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EU 'big' brought to heel

Mark Mardell | 20:39 UK time, Sunday, 1 March 2009

The sting was drawn from this summit by the apparent French climbdown over its plans to link state aid to car plants, to putting firms on French soil first. Not that President Nicolas Sarkozy seemed that apologetic - more annoyed that he had been singled out for harsh words.

"Take my friend Gordon Brown - and you know how much I trust him - who owns 70% of a bank. Seventy per cent! It's nationalisation. So explain where is the logic in saying there's no problem when a state takes 70% of a bank but helping manufacturers to get credit, that is a problem. Who says Gordon Brown is a protectionist ? Who would say such nonsense? Nobody is a protectionist in Europe, nobody !"

He went on to suggest that, if nobody is protectionist, some are more in favour of free trade than others.

"I've never believed in protectionism. Never. And if the crisis of '29 was as bad as it was it's perhaps because the response was protectionism. So is it a bad word? Yes. It's a bad idea. But on the other hand I have never believed in being naive. I ask for reciprocity. Between protectionism and free-tradism, there can perhaps be a balance, meaning from my point of view there's no such thing as liberty without rules."

But he has signed up to the conclusions of the summit which said that leaders "agreed that Europe can only face this challenge and overcome the current crisis by continuing to act together in a coordinated manner, within the framework of the Single Market and EMU", and "stress that protectionism is no answer to the current crisis and express confidence in the Commission's role as guardian of the Treaty".

You can take these as the usual platitudinous expressions of unity but perhaps today they actually are important.

The most memorable phrase of this summit came from Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.He said: "We should not allow a new iron curtain to set up and divide Europe into two parts."

His logic?

"This is the biggest challenge for Europe in 20 years. At the beginning of the 90s we reunified Europe. Now it is another challenge: whether we can unify Europe in terms of financing and its economy."

It's very important that the summit agree that deals to save banks could not be protectionist either: support for parent banks should not imply any restrictions on the activities of subsidiaries in EU host countries, is what they agreed. In other words, an Austrian bank cannot be bailed out on the condition that it pulls out of operations in Hungary."

So does today matter? I think it does.

You might not agree with it but there is no doubt that a core principle of the European Union is that the individual member states should not put their interests before the interests of Europe as a whole, or before the interests of each other. Of course, they always do, and probably always will. But the economic crisis is putting very real strains on the organisation.

As the job losses, plant closures, bank failures spin faster and faster, the centrifugal forces threaten to tear countries one from another and, in the end, if there is no countervailing force, the whole thing could fly apart.

Although the summit did more detailed work, it was called by the Czechs partly because of the deepening crisis in the East's banks but mainly because of their offense over Mr Sarkozy's remarks.

It suggests the "littles", as they are sometimes called in EU parlance, can call one of the biggest of the "bigs" to heel. This summit is just a staging post in a crisis that will run longer than is comfortable for any of us but it was a chance for countries to reaffirm their European spirit and economic orthodoxy.

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  • 1. At 9:08pm on 01 Mar 2009, nahummer wrote:

    A minor, yet important victory against creeping protectionism.
    http://theendisalwaysnear.blogspot.com/2009/02/p-is-for.html
    I do get Sarkhozy' point though about the double standards being applied to bank nationalization however. Hungary in particular needed the promise not to link bank bailouts with restrictions on foreign lending activities as it's soooooo in debt to foreign banks, particularly Austrian:
    http://theendisalwaysnear.blogspot.com/2009/02/race-to-bottom.html

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  • 2. At 9:25pm on 01 Mar 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Mark,

    It sounds all very magnanimous and, apart from Sarkozy sounding like a spoilt brat, I suppose the bonhomie continues.

    For the moment!

    The truth is that the politicians have no real idea of how bad things are going to get and, if, as I surmise, things get much worse for people of all nations of the world through a deeper Depression than the 1930s - a Depression that is truly global and will see the end of Capitalism and free enterprise as we have known it - then individual nations will take steps to fortify their own economies despite international agreements and understandings.

    Sarkozy and France were not immoral to seek to protect French jobs and Gordon Brown should be doing the same instead of bolstering what is undoubtedly a corrupt global banking system. The absurdity and the real problem for the 27 EU nations is their comittment to the EU which prevents Nations from being honest with their peoples in these dark days.

