have shown a complete and utter waste of time.

    As for "The next time they have the opportunity to elect to these posts", you have got to be joking, since when did any of these posts get elected, they are undemocratic appointments by cronyism and patronage only. The concept of elections for the commission and council of Europe is unknown and to to be avoided at all costs as it might upset the apple cart.

  • Comment number 37.

    35. At 11:52am 20th Apr 2011, can-bin-win

    The post by matt_us was an exaggeration but maybe not so unfair as we all know that it is the Berlin-Paris axis that have controlled the EU for so long and who have sponsored almost all policies that have been scurrilously adopted. The fact that German's allow such strong willed politicians is indeed part of their psyche as I discovered when working there many years back. It seems that in the German language the term Fuhrer is used to describe any manager, even one who runs a car park, and I was told by many non-Germans that 95 odd percent of Germans take orders and the rest give them. Coupled with that is the way in which every decision has to be seen as being reached by consensus, thus the manager gives their view and the rest agree.

    Consequently it is quite possible that a very small few in Germany control the decision making of their nation and also due to membership of the EU the policies that directly affect us. Thus in that respect they are indeed very dangerous for Europe in a political sense, and very dangerous to us in a financial sense.

  • Comment number 38.

    Buzet @ 36

    I used the word 'elect' in the very general sense because as you point out, the current method of selection is not very democratic.

    It would be preferable if POTEU was to be elected as per in the USA, by popular (or unpopular) vote for all eligible EU citizens.

    The last few months have not, by some interpretations, been the EU's finest hour, but I am always optimistic that the EU will find the right path eventually, maybe after it has exhausted all the other possibilities, another Americanism that has found its way over here to Europe.

  • Comment number 39.

    A reality check for those unelected Eurocrats, you can see why they loathe democracy, fancy being held to account by a load of peasants! Uck! And now they what an inflation proved budget increase just to keep the gravy train well greased. National governments are already showing their displeasure now's the time reinforce the obvious and show these Brussels sprouts who's boss. They've just done it with international diplomacy now do it with everything else. Not only should the 'European Project' be dead and buried, but dead and buried with a stake through the place where its heart should be. And in the coffin along with it that disgraceful malpractice the European Arrest Warrent, invented to combat cross border terrorism and crime and subsequently used by any bent local plod to clear up their conviction rates.

  • Comment number 40.

    Perhaps, after commenting on a poor quality food products of New Zealand (one of the most unspoiled but still developed and civil countries) our favourite margaret would comment on developments in progressive Castrate Cuba.

    [where she's never been, either]

  • Comment number 41.

    37. At 12:23pm 20th Apr 2011, Buzet23 wrote: The post by matt_us was an exaggeration but maybe not so unfair as we all know that it is the Berlin-Paris axis that have controlled the EU for so long and who have sponsored almost all policies that have been scurrilously adopted."



    Matt_us was being absurdly prejudicial and gratuitously offensive to modern Germany. He was also Historically inaccurate.
    Controlling the anti-Democratic EU is one thing: Ruling as a one-leader/one-party with a racial policy of genocidal proportions is quite another.

    The term 'axis-of-ill-intent', i.e. Paris-Brussels-Berlin is entirely reasonable as an assessment of the present over-ambitious political intentions of the '3' sur le Continent, however, whilst I oppose them with every breath and distrust them with every Democratic fibre I cannot ever forsee a time when the modern day 'triple entente' follows Berlin circa 1933-45.

  • Comment number 42.

    41. At 13:19pm 20th Apr 2011, can-bin-win

    One Leader/One Party maybe not now, but the EU is moving very close to a situation whereby parties not conforming to the approved approach are to be reviled and insulted using such terms as racist, anti-immigrant etc as we've seen in Finland. It is a slippery slope from there to where non-conformist parties would be not allowed to stand and since most parties in mainland EU are mainly nothing more than a minor change in colour with a minor change in policies we have then nothing much better than a one party state. Add to that a Strong EU president rather than Van Rumpoy and you could get the one leader, scary don't you think.

    One of the reasons I do not like PR and especially the d'Hondt system is that it effectively ensures change rarely happens, thus ensuring the total disillusionment of the voting population who feel it is pointless voting. This is most certainly happening across the EU and the voting percentages for the last few EP elections prove that. We could easily end up in a dictatorial or quasi dictatorial situation very soon if indeed we are not already there.

  • Comment number 43.

    Is it April 1st and not the 19th?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13141644

  • Comment number 44.

    More on the notion the EU-Brussels entity is wholly out-of-touch with the Citizens.

    Despite all the recent Poll set-backs this is today's EU gambit: BBC News is carrying this story - -

    'A demand for a 4.9% increase in the European Union's annual budget is "completely unacceptable", a UK government source says. '


    The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, says the rise is needed to fund existing spending commitments.

    But the government has called for the budget to be capped in future.

    The above-inflation 4.9% increase would take the commission's total funding for 2012 to 132.7bn euros (£117bn).'



    After Greece & Ireland economies collapse, Portugal's goes into free-fall and all EU27 Nations' Citizens suffer serious Public Spending Cuts there could be no more explicit example about the people currently esconced in Brussels!
    A more utterly uncaring, totally oblivious bunch of no-marks could not exist in the most far-fetched political novel!
    Surely the most sickening elite rivalling even the Bankers in their corrupt, self-indulgent attitude to the immense problems facing ordinary men/women.

  • Comment number 45.

