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Referendum campaigning

Mark Mardell | 10:28 UK time, Monday, 19 May 2008

On a ridiculously short visit to Dublin for a meeting at the Institute of international and European affairs it's clear to even the casual observer that politics are afoot. The lamp-posts all around the city are hung with colourful posters. In the only one of the EU's 27 countries to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, the campaign is in full swing.

Anti-Lisbon treaty poster in DublinAmong the "yes" and "no" posters one reads "People died for your freedom - don't throw it all away". My mind on other matters, this rather rolled over me at first. As a Brit, I am very familiar with the argument of some Eurosceptics that further European integration is an insult to those who died in the two world wars.

But of course the poster put out by COIR has quite a different meaning in Ireland. The unspecified dead are those executed by the British after the 1916 rising and those who died fighting the British in the war of 1919. Perhaps they include others regarded by nationalists and republicans as martyrs.

Those who've been following the campaign closely tell me that for the first time in such a campaign traditional Irish nationalism is playing a part alongside arguments about agriculture, economics, neutrality. Not all the angles are expected.

One person I talk to (oh, alright that first point of contact for most visiting journalists to any country, the taxi driver) argues the EU has made the country prosperous, but money has spoiled the country. He will vote "no".

Pro-Lisbon treaty poster in DublinIt is only one argument among many, of course. One of the reasons politicians dislike referendums is that they allow people to vote on what question they would like to answer. Curiously one rarely hears this at general elections where (in Britain, and other countries with constituencies and a first past the post system) it's just as true that the formal question is about one's choice of individual MP rather than opinions on the right prime minister, or the economy.

One of the detailed arguments that is making the rounds in Ireland is the impact of a treaty that shrinks the commission to 18 members. At the moment there are 27 commissioners: one for every country that is a member of the EU. Although their brief is to impartially represent the European Union as a whole, it is a fact that they also act as advocates for their national interest and are important conduits between their national capitals and Brussels.

There's no doubt losing a commissioner for five years at a stretch would be a significant loss of national influence, particularly for a smaller country. I'm sure the EU would try to find ways to soften the blow, with number two roles in commissioners' cabinets where policy is decided and prominent roles in the civil service. A big job in the council or the parliament would also be dangled in the direction of losers but nevertheless countries would face a temporary loss of a seat at the top table.

The alternative is the risk that the already large commission of 27 would expand still further. Roles like commissioner for multilingualism and for consumer protection had to be invented when Bulgaria and Romania joined the union. When Croatia joins there will have to be another one (any suggestions for what role?) Obviously for those who want to leave or abolish the EU these are not real dilemmas, the conundrum is their point. But it is tricky for those who talk about reform. Neither choice is particularly palatable.

But back to my original point: is nationalism playing a big part in this referendum? What would Patrick Pearse or Michael Collins have fought against the Lisbon treaty?


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  • 1. At 11:24am on 19 May 2008, AdamJohnS wrote:

    The nationalist vote is present at every referendum, however it is small and insignificant. The fact that Sinn Fein want us to vote no is more likely to turn people off and vote the other way. There are many other republican groups advocating an no vote, such as CHOIR and Eirigi but these groups have very little popular support. They campaign on issues which are not actually part of the treaty. I have heard abortion, the death penalty, common tax rates and a loss of sovereignty all being touted by the no side and none have any truth behind them.

    The three main parties Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour are all campaigning for a yes vote. But they are not running their campaigns very well. Instead of talking about how the treaty will benefit Europe, they scare people by saying that Ireland will become more isolated and cut off from Europe of we vote no.

    I support they treaty because I have read it and I can see the benefits it will bring. When I discuss it with my friends the say they learn more from me than they have from the main parties or the mass media.

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  • 2. At 11:47am on 19 May 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Only the Irish can save us now ! Please vote No, so that we can be spared further anti-democratic measures, like further integration, yet more legislation which can't be revoked at a National level [yes, nations, do you remember those things, around which our sovereignty used to revolve] and an increase in the vast amount of 'taxation without any representation' we get from the EU.

    If we can't turn back time, at least let us turn back the tide, starting NOW !

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  • 3. At 11:50am on 19 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    I'm frankly much more concerned about many other EU countries whose citizens are denied a vote in referendum on the Treaty
    and the Const...err.., whatever.

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  • 4. At 12:07pm on 19 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    2# "Only the Irish can save us now! Please vote No"

    I suspect you must be a eurosceptic British Daily Mail/Telegraph reader and with your plea I cannot imagine a better campaign for the triumph of the YES in Ireland ;-)))

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  • 5. At 1:42pm on 19 May 2008, EUReform wrote:

    It's a choice between the Irish Constitution and the EU Constitution (ie the new versions of the Maastricht and Rome treaties proposed by Lisbon).
    While the Irish Constitution may not be perfect, the EU Constitution is a blank cheque, which will be filled out by the unelected and unaccountable members of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

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  • 6. At 2:02pm on 19 May 2008, AdamJohnS wrote:

    "It's a choice between the Irish Constitution and the EU Constitution (ie the new versions of the Maastricht and Rome treaties proposed by Lisbon).
    While the Irish Constitution may not be perfect, the EU Constitution is a blank cheque, which will be filled out by the unelected and unaccountable members of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)."

    Similar to the way unelected judges interpret our constituion and all our laws in the undemocratic courts of Ireland?

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  • 7. At 2:19pm on 19 May 2008, E_JAL1 wrote:

    In response to betuli, it's nonsensical to think that eurospectics are only readers of Daily Mail or the Telegraph.

    I'm a Guardian reader, pro european, but quite happy to say i'm eurosceptic on this and many other EU issues and do not want the treaty to go through.

    I find it simply absurd, and quite worrying, that people think this treaty has to go through. What Europe needs more than ever is a new treaty that means something: I can't see the value in this current one.

    There is no inevitability in politics and a few knocks back, as in life, can only make one stronger if there is a true belief to succeed. Europe should have that belief.

    Europe needs to reassess and reassert itself, and its my own view that the treaty ought to be scrapped and there should be a period in the wilderness.

    But then maybe i'm unrealistic.

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  • 8. At 2:24pm on 19 May 2008, Beansof57 wrote:

    Did France and the Netherlands become more isolated after their "NO"? I rather think not.

    Many of us who are having this constitution, and that is what it is, rammed down our throats without so much as a glass of wine to ease the pain, are praying that the Irish will save our skins as the French and Dutch did before.

    I reside in Catalunya and have no wish to see faceless, overpaid and decidedly unelected bureaucrats get more power over our already regimented lives. As their only aim in life is to make work for themselves, as far as rules and regulations are concerned: "the more the merrier".

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  • 9. At 2:32pm on 19 May 2008, Paulc2 wrote:

    You should be thankful - at least you will get a vote - unlike the UK whose govt 'chickened out' on giving the people a say. This has not and will not be forgotten when the time comes.

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  • 10. At 2:49pm on 19 May 2008, DutchNemo wrote:

    Nationalism surely plays a part in every referendum but that's not the only factor which plays a part in the voters decisionmaking process. People often (ab)use referendums to complain about their current government. The Dutch voted against the European Constitution not because the were against it (most voters did not even know what de Constitution was about!) but because they didn't like prime-minister Balkenende and his government (strange enough the same voters reelected him a year later). According to the latest (unofficial) polls +/- 60% of the Dutch supports/doesn't oppose the Lisbon Treaty/a reform treaty!

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  • 11. At 3:45pm on 19 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    In response to E_JAL1,

    The culture of the "No" is often defended by the Mail or Telegraph, and rarely by the Guardian.

