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Holiday club fraud

Mark Mardell | 09:52 UK time, Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Marbella

Although we all know it's true, flying in from rainy Brussels or Britain it is almost unbelievable that there is somewhere a couple of hours away that is not just a bit warm, but scorching hot. A place where people stroll in beachwear under a palm-fringed promenade, before taking a bracing dip in the sea. Tourists doing tai chi on Marbella beach

There is temptation in paradise. People will take foolish risks to make sure they can return again and again.

The problems with fraudulent timeshares have been well advertised, but the latest scam is apparently holiday clubs. The idea behind them is explained in this brilliant little film by one victim:

"What happens is all the usual stuff with scratch cards and 'ooh you've won a star prize' and then a trip to an office in town for a gratingly long lecture on the glory of their product. Their pitch is that if a company gathers quite a bit of cash from lots of people then economies of scale means that they can sell luxury holidays at bargain basement prices... The trick is that after you've paid a vast deposit, er... nothing happens. No holiday. And you can't easily get your money back."

Two-thirds of the victims are British. One consumer group tells me they get about 40 phone calls of complaint a day and deal with around 10,000 cases a year. It is the biggest single area of complaint to European consumer groups, which really staggers me.

Walking down one of Malaga's main streets a lawyer who is taking on cases on behalf of ripped-off customers points out offices where the companies were based. When these companies are fingered he says they move on and tweak their official name and carry on much as before.

Damian Vazquez has formed Abogado to fight the abuses in the courts. He tells me "we get a lot of problems still because the law doesn't work here".

"The criminal justice system is slow dealing with fraud cases and it can take three or four years for it to come to court. I would like Brussels to give out more information and to stretch the time limit for getting out of any contract."

Although the European Parliament has passed legislation on timeshares, which sort of works, it voted overwhelmingly today in favour of new measures.

MEPs like the Conservatives' Malcolm Harbour and Labour's Arlene McCarthy have been pressing for a tightening of the law. It will ban up-front payments, introduce a standardised form all over the European Union, and extend the cooling-off period to two weeks. If buyers aren't given the standard form they will have the right to withdraw for three months and if they aren't told of the right to withdraw then it is extended for a year.

I'm looking for someone who thinks all this is a bad thing (and there may be some in today's debate), but haven't so far found them.

I know many of you disagree with the very idea of EU-wide laws. How would you deal with such cross-border scams? This is not a rhetorical "isn't the EU wonderful" question - I mean it seriously. What are the alternatives?

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:28am on 22 Oct 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    Surely the alternative is to have proper LOCAL laws to deal with such a thing. And if you are a 'foreigner' then 'caveat emptor' applies.

    Sorry if this sounds 'mean' - but as we have seen recently with the 'Icelandic bank fiasco', people are now, with an EU 'single market' just seduced into dealing with other countries [NOT asinine 'nation state' terminology] as if they were in Good Old Blighty.

    They are not ! And if he had an awful lot less of our legislation coming from the EU, then I think people would stop being taken in by the conmen and touts, as they would apply a far higher standard of 'due diligence' than they do when they are in the UK.

    People visit 'car boots' and the like in the UK, and I guess they are vaguely aware of the risks, but they are not 'betting the ranch' in that case.

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  • 2. At 10:29am on 22 Oct 2008, Simon2224 wrote:

    I'm generally against further intergration but not automatically against any EU led proposal and feel that the European parliament move here is very worthwhile.

    However, as I understand it most of the more blatant scams in the timeshare/holiday club industry are based in Spain so if the Spanish Government was concerned about the issue it could do much more to protect consumers itself - but if most of the victims are British it seems that the political will is not there.

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  • 3. At 10:29am on 22 Oct 2008, politicsisfun wrote:

    Writing as some one who was conned (and I like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent), I would welcome anything that stops these practices. The only thing in my favour is that we went for the cheaper option.
    I must admit we were given lots of opportunities not to sign, I can only admit to my gullibility.
    A friend of ours signed up fot the lifetime package and comparing our hotels ( booked with tour operators) we definitely are getting value for money.
    Finally, whatever your views on the EU, this is apractice that needs European wide action. If one individual country clamped down what is to prevent them moving elsewhere using the same shady practices.

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  • 4. At 10:34am on 22 Oct 2008, betuli wrote:

    Mark,

    You put the finger on the bruise. This is a paradigmatic case on what EU should be about. If we EU citizens can travel and move across Europe, EU wide laws must also apply above national legislation.

    The broader problem is that each of us wants a EU "a la carte", an idea that cannot work out.

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  • 5. At 10:38am on 22 Oct 2008, desmoh wrote:

    Well done to the film maker for his honesty. There are always people who will prey on everyone's need to feel special. Isolation and "love bombing" work frighteningly quickly. But even TV isn't above these techniques too. How else can anyone else explain the truly awful programme "How to look good naked" ?

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  • 6. At 11:23am on 22 Oct 2008, concernedcat wrote:

    I do agree with the caveat emptor comment but my older sister got sucked into one of these time share holiday club scams years ago and now finds herself unable to "sell on" in any legal way. Consequently she has the stress of continuing to find "maintenance fees" for property she never visits. Does anyone know of a way out of this mess as she is now a widow and the family would dearly like to extract her from this.

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  • 7. At 11:24am on 22 Oct 2008, belgianfrank wrote:

    This is all about good governance and susidiarity. The first of these, good governance, is usually only talked about in the context of third world countries. There is an assumption that by accepting the EU's accumulated juridical base (the famous acquis communautaire), new Member States are suddenly as competent to govern as established democracies. Not so in most cases, as most of them stagger in to the EU having just shaken off right- and left-wing authoritarian regimes. There should be EU funded reform programmes for all Member States who joined after the 1970s, in the same way that the EU pours money in to third world countries to improve their governance. Not PC to say so of course!
    On subsidiarity, no doubt the Parliament will rehearse all the mouldering elements of the debate on whether it is the greater good which is important, or the individual's right to decide his own destiny.
    In any case, this will run and run.

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  • 8. At 11:35am on 22 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    C'mon: a blend of stupidity and greed have been the ally of con men throughout history.

    Even EU-wide legislation can't overcome human nature.

    (Besides, one only has to look at how much stupidity, greed and confidence tricks are wrapped up in the EU Project to say "Physician: heal thyself!").

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  • 9. At 12:11pm on 22 Oct 2008, Studs First wrote:

    Re #1 - Iceland aren't in the EU

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  • 10. At 12:18pm on 22 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    I have previously said that the only EU law that should be binding is that which prevents cross-border harm. The fraud described here, where the perpetrator and victim are in different countries, is an example that satisfies this criterion. In all other cases EU law should be subordinate to national law such that we can elect governments with the power to overrule the EU when voters demand it. The problem however is that the EU will not restrict itself to such a limited role. Federalists in particular want EU law to be supreme in purely domestic cases and to address wider issues of politics (e.g. healthcare, education, social security, etc.) that have nothing to do with protecting citizens from harm perpetrated outside their national borders because that is the Monnet Method to progressively pre-empt the law-making authority of national legislatures and slowly establish Brussels as the true government. The consequences of the federalist approach for democracy are however simply unacceptable. If we have to sacrifice the potential benefits of the EU in order to safeguard democracy then it is a price well worth paying because there are other means to achieve the benefits that the EU could bring without suffering the catastrophic loss of self-government.

    Fraud is already a crime in Spain and indeed in other holiday destinations like Thailand famed for scams against foreign tourists. A British citizen who falls prey to scammers when on holiday is as entitled as a local to report the matter to the police and expect them to prosecute the matter. There are communications difficulties due to language and distance when you have returned home, but the most serious difficulties occur in places like Bangkok where the police are in the pay of the scammers and will turn a blind eye to cases involving foreign tourists. It then becomes extremely hard for tourists to get their money back (though the global credit card companies can be of some help) but that is a problem related to specific countries. The problems of communication can however be overcome by technology. I had to a raise a case with the Hong Kong police when I was ripped of there a couple of years ago. They have a web site where foreigners can report cases over the Internet from their home country and in my experience they do follow the matter up so long as a HK law has been broken and the perpetrator is within their jurisdiction. Such simple mechanisms will however never be proposed by the EU whose real agenda is not to solve problems but to use them to justify the accumulation of more powers.

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  • 11. At 12:33pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Is this not a storm in a teacup but looking at it from the wrong angle?

    If this obtaining of deposits by deception is a crime then surely it is a crime that is of such commonality that pretty much every EU member state must ALREADY have a similar statute or common law which comes with it some form of sanction upon the perpetrators of this crime.

    The problem as ever is more of detection if there are fools about (and am I surprised that 2/3rd of the victims are British? Am I heck!) then there will be people prepared to part those fools from their money.

    Detecting the fools is hard enough but advertising the scam to the British might help - quite a lot by the sound of it.

    Then it requires the local Spanish Police to detect the offenders and bring them to Spanish Justice. But then how good are the Spanish Police at detecting their own inadequacies . . . . probably not that good!

    That is where the problem really lies.

    What is needed is having a cross-border Police capability that is (a) efficient (b) appropriately authorised to work across borders and (c) able to initiate criminal proceedings anywhere within the EU. An EU equivalent of the FBI who can use State and/or US National Legislation anywhere within the USA regardless or where the crime is committed within the USA.

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  • 12. At 12:52pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    Certainly this is an area in which a standard of Europe wide law could be implemented but I do have one major doubt. If a complete stranger walked up to on Brighton or Blackpool prom, flogged you a scratch card then told you you had won the opportunity to part with great chucks of your hard earned, you would run a mile.

    So why is Malaga so different? It's a bit like Nancy Reagan's drug campaign - Just Say No!
    It is not that hard.

    While I am glad that the law should see fit to protect people from fraudsters, is it not going a bit far when we have to protect them from their own stupidity?

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  • 13. At 12:56pm on 22 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Menedemus @11 wrote:

    "What is needed is having a cross-border Police capability that is (a) efficient (b) appropriately authorised to work across borders and (c) able to initiate criminal proceedings anywhere within the EU. An EU equivalent of the FBI who can use State and/or US National Legislation anywhere within the USA regardless or where the crime is committed within the USA."

    Heavens forfend!

    What we'd end up with is a EU-wide blend of the Keystone Cops and the Gestapo.

    Can you imagine being prosecuted in the UK for a crime you 'allegedly' committed somewhere in the EU by a continent-wide force containing elements of the notoriously corrupt police forces of Greece or Italy?

    Luckily, we are not a United States of Europe - and never will be.

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  • 14. At 1:00pm on 22 Oct 2008, Javidurio wrote:

    As one of you fellow readers has pointed out it is only a matter of stupidity and greed. There are two sides on a fraud, the one who plann it and the people who are willing to be conned, both as guilty as each other.
    I think it is too easy to blame the Spanish Authorities as there was not enough problems in Spain already... Do you think English tourists are the only ones who "suffer" the Spanish Justice system? Is the English Justice system perfect? There is always somebody else to blame but ouselves...

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  • 15. At 1:08pm on 22 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #6, concernedcat,

    Maybe it's a simplistic approach and incorrect but if she has effectively 'written off' the timeshare she bought and if the contract was in a different country to where she lives, why does she not simply stop paying the maintenance. Since she cannot sell it on legally she is just throwing good money after bad, and whilst I may be corrected here, I don't believe a Spanish company could pursue her through the UK courts, and even if they can there is a good possibility that it would be rejected due to their scam nature. Worst case is that she never visits the country of her timeshare again.

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  • 16. At 1:12pm on 22 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    time-share in Spanish hotels was a plaque in Russia 10 yrs ago. thousands fell for it.
    my own dear mum once took 800 dollars and bought a share (when I was temporarily rich, in Yeltsin times). nobody heard about money or any practical application ever after. written off by all as "bad debt". what can you do if you are a fool yourself. but then Rus government provided own Russians so many options to get fooled, that Spanish thing pales away and is a small enterprise. "free of charge cheese exists only in mice-traps"

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  • 17. At 1:54pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    MaxSceptic @ #13

    You misunderstand my point I believe.

    The EU Cross-border Police Force equivalent of the FBI would be a composed of the elite of the EU Member States' Police Forces but would clearly have to be closely monitored, observed and accountable to a high level such as that to which the British Police are subject.

    The local laws are already in existence and, whether you or I like it or not, the EU Arrest Warrant WILL exist so a British subject can be arrested in the UK and shipped directly to another EU Country without need of prima facie evidence being available beforehand.

    As it happens, with the powers of the FBI to use local or EU-wide Laws to detect and initiate prosecution you might be glad to be tried within the UK for a crime committed in, say, Italy or Greece . . . . . you stand a 60+% chance of not being charged with an offence and then a further 60+% chance of acqittal if brought before a court within the UK.

    If I ever get caught I want to be tried in a British Crown Court and I will always plead "Not Guilty" just on the off chance the jury think that my plea is enough doubt to be sown that they might think I AM innocent! :=))

    The odds of conviction in Greece or Italy may be considerably higher and such places to which you might not wish UK citizens to be extradited without testing the prima facie evidence first - especially innocents like me?

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  • 18. At 2:01pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Javidurio @ #14

    Here, here!

    In my view the Spanish Authorities have the law and the assets to investigate and prosecute the offenders should they so wish.

    A new EU-wide law is probably unnecessary and, in any case, why should the EU go to such expense and trouble to protect fools from being parted from their money when the Spanish are probably competent and capable of doing all the investigating, detecting and prosecuting of the fraudsters as is needed.

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  • 19. At 2:16pm on 22 Oct 2008, the-real-truth wrote:

    Legislating against cons one-by-one is just a make work scheme for EU officials.

    Lumbering 'real' companies with extra work just to deter conmen is stupid.

    I am surprised that the con-men from the video even had real offices -- once they had the mugs money I would have expected them to do a bunk, never to be traced.

    If you do dump useless red tape on an industry, the conmen will either ignore it or find another legitimate looking front for their scams, while real businesses suffers from extra costs.

    A fool and his money are soon parted -- educate the fools and their money will be safe -- you don't need the EU to do that.

    The EU must take some reponsiblity for lulling these people into a false sense of security abroad.

    And if, in a million years, the EU have finally produced the millions of laws requried to block every single selling scam (at huge expense and creating a great burden for real business) - then the con men will just switch to mugging, making people march to cashtills and emptying their accounts.

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  • 20. At 2:25pm on 22 Oct 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    StudsFirst - This is precisely my point - Iceland are not in the EU, but the 'we are a single market' brainwashing has lowered people's guard to think that countries outside of the UK have the same level of consumer protection as the UK.

    The Icelandic bank Kaupthing has been taken over by ING, which has offices in Cardiff and Reading. But how many of their customers would know, off the top of their heads, where their regulator is based, and which EU country administers their deposit protection scheme ?

    The same could be said for Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Santander. This 'cross-border' banking has confused a lot of people as to what is 'UK controlled', what is covered by EU legislation, and what is outside the scope of either.

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  • 21. At 2:57pm on 22 Oct 2008, LosAngelesLocal wrote:

    I think the law is a grand idea and I look forward to any attempt at regulating this incredible business scam world-wide!

    Shell Vacations received my money up front, gave me worthless vacation spotters; after two months of trying to get them honored, I requested my money returned. The only thing I've received are property tax bills and a threat to collections. Still trying to this day to get my money back! Imagine paying $30K plus to add grief to your life that came in the form of "one of a kind time share vacations"!

    Perhaps the worst feeling you get in your stomach is when one hand of their office states "yeah its a scam, but you went for it..."




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  • 22. At 3:04pm on 22 Oct 2008, Easy_Ryder wrote:

    I was ripped off by one of these holiday companies in 2002. My then wife and I lost about £2000 after the company went bust shortly after taking our money.
    Extended cooling-off periods would offer no protection against a company which simply runs off with customers' money, as I found to my cost.

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  • 23. At 3:10pm on 22 Oct 2008, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    The trick in any con game is to make the victim (the mark) think he is getting something for nothing or next to it. A bargain at a seemingly impossible price. It plays to the nearly universal trait of human greed. But experienced adults should know that if something seems too good to be true, it invariably is. In these cases rather than walk away, it is better to run away. Funny how easily many people are duped.

    That the EU has not cracked down on these rackets hardly surprises me. They can't even control soccer hooligans who cause mayhem and drunken street riots brawling with police, how could it handle something more complex like this?

    There are extradition treaties, laws, and prosecutors. But the EU and Europeans do not take laws seriously. Whether it's a kidnapping, or terrorists, or people trafficking, Europe is not a responsible place you can count on government to vigorously enforce even its modest laws. Therefore it's buyer beware. You are on your own. Fraud is tolerated and profitable. Crime does pay, a least much of the time if it is committed in Europe.

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  • 24. At 3:10pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #13 - MaxSceptic

    Judicial procedings and policing are entirely separate matters. I am all if favour of a policeman feeling your collar in say Latvia for something he may or may not have done in the UK and saying 'You're nicked son'. But you should then be extradited on the basis of prima facie evidence to the proper country of jurisdiction for trial. A key principle of English law is that you should tried by a jury of your peers which an investigating magistrate gabbling away in Latvian most certainly is not.

    And as for trial in absentia. Absolutely not!

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  • 25. At 4:22pm on 22 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Menedemus @17:
    Alas, the EU Arrest Warrant DOES exist: just this month an Australian national was arrested in London and about to be extradited to germany for the crime of 'holocaust denial' - something that is not a crime in Britain.

    Taken to it's logical conclusion, I could be arrested for, say, blasphemy and sent to stand judgement in some foreign country because I 'disrespected' god, or Jesus, or Allah or Mohammed.

    This is no joke.

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  • 26. At 5:24pm on 22 Oct 2008, Old-Man-Mike wrote:

    Marbella

    I am sorry to say this one world says it all. The problems here are all too well known. The problem for the police and investigationg magistrates is the same as everywhere else - proof.

    Corruption and colusion got so bad in Marbella that the whole town council was removed by the Authorities as most of them, their lawyers, advisers and many property developers are on trial or already in jail. For the Spainsh Authority a major problem is that in the past many building permits where granted, for considerable backhander, to build or agricultural land coastal land. Leaving many Spaniards and foriegned with property they have paid for but to which there is no legal title.

    What has also become clear that quite a number of the crooks behind these frauds come from beyond the reach of the European Authorities. This includes, how do I put this delcately!) I know the country where 'The only free cheese is in mouse traps'

    Just say No and keeps saying no.

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  • 27. At 6:54pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #23 - MarcusAureliusII

    There you go again Marcus!

    You know that both standards of probity and the law and the quality of enforcement varies widely throughout Europe. You are just winding us up again with your massive generalisations.

    On this occasion, however, I am inclined to agree. Frankly anyone who would fall for the scratch card routine is in need of medical rather than legal help.

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  • 28. At 7:33pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    MaxSceptic @ 25

    Yes, the guy was arrested on the German Warrant but before he is extradited the Bow Street Court will adjudge the prima facie evidence first as, at the moment, you cannot be extradited from the UK without this important step first.

    I also belived that the offence for which one could be extradited had to have a simile in the detaining country and, in an earlier thread, it was discussed that the UK offence of similar ilk to Holocaust Denial was the UK Public Order Act offence of possessing, soliciting or publishing materials of racist content likely to cause Public Disorder . . . . or something like that.

    When the European Arrest Warrant is speedlined, the case could be heard in Germany, the guy convicted in absentia and then extradited without hearing from the UK. This is to me very worrying!

    The problem I have with this particular case (apart from threnodio's earlier comment that I fully agree with regarding in absentia) is that the guy is a German born Australian National Holocaust Denier and the website on which the holocaust denial material is supposedly displayed in 2004 (because I have no interest in reading the material - I say supposedly!) is Australian owned - I think this smacks of Big Brother utilising the Law to impose sanctions upon a stupid person for an offence that is only an offence in Germany and middle Europe born of moral rectitude.

    You are right to highlight the case as a problem of EU-wide legislation but, as threnodio pointed out, this indicates a judicial failing. An FBI-like EU-wide Police Force, properly controlled and accountable as the British Police, could be of immeasurable advance for combatting cross-border crime.

    It is really for the EU Nations to bring some degree of common law common sense to the laws for which one could be and should be extraditable - free speech in one country should not be a crime in any other country and a crime for which one should be extraditable nevermind that fact that the free speech is despicable, stupid or arrogant.

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  • 29. At 8:04pm on 22 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Menedemus @28,

    You can bet your bottom dollar that any 'harmonisation' of laws within the EU will be towards the direction of further restriction - rather than liberalisation - of free speech, etc.

    It's in the nature of the beast.

    As for "An FBI-like EU-wide Police Force, properly controlled and accountable as the British Police, could be of immeasurable advance for combatting cross-border crime."

    Firstly, such a construct it is unlikely to follow the British model. There are too many Continental alternative - most of them 'orrible.

    Secondly, Alas the once admired and respected British Police of yore is fast disappearing.

    Finally, what's Interpol been doing for the past decades? What happens if nasty criminals cross the borders to Switzerland or Norway or Turkey? Cross-border crime is 'what it says on the tin' and doesn't care about the niceties or demarcations of national or international police forces.

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  • 30. At 8:22pm on 22 Oct 2008, Ticape wrote:

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

  • 31. At 8:33pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #28 - Menedemus

    Incitement to Racial Hatred (although whether denial constitutes incitement is a very moot point).

    The real problem here is the balance of probability given the presumption of innocence which exists in the confrontational system used in the English speaking world. It goes to the heart of 'reasonable doubt'.

    I have no doubt that, were this a domestic matter, the CPS would conclude that the action would fail on the grounds of reasonable doubt concerning whether denial amounted to incitement and accordingly conclude that it was not in the public interest to bring the case.

    For me, what lies at the heart of this is where the alleged offence was committed. The nightmare scenario if you take this case to it's logical conclusion is that I might do something perfectly legal within the jurisdiction of one country, inadvertently commit an offence in another and be arrested for it in a third. This can only be fair if you have a universally acceptable standard of law.

    I am reminded of the case of Richard Reid, the would be shoe bomber who conspired to cause explosions, and carried a device on board a plane all within British jurisdiction. The English courts were perfectly competent to deal with this and I cannot understand how he should have ended up in American hands. The answer is that David Blunkett rushed into extraordinary extradition arrangements in the aftermath of 9/11 which were supposed to have been reciprocal without stopping to think of the possible consequences. The fact that this was done initially without parliamentary consultation has meant that reciprocity has not been properly instituted because the States does require it to be ratified and the Congress has sat on it.

    The whole thing has become a horrible mess because basically the lawmakers have increasingly taken it upon themselves to usurp functions which properly belong to the judiciary and the executive have shown a fondness for rushing some of this through using Orders in Council rather than parliamentary process. Increasingly, the judiciary are compelled to hand down judgments which are not consistent with required standards of justice.

    Finally there is the issue that this is a matter relating to material available on the internet. Well so is the Sun newspaper but we do not see the courts bombarded with requests for the extradition of the editor to Muslim countries for publishing pictures of topless girls. The UK Ministry of Defence requires that certain information regarding operational matters is covered by the Official Secrets Acts. In some cases, the US Department of Defense is required under their Freedom of Information Act to give me the very same information the MOD is withholding. So what happens if I exercise my right to acquire this information then publish it to a web site within a third jurisdiction? Am I then liable to extradition to the UK under OSA?

    If people are going to become concerned about the implications of using the only uncensored and truly international medium, we will be heading down a very slippery slope indeed.

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  • 32. At 8:41pm on 22 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Old-Man-Mike @ 26
    Yes we heard our Russian mafia was frolicking in Southern Spain (that is, we heard only when they were arrested in bulk. Spaniards were collecting evidence - for years, got papered all over, put together a database- I mean - prepared well, and on a one nice day did a mass raid on addresses virtually catching the whole gang in several hours along the coast).

    But as far as I know this was ab selling houses to Russians, and Spanish police worked together with Russian (saw both awarded for successful operation.
    This was a recent sceme, later than time-share rage. Like you wrote - people here were buying houses in Spain (to run away, in case of next revolution here or perestroyka) and Spain got hands full of Russians turning up to claim they owned houses which they didn't own.

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  • 33. At 8:53pm on 22 Oct 2008, betuli wrote:

    Manedemus 18 said:

    "A new EU-wide law is probably unnecessary and, in any case, why should the EU go to such expense and trouble to protect fools from being parted from their money when the Spanish are probably competent and capable of doing all the investigating, detecting and prosecuting of the fraudsters as is needed."

    As far as I know, these dodgy companies operate in their potential clients' countries. So how could the Spanish judicial system operate, say, in UK and therefore be effective?

    You said it. It's indispensable a legal European framework.

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  • 34. At 9:31pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    betuli @ 33

    If you are right and EU-wide legislation is indispensible then that would negate the need for a Europe-wide Arrest Warrant as the EU offence could be judicially dealt with in any EU State where the culprits reside?

    If you want EU-wide legisaltion and want the EU to replicate pre-existing national statutes or common laws then that is fine by me. There is then no need for an EU Arrest Warrant as offences in Spain could find the perpertrators arrested in the UK (for example) and tried there by your rationale.

    I would certainly go for that as I am really against trials in absentia and the ability of EU States with less jurisprudence issuing EU Arrest Warrants to have people brought ot the country where the offence took place and there may find that culprits are not given as fair a trial as say the UK.

    If detained and arrested in the UK the culprits stand a more than fair to good chance of (a) not being charged for lack of sufficient evidence to form a prima facie case or (b) acquittal by 12 peers who are people good and true but who are likely to acquit in the least sniff of innocence.

    I can guess where all the Scam culprits are going to hang out if they don't already!

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  • 35. At 10:02pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    MaxSceptic #29

    I certainly agree with you that EU-wide laws introduced to "harmonise" pre-existing EU Member State Laws would necessarily tighten up rather than liberalise crimes such as Holcaust Denial which is considered to be a valid belief by some people and free speech in some countries of the EU and a crime by other people and by other EU countries.

    Thus, my point is not that we need the EU to make EU Law superior to existing State Laws but make it easier for EU States to work together to bring the culprits to justice and try them for the offences.

    betuli thinks that because someone (say in the UK) cons people from the UK by offering them timeshare in Spain and parts those British fools from their money that it is difficult for the Spanish Authorities to investigate, detect and bring the British culprits to book because they reside where the victims reside - therefore there is a need for the EU to harmonise the offences . . . .

    Rubbish!