    40 powermeer writes:
    "Perhaps, after commenting on a poor quality food products of New Zealand (one of the most unspoiled but still developed and civil countries) our favourite margaret would comment on developments in progressive Castrate Cuba.[where she's never been, either]"
    -----------------------------------
    You're quite right, I've never been to either. However, I have vivid memories of eating New Zealand produce before we joined the EU and if you had the chance to compare the two, you would have to agree with me.
    No, what I was going to comment on was the fact that the USA has been threatened with having its AAA rating withdrawn alongside such other giants as Portugal and Greece. Oh dear, has it really come to this? Apparently the only reason that has not happened already is that its 'superpower' status has protected its reputation so far.
    Oh and incidentally, the euro trades at nearly $1.45 today - not bad for such a 'failing' currency.

  • Comment number 46.

    Having heard that the EU would like almost a 5% rise in budget, I wonder exactly how long it will be before we start really dismantling the EU. I can see that UKIP and other eurosceptic parties are going to do really well over the next decade. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if UKIP became the opposition in the UK. As soon as we start getting the rise of anti-EU parties we'll then get some REAL change, which i'd like to see.

  • Comment number 47.

    As we Britons are not European, the sooner we get out the better. Europe is a land mass to the south and east of the British Isles, by definition we are not European.

  • Comment number 48.

    Interesting side conversation this one about lamb, given the boom in British meat exports to the continent at the moment. If the French buy 30% of their lamb from Britain then thats good enough for me. Market analysts claim its down to price competetiveness for a quality product. Which leads me on to:

    "Overall, the UK trade balance in February narrowed to £2.4bn from £3.9bn in January and from £5.7bn in December." - Times

    Mostly achieved by the highest export figure since 1980 but imports fell too. Now where is jorge? I want to hear more about his view on Sterlings devaluation vis-a-vis the Euro.

  • Comment number 49.

    We have interesting sidetalk here about Scottish haggis, NZ lamb and better tasting European cheeses. I lived and worked in Asia all my life where eating food prepared by hawkers and small food-stalls in short time and in the open, is the norm. In all my life not once have I ever seen these short-order cooks cursed and swear while making my food. And if they ever did, they could lose all their customers including myself who would cancel the order and walked away. Likewise at home, where my mother would insist that the cooks do not utter and mutter ‘dirty words’ while cooking; proper decorum is integral part of a cook’s job.

    But when I saw chef-celebrity Gordon Ramsay uttering the censored F-bombs and exhibiting bad tantrums on TV while cooking food, which later were to be appreciated by ‘knowing customers’. It confirmed what I suspected all along, Westerners have stronger stomachs for indifferent food quality as well as its preparation.

  • Comment number 50.

    30 can-bin-win
    --------------------------------------------
    No doubt NZ farm produce has come on in leaps and bounds since those days when its frozen lamb joints tasted like bootleather after a few weeks at sea. I can't really comment on haggis since as a vegetarian I have never eaten any but I'm told it tastes very similar and is made much like hazelet and I have an aversion to eating other creatures' stomachs or innards.
    However, I find it highly amusing that so many english contributors to this blog seem to be obsessed by it. After all in a country with a cuisine that consists mainly of fish and chips with mushy peas, turkey twizzlers and pork scratchings, something like haggis should be quite a treat. I suppose even that great Belgian national dish of pommes frites and mayonnaise must come as quite a delicacy.

  • Comment number 51.

    45. At 14:16pm 20th Apr 2011, margaret howard wrote: You're quite right, I've never been to either. However, I have vivid memories of eating New Zealand produce before we joined the EU and if you had the chance to compare the two, you would have to agree with me. "


    However, the fact remains that millions upon millions across the entire world do not agree with your taste-buds and neither did they 30, 40, 50 years ago.
    Even the "vivid memories" seems far-fetched: Shopping & cooking as an adult in the 1950s-60s?
    New Zealand meat never disappeared from British butchers & stores it simply became less of a dominant product - - the meats can still be compared - - last February in England I ate delicious NZ Lamb in the Larrick Pub, Crouch End. I & family have also ate superb French, British & Australian meats in G.B. and abroad.

    Where has MH found this adverse reaction to meat from Australasia: Is it another indirect dig at the 'english-speakers'? There's something doesn't quite add up about MH's 'food critic' judgement on NZ meat?

  • Comment number 52.

    The request for the 4.9% increase in it's budget really does show E.U. officials are completely out of touch. This is requested at a time when throughout European countries are going through stringent austerity measures. Police officer numbers are being reduced, pensions cut, people having to work longer, defence spending cut etc.
    Not only should they not get an increase there should be a reduction in the budget in line with national Governments reduced spending, perhaps 10% to start.
    To achieve this they will need to be more efficient, reduce over generous allowances, pay freeze/cuts will be required. This is no different to what is happening to the countries that comprise the E.U., atleast then we will be in this together. Perhaps the least painful way to start would be to stop the farce of the E.U. Parliament meeting at two places and the associated waste that involves.
    I can hope

  • Comment number 53.

    #50

    vegetarianlambexpert;

    Haha, a Scot attacking others' diets. Priceless. You've already got the worst health record, lowest life expectancy, worst diets, fattest bellies, most alkies and junkies in Europe. I wouldnt be pointing ya pallid chubby fingers at anybody elses cuisine hen. Deep fried mars bars, haggis n chips, Tennents super and Irn Bru aint gonna win you too many Michelin stars.

  • Comment number 54.