    Debt is the world's real economic problem and not lack of credit availability as HMG would have us believe . . . when the current HMG activities fail to save the British Banks and the UK becomes in need of an IMF loan then we, in the UK, will be in dire straits. It is that point that I believe the UK will be the first EU State to face up to the reality, admit the failure in honesty and tear up the agreements, concensus and understandings reached today by the Council of Ministers.

    The fact is that the EU can only function in good times and has not got the capacity to act as an honest broker when the individual member states are in dire economic and even, potentially, serious social trouble.

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  • 3. At 9:25pm on 01 Mar 2009, SCL wrote:

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much, Msr Sarkozy!

    Honestly, if Sarkozy's economic policy isnt geared towards protectionism, then I'm John Wayne.

    This is the man who so famously stated "What has competition ever done for Europe?" and called for "European champions" to be created, ie. protected and nurtured.

    He just can't stand obviously that he's in the minority here and that the French take on policy isn't leading the way in the EU at the moment.

    I wish Merkel would just speak her mind more often and tell Sarkozy to be quiet already! You know she wants to, as do the rest of the European leaders no doubt.

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  • 4. At 9:31pm on 01 Mar 2009, maggiemaggiemaggie wrote:

    Where would we be without the BBC painting all matters European with a positive tint?

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  • 5. At 9:45pm on 01 Mar 2009, A_View_From_France wrote:

    France will soon cave into the pressure of its militant trade unions and engage in a gaelic interpretation of 'protectionism'.

    President Sarkozy is faced with a dilemma, he can try and stick to the EU rules and face a damaging confrontation with the unions, or it just ignores rules when it needs to, which to be fair is exactly the same pragmatic 'protectionism' approach when it was forced to act with the banking system.

    With the huge amount of public sector employees in France, it seems that the Presidents election pledge to reduce the amount of people on the state payroll is doomed. To put tens of thousands of state employees out of work would be political suicide, the problem he also faces is that the French state has a hugely costly welfare system, if the amount of public sector employees are not reduced the state will not be able to support the public sector pension system.

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  • 6. At 10:08pm on 01 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Switzerland has different tax rates in every village. Not just ion every canton, but in every municipal village, or "Geminde".

    I once lived in a community of 127 souls. They voted to set their own tax rate, and even set the rate for electricity consumption, as their town had its own hydro station.

    In Switzerland, there is absolutely zero "fairness" and "equality" between the states and towns, in regard to how the people their vote to administer their economies.

    And yet somehow Switzerland is peaceful and wealthy, and somehow it manages to unite french speaking, german speaking and italian speaking people. Language differences and religious differences are forgotten, and nobody objects to the uneven playing field of market intervention by both cantonal and town councils.

    Why?

    Because the swiss have direct democracy. They understand that if they do not like the law, they can change it. Literally, not theoretically via representation. Any ordinary person can force a referendum, and any ordinary person can write an act of parliament. If they collect sufficient signatures, the nation votes and the law is made.

    Switzerland is testimony to the fact that POLITICAL liberalism, not ECONOMIC liberalism, is the way towards a united federal state.

    Economic liberalism means the biggest get bigger and can prey on the smaller. No rules exist to prevent the large destroying the small.

    Political liberalism means the people are sovereign to make their own laws. No rules exist to allow the large to prey upon the small.

    This philosophy of economic liberalism is objectionable for a number of reasons, not least that it presumes that unbridled economic growth is a good thing.

    Looking at the modern world, I would say people do not want unbridled growth anymore. they want enough clean water. They want some trees in the community park, rather than a bigger, faster car parking system. They want clean energy in their home, not cheap oil for the biggest factories.

    They want protection, not mega corporations posting record profits.

    But all the EU has to offer is the old philosophy of greed: Economic liberalism to create the wonders of the corporate elite world. Space ships and supertankers, jet fighters and vast presidential palaces.

    These playthings of royalty, these are still what the EU dandies believe Europe considers civilization. They are past their ideological use by date, and a stain on political liberty.

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  • 7. At 10:31pm on 01 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "This summit is just a staging post in a crisis that will run longer than is comfortable for any of us but it was a chance for countries to reaffirm their European spirit and economic orthodoxy. "

    What is "economic orthodoxy", Mr Mardell?

    Is that when private banks lend money for a profit, and private car makers make cars for profit? Or is it when banks lend money as a social service, and when cars are made to create jobs?

    Is it orthodox to let badly run firms go to the wall, or is it orthodox to tax everyone in order that the current shareholders of major industries stay in control of their miserably run empires?