    For example - were the Culprits and victim clients residents of the UK the offence is already on the UK and Spanish Statute Books and there is no reason why the Spanish Authorities and the UK Authorities cannot work together to investigate, detect and bring the culprits to book IN Spain or IN the UK.

    The EU has nothing ot do with the efficiencies or deficiencies of the Spanish or UK Authorities - those efficiencies or deficiencies are a matter of the UK and Spanish Authorities to resolve and this would be as needed wherever the culprits were resident. If it is Spain and Iceland involved then it is for Spain and Iceland to resolve - not the EU. Similarly Spain and Russia would need to collude if the offenders were Russian.

    An EU FBI-like equivalent would simply make the investigation, collation and evidence-gathering part of the process more efficient than isolated police forces with differing levels of expertise from making fundamental flaws in their investigations and evidence gathering within the EU.

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  • 36. At 10:25pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    threnodio @ #31

    That's it - "Incitement to Racial Hatred" . . . my mind went blank on me in #28 and I could not for the life of me remember the name of the Holcaust Denialist (not that his name matters that much!). :=)

    As to the remainder of your comment - Quite! I could not agree more.

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  • 37. At 10:28pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #34 - Menedemus

    I am afraid I am absolutely unmovable on this.

    In the UK (unless it is terrorism when special facilities are required), if you are being tried on a criminal charge, you are taken to the competent court of jurisdiction wherever it may be. This is mainly for practical reasons - availability of witnesses and so on - but it is tried and tested and it works.

    If I am wanted for a serious offence in Britain, they can damn well extradite me to the UK for trial at the Crown Court. They only need a prima facie case to secure an extradition warrant. Are we seriously suggesting that coachloads of witnesses, police officers, prison officers and interpreters are shipped all round Europe because that's where defendants happen to be detained? Of course not.

    By all means if you are going to plead guilty, do so at the extradition hearing and be returned for sentencing but if you are defending a case, you should do so within jurisdiction. Not only is it fairer but is far cheaper for the taxpayer in the long run.

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  • 38. At 10:46pm on 22 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    threnodio @ 37

    I am not sure we're are not disagreeing about something upon which we both fundamentally agree.

    I don't want the EU to create overarching laws that means I can be tried for an offence that has been "harmonised" to make it easier for me to be extradited that was previously not an offence in my own nation state.

    I do not want the EU Arrest Warrant to be used to arrest me to take me before a court AFTER I have previously been tried in absentia and convicted in my absence. I want my arrest and extradition examined for (a) prima facie and (b) legitimacy within the UK BEFORE I am extradited.

    I do however suggest that the benefits of ever closer union between the EU member states could include the development and improvement of Police Forces and their personnel to improve the quality and standards expected of Police including improving their pride and self-esteem, enhance their reputation for honesty and propriety to become irreproachable and that make their efficieny in investigation, detection, evidence gathering and collation world class - across the width and breadth of Europe - and this could be to all of Europe's advantage.

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  • 39. At 11:21pm on 22 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    thought ab it. mafia is mafia, who knows. may be they were caught for doing one thing (selling houses), while meanwhile - they were also selling time-shares?

    still time-share sales seems not a Russian invention to me... here the hook was placed long before all began to buy houses in Spain, and it was formulated as "have you seen those foreigners in American movies spending holidays at sea-resorts? various swim-pools and all ? (yeah...) Well we have news for you - them in the West don't book rooms in the hotel, they all own time-shares, that's why they are all in the swimming pools. (oh really?) Yes you simply don't know how it happens in the West but it is a common thing. so put this pre-payment now (dear silly pensioner) and tell your children you took care of their health and summer rest, and come back all together with 20 thousand more, we will wait. "

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  • 40. At 11:46pm on 22 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #38 - Menedemus

    Yes. Your #35 was still in the moderation queue when I responded to #34.

    We are certainly coming from the same direction. If the offence is committed on Spanish soil, it is committed against Spanish law and within their jurisdiction. It follows as night follows day that this is where they should be tried, not merely for reasons of justice but also for the practical reasons I have already rehearsed - availability of witnesses and so on.

    If by some happy coincidence, the law is broadly in line with UK law, it will certainly be far easier for defendants to appreciate that what they were doing was unlawful but that is all. After all, while the niceties of law can be very complex, the fundamentals are common sense. (Everyone knows you should not drive while drunk, take something that is not yours, etc.)

    If you harmonise swathes of European law, what you are doing is removing the 'happy coincidence' factor. Nothing wrong with that either since all you are really doing is adding clarity - if it's illegal in France, it is illegal throughout Europe.

    However, it could easily be the thin end of the wedge and I would not like harmonisation to comprise rules of jurisdiction. It might even be tempting for defendants in less serious matters to elect trial locally because they know they will be fined so why travel all the way across Europe to get out your cheque book? But the precedent it sets is dangerous.

    Providing the rules of jurisdiction are not tampered with, the European arrest warrant would work. Prosecuting authorities would quickly get into the habit of ensuring they had a prima facie case and many extraditions would become formalities.

    So I think we agreed on judicial procedures.

    On policing, I have no objection to a kind of euro-flying squad to effect arrests. I am, however, a little cautious about the dangers of having too many investigation branches. I would not like to see any replication of some of the problems they have had in the States of the FBI doing one thing, the FDA doing another and the State yet another, effectively competing for a result. The current fashion for performance related pay only adds to the temptation. There is already an indication of this in the UK as it now appears that MI5 may have had information from GCHQ which was not shared with Special Branch or the (then) RUC which might have affected the Omargh bombing. One needs joined up police work to be effective.

    In principle, it is a good idea but the devil will be in the detail.

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  • 41. At 00:00am on 23 Oct 2008, machinehappydays wrote:

    Their has always been con merchants.
    Each country have their own law to deal with these people.
    With the www. in every country they keep in touch with each other.
    I see no reason why any information can not be passed quickly and simply between the relevent forces.
    I would be amazed if they do not already do this.
    The problem is the EU wants to prey on our fears that only if we join can we deal with these people.
    How ever did we survive up until now?

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  • 42. At 00:26am on 23 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #41 - machinehappydays

    I am not sure this has a lot to do with the EU. There is no reason why Norway, Switzerland and Iceland could not be part of this. A bit like Schengen. I don't think anyone is talking compulsion here.

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  • 43. At 00:34am on 23 Oct 2008, liesdamnlies wrote:

    My Mum and Dad bought a timeshare 20 years ago but can't get rid of it. Resellers ring up offer to sell it for you or say they a buyer who'll pay £3000 for example and you pay £300 deposit and they disappear. Even if you pay by credit card you're stuffed. It's too complicated to go into on here but they know exactly how to work their way around the law and the credit card companies who are are really complicit in this fraud.

    Its the same with the holiday club scam. You can't get your money back even if you've used a credit card as it is different for something you buy with an indefinite time limit on it.You can't stop them ringing you as they're outside the UK. I had to change my phone number.

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  • 44. At 00:56am on 23 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #43 - liesdamnlies

    I will probably offend the moderators if I use the names but try a well known Weekly from Mr. Dalton or maybe E Bay. Just ignore agents.

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  • 45. At 07:48am on 23 Oct 2008, one step beyond wrote:

    Threnodio, think I agree with you, if you are saying the offenders should be tried in the country they committed the offence?

    Re Holiday club Fraud, this would certainly be contrary to U.K. Legislation -

    Fraud by false representation (1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
    (a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
    (b) intends, by making the representation—
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
    (2) A representation is false if—
    (a) it is untrue or misleading, and
    (b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
    (3) “Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation as to the state of mind of—
    (a) the person making the representation, or
    (b) any other person.
    (4) A representation may be express or implied.
    (5) For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention).
    3 Fraud by failing to disclose information A person is in breach of this section if he—
    (a) dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is under a legal duty to disclose, and
    (b) intends, by failing to disclose the information—
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

    Also belive Spanish law in this area is fairly clear. The problem is not E.U. wide legislation, it is that the Police in the countries concerned are too busy, indifferent or bothered to investigate it. Thisd is not just a Spanish issue, similar isssues occur with internet fraud in the U.K. It is pointless passing laws if they are not going to be enforced. The people selling scratch cards and enticing people to come to time share places are not difficult to find. A couple of years ago I myself reported two such people hassling me because I refused their 'kind invitation', in Tenerriffe, to the local police. Indifference was the response at best. Cannot say I particularly blame them, people some times do need to take responsibility for their own actions.

    To summarise there are more than enough laws to deal with these issues.

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  • 46. At 08:26am on 23 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 1. lordBeddGelert:

    Iceland is *not* part of the EU.

    I link in England and do lots of consumer transactions with Germany, Italy, France, Holland and Sweden. I basically buy the stuff where it is more convenient. It is true, I could find the same consumer goods in England, but they cost you double of what you pay elsewhere, because they are considered "posh" products. I'm talking about trivial stuff such as bicycle spare parts, hot-cold water mixers and tiles. The assumption that the average James must have a poorly lighted bicycle to commute with, separate hot and cold taps and carpets in the bathroom, while only the rich can allow themselves "continental" luxuries is nonsense nowadays. Since I happen to travel a lot to the mainland and I have a broadband, I can buy products from the EU and I am thankful, as a consumer, that there are no custom barriers on them. You "national laws" have no use for me. I would be even more thankful if the UK was fully integrated in the EU, like a single currency and allowed EU nationals, such as me, who work in England pay taxes to HM to vote. And if the laws protected gullible and greedy consumers from themselves, all the better. Sorry if I put it too much from the "me" perspective, but bear in mind that there are 2 million workers like me (EU migrants), many very highly skilled, that make the UK wheel spin. Do you really want to loose us with your "national laws"? The answer is even if you wanted, you cannot afford it. In fact, nowadays no country in Europe can afford to be isolated. Even isolationist "nations" of Swiss and Norse are forced by the nature of the economy to make deals with the EU (Schengen, customs, etc.) in order not to loose out. The difference between them and the UK is that they have no say about the policies. Would you prefer no say?

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  • 47. At 09:34am on 23 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Lacerniagigante (46): I would prefer 100% influence over changes to UK law as put before the people in competing election manifestos and decided through debate and election to an insignificant share of the 'influence' in deciding EU law behind closed doors which is then effectively beyond the influence of our votes forever.

    Nobody is saying that nationals of other EEA/EU countries would have to return home should the UK leave the EU. (This however could be a bargaining chip if necessary to bring pressure on other countries to enter serious re-negotiation of the UK-EU relationship.)

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  • 48. At 1:09pm on 23 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #45 - jordanbasset

    Yes we do agree. I think providing the rules of jurisdiction are maintained, Menedemus has a good case for internationalisation. I just want to be certain that people continue to be tried in the appropriate court of jurisdiction and that, as far as I am concerned, is where the offence occurred.

    #46 - lacerniagigante

    You are confusing law with market forces. When you live in another country, you accept that you must be bound by their laws. When in Rome and all that! That is only fair and reasonable. I now live in continental Europe and occasionally encounter irritants. For example, I have just had a letter telling me that I underpaid tax this year by less than 1 Euro but I have to go personally and pay this or face a big penalty. It's damned silly, a waste of time and it would not happen in the UK but I have accepted to live under the system.

    Market forces are entirely different and I am not keen in general to force price harmonisation. You rightly say that we have the option of online shopping to beat price differentials and, speaking personally, popping across the Channel to stock up the wine cellar and buy other items was one of the pleasures in life. Now in Hungary, if we are having a party, we go over to Slovakia to buy the beer or Austria for designer clothes at discounted prices. It's all part of the fun.

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  • 49. At 2:43pm on 23 Oct 2008, lordBeddGelert wrote:

    No.46 "You "national laws" have no use for me. I would be even more thankful if the UK was fully integrated in the EU, like a single currency and allowed EU nationals, such as me, who work in England pay taxes to HM to vote."

    What utter poppycock !! The point is that you say you have no use for 'national laws' but at least we have some control over them !! The Supra-National laws are introduced by people who can't boot out, and therefore DO NOT reflect our views - we are steamrollered to accept views which aren't ours and which we cannot control !

    In America there is 'no taxation without representation'. Here we have been conned to accept taxes and tariffs which we cannot control or veto, and have to put up with people like you who parachute into our country but 'have no use for our national laws'. Well, sunshine, if you don't like our national laws, and want to inhabit a non-democratic superstate, please feel free to leave and leave us to choose to live in a democracy, while we still can.


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  • 50. At 2:52pm on 23 Oct 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:

    It is a nice picture of Marbella!!!!

    Where is it?

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  • 51. At 2:53pm on 23 Oct 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:

    It is sad that there is still fraud out there and the EUROPEAN UNION has to go out and passed a new law regarding this type of behaviour.

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  • 52. At 3:06pm on 23 Oct 2008, Manofiona wrote:

    Timeshare scams cater to two particularly British obsessions, property and sunshine. What the European Parliament adopted is a directive, which is a common European standard for legislation on this subject. The objective is to try to make common rules which are understandable and usable by people involved in what is in most cases a cross-border transaction. The actual legislation to give effect to those standards is national ie, it is voted by the very parliaments whose rights the more Europhobic correspondents to this blog are so anxious to protect. If the directive has "EEA significance", it has to be implemented by Norway and Iceland in exactly the same way as by the members of the EU itself.

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  • 53. At 4:45pm on 23 Oct 2008, one step beyond wrote:

    Re post 52, I would be very surprised if Spain, like the U.K., France, Germany and almost certainly all other E.U. Nations do not already have perfectly good legislation to deal with this type of fraud. We do not need the E.U. to issue directives to harmonise criminal legislation, that is up to the elected Governments of those countries.

    Once a directive has been issued E.U. countries would be required to implement the fraud legislation as the E.U want's it. Not too contentious with fraud, but what next?

    The issue here is that in many countries this sort of fraud is not just a high priority for the local police. They may even be right, but by making all E.U countries have similar legislation will not push this sort of fraud up the priority list for the local police.

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  • 54. At 4:56pm on 23 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Monfania (52): You say that the actual legislation to give effect to an EU directive is national and must be voted on by national parliaments (implying that this means it is democratic) but national parliaments have no choice but to implement the directive. The ECJ invented (in Francovich v Italy) the judicial doctrine of 'direct effect' where member states are liable to pay damages for the non-implementation of an EU directive. Therefore national parliaments have no choice but to vote in favour of implementing EU directives. If the only acceptable result of a vote is YES then it is not democracy is it?

    The reality is that the EU is the biggest scam of all in Europe and the simplest solution is to make its law subordinate to national law such that we can elect people to say NO to it.

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  • 55. At 5:03pm on 23 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #52 - Manofiona

    Good enough points but why make it so complicated?

    Fraud is fraud. It is known in English law as "obtaining money by deception". It can be done with anything from duff insurance policies to real estate scams to dodgy motors. Why do you need a special law relating to time shares?

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  • 56. At 5:48pm on 23 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Does one ever see the figures for the numbers of people who are victims of this type of crime within the EU?

    Perhaps the EU knows that this crime is common to all countries and knows that the detection rates are abysmal?

    Perhaps they are mimicking the UK Labour Government and throwing a Law at the problem(i.e. A Directive) to force the national governments to take heed and take action.

    The simple truth is that it is the inadequacies or deficiencies of the individual Police Forces throughout the EU area (and elsewhere including the USA by the nature of other comments in this thread) where it is easier to nick drunks, drug users and motorists for speeding offences than it is to use poorly skilled detectives to investigate complex fraud or deception.

    The UK Labour government will always fall back on creating a new Act of Parliament to show they are taking a matter seriously but never ever address the root cause or the resulting problems adequately. This smacks of the EU taking the same obfuscating actions.

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  • 57. At 6:14pm on 23 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #56 - Menedemus

    I entirely agree but at the root of all this is a fundamental systemic flaw. There is quite simply too much law. It is true in the UK and it is becoming the case within the EU. I could wax lyrical about this for page after page but just to keep it very simple, whay does the UK require one law concering 'gay bashing', another regarding racially motivated attacks and so on? What we need is a law against 'people bashing'?

    To answer my own question in a simple phrase - mandatory sentencing. When judges and magistrates enjoyed the freedom to sentence according to the circumstances and seriousness, then they could take a view that something was particularly serious because, for example, it was racially motivated and sentence accordingly.

    Now we have a plethora of offences which are harder to prove (proof of intent) and wholly unnecessary. Whatever the answer to the varied questions in this thread, I am convinced that more law is certainly not it. Clarity in needed, not complexity - more wood and fewer trees.

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  • 58. At 11:38pm on 23 Oct 2008, Manofiona wrote:

    The timeshare directive has to adopted not only by the European Parliament (which cannot adopt any directive on its own) but also by the Council of Ministers ie, the governments of the member states. The council will only take a matter up if the member states want it to (the British government is very concerned about timeshare scams since so many of the victims are British). The council will not adopt a directive to which a member state has real objections - the council essentially works by consensus.

    The directive is therefore the result both of open debate in a directly elected parliament where party discipline is not heavy and also respresents the agreement of the member states on the subject.

    When national parliaments implement the directive they are not limited to simply reproducing the EU text. If the British parliament wants to give timeshare customers even more rights than the directive does, it is free to do so.

    Some governments (Britain is not one of them) have a habit of agreeing to directives and then forgetting to implement them. This is not only reneging on what has been agreed, it also deprives people in such countries of the protection the directive was designed to provide. That is why the courts can, if the directive is sufficiently precise in its wording and is designed to give rights or protections to individuals, consider that individuals can avail of the protection of the directive, as if it were national law, even though their national parliament, whose agenda is largely set by the national government, did not get round to adopting the necessary legislation.

    European law is complicated because it has to reconcile desired common rights and standards with respect for national sovereignty but without it the single market and the freedoms it brings could not exist.

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  • 59. At 01:19am on 24 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #58 - Manofiona

    You are entirely right and you will not find me complaining about the European parliament and the Council making law. My plea is for clarity, simplicity and consistency.

    As regards implementation, I take your point about the slowness with which some national parliaments enact enabling legislation but I suspect the real problem is implementation on the ground. Ratification and enactment is no guarantee that the law will be effectively implemented and you can agree to pretty much anything if you have no intention of carry through your undertakings.

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  • 60. At 09:19am on 24 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manofiona (58): So why is there Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of Ministers if it works by consensus? If there is consensus why can countries be fined for not implementing EU directives that they voted against?

    Even if you were correct that the EU works by consensus (which you are not), the agreement of all 27 EU governments today does not imply the consensus of future governments and so should not be binding on them. Democracy requires that we are able to elect a new government able to repeal what today's government has done. This is the case for national law, but not EU law. This is totally unacceptable but could be solved by making most EU law subordinate to national law.

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  • 61. At 12:14pm on 24 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #49 lordBeddGelert

    You said :- No.46 "You "national laws" have no use for me. I would be even more thankful if the UK was fully integrated in the EU, like a single currency and allowed EU nationals, such as me, who work in England pay taxes to HM to vote."

    Please just take a good look at the UK voting laws, they conform exactly to the EU requirements and a bit more.
    I.E. European Union (EU) citizens have the right to vote in:

    * European parliamentary elections
    * British local government elections
    * Scottish Parliamentary elections, if they live in Scotland
    * National Assembly for Wales elections, if they live in Wales
    * Northern Ireland Assembly elections, if they live in Northern Ireland.

    European nationals who are not EU citizens do not have a right to vote in these elections. EU citizens cannot vote in British parliamentary elections.

    ****

    This is exactly the case any of us living in countries other than our own find and is one of the reasons I asked for and was granted Belgian nationality as I can now vote in all elections. This has nothing to do with UK law, this is the EU law across the EU, so blaming the UK is not valid in this case.

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  • 62. At 1:19pm on 24 Oct 2008, Manofiona wrote:

    Freeborn-John (60): you raise two issues.

    Concerning qualified majority voting (QMV), this was provided for in the Treaty of Rome from the beginning. However, in the early 1960s when the Commission and some member states actually tried to apply it to important decisions, General de Gaulle made it clear that he was having none of it, and brought the council of ministers work to a halt, through his "empty chair" policy, until he got his way. Since that time all significant decisions of the council are made by consensus regardless of what the text of the treaties says about QMV.

    Your second point raises a profound issue which is best addressed by comparing the US single market and the EU single market. In the US the single market is part of a single state and its rules are enforced because the democratically elected federal congress has the power under the US constitution not only to adopt (and modify) rules which automatically apply throughout the US but also has the power to prevent the states from adopting measures inconsistent with the single market.

    The EU attempts to be a single market accross many sovereign states. In order for such a single market to work, the member states must not only agree on the rules (which is why no rules can be adopted or changed without the participation of the council of ministers representing all the member states), they also have to abide by them. If having agreed to a rule, a member state could turn round and legislate something different, the single market would collapse.

    The so-called supremacy of European law is simply a means of ensuring that member states stick to what they have agreed to. In a single market crossing many states, there is no other way of ensuring that the agreed rules are actually applied.

    In the US single market a democratically elected parliament makes and changes the rules for all. Europe can have the same democratic system, but only if it becomes a political as well as economic union.

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  • 63. At 1:57pm on 24 Oct 2008, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    #61 Buzet
    "I asked for and was granted Belgian nationality as I can now vote in all elections"

    No, now you [b]have to[/b] vote in elections. I've left that business to my wife :)

    Other than that, I concur :D

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  • 64. At 4:51pm on 24 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #63, G-in-Belgium,

    You're quite correct on that, voting is obligatory here in Belgium unless you have a very good excuse. Unlike in the UK where it is for you to decide whether or not you vote and if you don't like any of the candidates you simply don't go. Here it is necessary to spoil the paper in order to register disapproval.

    My son up until now has done the same as you as he also does not have Belgian nationality and has not registered to vote. In this case you do not vote at all as once you register to vote you are obliged to vote for the municipal and European elections. It is simply the national elections that you don't get a convocation for.

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  • 65. At 4:57pm on 24 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #63 - G-in-Belgium

    have to

    Opening mark up - less thanplus strong plus more than mark

    Closing mark up - less thanplus /strong plus more than mark

    Get it? See Ed Inglehart's helpful guide for more HERE

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  • 66. At 5:03pm on 24 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #61 - Buzet23

    Sorry Buzet, not correct on that one. My late partner was a US citizen but registered as a resident in the UK and voluntarily opted into the NI system. She was allowed to vote including in parliamentary elections.

    I think the rule is that you must be a resident, have a social security number and be a tax payer. Also, when she became ill, she was entitled to the whole range of benefits and full NHS cover because of her voluntary opt in.

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  • 67. At 6:25pm on 24 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manofiona (62): You are several decades out of date. QMV has certainly been used to decide "significant" issues, for example the Working Time Directive which was falsely reclassified as a health and safety measure so that it would be decided under QMV against the objections of the British government. Prior to 1992 your point might have had some validity but today it is (like so many pro-EU arguments) totally obsolete. The main goal of each successive Treaty on European Union has been to transfer more and more policy areas into the so-called '1st pillar' of community decision-making rules precisely so that they can be voted on using QMV. Another goal has been to reduce blocking thresholds to make it easier to overrule dissenting governments. The Lisbon treaty seeks to abolish that distinction between 1st pillar issues and the rest completely so that QMV would become the norm. It is totally unacceptable.

    You say that the supremacy of EU law is only a mechanism to ensure that states stick to what they have agreed to, but with QMV it is also a means to ensure they stick to what they did not agree to. It is also a mechanism to ensure that future governments stick to what past governments agreed to, even when the past government has lost an election because of the unpopularity of what they agreed to at EU level. This cannot be tolerated.

    The trend contines to be that the costs of EU membership grow while the earlier benefits of being inside the common market shrink as a genuine low-tariff global market emerges around it. Since costs already exceed benefits the time is rapidly approaching when the UK must re-negotiate its relationship with the EU26 (e.g. to restore the supremacy of Westminster law over EU law in all matters beyond the common market) or walk away if negotiations cannot be successfully concluded in a timely manner.

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  • 68. At 10:36pm on 24 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #66, threnodio,

    Sorry in this case you haven't kept up with events, the comment I posted in 61 is from the citizens advice bureau and yes you were right before the UK integrated with the EU as always, now it's the EU law that applies. Shame isn't it when laws get dumbed down because of the EU, LOL.

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  • 69. At 10:57pm on 24 Oct 2008, PostClovis wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John (67)

    QMV (i.e. qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers which permits EU law to be passed at a majority of votes and not only when there is unanimity) is unacceptable? Actually it is accepted by all states that freely engaged into EU framework since QMV is provided for by the initial 1957 Treaty of Rome (I can't remember any state being forced into or forced to remain within EU).

    Supremacy of EU law over national law cannot be tolerated? More than tolerated, the principle of supremacy is at the very heart of the existence of the current consistent european legal framework named EU and is recognized as such by any single member state.

    Like it or not, far from being outdated, QMV and supremacy have been, and will certainly still be for a while, efficient legal tools for the functioning of EU. Therefore, for any current member state, it's either that or getting out and creating an alternative european system. Why not with Iceland?

    among other examples, Georgian events, the economic crisis or even time sharing scams show that most of EU people share the same basic interests and values. What is needed is more and better european responses to them, not less. And this is not contradictory with national identity and action.

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  • 70. At 11:45pm on 24 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #69, PostClovis,

    Maybe you would like to explain why removing one of the three QMV criteria in the Lisbon treaty means the new QMV will be an efficient legal tool for the functioning of an EU in the future. If the Lisbon treaty is imposed then it will reduce the ability of member states to object, not in any way will their ability be enhanced, the primary beneficiaries of this could in theory be of course the largest states Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain. Sounds great doesn't it until you put into the equation the Franco-German alliance coupled with Italian, Benelux and/or Spanish support. Only four countries are needed to block any proposal. it's not exactly rocket science to foresee where the Lisbon treaty will lead us.

    As I've said before, maybe the French should leave and create their Mediterranean EU, and let the rest of the countries get on with creating an EU that has a level playing field.

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  • 71. At 00:27am on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #68 - Buzet23

    You are absolutely right, which is very interesting because she was on the electoral roll and she did vote.

    As she is also buried on Crown Land, perhaps I had better shut up before someone tells me to dig her up and pay her medical bills.