    I am not very delighted over this treaty, but I still think it's very easy just opposing it, without putting on the table any alternative.

    As we saw in the French referendum, the "No" was supported by antagonistic groups from the far right and the far left. Their counterproposal? Nothing, just NO.

    The point is that the current situation of the EU institutions is simply untennable, as anybody can agree. Something must be done.

    So if you don't like this treaty it is fine, but what do you suggest to do? Just a free trade agreement like the EFTA? No, thank you, that's not what the most Europeans want.

    Push for a referendum in UK and enter the EFTA in case you find this solution more satisfactory for the British interests. But the rest of Europe cannot wait this time for you to solve your eternal dilemmas.

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  • 12. At 5:32pm on 19 May 2008, VicDeBruyne wrote:

    Maybe millions of lives were spared thanks to the EU (no war in more than 50 years), so I think that the NO posters that read “people died for your freedom” are totally out of place.

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  • 13. At 5:56pm on 19 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    "I reside in Catalunya and have no wish to see faceless, overpaid and decidedly unelected bureaucrats get more power over our already regimented lives." [#8]

    Well, there's still hope for people like you if Catalunya does what Greenland did. :-)

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  • 14. At 6:35pm on 19 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    Mark asks: "Roles like commissioner for multilingualism and for consumer protection had to be invented when Bulgaria and Romania joined the union. When Croatia joins there will have to be another one (any suggestions for what role?)"

    How about Commissioner without Portfolio (sans point in French ;-) - But with all the office staff, cars, expenses paid, etc - to make sure that this chap/chapess (usually a superannuated politico) feels important.

    The EUrophilic betuli @11 wrote:

    "So if you don't like this treaty it is fine, but what do you suggest to do? Just a free trade agreement like the EFTA? No, thank you, that's not what the most Europeans want."

    How do you know that is not what Europeans want? Have you asked? Ignoring the likes of Lativas, Hungary, Bulgaria and other minor states (that are so eager to join the club that they are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of EUropotage), put the question to the people in the countries that count (and contribute): Ask the French, the Germans, the Dutch... Ask us British what we want.

    VicDeBruyne @12 wrote:
    "Maybe millions of lives were spared thanks to the EU (no war in more than 50 years)".

    No, It was NATO who prevented war in Europe, actually.

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  • 15. At 9:29pm on 19 May 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 14: No, It was NATO who prevented war in Europe, actually.

    Oh, really? Last time I heard of NATO (read USA under European complacency) was bombing Belgrade while NATO troops were watching ethnic massacres being perpetrated across the Balkans.

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  • 16. At 9:50pm on 19 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    lacerniagigante @15, The Balkans were already on fire before NATO got involved (I agree that NATO was simultaneously pathetic and pretty stupid when it came to the collapse of Yugoslavia).

    Besides, we were talking about the important parts of Europe.... (How does one punctuate irony?). Besides, if the blame for Balkan squabbles is to be laid at NATO's feet, then it could equally be laid at the EU's feet too.

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  • 17. At 9:59pm on 19 May 2008, chris smith wrote:

    ireland give the nasty eu a kicj up the arse its been a long time coming.and he will up set the bbc and mark to

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  • 18. At 10:00pm on 19 May 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    "I suspect you must be a eurosceptic British Daily Mail/Telegraph reader and with your plea I cannot imagine a better campaign for the triumph of the YES..."

    betuli - I am not going to bother thinking down on to the level of your hard-of-thinking brain to respond to that.

    Just answer me one question - Do you think Tony Benn is a Daily Mail or Telegraph reader?

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  • 19. At 10:49pm on 19 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    lordBeddGelert 18.,

    My insinuation you were a Mail/Telegraph reader was not meant to bother anyone. There's nothing wrong in reading such respectable papers.

    The EUrosceptic ScepticMax,

    I don't know if a flag means a lot, but the truth is that in Germany and France you find the European flag everywhere. It's omnipresent in the two most important EU states.

    I've always thought to be from a very Europhile (big western European) country, but after frequently visit Paris or Berlin, I'm convinced Germans and French are the most ones.

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  • 20. At 00:07am on 20 May 2008, Rdlp715 wrote:

    Its not the technical issues, the actual details of the treaty that people in ireland are talking about. 12 or 13 MEPs out of 800 doesnt make a dif, people arent even aware, our own Commissioner, who are required to be impartial, actually took an oath to not favour ireland in anyway and many of his directives are actually detrimental if anything towards us. The fear of altering our corp tax has morealess subsided with the veto. Ppl dont know the details.

    It is very fundamental questions. People DID fight and die for our sovereignty and that is something that cant be hijacked by anyone. Regardless of what is done with the sovereignty that is pooled in the EU, it does not change the fact that we are giving that away. Do we want to live in what is resembling more and more a country called europe? There is also the fear of the unknown. The EU could change substantially in character, attitude and possibly not to our benefit and who knows how lawyers will interpret the treaty in years to come, bypassing vetos and such

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  • 21. At 00:19am on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    I response to #18, I was wondering who Tony Benn was, and here is some extract from Wikipedia :

    "By the end of the 1970s Benn had migrated to the left-wing of the Labour Party. Benn attributed this political shift to his experience as a minister in the 1964-1970 Labour government. Benn wrote:

    As a minister, I experienced the power of industrialists and bankers to get their way by use of the crudest form of economic pressure, even blackmail, against a Labour Government. Compared to this, the pressure brought to bear in industrial disputes is minuscule. This power was revealed even more clearly in 1976 when the IMF secured cuts in our public expenditure. These lessons led me to the conclusion that the UK is only superficially governed by MPs and the voters who elect them. Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team, which is then allowed to preside over a system that remains in essence intact. If the British people were ever to ask themselves what power they truly enjoyed under our political system they would be amazed to discover how little it is, and some new Chartist agitation might be born and might quickly gather momentum.[10]

    Benn's philosophy became known as "Bennism", which consisted of a form of syndicalism, economic planning, greater democracy in the structures of the Labour Party and observance of Party conference decisions by the Party leadership.[11] Benn was vilified in the press and his enemies implied a Benn-led Labour government would implement a type of East European socialism.[12] Conversely, Benn was overwhelmingly popular with Labour activists. A survey of Labour Conference delegates of 1978 found that by large margins they supported Benn for the leadership and many Bennite policies.[13]

    He publicly supported Sinn Féin and the unification of Ireland, although he has recently suggested to Sinn Féin leaders that Sinn Féin abandon its long-standing policy of not taking seats at Westminster. Sinn Féin argue that to do so would recognise Britain's claim over Northern Ireland and the Sinn Féin constitution prevents its elected members from taking their seats in any British-created institution.

    Clearly a very dedicated politician.
    But he is also an excellent case to remind everybody of the desperate struggle for eurosceptics to rationalize their case from left, right and center arguments.

    The European Union project is about the conviction that there is more to gain by opening up to your neighbours rather than by closing to them. Trade is useful for this approach, but totally insufficient to cement a common sense of destiny. This is where political intgration kicks in.
    That's what te EU treaties try to institutionalize.
    In essence, euroscepticism, despite all their claims for free and real democracy, are nothing more than cries of being afraid to be left alone, while others move full speed ahead.
    Sovereignty means nothing in a fluid environment : a border is no more, no less better protected, than you are safe while walking in a city. It's all about cooperation and relying about the goodwill of neighbours. Unless ofc, you want to start carrying guns and an arms race to see who's going to be more macho ?
    Same thing about democracry : the UK system is far from being a representative and perfect system, but the population has even less power in influencing events than they realize. They might like headline news, but at the end of the day, that's just an illusion circus meant to distract from the real issues.

