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The next enlargement: Iceland?

Mark Mardell | 09:45 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

REYKJAVIK

Iceland's capital is a pretty and well-constructed picture, its buildings in soft blues and reds, harmonious shades of granite, slate and white. Dormant volcanoes provide a dramatic backdrop, their snowy caps disappearing in mist that merges into cloud. Iceland coastal view

Reykjavik, for a while a trendy destination for a short break, has lost of none of its appeal as the crisis crunches cruelly. Inside the cafes and bars, the capital's pleasing colour scheme flows across long comfortable sofas and designer chairs. But you can't help wondering if these places will look shabby and tattered in a couple of year's time. The political volcanoes are active and lava may flow, changing the landscape.

The people protesting at the regular demonstration in front of Iceland's small parliament are a varied bunch. At the front one man in the fancy dress of a convict's uniform carries a banner calling a particular banker a pig. Near him a couple of teenagers hold a black flag, their faces obscured by balaclava masks. By contrast a warmly dressed woman sits at an outdoor cafe table a little way from the square, a Yorkshire terrier perched on her lap, putting down her latte only to applaud the speakers' loud rhetoric. Protesters in Reykjavik

They are here united in their anger at the handling of the crisis - not in their prescription of a solution. It has hit all ages and all classes. Unemployment, taxation and inflation rise together in an unholy trinity. Many of the expensive four wheel-drive jeeps you see around town were bought with loans offered in a mixtures of currencies , the Japanese yen prominent among them. It was a smart move when the krona was strong. It doesn't look so clever now, as people see their debts double overnight, and they end up owing far more than their vehicle is worth.

Many think salvation lies in joining the euro. While some say the government should just go ahead and use the currency unilaterally, as Montenegro and Kosovo do, more think that their country should start urgent talks to join the European Union. Long before the crisis opinion polls indicated that a majority were in favour of beginning talks about joining the EU and thought that they and their country would be better off if they joined the euro.

At the back of the demonstration I talk to the former Iceland Foreign Minister, Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, a Social Democrat. "People are losing their flats and homes because of the exorbitant levels of interest," he says. "In terms of people's lives it would mean stability rather than risk and volatility. Prices would get lower and the interest rate, instead of being 26% would come down to normal levels. In terms of people's lives it would be a solution."Boats in Reykjavik

But the Independence party, which is similar to the British Conservatives, has long been against membership, and has long been the dominant partner in government. There's strong pride in the self-reliance of a young nation, stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, that only gained independence from Denmark in 1944.

But a major practical reason against joining the EU has been the mainstay of the nation: fish. Iceland fought, and in diplomatic terms won, the cod wars against Britain and there is a strong feeling that it would be wrong to give up this precious piscine resource to the tender mercies of the unlauded Common Fisheries Policy. Incidentally there is a fascinating article in the Economist arguing that Iceland has got it right, and the EU wrong, when it comes to conservation.

But the government appears to be listening to the demands of the people and of business. It will hold a special conference later this month to discuss its policy towards the EU. One idea that is being floated is to hold a referendum not on membership itself but on beginning talks about joining. That would probably have the merit of keeping the party together. But it's also likely that the Social Democrats, the junior party in government, would regard this as unnecessary shilly-shallying and pull the plug on the coalition. This would mean a general election in which the Independence party might be well-advised to brace themselves for a hammering. Jon Baldvin is scathing "They are insisting that the nation, which is in crisis, should wait for this party to make up its mind on the biggest national issue. It's a national shame, a disaster, they are unfit for government, they should resign."

Jon Steindor of the employers' federation SI is one of those putting pressure on the government to switch the policy of a generation and go into the EU. He thinks change is in the air. "The crisis has shown us the consequences of being outside the EU. We feel if we had been inside already things wouldn't have been so bad. The main problem for Icelandic industry is the instability of the krona and never knowing how much what you are buying will cost you."

Iceland may not be one of the world's great powers, but it is one of the great casualties of the global financial crisis and the decision of its government and people will have an impact on the way the euro is seen.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:51am on 12 Jan 2009, reiberkuchen wrote:

    Great article, Mark. Nice to see such a calm and measured account of what's actually going on here right now.

    Here's hoping we'll be in the EU soon!

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  • 2. At 11:12am on 12 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    It seems from your article that Politicians in Iceland are prepared to have public discussions of policy which we in the U.K can only dream of. Imagine have a referendum about whether to talk about something.

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  • 3. At 11:12am on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    I wonder if there's any hope of outsiders leaving the Icelanders to make up their own minds about their future?

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  • 4. At 11:14am on 12 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    We can't even get one on an Organisation defining Treaty

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  • 5. At 11:30am on 12 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    Joining the "EU" is like being invited to a sumptuous meal in beautiful surroundings only to have the doors slammed behind you and to find that you are now a slave.

    They will let Iceland in. It fits in with their megalomaniac agenda - increase of territory, increased militarisation, presence in outer space, global positioning system type thing for the direction of missiles.

    They will want it more than Turkey because it is strategically even more important.

    They will let Iceland in. Will they let Iceland out when it wants to leave?

    The "EU" is about megalomania, the creation of a Greater European Reich and
    hatred of the Americans.

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  • 6. At 11:48am on 12 Jan 2009, jonny1047 wrote:

    Interesting article. It will be very interesting to see the terms of accession and any opt outs - how much more will the EU be willing to allow derogations for a potential net contributor as opposed to the Balkan states. Or maybe they will be able to take advantage of Iceland's desperate position.

    Just a quick reply to SuffolkBoy2: legally, they can't stop Iceland leaving. Although there is no specific provision in the EC Treaty on leaving, it is an international treaty, Iceland simply has to seriously breach the treaty and they are then deemed to have withdrawn from it. There are, however, many practical difficulties!

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  • 7. At 12:16pm on 12 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    Most of the existing members of the EU joined in order to further an important international institution and a project based on unity of purpose.

    Has anyone noticed that the new potential members are actually looking at it as a possible solution to their problems? Georgia wants to break free from Russian pressure, Ukraine wants to lock itself in to control the Russian elements in their population, Iceland is looking for an economic miracle, Montenegro wants to guarantee it's independence from Serbia. The EU is not a short term solution, it is a long term project. Croatia is the only candidate which seems to realise this.

    (One or two existing members might be well advised to take this on board as well).

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  • 8. At 12:17pm on 12 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    SuffolkBoy,

    I like both the EU and, behold, America (and thus Americans). How do you explain that?

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  • 9. At 1:27pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    threnodio (7) : Most existing members joined the EU to get their hands on EU subsidies. Iceland has one of the highest GDP / person figures in the world and would certainly be a net contributor to the budget. The CFP would decimate their fishing industry. EU membership would make Iceland poorer and less democratic too.

    Icelander's financial problems are due to borrowing too much. That is why they have very high interest rates. When they should have curtailed their borrowing, they instead offered high interest rates to savers in the UK and made their problems even worse. There is no alternaive for Iceland other than to rebuild their credit. The colour of their money is an irrelevance. The danger for Iceland is that they now make a bad situation worse by joining the EU at long-term cost to their fishing industry, their prosperity and their democracy.

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  • 10. At 1:32pm on 12 Jan 2009, SuperJulianR wrote:

    Iceland - already a Schengen member of course, so ahead of the UK already in that respect - would be a welcome addition to the EU family. In my experience, the people are hard working, very warm and friendly, and they will have a great deal to offer us.

    What a shame they did not join the EU and the Euro years ago, as they would have saved themselves much of their current predicament if they had.

    Why wait until you are losing your home, your savings, you job before moving to protect them?

    Sadly, the UK is going the same way. When Gordon has spent all the money, when he has borrowed so much that foreign investors refuse to lend anymore (at least, at resonable rates of interest), when the UK Pound has collapsed in value, and he has to go to the IMF (just like Jim Callaghan and Denis Healey did a generation ago), he will forced to cut public spending and raise taxes just as the economy needs to be boosted. That will cause the credit crunch to spread to the oh-so-smug public sector, who still think they are immune.

    Then with a bankrupt country, high unemployment, and a worthless currency, perhaps the UK will finally see the sense in joining the Euro.

    But like Iceland, we will probably also have a Conservative Party to contend with(like their Independence Party) still saying they would rather that the people go hungry than surrender the Pound.

    Why do we have to go through all that unnecessary pain? And why risk the Eurozone then turning us down as so heavily indebted that we fail to meet the criteria?

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  • 11. At 1:34pm on 12 Jan 2009, wildStantheman wrote:

    I dont know if joining the EU will be Icelands solution. sure they will get money from the EU, but if your economy is broken you have to fix it from the bottom and up and not look for short term solutions.

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  • 12. At 1:37pm on 12 Jan 2009, chriss-w wrote:

    #7

    The EU is, of course, a long term project, but the project will only succeed if it addresses the concerns of it's members.

    This is true of the political concerns that you list; and also of economic concerns of more stable and established members.

    The challenge facing the EU is to develop European solutions to these problems that will result in a better outcome than the sum of 27 different national solutions.

    I have no doubt that such solutions are out there. I am less confident that they will be delivered. Certainly not, so long as the European debate turns on the empty pro- and anti- rhetoric which I have read on this blog.

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  • 13. At 2:19pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Not-to-SuperJulianR seems to have a bad case of pessimism too. Unable to make any case for the EU he resorts to 'the end of the world is nigh' scare stories. British pro-Europeans predicted the sky would fall in on the UK economy if we did not join the Euro but the opposite happened. The UK outperformed the eutozone every year in the first decade of the single currency's existence. Thanks to retaining control of our interest rates and exchange rates the UK has avoided the roller-coaster economy of Ireland which is projected to decline 4% this year. The Irish were unable to nip their property boom in the bud because they were locked in to eurozone interest rates that were too high for them during the boom. And now that the bust has arrived they are stuck with interest rates that are too high for them and an overvaued currency that is crippling their exports. Iceland has financial problems that were caused by borrowing too much. They cannot afford to make these problems worse by locking themselves into an Irish-style permanent cycle of boom-and-bust caused by inappropriate eurozone interest rates.

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  • 14. At 2:31pm on 12 Jan 2009, Sensiblebrit wrote:

    At 1:32pm on 12 Jan 2009, SuperJulianR wrote:
    Iceland - already a Schengen member of course, so ahead of the UK already in that respect - would be a welcome addition to the EU family. In my experience, the people are hard working, very warm and friendly, and they will have a great deal to offer us.

    We aren't in schengen, but unfortunately we are hamstrung by its edicts, like having to let foreigners from the eu countries in without a visa, and give them free health care, and social security payments, we can't even deport them for criminal activities, so it isn't the great bonus you seem to think it is.

    SuperJulianR wrote:What a shame they did not join the EU and the Euro years ago, as they would have saved themselves much of their current predicament if they had.


    Thank god we aren't in the euro, we would be in a far worse situation than we are if we had lost control of our currency.

    SuperJulianR wrote: Why wait until you are losing your home, your savings, you job before moving to protect them?

    Because our government ignores us so we couldn't, that's why they have signed up for the constitution without a mandate, they just do as our unelected foreign governors insist.

    SuperJulianR wrote: Sadly, the UK is going the same way. When Gordon has spent all the money, when he has borrowed so much that foreign investors refuse to lend anymore (at least, at resonable rates of interest), when the UK Pound has collapsed in value, and he has to go to the IMF (just like Jim Callaghan and Denis Healey did a generation ago), he will forced to cut public spending and raise taxes just as the economy needs to be boosted. That will cause the credit crunch to spread to the oh-so-smug public sector, who still think they are immune.

    We would be better off if we just left the eu, financially, and governmentally, at present we are dependent on the private sector to get us out of the mire, because the public sector has been destroyed by successive governments since the idiot heath dumped us into the common market/eeu/eu in the 70's.

    SuperJulianR wrote: Then with a bankrupt country, high unemployment, and a worthless currency, perhaps the UK will finally see the sense in joining the Euro.

    With a bankrupt country the eu will lose its second highest bankroll, we didn't join the euro because being in the erm almost bankrupted us, so we left it, and a good job that we did, the same would happen if we tried to join it at any time soon.

    SuperJulianR wrote: But like Iceland, we will probably also have a Conservative Party to contend with(like their Independence Party) still saying they would rather that the people go hungry than surrender the Pound.

    If we surrendered the pound then even more people in the uK would go hungry than currently do because of our being in the corruption riddled democratically deficient eu which has directly cost us millions of jobs.

    SuperJulianR wrote: Why do we have to go through all that unnecessary pain? And why risk the Eurozone then turning us down as so heavily indebted that we fail to meet the criteria?

    Because we are members of the most corruption riddled democratically deficient groups in the world, the eurozone is not the answer, it is part of the problem in global terms.