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  • 72. At 00:35am on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #70 - Buzet23

    In this respect, Lisbon would actually work out quite well for the UK. The country would have had considerable difficulty stopping anything that the Germans, French, Italians and Spanish favoured. It will actually be easier for the UK to resist since the Baltic States tend to stick together as do the Visegrad Group - Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland. In this sense, the accession countries have altered the balance away from the Paris/Berlin axis and it has been noticeable in recent years that the French and Germans have not always seen eye to eye.

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  • 73. At 07:35am on 25 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    PostClovis (69): The EU as it currently exists has only been agreed by states and not by citizens. All of the treaties on European Union since Maastricht would have failed had any been put to referendum in the UK. Government without the consent of the people is illegitimate and cannot long last.

    Like it or not the EU is becoming increasingly unpopular everywhere due to its lack of democratic legitimacy. This is a direct consequence of the application of the ‘community method’ with its combination of the supremacy of EU law and its imposition via QMV, into sensitive political matters for which it was never designed and is totally unsuitable. You say we have to put up with this or get out of the EU but that is a false choice which leads either to despotism or to the break-up of the EU. There is a third choice which is a massive injection of flexibility to make to make the EU democracy compatible. In a multi-national environment that means either getting rid of QMV or (better) making most EU law subordinate to national law. This would be 'EU a la carte'. If re-negotiation cannot achieve this and the choice is truly the one you offer between despotism and leaving the EU then I prefer the latter but that is a conclusion to be reached at the end of re-negotiation and not now.

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  • 74. At 08:40am on 25 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #72, threnodio,

    You're right that in theory it could also help the UK and/or Baltic states and/or Visegrad group to block something as only four are needed, but then you know how so called democracy works. The old alliance will simply do a tit for tat policy against the blockers until they get their way, I'm afraid it's a bit like a drug addict, once they've got hooked it's almost impossible to give it up, likewise the Franco-German alliance are hooked on their traditional power, and whilst they have the occasional disagreements these days the accord is still there in most things.

    Re #71, sorry to hear your partner died, whether under the current NHS rules she would have been treated I don't know. Prior to the EU rules coming in it was much more liberal I recall.

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  • 75. At 11:14am on 25 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 47: Freeborn "I would prefer 100% influence over changes to UK law"

    The only way you can achieve that is by becoming the dictator of the UK. Else you need to settle with the "democratic" consensus that you vote people who go to a place (called parliament or house), draft laws and approve them. Whether these people sit somewhere in London or in Brussels doesn't change much, what matters is the law itself. Eventually, any "law" that emanates from Brussels, as far as I know, can be applied differently as it suits by each member state.

    On a secondary note, but related to what you say, I am sure that in the UK many would prefer to "have more say locally", rather than abiding by the London-imposed rules... and currently, except for Scotland, NI and Wales this is not allowed. I fail to understand why the same criticism you apply to Brussels fades away when you refer to London. After all the UK is a very diverse place and insisting on its uniformity smacks more of stubborn patriotism than smart democracy, in the sense of power to the people. As an example of the rigidity of "London", many politicians in England would like not to swear allegiance to the Monarch, since this is not a democratically elected figure, and they would rather swear allegiance to their electors... but this is not possible presently (although a tiny group is trying to change it... ironically, appealing to EU laws).

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  • 76. At 11:20am on 25 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 49. lordBeddGelert.

    Ever heard of "EU elections". I'm sure you did. I don't understand why the EU-skeptics fail to acknowledge them... and depict EU as some kind of dictatorship of "unelected officials". Bear in mind that Barroso is as "unelected" by EU-eans as Brown is by UK-eans.

    PS: The "No taxation without representation" may have had some meaning 200 years ago in America. Currently the USA has over 5 million taxpayers (with or without greencard) that can't vote.

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  • 77. At 11:30am on 25 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 48 threnodio "It's damned silly, a waste of time and it would not happen in the UK."

    I agree with the first part: it is silly, but disagree with the second part. I have had to face my share of silliness from UK bureaucrats (yes, the *do* exist, no matter what the Daily Mail tells us :-) This ranges from 9 months wait to get a NINO (despite having an above average job in terms of stability and remuneration and being an EU national), to having to write to the TV license people that I have no TV set (they still send me "warnings" just in case I did buy one).

    I don't think there is a "perfect" place in the World, and the UK is no exception. As an outsider, one sees annoyances as failures of a system whereas the locals take them for granted and accept them as part of the "environment". We have to be careful also, not to make statistics out of our personal anecdotes.

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  • 78. At 11:37am on 25 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 61: Buzet23.

    Thanks for the info (actually, I did learn something from it: that EU outsiders can vote for Scottish parliament is very interesting ;-)

    In my post I am not criticising the UK law, I am criticising the EU laws. I fully support a closer integration whereby citizens of the EU can vote in any member state where they happen to live. In the name of human mobility.

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  • 79. At 12:05pm on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #77 - lacerniagigante

    Actually, if it's less than 100 GBP, the UK tax authorities will generally carry it forward to the next financial year. If on the other hand, they owe you money, they tend to carry it forward to the next millenium (or try to).

    TV Licensing is a complete nightmare. Because I had TV in previous years, they flatly refused to believe that I no longer had one and I was hounded relentlessly. Eventually I told them to prosecute or beggar off. They chose to do the latter.

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  • 80. At 12:05pm on 25 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 49 lordBeddGelert: "have to put up with people like you who parachute into our country but 'have no use for our national laws'."

    I'll take your comment as an example of the proverbial British sense of humour, rather than a personal insult. But since you seem to worked up about it, let me reply to it:

    (1) I did not parachute, I came by ferry (you know those boats that connects this land of wonders to the sad continent),

    (2) I am here, because this part of the EU lacks people with my skills, if they could find a Briton who did my job equally good, I guess they would have taken them instead of me... so you need to blame the UK educational/training system for this, not me, nor any other "parachuted" foreigner for that matter, nor the EU for easily allowing such people to come and work for you,

    (3) I respect the law where I live, unlike many drunk young--and not so young--Britons abroad and at home (so please hold your xenophobic prejudices if you're on this forum for a discussion). Note that respecting the law, does not mean I cannot criticise it. It's called democracy, dear lord.

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  • 81. At 12:37pm on 25 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #78, lacerniagigante,

    You're right that the inclusion of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments is curious as that would seem to be an addition to EU law, just as being a commonwealth citizen is. In EU law it is only Municipal and European elections if you are non-National, any regional/provincial elections are like the national elections, only nationals can participate.

    As for being able to vote where you live I quite agree, if you are accepted to live in a country, correctly registered, pay your dues etc then you should not be ostracised from voting at national level. I read some years back that it was considered an oversight that national elections have been omitted from EU law, but then when you consider the federalist direction of the EU I suspect it was intentional as the control freaks would like to marginalise national governments. I think they believe it is far easier to control (dictate to) small area(s) than a large country which is what their form of federalism seems to be about.

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  • 82. At 2:06pm on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #81 - Buzet23

    I think that the right to vote in parliamentary elections is, in a way, something you 'earn'. I am of the view that, in local elections, it is quite likely that overseas citizens may have to consider things which affect their daily lives - the level of council tax, the route of proposed highways, that sort of thing. Also, of course, they do either own or lease property so they should have a say in that which affects them.

    However, when it comes to central government elections, the element of commitment and patriotism comes into play. If you have 'retired to the sun', the chances are that you owe no particular allegiance to Spain or Portugal or wherever it may be. You simply like the prices and the weather. If you are committed in some deeper way to the community you have chosen to live in, you demonstrate this by taking citizenship. It is a bit like marriage. You may be perfectly happy as you are but the process is a symbolic statement of commitment. I think you make that statement when you assume nationality and that entitles you to a say in national policy and participation in the process.

    It is not particularly a choice thing either. There is no bar to dual nationality as far as Brits are concerned. Nobody can serve two masters but we can all have two servants which is, after all, what governments are supposed to be.

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  • 83. At 2:35pm on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    By the way, I have been misleading you and myself. Having checked the paperwork, my partner had acquired dual nationality by marriage many years earlier when that was still possible. So she was entitled on all counts after all.

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  • 84. At 2:37pm on 25 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #82, threnodio,

    I agree with all you've said about 'earning' citizenship by showing commitment, integrating etc as that is very necessary and often forgotten it seems.

    That apart the law does however leave the hole whereby a non national is excluded from a national vote anywhere. In the UK you can vote for your last constituency but it only applies for 15 years from when you left and last time I checked there were a couple of regulations that made it difficult to do. For instance you had to know a British citizen where you live who could verify who you were and you had to have someone where you formerly lived to act as proxy. After you have been away more than 15 years you are excluded from any national vote anywhere, which is I think anti democratic since the majority of your taxes are for central government. It was this factor that annoyed me most of all I'm afraid when I was unable to vote.

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  • 85. At 3:41pm on 25 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #84 - Buzet23

    Yes but there is a sizable overlap. I am not sure about elsewhere in Europe but here in Hungary, you are naturally allowed in for work purposes as an EU citizen but you are expected to register as resident after a year. Residency is for five years, renewable. After 8 years continuous residency, you can apply for citizenship (less in special circumstances), in other words roughly half way through your second period of residency. If you can vote in your old UK constituency for 15 years, that is a 7 year overlap which ought to be enough for anyone.

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  • 86. At 03:15am on 26 Oct 2008, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    On this website

    (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7691156.stm)

    I read:

    "Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the Basque region of Spain, demanding the right to a referendum on independence.

    The regional government had originally planned to hold a vote on Saturday, but the proposal was declared illegal by Spain's Supreme Court. "

    If we leave it too late before declaring our independence of the "EU" we will have some "EU" scrimshankers who think they are a "Supreme Court" telling us we may not leave and an "EU"-Army and "European Gendarmes" trying to stop us from leaving.

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  • 87. At 07:52am on 26 Oct 2008, Jan_Keeskop wrote:

    lacerniagigante: Regarding your point in comment 46 about nations like Switzerland having no say in the EU legislation which is applicable to them, kindly note my reply to SuffolkBoy2 here : the tradeoff is that Switzerland receives economic access to the EU at a tremendous discount from the net cost of being a fully fledged EU member state. My guess is that many people in the UK (outside of Parliament) would seriously consider such an arrangement if it were on offer.

    SuffolkBoy2: Please see my reply to eusupporter here. Since effective secession from the EU only requires a single act to be repealed by Parliament, your job is to figure out how to get a sufficient number of MPs elected with a mandate for repeal !

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  • 88. At 08:52am on 26 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 48: "You are confusing law with market forces."

    Thank you for enlightening me. So are you saying that the market forces are (or should be) independent of laws? Unfortunately, if you want to open a shop, in most countries (even the most unregulated Reagan-Thatcherite paradise), you need a license and, except particular cases the law obliges you to pay a tax on your sales. If you trade across national borders you have customs and tariffs and if you transfer money from one currency to another the laws allow banks to erode your money. So, in spite of your Economy 101 book with the invisible hand and all that, laws do influence the market. And given what's going around with the banking sector, there better be more laws than fewer... This is 2008, not 1984, and we've learned some things about "deregulation" since then ;-)

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  • 89. At 09:06am on 26 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jan_Keesop @ #87

    You are probably correct to presume that the British "People", if given the opportunity, would seek to change the nature of the United Kingdom's relationship with the EU.

    The British "People" may even see the Switzerland Solution could possibly be a good alternative solution for them instead of outright repudiation of the EU.

    The problem is that there is a more than subtle difference between Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

    History shows us the that the political raison d'etre for Great Britain has always been that of Power Balancing - through alliances with or against either France or Germany or Italy or Russia - within the European Continental Power Politics game.

    Currently, and fundamentally, the EU is the facade of an existing hegemony between France and Germany to dominate Europe. It is the reason why the United Kingdom, in particular, was so keen to support the increment of the EU to include the former Warsaw Pact countries and for the the EU to expand to 27 nations. The United Kingdom, more than any other internationally politically inspired country can see that Eastern Europe is a perfectly good counter-balance to the current French-German unity.

    The problem for the United Kingdom is that either (a) fully outside the EU or as in a (b) kind of Swiss "one-foot-in and one-foot-out" arrangement with the EU, would be entirely to the detriment of the United Kingdom's Power Politics personna.

    I am quite sure that if it was not for the United Kingdom, the Eastern European nations would not have been allowed to become fully admitted into the EU. The German-French Hegemony would continue unabated. Outside of the EU, the power fo the UK to participate in the Power Game would be seriously dominished.

    This is one reason why you will find that no UK Parliamentary Party with sufficient mandate to form a UK Government will ever invite the British "people" to vote on membership of the EU (n.b. the "People" may get a vote on Lisbon but defintely not get to vote on EU membership!) - the real Politicians know that the UK can only participate in the European Power Game from within the EU and not as a bit-part player.

    Thus, as I have suggested may times before, people who rant and rave against the EU and all it stands for are simply banging their heads against a brick wall. They may as well stop giving themselves a sore head and realise that the only way forward is to accept that the UK is IN the EU and seek to change the EU to suit the British rather than suit the French and Germans.

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  • 90. At 09:23am on 26 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 79: "TV Licensing is a complete nightmare. Because I had TV in previous years, they flatly refused to believe that I no longer had one and I was hounded relentlessly. Eventually I told them to prosecute or beggar off. They chose to do the latter."

    But they do have a sense of humour. I sent them a letter asking for my postage fees back because they were the ones that solicited a response (confirming/denying the use of a TV). They sent me the stamp back (with a warning that if I lied I would be prosecuted ;-)

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  • 91. At 09:44am on 26 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 82: threnodio said "However, when it comes to central government elections, the element of commitment and patriotism comes into play."

    and then 10 lines below

    "Nobody can serve two masters but we can all have two servants which is, after all, what governments are supposed to be."

    So you're basically saying that one has to show commitment and allegiance to ones servant?

    I have a slightly different vision (and IMO a bit more consistent than yours) of a state: for me a state is a community, with its rules and laws of interaction. If someone chooses to live in Spain, by the fact that they contribute to the economy and follow the rules, they are part of that community. Since Spain is a democracy they are entitled to name someone to represent them. It happens that national laws and decisions will affect their lives, so they need to say something about it. How do you create that mechanism: (a) you give them Spanish citizenship, or (b) you submit Spanish laws to the EU laws where such citizens have a say.

    The way I see it, all that talk about allegiance, patriotism, etc. is late second millennium gloss invented to keep national states together. The problem (now that we've leaped into the third millennium) is: "how do you measure patriotism, and what does the word mean, today"? And why should you show patriotism to an arbitrarily defined piece of authority (the Spanish government, for example) and not another one (the Andalucia regional government, or the EU).

    After all the meaning of "community" has changed a lot since the idea of "national state" has been pushed around. The "national state" was born when the fastest means of communication were railways going 25 miles an hour, but nowadays we communicate at (almost) the speed of light.

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  • 92. At 09:57am on 26 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #85, threnodio,

    I'm surprised Hungary only demands registration after a year as it's normally three months. Most EU law e.g. unemployment rules etc, tends to follow this as do the tax authorities although six months is also significant in residency for tax legislation.

    You're right about being able to ask for citizenship after seven or eight years (unless you're refugee or asylum seeker) but that is only a good solution if it is the applicants intent to remain in the country. It is regrettable that in order to be able to manage your affairs and vote within the EU brokered legislation you need to be a national since residency alone is often insufficient these days e.g. renewing an UK driving licence is only for UK residents. In my case I'm more than happy to have Belgian nationality as I don't intend leaving the country, but for others who move around it could end up with people having five or six nationalities which is not ideal.

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  • 93. At 10:05am on 26 Oct 2008, betuli wrote:

    86. At 04:15am on 26 Oct 2008, SuffolkBoy2 wrote:
    On this website

    (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7691156.stm)

    I read:

    "Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the Basque region of Spain, demanding the right to a referendum on independence.

    This is a biased and bad intentioned news. Let's see the facts and figures:

    The Basque Country has 2 million people, 3 million if you count Navarra and the French Basque country.

    As anyone can see on the BBC website you indicate, only 20.000 people in total were demonstrating in SIX different cities of the Basque Country. This makes 1 per cent of the Basques demonstrating. That's big enough news to be in the Europe BBC news portal, it's amazing, isn't it?

    Moreover, the comparison you make with this case and UK independence from the EU is just laughable.

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  • 94. At 10:07am on 26 Oct 2008, Manofiona wrote:

    Freeborn John (67): Qualified majority voting (QMV) does not apply to major decisions on matters such as taxation or extending the fields of activity of the EU. It applies essentially to the decisions which concern the practical application of the principles of the single market - principles which have been unanimously agreed by the member states.

    When Britain joined the EEC in 1973 there were 9 member staes (newcomers included). There are now 27 and in the future there will be as many as 40. If absolutely every decision, however technical, required unanimity, EU decision making would grind to a halt. The member states have accepted QMV as a means of getting decisions applying the rules of the single market adopted while obliging even the biggest states to negotiate with their smaller colleagues in order to achieve the necessary majority. The Lisbon Treaty extends the list of items which can be decided by QMV, in response to the enlargement of the Union, but does not extend it to politically sensitive areas.

    This is not direct democracy but in a union of states, which is what Europeans want the EU to be, QMV among states plus approval by a directly elected European parliament is both practical and about as close to democratic as you can get. To obtain the real thing ie, laws made exclusively by a directly elected parliament voting by simple majority, you have to make the EU a union of people and not a union of states.

    In a union of states, it is necessary to ensure that states abide by the decisions they have agreed, including decisions made in accordance with the rules they have agreed for making such decisions. If, as you wish, individual states could set aside such decisions at will, you would not have Europe à la carte: you would not have any Europe at all.

    PS1: if Spain were to decide not to apply the directive on time share rights so that people could not obtain any rights before a Spanish court in respect of a rip-off in Marbella, it would make the directive useless and deprive not just Spaniards but also Britons of legal protection.

    PS2: the working time directive was not opposed by the British government in 1993. Britain abstained on the vote It obtained a form of opt-out which employers and employees could exercise individually. That opt-out has been criticised both in other countries and in Britain itself but, thanks to QMV and Britain's lobbying ability, it remains in place.

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  • 95. At 10:59am on 26 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #91, lacerniagigante,

    You said "It happens that national laws and decisions will affect their lives, so they need to say something about it. How do you create that mechanism: (a) you give them Spanish citizenship, or (b) you submit Spanish laws to the EU laws where such citizens have a say."

    Your point (b) is only partially correct as I've mentioned in previous posts on this thread, all EU law gives you is the right to vote in Municipal and European elections, all provincial/regional/national elections are not covered by the EU laws. They remain the precept of the national government concerned so point (a) is the only solution available unless a government voluntarily increases the voting rights of the EU law.

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  • 96. At 11:41am on 26 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #88 - lacerniagigante

    You are taking me too literally, but I think you already know that. The distinction I am making is between the strict letter of the law and which affects the way all citizens and corporate entities conduct themselves as opposed to what I described as 'market forces' but might be better described as 'market conditions' - for example excise duty which makes tobacco and other items punitively expensive in the UK, different rates of VAT, Mwst, TVA, Afa, call it what you will influence price differentials around the Union. Harmonisation, when and if it comes, will go some way towards leveling this out but there is always going to be a discrepancy in, for example, real estate based on supply and demand.

    #91 - lacerniagigante

    'So you're basically saying that one has to show commitment and allegiance to ones servant? '

    Goodness, you are picking on me today. Yes, I mean precisely that. The master/servant relationship is a complex one but, at the simplest level, it relies on mutual respect. The nation state expects that I will pay my taxes, respect the laws and traditions of my community, leave peaceably and, in the event of a crisis, make myself available (I am far to old for military service). On the other hand, I require that they spend my tax wisely, respect my freedom and democratic rights and protect me if my person, my property or liberty is threatened. There is no inconsistency in what you clearly think is a contradiction.

    As to the latter part of your post, I am inclined to agree that the nation state is declining in importance but that does not decrease the affection you might feel at a sentimental level for local of national tradition. For all my love of Provencale cooking, Hungarian wine, Italian opera, German literature, there is still nothing quite like watching cricket on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of warm beer in your hand. Curiously, however - and Menedumus has posted about this - I find myself feeling less and less British and more and more English, an indication perhaps that what I am talking about is cultural rather that institutional.

    #92 - Buzet23

    The strict rules may be less than a year but I encounter many people who do not register and are not hassled. I chose to register within a couple of months so that I could opt into the contribution based health care system.

    #93 - betuli

    Not as ludicrous as you might think. Watch out for hugely increased property prices in Luton as the lunatic fringe flock to the newly independent enclave in search of freedom.

    #94 - Manofiona

    Curious isn't it how vociferous opponents of QMV are when something they disagree with gets through but how quiet they become when it does not? Of course, everyone gets what they want in a parliamentary system - don't they?

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  • 97. At 12:01pm on 26 Oct 2008, mcdv-1975 wrote:

    @maxsceptic (13)
    Haven't you heard of the EU arrest warrant? You already can get arrested here for something that isn't a crime here but is in, say, corrupt Greece or Italy.

    In a few years time, when the anti-democratic tyrants will try to squeeze Turkey in the EU against the will of the overwhelming majority, you will be prosecuted for saying that warmonger Muhammad was a warmonger. You won't be able to say that mass murderer Muhammad was a mass murderer because some Turkish prosecutor won't like it.

    QMV should be completely abolished because it is so undemocratic. Democracy means that peoples decide. Ie peoples vote for their national representatives and those make the laws. And not some corrupt politician from Italy, Spain or Greece making them for us when all they want is to get more money from Britain and Germany.

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  • 98. At 12:09pm on 26 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #95 - Buzet23

    There is growing consensus regarding economic and social policy. You will not achieve consensus in fiscal policy until all EU members sign up to the single currency.

    But the really big issues are defence and foreign policy. France and the UK are more likely to cede command and control of their nuclear capabilities to NATO than they are to the EU. Indeed several EU nations are disbarred by their constitutions from having anything to do with nuclear weaponry. You then have the issue that Ireland, Finland and Austria are not NATO members. You have the question of the permanent seats at the UN - quite useful if France or the UK happen to hold the presidency but quite pointless otherwise. Throw in Britain's arrangements with the Commonwealth, the status of the old French colonial empire and the special arrangements affecting British and Spanish offshore territories and you have a complete dog's breakfast.

    Unless and until all nations sign up to NAT, agree a pooled Security Council arrangement and sort out some kind of mechanism for control of the nuclear deterrent, the best you can hope for is fudge.

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  • 99. At 1:20pm on 26 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manofiona (94): You are saying that none of the treaty changes since 1992 to extend the use of QMV into politically sensitive areas have been used or ever will be used. I do not believe you and I doubt very much that you believe it either. The 1987 Single European Act introduced QMV for single market measures (which are not politically sensitive in general). The use of QMV has been extended since then into almost all political areas. The Maastricht treaty extended QMV into 30 new political areas, the Treaty of Amsterdam into another 24 and the Treaty of Nice into 46 more. Only around 65 areas currently still use unanimity and the Lisbon treaty would get ride of most of these. You seem to think that only taxation and defence are politically sensitive, but general elections are decided on a much wider range of issues than those.

    You say that the supremacy of EU law must remain to ensure that STATES abide by previous decisions they have made, but that is to confuse STATES and GOVERNMENTS. You allow no room for voters to be able to elect new government able to undo what their previous government agreed to at EU level (or even what they disagreed to but were forced to accept under QMV). EU law (in political areas beyond the common market) should only be binding on the government (and not state) that agreed to it for the lifetime that of that government. This can best be achieved by making most EU law subordinate to national law but requiring that governments that voted to approve measures at EU level introduce them for the lifetime on their administration. Beyond that the voters must be able to elect new government able to throw out what the previous government agreed to in the EU if democracy is to survive long-term.

    If real reform is not made to recognise this distinction then we will continue to see the gradual, but never the less automatic and inevitable overthrow of democracy. As the body of superior EU law builds up in all the politically sensitive areas where the EU is now assuming power it pre-empts not just national law but also the very ability of the national legislature to act in any area where EU law exists. The inevitable long-term consequence of this will be that a time when be reached when our national parliaments can make no legislative changes of significance (including in areas such as taxation where QMV is not used, but where EU rules already exists, e.g. on the minimum rate of VAT) and our votes will then have been reduced to merely deciding which party sends representatives to Brussels to be outvoted and explain to us why we must live under EU law that we never wanted but cannot change.

    ------------------
    P.S1: Even when a decision in accepted unanimously in an areas where QMV is used, it does not mean that all states really agree with it. It is more often the case that the state recognises that defeat is likely and begins to horse-trade when it would have preferred to block. Therefore any EU law agreed unanimously under QMV has dubious democratic legitimacy to begin with.

    PS2: The WTO does not use QMV even with 153 members. Therefore your contention that QMV is necessary in an EU with even 40 members is dubious.

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  • 100. At 1:34pm on 26 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #98 threnodio,

    Are you talking about the European Economic and Social Committee's NAT section or did the O get dropped and it should have been NATO?

    I suspect you meant NATO so yes it would be better if all member states signed up, but given the pacifist constitution of certain states I can't see that really happening as NATO would just become impotent and therefore virtually toothless. It's also only recently that the current French President Nicolas Sarkozy has given in a pledge in June 2008 to rejoin the military command of NATO while maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent, so even the French are not yet fully committed.

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  • 101. At 2:55pm on 26 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #100 - Buzet23

    The what?. God help us - another committee?

    No, no - simple typo - NATO. (Now that's on big committee).

    As for the French not being committed yet, I am a little. I thought that was the Mental Health Act was for.

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  • 102. At 3:11pm on 26 Oct 2008, Ticape wrote:

    99. "PS2: The WTO does not use QMV even with 153 members. Therefore your contention that QMV is necessary in an EU with even 40 members is dubious."

    WTO has never voted on a decision nor will they ever do that. :)

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  • 103. At 4:10pm on 26 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #101, threnodio,

    Afraid so, and guess what, like all committees it's spent it's time spawning sub committees and so on. This NAT one is just one of many, have a look on Google under the name I mentioned and you'll see what I mean. I only found it because I searched on European and NAT. I just wonder how many are employed in this particular talking shop.

    PS. As for committing the French, nice idea.

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  • 104. At 6:48pm on 26 Oct 2008, politejomsviking wrote:

    You could just buy a house anywhere in the former British West Florida. 1. Land is incredibly cheap, 2. Your still in the US, so the laws are essentually old Briish ones, 3. The Americans will insist you speak a strange language called English (still found in small pockets of Great Britain), 4. Alcohol is cheaper than land, 5. You can remain English, Scottish, Irish, because your neighbors were and will understand, 6. The locals sided with Great Britain during the Revolution, so your Mini-Cooper will not be considered a road hazard to be run over by the first truck that comes along, 7. Pensacola has the most beautiful beaches in the world.