    Despite all its flaws, the EU is a progress towards peace, stability and prosperity. It doesn't look to prevent competition between nation-states, but tries to harness it within rules-based system that favors democracy and the rule of law (as compared to nationalisms and absolutism in previous centuries).
    If eurosceptics can't seen how shortsighted they are in refusing to share in this project that's too bad. but when they try to claim moral high ground while misinforming and thrashing this project, then it gets pathetic

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  • 22. At 01:03am on 20 May 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    To #12 and #15: The EU has not kept the peace in Europe. It is fairer to say that peaceful relations between its members is actually a necessary pre-requisite for its existence.

    Hobbes justified the state as the necessary means to protect weak individuals from the strong, saying that without a strong central authority armed with the 'sword of justice', individuals would live in a 'state of nature' where bandits were free to roam the land raping and pillaging in a 'war of all against all'. Kant extrapolated (in 'Perpetual Peace') this idea to international level arguing for a “League of Peace” (foedus pacificum) or 'federation of free states' that would prevent rogue states from warring with one another, but up until 1945 the relationship between states remained essentially that of the 'state of nature' because no state would agree to be bound by a strong overarching central authority.

    There are those that believe the EU to be Kant's federation, but I think it fairer to say the Congress of Vienna system (which aimed to preserve peace in Europe after the Napoleonic wars) is closer to what he had in mind. The League of Nations after WW1 was a similar institution. They did a reasonable job but ultimately failed for lack of what Hobbes called 'the sword of justice'; the coercive means for force rogue states into compliance. This is a function which the UN Security Council provides today.

    Those who say that the EU prevents war between its members should remember that it (like the League of Nations) lacks the 'sword of justice' to force a belligerent member into compliance. The EU can only use QMV or fines to resolve relatively minor disputes between its members. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that a state can only be an EU member if it already has a working relationship with the other members. The experience of Eastern Europe testifies to this as former countries of the Warsaw Pact only joined AFTER the Cold War ended. Peace between its members is therefore a necessary condition for the EU's existence rather than a consequence.

    The relationship between the EU and peace is that economic interdependence between its members creates the condition that any member-state which rattles its sabre towards another is threatening the overseas customers - and therefore the prosperity - of its own citizens. However the emergence of a genuine global market now creates the same condition worldwide. At best one can say that the EU played a short-term role in re-enforcing a peace that was never-the-less a pre-condition for its existence.

    The UN cannot claim to have kept the peace in Europe either because the 5 permanent members with vetoes in the Security Council essentially remain in the state of nature with one another. Any dispute that involves the UK, France and USSR/Russia on different sides cannot be resolved by the deployment of UN forces because one party would veto it. The UN has however played a peace-keeping role in lesser disputes, e.g. in the Balkans.

    NATO is therefore the only body able to legitimately claim to have kept the peace in the East / West conflict through a strong deterrent effect. NATO however is not responsible for peace between its own members in Western Europe. Good relations between NATO members is (as for the EU) a necessary condition for NATO membership.

    Peace in Western Europe in the last 50 years is not due to any international organization. It is due to the spread of democracy. No two democracies have ever gone to war with one another. The EU, by hollowing out our democracies, actually makes conflict more likely and on a larger scale. EU integration is after all based on the unification of Germany in the 19th century starting with a customs union ('zollverien') and leading via confederation to a centralized and undemocratic state that started two world wars.

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  • 23. At 01:10am on 20 May 2008, yaasehshalom wrote:

    Actually, there are many examples of democracies having gone to war with one another. It DOES make it less likely, or at least appear to, but it doesn't remove the possibility of war.

    Peru and Ecuador in the 1980s, for example. Israel and Palestine - although it's questionable whether Israel can be called a true democracy, despite what it portrays itself as.

    Given the question marks hanging over the defintion of a democracy anyway and the fact there's a good argument to be made that no country is a true democracy this statement is pretty meaningless.

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  • 24. At 01:54am on 20 May 2008, Rdlp715 wrote:

    Also i forgot to add and on this i would like some sort of rationality and response; We are being left with the impression that we arent being given a choice by europe, and i have been following the evolution of all of this since 2004 so i completely understand why a backlash would be possible. But we are being cornered into a Yes vote. Ireland as a small nation could suffer hugely from being shunned, as really in the eu for smaller states it is political influence, skill, seniority that counts, not voting weights. Bertie has built up a lot of that for us, he was excellent, but a no vote could cripple us and un-do all that? Holland and France got off ok from 2005 referendums though. It is completely unfair that all this pressure is being put on a very pro eu country just because we are using democracy. People are entitled to their views, opinions and votes and opposition to globalisation. They should not be punished. Honestly Mark, what is the alternative to a yes vote do you think? What would happen?

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  • 25. At 02:05am on 20 May 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    yassehshalom (23): So can you explain HOW the EU can keep the peace without the coercive forces available to the UN Security Counci? Or why there is not continual warfare between democracies outside the EU?

    Starbuck11 (21): The significance of Tony Benn is that he fought a court battle to resign his unelected peerage in the House of Lords such that he might be able to run for elected office as an MP and therefore be able to become part of the British government. Compare that to Jose Manual Barroso who resigned from elected office as prime minister of Portugal in order to take up the more powerful unelected position of EU Commission president. Such is the degradation of elected office that the EU has wrought.

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  • 26. At 04:32am on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    To Freeborn- John,

    I like the thoughtfullness of your latest posts. That was missing from previous debates, still your analysis are incomplete.

    Yes, I agree with you that Hobbes finely tuned that "men are wolves for men", and that Kant hoped enlightened leaders would be able in time to consider the genuine overarching interests of their populations rather than their whims in a "permanent peace". After all, the Council of Vienna was to decide how to share the spoils of war between autocratic states and 1 parlementarian monarchy (UK), after the Napoleonic wars.

    However, I disagree on you that the EU is not a medium to both promote AND enforce peace.
    NATO was and is an expediency in times of war.
    I rephrase : NATO was created as a tool to unite and bind nations in an ideological strategic war (capitalism vs communism). its purpose was never to create peace or to help enforce it.
    At best, by forcing nations to choose side (neutrality, barely meant irrelevance) it used political, diplomatic and military pressures to usher a state of MAD. That in itself wasn't "peace", but "terror".
    Even now, NATO is being rebranded as a "League of Democracy-lite", but its purpose is to wage war. To unite under one leadership or play divide and rule against potential competitors.

    If for you "pax britannica" or "pax romana" was peace, I guess you must have seen it from British or Roman eyes only.

    That's not what the EU is about.
    The EU doesn't force states to join or takes sides. It entices nations to join in a sphere of co-prosperity with a rule-based system, where there are no real "prima inter-pares" (that can be debattable, I agree).
    I agree also, that this sphere needs genuine peace and prosperity to be self-sufficient.
    But here again, that's not something that NATO can do by itself. At best NATO can see the EU as complementing it as long as it doesnt stand up for itself.
    If NATO were to be a defensive Alliance in times of war, what else could it become in times of peace, if not disbanded, then a tool for aggression ?

    And wouldn't it be natural for a concert of democratic states to stand for itself and reflect the will of its populations ?

    Complain as much as you want about the lack of "democracy" in EU institutions, but that doesn't exempt the UK parlementarian system from it own vices and structural insufficiences in that matter.
    Truth to be told, there aren't no "perfect" democracy in this world, but there are respected institutions that safeguards and promote the interests of the populations.