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  • 15. At 2:37pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    Now that SuffolkBoy2 has returned is there the slightest chance of him replying to Unhappy New Year # 191 regarding the "superiority" of "British" weights and measures?

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  • 16. At 2:37pm on 12 Jan 2009, Sensiblebrit wrote:

    At 1:37pm on 12 Jan 2009, chriss-w wrote:


    The EU is, of course, a long term project, but the project will only succeed if it addresses the concerns of it's members.

    It is not a project, it is a power grab, and deliberately ignores the concerns of the masses for the benefit of a few euroelite.

    chriss-w wrote: This is true of the political concerns that you list; and also of economic concerns of more stable and established members.

    The eu is a corruption riddled democratically deficient entity if you have no concerns you don't understand what it really is there for, which is the benefit of a few politicians.

    chriss-w wrote: The challenge facing the EU is to develop European solutions to these problems that will result in a better outcome than the sum of 27 different national solutions.

    The eu is causing most of the problems with lowest common denominator one size fits all regulations like the CAP, and CFP, and major restrictions on the economies of 27 previously free nations.

    chriss-w wrote: I have no doubt that such solutions are out there. I am less confident that they will be delivered. Certainly not, so long as the European debate turns on the empty pro- and anti- rhetoric which I have read on this blog.

    For the UK the most sensible solution is to leave the eu. then we would not be subsidising most of europe with our taxes, and would not be hamstrung by ridiculous legislation which does not fit in with our country at all.

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  • 17. At 2:43pm on 12 Jan 2009, loojeanmacloo wrote:

    I really hope I don't see Iceland prostituting herself to Brussels by joining the EU.
    Iceland was doing very well before this International Money Mess which was not of her making and she will do well again if she holds on to her natural resources and her people stay cool, calm and collected.

    The sinister actors within the 'EU Elite' would love to strip Iceland of her assets and turn the country into a wasteland with some kind of pseudo-environmental badge stuck on it.

    The same 'EU Elite' destroyed former Yugoslavia because that successful Balkan socio-economic integration model posed a threat to the EU's abysmal effort.

    I feel Iceland could do well to stay up north and might even emulate Norway if she feels the need to.

    Iceland would lose her soul in the EU Sepulchre, to be sure..

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  • 18. At 2:46pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    Regarding the possibility of Iceland joining the EU, the first question surely is whether or not the country even qualifies for membership. See http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/enlargement_process/accession_process/how_does_a_country_join_the_eu/negotiations_croatia_turkey/index_en.htm

    Personally, I have doubts as to whether the UK would qualify today.

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  • 19. At 3:27pm on 12 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #12 - chriss-w

    Amen! At last someone who realises the real issue.

    I have for a long time now been arguing that there are structural and administrative issues to be addressed within the EU and that we cannot do so until all the pro and con fight has been resolved. The problem is that it has become something of a national sport in the UK and it will not go away until the people arrive at a position upon which they are broadly agree - even if this does mean a defeated side sloping away to lick it's wounds.

    This is the only reason I have promoted the idea that the question has to be put - because it is a distraction which is holding up progress.

    #18 - greypolyglot

    Good point.

    "guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights . . . ". 42 days anyone?

    "to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union . . . "

    Yeah, right!

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  • 20. At 3:29pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    greypolglot (15): What makes you think your think your posts are worth repying to?

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  • 21. At 4:13pm on 12 Jan 2009, jonny1047 wrote:

    to Sensiblebrit re post 17:
    "We aren't in schengen, but unfortunately we are hamstrung by its edicts, like having to let foreigners from the eu countries in without a visa, and give them free health care, and social security payments, we can't even deport them for criminal activities, so it isn't the great bonus you seem to think it is."

    I don't know if it makes that much difference to your argument but all of those edicts are not really related to Schengen they are to do with free movement of people as per the EC treaty, something which we did sign up to. They were operating long before Schengen came along in the 1990s.

    Also, just generally, people talk about pulling out of the EU and EC institutions improving our democracy, as it would restore full sovereignty to Westminster. However, this wouldn't improve democracy that much since our legislature is dominated by the executive and we have what has been referred to as an elected dictatorship. We vote once every 4/5 years and then have no say in what government does in between.

    The EC/EU is little different - we elect our leaders, they decide what they will do in the Council, and that is that. We can only input at the next general election. Its an extra layer, but removing it will not solve the problems of democracy in this country.

    I agree with the comments on short term solutions. The EC6 had a vision and that has become slowly diluted as more countries joined. There needs to be real debate about what the EC and EU are for, and this needs to be made clear to new countries. If they don't want what the EC/EU wants then they shouldn't join.

    One of the original aims was to pool sovereignty and remove it from member state governments, countries should have this in mind when they join, and not rush to do so for short term economic gain through access to the internal market, but with no desire for the other elements of membership.

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  • 22. At 4:37pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    14. Sensiblebrit :

    "We aren't in schengen, but unfortunately we are hamstrung by its edicts"

    Wrong.

    "let foreigners from the eu countries in without a visa"

    Reciprocal.

    "give them free health care"

    Wrong. They would use their European Health Insurance Card and the bill would be paid by their national health insurance. Also reciprocal.

    "social security payments"

    Reciprocal.

    "we can't even deport them for criminal activities"

    Wrong.

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  • 23. At 4:47pm on 12 Jan 2009, The Realist wrote:

    Let's be honest, Iceland would never pass up the opportunity to join the EU and to point out an idiot....

    Post 5: suffolkboy

    The EU is not all about territory, not all about slavery... it is about moving on from the 1800's hotbed of Conservative influence which as the whole of the Western World now knows after disasters in Germany, USA, UK and France just simply does not work....

    The EU is just the beginning... I cannot wait for most of the older generation to slowly pass on and then we younger generation can start changing things for the good of the continent! Roll on the Super Euro State!

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  • 24. At 4:57pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    # 20. Freeborn-John:

    "greypolglot (15): What makes you think your think your posts are worth replying to?"

    I almost replied "no more no less than yours" but then I remembered that a) I know what I'm talking about b) I usually offer facts rather than opinions and c) I work at finding unbiased references.

    No Daily Telegraph blog contributor (e.g. Horace87) has yet called me "the most delusional guy I've ever met".

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2008/10/02/an_embarrassing_example_of_anglosphere_unity

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  • 25. At 5:01pm on 12 Jan 2009, spikslow wrote:

    One thing is for sure, the fisheries policy is a total failure. It does nto meet the needs of member states, fishermen or conservationists. It is dominated by a handful of very aggressive (and mostly large) member states who seem to make it a rule to put off solving problem until next year.

    Iceland would have to be extremely cautious about what its position in the CFP will be.

    Otherwise, there seems to be much to commend membership and I believe that whether in the near future or the distant future, Iceland will one day join the union. After all, there's not much sense in accepting most of the obligations of EEA membership without the formal input of EU membership.

    But guard your fisheries my North Sea amigos -FR, IT ,ES probably already have plans for it.

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  • 26. At 5:03pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    17. loojeanmacloo:

    "The same 'EU Elite' destroyed former Yugoslavia because that successful Balkan socio-economic integration model posed a threat to the EU's abysmal effort."

    Crikey! And people used to talk about the USSR re-writing history. Where on earth did you get that one from?

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  • 27. At 5:03pm on 12 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    @ 13

    Nonsense. Of course the Irish government had plenty of options in trying to control the economy, although it did lose control over setting interest rates.

    The financal regulation in this country is a mess, and what regualtion there is cannot be effectively inforced by a toothless Financial Regulator authority.

    The government encouraged the people to continue the debt-fueled binge because it's always in the short-term interests of the governing party(ies) so keep the good times rolling, even if it will eventually lead to a bust. This has happened in the UK too.

    Without the Euro the Irish situation would be a lot worse - the banks have lost so much credibility it's hard to see how they could survive with the old punt.

    As for the democratic deficit:
    the EU is a mostly intergovernmental institution. This means that the member states try to push their interests and negociate with each other. This means diplomacy, which is naturally more secretive and less transparent than the openness of democratic culture. This intergovernmentalist version of the EU suits the sovereignty side of the Sovereignty v Democracy axis, as far as competing versions/visions of the EU can suit the sovereigntist side.

    To remedy this, the Commission needs to be elected and, with the European Parliament, have it's power increased (within the institutional make-up of the EU - new powers don't need to be transferred to the EU, just transfer existing power between the institutions) at the expense of the Council, and the Council must be made more transparent. This means power moves from the Council to the EP (to become at least equal with each other). This is integration; power is exercised by the people's elected representitives rather than by states acting in their own interests.

    [Note that while democratization of the EU requires further integration, further integration does not necessarily means futher democratization.]

    My point is, I'm tired of the anti-EU side using both "sovereignty" and "democracy" arguments as if they are two sides of the same coin, when there is clearly a tension between the two because they have their own different logics at the European level.

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  • 28. At 5:06pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Mighty Morfa Power Ranger (23) : Time to put down the toys and learn some facts! It is the generation that grew up in the 1950s which is most supportive of the EU. In all the recent referendums (i.e. In Ireland in 2008, In France, Spain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 2005) , the 18-25 age group has been the one that voted against the EU most strongly. Monnet's dwindling band of supporters wear byrlcream and beehive haircuts and think fins on cars are a good idea.

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  • 29. At 5:06pm on 12 Jan 2009, Chris wrote:

    @18 greypolyglot

    Very good link to useful information. Also your posts seem worth replying to:) unlike some others posts :))

    As for Iceland joining the EU I think they should be allowed in, but only when the stop killing whales.

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  • 30. At 5:09pm on 12 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #23. Mighty Morfa Power Ranger wrote:

    ".. I cannot wait for most of the older generation to slowly pass on and then we younger generation.."

    There are retard isolationists in all generations - don't think it is a generational thing. (SB2 may be only 12, not 112!)

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  • 31. At 5:32pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (27): Your argument presupposes that the various peoples of Europe are actually one polity which would agree to be bound by the majority in the EU Parliament. But that is very far from being the case. Therefore what you propose would actually make the EU crisis of democratic legitimacy even worse because it would lead to more occasions when the democratically expressed wishes of national electorates are overruled by the EU.

    The EU has exceeded the threshold at which its powers are considered legitimate. The only way to restore its legitimacy is to return powers to the democratic institutions of the nation-state.

    Ireland is now the most unstable economy in the world with years of 6-7% economic growth now followed by a precipitous collapse of -4%. This is directly linked to it being locked into eurozone interest rates that are appropriate for Continetal countries like Germany, but which are unsuited to an Anglo-Saxon economy like Ireland's. Ireland will experience a never ending roller-coaster of boom and bust until it corrects this, perhaps either by using Sterling or the US dollar, or restoring the punt with a fixed link to the Pound or Dollar.

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  • 32. At 5:52pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (27):The voters of Ireland should crucify Fianna Fail and the generation of Irish politicians who lacked the foresight to see the damage that Eurozone entry would do to their economy. There will now be another generation of mass unemployment in Ireland with no prospect other than emigration.

    The citizens of Iceland should look carefully at the yo-yo economy of Ireland and reflect that they do not need to make their debt problems worse by tying themselves into a single currency which would add Irish-style wild swings in growth and unemployment to their existing problems.

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  • 33. At 5:53pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    # 28. Freeborn-John:

    "#(23) : Time to put down the toys and learn some facts! It is the generation that grew up in the 1950s which is most supportive of the EU. In all the recent referendums (i.e. In Ireland in 2008, In France, Spain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 2005) , the 18-25 age group has been the one that voted against the EU most strongly. "

    Oh dear. Wrong again, FBJ ;-)

    See p 39
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    # 29. ChrisArta:

    "@18 greypolyglot

    Very good link to useful information. Also your posts seem worth replying to:) unlike some others posts :))"

    I blush.

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  • 34. At 6:04pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    31. Freeborn-John:

    "#27
    Your argument presupposes that the various peoples of Europe are actually one polity which would agree to be bound by the majority in the EU Parliament."

    And yours suggests that the various peoples of the UK are actually one polity which would agree to be bound by the majority in the UK Parliament. Do you really claim that that reflects reality?

    "Ireland will experience a never ending roller-coaster of boom and bust until it corrects this, perhaps either by using Sterling or the US dollar, or restoring the punt with a fixed link to the Pound or Dollar."

    You just never give up arguing it both ways, do you? Where would control of Ireland's currency lie then?

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  • 35. At 6:09pm on 12 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    I do hope Iceland sues the pants off the UK government in general, and Gordon Brown in particular, for damaging their economy by the misuse of British anti-terrorism legislation for political ends.

    Even though I, as a British taxpayer, would 'suffer' as a result, I feel honour-bound to help redress this gross injustice.