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  • 105. At 10:27pm on 26 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 95: Buzet

    I was talking hypothetically about what I consider to be right. Currently neither (a) nor (b) are applied, and the result is discrimination favouring nationals against non-national EU citizens. Of course, many think that this is fair, but if you want to encourage human mobility, which results in higher economic efficiency, you need to tackle these issues. Of course, (a) (giving citizenship) would be prohibitive, so the only alternative is (b). I'm not quite sure about the reason why there is no voting rights at legislative/executive level for Union residents outside their state, but I seem to recall that local/EU vote was granted and everything else retained to appease the "nationalists". I expect this restriction to be removed as the movement of people across former boundaries increases.

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  • 106. At 10:49pm on 26 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 97: "And not some corrupt politician from Italy, Spain or Greece making them for us when all they want is to get more money from Britain and Germany."

    I don't want to defend the political class of Italy (and the others you cite), but is Britain such a generous country of saintly politicians. Let see: Peter Mandelson would be the example the UK set for those "corrupt" regimes ;-) Or is Britain's generosity translated in the pathetic rebate which Maggy Thatcher went begging for on the continent 20 years ago and the EU still charitably agrees to. Or should we talk Tessa Jowell (ex-wife of one of Berlusconi's British friends) who has bribed some African members of the 2012 Olympics to London. Mr Osborne shows also that the tories are no exception to such clean political practices... I'll let you go on with the list, but it's better not to throw stones in a glass house.
    Some argumentation in what you write would help much more than the tired clichés about southern Europe to get your points across.

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  • 107. At 11:23pm on 26 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #105 - lacerniagigante

    There is to me a clear distinction between national/executive level and local/regional level. Labour mobility is precisely that - movement for the purpose of work. The fact that I am currently living in Hungary, Buzet in Belgium and so on does not mean that we intend to stay forever (although I probably will).

    Being located in Budapest, I expect to be allowed a say in matters which affect my day to day life - planning issues, transport matters and the like. Living in a particular district, I expect a say in matters relating to council tax, litter and rubbish collection and so on. I would certainly be in favour of being allowed to vote in the European parliamentary election as well because the outcome effects my day to day life.

    Equally, as a UK citizen, I believe that I have a continued interest in British foreign, economic and defence policy which is the province of Parliament whereas the level of council tax or if they are going to shove a motorway through what used to be my back garden is no longer important to me.

    This is what I meant earlier about commitment. When and if I am qualified to do so, I will make a judgment as to whether I regard Hungary or the UK as 'home'. At that point, I may well apply for citizenship and will expect to be allowed full engagement in the democratic process. Until then, may passport says that I am British and that is that government I am allowed to vote for.

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  • 108. At 11:38pm on 26 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #106 - lacerniagigante

    I entirely agree with the point you are making but you go too far on Maggie Thatcher "begging" for the rebate. She demanded it on the very good grounds that the CAP manifestly punished efficient, productive and profitable farming. If the rebate is a running sore, it because, when push comes to shove, a handful of subsistence farmers clinging to the side of some foothill or Alp happen to be powerful enough to swing parliamentary elections. When other EU leaders finally acknowledge that the CAP is an atrocious and wasteful squandering of taxpayers money, the rebate will become a distant memory.

    As to the wider issue, I learned from an early age that if you did not want to work for a living, you basically had the choice between the dole queue, the priesthood or politics. Judging from the number of politicians around, there cannot too many people who take kindly to poverty or celibacy

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  • 109. At 08:13am on 27 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

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

  • 110. At 08:24am on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #105, lacerniagigante,

    You mentioned "discrimination favouring nationals against non-national EU citizens" and it's relationship with human mobility. The hole in the voting laws is just the tip of the iceberg in this as I've said here many times. The Social laws are not harmonised across the EU even though in theory they are, if you want to see why look at what happens to your benefit and pension rights when you've worked in multiple countries. In terms of benefits it is a real nightmare if you are made unemployed in another country as you may not be able to return to your own country as has happened to a friend of mine.

    PS in #106 you lambasted Margaret Thatcher as having begged for the rebate, please don't follow the left wing trap of thinking everything she did was evil and she was also evil, she did a lot of good as well. The rebate was one of the good things as she was fed up with supporting the CAP and therefore inefficient French farmers (at the time), not a bad thing that at all and she certainly did not beg. To get the CAP the others had to concede the rebate which has caused their ever lasting hatred for her since she stood up to their great plan. If you look at the reaction to the Irish no vote for Lisbon you can see that anyone who stands up to their plan gets lambasted like Maggie did and the Irish have been.

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  • 111. At 09:11am on 27 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

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

  • 112. At 09:15am on 27 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    NEWS!

    Mandelson should release diary, says EU.

    Now even the EU is after Mandy.

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  • 113. At 09:33am on 27 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Please explain what was 'offensive' in my posts 109 and 111 that required 'moderation'.

    The only possibly 'contentious' part was a quote from a comment already posted here.

    Surely saying that we should give the 2012 Olympic Games "to Paris, or any country foolish enough to accept them" is not 'offensive or (yet) treasonous.

    This is ridiculous.


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  • 114. At 10:11am on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #112, MaxSceptic,

    It's nice to see that finally Mandy's revenge against Osbourne is beginning to rebound, I was beginning to think the media was 100% biased as it seemed to be ignoring the obvious conclusion that Mandy was also involved with this Russian in a dubious manner. Osbourne was blatantly a fool and I hope he is sufficiently bright to ensure he's learnt his lesson, especially since he is shadow chancellor, but Mandy does not seem to enjoy that wisdom from his track record.

    As for giving the 2012 games away, yes please, and I say that as a former Londoner from Ken's South London area whose family have to help pay for Ken's last and greatest farce.

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  • 115. At 10:24am on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #114 - Buzet23

    What about Londoners from Ken's East London currently living in a building site?

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  • 116. At 10:31am on 27 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Those that argue against cancelling the 2012 games say that we'd be sued, etc.

    Even paying £500 million in cancellation cost and ensuing law suits, would mean significant savings.

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  • 117. At 11:16am on 27 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Re 112, 114 and 115

    The best quote I heard all week and definitely a keeper . . . .

    Norman Tebbit, "If you lay down with dogs you are bound to pick up fleas".

    He was referring to Osbourne but I wonder if Tebbit knew that Mandelson was also at the same yacht party and meant Peter M (and not Oleg D) was THE dog? ;o)

    Re 116

    I have alway though the concept of there being a third London Olympics yet again was a farce - How many times does London need to host the Olympiad Summer Games - even the Great USA Cities have only ever had one bite of the cherry, Moscow once, and even Paris has only hosted the Olympiad twice . . . and the UK wants to pay for and host a third Olympiad.

    Perhaps they could do the same as the 1944 London Olympiad and cancel the 2012 Games due to prevailing worldwide financial conditions?

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  • 118. At 11:31am on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #115, threnodio,

    You have to look at Ken's history of leaving disasters wherever he lands, and ask why he stuffed the rest of London to benefit a small area of London only. The depressed area politics are the usual spin but the reason has more to do with it being his current power base than anything else. It is clear that he expected to be re-elected and has lost out on the chance to milk this as he was intending, but lets be clear he never gives a hoot about the people that elect him, they are simply canon fodder. So for the people living in a building site, it's unfortunate for sure, but they were party to him being mayor for two terms so they got what they voted for. Many where I come from still remember him from his terms as a Lambeth councillor and then GLC member for Norwood, that leopard does not change his spots.

    Ps. MaxSceptic, I'm wondering how in this recession and economic collapse how this extravagance of 2012 can be justified. I just hope for Londoners that Brown pulls the plug and Boris can use the site and money for something more worthwhile like housing. Assuming of course the detoxification has worked, um er.

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  • 119. At 11:37am on 27 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Cheer up.
    "Int'l Olympic Committee took the dicision that the Olympics-2016 will be hosted by Luxembourg.
    Now the Government of Luxembourg not only has to build the sport facilities, but to conquer new territories as well."

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  • 120. At 12:39pm on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    Just another thought on the funding problem of the Olympics, the water sports side of that will be in Weymouth and due to it's poor quality access roads a new road has to be built and a new station at the edge of the town near Dorchester. So far I have not heard that they've even been given approval let alone the work started. Certainly that was the case recently when I last visited there as I have a daughter who lives there.

    Maybe the cancellation of 2012 would be as welcomed there as it would in London as it would save Dorset council a lot of money since central government funding is very lacking it seems. All Brown wants is the publicity, as long as someone else foots the bill.

    PS, #119 Alice, now you've got me worried, one suggestion as to what could happen if Belgium splits up is that Wallonia could join with Luxembourg as it historically was in certain provinces. Maybe your joke about conquering new territories could come true albeit peacefully.

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  • 121. At 1:17pm on 27 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    I receive loads of junk email every day but Vista does have Junk Mail Protection and it is remarkably effective.

    However, today I received a Credit Card invitation from Denver, Colorado.

    It was not SPAM so I decided that I had a choice put it in my "You have got to be joking!" Folder or mark it as SPAM.

    I cannot make my mind up!

    On a more serious note, and something the EU could do something about . . . .

    Out of all the SPAM I do receive (thankfully most of it captured and binned without wasting my time!) about 75% is generated in France and most of the rest generated in the USA.

    Perhaps the EU could do something about these 'orrible French SPAMMERS.

    It's not my fault I can read and write in French and so have occasion to visit French websites for this that and the other . . . . I just don't deserve to have the French SPAM me!

    Unless, it is for past misdemeanours when I might have intimated on this Blog that my opinion of the French was not that high. ;o)

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  • 122. At 1:24pm on 27 Oct 2008, Manofiona wrote:

    Freeborn John (99): at the beginning of our exchanges, I said that you had raised a profound question and I also accept that because it is a union of states and not a union of people, the EU does not, and cannot, work according to the democratic standards that apply within individual states.

    The fundamental question is whether the imperfect governance of the EU justifies abandoning the European project (which is what would happen if, as you propose, governments could renege more or less at will on commitments made to the other member states) or whether it is better to progress, incrementally, with the project in the hope that one day a political community will exist among all Europeans which can be governed by fully democratic standards.

    On that fundamental issue our views obviously differ. I think it very unlikely that EU governments would ever accept the solution you propose: they are not very imaginative but they are not stupid. However, I think that progress towards a European political community will be very slow - in part because of the lack of imagination of EU member states.

    In any case, the imperfect governance of the EU will continue to frustrate us both, even if for different reasons.

    That seems a good point on which to end this exchange, at least for me.

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  • 123. At 2:04pm on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #120 - Buzet23

    I am afraid that is pure politics. West Dorset has higher unemployment rates than East Dorset. Dorchester could do with a new bypass as it happens and a new station is not a bad idea but basically Poole would have been just as good, easier for London and the only infrastructure change that would have been needed would be Poole Bridge, which is due to be rebuilt anyway.

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  • 124. At 2:56pm on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #123 threnodio,

    I think you're certainly right as we mustn't forget that Weymouth has one of the few Labour MP's in the deep south whereas Poole is Tory I think. I guess it was seen by him as a way of getting a new road into Weymouth and forcing Tory Dorset to fund it. As for the station it will be a waste of time after the Olympics as it's simply a park and ride scheme for the games. The new road is badly needed anyway but it needs a large tunnel which will be pricey and only goes as far as the roundabout in Dorchester road which is about 2 miles from the town centre.

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  • 125. At 2:58pm on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    PS. threnodio,

    How are the just announced financial problems in Hungary going to affect you and the people you know as it seems the IMF are being asked to help out as the currency is dipping badly.

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  • 126. At 3:05pm on 27 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manofiona (122):I did not say that governments should be able to renege on THEIR commitments. I said the opposite (see post 99), i.e. that governments making commitments at EU level should abide by those commitments for the lifetime of their administration. What I did say was that government and state are two different things with the state being permanent and the government only wielding the power of the state temporally. If governments are able (as at present) to permanently bind their state to the commitments they enter into at EU level then the inevitable long-term result will be that the body of commitments entered into by earlier governments will grow without end leaving ever smaller room for action by future governments and the power of our votes to shape our lives.

    EU integration as currently conceived is a slow coup against democracy itself. Even if you wish to end this exchange, this is not an issue that is going to go away. On the contrary it will inevitably rise in importance as voters realise that elections decide less and less over time. There are only three ways the topic of this exchange can be ended. Either (i) a European people emerges to legitimate EU governance along classic democratic lines, (b) there is true reform to make EU law subordinate to national law such that the national 'demos' can override previous commitments made at EU level by electing new government, (c) the EU continues in its current direction which will lead either to despotism or break-up. Option (a) is a social engineering project that even Stalin failed to pull off in the USSR. Therefore options (b) and (c) are the only realistic ones.

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  • 127. At 3:15pm on 27 Oct 2008, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    #119 and #120

    That'd be hilarious I can Just see the Stade Josy Barthel being demolished and expanded 100 fold :D

    On the other hand, I wouldn't mind my house suddenly becoming part of the Grand Duchy; it'd double in value overnight :)

    Oh and thanks for the tip earlier on threnodio

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  • 128. At 3:45pm on 27 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Threnodio (96): In your reply to Manofiona you suggest that I support QMV when it forces other countries to accept things they do not want but of which I am in favour. That is the position of an international authoritarian such as Jukka Rohilla, but it is not my position at all. The law of other nations is no business of anyone but the people who live there, EXCEPT when their laws adversely affect people outside their country. Therefore the only condition under which it is legitimate to impose binding international law on a country against the majority opinion of its electorate is to prevent cross-border harm. In all other cases the national electorate should able to elect a government with the power* to decide the laws they live under.

    ------------
    * Subject to Constitutional limits, such as a Bill of Rights, etc. agreed by same people.

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  • 129. At 5:05pm on 27 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Manofiona (122): It strikes me that someone who claims that all national governments lack imagination, yet imagines that EU reform that does not lead automatically to a federal destination means "abandoning" the EU project, is someone very likely to have been on the EU payroll for too long.

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  • 130. At 6:10pm on 27 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (128):

    I think you just opened a very interesting line of discussion..

    "The law of other nations is no business of anyone but the people who live there, EXCEPT when their laws adversely affect people outside their country."

    This is a nice piece of thinking, the problem is where do you draw the line on what effects adversely and what doesn't?

    In example...

    Does the privacy and banking laws of Liechtenstein affect adversely other countries? What about Andorra, Switzerland, Isle of Man, Bahama, etc.. Do they affect adversely other countries? What about Ireland with its zero corporate tax? Because Ireland US companies are able to thwart IRS and thus the US Federal government looses from billions to tens of billions of tax revenues.

    I would say definitely yes to many of these. Now what do with these cases? Discuss with them or should we just liberate them? You know its some time since US and European countries won a war... Andorra and Lichtenstein would fall quickly. Switzerland could need some blockade. Isle of Man could be a training exercises for the British navy and Bahama... well... France hasn't had a change in a long time to test its nuclear arsenal...

    Anyway where we draw the line and what do we do when the line is crossed? What about CAP? What about industrial and infrastructure and technology funds? And of course who says when the line is crossed and who decides what to do?

    The problem is that we are living in highly integrated and networked world. In this network Europe comprises a sub network that is more interlinked and more interwoven with itself. The thing is, first we have to have unified rules in our part of sub-net and in the long term we have to unify rule sets of whole global network.

    I would also add to this whole discussion on what is the mission of a nation state in this networked world? To me the primary missions of nation states should be support of national language, culture and social functions, everything else can be and should be handled in supranational level.

    PS. International authoritarian? Me? But, but... One nation, one empire, one leader? No? ...gosh darn... so I can't count on your vote in 2033 EU Presidential elections? Even with a tag line of 'Gulags for other, miniature EU flags for others'? No?

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  • 131. At 6:18pm on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #128 - Freeborn-John

    You are mistaken.

    I may not agree with you but your arguments are well made and worthy of respect. I was having a go at those who rave at a much lower level of argument, certainly not you.

    #125 - Buzet23

    It's a bit early to tell. While the financial sector is taking a pounding (who isn't?), the manufacturing sector is still functioning quite well. In fact there is still a touch of growth in the wider economy. The problem is the evacuation of vast amounts of capital to banks in the west where deposits were guaranteed. It is ironic, as I have posted elsewhere, that those guarantees were not initially offered because there was not the exposure to the sub prime melt down and they were not needed. It is as if Hungary is being punished for doing the right things.

    Business will take a hit for sure a 3% rise in interest rates overnight has taken everyone by surprise (pre-condition of IMF co-operation perhaps?). My hunch is that the real pain will come at payback time. At a personal level, my paltry pounds are suddenly buying me a lot of forints so it's an ill wind and so on - but it can't last because nobody fancies the pound much either.

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  • 132. At 8:52pm on 27 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (130): I was careful to say national electorates should be free to decide their own laws 'except when their laws adversely affect people outside their country'. In particular I did not say 'adversely affect other states'. The examples you provide are of so-called harmful tax competition, but low taxes in one country cannot harm people in another country. They may harm the interest of inefficient state bureaucracies fearful of having to raise their game or risk losing their tax base but that is no bad thing. To argue that low-taxes are harmful to people (as opposed to states) you have to believe that low prices or high productivity is a bad thing. Once you start to put the interest of a monopoly state producer ahead of consumers you will end up building the equivalent of the Berlin Wall to lock your tax-payers in.

    I accept that 'cross-border harm' (to citizens) is somewhat ambiguous concept but it is useful in identifying win-win situations where binding international law imposed by QMV might not be utterly objectionable. i.e. pinpointing those cases where each state should rationally agree to international law in exchange for same the agreement from all other nation-states to avoid an activity harmful to the interest of its own citizens. International agreements against the erection of trade barriers, restrictions to the movement of citizens, or pollution thatcan be carried across borders meet this criterion. But when there is no issue of cross-border harm at stake, then there is no longer a win-win situation and QMV then becomes a means of forcing nations to do what is not in their interest.

    The other policies you mention, e.g. the CAP etc. are definitely not about preventing cross-border harm. They are redistributive spending programs which are inherently a zero-sum game of winners and losers. The solidarities required to legitimate redistributive programs exist within nations but not between nations. Every country judges the merits of international spending programs purely in terms of its own financial advantage or loss. That is why for example we see a permanent 26-1 majority in favour of abolishing the 'British rebate'. Such spending programs should never be mandated by a qualified majority vote because that means forcing a state's taxpayers to spend money on things they do not want to spend it on. If each country were free to opt-out of EU spending programs that its government saw no advantage to, then we would immediately see the EU forced to concentrate only on projects that really added value to participating states. The CAP, British rebate, etc. would die instantly and with them much EU unpopularity.

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  • 133. At 9:26pm on 27 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Freeborn-John @ #132

    I herby certify that I, as an UK Citizen, am willing for the UK to sacrifice its 3 billion (GBP) EU Funding Rebate if the EU is willing to give up its 49.8 billion Euro (as of 2006)CAP Funding . . . . all in the spirit of bonhomie and goodwill.

    The UK Rebate may be seriously in disfavour of the of the other 26 EU Member States but it is the UK's only bargaining chip to diminish the CAP to a negligible yet realistic level.

    The question, as ever remains, are the other EU States that benefit the most from the EU subsidising inefficient farming practices willing to abandon the CAP? Probably not!

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  • 134. At 10:28pm on 27 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #131, threnodio,

    I thought as much from the reports, but why they've increased the interest rates beggars belief as it strangles business that is needed to redress the economy. The exodus of the foreign banks capital is typical of the current collapse, they created the s**t elsewhere and now they will destroy parts of their banks that acted sensibly in order to save their skins.

    Maybe some advanced academic economic mathematician can explain to me why the various bourses have not been closed down until the situation stabilises once the traders have been taught to be responsible or otherwise fired. Methinks this is also political and due to most politicians being in the pockets of the very same *** that have caused this collapse. PS. expletive deleted as I'm sure the moderators would be shocked.

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  • 135. At 10:28pm on 27 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (133):

    I have to confess, I just can't understand British thinking and valuations regarding CAP.

    CAP is needed to ensure food security. If European countries would import most or even 10 - 20% of its food outside, any disruption to world trade or crop failure would have major effects in Europe. Couple this with the fact that most European states only have food supplies for few months. In a case major disruption, there would not be enough time nor preparation to restart and replace food supply.

    Just in example, we in Finland have food supplies for the whole nation for almost an year and needed seeds and other resources to replace any imported food. The thing is that the most valuable resource that any state has it's people and the first thing the state must do is to protect its people. Preparing for famine and preparing for worst case scenario are not waste of money, they are money well spend on avoiding the risk of large scale famine. CAP is one part of this cost.

    I think the British problem with the CAP is philosophical. You as an island and trading nation have always counted on trading with the world to fulfill your needs, it has worked in the past when you were a world power, do you really think that in worst case scenario you can trade your way out of the trouble? I think not.

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  • 136. At 10:54pm on 27 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (132):

    I disagree with your view that low taxes don't do harm.

    What having places with low or zero taxes do is create a disruption on markets. In example Ireland has gotten many headquarters of many non-European companies situated to it because its tax benefits. That is a disruption. Those European headquarters are situated in Ireland, not because natural causes, but because of non-natural causes. There are also other places where the economies of places, regions and even countries have been twisted by government subsidies, in this case lower taxes.

    This has nothing to do with lower prices or higher productivity, it has all to do with leaching the fruits of labor that were produced elsewhere. In example Ireland has leached not only EU money, but it has leached on American tax payers by providing an safe haven for American companies to route their moneys, but they also have leached on importing people from other countries. The economic miracle of Ireland doesn't rely on producing more or producing more value, it relies heavily on relocation of activities by state given subsidies, low taxes are subsidies in the same way as money is.

    I also think that defining cross border harm is subjective and can't be done reliably, the only way to remove cross border harm is to remove borders. I would also add that when talking about cross border programs we should take a systematic look on how the system works. I already mentioned in my message (135) the philosophical difference regarding CAP, but in case of many EU programs, I would say that many British, especially anti-Europeans, are not looking on systematic effects, i.e. if Britain had joined Euro, Euro would be now replacing US dollar with more speed, or if Britain had not joined US attack on Iraq, Euro could have achieved parity with the US dollar as an reserve currency. That is a major failure on thinking on a system level and that is distancing Britain from the 26 other member states.

    Someday Britain has to do is to choose does it want to be part of bigger system and make its bidding or does it want to out in the jungle all alone. If its all alone, British rebate will be a small money compared to all things that will face UK without the assistance of the EU.

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  • 137. At 11:30pm on 27 Oct 2008, KennethM wrote:

    You are forgetting that this eu grouping is discredited and has no mandate in the UK.

    Nothing wrong with pulling together common laws through treaty or even through a common organisation (perhaps it could be called the EC). But this eu thing has failed and these are not the people we should be dealing with.

    While we are waiting for a legitimate organisation to look at this, the best advice is for people dealing with foreign countries to study their laws first and, if in doubt, leave well alone.

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  • 138. At 11:44pm on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #135 - Jukka_Rohila

    You just don't get it do you?

    During the World War II, there were many stories about food shortages, black marketeering and other issues which arise in times of crisis but reports of people starving or seriously malnourished were virtually unheard of. Why was this? Two reasons - firstly the UK is fortunate by virtue of a combination of a gentle climate and a largely beneficial geological make up to have some of the most productive arable land in Europe and some of the finest grazing pastures. Secondly, British farmers learned, sometimes the hard way, how to farm this land to optimum capacity. The result was that, in terms of basic foodstuffs - protein, carbohydrate and vitamins, the UK became totally self sufficient in food, the only European country to have achieved this in modern history.

    In the modern age when people are relatively well off, we think nothing of importing exotic fruits and vegetables from all over the world to satisfy our palettes but in terms of good nourish food, the UK was and could still be self-sufficient. The pressure of modern living - the need in particular to take areas of agricultural land for increased housing requirements has somewhat dented this but the land could continue to be productive if used optimally.

    The problem for less productive agricultural economies within the EU is that a side effect of extremely efficient farming is that it is profitable. People make money doing it while those farming in less productive environments do not. So the argument goes that productive and profitable farming should be required to subsidise those less fortunate under a system of naked redistribution. You may or may not approve of redistributive policies but up to this point, there is a certain logic to it. However, by subsidising inefficient farming practices elsewhere while continuing optimum use of more fertile environments leads to over-production and a consequent downward pressure on prices which makes life even harder for inefficient farmers. The answer appears to be to take some of this land out of production while creating disincentives to productivity in other areas. The result of that it becomes more profitable to farm land where substantial subsidies are available to the detriment of potentially environments. Thus large numbers of farmers have abandonned their British fields in favour of France where agriculture is heavily favoured in terms of subsidy. At the same time, these British farmers have successfully transplanted their efficient methods to increase production. The result is a huge loss of revenue to the UK, loss of food self-sufficiency - precisely the opposite effect from the one you describe. In the meantime, some of the best farming land in Europe is being given over to golf courses, theme parks or simply being allowed to return to nature because it is more profitable than farming it.

    All this is a direct consequence of the CAP. It may well not have been the original intention but it has worked out this way.

    There is a philosophical element certainly and it does not make for complicated or pleasant reading. If Brussels wants some of Europe's best productive land to go to waste, it can b***dy well pay for it. The CAP is madness because it simply takes highly cost effective resources out of production.

    Now add to that the fact that there is widespread starvation and food deprivation elsewhere on the planet and yet vast amounts of money are being paid to restrict output and it is difficult to perceive this as anything other than perverse. I appreciate that the above arguments are flawed and there is a certain logic to your case but it is the way a large number of British people see it and the one thing you cannot legislate for is public sentiment.

    The British position has mellowed somewhat. The idea that all the agricultural land in the UK could be brought back into production is clearly absurd but it is also clear that the CAP as it is presently structured is counterproductive, ridiculously expensive and a deliberate disincentive to good business practice. Unless and until other European countries accept this and agree to a fundamental restructuring, the British will continue to be belligerent and I, for one, do not blame them.

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  • 139. At 11:53pm on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #136 - Jukka_Rohila

    "There are also other places where the economies of places, regions and even countries have been twisted by government subsidies . . . "

    From your own keyboard - the best definition of the CAP I have encountered.