    That's what I get from the dedicated fight of Tony Benn. He fought for politics to be the center-stage of the "res publica". For politicians to be involved in reflecting and fighting for the will of the people, rather than just being "good steward" of the economy.

    I do not share some of his other positions, but on this, I can only applaud at his convictions.
    And that's definitely not the kind of honesty and thoughtfulness, we can see from most eurosceptic posts.

    For all UK eurosceptics, keep fighting for a referendum or a genuine debate on the relevance and scope of UK involvement within the EU project, but do so in the appropriate forums or topics. If not, you are nothing more than frightened and spoiled kids, and that's just both disgraceful and hurting your case ...

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  • 27. At 04:51am on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    I am currently living Ireland, and frankly, I am ashamed by the disinformation and fear-mongering tactics used by the NO supporters.
    Back 2 years ago, I saw the leaflets in France that extreme-lefts and right-wings were circulating, and how they were preying on peopple fears, dissatisfactions and ignorances, especially when it came to globalization and enlargement.

    And there is this parallel this time around too.

    I agree that with referendum will be won or lost on an emotional view of what the EU could become in a distant future. But losing any more times and energies in institutional debates, while the world powers are fast changing would be a terrible shame on Irish voters.
    And yet, they are overwhelmingly in favor of the EU.

    That reform treaty is not "bad" or "good" for Ireland. It's up to Irish politicians to use the institutional tools to make it work to Ireland advantage.
    But there just are too many individual grievances in every sector of the economy or the society, on so many diverses topics (and very often unrelated to the EU).

    Manipulating or mis-handling them badly could end up with a NO victory. but that would be a victory only for self-interested isolationnists and losers, not people genuinely interested by the common welfare and progress of their kins.

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  • 28. At 05:19am on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    To reply to #25,

    1) The UN security council "works" as long as any of its 5 members want to interferes in the decisions.
    But how could it be the guarantor of peace for EU ? its force comes comes from the willingness of its members to lend it strength ... do you really think that France or the UK would not veto resolutions that harm EU interests ? or that the other members would enforce decisions that further EU goals but cause them harms ? be serious ...
    The UN is relevant as a soft-power tool to magnify sphere of stability of the EU, not as a hard-power in enforcing its security. That's what national armies are for. And to date, the combined national armies of EU nations are among more numerous than Russia's troops (and they got the hardwares and training to stand their ground too, but not the inter-operability)

    2) I don't know how you define democracy, but there has been continual warfare outside the EU.
    to name but a few :
    a)4 wars between a democratic egypt and a democratic israel
    b) a war between a democratic Pakistan and a democratic India
    c) a war between a democratic (yet authoritarian) North Vietnam and a democratic (yet authoritarian) China
    d) a war between a democratic (yet authoritarian) Iraq and a democratic (yet theocratic) Iran
    e) and f) I should also add the Korean War and Vietnam War ...

    But as you can see, the last 60 years have been full of wars between "democracies". Except that, between those fought as proxies of the ideological war (East/West), many were fought for nationalistic reasons (pan-arabism, kashmir).

    so instead of democracy, maybe you meant "enlightened, freedom-loving" nations (just kidding :)) ... well, as far as I can see, there are always motivations to go to war, whatever your political system : "governments change, but strategic interests remain"

    or that could explain why democratically elected governments through free and fair elections, were routinely usurped by military coups, when they didn't suit the stategic interest of the US (Chile, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Panama ...) or the British (Mossadeq in Iran) in the 50' and 60' ? and don't tell me that wasn't warfare, or that it was morally justified because of communism ...

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  • 29. At 05:33am on 20 May 2008, Lorentz wrote:

    A role for Croatia? Commissioner for Open Government.

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  • 30. At 07:03am on 20 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    Starbuck11 wrote: "NATO was created as a tool to unite and bind nations in an ideological strategic war (capitalism vs communism). its purpose was never to create peace or to help enforce it."

    Oh yeah? And what would you have if NATO (read 'Great Satan') has not enforced peace? Soviet attack on Western Europe which would be today a part of USSR rather than than a superstate of 27 EUnuchs.

    P.S. Anybody who can seriously claim that Pakistan, India (with its cast system incl. untouchables), PRC, Vietnam, Egypt, let alone Iran are democracies should have his head examined.
    What next: a claim that Russia is a democracy?
    How about Burma or Zimbabwe, then?
    [the former has just held a 'referendum', the latter - an 'election', just like in Russia. :-)))]

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  • 31. At 08:07am on 20 May 2008, DutchNemo wrote:


    'No, It was NATO who prevented war in Europe, actually.'

    True, but the European Union increased the level of cooperation between her member states which decreased the chances of war between those member states. Peace in Europe has been maintained by NATO with some help from the European Union and her predecessors.

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  • 32. At 08:50am on 20 May 2008, Gruenebaum1 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 33. At 09:48am on 20 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    yaasehshalom @23 has taken leave of his/her senses by saying:"Israel and Palestine - although it's questionable whether Israel can be called a true democracy, despite what it portrays itself as."

    Israel's democracy may be flawed, but it does have open elections and MPs include arabs and other minorities (some of whom even oppose the existence of the State as currently constituted). Palestinian 'democracy', on the other hand, involves terrorising your opponents and throwing them off tall buildings.

    Starbuck11 @26 wrote:
    "For all UK eurosceptics, keep fighting for a referendum or a genuine debate on the relevance and scope of UK involvement within the EU project, but do so in the appropriate forums or topics. If not, you are nothing more than frightened and spoiled kids, and that's just both disgraceful and hurting your case ..."

    Don't tell me where I may or may not post comments and/or debate. As for being 'frightened', why are EUrophiles so afraid of asking the people and keen on stifling open debate and criticism?

    If your description (in post 28) of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, China etc as 'democratic' states is to be taken at face value, then it is obvious that your views are perverse at best, and
    your opinions should be discounted.

    Gruenebaum1 @32. Thank you once again for a pompous and patronising contribution. Eurobarometer is an unreliable (and inherently biased in its methodology) indicator. The only poll that counts is a true election or referendum. Try asking the people.

    (Oh yes - and people of Ireland - see how your EUrophiles masters intend to treat you: if you don't vote according to required diktat you'll either be told to leave the EU *("exit the club") or, most likely, vote again until you 'get it right').

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  • 34. At 09:49am on 20 May 2008, wonkotsane wrote:

    #12 Maybe millions of lives have been saved by the EU (no more war for over 50 years)

    Are we talking about the same continent here? Civil war in Northern Ireland, Basque, Greece, Georgia. Turkish invasion and subsequent civil war in Cyprus. Civil war and genocide in Yugoslavia. Civil war in Georgia with the EU on one side and Russia on the other.

    The Germans don't need to invade their neighbours again, they're already running most of the continent.

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  • 35. At 10:50am on 20 May 2008, stuartkaufman wrote:

    Now that the Euro is strengthening against Sterling its power to purchase oil and food is increasing at a time when Stagflation is looming. Any attempt to reflate the British economy will increase inflationary pressures, either by increasing the PSB requirement or lowering taxes (a cut in public expenditure will add to the recession). The value of Sterling will fall adding to an inflationary spiral as imports become more expensive.
    In a large currency area such as the Euro an attempt to reflate (by doing these things) will have less effect on the value of the currency because a much larger proportion of the trade is within the currency area (unlike Britain where we are more dependent upon international trade than any other country). It is probably too late now but we should have joined the Euro when the economy was strong and "booming" as an insurance policy against the now inevitable "bust".