    Haggis is eatable IMO, I tried it once, and it was eaten in favourable circumstances,
    that is, it was ready-made just to heat it, no cooking involved :o)
    Then it was minus 20 outside and it was hot and steaming and filling.
    Then it was an interesting foreign delicacy brought here as a souvenir to try once.

    I think if you mind these three rules :o)) - it is absolutely alright for foreigners, and as to locals I think they simply like it without any rules.

    When I lived in Britain a little bit I was confused how to organise myself some eating procedures :o); the first discovery was the absence of big pans in the kitchen of the house (that I luckily had at my disposal). For a Russian that meant there isn't a pan to dump in it a chicken or some beef on a bone, in water, I mean, to start making a base for a future soup.
    The soups, though, I found in ready carton packs, ready mini-ones :o)))))

    With lamb I don't know what to do, it is very tasty in a restaurant on a thin bone and rosemary nearby, but how to repeat the trick at home - Russians are not skilled. :o) I even asked friends to dig me out a small rosemary bush from their garden and duly carried it to russia on return, but it didn't live long in the pot.
    And can one have that lamb round thing on a thin bone on a plate without rosemary I am not sure :o)))))) In fact, I am quite nostalgic about it.

  • Comment number 55.

    I liked that toasted bread in the morning idea with something on it.
    And cheddar cheese.
    And cucumber tiny sandwiches.
    And big closed pies hot with something inside them, like, not open, but packed up pies, when they come ready, hot, and in a prolonged type of ceramic a dish. :o))))
    English breakfasts I think can be recommended to anybody, when there are those white beans on the side and 2-3 rashes rushes? of bacon and all.

    I think one can find what to eat tasty everywhere. which can be further improved by having someone around who cooks :o))))) problems arise without mum :o))))

    Then - thai restaurants and take-aways are wonderful in Britain :o)

  • Comment number 56.

    12. Yo Alice

    The first Sunday after the first full moon following spring equinox. Simple ain't it?

  • Comment number 57.

    margaret howard #19

    A strange response to my #16 simultaneously ignoring the substance of what I wrote and enlightening us all with highly irrelevant details of your domestic grocery
    shopping.

    I offered a rather mild comparison between the substance of the original referendum
    propaganda which urged us all to join the Common Market,and the arrogant and corrupt entity that has grown unhindered over the intervening years.

    quietoaktree #20

    .....you are obviously too young to remember.......

    Am I? Assumptions rarely reach the truth!

    The remainder of your reply is not pertinent to the content of my post,so I shall be
    asking no questions to the "elderly couple".

  • Comment number 58.

    at #5

    "We're all human beings, we're all pretty much the same. The only thing common to EU countries is a certain economic status"

    You forget ideas, values, culture, heritage... all the non material differences so easily tossed aside.
    ----------------------

    at #30 and before

    Can someone please explain to a yank what this hubub is about imported basic produce. Finding quality, non-artifical, butter (and cheeses) from a domestic source is rarely difficult unless one only shops at convenience stores. Odd note, fancy places in my area here carry Irish butter.

  • Comment number 59.

    at #33

    ""This is the problem for eveybody. they know how to run their household accounts, or at a push a small grocer's shop, and they think they can run the 4th or 5th largest economies in the world.

    It is different. Very different."

    please reread #28 "should run like household accounts or shop accounts in that books should balance."
    This is common economic sense; dare I say even law. Deficit, null, or surplus, Net Worth = Total Credit - Total Debit; ALWAYS. Otherwise you have errors at best and criminal activity ("cooking the books") at worst. Neither of which are beneficial to running the 4th or 5th largest economies in the world.

  • Comment number 60.

    51. can-bin-win wrote: Where has MH found this adverse reaction to meat from Australasia: Is it another indirect dig at the 'english-speakers'? There's something doesn't quite add up about MH's 'food critic' judgement on NZ meat?

    ---------------
    It seems quite simple, anything that stands in the way of abolishing democracy and establishing rule by decree via the undemocratic EU has to be belittled. Its a Pavlovian thing with the democracy-phobes, their mantra: "EU über alles".

    ------------------------
    16.sevenstargreen wrote: I was speaking to an elderly couple today who remember well the referendum on joining the Common Market.One of the "selling points" they recall is being told that we in Britain would no longer have to import apples,butter,cheese and lamb from New Zealand,but instead Europe would fulfill that need and it would be cheaper for consumers.

    --------------
    The reason food is generally more expensive today is because of having to prop up so many inefficient (French) farmers.

    The Common Agricultural Policy, which is essentially 'genocide by policy' because it denies African farmers the chance to compete on an equal leven and thus causes poverty in Africa (its the EU's fault, folks), is probably the most odious policy the EU has, and its been around nearly since the start. This is why De Gaulle wanted to keep Britain out initially, to get the (super beneficial for France) financing system in place, and then it became French interest to get Britain in, so they could force Britain to buy 'European' and slap big fat tariffs on trade with the Commonwealth.

    Oh, and did anyone else hear about that undemocratic EU wants its own secret police?
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Link is in German but Google Translate is your friend. And anyone recall, what was that infamous acronym for secret police, 70 years ago?

  • Comment number 61.

    45. At 14:16pm 20th Apr 2011, margaret howard,

    Oh well, I have been to NZ for five weeks in the late 90's, it was magic in the North Island with food that was far superior to what we suffer in Europe. I have also enjoyed the succulent, ready seasoned lamb from NZ that was sold in the UK before we made the mistake of becoming too involved with the EU. However MH has only ever tasted Scottish haggis (yuk) and Norfolk supermarket produce it seems, which do have very good seafood BTW, poor deluded girl.