    By the way, are you seriously suggesting that governments should impose levels of taxation they do not need for budgetary purposes to impose an artificial disincentive to inward investment? It certainly sounds like it and that is utter madness.

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  • 140. At 11:59pm on 27 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    Erratum

    In 138 above, para 3

    'The result of that it becomes more profitable to farm land where substantial subsidies are available to the detriment of potentially environments.'

    Shold read -

    The result of that it becomes more profitable to farm land where substantial subsidies are available to the detriment of potentially more productive environments'.

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  • 141. At 01:32am on 28 Oct 2008, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    The Austrian establishment is having trouble with unruly peasants. The Austrians seem to hate the "EU" just as much as the Brits do. In his address to the nation, the Austrian president praises the co-operation in the "EU" in relation to the financial crisis.

    BUT

    The meetings between Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy and a few others were outside the framework of the "EU" and were criticised for being so by the so-called president of the so-called European Parliament.

    The IMF is helping Iceland, Hungary and the Ukraine. We don't need the "EU" to cooperate.

    He praises the ability to deal with the USA and others as a group. The trouble with that is that the "EU" is megalomaniac and driven by a secret hatred of the USA. It is unacceptable to find oneself working as a group and being forced to publicly approve measures of which one does not in reality approve and of which the electorate do not approve.

    He uses a word meaning cooperation when what he is talking about is integration. It is a trick which "EU" lovers have used repeatedly.

    We do not need the "EU" to cooperate. We do not need "EU" passports, an "EU"-Army, "EU"-Gendarmes, an "EU" arrest warrant, an "EU"-flag, the CAP, the "EU"-Kommission, the "EU"-parliament or "EU"-courts to cooperate.

    "EU"-lovers! Give us the referendum we were promised and to which we are entitled!

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  • 142. At 03:05am on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #135

    I defer to threnodio's comments at #138 in many respects.

    CAP predated the UK admission to EEC but the foundations were in place and in effect from 1958.

    From 1972, when the UK joined the EEC, the CAP has been a thorn of contention for the British as it simply subsidises and continues to sustain poor farming practices and inefficiencies at the expense of the UK who use to have agricultural self-sufficiency AND could still do so without the need of EU subsidy.

    Yes, the balance between the CAP and the UK Rebate is based upon philosophical argument but, as been mentioned previously, Margaret Thatcher did not beg for the UK EU Rebate, she argued for it and was granted the Rebate at the time because, by 1984, the deficiencies of the CAP were recognised by all EU Member States.

    As the EU is, fundamentally, a project that is both philosophical of intent and materially exists there is no reason why philsophical discussion and concensus cannot be achieved to improving the way the EU rewards good business practices and eradicates inefficiencies that persist through historic precedent.

    Unfortunately for the EU, the French, in particular, have a huge Farming lobby who demand that their Government never agree to the end of the CAP subsidies - to be frank, if I were farming in France I would be in that lobby group and maintaining my free lunch money!

    Over time the funding of CAP has diminished because it is recognised to be a demotivating subsidy even by French standards of inefficiency but, then, so too has the UK Rebate reduced with the consent of subsequent UK Prime Ministers.

    The most simple solution would be for France to agree to the removal of the CAP from the Treaty of Rome altogether and then the UK could, hand on heart, admit the need for the UK EU Rebate could be removed and the UK rightly take its place as the second highest net contributor.

    That may even give the UK more weight to argument for improving the EU and seen by the British as a benefit?

    However, the chance of the French agreeing to removal of the EU CAP subsidies is about as likely as the UK agreeing to giving up its Rebate first. No chance or even less than that.

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  • 143. At 08:38am on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio (138) and to Menedemus (142):

    You have false information regarding history of British agricultural security.

    There is an excellent analysis paper produced by Defra, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs.

    https://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/reports/foodsecurity/

    Table 3.1. tells about UKs self-sufficiency...

    pre-1750 / 100%
    1750-1830s / 90-100%
    1870s / around 60%
    1914 / around 40%
    1930s / 30-40%
    1950s / 40-50%
    1980s / 60-70%
    2000s / 60%

    UK is not self-sufficient, not now nor in past.

    The British philosophy from the beginning of industrial revolution has been to rely on trading and relying on colonies. As UK has and still is a class society, starvation of working classes hasn't affected the ruling classes nor their thinking. They have concentrated on increasing their profits and have laid blind eye to suffering of people, just to note that 1845-1849 famine in Ireland, that was integral part of UK, killed 1 million, and again Ireland suffered famine in 1879. UK itself would have suffered famines in both WW1 and WW2 if supplies from colonies and US would have heavily been disrupted.

    If we look at farming practices, the differences between France and UK in 1940s and 1950s is more of an product of occupation of France, but even more on the fact that France was behind both Germany and UK in regards industrialization, machination and urban dwelling even before 1940s. The differences in farming can be wholly explained by this, not on some magic more productive farming practices.

    Now if we look at farming and food production in overall we should take a system look.

    1) Food is an strategic asset. Without access to food populations just die. As population is the most valuable asset of any country, the costs of protecting it from food related problems is a small cost to possible risks.

    2) Many times efficiency that we see is false efficiency that is based on either taking large risk taking or externalizing costs of production. Risk taking can be seen especially with the Mad Cow Disease. Externalization of costs can be best seen in pollution of environment, especially water supplies and reserves. UK has less problems with this because you have are in a middle of ocean, other countries that can't rely on oceans just taking it, have to factor costs to environment too.

    3) Bad quality food can lead to great costs in rest of the society. Just in example pumping hormones to live stock leads to effects in human population too. Just look at the US, just look on what effects their unrestricted food industries have created there, from behavioral problems in population to large scale health epidemics.

    In essence, as there are no mechanism in place to protect overall population of Europe, member countries have to protect their populations. What CAP does in this context is to restrict farming subsidies compared to a situation where individual states could pump money freely to their agricultural sectors to attain self-sufficiency. There is also a drive to produce better quality food as our current farming practices create external effects and costs that are not attainable in long term. Also our current farming practices are too vulnerable to a disruption in world trade.

    You should also note that this isn't about France alone. There is farming in the Arctic Circle in the Nordic countries and there is a snow balls chance in hell that Nordic countries would give up their right to be self-sufficient in food and to protect their populations, same goes with many other EU countries too. The thing is, there will not be a situation where countries would not be paying subsidies to their farmers. If CAP is erased, its not replaced by unsubsidized farming but European countries go back to competing who can most protect their own agriculture by giving larger subsidies. If UK wants to work with the EU, it should take a note that in question of food security and CAP, it's alone.

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  • 144. At 08:50am on 28 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #142, Menedemus,

    Just a very slight correction, if the UK rebate had gone then the EU published table for 2006 shows that the UK would have been the highest net payer in the EU and not the second highest. Vis a vis why certain EU states want desperately to see it gone without significantly reducing the CAP.

    To discover this all one needs to do is enter the table in a spreadsheet and play with the various figures like the rebate, it's very interesting what it reveals. As I've said before one missing figure is the total for fines paid by member states for not operating the EU directives etc, there is just one overall subtotal for this which hides the worst offenders from our view.

    #136, Jukka_Rohila,

    You write supporting the view that taxes, subsidies etc should be used to ensure that there is a level playing field. Please wake up sometime soon from your dream world, all that happens with your slant on trade is that everything is dumbed down to the lowest level. In other words EU tax level becomes that of the highest taxed member state (probably Germany), which will certainly help Germany to the disadvantage of the previously lower taxed states which is why the Germans keep on pushing for tax harmonisation.

    You also conveniently overlook the political pressure placed on companies to locate in a state, why do you think so many companies have bases in high taxed Germany, they were forced to by German law and by a population that thinks only German made products are any good, thus inefficiencies were protected and competitiveness droped. Your solution is fatally flawed, and if implemented the only beneficiaries would be as usual the countries with the political clout like Germany, states like Ireland, Finland etc would not ever be considered by a company for its base. All you are doing with your idea is making sure everyone is equally uncompetitive, it was the choice of the high tax states to impose that level on their companies and citizens so why do you continue to support everyone else being similarly overtaxed, why not simply propose that the taxing states reduce their tax levels in line with the rest as that also creates your level playing field, and promotes the economy as well.

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  • 145. At 09:38am on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio (139):

    In a society there are things that are strategic and crucial for the long term survival of the state and its people. Having own army and a credible defense is one thing, but another thing is to secure other important assets including energy and food. You can subject these assets to the workings of markets, but what you can't do is to let them perish, that is why you interfere with the market in order to secure vital assets including securing food security.

    Also to Buzet23 (144):

    On regards of taxation. Low or zero taxes is subsidies, its the same as giving money. When a country lowers it taxes, it essentially gives money to companies to locate where they would have not naturally located. In essence, government is giving money for companies to enable them to work in an suboptimal place, that is major disruption in markets.

    The thing is that high taxes don't necessarily mean that a country couldn't be competitive. Buzet23 mentioned that Finland or Ireland would never be considered bases for companies, but that is not true. Nordic countries are hinterlands, but that hasn't stopped them to become prosperous and developed even with high tax rates. The thing is that in Nordic countries governments have invested the tax money to produce better infrastructure, to educate and take care of the population which has allowed home grown companies to enlarge and become major international corporations. Both Sweden and Finland have already overtaken UK, USA, Germany and France in GDP per capita. In 2000s besides Ireland, Nordic countries have had the strongest economic growth while still retaining high taxation. In fact both Finland and Sweden have had stronger GDP (real) per capita rates in 2005 than UK.

    The thing is that high taxes doesn't hinder the economy. Having welfare society doesn't make you uncompetitive. When done correctly they make you competitive not only in short while, but in the long term. Having low taxes is just short while fix that will backfire in time.

    I would also like to add that in my opinion both UK and especially USA are and have been for a while trading their future prosperity to having more money now. USA has systematically failed to take care of its population, each generation being more unhealthier and uneducated than the last, and it has failed to renew its infrastructure. By not spending money now, USA has had higher levels of living standards, but that has been achieved on the cost of giving future generation a state with failing population and infrastructure. The same has happened and is happening in the UK too. The generation of Chavs didn't just appear from nothing, they were the product of Thatcherism and the new Labor politics that have abandoned building of classless welfare society and have instead concentrated on pampering voters.

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  • 146. At 10:41am on 28 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #145, Jukka_Rohila,

    Please don't mix the cradle to grave welfare system up with the need for high taxes, they are quite different. Agreed the cradle to grave system needs excess funding which is one of the reasons the German taxes are so high, but that is only part of the picture. Whether the government spends its money sensible or not is the prerogative of the government and what it considers to be worthwhile projects. You blame Thatcherism for creating generations of chavs, those chavs were educated in schools where only left wing ideas operate, from the early sixties the UK education system has been controlled by left wing academic think tanks, that's where the chavs have come from, loads of rights and no responsibilities. Capitalism hasn't created those chavs, left wing liberalism has, and whether Finland's education system was dumbed down as well only you can tell us.

    The whole point about taxes is that they must be spent wisely, there is a finite level to how much you can tax the population and companies and if you don't spend wisely it's no use going asking for more tax to struggling people or company's. Whether the UK government spent its tax revenue on sensible infrastructure projects or wasted it on pet Socialist projects is their fault as they had the choice, and in the last 10 years Brown has most decidedly blown that choice. Maybe the Nordic countries were wiser in their outlay, they certainly did not have the defence budget that UK has in trying (naively) to police the world still. They also seem to have health systems that work unlike the left wing sacred cow called the NHS that drains the UK economy annually. All these faults in the UK are nothing to do with taxation harmonisation though, they are the fault of generations of lack lustre politicians who continue the inefficiencies and restrictive practices. Thatcher partially reversed the terminal decline in the late 70's by neutering the restrictive practices in the Labour market which gave the UK a new chance to be competitive which has now been once again lost. Imposing high EU taxes (harmonisation) and reinventing restrictive practices will not ever improve an economy or it's infrastructure but simply make things worse.

    Finally I'll give you one good example of a harmonisation project from the EU that is currently failing, harmonisation of educational qualifications. It has become almost obligatory for a job seeker to have a list of qualifications as long as their arm, those given by a different member states are often not accepted as they are not homologated in that country. As for accreditation that someone can touch gas or electricity or program in IT or even sweep the streets that EU initiative has as always been taken to the extremes and has caused the growth industry of trainers, and yet for instance a qualified electrician cannot travel between member states without problems. In Belgium a French speaking electrician cannot work in the Dutch speaking side unless he has passed Dutch language skills as well. Harmonising does not often create a level playing field and in many cases it creates a disaster, in my example you now have many thousands of disenfranchised 'chavs' who are excluded from anything other than the most low level jobs. Those 'chavs' also include a high percentage of decent people who simply couldn't stand the education system, and I know a number of youngsters like that here including my own son. That was not lack of intelligence it's because the state supported education system is too controlling and restrictive in its harmonised outlook, and now the state (and/or EU) wishes to penalise them for daring to disagree with their harmonisation by excluding them from careers. Your one size fits all approach can't even work in education and jobs so why do you continue to push for it regarding taxation.

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  • 147. At 11:57am on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #143

    Thank you for the link you provided. I have downloaded the document in Word and will read it in greater depth, however, at first pass through I find your assertions regarding Table 3.1 misleading.

    A better item to search through and review against findings and analysis throughout the document is self-sufficiency ratio.

    The DEFRA Report is wide ranging but does analyse the level of food production and imported foodstuffs on the basis of market share. It also recognises that it's figure include imported foodstuffs such as Coffee, Bananas and Fruit which DEFRA does admit are NOT necessary to the well-being of the UK population.

    More interestingly, excluding homegrown Fruit production which hovers around the 46-60% mark during the period 1956 - 2002. All other foodstuffs that are grown in the UK, and have been the staple crops of the UK during that time, e.g. Milk, cereals, sugar beet, hens eggs and cattle, have been in excess of 100% self-sufficient output except for Catlle which declined sharply from above 100% to @80% self-sufficiency since then (for reasons I am sure you will be aware of!)

    Most interestingly, I found the following statement, within the DEFRA Report, which would seem to me to accurately support threnodio's comments at #138 and my view entirely: "The ‘decoupling’ reforms of the CAP, together with the prospect of trade liberalisation in agricultural products, are expected to reduce domestic agricultural production in the UK and Europe." (Executive Summary, Introduction Part 1; Item E.3)

    The danger of taking isolated tables or paragraph segments from such a dicument is that one can adduce anything to support one's point of view.

    I believe that threnodio's comment at #138 articulates the specific issue that the UK has had and still has with the CAP and the DEFRA Report in many ways supports threnodio's contentions despite your selection of a table from the document that implies that the UK is totally reliant upon the importing of food which is illogical.

    The DEFRA Report does :

    Have a unique failing in that it links imported foodstuffs and home-grown foodstuffs as irreversably linked. I do not believe this is true. Prior to 1750 the UK was self-sufficient upon homegrown farmed output. The UK chose to import to meet consumer demand as the Victorian British Empire grew to encompass the world and allowed GB to import relatively more cheap foods form around the world.

    During WWII the GB became self -sufficient and the need for improted food reduced to allow for increased import of materials to support the war effort. The UK could easily return to this self-sufficiency if government desire was there.

    The UK has been capable of self-sufficiency in food production but to meet appetite and taste the UK has progressively moved from a staple foodstuff agricultural economy towards becoming reliant upon imported foreign foodstuffs which meet consumer demands for increased variety and more exotic foods. If you ignore these imported fripperies the UK agricultural sector has declined but remains self-sufficient and efficient at producing enough milk, cereal, eggs and sugar beet to adequately feed the UK population.

    The UK is not self-sufficient in producing its own fertilizers and at best can only achieve 90% self-production.


    After 1750, Great Britain experienced rapid population growth and urbanisation. Wheat prices began to creep up. Bad domestic harvests, particularly during and after the 1795-1815 wars, brought dearth and distress, threatened social stability and highlighted the need for imports. Yet the early nineteenth century Corn Laws, like the modern CAP, severely restricted imports and inflated prices.

    This is fundamentally why the UK has a problem with the CAP and even this DEFRA Report acknowledges that issue. (See Section 3, "Long Term Perspective, Sub-section 3.3).

    I could go on but even I am getting bored!

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  • 148. At 12:15pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (146):

    I don't understand your point about too much control and restrictions. Control and restrictions are part of any organized society. Citizens have rights and obligations. One obligation of an citizen is to to perform the compulsory education. Some rights are tied to performing execution task, in here if you are a young person you are required to apply to schools and study in them in order to be even able to collect social security. Over here 64% of the population over 15 has obtained either vocational, collage or university degree, and that figure is only going up as older generations go from time to eternity. In practice, ones chances on succeeding in working life here are very slim if one doesn't have any degree at all, and this point is stressed in all levels and the message both from the government and families to younger generations is simple "get a degree or else...". Besides, getting educated and getting a degree is not a big demand, after all all men are required to fulfill compulsory military service ranging from 6 - 12 months and attending refresh training when assigned. In here fulfilling obligations, both formal and informal, are what make you an plenipotentiary citizen thus equal to others. What is so wrong and unbearable to require citizens to fulfill their obligations to the society?

    I also don't understand your point about harmonization of educational degrees. The harmonization has been started from higher education and due to Bologna Process, higher education degrees are standardized and people can easily move from country to country. I also don't understand what is so wrong about requiring people to have a degree. A formal degree tells that person has had certain education and should have certain skills. Degrees are what allow especially young people to move quickly in their career. Of course there is much to do to standardize degrees and allow greater mobility of work force, but this is where we need EU and it is doing work in this front that benefits people.

    I also disagree on your point about creation of Chavs. The British education system and whole society are responsible for them. You haven't done anything to restrict or shutdown private schools, you haven't done nothing to socializing elite private universities. You still have a society where money and family prestige dictate the life of a new born. What is the point of educating when society is so much stacked against underprivileged? At least here we socialized all universities and schools of higher education in 50s-60s and most private schools were brought to the state funding and control. In Sweden this was the same case. You have a class society and what Thatcher and new Labor did was to give to higher classes and left lower classes to just struggle. That's not a way to classless society nor to a meritocracy.

    In regards of taxes, the point was that those countries that leach headquarters or regional offices of companies with lower taxes rob the fruits of other countries. There is no reason why in example Ireland couldn't have invested its tax money to infrastructure and education and thus created prosperity, instead it chose to just grab activities by giving money away. If all countries would just cut taxes what we would have is a race to the bottom. Harmonizing taxes benefits all countries as it requires states to compete on how developed their countries and populations are, not on how much money they can give away.

    PS. Finland has fared well in Pisa scores, amongst the highest and we have had our own share of left wing thinking and control of our education system, thus you can't just blame left wing politics on the failure of your schools.

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  • 149. At 12:28pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    I see Nick Robinson is treading into Mark Mardell's territory with his latest entry: "Europe - ticking time bomb?".

    I am just going to nosy on over there and have a read and possibly add my two-pennies worth!

    Mark,

    if I were you I would have a quiet word with Nick. The Russians have set the precedent with Georgia!

    You may need to focus Nick's attention upon the need for territorial integrity and that he cannot simply go entering into enclaves covered by yourself!

    If it is good enough for the Russians then it must be surely good enough for "the name is Mardell, Mark Mardell!"

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  • 150. At 12:37pm on 28 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka: Maybe your point about food security has validity; maybe it doesn’t, but it is irrelevant so long as the issue I discussed with Manofiona decides the issue. The only opinion that matters on the CAP is that of General De Gaulle who, despite being in his grave, succeeded in creating a policy 40 years ago at EU level which remains binding on 27 governments today. The CAP is no isolated example of this spiders-web quality of EU legislation either. The location of the EU Parliament, the minimum rate of VAT, etc. all illustrate how today’s politicians (and voters) are prevented from making changes they want by the growing body of previous EU commitments.

    EU commitments should only be binding on the governments that entered into them, and not on their successors. The EU must be reformed to make most of its law (i.e. that which does not satisfy my principle of cross-border harm) subordinate to national law such that we can elect new government capable of disowning what previous governments agreed to. Otherwise democracy will die in Europe as surely as night follows day.

    As an example consider an issue which the EU Commission is pushing for right now, namely an EU-wide ban of smoking in pubs and restaurants. Inhaling smoke in these places definitely causes harm to those who work in bars and restaurants and to innocent bystanders and it is therefore appropriate that it should be prohibited by national law. But smoking cannot harm someone in another country. Since there is no cross-border dimension to the issue, a ban on smoking in public places is not something that the EU should ever be able to legislate against. Even in the case that all 27 EU governments agree that smoking should banned in public places they should still each act purely at national level because to do so at EU level would prevent that any future government (and therefore voters) can ever change their mind on this issue again.

    http://euobserver.com/9/27002

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  • 151. At 12:55pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #143 - Jukka_Rohila

    "UK is not self-sufficient, not now nor in past"

    Oh the folly of relying on statistics, the method of collection, the outcome of interpretation and the political objectives. I have downloaded the DEFRA document you recommend but not read it word for word. I was however struck by this passage:

    "Yet the early nineteenth century Corn Laws, like the modern CAP, severely restricted imports and inflated prices" (My italics).

    More importantly, it quickly becomes apparent that this document relates to a modern balanced and variable diet as a criterion for measuring dietary needs. It is careful to point out that a significant proportion of this comes from 'non-temperate crops'. Of course, if you are going to factor in citrus fruit, bananas and all the other things the UK cannot grow, self sufficiency is not possible but I did not say it was. I was very careful to state 'in terms of carbohydrate, protein and vitamins'. I stand by my original assertion, which does not in fact contradict the DEFRA paper, that my these measures, self-sufficiency is a plausible objective. Whether it is desirable is an entirely different matter.

    The comments regarding the potato famine and the corn laws is revealing. The over dependence of working class Irish families on a single crop and the failure of the crop due to blight was the root cause. The paper suggests that the corn laws mitigated against the availability and affordability of a credible alternative which would have alleviated the crisis. The DEFRA paper's parallel between the corn laws and the CAP strongly suggests that, in the improbable event of a comparable food crisis, the CAP would be an obstacle to a solution, not a benefit.

    It is clear we are not going to agree about this. You may well blame my opinion on bad information or prejudice but my first hand experience of efficient agricultural practices in the UK tends to support my view.

    On the other issue of using taxation as a mechanism to encourage corporate relocation, I would say this. Far from being a misguided anti-competitive practice, it goes to the very heart of a capitalist Europe and what it stands for. There has, for example, been an ongoing and healthy competition between the City of London and Frankfurt for supremacy as Europe's financial centre. Large numbers of small and medium sized French businesses have chosen to register in the UK because of the more relaxed and less onerous structure of company law, the Germans have focused a lot of commercial investment on the east bank of the Rhein because it is a very attractive environment for French workers to commute to work (German taxes are higher, Buzet?), and so on. This is not a matter of nations taking unfair advantage. It is competition pure and simple.

    Again, if you are looking at a highly regulated socialised Europe, my view of a competitive trading environment may not sit comfortably and we will not then agree. 18 months ago, I would have worried that one of the big problems of reducing over-regulation would be what on earth you do with legions of eurocrats whose services were no longer needed. In the light of the current crisis, it is clear that there areas where tighter regulation is required and this presents an opportunity for a reallocation of human resources. To put it bluntly, stop messing around with anochronistic policies (CAP is a classic example), and go do something useful.

    As to the other issue, this is plainly

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  • 152. At 1:06pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #149 - Menedemus

    I think Mark is way ahead of you. He has knobbled the BBC blog so that I did not get the RSS feed notification. Had it not been for your post, I would have been blissfully unaware of Robinson's new thread. Thanks.

    In the meantime, it will take all the skills of a Sarkozy to establish a DMZ between Business and Economics to combat increasing tensions along the Mason Peston line.

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  • 153. At 1:20pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (150):

    No. EU should not be reformed to an loosely attached group of countries. EU is an union that is turning into a federation, those countries who don't want to take part on forming a federation should leave or be leaved out of the development of federation. EU already has created EEA arrangement and has worked similar kind of arrangements with countries like Switzerland. If UK or any other current EU member doesn't want to part take anymore on to the ever closer union, they can and should leave.

    I think the fundamental disagreement with our views is destiny of nation states or to be specific European nation states. You view nation states and democracy linked to a nation more important than ability to have power to influence and to dictate world wide economics and politics. If you see a nation state as an essential tool then any international supranational organization is out of question. I see that in our global world we need now organizations like EU to replace individual nation states to match other super block and in the end replace all super block with a world wire unified government and structures to support it.

    I would also like to note that todays politicians are free to decide. The thing is, every decision has its costs, you can't participate on common markets without adhering to common legislation. If you don't want common legislation, you have to pay the price on possibly loosing access to common markets and common decision making. Essentially you want to have one's cake and eat it too.

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  • 154. At 1:28pm on 28 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #148, Jukka_Rohila,

    All I can say is that your proximity to Russia has meant the failed 'one size fits all' thinking of communists has rubbed off onto you for some strange reason. Your ideas of what the UK education system is like and was like is way off track. A few truly elite private schools do still exist but the open to all academic grammar schools have been destroyed by envious and jealous left wingers in the march towards the 'one size fits all' comprehensive education. It is to the credit of Belgium that they still have a very healthy mix of secondary education schools, some are purely technical for the young who are not academic and some are more similar to the old UK grammar schools in that they are highly academic. Mixing the two extremes together as in the UK has just dumbed down the education system and created the 'chavs' you have now.

    You also say "I also don't understand what is so wrong about requiring people to have a degree. A formal degree tells that person has had certain education and should have certain skills.", wrong, a formal degree does not prove that the person is capable of either retaining that knowledge or using it correctly, it merely means that they could retain that knowledge for a small period of time. Since class assessment is overtaking exams in importance, the actual quality of a degree or diploma is now ever more suspect since it relies on the teacher or professor. The Belgian model is that they desire that each pupil achieve a basic level of education called 'humanities', those that don't or can't or won't can go onto a part school, part work based apprenticeship. What is missing from your approach is that acquired experience is often far more valuable than a degree obtained some years back, so why should someone without a degree who has shown commitment and ability be precluded from a position because they 'dropped out' of school. Your approach is not equality it is a form of elitism as it requires all to have a degree or you are not a citizen, you would create a system of haves and have nots almost as bad as that of the old elite education system that existed in the UK a hundred years back and which you say you hate.