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  • 36. At 11:00am on 20 May 2008, stuartkaufman wrote:

    On radio 4 George Sorros was today opining about the credit crunch. I am more concerned about how to mitigate the coming recession and am making the point that the EU and the Euro Area have much greater flexibility to take steps to reflate the European economy without weaking the currency than Britain. I am also making the point that now we should be thinking about joing the Euro (if they will have us) to enable the steps to be taken collectively to avert a full-blown recession from happening. Our capacity to act is severely hampered by being outside the Euro.

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  • 37. At 11:48am on 20 May 2008, Beansof57 wrote:

    Comment on # 36: The Germans had the rules for the ECB written in such a way as to preclude any action whatsoever that would increase inflation and this remains the only criterium for decision making. Moreover, the present incumbent has very little personal inclination to "bend the rules" even when a little reflation would probably be beneficial.
    I would, therefore, conclude that the EU's flexibility in this respect is extremely limited, even more so than Britain's.

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  • 38. At 2:22pm on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    to #33, unless you have short memories or a warped sense of democracy, but be reminded, that in ancient Athen, democracy excluded foreigners, women and those who couldn't pay for their equipment in times of war ... that's a very elitist democracy and still yet considered as a model in the West ...

    Egypt was and is still a democracy (yet authoritarian). The same can be said of China (even under chairman Mao) or Iran (under Ayatollahs, but not the Shah).
    A referendum (or rather plebiscite) is no proof of democracy (as in Burma since 1992), but yes Zimbabwe is a democracy (even if the latest round has been a sham).

    And no, you don't need to be perverse to recognize it, just willing to see the world as it is, rather than dream it.

    As for posting. I'm not talking about rights to posts, but about relevance of posting.
    Banting about Brown or lack of democracry in the EU, posts after posts, no matter the topic, is Troll-like and obnoxious behavior ....

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  • 39. At 4:06pm on 20 May 2008, Ticape wrote:

    "EU integration is after all based on the unification of Germany in the 19th century starting with a customs union ('zollverien') and leading via confederation to a centralized and undemocratic state that started two world wars."

    The causes of the First World War is slightly more complicated then "Germany did it".

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  • 40. At 6:50pm on 20 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    Starbuck11 @38

    Your definition of 'democracy' reminds me of Humpty Dumpty: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."

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  • 41. At 7:44pm on 20 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    ScepticMax, while thinking of me, were you thinking of you too ?

    have fun,

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  • 42. At 9:21pm on 20 May 2008, VicDeBruyne wrote:

    Wonkotsane # 34 “Are we talking about the same continent here? Civil war in Northern Ireland, Basque, Greece, Georgia. Turkish invasion and subsequent civil war in Cyprus. Civil war and genocide in Yugoslavia. Civil war in Georgia with the EU on one side and Russia on the other.”

    Please stop the disinformation. I was talking about the EU (see # 12), not Europe. You know very well that the countries that you mention either are not member of the EU or were not members at the time they were involved in conflict. You are actually giving an argument in favor of the expansion of the EU. Because the EU carrot encourages hopefuls not only to become democratic, apply the rule of law and promote human rights, but also to protect minorities and resolve border conflicts. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, however, is necessary to make an EU of more than 27 states.
    As for Northern Ireland and the Basque region, the violence during those conflicts reached a peak before, respectively, Great Britain and Spain were members of the EU.
    The EU is actively supporting peace initiatives in those regions. Last month, leading political figures from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland did gather near Belfast to pay tribute to the European Union for its support for the peace process.

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  • 43. At 10:35pm on 20 May 2008, ali_mitchell wrote:


    eurobarometer carry out regular surveys across the EU and candidate countries. Only a small minority, even in the most eurosceptic countries want to see the EU revert to the EFTA.

    (I love it when people think they're being very clever, but have no idea what they're talking about)

    War with the USSR was certainly in part prevented by the existence of NATO. But wars between countries which are now members have been common throughout the history of Europe. War between Britain and France, or France and Germany is now not only extremely undesirable, but it is economically impossible: it will never happen again. Proof? This is the longest period of peace in western Europe since Pax Augusta (the Latin name gives you a clue as to the time frame).

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  • 44. At 12:17pm on 21 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    "War with the USSR was certainly in part prevented by the existence of NATO" [#43]

    Correct, because it was prevented for the most part by existence of United States of America aka Great Satan.

    Just like the collapse of USSR has been precipitated to a large extent by certain Ronald Reagan, a man the European Left loves to hate since he destroyed their Mecca and dreams of imminent coming of Workers Paradise on Earth.

    P.S. A war between France and Germany is indeed higly unlikely though, because neither country has any troops capable of actual combat.
    And that's why Anglo-Saxon NATO members consider them dead wood.

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  • 45. At 1:43pm on 21 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    #44 what a lot of rubbish

    The USSR collapsed because of structural limitations that imperial over-exposition strained to the breaking point, just like today's USA is feeling some difficulties in absorbing both the costs and responsibilities of mananging an imperial role (Iraq, Afghanistan)

    Now regarding, the fighting value and state of preparedness of French and German troops, I won't even try to go in details to refute your banting. It's just too pathetic. That's the level reasonning of a schoolkid.

    However, I will simply make those 3 points : if those armies are so worthless, I guess there are no points in letting them participate in the reconstruction and stabilization of Afghanistan ...
    nor where they ever be needed in Iraq, after all, the Brittish did all the job in securing and protecting an ever-ending stable and prosperous Basra region ....
    Also, there is no dangers, from US and UK perspective, to let them keep going in restructuring ang organizing a european-led defense force ... after all they are irrelevant ?

    it's a good thing that the Lisbon Treaty allows member states to create "vanguards" in integration without having to wait for a UK nod to go-ahead. After all, isn't the UK irrelevant when it comes to European matters ?

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  • 46. At 3:34pm on 21 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    Some interventions over European affairs by an outsider is cristal clear that they are made up from envy or rancour, since Europe is not willing anymore to blindly follow the American foreign policy.

    This individual cannot stand European feel more united than ever and willing to strength this Union, despite (some) British eurosceptics and (some) American europhobes (or francophobes at least).

    They cannot digest the terrible failure of the Iraq invasion and the great success of our common currency among the "Old Europe" countries.

    It's sad to check that the olny ideas of some people are based on ignorance, intoxication and... at the end of the day, mere envy.

    Vive la France! Viva Europa!

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  • 47. At 4:45pm on 21 May 2008, carlow74 wrote:

    I think it is easy to get carried away by the slogans on the posters which seem more extreme this time around. Nationalism is always a part of Euro Referenda here and always has been. Irish opinion Polls are notoriously dodgy, nobody will reveal their position and the safe 'default' opinion is usually 'no', if only for the sake of conversation.

    My fear is that after the last general election there has been an air of disappointment and bleakness from those on the left who felt we needed a change of direction from fueling Econ growth to providing, at least the most basic of public services which we badly need. I fear they may take their frustration out on the government in an indirect way through a 'No ' vote, backed up by old fashioned elements in the Unions.

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  • 48. At 6:41pm on 21 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    re #45

    The only empire in recent memory collapsing "because of structural limitations that imperial over-exposition strained to the breaking point" I know of is...STARBUCKS.
    (V. I. Lenin)

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  • 49. At 8:08pm on 21 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    For anybody who might be confused, I don't drink coffee and my nick comes from the 78-79 TV show.

    now, look at that snapshot Powermeerkat and tell me where you see any collapsing of the company called Starbuck :

    If anything, the company poor results in the US just prove my points about the poor state of the US economy (due to asset bubbles bursting, low private saving rates, consumer binges and federal deficits) and imperial policies starting to bite back.