    Because right now both the EU and our state governments are talking long and loud about how they will spend our money to make things "fair", and that fairness involves they themselves taking absolutely no blame for the current bankruptcy of the European financial system.

    If this is what you call "economic orthodoxy", I fear you were trained in the USSR.

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  • 8. At 11:08pm on 01 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    Mark

    " . . . an Austrian bank cannot be bailed out on the condition that it pulls out of operations in Hungary".

    Is this a direct quote from Gyurcsany? If so, he is spelling it out very bluntly. Raiffeisen take note. (and KBC and Unicredit).

    Brown and Merkel are unusually quiet. On today's showing, I would not say game over but the 'littles' go into the second leg with an away goal advantage.

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  • 9. At 11:18pm on 01 Mar 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany ... said: "... At the beginning of the 90s we reunified Europe...."

    I often hear this "REunification" stuff.

    Can anybody tell me when it was unified before?

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  • 10. At 00:23am on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #9 - SuffolkBoy2

    You know what he meant. There was only one period of madness when an Iron Curtain stretched from Lapland to the Adriatic. That is over. Credit where it is due.

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  • 11. At 00:35am on 02 Mar 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Heigh-ho, Alastair Darling is about to announce that the British Tax-payer is about to have to spend another 24.1 Billion GBP on PFI Projects - these are the Public Works that were to be funded by the Private Sector but the Private Sector Contarctors have all but vanished beneath the waves of unmanageable Debt!

    The UK tax-payer is now going to be subsidising it's own subsidised projects . . . how cool is that!

    Does anyone know the telephone number for the IMF? I think the UK will be going to the IMF cap-in-hand very shortly - that or doing some "quantative easing" that takes the UK back to the days of Harold Wilson and when "The pound in your pocket tomorrow is going to be worth the same as it was yesterday!" Bless him. Harold was as much a liar then as the Labour politicians of today.

    One has to wonder how the EU Council of Ministers will react when the UK pound is worthless and the UK EU contribution will just about buy a pack of peanuts!

    rotfl

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  • 12. At 00:42am on 02 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    They ought to put these guys on the comedy channel. The EU is one big joke.

    "The most memorable phrase of this summit came from Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.He said: "We should not allow a new iron curtain to set up and divide Europe into two parts."

    His logic?"

    Simple. His real goal is to keep British taxpayers paying for construction of roads and bridges in Hungary when they are so broke they can't afford any in Britain. It is to keep the transfer of wealth from the richer nations to the poorer nations going despite the fact that the richer nations are now in desperate straits themselves.

    "the centrifugal forces threaten to tear countries one from another and, in the end, if there is no countervailing force, the whole thing could fly apart."

    The only thing that has held it together this long is lies, secrecy, and despotism. Does anyone seriously think the British public would have voted for a "trade pact" if they knew that one day this pact would force them to pay for roads and bridges in Hungary? That it would be run by a vast expensive bureaucracy which is invisible, unaccountable, and whose books haven't been certified in well over a decade? That under the guise of it, the Prime Minsiter alone could continuously cede increasing chunks of British sovereignty with nobody legally able to stop him? How else could such a fraud continue to be perpetrated on those who pay for it without force? Of course it helps that Europeans by nature do not stand up to aggressive malevolent forces arrayed against them. They've proven it in WWII, the cold war, al Qaeda, and now with Iran and Russia among others. Pathetic.

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  • 13. At 01:15am on 02 Mar 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    SuffolkBoy2,

    Tyroleans do not hate the EU. The Brenner pass has, indeed, many lorries but what do you expect when the Brenner is the most important pathway that links northern Europe and southern Europe? The beef that the Austrians have has to do with universities and them having to allow large numbers of Germans who aren't eligible to study in their own country, amongst other things. The lorry problem, however, is been adressed by the Brenner Basis Tunnel. You can check it out on Wikipedia.

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  • 14. At 02:12am on 02 Mar 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    All the EU's problems of democratic legitimacy stem from the federalist delusion that there is a European interest that may be used to coerce nations to do what is not in their national interest. There is no such ;core principl' in any of the rambling treaties on European Union. If the BBC Europe editor shares this federalist delusion he should be fired.