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  • 36. At 6:22pm on 12 Jan 2009, frenchderek wrote:

    Icelqnd,s problem seems to be that their banks thought they could follow the - as then successful - example of the UK: laying and taking bets on money (rather than on making things). And, as with the UK, so with Iceland.

    However, Iceland has a smaller overall economy than the UK, so is in a far greater mess, with no internal resources to fix it.

    Other smaller countries, within the EU, perhaps followed less ambitious banking systems. They also had the BCE to underpin them when their economies started to fail. EU (and euro) membership involves both costs and benefits. This crisis is showing up some of the benefits - to both insiders and outsiders.

    Should Iceland seek membership? Only if their fisheries can be protected from the horrors of the Common Policy!

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  • 37. At 6:30pm on 12 Jan 2009, -StuartC- wrote:

    I find it very hard to imagine what Iceland's EU enthusiasts think they will, in practice, gain from joining the EU.

    The country's problem has surely been caused by ineffective regulation of their banks, enabling inappropriate levels of lending. A problem, as we in Britain know only too well, that has afflicted banks in countries within the EU too. So EU membership would clearly not have prevented the problem.

    Now it has happened, neither does the EU have the financial resources to bail Iceland out of its problems. However it will, without doubt, very quickly tuck into a valuable resource the Icelanders do still have ... their fish.

    So what solution is EU membership offering?

    In this failure (like the rest of us) to properly regulate their banks, but in imagining the EU offers some solace, to me pro-EU Icelanders are saying they suddenly deem themselves no longer fit to govern themselves. As a democracy campaigner, I find that very disappointing.

    But given Britain joined what was then the EEC in the 70s, perhaps a national loss of confidence is exactly what the EU requires in order to extend its power.

    There's something about all this that makes me very uncomfortable, and think it's a whiff of economic imperialism.

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  • 38. At 7:07pm on 12 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (33)

    You're right that my argument presupposes some degree of an EU-wide polity, and I agree with you that such a thing does not yet exist in a significant way. It can be debated whether or not an EU-wide polity could emerge because of the interaction between peoples that transnational political debate that such elections may generate. But that's very hypothetical.

    However within a single market common rules need to be made, and I would argue that there should be strong democratic oversight and input when making these rules. So I would say that since we share the same single market, we need to ensure that we have good rules to make it work properly (ideological differences over what is "properly" should be openly debated and the public(s) should be involved in this), and such rules should be democratically decided on.

    I suppose where I'm coming from, is that since common rules have to be made, they might as well be made democratically.

    That it overrules the wishes of democratically elected national parliaments... well, such parliaments would have no authority in legislating common rules. Common rules need to be made at a common level. Without common rules, the single market could not function.

    Of course, you could say that either the intergovernmental way is the best way to decide on the rules, or that we don't need the single market and the rules that that implies.

    In my opinion, bilateral or even multilateral trade agreements are no subsitute for the single market. The single market has a political and legal stability and certainty, and promotes the four freedoms much more so than any trade agreement can achieve. Also, in an era of globalisation, collective markets which are subject to democratically decided rules are a way of correcting the powerlessness of the small to medium nation states in the economic plain, while returning control to states and (if democratic) their people(s). This helps make it more possible and realistic to introduce standards into the single market (or even the global economy) which people want.

    On Ireland, the economic situation is pretty grim, but the US and UK are also boom and bust economies, so I'm not sure how linking a new punt currency to them, or even adopting their currencies would help.

    Anyway, either option leaves our central bank with less control that it presently has with a representitive in the ECB.

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  • 39. At 7:11pm on 12 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    @ 38

    I meant Freeborn-John (31), not (33).

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  • 40. At 8:39pm on 12 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #28 - Freeborn-John

    "Monnet's dwindling band of supporters wear byrlcream and beehive haircuts and think fins on cars are a good idea".

    Ageist jibes? Really scraping the barrel now, aren't we?

    Iceland will form it's own judgment as whether to formally apply to the EU and no amount of Anglo-Saxon bickering is going to influence that. The EU will members will very properly consider whether or not it is a suitable candidate. They will certainly apply the Copenhagen criteria which include progress towards monetary union - in other words no one gets in unless they go with the Euro so it is not a question of if but when. ChrisArta at 29 has a point though - I can't see the EU tolerating a new applicant to carry on whaling. Iceland's accession, when and if it occurs will certainly lead to a reassessment of the CFP, a process which appears to be beginning but needs to be accelerated.

    I am not sure to what extent opinions in these threads are a true reflection of the anti-EU feeling in England (yes, England - not Britain) but I cannot help wondering how much longer the rest of Europe is going to stand by and listen calmly to all this rhetoric. People in Europe would agree on the whole with their British friends that the EU is in need of a major overhaul of institutions with a far greater focus on transparency and democracy. Many look across the Channel for allies in this endeavour but, in the face of growing evidence of ambivalence and sometimes hostility, there must be those who are beginning to question the usefulness of Britain to the EU in much the same way some Brits appear to feel about the EU.

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  • 41. At 8:44pm on 12 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    40. threnodio:

    "#28 - Freeborn-John

    "Monnet's dwindling band of supporters wear byrlcream and beehive haircuts and think fins on cars are a good idea".

    Ageist jibes? Really scraping the barrel now, aren't we?"

    And WRONG which I prove at #33 but someone has referred it to the moderators (possibly with the intention of getting it left behind more recent posts) Sabotage?

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  • 42. At 8:46pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    threnodio (40): I was merely correcting the ageist jibes of post 23 by pointing out that the 18-25 age group are the ones who voted most heavility against the EU in the 5 EU-related referendums held in recent years.

    http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1213974135.18/

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  • 43. At 9:01pm on 12 Jan 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:
    Great blog and interesting story about Iceland...And there wanting to be able to in the enlargement of the European Union...

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 44. At 9:16pm on 12 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (38): It is not the position of EU politicians to make the rules on single market regulations more democratic. Rather it is their position (as codified by the Lisbon treaty) to extend the use of the undemocratic 'community method' to the more politically sensitive areas of general politics by renaming the original EEC treaty the "Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union" (TFEU). This is totally retrograde step from the point of view of democracy which makes the already severe EU crisis of democratic legitimacy worse.

    You are putting Euro federalism ahead of Irish jobs if you think Ireland should keep the Euro. The Irish economy is very dependent on foreign investment from US multinationals and on trade with the UK. 30% of Irish trade is with the UK and 15% with the USA. 64% of foreign direct investment into Ireland is by US companies. Therefore Sterling and the Dollar are far more important to Ireland than the euro. Ireland has suffered a catastrophic loss of competitiveness in recent months against both sterling and the US dollar and is also hobbled by eurozone interest rates that are too high for its severe downturn.

    Irish workers are therefore paying a cruel price in unemployment for their politician's fixation with Brussels. Irish voters should turf out the entire failed generation of politicians who got them into this mess. The Irish yo-yo economy will never recover its equilibrium until the Euro, the root cause of its instability, is replaced by currency arrangements more suited to Ireland’s pattern of overseas trade and investment.

    Iceland has already shot itself in one foot with the failure to regulate its banks. But that is no reason to shoot themselves in the other foot with the euro and the Irish-style wild oscillations in growth and unemployment that it would bring.

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  • 45. At 11:24pm on 12 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    Why are we arguing even about a country that has less people than my Italian region (which has a similar per capita income as Iceland) Nevertheless..we don't matter much..the Icelanders wont either...its just about prestige i suppose..

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  • 46. At 11:47pm on 12 Jan 2009, ZoctoServer wrote:

    I'm just wondering.... Does Mark read ALL of these comments?

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  • 47. At 00:19am on 13 Jan 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    I think Iceland should join the EU and adopt the Euro. Surely Brussels will bail it out of its financial problems just as soon as it pays for Ukraine's gas. But Iceland should demand opt outs just the way other EU members have. This way they can have their fish and eat it too.

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  • 48. At 00:27am on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (44)

    The "community method" is where the EP and Council have equal legislative power. While I have spoken about transferring power to the EP to help democratize the EU, I wouldn't advocate moving beyond equality with the Council - I still believe in the importance of the member states.

    Maybe you could explain in detail how the community method is undemocratic, or more undemocratic than the other methods used in the EU? I'll be better able to answer if I was clearer on your point.

    On a basic level, do you believe that any EU level politician can make a decision legitimately no matter how democratized his/her post is? (Say, for example, if the Commission President was elected by a direct vote?) My impression so far is that your position is no, but correct me if I'm wrong on that.

    The only sensitive area I can think of the EP's power being extended is the budget (it would have a say over the whole budget under Lisbon, for the first time including CAP). I will check the treaties soon.

    I'm not exactly sure what problem you're trying to highlight that's caused purely by the renaming of the EEC treaty?

    Back to Ireland:
    A major factor in Ireland's economy is US investment, you're right, but this is largely due to our membership of the single market (I take it that we don't have any problems on that point), as the US can set up shop in Ireland and deal with the rest of the single market. Membership of the Euro gives the advantage of Irish businesses being able to sell products to other Eurozone members without currency changes, etc, etc. US businesses in Ireland have the same advantages.

    Ireland's problems are mostly our own fault; a lot of which is goes back to a fat lazy government which did little to improve Ireland and make our economy more competitive, and just wasted money in almost awe-inspiring amounts.

    We need to change our economy and keep up because the eastern member states are catching up and becoming more competitive while we've laid back and just enjoyed the last few years. And now Eastern Europe is getting the same advantages that we enjoy.

    There needs to be more Irish businesses, etc set up; the government's policies on the financial sector need a big rethink; the goal of a knowledge economy has not really been taken seriously by the government, to judge by its policies - more investment in education is needed (but fat chance that we'll get it now)... etc, etc.

    I accept that there are downsides to being a Eurozone country, and Ireland is exposed to pressure from the pound from both trade and because of the border. I would agree that being a Eurozone member has let our boom go on for a bit longer and so the bust will be a bit more painful. But I'm not going to delude myself into thinking that the politicians would have made sensible reforms of the economy outside the Euro; they would do everything possible to get the flawed boom back on track.
    And there was always going to be a painful bust - and the banks were going to face that pressure, but I doubt they would have been able to fare as well as they have so far (and they might be so far gone that some are beyond the pale), and Ireland would be in Iceland's position because Ireland has few natural resources, next to no manufacturing base, and bet the whole economy on houses and finance.

    But there's pros and cons to every choice we make, and for a lot of what you're avocating, it has most of the cons of the Eurozone membership without the benefits. Why should we give up the control we do have over the our current currency just to have a new punt controlled from London, the US or perhaps still Frankfurt?

    We run our economy and we paid little heed to the enormous flaws we built into it. The economy doesn't just revolve around interest rates and currency strength, though I'm not denying their impact, but our economy is built by the choices we (well, the government) make. And we've made bad choices and not adapted our economy for the future.

    Eariler you said we should crucify Fianna Fáil. Don't worry, we will - but because of the failure to adapt the economy, not because of the Eurozone entry.

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  • 49. At 00:54am on 13 Jan 2009, betuli wrote:

    Iceland joining the EU and the Euro? If this European country meets the criteria, welcome to the warm ;-)

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  • 50. At 01:32am on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    There should be an a in "Fil", but it seems the BBC doesn't recognise fadas as well as Umlauts...

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  • 51. At 01:35am on 13 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

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

  • 52. At 07:06am on 13 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

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

  • 53. At 08:40am on 13 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    "# 28. Freeborn-John:

    Time to put down the toys and learn some facts! "

    Quite so John.

    "It is the generation that grew up in the 1950s which is most supportive of the EU. "

    Oh dear, wrong again ;-)
    The moderators removed my link but you can search for "Eurobarometer 70" to get to both the data and the interpretation.
    See p 39

    Q: EU membership good?
    (by age group)
    15-24 62% Y - 8% N
    25-39 55% Y - 13% N
    40-54 53% Y - 17% N
    55+ 47% Y - 19% N

    That's precisely the inverse of your claim.
    I do recognise that those are the numbers for the whole EU and I don't doubt for one second that the UK figures are more negative.

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  • 54. At 10:12am on 13 Jan 2009, frenchderek wrote:

    Surely Iceland's and Ireland's problems were of the same ilk - the lack of internal regulation of money markets, banks,etc? They both chased down tax levels in order to attract new business (mainly financial in Iceland's case). ie, being in or out of the Euro was less important than national financial policy (NOT subject to EU "control", note).

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  • 55. At 10:28am on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]53: You disappoint me greypolyglot. I thought you said you knew what you were talking about? Every actual European referendum, i.e. in Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and Spain on the EU Constitution, in Ireland on the Treaty of Amsterdam, and Denmark on the Treaty of Maastricht, all show the same thing - that the 18-25 range is among the most hostile to the EU. This for example is an age breakdown of the official exit polls from the French EU referendum of 2005. Only the over 60’s voted Yes.