    But here again, what has personal character assassination got to due with the Irish referendum ? Can't you find anything smarter than schoolkid tactics to argue with someone ?

    It has been one of the strengths of the EU and the Euro-area to partially insulate its economies against a coming recession in the US and high (US dollar) oil prices ... as per the prior situation, countries would have used currency devaluation (like the UK is starting to experience) rather than to use structural ajustements ....

    I consider this as a progress and am in favor of more EU say and integration in national matters, not less. Don't you ?

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  • 50. At 00:05am on 22 May 2008, Ozelie wrote:

    Dear Mark,
    Why are the British so fearful of the EU ? You are such spoilers. Is it jealously of the more affluent snobby French and cold Germans ? You have taken your relationship with the U.S. for granted for far to long and it has made it Britain WEAKER. How come Britain runs a huge trade deficit ? Stop bashing European unity and realize like many have said that a bunch of talking bureaucrats are better than the wars of the past.

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  • 51. At 09:03am on 22 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    Ozelie @50.

    It is not that we are "fearful" of the EU, it is more that we are concerned to defend our hard-won independence and freedoms.

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  • 52. At 10:30am on 22 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    "You [Mark] have taken your relationship with the U.S. for granted for far to long and it has made it Britain WEAKER. How come Britain runs a huge trade deficit ? Stop bashing European unity and realize like many have said that a bunch of talking bureaucrats are better than the wars of the past. "

    1. May I ask for specific examples how UK-US special relationship made Britannia weaker? For from where I sit it seems that United Kingdom is militarily stronger than any of the EU member on the Continent.
    Not to mention more determined to defend its interests in real terms.

    2. May I ask what's 'Continentals' trade surplus, for example vis-a-vis-China?

    3. May I ask how are "the wars of the past" (which are after all history) worse than present day bureaucrats in Brussels who haven't managed to prevent a single war, including that small ethnic conflict in the heart of Europe?
    [To be sure: I'm talking about Balkans, nor Belgium. ;-)]

    4. May I, finally, ask for specific examples of 'European unity' in the absence of common EU foreign policy, defence policy or -
    critically and increasingly important these days - energy policy?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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  • 53. At 11:15am on 22 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    Beyond a similar way of living and thinking, one of the treats that more unite Europeans, including in first place Britons, is their rejection to be confused with their "ally" on the other side of the Atlantic.

    In some extreme cases, just having American accent can be a serious handicap to find a decent job or even some respect in UK. Let alone the large opposition in Britain of the Angloamerican invasion of Iraq.

    In contrast, just to mention some points, from UK is highly admired the French way of living, the continental food, retreats for expats and landscape for holidaymakers. Also the welfare states in Scandinavia are always a model on what British institutions have to do.

    Despite UK' perennial complaints and delays, Mr Brown signed the Lisbon treaty and British are seriously considering to embrace the Euro and the Schengen treaty.

    Yes, Britons want to stay where they belong: Europe.

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  • 54. At 2:13pm on 22 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    betuli @53 wrote: "Yes, Britons want to stay where they belong: Europe."

    Of course we want to stay in Europe - one can't disconnect Britain and sail off to the mid-Atlantic.

    As for staying in the European Union that's quite another matter. Maybe one day our politicians will ask us.

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  • 55. At 2:16pm on 22 May 2008, Huaimek wrote:

    I have read a number of references to Tony Benn and his colourful, contraversial left wing socialist views . I haven't read any comment relating him and his views to the EU and the present debate regarding referendum and the Lisbon Treaty .
    I vividly remember his forceful speech at the Oxford Union Debate in 1975 ; as to whether Britain should remain in the EEC or should come out . Tony Benn very strongly spoke in favour of Britain leaving the EEC .
    I am free thinking and politically right wing , but would have fully endorsed Mr Benn's arguments . Over the years the points he made have been proved right .
    It is questionable whether the EU actually has the support of the majority of the people in Europe . I have lived in Italy and know the strength of feeling among ordinary people against it .
    The EU is a megalythic political movement , which nobody knows how to stop ; a self perpetuating snowball , rolling out of control .
    With regard to the Lisbon Treaty at least the people of the Republic of Ireland have a say . I think Mr Brown makes a big political error of judgement not to allow the British people have a referendum on the treaty .
    Of course he knows that about 65% of British people are eurosceptic and would vote NO on principle . I personally would vote for Britain to leave the EU and remain like Norway in EFTA . The majority of British people see themselves as British , not European and don't want to be European . Britain has enjoyed stable democratic government over far longer periods than other member states . Britain has managed its own economy successful in the past , without the EU and I believe it could do so again in the future . In my view the arguments of the massive trading area within Europe is overated . The fact that the Euro is rising in value against other currencies is of little significance . It makes it more difficult for Euro zone countries to sell their goods outside Europe . Many countries are suffering industrial stagnation . The massive undemocratic political organisation and bureaucracy is more important than the countries they represent .

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  • 56. At 6:12pm on 22 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    to #52,

    1) the two biggest and most operational-ready professionnal armies in Europe and the UK and France (Germany is bigger in real number but because of conscripts). However, it's a hard sell to claim that the UK is using it to defend its interests smartly (think Iraq or Afghanistan). At best you might say, it's more ready to die for US policies than other EU countries ...

    2) the trade deficit between the EU and China was around €130 billions in 2007. In comparison the US was $256 billions, even though China exported 56% of its goods toward the EU. If anything else that shows how much stronger the EU is commercially.

    3) I don't understand your question. You are asking how wars of the past (let's say WWI and WWII) are any worse than the Balkan War ? or whether EU bureaucrats are any worse than those wars ? if that's the case, you are dumber than I thought ...

    4) examples of European unity ? let's say among many others

    [b]Foreign policy[/b] : helping in preventing civil war in Macedonia, trade sanctions against Iran and Sudan, pushing for a climate change policies agenda, getting the Kyoto protocol ratified despite US active counter-efforts...
    [b]Trade[/b] : EU-China, EU-Russia, EU-Affrica trade conferences in 07 and early 08, recently EU-Americas trade summit ...
    [b]Defense policy[/b] : sending stabilisation force to Kosovo, sending peacekeepers to Kosovo and Macedonia, incremental pushes for a European Defense force ...

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  • 57. At 7:07pm on 22 May 2008, betuli wrote:



    If i said UK belongs to Europe was not from a geographical point of view: you are an island. Well, you were, before the Eurostar.

    And your insularity is what makes you slightly different from the continentals. However, grosso modo, you are quite similar to the rest of Europeans.

    Anyone in Europe can distinguish a British amid nationals from your ex colonies, remarkably from a USA citizen.

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  • 58. At 7:47pm on 22 May 2008, ScepticMax wrote:

    For once and for all: Europe and the European Union are not the same thing.

    I'm sure the Swiss, Norwegian, Icelanders and others are sick of the EU and their supporters confusing their temporary (in the scheme of things) pipedream project with a continent.

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  • 59. At 8:20pm on 22 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    Intending to dissociate Europe from EU is a lost battle.

    In mass media, Europe (the whole for the part) or Brussels (the part for the whole) will be names to call EU.

    Like we often say "English" meaning "British", "London" meaning UK or Americans meaning "USA citizens".

    Mass media writing use metonimia, sinonimia, antonimia and other linguistic resources in order no to be repetitive. So Europe or EU, both valid.