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  • 155. At 1:58pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #153

    You wrote, "EU is an union that is turning into a federation, those countries who don't want to take part on forming a federation should leave or be leaved out of the development of federation."

    Please excuse my ignorance, but who has agreed to this federation of nation states?

    The nation states? All of them?

    The EU? By what authority?

    The Council of Ministers have certainly not agreed to a Federal Europe and it has been the UK Government Policy to date (strangely enough both Conservative and Labour governments) to resist calls for a Federal Europe.

    You have no authority to blithely say that those who want a Federal Europe destination can stay on the bus and those who don't must get off the bus. The EU, in ever closer union, is an agreement of currently 27 nations to reach the same destination together and in union. It is an obligation inherent within the Treaty of Rome - the EU progresses together or it simply does not progress. The Treaty of Rome does not allow, for example, France and some allies to go one way and Germany and her allies to go another direction - it is truly all for one and one for all together - whether you (or I as a EUsceptic) like that or not.

    The United Kingdom has as much right to resist calls for a Federal Europe as any one other country has the right to make calls for such an objective BUT no one country (or individual in your case) can claim the right to tell the rest of Europe where the destination of the bus is going to be!

    A Federal Europe is just one possible destination for a United Europe but is is not the only solution.

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  • 156. At 2:07pm on 28 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (153): You are correct that the difference between us is one of the relative prioritisation of goals. My priorities in order are: 1. Liberty, 2. Democracy/Greatest happiness for greatest number, 3. Equality/Fairness, 4. Influence/Power over others. You prioritise power above all else, but that is the route to dictatorship of the fascist kind.

    Your ideal state would be somewhat similar to the former East Germany (or perhaps its Prussian predecessor) but extended to worldwide dimensions such that they have no need for a Berlin Wall to keep the people in.

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  • 157. At 2:19pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #148 - Jukka_Rohila

    "A formal degree tells that person has had certain education and should have certain skills. Degrees are what allow especially young people to move quickly in their career".

    As someone who had to do their degree the hard way working at the same time, I can assure you that you can build an entire career sorting out the chaos created by know it all youngsters with first class honours degrees and absolutely no understanding of how the real world works.

    A degree is just like driving. You learn everything you need to know to pass the test. Then forget everything you were ever taught and learn to do it properly.

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  • 158. At 2:30pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #154 - Buzet23
    #148 - Jukka_Rohila

    I detect political correctness creeping in here.

    The British education system of a bit over 100 years ago was elitist, discriminatory, unjust and divisive. It also gave the UK the ability to control and manage the largest and most varied empire in modern history. Just because something is socially reprehensible in modern terms does not mean it does not work.

    Certainly it relied on the underclass 'knowing it's place' and 'not getting ideas above their station'. Nobody would tolerate it in the 21st century but it would be quite wrong to dismiss it out of hand because of a new social model.

    I am entirely with Buzet on this one.

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  • 159. At 2:52pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (156):

    Actually, the other difference with us is that you, at least from my view, an somewhat naive view of nation states. You put liberty, democracy, happiness, equality and fairness before power and influence, I too value those values and think that they are important. The difference is that in my view you first have to have the power to attain and secure these values. If you don't have needed power to protect your values eventually you are going to loose all.

    My point is that world is a jungle and to survive in that jungle you have to have the power to defend yourself. If you don't have that power somebody will cut your throat. That is why I support EU and support its formation into a federation resembling USA. In the end we should have one unified world under one world government.

    Individual nation states worked before put in these times of super states there is no possibility for an nation state to succeed.

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  • 160. At 3:11pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (154):

    Just to clarify something. In Finland elementary school that is compulsory by law last from age 7 - 16. The elementary school education is same for all students. After the elementary school, a youngster have three main choices 1) to go to high school or 2) to go to a vocational school or 3) stop studying. High school path means that you are schooled and prepared for higher education, college or university. If you take vocational school, you start your path for professional degree either by studying and practicing in school or taking apprenticeship.

    The thing about degrees is that all education is free and the government pays financial aid to students that allows them to move away from home and live independently. In this context getting a degree, either from vocational school, collage or university is attainable to all. If you can't get any degree, it tells you something, and usually what it tells is not a positive thing.

    Now if we look at the work markets, yes experience does count, but the thing still is that without a degree, without studying a particular subject or area, what you actually know and can do can variate considerably. When you a degree, be it professional, collage or university degree, you can be expected to have some minimal level of knowledge and knowhow. In the case of higher degrees, what the degree tells is that you have capacity and ability to work in some level. Overall what a degree tells is that you have aspiration and that you are willing to work to attain the objectives you set for yourself.

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  • 161. At 3:41pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    If ever there was a case against the use of the European Areest Warrnat, fast-track extradition and the supremacy of EU Laws then have a look at this article:

    Polish man goes on trial for defaming the Polish President

    Can you see that if the EU, with ever the same sort of mindset behind this Polish Law, were to ever crate aEuropean Law that banned lewd criticism of the EU Head of State how bad that would be for democracy and free speech!

    I am not supporting the inappropriate use of lewd imagery to depict the Polish Head of State but making it a criminal offence does seem to be bizarre yet very "Middle European" at the same time.

    Heaven help us "Brits" with our sense of humour and historic passion for denigrating our political leaders with sarcasm and often painful wit!

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  • 162. At 3:41pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #159 - Jukka_Rohila

    I know I am going to be open to the accusation of prejudice by saying this but I am going to say it anyway - nothing personal.

    Has it not occurred to you that a citizen of a country which has been independent since 1918 will see involvement in the EU as a mechanism for protecting their freedom and independence whereas a citizen of a country which has been independent and had the basis of a constitution since the beginning of the 12th century may see those same regulations as a threat?

    We are not simply the product of our genes and conditioning-. We are our fathers' children and the product of history. I would not expect you to agree with us but I would expect you to understand the historical perspective. If we are ever going to move on, it will be by compromise, not by the triumph of one school of thought over another.

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  • 163. At 4:04pm on 28 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    @154 Buzet23 writing to Jukka_Rohila. "All I can say is that your proximity to Russia has meant the failed "one size fits all" thinking of communists somehow has rubbed off onto you for some strange reason".

    Correction. Don't know what communists preached (I mean who cares) but they practiced a diametrically opposite thing. As Russia does as a whole - before - now - and likely in near future. I mean people were split as much as possible. Socially, as well as by nationality, and by every other parameter possible. The key is that phrase don't know what's proper in English - "to separate and to be the tsar". (have power over). allows to capitalise on the disagreements btw the groups. ensures population as a homogenious mass will never revolt against the tsar. ever wondered why USSR took massive lands with folks having unclear allegiance re who they are - and "graduated" with 15 indep. republics each equipped with strongest sense of national identity. That's local wisdom since Empire times.
    Like - "you sure there are 3000 of you who think they can speak another language? Oh great! we'll print you school text-books in yours own, call you - what do you think you can call yourselves? we think you are wonderful, will make an excellent nation. one can't compare with those neighbours of yours in the South! (this is btw ourselves). etc."

    And within each of these Republics there are "autonomous republics" (SO? Abkhasia? anybody).
    And you still haven't heard yet of "sem-autonomous ones"!

    We never unite into homogenious masses. Thank you very much. We separate and split. So far has worked.... :-)

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  • 164. At 4:34pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila,

    Just as an aside, what may work in the educational field in Finland may not work in the UK.

    We have, within England, for quite a long time now, seen the number of students attaining A-Levels qualifications increasing steadily over time and the standards of the passes rise year-on-year.

    This has led to a criticism that the A-Levels are being dumbed down to make them easier to pass.

    I am, personally, not so sure that that is the case. It is actually easier to simply set the pass mark bench mark and use statistical tools to increase the number of passes. By doing so you achieve the desired increase in passes but the actual examination can arguably be held up to scrutiny and shown to be very hard with almost impossible questions having at least been attempted.

    A-Levels are the entry-level standard for the access to English Universities.

    The University Lecturers are the people least likely to want to complain as they earn money based upon the number of student to whom they lecture. However, even the Lecturers are suggesting that the quality of the A-Level Students arriving at University has diminished over time and they now fear that, the English Universities, because they are funded by the government on a scheme based upon the numbers of students who graduate, are becoming fearful that the University Degrees that the Universities are issuing are becoming contaminated with the same statistical manipulation and that University Degrees will come into the same disrepute as A-Levels.

    The most compelling reason why poiltical interference in the awarding of educational qualifications is a bad thing is that it IS the Large Company employers who eventually define the value of the educational qualification attained - if they feel that a Degree is now just a piece of paper and has no value they will simply start to introduce empirical and psychological profiling to identify adept students regardless of their aspirationa and that (they) are willing to work to attain the objectives (they) set for (themselves).

    What you end up with is a lot of happy ex-school and university students who have academic and non-academic qualifications that they can paper their toilet walls with - no one can be described as a failure which is wonderful - but when they go to find work the Employers find they can do simple arithmatic, spell, articulate or think rationally.

    And all because of political correctness and making sure that no one ever feels like they have failed at school, college or university.

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  • 165. At 5:14pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (155):

    Ever closer union, does it ring a bell?

    The driving principle behind the European Union has been and will be ever closer union. We have already went past the point where the Union was just an confederation and we are now heading toward a federation.

    The thing is, you can't deny the existence of the principle of ever closer union. You can't say anymore that EU should be just a coalition of countries co-operating, that point has been reached and went past long ago. If we would go back to just co-operating, that would be breach of the principle of ever closer union as going back would be de-evolution and distancing the members of the union.

    Now to this day almost all EU countries have conformed to the principle, but there are strong signs that some member states have not followed or don't want to follow this principle. UK has left out of Euro, UK has arranged special arrangement for itself in both the treaty of Maastricht and in the treaty of Lisbon. A question could be raised on is UK breaching the principle of ever closer union and thus in violation of EU treaties. If the development and further integration of EU would be stagnated by one member, that country's membership in EU could and should be questioned.

    The EU is going to become a federation, there is no question about. Someday UK has to make decision, is it going to integrate and play with the other European countries or not. The current situation where UK comes along kicking and screaming is just not right, not for the EU and not for the UK nor its citizens.

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  • 166. At 5:38pm on 28 Oct 2008, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (159): The EU is not a defensive alliance and will not come to Finland's rescue if you are attacked by anyone.

    The most successful nation-state in Europe is Norway, which (unlike Finland) has secured its defence through NATO without sacrificing its self-governance to a supranational bureaucracy institutionally incapable of distinguishing between its own interest in accumulating more power and that of the voters of its member states who are being steadily disenfranchised as a result. The world-wide trend is strongly towards more nation-states in the world, up to near 200 today, and not less. The key reason (beside NATO) that all these smaller nation-states feel secure is that there are fewer of the power-hungry undemocratic multi-national federations (i.e. empires) of the type that you champion.

    Edward Gibbon said (in 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire') that Rome fell because "the division of Europe into a number of independent states … is productive of the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind". The federal EU vision has failed for the same reason. The time has therefore come to re-engineer the EU to remove its federal features in areas beyond the common market, starting with reform such that we can elect national governments capable of rejecting past EU measures that their predecessors agreed to.

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  • 167. At 5:41pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio (162):

    Yes, of course, that is not news. I know where my perspective comes and I know where the British perspective comes. We view current reality from our own perspectives. The thing is, British have used to view world for the last 500 years from position of an great power. We in the other hand didn't even written language 500 years ago. Because our different perspectives we may see the reality differently, but the reality that we face is non of the less the same.

    The reality from my view is...

    1) There is no international law. If there were international law why aren't President Bush and Mr. Blair prosecuted for a war of aggression and war crimes in Iraq?

    2) If a large country such as UK is vassal state to the USA, what hope does smaller countries have? And now talk about special relationship, special relationship is just a newspeak for a status of vassal state.

    3) USA is a super power that abuses its position as an hegemony to organize things to benefit it. What other can individual states to resist this power than to either become its vassals or unite into a group?

    4) China and India are rising fast and their economies are growing. In 2050 China will become de-facto super power and in 2100 China will reach parity with the USA and India if not before but then will reach a status of a super power. Other countries like Brazil and Indonesia may also join the club. What influence do you really think even UK could have in that world? None, absolute none.

    That is how I view the reality. How else can you see the reality?

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  • 168. At 6:14pm on 28 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    On "education".

    My first degree didn't do me any harm.
    I graduated and went to work straight after, in an area totally unrelated to the education.
    So far so good. And all went well, until I became idiotic and decided to go back to school.
    After the second diploma I can't work at all. Won't go into particulars, but getting a 2nd paper was one of the biggest mistake in my life (that is, I hope so). To the degree that I can't even look at that paper without thinking what an idiot I were, and tucked it away as far as possible. The 1st one doesn't creat so strong feelings.
    Mind it - the 2nd paper I haven't applied for a day so far.

    So I tend to agree with threnodio - no, I'd go further than that - education is harm, evil and ruin! :-)

    Having said that just wish to point out that Finland is supposed to have currently the best education system in the world. This is recent news, but established by var. int'l experts (none of which were Russian). So Jukka_Rohila might be simply spoiled by home conditions! of free access, state lavishly financing people willing to study, which allows students not to work while they study, and other perks unavailable in places. So he can't be objective re the experiences of others in this respect.

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  • 169. At 6:16pm on 28 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    An anecdote to the theme. In a Russian uni student canteen.
    "Give me please two hot-dogs!"
    (Look, look at the rich guy! - jealous whisper around)
    "And 17 forks!"

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  • 170. At 6:35pm on 28 Oct 2008, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    I consider any referance to 'Ever closer union' to be irrelevant. Its a mis representation of the essence of the document that was sign a very poor translation. 'Ever closer co-operatrion ' is more accurate .

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  • 171. At 6:57pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #165

    Please do re-read my comment at #155.

    I think you will find my comment includes the term "ever closer union" at least once.

    The point is not where YOU think the EU is going to go regardless of the UK but where the EU is going to go as a collective of Member Nation States together.

    The Federal solution is only one possible scenario and "ever closer union" means that all the EU States will be (a) closer and in a (b) union but it does not mean it has to be a federated or federal construction.

    I repeat no one country nor one individual can dictate the destination of the EU as all the EU Member States are tied together in this venture by the Treaty of Rome and it is by no means certain what the eventual destination will be. That future will be decided by all of the member States and that will include the United Kingdom - despite the likes of those calling for the UK to withdraw from the EU or those who seem to think the EU would be better off without the UK and it's scepticism.

    My personal view is that, like it or not, the UK is in the EU to stay and the UK's scepticism is actually the best thing for the EU as it keeps the most recent democracies that are in the EU, including Germany and Finland, focussed and their objective a truly democratic union of European Nations.

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  • 172. At 7:22pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (166):

    Gee thanks, that explains a lot... I was wondering why we still had conscription army, buy tanks and modern fighter jets, objected to give up anti-personal mines and are very strongly against giving up cluster bombs. Its now so clear why our instructors in the army were so obsessed about Russia... its all coming so clear now.

    Oh please, NATO worked as an defensive alliance during the cold war, but the fact is that NATO today has become more an a potential tool for US externalize its costs of keeping up military dominance.

    The reason why we have more nation states is that British and French colonial empires failed as their edge in military technology and power didn't anymore match up to the call for freedom in all parts of their empires.

    You also turn blind eye into a fact that different regions have turned used Europe and European as an model for their own organizations. In Africa you have African Union that aspires to unite Africa in the same way that EU did unite Europe. In South-America you have Union of South American Nations. In North America you have NAFTA that some if not many people hope to develop into a North American Union.

    The time of nation states is over, the 21th century is the century of super states, that is an undeniable fact.

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  • 173. At 7:24pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #167 - Jukka_Rohila

    This is interesting because your command of English is such that it did not occur to me that we could have a language problem. It is quite clear now that we do.

    I had formed the impression that you regarded ever closer union and eventual federalisation as something which had acquired a momentum such as to have an historical inevitability.

    When you start using phrases such as 'vassal state' and suggest that Bush and Blair should be dragged before the ICC, it becomes very evident that you have a clear political agenda. I am happy to argue politics with you but please let us not dress it up as 'reality'. It is not reality, it is opinion. Being anti-Atlanticist is a respectable position but not one I share. Moreover, this approach often goes hand in glove with a cetralising controlling mentality which many of us in central and eastern Europe are glad to see the back of.

    Ideologies have their place in discussion but, in the real world, they historically have had a stifling and corrupting influence. You are not seeking a way forward, you are promoting an agenda.

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  • 174. At 7:38pm on 28 Oct 2008, Ticape wrote:

    without sacrificing its self-governance to a supranational bureaucracy institutionally incapable of distinguishing

    Norway, being member of the EEA (EU-lite) has to accept EU laws (those which are applicable to a common market) unconditionally without having a say about it.

    The world-wide trend is strongly towards more nation-states in the world, up to near 200 today, and not less. The key reason (beside NATO) that all these smaller nation-states feel secure is that there are fewer of the power-hungry undemocratic multi-national federations (i.e. empires) of the type that you champion.


    And yet paradoxically enough (at least from your perspective) there also more political unions (besides the EU) why?

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  • 175. At 7:48pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #167

    Not that I am particularly a fan of either George Bush or Tony Blair and I am certainly not keen on the idea of the British Army being in Iraq or Afghanistan where they are no longer protecting me from terrorism when I have people of asian or noth african origin (but born in the UK although some here as immigrants and accepting British hospitality), living in places like Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham and London, who want to kill me because I am a Christian.

    But let us deal with your "realities" one-by-one.

    1) There is no international law.

    The international law is clear - any one country is allowed to defend itself and invite allies to assist it in that self-protection.

    The US used existing UN Mamdates to exert pressure upon Iraq to cooperate with IAEA Inspectors which Iraq manifestly decided not to do.

    The US was prepared to go to war earlier than it did but Blair prescribed that Bush should hold out for further UN Mandates to force Iraqi cooperation or face the use of force.

    The US was reluctant but agreed to wait. A second UN Mandate required Iraqui cooperation or face use of force.

    The question arose from the IAEA that further attempt to breakdown the will of Iraq and for Iraq to agree to inspections was not yet complete and the US decided to prempt any further useless prevarication either by the UN or the IAEA and went to war.

    They felt threatened and have the right to repsond to the threat. They also had the mandate form the UN which was specific - by a certain date Iraq had to cooperate or face force - that date was passed and the US had the legitiamte UN mandate to go to war.

    You can disagree as much as you like and I will not argue - that is merely the legal case for the US actions.

    The UK has the legitimate right to agree with the US in it's understanding of the UN Mandates and, as an ally, could logically go to war to assist the USA.

    2) If a large country such as UK is vassal state to the USA, what hope does smaller countries have?

    You see the UK as a vassal state of the US? Really? You obviously do not look at much of the data and information displayed via the BBC Website!

    The BBC is like a mirror into the soul of the British nation - warts and all - you will see that the criticism of the US both by the pundits and bloggers all offering critical comments on the USA and it is incessant.

    If I were a US Citizen, I would hardly call the UK a friend as the population seems to despise the USA with a vengeance. But there again, I happen to have some American friends and they do understand that not everyone in the world despises their nation.

    3) USA is a super power that abuses its position as an hegemony to organize things to benefit it.

    And why not? Would Finland, if it were a world power not do that.

    When Great Britain was running an Empire was it not doing so out of self-interest - of course it was. 40,000 British Administrators, Soldiers and Generals ran an empire with a population of 400 million people. They did not do it out of love and charity!

    I read your comments with interest but I have never considered your train of thought naive or stupid. Please do not think that any world power does not exert it's influence in self-interest - to do otherwise makes the criticism look puerile cirticism just for the sake of it.

    4) China and India are rising fast and their economies are growing.

    India is and remains the largest democracy in the world, China will always epitomis Maoist Communism with a Capitalist Facade.

    So what if they do grow to be super powers. WHy does Finland not become a vasssal state of India - you could still be part of a democratic union. The only danger is if India and China go to war and then Finland might have to assist India as an ally . . . . .

    Oh wait, we're back at the ally-vassal(?) at (1) regarding the vassal relationship between the UK and the USA.

    So, Finland cannot ally itself with the largest democracy in the world and be an ally of India. The UK owns that relationship patent even though the Finns would criticise us for being a vassal state! ;=))

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  • 176. At 8:07pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #168 - WebAliceinwonderland

    Well you know what they say, Alice.

    Education in the west is like the army in the east, the more people who are in it, the fewer there are out of work.

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  • 177. At 8:37pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #172

    As a matter of interest why are you not seeking to ally Finland with Russia?

    If you think that Finland needs to be part of a Superpower Bloc and that is the future of the world's nation states (and I do not disagree with that concept!) Russia would seem to be an ideal partenrship for the Finns?

    Russia will definitively form an Russian-Eurasian Trading Bloc in due course and Finland's location makes it an ideal buffer state for Russia just like the Ukraine and Belarus between it's sphere of influence and the EU States.

    I have the feeling you might find that having Finland join with Russia may give you a spiritual home to meet your political "realities" that you espouse so eloquently.

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  • 178. At 8:48pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To WebAliceinwonderland (168):

    On education, our biggest national concern currently, besides keeping up elementary school education what the PISA studies and ranks, is our universities.

    We currently don't have any world class universities. In every study and ranking, our top universities are very far away from highest ranking. In example in QS Top Universities ranking...

    91. University of Helsinki
    211. Helsinki University of Technology
    246. University of Turku
    313. University of Kuopio
    336. University of Tampere
    372. University of Oulu
    391. University of Jyväskylä

    Both Sweden (63. Uppsala University and 88. Lund University) and Denmark (48. University of Copenhagen and 81. University of Aarhus) have higher ranked universities.

    The problem partly is that there are currently 20 universities and 29 collages (produce only bachelors). This is largely because Finnish goverment in 60s and 70s distributed university institution to country wide. The universities themselves are usually either good or excellent, but as they are small they don't show up well in international rankings. The main problem however is that we don't fund enough our universities and thus can't many times offer same funding, laboratories or research groups to best scientist that other countries are offering.

    By the way, when you talked about second degree, did you mean doctors degree? I can understand that attaining doctors degree in some situation may cause more harm, but I would say that if obtained in good situation it can produce quite good results. I plan to attain my doctors degree before 50s but after 40s, if not for to speed up my career but make all people address me as Dr. ;-)

    PS. If you have doctors degree you should try German companies, Germans really appreciate having doctors degree. Just in example the board of management of BMW has 8 members from which 6 have doctors degree. Deutsche Bank management board in the other hand only has 2 doctors out of 5 members. SAP on the other hand has only 4/10 doctors in their management: no wonder then that their software causes usage of curse words.

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  • 179. At 9:09pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (175):

    Oh please...

    1) The Iraq war was purely war of aggression. The wars aim was to a) stop Iraq trading oil with Euros and b) make Iraq an warning example to both Iran and Saudi-Arabia. Purely war of aggression. All tales of Iraq WMDs and connection to Osama Bin Laden were false. UN also didn't give any clear mandate to liberate Iraq. I repeat, if there would be international, then both George Bush and Tony Blair would be prosecuted for war of aggression.

    Do you know why question of internal law is so important? Its because if there is working international law, then there can be pure co-operation of countries, but if there isn't any international law then its laws of jungle thus driving small states to either ally or unite together.

    2) UK is a vassal state of US. Yes, individual citizens may disagree with this, but look at the actions of the state. You have your soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, for what? Your state and many of its citizens also praise the special relationship that UK has with USA.

    3) That's my point exactly, any country in power and especially in hegemonic power will abuse its power. As the world revolves purely around power the only chance for small countries is to ally or unite with other to create power to resist or equal the abusive power.

    4) As concluded before, India will abuse its power in the same way that the worlds most powerful democracy USA currently does, and China will abuse its power too.

    The points here, the thinking here relies on one thing: power. If you have power, you are good, if you don't have, you are not in a good situation. If European countries want to prosper and keep their valued freedom then the only way to achieve is to unite into a strong federation that creates a concentrated force to either enable us to resist or become equal to other powers. In the world of 2050 or 2100, countries like UK, Germany, France or Italy are just small regional powers, and if no strong federation is created, the destiny of Europe is to become abused.

    I would also like to note that Finland essentially was after the WW2 in a position of vassal state of Soviet Union to its collapse. Even if we could attain our essential liberties the whole country was abused and twisted to follow official liturgy of mutual friendship and continual praising of Soviet Union. No, we didn't have KGB, but there was no need for it, any dissenter was just silenced by segregation. You really don't want ever go to a that state of affairs.

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  • 180. At 9:14pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (177):

    Russia doesn't currently have or appreciate any of western values starting essential liberties such as freedom of speech to basics such as rule of law. Besides Russia is fast heading towards to become a client state of China.

    The best and only option for Finland is to ally and unite with Europe and that is what has been done with European Union membership. Our prime minister said it good: Finland is not military allied, but its no longer neutral. We have always looked on to Germany and France, to centers of Europe, as they are closest to our values and culture.

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  • 181. At 9:30pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Most of my errors in my comments are simply "typos" that make not a big difference (I hope!).

    However on re-reading #164, I realise that in my second to last paragraph I wrote, "but when they go to find work the Employers find they can do simple arithmatic, spell, articulate or think rationally."

    This should of course, have been: "but when they go to find work the Employers find they can not do simple arithmatic, spell, articulate or think rationally.

    That is a critical error that needed clarification as far as I am concerned. Please accept my apologies.

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  • 182. At 9:59pm on 28 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio (173):

    I almost missed your comment...

    I'm not an anti-Atlanticist, I'm against oppression and aggression.

    The greatest teaching of the WW1 and WW2 was that if nations engages to aggression and concentrate on external enlargement, the only outcome is misery and destruction. Europe has largely understood this lesson and creation of European Union has been one this processes high marks. What European Union is all about is internal strength and concentration on internal growth.

    US for long time followed this same path, but it has in the last 60 years went from isolationism to colonial empire building. My objection is to empire building as it results to aggression and oppression and in long term will lead to a total corruption of the empire building state. My opinion is that Europe should not part take on American empire building as we don't benefit anything from it and in the end we will face the same destructive destiny that any empire builders face eventually.

    Being against US policies of aggression doesn't mean abandoning Atlanticism or brake up of our Atlantic civilization. What we in Europe should do is to object and resist more strongly to US politics in a hope that they will give up on their unilateral policies and empire building. What the Atlantic or western civilization should be engaging is internal growth, usage of soft power and force only in defense.