    2005 vote
    Age Yes No Result
    ----- --- --- ------
    18-24 44% 56% NO
    25-34 45% 55% NO
    35-44 39% 61% NO
    45-59 38% 62% NO
    60-69 56% 44% YES
    70+ 58% 42% YES

    http://www.ipsos.fr/CanalIpsos/poll/8074.asp

    The EU's own 2005 'Post-referendum survey in Luxembourg' says the following:

    "The sociodemographic breakdown confirms phenomena noted in Spain, France and the Netherlands and shows that the voters of the two camps have a well-defined profile irrespective of the country where they are. So, the 'Yes' come out on top more clearly among women (60%) and especially among the more elderly (72%), whilst the great majority of young people (62%) tend to side with the 'No'."

    See page 9 of http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl173_postref_lu_en.pdf

    The same phenomena was observed in Ireland in 2008 as the link i included in post 42 shows. Therefore even the EU Commission admits that their support is mainly from pensioners with young people voting EU-sceptic.

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  • 56. At 10:53am on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    The EU's own post-referendum surveys of the Irish, French, Dutch, Spanish and Luxembourg referendums in 2008 and 2005 show that young people vote against the EU. This for example is an age breakdown of the official exit polls from the French EU referendum of 2005 which shows only the over 60's voted YES.

    2005 vote
    Age Yes No Result
    ----- --- --- ------
    18-24 44% 56% NO
    25-34 45% 55% NO
    35-44 39% 61% NO
    45-59 38% 62% NO
    60-69 56% 44% YES
    70+ 58% 42% YES

    The last of the EU's four post-referendum surveys in 2005 (that for Luxembourg) said the following: "The sociodemographic breakdown confirms phenomena noted in Spain, France and the Netherlands and shows that the voters of the two camps have a well-defined profile irrespective of the country where they are. So, the 'Yes' come out on top more clearly among women (60%) and especially among the more elderly (72%), whilst the great majority of young people (62%) tend to side with the 'No'."

    These are real referendums involving millions of votes and not just opinion polls.

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  • 57. At 10:57am on 13 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    why does dennisjunior1 make the same stock comment on every blog? Does he have special needs of some description?

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  • 58. At 12:09pm on 13 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #56 - Freeborn-John

    What this data does not reveal is why the no voters voted as they did. It is widely held, for instance (though not demonstrable) that the French and Dutch No votes were because the original constitution was not integrationist enough. It may also be the case for Spain and Luxembourg, not countries noted for their eurosceptic stance. This would be very different for the reasoning behind Denmark and Ireland (the latter seemingly based as much on the distribution of disinformation as anything else).

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  • 59. At 12:18pm on 13 Jan 2009, G-in-Belgium wrote:

    ... not to mention those who couldn't be bothered voting...

    The turnout wasn't huge, except in Luxembourg's case (88%). The large majority of communes voting no in the Luxembourgish referendum were amassed around Esch-sur-Alzette; notoriously left wing and practically French (Ok, lot's of Portuguese too)

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  • 60. At 12:44pm on 13 Jan 2009, ATNotts wrote:

    Not bad, Mark - we managed to get to post number 5 (I refuse to use that stupid #) before the entire thread got hi-jacked by the euro-sceptic brigade with their ludicrous, outlandish claims regarding immigration, health, employment, the euro etc. etc. it's like a broken record, and you must be fed up reading it - supposing that is that you do read the contributions!

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  • 61. At 12:48pm on 13 Jan 2009, JohaMe wrote:

    #56: the link in Freeborn John's post at #42 answers some why questions in the Irish case:

    76% of the NO voters "supported the view that the result would put Ireland in a strong position to renegotiate the treaty."

    22% of the NO voters said they rejected the treaty because they could not understand it.

    Half the people who ABSTAINED chose not to vote did so because they could not grasp the issues.

    32% of the YES voters felt it was in Ireland's best interest.

    19% of the YES voters said it was because of the fact that Dublin benefits from the EU.

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  • 62. At 12:50pm on 13 Jan 2009, JohaMe wrote:

    Mark, I'd love a country-by-country review of the Czech European art gift, if you feel like it...

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  • 63. At 12:56pm on 13 Jan 2009, Ticape wrote:

    56.These are real referendums involving millions of votes and not just opinion polls.

    Don't be silly exit polls never has and never will involve millions of votes. Just a larger sample size (exit poll numbers are usually in the ten thousand range while opinion polls, especially those at Eurobarometer are on average 1000 per EU country)

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  • 64. At 12:59pm on 13 Jan 2009, Toldyouitwould wrote:

    Radio 4 12:42

    "UK will not be qualify to join the Euro until 2014."

    Is this true?

    If so, what are the qualifying numbers, anyone?


    Thanks in advance.

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  • 65. At 1:02pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DarYob (48): Under the 'community method' the EU Commission has a monopoly on all legislative proposals for law superior to any other for 500 million people. This is frankly an obscene power and one that the Commission does not have a democratic legitimacy to exercise. Such a power is unsuited to deciding anything other than trivial matters of common market regulation such as the maximum curvature of cucumbers and should have no place in deciding sensitive matters of politics. The elected governments of Europe cannot make any legislative proposals at EU level. They may only modify Commision proposals under rather unlikely circumstances, i.e. when all 27 governments desire the same modification, or when a qualified majority of them are supported by the EU Parliament. Even under these circumstances the Commission may withdraw its proposal rather than see it modified. These powers give the Commission the power to set the agenda in the EU and to pursue its own bureaucratic objectives in accumulating more power even when these objectives are not shared by anyone outside of Brussels. The Commission has not once in its 50-year history ever made a legislative proposal that would reduce its own power. Therefore its monopoly on legislative initiative is the key part of the one-way ratchet to an undemocratic super-state.

    It is true that a qualified majority of governments are required for a Commission proposal to become law but that does not mean that the EU law will have a democratic legitimacy in the outvoted countries. The community method also gives governments of the day the power to create legislation which will be binding on their successors, something that it not possible if they legislate at national level. When an Opposition party comes to power and is prevented from doing what it wants by pre-existing EU legislation it is clear that the European legislation no longer has a democratic legitimacy but still remains in force. Over time we are seeing this body of ossified EU law build up gradually eliminating the power of national parliaments to act and with it the power of out votes to influence our lives. Over a period of decades a point will be reached where our national elections will return MPs who cannot actually legislate without conflicting with the engorged body of European law. Our votes at that time will have been reduced to merely deciding which political party sends representatives to Brussels to be outvoted and explain to us why we must live under EU law we never wanted but cannot change. This is the inevitable result of applying the community method to general matters of politics for which it is totally unsuited. The method was originally designed to put the coal and steel industries of France and Germany beyond the reach of democratic politicians, but the Lisbon treaty would make this the default decision making method for almost all matters of politics. It is totally unacceptable and must be stopped.

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  • 66. At 1:12pm on 13 Jan 2009, Toldyouitwould wrote:

    #60 ATNotts

    " we managed to get to post number 5 (I refuse to use that stupid #) "

    The mark # is referred to as a Hash mark and is used internationally to denote 'Number'

    Hope this helps.

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  • 67. At 1:16pm on 13 Jan 2009, Macedonia4eva wrote:

    I think that the EU should be simply a political beast, dedicated to enriching the lives of all Europeans. NATO is Europe's military force (or should be).

    There are ways and means to join the EU (the Copenhagen agreement being the main one i've found).

    Whilst membership of the EU could be good for Iceland, I have my doubts.

    The Republic of Macedonia has for many years been trying to join the EU, and just when we reach the stage where all conditions are met, a neighbour with a bilateral issue bends the rules so as to suit themselves...

    The EU only has validity if it's rules and regulations are forced on ALL members. And if a member doesn't like the rules then it has the right (albeit difficult in practice) to leave.

    When signing up to EU laws, then should you fear consequences then by all means insert a clause. If you have no fears then simply sign up...

    For many years Greece and others, and latterly Bulgaria, have simply ignored the rules and regulations that they then insist others adhere to.

    Equality in Europe.... Biggest joke since the last Zimbabwean elections.!!!

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  • 68. At 1:26pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (48): Ireland does not have any control over euro currency because that is managed by an independent central bank in Frankfurt. Ireland's problem is not the lack of political control but that the central bankers in Frankfurt will inevitably set interest rates and exchange rate policy based on the needs of large Continental economies that are structurally and cyclically divergent from Ireland and its principle trade and investment partners in the Anglo-Saxon world.

    Therefore your argument that Ireland would lose control of its currency if it replaced the euro is null and void because it does not have that control today. My argument however is that eurozone membership results in monetary policy that is permanently unsuitable for Ireland and now makes it the most unstable economy on Earth.

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  • 69. At 2:22pm on 13 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    JohaMe

    I have a PDF version with the description of all the individual national artwork of the exhibition. I think I found it on the telegraph website but if you can't find it, lemme know and I can send it to you.

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  • 70. At 2:41pm on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (65)

    First of all the Commission has never introduced a proposal to decrease (or increase for that matter) its power simply because it has not the jurisdiction to do so. All EU institutions are bound by the Treaties, and only have the powers granted to them under those treaties. The treaties can only be changed by unanimous agreement by the member states. This is also the reason why the EP cannot decide to base itself in Brussels only; France would block they treaty reform in this area.

    The Commission is not as powerful as you make it out to be. First, there are institutional features which limit the power of the Commission. All proposals must be agreed by a majority of Commissioners, and since the Commission is made up of separate DGs run by politicans of many different political backrounds, each proposal must first be negociated between the DGs and their political leaders.
    It is wrong to characterise the Commission as a united body with a single unchanging agenda (though some agendas, such as the single market, are programmed into the Commission by the treaties).

    Second, the Commission is under-resourced, and depends on interest groups for a lot of its information and some expertise on issues. Green groups use very technical and scientific reports which appeal to the bureaucratic nature of the Commission, which helps explain why the environmental proposals do as well as they do, considering that there are so many strong business lobbies. This lack of resources leads to a restriction on the propsals that the Commission can independently formulate.

    A further limitation is that the EP and Council can and often do request the Commission to come up with proposals for a certain area. Since their consent is needed for it to pass, a lot of negociation and interaction between the institutions takes place before the proposal is finalised. So the EP and Council's opinion is taken into account beforehand.

    Finally, the co-decision (it's a shorter term than "community method" to write) allows the EP and Council to table amendments. The Commission can withdraw proposals, but seldom does. Also, if the Council and EP cannot agree on an amendment, they go to conciliation. This process takes the bill almost completely out of the Commission's hands, as the EP and Council can do what they wish with the bill. Several political scientists have suggested that this process marks the EP's surpassing of the Commission in terms of power.

    On the topic of democratic legitimacy: the point still stands that common rules need to be made at a common level. The same issues could be argued to exist under the other procedure too, only without the democratic imput of the EP. The blocking minority is there to prevent the majority of states ganging up on a sizable minority of states.

    Anyway, the political culture of the EP and Council is one of compromise, and usually a long way is gone to try and accomidate everyone. Indeed, the most apt questions of democratic legitimacy tend to be ones that apply to power-sharing institutions and questions of majority and minority influence, since the EU is largely an exercise in power-sharing.

    Community law is necessary in order for community projects (single market, Schengen, Euro, etc) to work. They bring Pros and Cons. Only rules decided at a common level, however, can be legitimate rules for the common projects, and such rules should be decided as democratically as possible. Of course here there is a trade off between state power and the power of directly elected representatives. But why should one state be able to overturn the will of a democratically elected legislature?

    Your comments also make the assumption that the member state governments individually have the mandate to decide common rules. But they do not get individually elected to decide the rules for the rest of the continent. Only the common level has the legitimacy to set common laws, and my argument is that this level should be as democratic as possible.

    The member states must be deeply involved of course, but the EP is the only body directly elected to take decisions on common rules. That's why I support strengthening it.

    National parliaments have lots of power and will be able to make lots of laws and decisions in the future. Education and health and criminal and family law are issues where this is most definitely the case and argueably the ones for which national parliaments have the strongest mandate. Your statement there was very hyperbolic (if I've got my spelling right).

    frenchderek (54) - you've probably put it far better than my long rambling posts have!

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  • 71. At 2:49pm on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (68)

    I don't have the time to go into this in detail right now, but on the issue of control, I was refering to the control of the national central bank, not political control.

    In the alternatives that you were proposing, my argument was that our central bank would have a lot less control than it does in the Eurozone. What control would we have in the Bank of England if we linked our currency to it? At least our central bank has a vote in the ECB.

    Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

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  • 72. At 2:56pm on 13 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    Freeborn-John said at 56.

    "This for example is an age breakdown of the official exit polls from the French EU referendum of 2005 which shows only the over 60's voted YES."

    Is there a link to check the data? Not that I would doubt for a moment that you're telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth ;-))

    After all, it was you who, at # 42, pointed people to

    http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1213974135.18/

    and then failed to highlight the following comments

    "76 percent - who voted against - supported the view that the result would put Ireland in a strong position to renegotiate the treaty."

    or

    "a survey showed that most Irish people who voted against it were young and thought it could be easily renegotiated.

    or that

    "(they) supported the view that the result would put Ireland in a strong position to renegotiate the treaty."

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  • 73. At 3:06pm on 13 Jan 2009, Fionavroom wrote:

    Greetings from Ireland! I thought this forum was about Iceland... but Ireland seems to feature a lot in the discussion. First of all I would not be in favour of Iceland to join the EU. The Icelandic attitude in the past was much arrogant and superior and now that the entire country is bankrupt they want in, no thank you! As for having one of the highest GDP in the world.... well, not anymore.
    The demise of the Celtic Tiger here in Ireland is hardly due to the ECB but rather to the greedy policy of the banks and the laissez faire attitude of the government here. The whole economy has been based on the property boom and now we hear that the value of houses is set to fall 80% in the coming months. I really don't see how the EU can be blamed for this!

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  • 74. At 3:31pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (70): The treaties confirm what I say. Article 17 of the treaty of European Union says "Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal". Article 293 (ex Article 250 TEC) says "Where, pursuant to the Treaties, the Council acts on a proposal from the Commission, it may amend that proposal only by acting unanimously". Article 293 also says "As long as the Council has not acted, the Commission may alter its proposal at any time". This is what gives the Commission power to alter or withdraw a legislative proposal that it fears may be altered by our democratic governments.

    These existing treaty-based powers give the Commission the ability to dominate the legislative agenda at EU level and use it to pursue its own self-aggrandizing interests. Since we are talking about the monopoly on proposals for changes to law superior to any other for 500 million people in almost all the general matters of politics and which is binding on us in perpetuity no matter how we vote in future I think it is clear that the powers of the Commission are totally unacceptable in any democratic society.

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:115:0001:01:EN:HTML

    Your comments make the assumption that the peoples of Europe have freely consented to live under such an undemocratic system. But that is obviously not the case when no treaty on European Union could ever have passed a referendum in the UK, when the EU Constitution and Lisbon treaty have been defeated by referendum in France, the Netherlands and Ireland and when it is certain that they would be defeated in numerous other countries if the referendums there had not been cancelled.

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  • 75. At 3:33pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob: You are not by any chance Denis O'Leary, erstwhile permanent Irish ambassador to the EU are you? I guess we will know if you try to remove this post.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/profile/?userid=11790621

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  • 76. At 3:37pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    #72: I included links to the original data in post 55 and the moderators have been good enough to allow them to appear.

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  • 77. At 3:40pm on 13 Jan 2009, ATNotts wrote:

    No.66

    I know exactly what # means. it's referred to in American as the "pound sign" too - though heaven knows why.

    Actually, apart from in the US and on the internet seems to be hardly used at all. In english we say "No." in German "Nr." or "Pos."

    More "creeping americanisation" (or should I say americanization) of our language!

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  • 78. At 4:32pm on 13 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    55 & 77. Freeborn-John:

    " Every actual European referendum, i.e. in Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and Spain on the EU Constitution, in Ireland on the Treaty of Amsterdam, and Denmark on the Treaty of Maastricht, all show the same thing - that the 18-25 range is among the most hostile to the EU."

    You do love to conflate ideas, don't you?

    Voting against the Constitution does not of itself indicate hostility to the EU. It indicates hostility to the Constitution. If you can't see the difference, well .............

    In fact voting against the Constitution doesn't even indicate that. In the case of the French for example 52% of the "No" voters said that they voted that way because they were dissatisfied with the current economic and social situation in France and 40% because the economics of the Constitution were too liberal (the questions were not either/or and the degree of overlap is not known)

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  • 79. At 4:40pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Fionavroom (73): I would much prefer to talk about Iceland but the lies of EU supporters must be nailed whenever they appear. In any case the Irish experience has lessons for Iceland. The property boom and bust in Ireland has been made much worse by the Euro. With interest rates set low to suit the sluggish Germany economy, the Irish have loaded themselves up with debt that has fuelled an unsustainable property boom. Anyone familiar with Ireland knows that far too many houses have been built in recent years than can be used in a country with 4 million people. The severity of the property crash is a consequence of the great height that the market rose to on the back on too low Euro interest rates.

    The people of Iceland seem even less willing than the Irish to save up for anything. Giving Icelanders low euro interest rates would be like handing out drugs at a teenage birthday party. They may like them, but (as with Ireland) it does not mean it is good for them in the long-term.

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  • 80. At 5:23pm on 13 Jan 2009, Fionavroom wrote:

    Freeborn John: I understand you are fighting your own campaign but your comments don't make much sense, especially because you don't live in Ireland and don't know enough about it! How can you blame the euro for the Irish property bust? How can you blame the EU for the Irish building too many unnecessary flats and offices, now unsold and empty? How can you blame the EU for Irish banks lending too much and people borrowing far beyond their means? My financial situation is unchanged because I didn't think it was appropriate for me to remortgage my family home in order to buy more overpriced and badly built property, buy numerous designer bags and shoes, buy a couple of big German cars, go on holiday 6 times per year with the whole extended family, and so on and so on. It is not because of the EU that this country has insufficient infrastructures and companies are leaving for better places (e.g. Dell relocating in Poland, EU).
    I just wanted to make a point, there is much more to say but I will leave it here, it's too sad...

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  • 81. At 5:35pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Fionavroom: I live in the UK, but i am irish. My parents live in Ireland and i have numerous family members inthe construction industry in Ireland so please do no patronise me. There is an obvious link between inappropriate interest rates and the irish property boom and bust and if you cannot see it then it says more about your knowledge of economics than my knowledge of Ireland.

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  • 82. At 6:22pm on 13 Jan 2009, bearmarket2_0 wrote:

    I don't get it. What has Iceland's being outside the euro had to do with its collapse?

    "The crisis has shown us the consequences of being outside the EU. We feel if we had been inside already things wouldn't have been so bad"

    Really? Why? Iceland collapsed because it was dependent on being a banking giant, where the laid-off debt far exceeded the size of the rest of the economy. If they had been within the euro, nothing would have been different.

    The only difference, is that the ECB MIGHT have bailed out the Icelandic banks after the disaster. But that is a zero-sum game. It played out this way, this time. Next time, the dice are likely to fall differently, and Icelandic taxpayers would have to bail out the Belgian tulip-farmers.

    Net expectation : zero benefit. Bail-outs are neither argument for or against the euro. There is no evidence that large systems collapse less often than small ones. Which economies of the following have had fewer recessions over the past 200 years: U.S.A, Switzerland, China, France, Argentina, Mexico.


    The only question to establish: ON AVERAGE, are the ECB decisions more, or less, likely to be in your local self-interest, than your own national bank. And that question pretty much answers itself.

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  • 83. At 6:23pm on 13 Jan 2009, Fionavroom wrote:

    FreebornJ: I understand now why you are so upset: your relatives in the construction industry are not having a good time at the moment... but they probably profited greatly during the booming time. I also have my doubts on your knowledge of economics (you must be one of these guys that read the Economist and think that it is the Bible). What you mean here is that government and banks policies were correct and have nothing to do with the crush landing of the economy? Only the ECB is to be blamed, of course. Bad, bad, bad ECB! Do you mean that people living well beyond their means and getting deeper into debts are not responsible for their own foolishness? It is very sad and regrettable that Ireland should be in such a terrible shape now and nothing was done for the people during the booming years. Now that so much has been lost are the most vulnerable that pay the highest price.

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  • 84. At 8:00pm on 13 Jan 2009, jonny1047 wrote:

    Just for the
    benefit of the freeborn-John and DerYob debate on the democratic credentials of the 'community method':
    The EP or council can effectively introduce legislation by telling the Commission to draft it under articles 208 and 192EC treaty respectively.

    The Commission obviously is the one which drafts it, but it will try and draft legislation that will be acceptable to the Council and EP as otherwise it wont get passed.

    At the end of the day the Council gets what it wants, and if one Member State really doesn't want a piece of legislation to go through it wont, as per whatever version of the Luxembourg Compromise is operates in the Council these days.

    When things do go through that a state appears not to want it is because of compromise, if they really didn't want it it wouldn't happen!

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  • 85. At 8:06pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Fionavroom (83): I am not blaming the ECB. The ECB has done what could be expected of it; namely set interest rates for the eurozone. Naturally it will weight its decisions towards the needs of Germany, France and Italy since these economies are collectively 100 times the size of Ireland. The fault lies with the generation of Irish politicians who have fooloishy locked the Irish economy into the euro currency regime and effectively guaranteed that Ireland will permanently have inappropriate interest rates. Irish people are of course responsible for the debts they accrue, but if they are collectively given a signal (permanently too low interest rates) that they should borrow like there is no tomorrow, then they will of course borrow too much and use it to fuel an unsustainable property boom.

    DerYob: Strange that you have disappeared following post #75. I wonder how many of the other pro-EU posters here are on the EU payroll?

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  • 86. At 8:46pm on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (75)

    No, I'm a law and politics student, but it's flattering that you think that I might be someone experienced in EU affairs.

    (74):

    Article 293 of TFEU states that the later parts of the ordinary legislative procedure (Article 294) is an exception to that rule:

    "...except in the cases referred to in paragraphs 10 and 13 of Articles 294..."

    So conciliation does mark a loss of power on the Commission's side.

    I agree that the Commission does have some significant power on paper in some areas; my point was more that the institutional realities of resources, the institutionalised internal divisions within the Commission, political culture, etc. result in the Commission being a lot weaker in reality. After all, the Soviet constitution was regarded as providing one of the most wide ranging rights for its citizens at the time, and the UK's constitutional system depends heavily on the political culture (expressed in its most tangible form as conventions).

    Indeed, the Commission often only reaches its full possible influence when there's a strong man (or woman) in charge, e.g. Delors. There's even an online campaign "Anyone but Barroso" which considers the current Commission President so ineffectual that they don't want him re-appointed.

    And as I’ve said before, it cannot increase or decrease any of its or any other EU institution’s power. And the Council and the EP can ask the Commission for draft legislation for some areas. Past laws have been changed so it’s not impossible, and many of these changes came from Council requests.

    Anyway, my original argument was for increased democratisation of the EU, including strengthening the EP and making the Commission President directly electable. Were the Commission President to be elected, I think that would go some way to increasing democratic control of the EU and increasing its and the Commission’s (democratic) legitimacy.

    But then I get the impression (and correct me if I’m wrong here), that your position is that no matter how many positions within the EU are directly electable, it won’t have democratic legitimacy.

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  • 87. At 9:32pm on 13 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    jonny1047 (84): Thanks for clarifying that.

    Freeborn-John (85): I wish I was getting paid for this. (Anyone willing who's watching let me know!). As I've said in (86 if it comes up), I'm a student doing Law with Politics, and I've just got an interest in the EU and Europe generally. Also, I object to you characterizing pro-EU people as liars in (79). Call me/us misguided if you want, but I'm arguing based on what I truely think and believe. And are we not having a good debate?

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  • 88. At 10:23pm on 13 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    86. DerYob :

    "Freeborn-John (75)

    No, I'm a law and politics student, but it's flattering that you think that I might be someone experienced in EU affairs."

    You're not the first at whom FBJ has levelled that challenge so don't get carried away, friend ;-)

    I can't help wondering if FBJ met O'Leary somewhere and O'Leary got the better of him. FBJ certainly doesn't like him.

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  • 89. At 10:31pm on 13 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (86): The powers of the EU Commission are defined by treaty. Under Lisbon the community method would become the default decision-making procedure in the EU (this is the significance of renaming the EEC treaty, "The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union") in all bar a couple of policy areas (e.g. defence, foreign policy). There would however be a time lag between the Lisbon treaty giving the EU these powers and the EU later using those powers to create European law whose superiority obliges national parliaments to remove conflicting national legislation. Only at that point (perhaps decades hence) does your vote become ineffective, but no treaty changes are needed at that later point in time. This time lag may be giving you the impression that the EU would need further treaty changes to increase its powers but that is not definitely the case. All that would be necessary after Lisbon would be for the EU Commission to make legislative proposals which could be imposed on your country via QMV against the wishes of the majority in your national parliament but would still have the force of law in Ireland. No matter you vote after that you will never be able to do anything about it because the EU law would not change again without another Commision proposal and the Commission is under no obligation to listen to any national electorate and even swears an oath to be independent of national governments.