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  • 60. At 9:00pm on 22 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    No need to be dismissive Betuli, and let's try to be precise when the names are so politically sensitive to the other parties.

    The EU is go-together of European countries, not all european countries. In addition to those named by ScepticMax, you could add Balkan countries.

    I, myself, made the mistake in an earlier post of using Macedonia instead of FYROM ...

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  • 61. At 9:53pm on 22 May 2008, VicDeBruyne wrote:

    I would like to comment on the people that are questioning the role of the EU in preventing war. It is simply not possible to imagine how Europe would of have looked without the EU, therefore it is hard to predict how much disaster has been prevented. It is like installing traffic lights on a dangerous cross road. Nobody is going to come forward and say: ‘hey, without those traffic lights my son would of have been killed by a car while riding his bike’

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  • 62. At 10:08pm on 22 May 2008, betuli wrote:

    We talk over two different registers of language:

    1- Administrative: EU can only be called EU.

    2- Journalistic: EU can be called Europe by metonimia, like we often read "London signs the lisbon treaty", instead of more officialy saying "UK of GB and NI signs..."

    So, not at all dismissive in a journalistic text like this one, Mardell's Europe blog.

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  • 63. At 04:00am on 23 May 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark Mardell,

    Referendum campaigning: When is the big day on the Referendum.....

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  • 64. At 10:59am on 23 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:


    1. It's been already established that you and other "useful idiots" are completely ignorant of military matters and embarrass yourselves even more each time you open you mouths on the subject. I, and others like me, don't deal with "paper armies" and "paper tigers", let alone Munich-type appeasers so let's leave it at that.

    2. My question pertained specifically to UK versus EU, not US versus EU. It's clear that you're unable to aswer that question. Could it be because you already know the answer?

    3. If you don't understand what Iraq and even more, Afghanistan have been all about you must be a graduate of one of numerous European madrassas, particularly if you claim seriously that Egypt, let alone Iran are democracies.

    [If it was a thick sarcasm on your part, I apologize]

    4. You (and others like you) obviously don't want/cannot explain why an entity which wants to become a "counterbalance to United States of America" -to quote great European leaders Jacques Iraq ("Mr 5%") and Gerhard Schroederov (GAZPROM's man in Berlin) - cannot work out any common foreign policy, defense policy, or even energy policy, although it's been trying for donkey's years.

    [BTW what's EU policy on nuclear power, since I've noticed that German, Spanish and Italian policy in that area is diametrically opposite of that of France and UK?]

    5. Fact, that new Russia's president decides to make his first visits to Astana and Beijing rather than to Brussels speaks volumes about what kind of a real power you are in the eyes of the outside world (e.g., ASEAN)

    6.The fact that more nad more East/Central European countries sign bilateral visa and defense agreements with US despite Brussels threats speaks for itself.

    As I've already explained mania grandiosa is a well known illness, although not very easy to cure by even the best psychiatrists.

    Over and out.

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  • 65. At 8:42pm on 23 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    Geez Powermeerkat, I would definitely prefer not to resort to name calling with you, but you are sure are stretching my patience :)
    Unless you didn't know, but using nazi/WWII references out of context in a debate, is usually taken to end the debate rather than deepen it. So, I'm not going to discuss why you are so afraid of, nor how how erroneous your knowledge is.

    quick question please : what is your nationality and which country do you live in ?

    to reply your points :

    1) no, UK and France have no "paper armies", but highly trained professionnals and modernely equipped. Notwithstanding missions in Ivory Coast, Congo, Chad and Lebanon in the past 2 years, it was the offer of 800+ french troops as reinforcement to West Afghanistan that convinced the Canadian government to keep its troops instead of pulling out of Afghanistan altogether.
    Special forces are operating in training the Afghan army and a french fleet is operating in both the Indian Ocean and the strait of Ormuz, with a carrier for air support ... that's quite impressive.

    2) UK had a trade deficit with the EU in all past 30 years. I let you find the figures you are looking for by yourself, if you got any intellectual honesty ...

    For 1974-1994 figures, you can use this article :
    For 1994 onward figures :

    3) let me guess ...
    Iraq : projecting US power in the Middle East through"Shock and Awe", increasing oil output, having another permanent bases instead of Saudi Arabia, using another puppet government, staging grounds for invasion of Syria and Iran, spreading democracy and economic liberalism ... (what a joke !!)
    Afghanistan : getting back at a terrorist organization who dared to hit weak security points in the US, projecting US power in Central Asia, spreading democracy and economic liberalism ...

    and in both cases, being bogged down in the hard slog of counter-insurgency and botched reconstruction projects ... and why ? because it was short-sell as "easy", "painless", costless", "popular" wars ... at the end of the day, more harm is being caused to EU security by the US occupation of Iraq, and Afghanistan is being botched through mismanagement of Pakistani politics/strategic interests and over-reliance of hard-power instead of soft-power to win the Afghan population.

    ps : Egypt and Iran are democracies, even if autocratic ...

    4-a) The EU doesn't want to become a counter-balance to the US. It already is, as the multipolar world claimed by Jacques Chirac (and others) is already a reality.
    But the BRICs, OPECs, ASEANs are also counterbalances to US hegemony, so are many other regional actors.
    4-b) EU common policies are the product of consensual decision-making ... and that's usually a slow process, still common policy exist as I showed you a few examples.
    regarding nuclear power, every country in the EU has a right to go civil nuclear for electricity production , and the EU recognized this right.
    Lately, Italy hinted it might build new generator in the short future (contradicting your claims ...)

    5) Indeed it speak volumes about the will of Russia to deepen the multipolar moment and deepen the influence of the new Shanghai forum (which democratic India attended btw). I haven't seen Medvedev planning a trip to Washington either ... what's your take on it ?

    6) I don't know where you have seen that more european countries are signing bilateral agreements with the US .. if you are refering to the Czech Republic and Poland (missile defense) or newly NATO and EU members Romania and Bulgaria, then it's old story and politics as usual.
    For visas requirements int ravelling to the US, the position of the EU is clear : it has much more negotiating power to deal with the US state department, Homeland Security and Customs services, than any individual EU countries on its own.
    Especially when it comes to safeguarding EU citizens rights to confidential data ... which the US is more than willing to discard ...

    7) I don't really understand your last comments. Are you saying you are suffering from some kind of psychotic hysteria ? using common sense and not dropping out of school, is a usually a good way to develop sensible reasonning capacities.

    Best regards,

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  • 66. At 10:47am on 24 May 2008, mcdv1975 wrote:

    @AdamJohn (1): since you claim to have read the treaty and you like the 'benefits'. You must really like the most important 'benefit', the 'raison-d-etre' for the treaty: the de facto abolishing of parliamentary democracy.

    @DutchNemo (10): you are wrong. The reason we dutch voted against the treaty they called constitution is because it was (actually still is) bad for us (and everyone else). The no voters tended to know better what it was about than all those yes voters who didn't have a clue.

    @betuli (11): indeed, something must be done, the EU political integration must be disbanded. There is no popular support for any kind of political integration, nor is there a popular mandate for it, nor has any politician ever asked for a mandate to do so (of course, the 'founding father', mr Monnet, was an opponent of democracy and much preferred the rule of a mutually appointed political elite).

    @VicdeBruyne (12): you are also wrong, the EU didn't preserve the peace, NATO did. The EU actually was the cause of the Yugoslavian civil war by promising support to the federal government to keep Yugoslavia together (days after Slovenia and Croatia had already seceded). The EU enabled Milosevic.