  • Comment number 62.

    50. At 15:45pm 20th Apr 2011, margaret howard,

    I won't even ridicule your comments about English cuisine, but to say "I suppose even that great Belgian national dish of pommes frites and mayonnaise must come as quite a delicacy.". You have excelled yourself, if you have ever visited Belgium then your idea from your words is a friture or a quick or a Mac's, you have proved yourself a true 'little Scot', no idea, no taste and maybe only appreciating Belgian beer, but even that I doubt. Keep to your (verbal) tripe or as the Scots call it haggis, yuk.

  • Comment number 63.

    54. At 16:35pm 20th Apr 2011, WebAliceinwonderland

    Oh dear Alice, still I suppose even I have to admit I tried it once, as for the pans, well having lived in Belg I do have French style cast iron casseroles and I'm introducing them to my daughter in England as they are the only thing (almost) that the French have done well.

  • Comment number 64.

    margaret howard #50:

    "No doubt NZ farm produce has come on in leaps and bounds since those days when its frozen lamb joints tasted like bootleather after a few weeks at sea. I can't really comment on haggis since as a vegetarian I have never eaten any but I'm told it tastes very similar and is made much like hazelet and I have an aversion to eating other creatures' stomachs or innards".

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Ok, so I suppose somebody has to ask:

    If you are a vegetarian, margaret, and have been for so long that as a Scot you have never tasted haggis, then how can you possibly know what good lamb tastes like? NZ lamb was always tasty, even after a long sea voyage in a freezer. Having been to NZ several times and seen the rich pastures on which they graze it is no wonder. The UK used to be the only real market for NZ lamb, and the betrayal of their farmers, told to go off and find new markets with very little notice (from memory 5 years or so), after the loyalty displayed by New Zealand towards Britain was a good enough reason on its own to vote "No" in the 1975 referendum on British membership of the EEC. And I'm proud to say that I did. The fact that events since then have only served to prove me right is simply a bonus.

  • Comment number 65.

    MaudDib, yo.
    Full Moon yo. Size of an elephant in my window, confirmed.
    Sunday found in the wall calendar, written exactly like that, "Sunday".
    Where to look for an equinox I don't know :o))))))) must be somewhere around.
    I think local calendar for Easters has a fourth condition as well but forgot which.

  • Comment number 66.

    #64

    pickledpete;

    "The UK used to be the only real market for NZ lamb, and the betrayal of their farmers, told to go off and find new markets with very little notice (from memory 5 years or so), after the loyalty displayed by New Zealand towards Britain was a good enough reason on its own to vote "No" in the 1975 referendum on British membership of the EEC."

    You are absolutely right.

    "in 1955, Britain took 65.3 percent of New Zealand's exports, and only during the following decades did this dominant position begin to decline as the United Kingdom oriented itself more towards the European Union, with the share of exports going to Britain having fallen to only 6.2 percent in 2000.[43] Historically, some industries, such as dairying, a major economic factor in the former colony, had even more dominant trade links, with 80-100% of all cheese and butter exports going to Britain from around 1890 to 1940."

  • Comment number 67.

    47. At 15:03pm 20th Apr 2011, Mick wrote:
    As we Britons are not European, the sooner we get out the better. Europe is a land mass to the south and east of the British Isles, by definition we are not European.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Sorry Mick.

    By all accepted definitions, geological, geographical, racial and linguistic we are as European as Germany.

    As I often ask of your fellows:

    Let's suppose the EU grows until it includes all the countries on Earth, under whatever name.

    Would you still want out? If not why not?

    Come on, why not?

  • Comment number 68.

    The squabbles of spring are merely a smokescreen put up by our glorious leaders to distract their unfortunate public from the dirty deeds they don’t want us to notice. But don’t worry if you miss a few dirty tricks these days, there’ll be more to miss during your summer holidays. Please don’t assume that I’m being cynical. I don’t believe that there’s a single power crazed lunatic, incompetent fool, or dangerous criminal amongst our political elite.

    As for food, yes, it’s true, in most countries of mainland Europe, after Marks and Spencer closed their overseas shops, you do have to go to expensive specialist suppliers and pay a premium price to find New Zealand lamb and butter and English cheese.

  • Comment number 69.

    57 sevenstargreen writes:
    "I offered a rather mild comparison between the substance of the original referendum
    propaganda which urged us all to join the Common Market,and the arrogant and corrupt entity that has grown unhindered over the intervening years."
    ----------------------------------
    By relating a tale about an elderly couple who could no longer buy NZ produce? That was about as relevant to Gavin Hewitt's blog as the details of my grocery shopping.

  • Comment number 70.

    64 PickledPete writes:
    "The UK used to be the only real market for NZ lamb, and the betrayal of their farmers, told to go off and find new markets with very little notice (from memory 5 years or so), after the loyalty displayed by New Zealand towards Britain ...."
    ---------------------------
    I quite agree with you there, it was a shameful betrayal. But in the words of Palmerston: "England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests."
    It's a cruel world where friendship counts for nothing.
    About the lamb, I used to cook it for my husband before he became a vegetarian and he insisted on only eating British lamb. The NZ meat was too stringy for him, maybe it was the freezing methods in those days. As for their butter and cheese, the European varieties are much superior.

  • Comment number 71.

    @Clive Hill
    "Finally, we do not find evidence in favour of the hypothesis that speculation in the CDS market, including the Greek one, is a major force driving the eurozone debt crisis. This does not imply that CDS speculation is not taking place or it does not drive EMU spreads at higher data frequencies."