    If you do not believe me then ask yourself why the former prime minister of Portugal resigned the highest elected office in his country to take up his current job as president of the EU Commission? The only explanation is that he feels he has more personal power in the Brussels position than as prime minister of Portugal. So let's hear no more from you about the Commission being weak.

    Directly electing EU officials would not solve the EU’s problems of democratic legitimacy because this lack of legitimacy is the result of the various peoples of Europe not being a united polity. Few people believe that the Westminster parliament is not democratic, but the Irish state was created because the people of Ireland refused to recognise its rule as legitimate in Ireland. The Stormont parliament in Northern Ireland was modelled directly on Westminster but was it democratic? It became the instrument by which one community in Northern Ireland oppressed the other. Only once in its 50 year history did any measure introduced by the Catholic minority (one on wildlife) pass in Stormont. Was that democratic? So we can clearly see that elections and majority rule do not equal democracy unless the people so governed gegard themsleves as a united people that will agree to live under its majority, something which is very far from being the case acroos Europe.

    If electing EU officials would solve the problem of democratic legitimacy then the creation of an elected EU Parliament in 1979 and the increase in its powers since then would have been expected to have solved the problem. But the problem has not only not been solved but the period since 1979 has seen the increasingly widespread perception that the EU is undemocratic. How do you explain that? The truth is that the EU has exceeded the threshold of political sensitivity at which supranational decision-making is accepted as legitimate and electing EU functionaries will not improve the situation. (Indeed it could easily make the situation worse).
    The only solution to the EU legitimacy problem is to return powers in areas beyond the common market to national parliaments such that it is no longer possible for the majority will of a nation to be over-ruled by EU institutions. The simplest way to do this would be to declare that national law is superior to EU law in all areas ebyond the common market.

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  • 90. At 10:58pm on 13 Jan 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    ATNotts @77,
    i think you're right as isn't it when you write letters to the USA that you write # in front of the house number.

    I hope @ is int'l, "at" ?

    (in Russian @ is thought to be a "dog", LOL. as looks like a curled up doggie with a tail around)

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  • 91. At 01:47am on 14 Jan 2009, -StuartC- wrote:

    @73 Fionavroom wrote: "The whole economy has been based on the property boom and now we hear that the value of houses is set to fall 80% in the coming months. I really don't see how the EU can be blamed for this!"

    Er, try having a common eurozone interest rate too low because it's set for the needs of France and Germany and not to control a fast-growing property market in Spain or, well, Ireland.

    Ireland's property boom got out of hand precisely because you gave up control of interest rates to the ECB.

    Sure, the EU can't be blamed for ineffective government policies or regulation of banks that caused the more recent 'credit crunch'.

    But without control over interest rates or the flexibility of a floating exchange rate - due to euro membership - there's little Ireland can do in the short term to rescue the situation.

    These are all the consequences of giving up your currency.

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  • 92. At 02:06am on 14 Jan 2009, -StuartC- wrote:

    @86 DerYob wrote: "But then I get the impression (and correct me if I?m wrong here), that your position is that no matter how many positions within the EU are directly electable, it won?t have democratic legitimacy."

    That's certainly my position, at least until the EU has a demos.

    It's so important to stable, effective democracy that it's actually part of the word!

    Clearly there is no European demos at present, nor sign of one. There isn't even a single language, nor common public sphere. It's debatable whether there's even a satisfactory demos in the UK, given the strong sentiment for Scottish independence. Spain and Belgium too have problems.

    The idea that 27 different countries and cultures can democratically be governed together in ever increasing range of policy areas once a few of the top positions are elected is a fantasy.

    In reality, it's quite obviously not necessary to pass ever more decision-making powers to remote central institutions simply for countries to trade and work together on the issues that affect us all.

    The political centralisation agenda only serves a pre-1950s ideology we should have left behind long ago. The 21st century world is a very different place, needing modern solutions to today's challenges and an end to clinging to the past.

    Here's hoping the current economic crisis will be a catalyst for a shake-up that will sweep the EU into the history books where it belongs.

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  • 93. At 08:50am on 14 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    89. Freeborn-John:

    " ask yourself why the former prime minister of Portugal resigned the highest elected office in his country to take up his current job as president of the EU Commission?"

    And ask yourself why various Commissioners have gone home before the end of their term of office. Just start at Mandelson and work back. Don't forget your compatriot O'Kennedy.

    "The only explanation is that he feels he has more personal power in the Brussels position than as prime minister of Portugal."

    In your opinion.

    "So let's hear no more from you about the Commission being weak."

    Ooh er. I should watch out for MIB coming to get you, John.

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  • 94. At 11:27am on 14 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Greypolyglot (93): Mr. Mandelson went to Brussels because the undemocratic nature of the Commission meant it was the one place where he could not be sacked by his nemesis Gordon Brown once he became prime minister. He failed to achieve anything of note as trade commissioner and (given the failure of the Doha Trade round) knew he would not achieve anything else in the remaining few months of his term.

    Mr. Barosso was not the only prime minister competing to resign his office to take up the more powerful post of president of the EU Commission. Jean-Luc Dehaene, the then prime-minister of Belgium and the prime minister of Luxembourg wanted to do the same. When you see the most powerful elected politicians in their lands competing with one another to resign their elected positions and take up an unelected post in Brussels you can be sure that they see the role as head of the EU Commission as a powerful one. The basis of the Commission’s power is its monopoly on legislative initiative for EU law that is superior to any other for 500 million people in almost all areas of policy. So it is not hard to see what agitates their lust for power. It is harder to see why the peoples of Europe should tolerate an EU system which effectively puts such power beyond the reach of our votes.

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  • 95. At 12:34pm on 14 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn-John (89) and (94)

    I'm very limited for time today - I'll be very busy - so I won't be able to reply to the rest of your points until much later, but I'll give a quick reply to the politicans and Commission point.

    First, the Commission only presents proposals if the College of Commissioners agrees on it. This means that the President of the Commission can be out-voted by the other Commissioners in his/her own College who are from differing political backrounds. To suggest, even by implication, that the President of the Commission has a monoploy on proposals is wrong, and thus the Comm. Pres's position is much weaker, even in terms of his/her own "cabinet", in comparision to the position of Prime Minister in most if not all European Parliamentary democracies (and far, far weaker still than the (semi-)Presidential ones). Though the situation is slightly different in Belgium which has a power-sharing government.

    Second, you imply a very idealised vision of parliamentary democracies as if they are anything but controlled by their executives. Prime Ministers in European Countries have in-built majorities and dominate the legislative agenda to a far greater extent than the Commission does because the vast majority of the time the legislation can sail through. Only government backed bills have much chance of getting through. The Commission has to insure that the Council and Parliament are satisfied under co-decision, to the extent that (when you also take into account the voting system), a consenus far greater than in parliamentary democracies must be reached before legislation is passed. If it's rule by the majority (and only 4 states are needed to form a blocking minority, remember), then it's rule by a supra-supra-majority. I will expand on this point later.

    greyplotglot's (93) point can't be so easily brushed aside. You cannot use Mandelson's situation to explain why so many Commissioners opt to return to national political life. Prodi, the Comm. Pres. before Barroso, even spent the last 6 months of his presidency (and he could have tried running for a second term) planning for the Italian elections, after which he became Prime Minister. Why would he do this if the position of Comm. Pres. is supposedly so powerful? Even though the EU positions, including that of MEPs, aren't as looked down on on the continent as over here, they still don't compare to national office.

    Finally, co-decision is already in the TEC (current article 251), it is only the areas it can be used in that have been expanded. The real significance of renaming the treaty is that the Pillar structure is abolished under Lisbon (though differences remain, especially under CFSP), so I still don't see why you place the emphasis you do on it.

    I'll reply to the other points later (it will be much later today, I'm afraid).

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  • 96. At 2:05pm on 14 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    I did not say that the president of the EU Commission has a monopoly on legislative proposals. I said the EU Commission does. However none of the commissioners has any democratic mandate so I fail to see why you attach significance to what a majority of them supports.

    The Commission president may not yet be as powerful a position as the prime minister ship of a large state like Italy, but:
    (i) The Commission president is clearly already more powerful than the prime minister of Portugal, Belgium and Luxembourg or the holders of those elected positions would not be competing with one another to vacate their elected roles.
    (ii) The EU is an evolving system and the power of the Commission is increasing as the community method is extended into new areas and as blocking thresholds are reduced. As you point out, part of the power of national executives (governments) in parliamentary democracies is that they command a majority in national legislatures (parliaments) such that government-backed bills are likely to become law. However the supremacy of EU law means that this national agenda must never conflict with the body of existing EU law (the 'aquis communtaire'). Since the EU institutions are not going to stop adding to this body of EU law it is clear that the room within which national governments may legislate is continually shrinking with every new EU law, and that the power of the EU Commission (which dominates the legislative agenda at EU level) is increasing. Therefore unless the EU is seriously reformed there will inevitably come a time when the role of EU Commission president becomes more powerful than that of even the Prime Minster of a large European state like Italy.

    The central failing of most EU supporters is not to see the EU as an evolving system. If you look ahead then you will see that if the current direction is maintained it will automatically lead to the extinguishing of democracy in EU member states. The Lisbon treaty perpetuates this undemocratic direction and must be abandoned in favour of real reform, such as making national law superior to EU law in areas beyond the common market such that we may continue to elect governments with the power to change the law we live under.

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  • 97. At 2:05pm on 14 Jan 2009, BaggieJonathan wrote:

    To paraphrase a lot of you posters you want to 'get out of the EU in order to assure full sovereignty/rule from London'.

    This has exactly what democratic (or other) advantage?

    I get to vote once every 4 or 5 years in a west midlands constituency that is a foregone conclusion and always returns the same party so why bother voting anyway in order to have London dictatorship rather a split London/Brussels dictatorship.

    Let me know when you come up with better arguments than that...

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  • 98. At 3:23pm on 14 Jan 2009, -StuartC- wrote:

    @97 BaggieJonathan wrote:
    "I get to vote once every 4 or 5 years in a west midlands constituency that is a foregone conclusion and always returns the same party so why bother voting anyway."

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

    Ultimately MPs even in safe seats could be removed if enough people thought likewise. How much campaigning do *you* do to bring about change? Maybe strengthening democracy or preventing its erosion takes more than just going out to vote every few years.

    But broadly it's a fair point and my response would be let's make our system better and more responsive. Not ditch even more influence over how we're governed, by accepting the steady transfer of political decision-making to far more remote EU institutions.

    Talk about baby and bath water!

    If you want more input, the EU's impact isn't merely equivalent to the domestic situation you highlight ... it's every day making the state of democracy a lot worse.

    Opposing the EU is obviously not in itself a solution to all our democratic problems. But is a first and necessary step towards a more democratic future.

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  • 99. At 1:45pm on 15 Jan 2009, BernardVC wrote:

    fbj

    the numbers you use and the numbers greypolyglot use are not equivalent.

    Thinking that the EU is good doesn't preclude people from voting no in referenda regarding certain facets of the Union (in this case the Constitution or the Lisbon Treaty)

    So instead of coming along shouting smugly that grey is wrong, I suggest you quit comparing apples and oranges.

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  • 100. At 2:54pm on 15 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    BernardVC: I submitted my data in response to post 23 (not from greypolyglot) where someone expressed the wish that older people die quickly so that the "Super Euro state" can be created. I provided proof that this would be counter-productive to the "Super Euro state" agenda because the over 60's had in fact been the age group that voted most strongly in favour of the EU Constitution and Lisbon Treaty in the 2005 and 2008 referendums Spain, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland where as younger people (to quote the EU) "tend to side with the 'No'".

    If you are suggesting that greypolyglot's figures have nothing to do with how real people vote in actual EU referendums I would agree with you. But I fail to see why you blame me for that.

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  • 101. At 4:58pm on 15 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    100. Freeborn-John:

    "I provided proof that ... the over 60's had in fact been the age group that voted most strongly in favour of the EU Constitution and Lisbon Treaty in the 2005 and 2008 referendums Spain, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland where as younger people (to quote the EU) "tend to side with the 'No'".

    If you are suggesting that greypolyglot's figures have nothing to do with how real people vote in actual EU referendums I would agree with you. But I fail to see why you blame me for that."

    So let's use the same French data to which you so obligingly gave us the reference.

    These show that well educated people voted for the Constitution whereas poorly educated people voted against and that 54% of students i.e. "young people" voted in favour compared to 56% of pensioners.