    @Starbuck (27): when it comes to misinformation and disinformation, look no further than the yes campaign in Ireland today. One thing you will notice, the yes side never wants to discuss the contents of the treaties or series of articles in it. Gee I wonder why. Back 2 years ago, in France and Netherlands, it was the same thing. Nothing but scaremongering by the yes side who threatened with war if we dared to vote no. Yes people also tended to be very uninformed. The proof is this: the longer the campaign lasted, and the more the contents of the treaty were discussed (with the no side taking articles and using arguments, and the yes side frantically dodging the articles), the more people were against it. There is a direct correlation. The more people tend to know about the treaty, the more they are against it.

    @Starbuck (38): your claims of China and Iran being democracies explain a lot. China is a one party dictatorship where opposition isn't allowed and the leaders aren't elected but appointed (hey, sounds like the EU, in Brussels they also frown upon those who dare to question the EU itself). In Iran, one cannot run for office without prior approval by a religious supercouncil. Iran is a theocratic dictatorship.

    But as I said, you calling them democracies explains a lot. It explains why you love the EU, which primary purpose has always been to eliminate parliamentary democracy and establish de facto rule by decree (ie a politburo/commission which wields legislative and executive powers yet is not subject to democratic control).

    And finally, speaking of lying and scaremongering. Remember the 1975 referendum of Britain to stay in the EEC (note: not EU)? Back then the no camp was accused of scaremongering and lying, but it turns out afterwards they were right on every point. Even Ted Heath admitted later on they had lied, lied, lied to get the referendum passed. You see? Most mainstream politicians love the EU. They love it because it enables them to abdicate responsibility (ie transferring powers to it). They love it because it enables some of them to go to Brussels and get an unelected job which comes without having to pay income tax. They love it because the EU's decision making system is almost completely outside the reach of parliamentary control. And they love it because most people can be easily fooled into believing the EU is actually democratic, when in fact it meets no such standard (no parliamentary control, no significant elections, no effective opposition -most in Brussels all support the one-party-line of 'the EU itself may not be questioned').

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  • 67. At 1:45pm on 24 May 2008, powermeerkat wrote:

    To mcvd1975 [#66]

    Thanks for your extensive fact-based the comments.

    However, I myself have decided that it's a waste of time to get into any exchange with "useful idiots" and "fellow travelers" who can't tell a difference between a butt and a muzzle of a rifle, democracy and autocracy/theocracy, claim that Islamist fundamentalism is not a threat to European democracies, mix apples with oranges (e.g. Britons with Continentals), have clearly never been anywhere (China, Russia, India, Chile, etc.), never served in any military (let alone be in actual combat) and that's why they promulgate official Beijing, Tehran, Moscow, Damascus, etc., propaganda and seriously quote such "reputable" compendia as Wikipedia (where any entry can be/and has been rewritten by almost anybody) as their source of information.[sic :-)]

    Is would be actually quite amusing if it weren't so pathetic. [although their belief in Brussels' effectiveness and clout is truly disarming]

    Unless, of course, as I suspect, we're dealing here, in at least some cases, with juveniles who may yet learn a thing or two in practice (hope springs eternal) when harsh reality kicks them in their butts in not so far removed future.

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  • 68. At 2:19pm on 24 May 2008, PostClovis wrote:

    #66 mcdv1975 wrote

    « Remember the 1975 referendum of Britain to stay in the EEC (note: not EU)? Back then the no camp was accused of scaremongering and lying, but it turns out afterwards they were right on every point. »

    Right on every point? Really? Let me guess: the no campaigners in 1975 declared that by staying in the EEC the UK was to replace its cherished parliamentarian democracy with an undemocratic alien system of government.

    Let me gess again: you are among those claiming that a referendum in the UK is currently the only way to save the Brits (because they’ll say No obviously) from this new Treaty that is going to take the decision-making power away from Westminster to unelected technocrats in Brussels.

    But then, how is it that there is some democracy left in the UK in 2008 that is worth fighting for? Wasn’t everything already lost with the 1975 defeat?

    But maybe I’m guessing too much and what you said about the arguments of the No in 1975 made much more sense than what my (mis)interpretation suggests.

    Please feel free to elaborate.

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  • 69. At 5:04pm on 24 May 2008, VicDeBruyne wrote:

    If we do not unite, then the Russians, Chinese, Indians and Americans will dominate our planet during the second half of this century. They will make the rules and we will dance to their tune. We either give up a little bit sovereignty in order to unite Europe and have a say in what happens in the world, or we let others decide what will happen to planet earth (global warming, terrorism, energy…). Ironically, by hanging on to our sovereignty, we will loose it.

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  • 70. At 00:31am on 25 May 2008, Starbuck wrote:

    mcdv1975 and powermeerkat, democracy is not just the idea you castigate it to be.
    It is much more diverse actually.

    Dismmissing other forms of government is not just arrogance, it is also ignorance.
    I couldn't care less if you prefer parlementary democracy or dictatorship. I do prefer libertarian democrcay myself. so what ?

    But your attitudes are just the stuff that breeds mistrust and conflicts between people (I haven't said nations).

    Regarding the EU, this is an intergovernmental organisation, not a government, so it has not to be elected.
    However, it is being monitored by elected officials (MEP and ministers).

    Whining about so-called lack of democracy and accountability is just a disguise for personal anger. If not, you can also call it outright lies and hypocrisy.

    You want accountability, look nowhere else but to your national ministers and MEP.
    They aren't accountable ? well, that's not the stuff of the EU, but how elections are made and representatives decided IN YOUR COUNTRY.

    About the issue of referendum, I can only speak about France and Ireland as a witness (wasn't there in Holland). Disinformation and scaremongering is definitely on the NO side.
    I don't know if that's because they are supported by fringe parties or minority movements within mainstream party, but they rely almost exclusively on conspiracy theories and

    their aim is not to convince people of their rights, simply to sow doubt in the expectations that prudent/scared voters will err on the side of caution (if they attend voting at all).
    That's democracy for sure, but that's pathetic and so immoral imo.

    The YES campaigners could be accused of lacklustre enthusiasm, but that's precisely because they all too often use the EU as a scapegoat for decisions taken by national ministers, and then blaming it into some kind of "foreign" organisation ...
    One typical example is the debate on globalization, and whether national or EU level, is the best to arm citizens of said countries, with the best tools to reap benefits of it.

    Specifically for powermeerkat, if you are representative of your countrymen (and I hope not), I now know which country failed its youngest citizens in giving them both general education and reasoning abilities.
    no wonder they invade countries on the flimsiest excuses ...

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  • 71. At 6:52pm on 06 Jun 2008, need4reality wrote:

    "...a treaty that shrinks the commission to 18 members. At the moment there are 27 commissioners: one for every country that is a member of the EU."

    Ever fewer hands.

    Starbuck11: "Regarding the EU, this is an intergovernmental organisation, not a government, so it has not to be elected."

    And therein lies our problem.

    Unelected = cronies = corruption.

    "However, it is being monitored by elected officials (MEP and ministers)."

    Who complain that they are finding legislation ever more difficult to understand and make any kind of informed decision based on the information they are given.

    "Whining about so-called lack of democracy and accountability is... outright lies and hypocrisy."

    Demanding democracy and transparency is hardly hypocritical in a democratic society.
    But then the EU institutions are neither transparent nor democratic.

    "That's democracy for sure, but that's pathetic and so immoral imo."

    What is immoral, is the unelected Commision pushing a treaty onto people who have little idea of the consequences, while knowing full well themselves.

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