    That report by these Greeks is not the paper it is written on, as far as CDS is concerned, anyway. They do not know what they are talking about - the German Bundesbank comes to a differnent conclusion in their December monthly report. They say that CDS prices going up happens first, then bond prices follow. They also suggest that the CDS market, as it is only made up by 5 major players, could be manipulated.

    @Clive Hill
    "I still agree that naked CDS's should be banned or possibly taxed (like a betting levy) but I believe other CDS's perform a legitimate function in the market."

    That is just nonsense. The way the pricing structure works, you can on a 1 million bond, make 400,000 on your CDS resale value alone, if yields go from 5 to 10 %. Your bond might fall by around 50,000.

    By buying a bond and insuring with a CDS, you win around 350,000, if yields double. What are you going to shout for.

    @Clive Hill
    "Note also that they refer to ' intra-EMU macroeconomic imbalances' "

    Yep, that is a long term problem, and extra holidays by the Germans, paid for by the taxpayer, will help !

  • Comment number 72.

    Hi All

    The debate seems to be wandering a bit today.

    As regards lamb; there are three places in the world that produce top class lamb. New Zealand, Cumbria in the UK and the Keru in South Africa.

    There have been some comments about M.Thatcher and her treatment of the leaders of the other EEC nations. It is true that both in public and private M.Thatcher took a high handed attitude to her fellow leaders. One of the problems was that she was so often lecturing them. There was a reason for this. M.Thatcher started her proffessional career as a Chemist. She studied Chemistry at Oxford and university level Chemistry demands rather sharp skills in statistics. (A thorough understanding of entropy or statistical thermodynamics is unavailable without a strong basis in statistics.) Her fellow leaders were trained in law and history and other such humanities. By M.Thatcher's standards they were numerically illiterate, hence the need for all the lecturing.

    As regards the internal stresses in the EU. Things will only get worse if the Euro collapses.

    As regards the EU budget. My knee jerk reaction was, "Have these guys completely lost the plot?"

  • Comment number 73.

    72. At 21:27pm 20th Apr 2011, Ulkomaalainen wrote:
    Hi All

    As regards the internal stresses in the EU. Things will only get worse if the Euro collapses.

    As regards the EU budget. My knee jerk reaction was, "Have these guys completely lost the plot?"


    Err, short answer, 'Yes', long answer 'Yes', any sort of answer involving a Citizen of the EU27 not currently employed by or owing political allegiance to the EU, 'Yes', and for any non-EUropeans in doubt as to the correct response to your query, YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, Brussels has lost the plot!


  • Comment number 74.

    72. At 21:27pm 20th Apr 2011, Ulkomaalainen,

    So what's changed about leaders being numerically illiterate, after all the McClown had trouble with his addition and fancies his chances to become head of the IMF I hear, rofl.

  • Comment number 75.

    Will anyone from the 'pro-EU' step upto the plate and be brave enough to attempt to justify the EU-Brussels claim for a 4.9% Budget Increase whilst the whole of EUrope undergoes cuts to expenditure?

    I'd be fascinated as I'm sure would many others at that attempt: Please, don't be shy, don't be coy - - do come out of the closet and explain how it is Brussels can ask for an INCREASE in its Budget - - when every State is insisting Citizens must tighten their belts and many Nation's populations are experiencing severe cut-backs to services etc. just what is it about Brussels that refutes Ulkomaalainen etc. accusation that it has "lost the plot", "is totally out of touch", "has no idea what is going on"?

  • Comment number 76.

    Hi matt_us #71

    Still trying to make a case for banning CDS?

    CDS is in effect insurance against a bond default. If the bond pays out then the CDS is worthless and the transfer of money goes from the CDS buyer to the seller. If the bond fails the CDS seller pays out to the buyer.

    If the chances of default are slim then the CDS is cheap. If the chances of default are high then the CDS is expensive. If both parties who set up the contract have correctly assessed the risks then nobody involved should make large profits. Paulson et al made big money in the US property crash because they (the buyer) correctly assessed the risk of default as high while the sellers incorrectly assessed the risk as low. The mistakes of the sellers in their asessment of the probability of default meant that the CDS was undervalued. When the crash occurred and its true value became apparent then Paulson et al made huge profits.

    I've not heard of anyone making serious money out of CDS since the crash. There are two criteria that need to be fulfilled for someone to make large profits from CDS; the CDS must be misvalued, and the vast majority of people must be ignorant of this mistake.

  • Comment number 77.

    Hi can-bin-win #75

    "Will anyone from the 'pro-EU' step upto the plate and be brave enough to attempt to justify the EU-Brussels claim for a 4.9% Budget Increase whilst the whole of EUrope undergoes cuts to expenditure?"

    It has already been criticised by pro EU factions within the UK's Labour party.

    Who do they think is going to stump up the extra cash? Greece? Portugal? Ireland? These nations will be looking to cut back on their donation. The UK and Germany have been hit already as the major donators to the bail out funds.

    It is an indeffensible request. It is grossly insensitive to the current financial plight of the national governments of the nations that make up the EU. The only reason I can see for this request is that it is a debating technique to get peopletalking about a budget increase for the EU rather than discussing how deep the cuts in the EU budget should be.

  • Comment number 78.

    #69

    Do stop being so obtuse!Nothing to do with said elderly couple being unable to buy
    N.Z.produce. Whether they did or not is irrelevant.