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  • 102. At 6:46pm on 15 Jan 2009, gerardmulholland wrote:

    Quite right.
    I've been to both north and south Iceland and I love it.
    The Euro would help stabilise their wacky prices.
    And their membership may persuade the Norwegians, the Greenlanders and the faroese to think again.
    Icelanders are ferocious defenders of democracy.
    The EU needs them.

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  • 103. At 00:54am on 16 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    Freeborn John 89 and 96

    This is a long post, so I’ll try splitting it in 3. The pressures of real life mean that for the next few days I’ll find it hard to find time to reply to any replies.

    I highlighted the lack of control over the Comm. By the Comm. Pres. to contrast it with the power available to that of executive leaders in the member-states and I focus on the lack of centralization within the Commission because of your comments at (89) suggest that there is an ongoing agenda, or at least an extremely long-lasting political consensus, within the body that proposes legislation.

    Commissioners move back to national political life more than you seem to recognise. In the Barroso Commission alone last year, Commissioner Kyprianou returned to Cyprus in March to become foreign minister and Commissioner Franco Frattini in April to become foreign minister for Italy.

    Your Mandelson argument might also apply in a way to Barroso, who was becoming unpopular at home.

    While I’m not opposed to the Council or the EP getting a limited right of legislative initiative, I have to reject your argument/scenario for a legislative “clogging up” of the system under the current or Lisbon rules.

    First, laws are being constantly amended and replaced at the EU level (as they are at the national level too). The majority of legislation would either be considered for or actually be revised within the decades-long timeline that you mention. Political consensuses have a short lifespan; coupled with the ease with which a blocking minority is formed (ignoring for a moment that the political culture in the Council is one of consensus to the degree that state representatives go out of their way to only come up with legislation that all states can agree to – to the point where it is rare that the Council ever has to actually take a vote since the vast majority of legislation is adopted by consensus) there is little chance of a state being on the losing side of a vote for more than one or two times in a government’s average lifetime. Since the European Council sets the political direction and agenda of the EU (Article 15 TEU), all states have a good chance of forcing an issue back on to the political agenda of the EU.

    Second, the Council and the EP can request the Commission to propose legislation for them. Such a request is difficult for the Commission to ignore, to say the least (especially in the case of the Council, since it, in the form of the European Council, sets the EU’s political agenda). Especially since in areas such as the “Area of Freedom, Security and Justice” (Title 5 TFEU), though the Commission proposes the laws, the European Council sets the legislative agenda (Article 68), and any laws must comply with the principle of subsidiarity, and the national parliaments can ensure this Article 69. The ordinary legislative procedure is also only capable of acts to encourage cooperation in a lot of areas (culture and civil protection, for example), not legislative/regulatory acts. So just because the co-decision procedure is in place does not mean that the EU can legislate in that area.

    Third, the EU only has the competence to legislate in some areas, and not all to the same degree. The EU mostly legislates on the single market, environment, etc. Areas such as education, civil protection and health, etc. – the main issues in elections – have little EU involvement because the EU can only act to support the member states (Article 6 TFEU), so the agenda is naturally determined by the member states here. And such legislation must comply with the principle of subsidiarity – there must be a transnational element to the issue being legislated on, or some quality which means that it can be legislated for more effectively at the supranational level. In

    Subsequent elected parliaments would be able to make decisions in all the main political issues such as health and education. If they did want to change Community legislation in such areas, the legislation would deal with transnational issues or similar and as such the national parliament would not have the authority to legislate in such an area anyway.

    The reason why I draw attention to institutional make-up and behaviour is that it is a vitally important way to understand how constitutional legal frameworks, as well as other legal frameworks, are applied in practise. All constitutions, whether it’s the UK’s or the EU’s, are made up of political and legal parts. To only study and understand one part is to miss a vital part of the picture. Political power and political norms are especially powerful in connection with political systems. You have never addressed any of such points which I have made to date.

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  • 104. At 00:56am on 16 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    On the Ireland comparison (89), I cannot agree with it.

    First, Ireland had no parliament between 1801-1922 and could not decide any issues for itself. All member states still have their parliaments and can decide on wide areas of policy.

    The lack of identification with the Westminster parliament stems from 2 factors. 1. The history of discrimination against the majority group in Ireland and domination of a single culture in the UK coupled with the dominance of one nationality/ethnic group, the English. Ireland within the UK was treated very differently to the rest of the UK and so were the Irish “subjects” in comparison to other UK subjects – this discrimination was historical (self-explanatory), economic (the land ownership system), cultural (no respect or official status for the Irish language or sport, etc.) and religious (the tithe collecting system) in nature. Such circumstances, or comparable circumstances, do not exist within the EU to the same or any comparable degree. In the EU no one state or ethic group dominates to such a degree. 2. Westminster legislated very differently for Ireland – separate acts were introduced and enacted for Ireland than in England and Wales and the acts were almost never identical. So while Ireland had MPs in Westminster, they would far more often than not be debating not legislation which would cover the whole of the UK but separate parts of it. In practise, the English MPs, who made up the majority of the MPs, could pass legislation for Ireland, which wouldn’t affect the rest of the UK, with little or no input from Irish MPs. When municipal reforms (1830s/40s) where made, they were made first in England, then a year later Ireland got an inferior act which provided for a much more limited franchise. And that was a time when Irish MPs were more involved in the process, supporting the Whig government! Legislative acts at Westminster for the suspension of habeas corpus and the imposition of martial law also did little to inspire confidence or a shared identity.

    Scotland doesn’t share quite as painful recent relations with the rest of the UK, but it too has a (partially) separate legal system, while Wales and England have a shared legal system. Coupled with historical circumstances, perhaps it’s no coincidence that first Irish, then Scottish, and now perhaps Welsh, nationalism arose or strengthened, and in that order?

    In the EU, there is respect for national differences and culture – yes, through integration there is harmonization of laws, etc, but as much as all the costs on translation are criticised by some, it is an example of diversity being recognised within the EU. Ireland has an equal seat at the table and can fully engage with a process which legislates common rules for everyone on transnational matters. Further democratising this process is what I’m advocating.

    As for the Northern Ireland comparison:

    The NI Parliament was NOT modelled on Westminster* – it started out as STV, not first past the post, but the electoral system was changed by the majority unionists and then there was the situation with gerrymandering. The principle of “one man, one vote” was not applied – depending on wealth and property ownership, a person could have up to 7. There was also a culture here of exclusion and discrimination.

    *[Though if you just meant the bicameral structure of the NI parliament when you said it was modelled on Westminster and not the electoral system, then you’re right].

    It is ridiculous to imply, through using these examples, that such factors would apply to act against identification with the institutions in a more democratic EU. If decisions are taken by bodies which are democratically elected and where all have and equal opportunity to have their say and contribute, then that body will have democratic legitimacy. It is when people see that the process is fair and open that the decisions become more acceptable and legitimate.

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  • 105. At 00:58am on 16 Jan 2009, DerYob wrote:

    On the issue of European identity:

    The strengthening of the EP did not lead to further identification with the EP (or, at a wider level, the EU) because of the party system of the EP, and the workings of the media. As the Europarties are just loose grouping of national parties which do not formulate and stand on common manifestoes, the EP elections are treated as second order elections (like local elections) and treated as popularity tests for the governments. Since there is no common political platform for the Europarties, there is no campaigning on, and thus no political education of the public on, European issues which can be dealt with by the EP. The media also fails in its role as the “fourth estate” – its role to inform the public and stimulate debate – by not reporting on proposals until they become law, if even then, and shows little differentiation between the institutions and what they can do. In such a situation is it not hard to see why the public don’t feel as if the EP’s in touch with them. Making the Comm. Pres. directly electable may force a debate since it is a clear post and one which all of the EU would vote on together, so the candidates would need to explain their policies and powers, etc. Ways of encouraging a more detailed reporting of the EU are also needed.

    The formation of British national political consciousness was helped by the establishment of stronger national parties for Westminster (notably starting with the Conservatives in the 1830s), as they, along with the media, encouraged the debate on national issues in elections, etc., where local issues used to dominate. The formation of identity is or can be achieve through debate and interaction. The simple act of having a EU-wide debate, common elections and equal and open decision making will enhance the legitimacy of the EU’s decisions. I would not claim that this would lead to a stronger European identity than the national identities, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

    Even if the EU was scaled down to the single market, the market would still need regulatory rules, which would need to keep up with the times, and which would be (or should be) subject to political debate – which should be as open and as democratic as possible.

    The democratisation of the EU is much needed.

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  • 106. At 2:38pm on 16 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (103): In answer to some of your points:

    1) Long-standing political consensus within the Commission in favour of 'ever closer union'.

    According to you there is no such agenda, but as Mark Mardell has stated previously EU Commissioners regard 'ever closer union' as part of its job description. The purpose of the preamble of any international treaty is to set out the purpose of the agreement and the Eu treaties that define the EU institutions include a commitment to 'ever closer union' that is not shared by the peoples of Europe.

    Monnet's design for the EU explicitly accorded the EU institutions a driving role in European integration whereby they would reinterpret European treaties to the maximum federalist extent possible in order to continously expand the mandate of EU law into new areas. The EU institutions have fulfilled their self-aggrandizing role but the peoples of Europe no longer regard the powers that these institutions now wield as legitimate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neofunctionalism

    2) Expanding body of EU law not clogging up law making at national level.

    You reject my argument that the creation of EU law automatically shrinks the arena within which national parliaments may legislate. But your argument is flawed for the following reasons:

    First you say that it is not very common for EU law to be imposed on countries against their will. You say that this only happens a couple of times a year to each country. But so what? When it does happen the result is law that has no democratic legitimacy in the outvoted country and which remains in place more or less permanently becuase the outvoted nation cannot change no matter how its people vote in future. Furthermore, the raising of the blocking threshold in the Lisbon treaty means that this would happy much more often in future. The application of QMV with reduced blocking thresholds to many more politically sensitive policy areas would mean that the sense of injustice felt in outvoted countries will inevitably rise. Lisbon would therefore make the existing EU crisis of democratic legitimacy worse.

    Second you say that EU institutions may later amend European law. But so what? That does not mean that the subsequent amendment has any more democratic legitimacy that its initial creation. You suggest that giving EU institutions other than the Commission the ability to initiate EU legislation would solve the problem, but that too is incorrect. The Commission is the EU institution with the weakest claim to democratic legitimacy, but that does not mean that the EU Council or EU parliament have a real democratic legitimacy either. The EU Council has a stronger claim to democratic legitimacy than any other EU institution, but it is still a weak claim. Each of its members is the elected head of a national government, but he/she has no democratic mandate to govern another nation. Does Brian Cowen have a democratic legitimacy in the UK when the people of Britain cannot replace him? Does Gordon Brown have a democratic legitimacy in Ireland? Does President Sarkozy have a democratic legitimacy outside of France? Clearly not. Any EU law that binds a nation against the wishes of its current government lacks legitimacy. Today we have a situation where EU law agreed by past governments (perhaps decades ago) remains binding in perpetuity on the state even when it is has no support today from either the current government or the people. Such law (e.g. the CAP) obviously has no democratic legitimacy today.
    The only way to correct this problem is to make national law superior to EU law (in areas beyond the common market) such that we can elect governments able to repeal the application of any EU law (on its territory only) which the majority in the nation now disagree with. This would improve matters becuase any EU law not so repealed would be able to claim a refreshed democratic legitimacy. This however is very from the EU of today.

    Third you say that the principle of subsidiarity guarantees we will not have inappropriate EU law. But the Lisbon treaty gives the EU Commission the power to decide if its own proposals respect this principle!. This is a clear case of making the poacher of our political powers the gamekeeper. Nor could the ECJ be trusted with this role because it too has played a long-standing role (as per Monnet's neo-functionalist plan) of actively extending the scope of EU power through its rulings. The EU needs a Constitutional Court answerable ONLY to the nation-states with the power to strike down ECJ rulings or Commission proposals that over step their competence.

    Fourth, you say that EU has the competence to legislate only in specific areas. But that is based on a fundamental misreading of the EU treaty. You refer to the closed list of 7 policy areas in article 6 TFEU where the EU may only act in support of member-states. But you do not mention article 4 TFEU which has been worded very carefully such that the EU has 'shared competence' in the OPEN ENDED list of policy areas that are not explicitly listed in either article 6 or article 3 (exclusive powers of the EU). And what does the EU mean by 'shared-competence'? Article 2 TFEU says "When the Treaties confer on the Union a competence shared with the member states … member states shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence". So we see that powers are only shared in time! This wording means that unless a policy area is one of the 7 listed in article 6 TFEU, the EU has the power to legislate at any time in the future and once it has done so our elected governments may not legislate in the area ever again! It is clear that this wording in the Lisbon treaty would lead to an ever expanding body of EU law that will progressively shut down national parliaments in all except the handful of policy areas listed in article 6. One can debate how long this may take to happen, but not that it will happen given sufficient time.