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  • 15. At 02:15am on 02 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    A_View_From_France

    The public sector is not all Sarkozy has to worry about. "The situation is piled high with difficulties." In fact there are so many of them it's hard to list them all. But whatever freedom he'd have had to maneuver in solving them, if that was within the realm of possiblity have been given up long ago by the straightjacket of the EU rules. How ironic that those rules and the dreams of former French leaders to create a unified political Europe through deciet, trickery, and force will wind up being part of France's undoing. Hoist by its own petard. The vortex swirls faster and faster every single day. Will we soon be hearing about street rioting, looting, strikes, and general insurrection in France and elsewhere in Europe? What would the rebels demand, a socialist nation? Out of the frying pan into the fire?

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  • 16. At 08:30am on 02 Mar 2009, the-real-truth wrote:

    It doesn't really matter what words come from their lips, we know what words are going around in their minds.

    EU leaders will still do what ever it was they were going to do, they just won't make quite such a loud noise about it.

    We know this, which is why we despise politicians - the less influence we have over a particular politician, the more we hate them.

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  • 17. At 08:40am on 02 Mar 2009, expatinnetherlands wrote:

    The EU as an economic union has gone past its sell by date.

    Let's call it a loose economic conference.

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  • 18. At 08:53am on 02 Mar 2009, mikewarsaw wrote:

    Poor Marcus AureliusII! Named for a Spanish Roman emperor and exhibiting all the classic symptoms of a 19th century rampant nationalist of the worst kind! As to Freeborn John, he reminds me of King John Lackland!What is a nation? Scotland? England? Wales? Great Britain? Which of these? I would venture that the Scots certainly do not consider themselves English and less and less British (a simple acronym for English)!
    As to comments that its the British taxpayer that is footing the bill for infrastructure development in Eastern EU Europe, given that the UK has traditionally been a zero nett contributor those comments are grossly far fetched. If anything the contribution has for the past five years been going in exactly the opposite direction, to the direct benefit of the UK economy and tax collection system.
    The current UK taxpayers' bailout of grossly incompetently criminally run British banks is far greater just for one of those banks than the entire contribution of the UK to the EU, indeed than the entire Eu infrastructure spend on the whole of the 10 Eastern EU countries over the next 6 years.
    If you are looking for democratic deficit then look no further than England where representative democracy has its day once every 4-5 years, the rest of the time there is a tame poodle Parliament which is whipped into line by the autocratic governing, first-past-the-post ruling party, whatever its political colour.
    The EU is ruled by the Council of Ministers, ie by the elected governing ministers of all the member countries, good or bad. The Commission is chosen by them but at least has to win EU Parliamentary approval, no easy matter (just like in the USA). The Commisisoners are effectively EU Senior Civil Servants, and unlike in the UK , are subject to Parliamentary control. Ditto the legislation they generate. All Directives have to pass Parliamentary veto.
    The principle of subsidiarity (handle issues and problems at the lowest level possible instead of shoving them upstairs) is well established. Its when problems are NOT resolved locally eg abuse of human rights THEN they get escalated up to EU level. And rightly so. Abuse of governmental power and privilege is all too common in post September 11 Europe including the UK, apeing the USA of the Bush administration. For far too long the EU and its institutions are used as a convenient whipping horse by populist ultra nationalist politicians and their ignorant supporters in the member States and by the gutter media of those member States to cover up the incompetence and democratic deficit in their own countries. No doubt that will continue to happen as its standard for political life everywhere. The EU is not perfect and does not claim to be but in the immortal words of Winston Churchill: "Far better jaw, jaw than war, war"!

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  • 19. At 09:06am on 02 Mar 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    President Sarkozy expressed his and France's disappointment at being considered 'protectionist'; President Sarkozy and France signed the EU protocol at the end of the 'special' conference.

    President Sarkozy and France will now set about quietly and calmly protecting as much of France's infrastructure as possible with subsidies, loans, slowed border-customs importation controls, tightened foreign employment regulation and quantitative easing of the EUro within the nation.

    Of course Pres Barroso and the rest will point to how the 'big' beast in the EU jungle was tethered by the munchkins swarming over it: In reality Sarkozy and France will just ignore the lot of them and do exactly what they had alwys intended but with not quite so publicly dismissive an attitude to the 'partners' in the EU.
    Thus explaining, Sarkozy's references to PM Brown and the UK Tax-payer's funding the private banking system; It is the classic, "Dig me in my back whilst they are looking and I'll swat yours, but, scratch it discreetly and we'll talk up our unity!"