    My post (which you are finding difficult to grasp) was to illustrate the somewhat
    benign campaign to garner yes votes for entry to the Common Market.A far cry from
    the EU of present times.There.Simple isnt it? Sigh!

  • Comment number 79.

    78. At 22:49pm 20th Apr 2011, sevenstargreen wrote:
    #69

    "Do stop being so obtuse!Nothing to do with said elderly couple being unable to buy
    N.Z.produce. "


    Erm, sorry to add to your annoyance, mate, but you do realise you are addressing Margaret Howard?
    I.e. "..obtuse": You have got to be kidding! The lady has difficulty identifying the day of the week unless it includes her hobby-horse of the terrible English in England!

    If this were a Mastermind Quizz her chosen subject would be: 'The English Rotters!' and every answer would include, 'the English did it!'

  • Comment number 80.

    Getting back to the burning issue of Margret's lamb, the full breadth of possible conjecture have yet to be explored.

    It seems to me that one fact is agreed: Margret was fed appalling lamb, and it's origin was claimed to be of New Zealand.

    But this does not shed light on why Margret was fed poorly, or whether her family, region or religious group might have been persecuted by the local butcher. Butcher's can be vengeful characters, and what is true of every beast carcass is also true of the wider spread of meat offered for sale in the wider market: there are choice cuts, and less choice cuts, on offer. Someone gets the less choice cuts.

    In feline terms, some folks sit and wait for the bits of the antelope that the quality of the pride do not rate.

    Turning back to our case in point, and our primary uncontested fact, that Margret's clan was chewing on boot leather, and we have a remarkable mystery of social standing.

    I don't think it is reasonable or interesting to speculate on the state of the New Zealand mutton industry because of one isolated case of lower order shopping. Any real understanding of the important issues here must rather come from an examination of the deeper social context that caused Margret's poor mother to be so painfully disgraced.

  • Comment number 81.

    78 sevenstargreen writes:
    "Do stop being so obtuse!Nothing to do with said elderly couple being unable to buy
    N.Z.produce. Whether they did or not is irrelevant."
    ----------------------------
    Well, if you say so. I must say of all the things I remember from the common market campaign all those years ago, I can't say that NZ lamb was very high on the voters' agenda. And if said elderly couple are now irrelevant to your anti EU deliberations, why mention them in the first place? I'm not so much being obtuse, just puzzled.

  • Comment number 82.

    Isn't it such a pleasure to watch this bunch of wasters in the EU at each others throat! It was only last week I pointed out how nicely they were all doing financially from being a Brussels oligach! Their March wage rise, new office allowance and attendance fees now put them on around 15,000 Euros a month! On top of that they get a hefty entertainment allowance, 4,200 a year travel allowance and a refund of their costs for going to Strasbourg! Now they want an EU budget increase of almost 5%! Surely there is nobody left that still believe these people are from the same planet as the rest of us. For Gods sake, do the right thing and destroy this monster before it destroys us all!

  • Comment number 83.

    threnodio_II wrote, in Shakespearean tones:
    "And still you do not see it?
    The European dream - if ever there was such a thing - is being mindlessly slaughtered on the alter of national self interest. Did you ever trust or believe in them? I did. I was that naive and stupid. I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the spectacular failure of the current generation of 'leaders' to lead."

    Alas, the scene of mournful realization that marks every great third act, and sets the fallen hero on a path to satisfying theatrical martyrdom.

    What a crock, threnodio. II. With respect.

    What is this delusion you persist with, regarding the national interest?

    What is this "national interest"? Is it what folks have when they're too embarrassed to have a god? Is it a thinking man's superstition?

    The dominant political parties in Europe are resolutely maintaining a system of state finance than channels vast sums of European tax revenue towards people who supply capital to the state. This is properly called a "system", because it functions in perpetuity. Or it is supposed to do so, if it is not broken through rank abuse and over indebtedness.

    And it just so happens that there exists no separation of powers between those who profit from the system of huge perpetual state debt and those who sponsor the dominant political parties across Europe.

    Your "european dream" is the european delusion: that nation states have come to deliver you from feudal servitude to your regional lord.

    The EU is a money transfer institution of gigantic size, by any criteria of measurement. It shifts vast sums of money from the tax coffers of the european states, and directs it towards the recipients of a "European" spending policy that is decided upon in secret, by the people APPOINTED by the party executive who receive campaign funding from the private sector.

    When so many vested interests are dealing with such vast sums of money, and where it is reasonably clear who is getting what from whom, and for what, I do not think it is useful or sensible to discuss a concept as hazy as the "national interest".

    Unless you are talking about the interest on the national debt, which is taken out of workers wages and paid to those who have a surplus of money, I wish you would knock it off.

  • Comment number 84.

    Alice

    Spring equinox occurred March 20 23:21 UTC. So you missed it this year. There is hope. You can catch it next year on March 20 05:14. If you go to a sub-solar point of the equator and look up a the sun at mid day, it should be directly overhead.

    Oh......there has been some discussion as to whether we will be having an equinox in 2013. Spring or summer. So catch it in theater near you.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    #23 Clive Hill

    “Slightly irrational in that there has been net immigration to Britain since WW2.“

    --- mainly from Commonwealth citizens -- until they called Britain´s bluff and arrived at the doorstep of an empty house.




  • Comment number 87.

    #23 Clive Hill

    "Do you remember that quietoaktree ?"

    I remember many things Clive.

    The Brits were taking the 10 quid one-way ticket to Australia and the racist and financial selection of ´British´ passport holders --are only two examples.