    (I will answer your posts 104 and 105 at a later time)

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  • 107. At 4:54pm on 16 Jan 2009, Ticape wrote:

    106.Furthermore, the raising of the blocking threshold in the Lisbon treaty means that this would happy much more often in future.

    You're quite incorrect.

    At the moment as we speak there is NO blocking threshold in the Council of EU. Under the Lisbon treaty four states no matter their size (e.g. even Malta, Luxembourg, Estonia and Cyprus) can block a proposal. At the moment they can't do that at all. So I'm not sure how the Lisbon treaty is 'raising' the blocking threshold.

    Each of its members is the elected head of a national government, but he/she has no democratic mandate to govern another nation.

    Sadly enough you forgot to add that the council of EU isn't transparent, at all. Kind of hard to scrutinize your own elected prime-minister or minister if you have no idea what they voted for or against. Luckily the Lisbon treaty would fix this.

    (in areas beyond the common market)

    But the EU's exclusive competence doesn't go beyond in area's of the common market e.g. common market, customs union, monetary policy for Euro (not applicable to the UK) common competition rules and common commercial policy.
    Except for conservation of marine biology, which isn't really working because the CFP is a shared competence, and usually the member states overrule the commission's suggestion.

    our elected governments may not legislate in the area ever again!

    Don't be silly, you're "forgot" or better yet you decided not to mention the following from the treaty

    “With reference to Article 2 A of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union on shared competence, when the Union has taken action in a certain area, the scope of this exercise of competence only covers those elements governed by the Union act in question and therefore does
    not cover the whole area.
    "

    Next time try to work with facts, instead of making a huge post based on outright lies or incomplete facts.

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  • 108. At 6:03pm on 16 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ticape (106):Under the current (Treaty of Nice) voting rules, a proposal from the Commission requires the support of a majority of member states (2/3 in some cases) and at least 255 votes out of 345 if it is to become EU law. The blocking threshold is anything that prevents this condition from being met, typically 90 votes (approx 26% of the total). Lisbon would raise this bocking threshold to 35%.

    If only Malta (3 votes), Luxembourg (4) , Estonia (4) and Cyprus (4) vote against a Commission proposal it would by implication have the support of a majority (23 out of 27) of member states and also have 345-(3+4+4+4)=330 votes, which is more than 255. It would therefore be approved and not blocked.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_in_the_Council_of_the_European_Union

    Might I suggest some words of wisdom from Denis Thatcher for you to take note of in future?
    ------
    "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt." Denis Thatcher.

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  • 109. At 7:26pm on 16 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    DerYob (104): You suggest that the creation of an Irish state independent from Westminster, was not motivated by the separate Irish national identity but only on the harsh conditions of Westminster rule at the time. Presumably you feel that the Irish would otherwise have happily been ruled from London and would happily rejoin the UK now that this harsh rule is over?

    John Stuart Mill said somethig similar in 1862: "If all Irishmen have not yet arrived at the same disposition towards England, it is . . . principally because, until of late years, they had been so atrociously governed. . . This disgrace to England . . . completely ceased for nearly a generation. No Irishman is now less free than an Anglo-Saxon, nor has a less share of every benefit either to his country or to his individual fortunes than if he were sprung from any other portion of the British dominions. . . . There is now next to nothing, except the memory of the past, and the difference in the predominant religion, to keep apart two races perhaps the most fitted of any two in the world to be the completing counterpart of one another".

    If J.S. Mill was correct in 1862 to say that the injustices inflicted on the Irish were already a distant memory then how could this be sufficient explaination for the cfreation of an independent Irish state 60 years later? Some other explanation is required.

    The essence of your argument is in truth a denial of human nature. You pre-suppose that we secretly yearn for the highest level of government possible and will happily submit to such remote governance so long as there are elections in place, even when those elections result in the preferences of the community that we identify with being outweighted by other larger communities that we do not, and whose interests may be inimical to our own. The entire history of the world since the American Revolution says you are wrong. If you were correct the British Empire would have been democraticised and not broken up. If you were correct there would be no separatist movements today in Quebec or Kashmir or Scotland or Catalonia. India and Pakistan woud not have been partitioned and Tibetans would be asking for elections in China rather than autonomy. If you were correct there would be a declining number of nation-states and not the constantly rising number (up to 200 now) that we see in the real world.

    You object to the explanation that I provide for the EU crisis of legitimacy but you provide no intellectually coherent alternative explanation. You persist instead in saying that electing more EU officials is the answer. Let us imagine where what you propose would lead. There is a permanent 26-1 majority in the EU in favour of abolishing the 'British rebate' so if a Commission president were to run for office on a ticket to abolish this rebate he might expect to gain more votes than he loses. But what would happen if he won a pan-European majority but had little support in the UK and then proceeded to implement his 'mandate'? Would Britons say "OK we have to pay more taxes now because the majority in other countries want us to pay more so that they can pay less?" Or would Britons say "This is intolerable, we have to get out of the EU". I am quite sure it would be the latter and that the same would be true whenever the elected Commsion president tried to impose his pan-European 'mandate' on countries where it was unpopular. Therefore what you propose would actually exacerbate the latent divisions between the peoples of Europe and accelerate the break-up of the EU.

    You have no explanation for the apparent paraxdox that creating an elected EU Parliament in 1979 and increasing its power ever since has been accompanied by an increasing EU crisis of democratic legitimacy. You cannot explain that but there is every reason to believe that creating an elected EU executive would be just as ineffective in legitimisung the EU as the creation of the elected EU Parliament has been.

    -----
    "In those countries where different races dwell together, the power of the imperial parliament must be limited as jealously as the power of the crown, and many of its functions must be discharged by provincial diets". (Lord Acton, describing the Austrian Empire in 'Lessons in the History of Liberty').

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  • 110. At 11:37am on 17 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ Freeborn John

    *The Irish economy is very dependent on foreign investment from US multinationals …. 64% of foreign direct investment into Ireland is by US companies.*

    If you add two and two together (not too much to ask I suppose?) you will notice that all that direct investment into Ireland by US companies became a torrential downpour at the time when Ireland became a Eurozone member. Why? Have you noticed that Ireland is the ONLY English speaking country in the Eurozone? And what language do these US companies speak? Ireland cannot be grateful enough for the UK to have refused to join the euro. The upward trip of the rollercoaster that you refer to (lifting Ireland from European basket case economy to one of the wealthiest in per capita GDP in the EU) most suspiciously took place at the same time as Ireland became a Eurozone member. Coincidence? And did you hear recently that Dell was cutting back a third of its Irish work force? Why do they have this huge base in Ireland in the first place? Because of the above mentioned facts. And these cutbacks, are they due to Ireland being in the Euro? Err… no, they are due to the consumer downturn in the Eurozone (as Dell, together with Microsoft and other IT companies, uses Ireland as their Eurozone base) as a result of the global recession, which as everybody knows originated in your beloved Anglo-sphere.

    *It is true that a qualified majority of governments are required for a Commission proposal to become law but that does not mean that the EU law will have a democratic legitimacy in the outvoted countries.*

    This is one funniest and most ridiculous comments I have read from the EU-phobic camp. If you are a shareholder in a company and you are outvoted, do you then stand up and solemnly declare that the vote lacks democratic legitimacy? If you don’t want to be outvoted again, the best thing you can do, as a shareholder, is to sell your shares. In the Lisbon Treaty there is a clear exit route for any EU member that wishes to leave. Why don’t you speak to your Anglo-sphere mates about this?

    Talking about *democratic legitimacy* a great example of the lack of the same took place in the UK earlier this week. Two of the three major political parties, representing a majority of the voters, are against Heathrow expansion, but the only major political party that supports this expansion, voted by less people than the parties who oppose it, is able to impose its will on the majority.

    Not even your hated EU has such lack of democratic legitimacy.

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  • 111. At 1:57pm on 17 Jan 2009, Ticape wrote:

    108.Lisbon would raise this bocking threshold to 35%.

    Correct OR at least four countries against the proposal.

    "Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt." Denis Thatcher.

    If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong there's no need to belittle me.

    So what did you say about the elected governments not having the right to legislate in the shared competence area ever again?

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  • 112. At 9:23pm on 17 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    FBJ

    I really am curious to know how you feel about votes in Westminster.

    Imagine all the MPs representing Wales, for example, voting for or against a piece of UK national legislation and yet being overruled by the majority. Or take it to a lower level and consider a situation in which all MPs representing, for example, Sussex vote for or against against something yet are overruled by the majority.

    At what level DO you believe that the vote of a single MP or even block of MPs can be legitimately overruled by the majority?

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  • 113. At 12:18pm on 18 Jan 2009, Jack Kilms wrote:

    For those of you who know Icelandic culture you will know they are 'craze' obsessed - what is the next new thing - back scratchers (seriously), satellite TV, borrowing and buying foreign assets - joining the EU, using the euro.

    You get the picture, there is littel forethought, ironic since we know what a phenomenally educated people they are - a taxi driver earns substantially more than a lawyer.

    Last time I looked cod was still 20% of the economy and fisherman earned over 100k a year - that will end when the spanish trawlers come and hoover up all the fish.

    I hope they find time for reflection in all this

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  • 114. At 11:00am on 19 Jan 2009, whatisaidwas wrote:

    When on a boat on Martinique, recently, the pilot said smoking was not permitted as far as the EU is concerned, but 'in France ...' and allowed passengers to smoke astern. I have been rather pro-the EU but I have to say that apparent double standards like this make me think twice.

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  • 115. At 1:44pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (11): I work for a major US technology company, one that has significant investments in Ireland and the UK. US technology companies in Europe use the US dollar for all internal budgets and for their transactions with European customers. Even small local companies that do business with these giants follow suit and use the US dollar. Technology projects typically involve multiple companies who each provide part of an overall solution to a customer with another systems integrator company being responsible for putting everything together for the end customer. The overall project budget involving these multiple customers is by necessity in a single currency and that currency is always the US dollar. Even if a US technology company based in Ireland sells to an Irish customer, the customer will pay in dollars. The Euro is simply another foreign currency as far as US technology companies are concerned. The main effect of Euro-membership for Ireland (from the perspective of US technology companies) is that the costs of employing staff in Ireland and hiring office space is linked to a currency that is now so over-valued that it is pricing the Irish out of their jobs.

    If Ireland were serious about having a currency to please US multinationals then it would use the US dollar or restore the punt with a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar. So long as Ireland is part of the eurozone Ireland will continue to be the most unstable economy in the world. The EU today has released revised figures which project Ireland will see -5% growth this year, the sharpest decline in the history of the Irish republic. This instability is a direct consequence of an Anglo-Saxon economy like Ireland's being artificially tied to Eurozone interest and exchange rates that are suited to economies on the Continent that are structurally and cyclically divergent from Ireland and its main major trade and investment partners in the US and UK. Until Ireland rectifies this problem by withdrawing from the eurozone its people will continue to pay a cruel price in terms of mass unemployment.

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  • 116. At 00:05am on 30 Jan 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Re 35. At 6:09pm on 12 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    ... your post might explain why TB/GB decided not to join Schengen (of which Iceland is member). To keep their hands free in misusing and abusing police laws. The no-to-ID people make me laugh, when their liberty has already been given away.

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  • 117. At 08:55am on 30 Jan 2009, lacerniagigante wrote:

    Freeborn-John, have you bought oranges, lettuce, bread, celery in some UK shop lately? Or do you live off oatmeal, kidney pie and ale only? (I wouldn't be surprised if you did ;-)

    There's more to economy that a term's growth/unemployment forecast. And the euro-irish are quite enjoying their shopping in northern ireland, while sterling-earners watch...

    Here. You may want to read further:
    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/01/29/afx5980835.html

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  • 118. At 01:28am on 04 Feb 2009, politejomsviking wrote:

    #116 lacerniagigiante


    And the euro-ish are quite enjoyig their shopping in northern ireland, while strling-earners watch....

    Me- That sounds wonderful. By the way countries become wealthy by exporting and selling abroad. That Euro is killing your Uk, Africa, America, and Asia exports.

    The other day I was at Volkswagon shopping for a Jetta. The car cost $18,999 in 2008, now in 2009 it costs $22,000.

    The Japanese Mazda M-3 (made in the US) Cost about $15,999, loaded real wheels not hub caps everything.

    The Ford Focus cost $13, 800 after rebates and negotiation. That is almost a $8,000 difference.

    Your strong EURO is going to kill you in the worlds biggest Auto market. VW are stacking up like American Cheese slices at the local dealership, Saab is gone bust, Mercedes has the same cars it had last week and Volvosare just not selling.

    This is not the path to a great future.



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