    Pres Barroso and his 'little' Czechs, Finns, Estonians, Bulgarians will be puffing out their chests with pride as their political masters point to their effective governance! Meantime Paris-Berlin-London-Rome will go their own way with political-economic policies to ensure their economies are 'protected'.

    The EU-double-speak will go on and the EU federal-unity project will even be enhanced. That Snow White Barroso and approx 22 dwarfs get eaten alive by the big bears will go pretty much unreported as it occurs deep, deep in the EU documentary forests!

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  • 20. At 10:07am on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #11 - Menedemus

    In which case I hope the BOE has a set of plates for the Euro because they are going to need them. All UK contributions are paid in Euros.

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  • 21. At 10:36am on 02 Mar 2009, Chris wrote:

    Well if we like it or not, Sarkozy has a valid point, what makes economists and bankers worth of state assistance and car makers or other workers not worth assistance because they are "inefficient" or "lazy" or whatever peoples claims they are about them?

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  • 22. At 11:16am on 02 Mar 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To ikamaskeip (19):

    Oh please. France nor any other Eurozone country can't do quantitative easing. The ECB and the EBC alone has the power to issue new money, Eurozone members don't have this power. In addition the ECB doesn't have authorization to do quantitative easing, their hands are tied in this respect.

    Also other things you mentioned aren't possible. Import duties are set by the EU in accordance of WTO treaties with non-EU countries and with EU and EEA countries there are no import duties. Tightened foreign employment regulation only is a concern only to non-EU and non-EEA countries.

    You also haven't taken a note about alignment of bigger powers with smaller ones. France and Germany seldom share exactly the same view of a matter, usually they gather support from smaller countries and then make a compromise that satisfies everybody.

    You also should take a note that as we nowadays have highly decentralized production networks, any internal European protectionism just hinders the functioning of that network.

    PS. It is funny how different news sources handle things. For example Helsingin Sanomat in today's article sum up of the summit noted that France got out of the summit as a winner as the EU commission cleared it and its support for motor-industry to be in accordance with the EU regulations. Also they noted again that the whole summit was only to prevent France from calling a summit for Eurozone countries. Both of these points seem to have been forgotten by the BBC.

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  • 23. At 11:19am on 02 Mar 2009, LibreHacer wrote:

    Menedemus @2 - the situation is serious in ways that most people don't get yet just like you say. However, I sense in you an attitude of doom. In the worst case, in past structural breaks, the underlying social stress erupted in war or other human catastrophes that re-established a new order.

    Social stress, including distrust in authority, dissent, widely divergent views, unrest, social exclusion, medicament and drug consumption, etc. signal that the 'orthodoxy' to which Mark refers is ceasing to work. The magic, the all-knowing system, the current flavor of priests (economic in the west today) let down more and more of their fellow humans and the ranks looking for new solutions swell.

    At structural breaks, the things we believe in that have gotten systematically overextended over longer periods of time, come in question.
    But the ranks of people finding their own answers are also growing. The thing is not to prevent them from dying unnoticed and unsupported. Women's lib, racial integration, HIV prejudice, etc none were or still are simple evolutionary changes. Yet all have made remarkable progress.

    People will prevail and will not trash the hard won achievements. Lot will be pruned, the powerful will be humbled, but life will go on to be better.

    In the best case one must say, the powerful would voluntarily step down and sacrifice themselves for renewal to happen faster. Every mythology captures this event and possibility. This would indeed be the strongest possible sign of leadership but also that which requires the highest valor.

    The problem is that we have been very occupied with scientific advances and have devoted far too little effort to the human psychic processes. We are still largely unaware of our own psychic processes stuck as it were in the paradigm of consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the material body.

    We believe in chemicals, brain scans and such to a level unwarranted by psycho-social history. As before we were trapped in religious dogma, today after couple hundred years of intense science, we are trapped in a quantitative mode of thinking. We fall in the trap to believe that we are actually capable of being really 'objective', and that emotions and deeper beliefs an be suppressed at will. We hang to absolute truths unable to realize how patterns of truths weave longer periods of time.

    Social change comes about always with structural breaks because human ingenuity, judgment and adaptation are innate in individual beings, and are called into function by facing problems. Stealing problems from people by establishing the sole authority of whatever powers is the surest means to destroy adaptive capabilities.