    In regards to Mr. Blair and President Bush, you should note the context. My point was to demonstrate that there is no international law and thus no safety for small countries against the abuse of power by major countries.

    In regard of European Union and its formation to Federation as an vital for European countries to stay prosperous and safe in the future and be able to balk pressure coming from other world powers. If there would be rise of China, India and other former colonies, nor abusive USA or Russia I could happily keep EU just on co-operative level, but as other power continue to abuse power there is no other choice than Federal Europe.

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  • 183. At 10:09pm on 28 Oct 2008, busby2 wrote:

    They tried the holiday club scratch card scam on me and my family in Tenerife a few years ago.

    Their tactics, once they got you back to their office, were to keep you there as long as possible and to wear you down with tales of wonderful offers if only you would sign up. They said the money paid was a loan which would be repaid in 5 years. They refused for a long time to quote you a cost despite frequent requests. When a price was quoted I immediately said no - it was in the order of £10,000 poundsbut before we left we were offered a cut price deal by the manager which we also refused. We left, having wasted a good couple of hours, with our free bottle of Spanish champagne.

    That wasn't the end of it. We were then pestered by them when we got home by telephone with more cut price offers and a story that the husband of one couple had died and they wanted to sell on their holiday club purchase to us! Once again we refused. A few months later we saw a programme on TV on the scam and how it worked. I hope that warned off holiday makers!

    As for the law, the big question is why Spain has not clamped down on this fraud.

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  • 184. At 10:43pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila ,

    Re. 179.

    As I said, I am no fan of the UK being in Iraq. The good news is that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said Iraq no longer needs the British Army there so we have a perfect excuse to leave by the end of the year!

    The Chinese have grabbed the oil exploration rights from under the noses of the Americans so the excuse of Iraq being an Oil War is somewhat lame now.

    From my perspective, the US and allies should leave Iraq and let the bloodbath begin. To be honest I do not understand why the Americans are still there and bickering over staying there another 3 years - let the Iraqis kill one another and sort themselves out if that is what they want?

    Tough for the good guys left in Iraq but at least the critics of the US will no longer have a cosh to beat the US over the head with . . . .

    Or maybe they will just cry "foul" and criticise the US for leaving Iraq!

    My guess is that self-appointed, self-righteous critics of the USA will always find something to beat up the Americans with!

    Re #180

    In a way Finland is hoisted by its own petard: As you wrote, "Our prime minister said it good: Finland is not military allied, but its no longer neutral.

    You want ot be part of the EU, participate in the benefits of membership and take, take, take but, if push came to shove and the EU WEA goes to war, Finland is going to grandstand and sit out the dance.

    That has got to be an unfunny joke but I guess the lack of humour is why Finland sees "Germany and France, as centers of Europe, as they are closest to our values and culture" - no sense humour and they rip off the other member states while the going is good!

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  • 185. At 10:48pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #179/180 - Jukka_Rohila

    I appreciate that your comments are addressed to Menedemus but this is an open forum, so . . .

    1. Neither the USA nor any of her allies - and that is not just the UK - had anything to gain by conducting a war of agression in Iraq. As it turns out, it has been a major problem for all concerned but it was embarked upon in the light of information that was available at the time. Was the war based on false intelligence? Yes, almost certainly but that does not mean that nations should not act if necessary knowing what they know at the time.

    Was it legal? Even lawyers in the UK are divided about this. Some believe that Iraqui non-compliance with UN Resolution 1441 was enough to justify action while others believe the French position that would have required a resolution specifically requiring the use of force was required. The reality was that Russian and Chinese abstentions on a follw up resolution were inevitable and at least one, probably both, would veto. The post war consensus, even amongst those who were opposed is that, while it was questionable, it probably was not illegal.

    Was it relevant to the wider war on terrorism? No. We know that now but more to the point, it was probably known then. Iraq was never the operational base for Al Quaida overseas operations. That is a smokescreen.

    Is there International Law? There is to the extent that a large number of nations including all the EU members have signed up to international treaty obligations and accepted the ICC process. It is unfortunate that the US has not felt able to join the process. (By way of an aside, it is interesting that Russia signed up to the European Convention and has to date respected it). The problem is, of course, that you cannot hold countries which have not signed up to the process liable under it's terms. While the war itself was not illegal, there are big question marks over, for example, extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo which cannot be answered because the US has excluded itself.

    To the victors, the spoils. In order for any politician to be held to account for the conduct of a war, they need to be arrested and charged and this means, for all practical purposes, they must lose the war. While there are no winners is this war, the allies will certainly not lose it. There will be no prosecutions. In any event, even the most ardent opponent would not make the charges stick before a court of law.

    2. A Vassal State? People do unfortunately suffer and die in wars. Because they choose to join allies in a campaign, it does not follow that they are slavishly obeying orders from their international masters. The word 'vassal' is deeply offensive to the point of being insulting in the English language. If that is what you intended, so be it. If however, you are suggesting a tendency to follow where their American allies lead, you should say so. The truth is that Britain has traditionally held the 'special relationship' in high esteem but has never been reduced to slavish obedience. If that had been the case, the British would have been in Vietnam but there would have been no Falklands War. Occasionally, it has been the British who have taken the lead role, as in the process of bringing the Soviet Union is from the cold when Gorbachev came to power.

    3.The Corruption of Superpowers. This I find very curious. You seem to be saying that small countries should band together to form large ones so that they can behave just as badly. If you can't beat them, join them? This sounds to be at odds with your hitherto very rosy picture of what a united Europe would look like.

    I do not take issue with your remaining points save to suggest to you that a superpower even of the enormity of power the EU would have would not function well with so much disagreement as to the way forward. Europe will not progress until these issues are settled to the satisfaction of the majority of ordinary citizens.

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  • 186. At 10:54pm on 28 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #182 - Jukka_Rohila

    My comment at 185 was posted before your 182 appeared.

    That post went some way to addressing my questions. However, I stick by my central thesis.

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  • 187. At 10:59pm on 28 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Aren't I'm lucky that I don't have to convince Jukka_Rohila in anything anymore!

    (I have borrowed an English thing for that, about a week ago, "let's agree that we disagree". and since then we are best disagreeable friends ever!

    So, whoever thinks it is easy to re-convince tiny Finland. Simply remember that Russia has surrended this idea long time ago. No, dear Menedemus, no thank you, no they don't want to join us, I am sure they don't, no thank you very much.

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  • 188. At 11:00pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    busby2 @ #183

    I would hazard an educated guess that Spanish Law exists to deal with these scammers in Spain and elsewhere within the EU Nation States but that the fraud is complex to prove and very time-consuming to gather the evidence from multi-national victims of the scam.

    From that perspective, I can assure you that the Spanish Police are no different to the British Police - they will individually and collectively prefer to turn a blind-eye to the existence of the crime, record the details (if it is reported) but then go out and prefer to catch motorists, drunks, easy-to-catch thieves and drug users as they are more easy to arrest, bring before a court and have the crime recorded and cleared up in next to no time.

    The other reason that the Police are unwilling to devote the resource and energy required to dealing with the scammer is lack of sufficient competency - there are only so many Police Detectivies available who have the tenacity, acumen and practical skills to investigate fraud crimes, gather the evidence and produce a documented case that offers a Prosecutor a reasonable chance of bringing a successful prosecution before a Court.

    These investigations can take months if not years to fully investigate as there are multiple victims and, often, likely to be multiple scammers. That is why most Detectives will go get a police life and go do something mre self-rewarding like nick a burglar or pickpocket in the actus reus!

    The EU can make this a EU-wide crime but unless the EU can magically create police detectives suited to deal with this kind of laborious and boring to investigate scam - nothing will ever happen.

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  • 189. At 11:57pm on 28 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Alice (#187),

    You sound so certain!

    Perhaps you are open to a deal. I understand the Russians have become quite good at horse trading. :S

    Take Finland and NATO will throw in Georgia as a goodwill gesture! You know it has a few good bathing beaches - you just have to mind you don't stub your toe on any of those sunken Georgian military vessels or the odd US nuclear submarine or aircraft carrier or aegis that might be lurking just offshore developing the USA's colonial empire.

    I think that Russia needs a buffer zone between itself and Sweden - the Swedish are getting quite uppity with Russia these days . . . . Russia does not seem to be paying the OSCE enough attention!

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  • 190. At 00:01am on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To threnodio (185) and (186):

    I have to take a quick re-run, so some points might be redundant.

    1. USA had lots of gain from the war in Iraq.

    Major thing is, oil is the new gold. If you control oil, you control world economies. Control in this case is not direct control, but its indirect, its control of currency on which oil trade is based. As long as US dollar is used mainly on oil trade so long US can externalize its inflation and keep printing money in impunity. What Iraq in the end did was to start trading in Euros, if that trade would have enlarged to Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Russia and Venezuela, the US dollar would have collapsed quickly and swiftly. The occupation of Iraq achieved this perfectly.

    Its not about who drills the oil, but who get to print the money used to pay for it.

    It should also be mentioned that the war as you said was based on false information, but what you didn't remember to note is that the information was falsified by the US. They wanted war, they wanted to occupy Iraq at any price, and they did it. Pure war of aggression, nothing else.

    2. Vassal state is used to describe the situation intentionally, not because its offending power, but as it describes the situation best.

    Its not just about going wars with US, its about whole lot of things. Rupert Murdoch owns major media outlets in UK and with impunity he uses them to spread propaganda ranging from anti-EU views to agitation for war in Iraq. Its also about this 'special relationship' abused continuously by US and the relationship being mainly one day street, i.e. have you noted that UK does surrender British citizens to US for trial, but US doesn't render it citizens to UK from US. I'm sorry, but how else can you describe special relationship with US than as an vassal relation?

    And please, the collapse of Soviet Union was caused by the rapid collapse of their oil production that caused the state go bankrupt. Gorbachev wasn't brought to end the cold war, he faced a unattainable situation where the only attainable solution was to seek peace with the west.

    3. Corruption of empires. You can be super power with out an empire and with out engaging to external activities. That is the lesson of world wars and if that lesson is respected an European Union even with super power status can continue to function without smudging its hands on blood or corrupting itself and its core values.

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  • 191. At 00:28am on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (189):

    I don't know how well you do know history, but your conversation do remind me some history...

    The last time British and Russian (Soviets) had this same conversation it was year 1941 and it lead UK to declare war against Finland on our independence day, 6th of December. Talk about ruining the party mood.

    Thanks a lot for ruining a good party. Without your meddling we could have autobahn from Helsinki to St. Adolfstad and to world capital Berlin. Talk about a downer.

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  • 192. At 00:28am on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    Why not put S.Ossetia and Abkhazia out as time shares. Russia can have them from January till June, Georgia for the rest of the year and the French can organise the deckchairs. Independent observers can hand out fixed penalties like overstaying the allotted time or dropping litter - especially of an explosive nature.

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  • 193. At 00:37am on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To WebAliceinwonderland (187):

    You do know that you can partially blame yourself for all this critical thinking...

    A typical conversation in 60s in here...

    A: Dude, Soviet Union is awesome!
    B: Like totally awesome!
    A: Tell me again awesome Soviet Union is!
    B: Totally awesome! Totally totally awesome!
    A: Awesome! Yeah!

    Anyway, disagreeing is more fun and interesting than agreeing, of course I don't disagree just for fun, but lets face, in a BBC Euroblog its not that difficult even in accident wake up an avalanche of discussion.

    The best thing of course in having these discussions is that they make you to readdress your positions and refresh your information. I have done that in my mind few times today, unfortunately I haven't had the time to address to things yet... Its the same with our conversation about Russia which I now view as an issue of network buildup, that's thought a another story.

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  • 194. At 00:44am on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    Re: #192 above.

    I have just learned of the allegations regarding Georgian forces in S. Ossetia.

    In the circumstances, my frivolous comment was in poor taste. I would not have posted it had I been aware of this and apologise for any offence caused.

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  • 195. At 04:37am on 29 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #192

    Actually, I know my British and British Parliamentary History very well.

    On 6th December 1941 Finland and Romania declared war on Great Britain as an ally of the Soviet Union. Great Britian reciprocated the same day and the Commonwealth Nations of Canada, Australia and New Zealand also declared war on Finland in reciprocation the following day.

    Finnish assistance is suggested as having actively and effectivley supported German actions against British Arctic convoys to Murmansk.

    Throughout the war, German aircraft operating from airfields in northern Finland made attacks on British air and naval units based in Murmansk and Archangelsk.

    It is my belief that the Finns managed to seriously help contribute to the deaths of more allied seaman trying to deliver war materials to Russia than the the British caused the direct deaths of any Finnish citizens - the Continuation War realistically being a war between Finland and Stalinist Russia and of no startegic interest to Great Britain.

    I don't think that Great Britain actually got to the party to poop it other than the GB Swordfish aircraft attack upon the Petsamo harbour being used by Nazi German battle craft on 31st July 1941 - 6 months BEFORE the declarations of war.

    From the Great Britain perspective an elephant does not need to swat flies even when they buzz, flit around and generally annoy the elephant by really getting in the elephant's face.

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  • 196. At 08:33am on 29 Oct 2008, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    #163
    The key is that phrase don't know what's proper in English - "to separate and to be the tsar".

    I think it's divide and conquer (or divide et impera for Latin lovers).

    This thread has shot of in about 200 different directions, but for those advocating a federal Europe; is this wise looking at Belgium's squabbles?

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  • 197. At 09:41am on 29 Oct 2008, MaxSceptic wrote:

    threnodio @194:

    Au contraire.

    The proof of Georgian brutality just demonstrates what a shambles the whole area is, and why we in the UK (and the EU) would do well to keep our noses well out of this squalid squabble.


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  • 198. At 11:01am on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (195):

    You got it backwards...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1138501.shtml?sectionId=3&articleId=1138501

    "Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary and Romania on 5 December 1941, following the signing of the Tri-partite Pact and Finland's alliance with Germany."

    Actually Wikipedia is little bit fuzzy in this account. It says that Great Britain declared war to Finland in 5th of December, and United Kingdom declared war on Finland in 6th of December. Is Wikipedia just fuzzy or is there any greater reason for making distinction on Great Britain and United Kingdom declaring wars on different days?

    Of course its understandable that at that time UK and especially Churchill were in a desperate situation and everything was made to please and keep Stalin fighting against Germany.

    An interesting sideline in this is US reaction. US did declare war to Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania on June 5th of 1942, but didn't do it against Finland.

    Just demonstrates that democracies do go war against other democracies, when in the hour of need.

    PS. Your comment about elephant and flies resembles greatly comments made by WebAliceinwonderland. Just a coincident or cultural legacy from colonial days maybe?

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  • 199. At 11:16am on 29 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #196, G-in-Belgium,

    Quite so, Belgium has been held up as the model of a federal state and what the EU should become. Our Finnish friend seems to think that total power is a good thing whereas I think most of us here think that total power corrupts totally.

    I think that in post #179 Jukka_Rohila actually gave us the clue as to why he holds his views :- "I would also like to note that Finland essentially was after the WW2 in a position of vassal state of Soviet Union to its collapse. Even if we could attain our essential liberties the whole country was abused and twisted to follow official liturgy of mutual friendship and continual praising of Soviet Union. No, we didn't have KGB, but there was no need for it, any dissenter was just silenced by segregation. You really don't want ever go to a that state of affairs."

    The key words being, No, we didn't have KGB, but there was no need for it, any dissenter was just silenced by segregation. Does this not remind me of his antipathy towards any nation state daring to oppose his chosen path for the EU and his demand that the UK be ejected from the EU. I just hope that he is unrepresentative of the Finnish people.

    To all,

    Just one other point about education is that one of the greatest problems in the UK is that the left wing liberal bias amongst teachers is self propagating. The fault lies in the teacher training colleges who have churned out the same views they learnt in the 60's to successive generations of teachers. We now have the situation that the teachers are indoctrinating children from 5 years of age according to what Nu-Labour deems politically correct. I take great issue with this as they can't even get healthy eating right, my own grandson became scared of eating certain things because the teachers scared him with their words, and they weren't even correct with what they said. When it comes to the endless appeals for funds to help with left wing hobby horses like Africa, I even got that with my kids years back. The one thing that Jukka seems to have forgotten is that education is very subjective, it's quality depends totally on the views of the teachers doing the teaching. If history is reinvented then the students will believe whet is being spoon fed to them. Even technical training suffers from that as whilst the script may be the same the quality of the teachers varies enormously as I've found out during the many IT courses I've attended over the years. That's why I tend to think a degree or diploma is just a bit of paper that looks good as wallpaper but has little practical value other than providing an income for an ever growing army of trainers.

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  • 200. At 11:27am on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #196 - G-in-Belgium

    ". . . is this wise looking at Belgium's squabbles?"

    Yes, of course it is. And the ETA situation in the Basque region, the ongoing partition of Cyprus, a sufficient period of continuous stability at Stormont, the staus of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia and maybe even Scottish independence.

    This is one of my points to Jukka-Rohila. How can you proceed with the construction of an international stadium when the bits of land that make it up are on different levels? Alevel playing field is a prerequisite.

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  • 201. At 12:08pm on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To G-in-Belgium (196) and Buzet23 (199):

    The problem of Belgium isn't federalism, but the country being split in two camps alongside the language lines. When ever there is only two sides what you get is trench war that continues from an issue into another without any regard on practice or benefits of the issue on line. This problem of two can't only be seen on Belgium, but the same line of pickering and pains both US and British political systems where eternal struggle of Republicans vs. Democrats and Tories vs. Labor tear any issue into a fight between the two. Federalism has nothing to do with these issues, its the structural problem of only having two actors. In Federal Europe there would be with current member 27 member states thus issues won't stuck as a fight between two parties.


    To Buzet23 (199):

    Oh please, you can freely discuss about the EU and make comments and remarks about it without any consequences on to your career nor to any aspects of your personal life.

    What you and others don't seem to realize in many of these conversations is that there are costs. There a cost on not doing nothing. There are costs on going back. There are costs on going ahead.

    If you are going to speak about EU and where its going, the fact is that costs of different alternatives in this point are so high that even radical departure from previous politics is not only possible but attainable. UK has dubious relationship with the EU, that is a fact, and that dubious relationship is making costs. We can go back to politically correct discussions, but lets face, that would only bury the real conflict that is going on.


    To threnodio (200):

    Essentially its about costs. What is the cost on waiting playing field to level compared to advancing in integration despite differences or unresolved issues in and between regions.

    A level playing field isn't requisite, it would be nice to have, but in reality we will never have a situation where we can just say "finally ready, now all is resolved, lets think about this integration thing". I should also add that integration itself is both solving and creating problems. Integration has removed already borders and currencies making less impetus to unify previously split regions: there is less need for independence for Basque country or in Catalonia now than there were before integration process. I should stress that in long period as the EU comes more federal, it will work more with regions than with nations thus solving again problems created by nations.

    And again, as I pointed in my other posts, US is continuing as its path as lone super power and other countries and regions are on the rise. In 2050 its already too late to act. The decisions we make today impact not only us and our children but the position of our grand children.

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  • 202. At 12:42pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    O Wondrous time!
    BBC has shown its audience a glimpse of autrocities that may have been conducted may be by Georgians against SO may be civillians.
    What date is it today? How far it is from London to St. Petersburg.

    Can it be that Churkin in UN, in the early morning hours of the Aug 8th did have a point ? demanding immediate int'l interference. beating his head against a blank wall of the Security Council.

    oh I forgot you are not told yet such a meeting took place in the first place.
    And unless a local source confirms you what the Russians in the forums were trying to say for 2 months - you aren't going to believe it.
    Russian media in the freedom of speech is only No 141 in the world, right. (Iceland is No 1 - they'd know the particulars!)

    My PC doesn't speak. I only saw a live report, like, "watch", with an arrow moving below marking the time. Night rocket attack on Tshinvali - this I can recognise without any voice-over. A nice man in a blue shirt. A woman in a black scarf looking typically Caucasus, tells him something, both go to the large shabby apartment house cellar.
    Somehow I can imagine what she told him without any voice. That she was sitting there while Georgian artillery was pre-ironing of the city, and then when the the Georgian tank columns entered.

    That is, I saw this an hour ago, in BBC NEWS/ News Front page. Yesterday night wasn't there, and now is gone again, dived someplace into the depths of BBC. Not in Europe, not under Georgian things. Enough is enough.

    Anyway, what a break-neck, bordering with debunking, reporting. Such infidelity to ? to what? to the core values of Western democracy ? They are so nervous values, they might faint at the view of night Tshinvali bombardment.

    I also noted care was taken to take away from the picture Georgian hierogliphs in the upper right corner. Because the film is Georgian, and the real film has it all, Georgian text saying something throughout the film. Their TV show of the attack on Tshinvali, live broadcast throughout the night 7th to 8th. to the proud citizens of the country. I heard Georgians were dancing in the streets, watching the movie, that night. It was on big screens in Tbilisi dow-town.
    But I won't bet they did, that's media propaganda.

    All I know our Georgians, in St. Petersburg, ran to the sports bars. And were drinking the health of Saakashvili standing.

    Anyway, why won't you ask BBC for the full version? The full version is much more interesting, lasts not 30 sec.
    BBC has the full thing. Who doesn't. Had it all along.

    I remember I was very impressed with it. You sit by TV like an idiot - and can't do nothing.

    Anyway, very curious. Did the pendilum swing in the opposite direction? We grew so cynical here, with our kind of country, you should excuse us for it. My cynical instincts somehow suggest Britain will get now a very carefully measured dose of "autrocities". To quiet minds and close up the matter. Yes! We have discovered! There was one woman. And Saakashvili, accordingly, will get his very carefully measured dose of reprimanding. And 4.5 bln for restauration of unbroken country - of which not a dollar will go to ingagl11 here in the blogs, who lost a house in Abkhasia, and which is 1.4 bln dollars more than the World Bank has estimated a week ago as "what Georgia requires to fix it all and build up all it wants." Saakashvili, FYI, was pleasantly impressed with the number. And the 4.5 to which it was increased by the generous world sent him to giggles and god blessings conditions.
    At which point the balance gets fixed and the matter is closed for the good, and one can safely drive into the known rut of disproportionate Russia.

    threnodio. don't worry about joking about time-share. we have outlived the stage "how can they! how do you dare! why don't you see! no!". As BBC wrote someplace recently, joking post-stress keeps a person senile. when the world goes out of balance so much as in war, one has to joke to stay in his own mind. this is a protection reaction of the brain, to manage the dis-balance created in the mind, to fix the unfixable situation somehow. if only by joking about it, since other measures you can't, fixing the world beyond human power. So we are already in quite humorous moods!
    Georgians I came to see as children, who's done something, but don't want to answer for what they've done. There is a mental block in their mind re own actions. They are like children, how to say, all along sure grown-ups won't punish them very much, because they are children.

    What's worrying me more is in the past 2 months I grew to view the Western people as children as well.

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  • 203. At 12:43pm on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (199):

    About education...

    The problem in education aren't teachers. I don't know how in Britain education is administrated and how different ministries influence on what is stressed in education, but what I know is that all decisions concerning education should be made in the ministry of education in help of other ministries and professionals. The teachers only communicate and transmit what has been dictated by programs concerning education. Of course teachers may have their own views, but those doesn't make heavy influence when all material and programs are made by the department of education.

    If there is alarmist education or straightforward propaganda given to pupils by teachers, then the question that should be asked, is the structure and organization of education the root cause of the problems? I would incline to support this view, even I don't know the actual organization of education, the recent decision like using anti-terror laws against banks tells a tale of state that isn't functioning normally.

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  • 204. At 12:45pm on 29 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #201, Jukka_Rohila,

    It's often not just about two sides, in Belgium's case there are actually four different entities, The Dutch speakers in Flanders, The French speakers in Walloon, the German speakers in Walloon and Brussels. Whether a conflict arises from language barriers or cultural barriers is irrelevant as any region can be sub divided into (often multiple) problem areas, just as many countries have a North South divide. Consequently you are not seeing the truth if you think it's always between only two sides, the picture is often far more complicated.

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  • 205. At 12:53pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    not "senile". Sane. sorry, English words get up mixed in my mind.
    __________

    the best I could ever achieve in talking the war over with my frinds in England - of much longer standing, mind it, than I know you via these blogs,
    was
    "Alice, whatever Georgia has done - you shouldn't." (have brought in the army)
    - Oh why?! why shouldn't have we?!
    - Because that is Georgia, and you are Russia. We want to be friends with you - we currently think about common future. And right at this point you behave like neanderthals. In the 21st century you don't apply force anymore. However many they killed, quaretered, murdered or whatever.
    That's them, and we are interested in you."

    Now that's a comliment to Russia approach you can't deny, expecting more.
    Still I am not sure that "in the 21st century...
    "we don't anymore"

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  • 206. At 12:58pm on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #201 - Jukka_Rohila

    As regards the mutual extradition arrangements between the UK and the US, this has been the subject of repeated earlier debates so I won't bore everyone by going into detail but basically, in the mad panic that followed 9/11, the two countries agreed on the new special arrangements. The Americans, being 'good democrats', required congressional ratification. The then Home Secretary, David Blunkett being an arrogant control freak, decided not to bother asking parliament and pushed it through by Order in Council. This has resulted in the States never enacting the legislation, hence the one way traffic. Nothing to do with vassal state, everything to do with bad government in London.

    ". . . but what you didn't remember to note is that the information was falsified by the US."

    I didn't remember it because it wasn't true. A great deal of the false intelligence on which the war was justified was, to our shame, British in origin - especially the bit about trying to acquire fissionable materials in Africa. To what extent it was fabricated is another matter.

    "And please, the collapse of Soviet Union was caused by the rapid collapse of their oil production that caused the state go bankrupt."

    I have never written that it was. What I said was that the UK played the lead role in bringing in the Soviet Union from the cold. Again this has been rehearsed in detail before. Remember the Thatcher line 'this is a man I can do business with' while Reagan was going on about 'the evil empire'? You don't think that was coincidence do you? It was all very carefully orchestrated.

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  • 207. At 1:25pm on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (204):

    The German speakers are in so small minority in Belgium that they have no influence on the squabble between Dutch and French speakers. German speakers are in the same position as the Liberal party in UK, never in a position to influence or make a difference.

    Of course there are other things in question in here, but the political system, where these issues should be resolved have gone in dead lock because having only two sides.