  • Comment number 88.

    #25 matt_us

    "Mrs Merkel is definitely the most dangerous European and German leader since 1945."

    What is that for nonsense ?

    ---you want a continual parasitic free lunch --because you ´won´ WWll ?

    ---London and Wall St. mainly caused this mess.

  • Comment number 89.

    Champagne Charlie

    --- Give us your views on Commonwealth arrivals to the UK.

  • Comment number 90.

    Another amazing display of arrogance by the undemocratic EU, demanding a fat increase in budget. Its gotten surprising attention here in Netherlands, and yet to find one voice in support of the undemocratic EU's claim.

    What we need is a referendum on the Euro (guaranteed that the Euro will be voted away) and one on the EU itself (I'd wager it'd be a toss-up, almost unimaginable a decade ago).

    "We demand a big fat increase of our budget", "we'll keep going to Strasbourg", "you are not allowed to vote against austerity or demand defaults", "investors must always get their money back and banks must always be saved", "keep voting until we get the desired answer"... I think we need not ask who'se side the EU is on...

    Journalists need to answer for their silence of the last decades, they failed to explain how the EU was undermining and slowly abolishing national parliamentary democracy, and the journalists instead of investigating and reporting the truth preferred to go to the endless EU receptions and that sort of thing.

  • Comment number 91.

    #24 Manneken

    Such a master of political wisdom and diplomacy !

  • Comment number 92.

    at #88

    "---you want a continual parasitic free lunch --because you ´won´ WWll ?"

    nice job with an insulting comment that has nothing to do with his post at all.

    "---London and Wall St. mainly caused this mess."

    Of course, because irresponsible spending practices, corrupt corporate leaders with BFFs (Best Friends Forever) in the high levels of government, mismanaged government programs, entrenched self-serving bureaucracies, various other enablers, etc... had nothing to do with it.

  • Comment number 93.

    The EU uses a kind of blackmail to do what ever it wants . If you refuse to go along with the crowd you are letting down fellow member states . Aaah , Aaah , how can you be so mean and wicked , you are undermining the goodwill of European people .

    Severe hardship is being suffered by people all over Europe , that the EU is powerless to do anything to alleviate . The ill concieved Euro is at the core of the financial troubles , one size fits all ; lays itself open to Matt_us's beloved CDS and other abuses , such as excessive borrowing that poorer countries are unable to repay .

    We seem to be nearer a point where member states may refuse to provide the bailout fund , perhaps causing the collapse of the Euro .
    It is time for national governments to stand up to the EU and say flat " NO!!! We do not agree to a budget increase , we will not contibute anything ".
    I cannot think why national government are so spineless , gutless , that they are afraid to stand up to Brussels . They may be taken to the ECJ and found guilty , made to pay a fine ," Refuse "!!! They would gain enormously in the esteem of their national population .

    The EU is never going to be the panacea for all our economic or political troubles ; nor does it do anything to create unity among European peoples . Ordinary people to ordinary people , we are already good friends , right across Europe , don't even mention Schengen .

    Countries like Britain and Holland with a large percentage of population against the EU , should leave and let the rest get on with it . Here we go full circle again , Blackmail . We know the EU would probably collapse if just one country had the guts to leave .

  • Comment number 94.

    #64 PickledPete

    I Salute You !!! I too voted to leave the EEC in the 1975 referendum . I have met ever so many people who wished they had too ; who would have done if they had realised what it would lead to .

    I have at no point favoured Britain joining the EEC . When the decimal pound came in , the pound's buying value was halved at a stroke . Neighbouring farmers could not afford feeding stuff for their cattle ; week old calves were sold privately or at market for £1 each . I bought bunches of 6 at a time to rear on the bottle or bucket of powdered milk . Eighteen months later I was able to sell them at the full market price .

    I consider myself a conservative somewhat to the right of centre , but not far right . I always remember the 1975 debate at the Oxford Union in which Peter Shaw and Wedgewood Benn spoke so heroically against membership of the EEC , they became political heroes in my estimation . Their bold statements have proved right . What they , you and I feared has materialised .

  • Comment number 95.

    83. At 00:01am 21st Apr 2011, democracythreat

    Interesting, just what exactly is the 'National interest'

    Firstly it is most likely that which most benefits the political ambitions of the politicians in the government concerned, if it serves their grandiose plans, if it enhances their glowing reputation abroad, if it results in awards, praise, Nobel peace prize etc. Coincidently these reputations are in their minds only as for us serfs they are [unprintable].

    Secondly there is the slight possibility that it could benefit the serfs in the nation state itself.

    For 'National interest' we can substitute the words province, region, local council, county instead of National. However in the case of the EU only the first point applies as the serfs that the oligarchs of the EU hierarchy say they represent are considered to be irrelevant and fit only to be taxed until the point of strangulation.

  • Comment number 96.

    #70 Margaret Howard

    " It is a cruel world where friendship counts for nothing ".

    The EU was never about friendship , just economics ! Private individuals like my self ; who have friends all over Europe , have done the friendship part .

    Britain should have allied herself in " A Union OF English Speaking Peoples ", the USA , Canada , Australia , New Zealand and British Commonwealth countries .
    We should have then honoured true friendships . I believe many British people like myself , bitterly resent our failure to honour friendship , to countries that have supported us through thick and thin in world wars . What does Britain do ? Join the Enemy !!! They say ," If you can't beat them join them "; but with the aid of our friends , we did beat them .

    Britain would still have been able to trade with Europe without any membership , we buy more than we sell , within Europe . The European market tends to be concentric , trying to sell too many of the same goods to other member states .

    Years ago New Zealand Lamb was popular in Britain , because British lamb was too much like mutton . If your husband found New Zealand lamb tough and stringy , it is most likely a poor choice of joint , not well enough cooked , or incorrectly carved . As I recall , both British and New Zealand butter was yellow and salt , but we were before the days of deep freezing in general . Apart from Danish butter , few other continental butters were imported to Britain . I have heard it said that butter was artificially coloured . I have made lots of butter from Guernsey cows with high butter fat and more yellow than anything you ever see in the shops .
    Today , British farmers are able to produce very well grown lamb that is very tender . I live in Thailand now , where at my local Tesco store I can buy unsalted New Zealand butter ; as good as any of the tasteless pasteurised european butters .
    It is true that European countries provide a wide choice of delicious , tasty cheeses , a wonderful selection when I live in Italy . However I am in favour of difference . I wonder that soft steambaked sliced packeted bread has not been standardised all over Europe , being economical and lasting longer .
    We should enjoy the best of what we can produce in our own countries , here we grow our own Bananas , Mangoes , Papaya and Coconuts . When we go to another country it is exciting to enjoy the different food and ta

  • Comment number 97.

    Manneken:

    In a democracy, it is a good and proper thing for people to disagree on both analysis and the right course of action. Incremental small changes are always better than “start from scratch” (as if ever there was such a thing).


    I disagree with your analysis ;*) — incremental small changes are not always better than “starting from scratch”. As an example, consider the American monetary system in the 1780s: the thirteen states all used pounds, shillings, and pence as their units of account, but most of the coins in circulation were Spanish. The famous “pieces of eight” (silver coins of eight reales) were valued at four shillings sixpence in Great Britain, but varied between four shillings eight pence and ten shillings in the States; the thirteen states had five different versions of the same units of account. In my view, “starting from scratch” with the new units of account of dollars, dimes, cents, and mills, based upon the coinage actually in circulation, was better than trying to gradually reconcile the five different domestic versions of £sd. (Strangely enough, internal accounting in the several £sd varieties persisted for several decades — I’ve seen a table from a book published in the 1850s that noted £sd values even in states which weren’t originally colonised by the British, e.g. Texas.)

    JohnConstable:

    It would be preferable if POTEU was to be elected as per in the USA, by popular (or unpopular) vote for all eligible EU citizens.


    The POTUS (and VPOTUS) are not directly elected by popular vote. Despite the presidential and vice-presidential candidates being named on our ballots, we actually vote for Electors. It is only the 538 Electors in our Electoral College who directly elect the POTUS and VPOTUS, and there is no constitutional requirement for Electors to reflect the popular vote.

  • Comment number 98.

    WebAliceinwonderland:

    With lamb I don’t know what to do, it is very tasty in a restaurant on a thin bone and rosemary nearby, but how to repeat the trick at home — Russians are not skilled.


    For a leg of lamb, I use a blend of spices mixed into yoghurt, slather the lamb with the yoghurt, and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours; when it’s time to cook it, the lamb first goes into the oven at a high temperature for the first 20 minutes; after that, the temperature is reduced and cooks for about another hour. Lamb can be tough if it is overcooked, so I usually favour serving it medium-rare (one-third to one-half red on the inside).

    I don’t often prepare a rack of lamb (on the thin bone) at home — it’s usually rather pricey in my local market. I can probably dig up a recipe for it if you’re interested, though.

    MaudDib:

    The first Sunday after the first full moon following spring equinox. Simple ain’t it?


    Unfortunately, it isn’t — for Easter calculation in both Orthodox and Catholic/Protestant traditions, the vernal equinox is always presumed to be March 21, and approximations of moon phases called epacts are used rather than straightforward astronomical events. (The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the West also included changes in the calculation of the epacts, which is why the dates of Easter differ between the two traditions.) A proposal was made several years back to use the actual equinox and moon phase instead of the ancient approximations, but given the high value that Orthodoxy places on tradition, a common Easter date based on astronomical events is unlikely to be adopted.

    On post 84, I can guarantee that we won’t be having a summer equinox in 2013. ;*)

    The_Black_Knight_Strikes_Again:

    Can someone please explain to a yank what this hubbub is about imported basic produce. Finding quality, non-artifical, butter (and cheeses) from a domestic source is rarely difficult unless one only shops at convenience stores.


    I suppose that it depends upon one’s definitions of quality and domestic. For example, someone who is accustomed to cultured butter (cultured in the bacterial sense) might find uncultured butter lacking in quality; cultured butter seems to be more common in Europe than in North America. Similarly, someone who lives in a major city in a densely populated country might have greater expectations of product availability than someone (like myself) who lives in a rural village in a sparsely populated area.

  • Comment number 99.

    80. At 23:46pm 20th Apr 2011, democracythreat

    Now that's indeed a possibility, maybe MH's butcher thought that there was no point in selling the usual cuts to anyone from a nation that could eat haggis, so she got all the scraps that normally are fit only for ragout. Either that or being a Scot and vegetarian she would only pay the cheapest price, no wonder her husband turned vegetarian.

    Either way there was a silver lining as the best lamb went to the English in Norfolk.

  • Comment number 100.

    Buzet23:

    I have encountered the “pink box” error that you had noted in another thread. In my case, I believe it was due to the length of my post, since splitting my original post into two parts (97 and 98 above) resolved the problem.

 

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