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  • 208. At 1:27pm on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #202 - WebAliceinwonderland

    Alice,

    All I can say is that a few of us have been arguing for a long time that Russia was not 'the bad boy' in all of this and has been serious misjudged in the west. The simple truth is that none of it should ever have happened. The Georgians should basically not have launched the attack but, even if you are going to do something irresponsible, that is no excuse for fouling it up, which they did.

    The Russians are not noted for being angels either. Look at the unnecessary bloodshed in Chechnya. But again some monstrous things happened in the former Yugoslavia. It seems that otherwise reasonable human beings simply turn into monsters at the first smell of blood.

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  • 209. At 2:29pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    G-in-Belgium (#196) - thank you, for "divide and conquer". And I am amazed you managed to post it in Latin as well; I had things vanish for as much as Latin "and others" (like in bibliography what you write, this author name, and others (I'll stay on the cautious side).

    Now, menedemus, (#189) "You sound so certain! Perhaps you are open to a deal - "

    ha ha ha

    Menedemus, I don't know if you remember a Mark Twain I think story on your side, where 2 unfortunate bandits caught an energetic naughty boy of about 10, hid him away in a cave nearby, and began bombarding the kid's father with offers to return the child back for a lumpy amount in dollars.
    I think it's called "Chief of the Redskins".

    Meanwhile happy boy finally in the freedom played with the poor bandits in Red Indians day and night, saddled and drove the biggest villain around as a horse, sat them traps to fall in and had extraordinary fun without any desire to return back to parents. So the bandits decreased the amount of ransom they originally demanded, and placed a new letter to the father into a tree hollow, but got no reply. Then they tried to return the child to the father, but he won't go. So they put into that tree a new suggestion - to have him basck FOC.

    To which they finally got the parent's reply which read approx. as follows: "Gentleman, I agree to get the boy back if you pay me 5000 dollars, for which amount I promise to hold him 10 minutes while you run to the Canadian border. And make up your mind quick because I am amazed myself at my own humanity and might change my mind."

    I'd add to this dear menedemus, to make you totally happy, that in the Russian experience the above story is rather better fitting Poland....
    and has nothing to do with Finland no don't worry dear Jukka_Rohila has nothing to do with you it only seems to you while I am writing purely symbolically

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  • 210. At 2:38pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Jukka, that you noticed I might be blaming you in being disagreeabe just for the sake of being disagreeable.
    Correct observation on your side, I was indeed led to that conclusion a bit after we discussed with you Northern Pole.

    I mentioned off-handedly that Russians dived over there under, and didn't expect any troubles to come of that simple statement... Meanwhile you have immediately brought to my attention the fact that Reuters wrote it was footage from Titanic, so you rather doubt Russians did dive down there.

    I thought it is strange and tried to hint you our diving thing "Mir" was produced in Finnish ship-yards, so, like, do you doubt in your own equipment, that it can dive?

    But this didn't help, so I had to spend an hour in the web finding out what that damn Reuters said, why other news stations think Reuters did a mistake, how exactly Reuters published their excuses, and in a short it was a useless nightmare. So, yes, I did get an impression you will dispute every word.

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  • 211. At 2:53pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Every word, that is, of what I say.
    So it is my heavily biased opinion.
    In effect I decided it is hopeless because you respect only documentaries and hard data from official sources. And I find it boring to quote and quote and bring evidence from the wiki, to copy and paste and all. This is killing the talk a bit.

    Moreover, at times you are right.
    Which cases I can't counter-dispute with any fact sheets ! :-)

    So Jukka I again remind you that "Mir" that round diving thing was made in Finnish ship-yards (even that the construction could have been severely damaged by the heavy moral burden of staying friends with the Soviet Union), driven by Russians, and the name in Russian means "world" and means "peace" - one word for both meanings. And Russian languiage is so poor with words - that we don't have doubles in this case - only one option to say both.

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  • 212. At 3:14pm on 29 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    On "Mir" connotations.
    The only way to achieve "Mir" is to collect all the "Mir" together. In Rus. mind it stands firmly - The only way to have peace is to collect the whole world together. (in Russia. :-)
    (but as it is far to this stage, the idea can be developed, to, "collected together, but may be not necessarily in Russia.")

    Examples:

    Today our newspaper will tell you about the latest news in the peace. (where we are yet not) ( :-)

    The long-awaited world has finally come to the war-ruined land of Georgia (UN, EU, OSCE, Bernard Coushner and who only not...) (:-) )

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  • 213. At 3:38pm on 29 Oct 2008, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    This is more a forum than a blog ;D

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  • 214. At 4:40pm on 29 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila @ #198

    Now there you have found a bit of a conundrum for me to resolve as my archive research has the following facts held for me:

    6 December 1941 Finland and Romania declares war on Great Britain. Great Britain reciprocates the same day.
    7 December 1941 Canada, Australia and New Zealand (and other Commonwealth countries all declare war on Finland.

    However I did look at you link and your links authors may or may not have it exactly correct?

    I have looked at several other sources and the following timeline events make for interest:

    December 6 1941
    Finland and Romania declare war on Great Britain.

    December 7 1941
    Japan declares war on the United States of America, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa.

    Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Finland, Hungary and Romania.

    Canada declares war on Finland, Hungary, Japan and Romania.

    Panama declares war on Japan.

    Greece breaks diplomatic relations with Japan.

    Nicaragua breaks diplomatic relations with Vichy France.

    Norway breaks relations with Finland.

    Yugoslavia at war with Japan.

    I have the feeling that so many countries were busy declaring war upon each other or severing diplomatic links that the historians have got it all muddled up. Clearly (to me) my records show GB declaring war in response to Finland's declaration but your link has it a day earlier and a collective research against "Today in History" has the GB declaration a day later on the 7th.

    I now have a new research project. And I will have to look at the Parliamentary Records for that time as the declaration would have been via Parliament and not necessarily via the Press - even in time of war.

    The stupidity of it all is that it is clear that Great Britain and France had toyed with the idea at some stage earlier, when Russia invaded Finland, Churchill considered an alliance with the Free French Government for France and Great Britain to declare war on Russia in defence of the democratic Finns - despite being an ally of Russia in its fight for survival from the German War.

    Quite how that would have worked out other than as real dog's dinner - I can hardly imagine - but it would have been incredibly weird!

    Anyway, Great Britain dillied and dallied and Germany "came to the assistance of Finland" first and Finland eventually signed up to the, then oddly named, Tripartite Pact, as a consequence.

    As to my comment of the Elephant and the Flies . . . that is NOT something I had gathered from Alice but it was a simile between the need for Great Britain to deal with Germany and the buzzing and flitting of the flies was merely the declarations of war upon Great Britain by Finland and Romania. (off the top-of-my-head, I think the source is actually a Churchill remark?)

    As of the 6th December 1941, Great Britain immediately had much more serious problems than belligerence with either Finland or Romania as Japan had declared war in the Pacific and all of Great Britain's assets in the Far East were under attack in the first ever Energy War.

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  • 215. At 4:48pm on 29 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Is 215 Comments in one thread a new record for Mark's Blog.

    If so we should have a party! ;o)

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  • 216. At 4:55pm on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    In case anyone is wondering, the massive moderation queue appears to be down to a heated debate about two idiots who made rude comments on someone's phone service while broadcasting. It's absolutely stunning how small minded the British can be.

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  • 217. At 6:17pm on 29 Oct 2008, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Threnodio

    This was the post that i agreed with most.

    It was small minded and even pathetic but......


    Dear God, can everyone needs to just get over themselves!

    1. Wossy and The Idiot Brand should just tell everyone to do one.

    2. The young "lady" should stop strumping famous morons in a tight jeans and remember that celebrity is a two edged sword.

    3. Andrew Sachs; lighten up, take a joke and go and beard the pair of them on their own shows. Look what Matthew Kelly did to Frank Skinner, a bloke of your intelligence can make these silly boys squirm in front of millions. Just remember a lot of people found the representation of Manuel both racist and offensive but they were rightly ignored.

    COMEDY IS MEANT TO BE RISKY!!!!!!!!

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  • 218. At 7:24pm on 29 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (214):

    Just made a quick search in the Internet to find some Finnish sources. Found some interesting results...

    Churchill sent to a private letter to Mannerheim in advance apologizing for soon to be given out declaration of war...

    This is short part of the letter. It is a translation from Finnish which of course originally was in English so translation errors are more than likely...

    "Prime minister Churchill to Field Marshal Mannerheim

    Personal, secret and private.

    I'm greatly aggrieved on what I see to be coming as we for loyalty to Russia have to in already in few days time declare war on Finland. -- As remembering our pleasant discussions and our correspondence concerning the last war I fell need to send you this purely personal and private message. -- 29. November 1941"

    From G.Mannerheim, Memoirs part II, 1952, page 366.

    "Field Marshall Mannerheim to Prime Minister Churchill.

    Personal, secret and private.

    I have had the honor to receive via United States ambassador in Helsinki your letter dated at 29th of November, I thank you for it and that you are so kindly sent this private message to me. -- You were very kind on sending me at these heavy days your personal message, to which I give great valuation. 2nd of December 1941."

    From G.Mannerheim, Memoirs part II, 1952, page 367.

    President Risto Ryti also mentions this correspondence in his diary note dated at 6.12.1941. He told about the correspondence to Paasikivi at 20.12.1941.

    Nuance in history that I didn't note is that Finland joined Anti-Comintern Pact, but not to Tripartite Pact.

    To be added also is that Soviet Union pressured Churchill to declare war on Finland many times, but Churchill didn't give up. Its told that Maisk, then ambassador to Britain, noted that Britain on not declaring war on Finland is the problem that has hurt Stalin most.

    So it seems that Britain in deed did declare war first, but of course only to please Soviet Union and even then with style suited to gentlemen.

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  • 219. At 9:08pm on 29 Oct 2008, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 107 threnodio.

    In fact, the EU should make your having to apply for hungarian citizenship (as well as myself for a british one, or buzet the belgian one) redundant and unnecessary. If citizens of other member states are treated equally with the natives then one needs not acquire other citizenship. Think of the amount of red-tape that this would remove.

    Note that I see citizenship as a set of rights, nothing more. And refuting the concept of "patriotism", as we know it, doesn't mean the refuting of local traditions and other good things of life that each country (or region, which is more to the point) has to offer.

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  • 220. At 10:35pm on 29 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    lacerniagigante @ #219

    I can see that you are itching to vote in the UK because that is your country of residence and current employment but your idealism reagrding uncontrolled voting enfranchisement raises in my mind's eye a potentially huge problem.

    Voter Identity fraud!

    It exists and is becoming prevalent in the UK where voter identities are solely based upon the Voters Register which is so open to corrupt practice that even children, dead relatives and even pets can be given the vote. It has, of more recent times, been found that non-existent household residents have been created through listing on the Voters Register - gigving rise to the issue of multiple voters poll cards to single addresses where people the go to the Polling Station and cast multiple votes under different names thus corrupting the democratic process.

    To be honest I am surprised that, given that you reside in the UK, you are not on your local Voters Register and do not get sent your poll cards for UK Elections anyway?

    The big problem is postal votes and the votes of overseas residents - your proposal would allow a person to vote in their country of residence and tax paying host nation AND also register for voting in their domestic nationality based elections - I am not saying that is wrong I just wonder if that is fair?

    I think that you should have the right to vote for the government where you have residency and pay taxes - I am just not sure if you should retain the right to vote for your home nation if you no longer live there and pay that country no taxes?

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  • 221. At 11:30pm on 29 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #219 - lacerniagigante

    Please don't misunderstand me. I don't have to change anything. As an EU citizen, I can stay for as long as I like providing I renew every five years. My point was what would happen if I chose to do so.

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  • 222. At 00:01am on 30 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    with style suited to gentlemen. aha.
    the samples of which are to be found by industrious search in Finnish exclusively.


    Jukka there is nothing holy for you in the world. "Truth, bare truth and nothing but the truth."

    I had a look now at a huge coin in a glass box I keep, written there Sir Winston Churchill commemorative crown 1874 1965

    He says he disagrees.

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  • 223. At 00:38am on 30 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #220 - Menedemus

    I don't think this has much to do with voting fraud. I think it is more about reassuring the Benefits Agency who might get suspicious at sending out dozens of giros every fortnight to an address with only one registered voter.

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  • 224. At 01:04am on 30 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #207, Jukka_Rohila

    You wrote once again

    "The German speakers are in so small minority in Belgium that they have no influence on the squabble between Dutch and French speakers. German speakers are in the same position as the Liberal party in UK, never in a position to influence or make a difference.

    Of course there are other things in question in here, but the political system, where these issues should be resolved have gone in dead lock because having only two sides."

    Please start opening the eyes a bit as what you write about here, there being only two sides in every equation is not just naive but unbelievable. There are many disputes on record that prove the opposite, your own Finnish WWII subject shows that, Bosnia shows that, need I continue to say the obvious!

    PS. I guess you've just insulted the German population of Walloon, well done Jukka, with friends (pro EU europhiles) like you who needs enemies.

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  • 225. At 01:08am on 30 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    Out of interest, has it struck anyone else that we ordinary posters pre-moderating whereas Messrs. Ross and Brand only need reactive moderation?

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  • 226. At 01:42am on 30 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    "this thread has shot of in about 200 different directions"
    so I guess one more deviation won't ruin this octopuses garden?
    _____________

    "Winter Evening. To my old nanny.
    Devoted to the English weather last week of Oct 2008 "
    by Alexandre Pushkin, Russia, in 1825.

    Over the earth a storm is prowling
    Bringing haze and driving snow.
    Like a beast I hear it howling
    Like a child wailing low.
    Now the thatch it rustles, playing
    On our roof; now at our pane
    Raps like someone home straying
    And benighted in the plain.

    Our hut is dark and dreary,
    By a candle dimly lit....
    Why so sad my dear and weary
    At the window do you sit?
    Is't because the storm is moaning
    That bemused and still you keep?
    Does your spindle's mournful droning
    Put you quietly to sleep?

    tra la

    Of a maid out by a river
    Sing a little song to me
    Or a busy bird that never
    Leaves its home beyond the sea.

    O'er the earth a storm is prowling,
    Bringing haze and driving snow.
    Like a beast I hear it howling,
    Like an infant wailing low.
    Come, O comrade solitary
    Of this cheerless youth of mine,
    Let us fill our cups and bury
    All our woes in frothing wine!

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  • 227. At 02:30am on 30 Oct 2008, threnodio wrote:

    #224 - Buzet23

    Not to mention the Lib Dems who a pressing for increased defence spending so that they can go to war with Finland as soon as they win the 2010 election.

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  • 228. At 09:33am on 30 Oct 2008, Ticape wrote:

    Buzet23
    Jukka, with friends (pro EU europhiles) like you who needs enemies.

    Wasn't it you who said I shouldn't have an assumed opinion, and yet here you are having an assumed opinion.
    It appears that Europhobes are hypocrites as well. :)

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  • 229. At 10:12am on 30 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    threnodio @ #223

    Please don't get me started on Social Security Fraud within the UK!

    I have even seen members of staff of Social Security offices creating false accounts to be paid social security funds which they then banked or have friends bank to the detriment of the tax-payer.

    Loan Sharks lending against future DSS giro payments remains prevalent in the sinkhole estates.

    Individual deceptions of the DSS are incessant and neverending.

    Duly caught out DSS Fraudsters are dealt with the Courts but the publicity is kept low so as to not cause public unrest. I saw that time and time again - reported locally but never reported nationally in any great depth

    The whole system of social security funding is rank with corruption and deceit.

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  • 230. At 12:49pm on 30 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #228, Ticape,

    Here we go again, my comment was just that a comment and was not an assumed opinion. It concerned Jukka dismissing the German speaking part of Belgium as being too small a minority to influence or make a difference in anything. That was an assumed opinion of Jukka's and considering that he wants a federal EU with very strong central power I found it disturbing that 73,000 people and their views are considered irrelevant. Maybe you federalists can say how large a population has to be before it's views are considered worth listening to.

    As a result of his opinion my comment 'with friends like you who needs enemies' is quite correct as it's clear by his own words that he thinks they don't count in the current Belgian federations problems. Do not forget that Belgium is held up as the model for an EU federation and if you support the ignoring of a sector of a federation then you are showing how dangerous it would be for the EU to go down that path (ps. that IS an assumed opinion).

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  • 231. At 12:59pm on 30 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    Menedemus and threnodio,

    With regard to the voting scams and false names etc I've seen that as well in Lambeth. In multi occupancy houses i.e. bedsits, it's amazing how many voting papers arrive, often for people who have never lived there, if the landlord returns them to the council nothing seems to happen as they reappear the next time. I have long been surprised that neither the Conservatives or Liberals have demanded to see if these false papers were used in the election. Certainly in a recent election when the Tories won many councils, Lambeth bucked the trend and went to Labour which was very odd.

    This is something which I think is related to the opposition to identity cards, since one thing they do achieve is to reduce election fraud. Here in Belgium the card is quite simple and not obtrusive like the Nu-Labour proposals, and must be shown when you vote.

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  • 232. At 1:04pm on 30 Oct 2008, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Ticape


    Jukka, with friends (pro EU europhiles) like you who needs enemies.

    Wasn't it you who said I shouldn't have an assumed opinion, and yet here you are having an assumed opinion.
    It appears that Europhobes are hypocrites as well. :)

    Whats the assumtion?

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  • 233. At 1:38pm on 30 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (230):

    If you look at Belgium and how their country works, how the political system works, you can see that those 73000 Germans aren't relevant in discussion concerning the deadlock in politics and governing of Belgium.

    You have country that is bond of two states. That is two sides. The current deadlock in Belgium is caused by the fact that these two parts of Belgium can't work together or agree on workable compromise. Two sides.

    Now may I ask what relevance of 73000 Germans in Wallon should have more than their voting power? There are 3,4 million people in Wallon, so German speakers there consist approx. 0,02% of people. So do they have relevance in the deadlock of Belgium? No. Now where do you not agree?

    To continue on Belgium, Belgium is not a the model of EU. What Belgium has for long been is an example that a country consisted on nations, language groups, can manage and solve their problems via peaceful democratic process. To this day Belgium has shown that yes, democracy works and allows troubled things to be solved in time and in peace. If you want to find the model for federal EU just look on either Germany or USA, they are the real models of EU.

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  • 234. At 2:50pm on 30 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Menedemus, if you'd be occasionally visiting here, just please update me on your exact humorous conditions at this point.

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  • 235. At 3:05pm on 30 Oct 2008, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Jukka,
    73,000 Germans constitute 0.02%.

    Does it mean anything in life?
    Haven't you seen small peoples causing big troubles? Small people causing great achievements?

    2+2 = 4. Great. In life means nil.

    Life forms abundant on the Earth in multiple formats don't give a anything about arythmetics. Otherwise they'd never evolved from amoebas to ? present whatever we are. They'd stuck putting two and two together, imagine an amoeba trying to calculate how to divide into two parts. It'll be dead.
    Mechanistic machine-like approaches are sheer death and suicide.

    In case this doesn't convince you because it's a different approach to your picturing the world, ?
    ah. 73,000 can not be 0.02, from 3,400,000

    I feel I am right. Feeling is Believing.
    Now you can try to calculate it.

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  • 236. At 3:57pm on 30 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To WebAliceinwonderland (235):

    Governments and institutions are mechanistic in their very nature, democratic states more even.

    The German speakers in Walloon constitute only 0.02% of voters, as voters of an language or cultural group they don't have meaningful relevance to the working of Walloon regional government.

    The original notation was that Belgium isn't split on just two factions and that the deadlock in Belgium politics isn't just an two sided issue was reasoned on Belgium having German minority. However that minority is very small and more importantly it doesn't have own regional government, but is a part of Walloon region. From the structural point of view thus the German minority isn't relevant in this issue and thus doesn't constitute an third party element that could influence or solve the two party deadlock.

    Of course the German minority has humans and citizens of Belgium are relevant as any other, but as I said, this is an institutional and structural matter.

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  • 237. At 4:12pm on 30 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #233, Jukka_Rohila,

    Jukka, The German speaking peoples in Belgium are part of the province of Liege, were Belgium to split in two or more likely three the next question is what would happen to Walloon. One possible scenario is that the provinces of Liege, Namur and Luxembourg could revert to their historical ties with Luxembourg and the German part of the province of Liege join Germany. The remaining two provinces would join with France.

    This is one possible opinion I have heard muted by some here and there are a number of other possible directions that could be taken if a split occurred. Once again I say that there are more than two sides in this problem as the Brussels situation is quite different from the Flemish/Walloon situation, and the German speaking part even have their own parliament, albeit it is quite small. If there is one thing that the federal approach has shown in Belgium it's that there are inherent failings in it when cultural differences arise. Even your wonderful Germany has it's own cultural differences between the various regions as I found that out when I worked there some years back.

    Finally, whether it's 0.02% or .2% or 2% or even one vote, in a democracy everybody's vote should be equal and ignoring even one vote means you've lost touch with the meaning of democracy.

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  • 238. At 4:48pm on 30 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (237):

    Yes, yes, yes... there is still two sides in the deadlock named Belgium. Now I never said that in other contexts there wouldn't be other sides and other stakeholders, but in the federal government there are only two sides, Walloon and Flemish, and this two party format has caused the crisis.

    I really don't think that you can compare the situation of Belgium Federal government to how EU works. In EU there 27 member countries and the formation of dead lock situation, in cases where consensus is not need, is very rare. In EU there certainty that always somebody is willing to trade or swap their sides if the compromise is right thus preventing dead locks.

    Finally... democracy is the dictatorship of the majority, with rules and minority protection it still is just tool for majority. Of course every vote counts, but not every vote is needed to make decision, democracy doesn't mean consensus.

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  • 239. At 5:28pm on 30 Oct 2008, Menedemus wrote:

    Alice (#234)

    1. Humour (100%)
    2. Patience (100%)
    3. Goodwill to mankind (89%)
    4. Wish to have a quiet life (87%)
    5. Stress Levels with Jukka (0.5%)
    6. Stress Level with Golf (0%)

    I recommend golf. It is less stressful than a Jukka in the pack! :op

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  • 240. At 10:55pm on 30 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #238, Jukka_Rohila,

    There are three regions in the Belgian federation not two, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital, likewise there are three official languages, French, Dutch and German. When you talk about parties I assume that you are referring to political parties and if that is the case each of the three regions have their own large batch of parties that are mostly unique to that region. I trust that finally you can accept that there are multiple issues here and whilst language is the most well known it is a symptom of many other issues.

    As for your final comment that democracy doesn't mean consensus, I wonder how you are able to reconcile that with the German consensus politics or are you saying that democracy simply means doing what you're told because you consider the population too ignorant to reach their own conclusions.

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  • 241. At 11:29pm on 30 Oct 2008, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Buzet23 (240):

    Parties as actors, as in there were a party of two. Non of the less. Nice to learn more about functioning of Belgium government.

    So, there are three regions not two and three official languages. Yes, but there are also things as, to quote Wikipedia:

    "The number of ministers is limited to 15, with the same number of French-speaking and Dutch-speaking ministers (possibly without taking the Prime Minister into account), according to Art. 99 of the Constitution."

    That seems like the federal government is split, by the constitution, to two sides. Non of the less, I can agree with you that "whilst language is the most well known it is a symptom of many other issues". Still, for the ease of argumentation, you have to clasp these things to few nodes and start to look at the issue from there, from my perspective it still looks that there are too nodes pickering with each other, with variable reasons to do so.

    About democracy... German now has consensus politics because the country has effectively been in the almost continual economic alert after the unification of Germany... What I'm saying is that if you look at the big picture, and want to make some kind of sense, you start with the big blobs and then go down, somewhere in the line when blobs come smaller and smaller, you say, stop, this is not relevant anymore. No more drama, just a practice to model the world and keep that model functional for practical use. If you don't stop counting blobs, you eventually count individual blobs and loose the big picture.

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  • 242. At 08:31am on 31 Oct 2008, Buzet23 wrote:

    #241, Jukka_Rohila,

    From Wikipedia "The federal bicameral parliament is composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. The former is made up of 40 directly elected politicians and 21 representatives appointed by the 3 community parliaments, 10 co-opted senators and the children of the king, as senators by Right who in practice do not cast their vote. The Chamber's 150 representatives are elected under a proportional voting system from 11 electoral districts."

    What is doesn't say is the the 40 is made up of 25 from the Dutch electoral college and 15 from the French electoral college, as there are two electoral colleges. The 21 representatives are made up of 10 each from the Vlaams and Francophone parliaments and 1 from the Germanophone parliament, thus three groupings. Finally those senators co-opt a further 10 senators based on a ratio of 6 to 4 for the Flanders : Walloon

    As far as the actual government goes : This Government is now limited to 15 ministers. With the possible exception of the Prime Minister, the Federal Government consists of the same number of Dutch-speakers and French-speakers. Secretaries of State may also be added.
    This was taken from the horses mouth i.e. the Belgian governments web site as all is available there and you will see there are many parliaments each having loads of ministers. A recent joke/critique I saw listed the cost to us of all the assemblies and it's was incredible so you need to view the whole of the Belgian federation to understand what is going on. Try looking at www.belgium.be or even this one www.senaat.be as the last details the senate and the various parliaments (under Liens).

    Finally regarding you 'blob' statement you seem to forget that 'blobs' quickly become disadvantaged minorities and after that sometimes terrorist cells, vis a vis the home grown terrorist culture that exists among certain young Muslims across the EU.

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  • 243. At 8:46pm on 11 Nov 2008, U13687093 wrote:

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

  • 244. At 4:52pm on 18 Feb 2009, Philbrem wrote:

    My sister owns a timeshare in Spain.
    Can she give it back to the company as she can't sell it and is unlikely to use it?
    Any advice would be appreciated.

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  • 245. At 1:15pm on 02 Jun 2009, Anthony Nigel wrote:

    @Philbrem - Yes she should be able to return it to them without any issues. Alternatively could also look at gifting it to someone.

    Companies that trade in this way are giving the Timeshare industry a terrible name. Unfortunately its going to end up being over regulated because consumers have been taken advantage of far too much.

    However there are legitimate companies out there doing Timeshare Sales and Timeshare Resales. Its important to do plenty of research on places like Holiday Watchdog before signing with anyone. I would recommend looking at buying a timeshare up for Resale over a new one at usually about ten times the cost.

    Cheers,
    Anthony

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