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  • 24. At 12:33pm on 02 Mar 2009, dwwonthew wrote:

    Re: 18

    "As to comments that its the British taxpayer that is footing the bill for infrastructure development in Eastern EU Europe, given that the UK has traditionally been a zero nett contributor those comments are grossly far fetched. "

    Where on earth do you get that idea from? The official figures from the Office of National Statistics for the period 1997-2005 show that the UK contributed 108.4bn GBPs to the EU budget and recevied back 64.4bn GBPs. That means we were a net contributor to the tune of 44bn GBP over that 9 year period. [See The Pink Book 2006]. Since our gross contribution will increase over the next few years the deficit between our contribution and receipts is likely to get larger.

    Additionally, our trade deficit with the rest of the EU for the same period was 72.5bn GBPs.

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  • 25. At 1:11pm on 02 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    mikewarsaw

    If the UK is a net financial beneficiary of money for being in the EU, why is Gordon Brown so frightened of putting Lisbon to a vote that he won't even allow his rubber stamp Parliament his own party controls have a say let alone the British people? Who would turn down joining a union where you GET money instead of paying dues...except for the Scots. But they have a good reason.

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  • 26. At 1:45pm on 02 Mar 2009, Thegrimcrim wrote:

    "economic orthodoxy"

    I assume you mean going back to business as usual, forcing the people of Europe back to indebtedness, to fund the expansion of the Euro empire, to create more markets for the businesses that really run European democracies.

    One giant Pyramid scheme in other words.

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  • 27. At 2:05pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #18 - mikewarsaw

    I wholly endorse what you say and I agree totally. In fact one of the aspects of this debate that is beginning to get very hard to take is the constant posting that the EU is an antidemocratic and dictatorial institution coming from people who are obviously posting from England and seem to think they can ignore or even endorse what is happening in the UK but propagate demonstrably untrue propaganda about the EU.

    However, I think #24 - dwwonthew is right to take issue with you about hard statistics. His figures are right. But if you take the net contribution of 44 bn, spread it over 9 years, ie. 4.89 bn p.a. and set that against the £250bn anticipated losses at HBOS which will be insured by the taxpayer, you start to see the absurdity of it. In the great scheme of things, 4.9 bn p.a. is loose change and anyone who suggests that the British taxpayer is paying for eastern Europe is selecting statistics in a totally unashamed way to make a propaganda case which, on scrutiny, is totally misleading.

    In a way, I welcome this. If the best the sceptics can do is bend figures to pervert the argument, they have already lost it.

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  • 28. At 2:09pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #25 - MarcusAureliusII

    Gordon Brown is frighted to put anything to the vote. As his popularity rating stands at the moment, if he called a vote on banning Christmas, 90% of turkeys would vote against

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  • 29. At 2:46pm on 02 Mar 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    President Sarkozy's logic is deeply flawed. He says that he only believes in free trade if there is reciprocity. But Adam Smith showed that even if others apply tariffs on your goods and servies, it is still in your interest not to apply tariffs on theirs. This is because your own tariffs will restrict the import of what others do better than you, forcing you to devote part of the time that you should be spending doing what you do best on things you are not that good at, which results in a net loss in your own income.

    If Sarkozy demands reciprocity he is actually cutting off the Gallic nose to spite others, which is not a luxury that France cannot afford right now. If we could achieve global free trade we would not only all be better off financially, but there would be no need for the EU single market any more. This is the challenge that politicians around the world should be stepping up to in the era of a globalised economy.

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  • 30. At 3:32pm on 02 Mar 2009, dwwonthew wrote:

    Re: 27

    But the 4.9bn GBP per annum net contribution to the budget is not the total cost of our membership of the EU. For example, Austen Mitchell, Labour MP for Grimsby, in a 2007 report [still on the web] put it at 45bn a year "on a rising trend". Various other sources put the current figure at around or above 50bn a year.

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  • 31. At 3:37pm on 02 Mar 2009, jeffreymtodd wrote:

    Face it - France will look after the French.

    They always have and always will. They will isuue the usual platitudes and get right back to looking after their own.

    On one hand it is really infuriating, but on the other admirable.

    Pity we do not have a UK government looking after its own people.

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  • 32. At 3:43pm on 02 Mar 2009, Sparklet wrote:

    18. At 08:53am on 02 Mar 2009, mikewarsaw

    Mike,

    Thankyou for illustrating so beautifully the points I have made in other blogs on other threads ie

    "Those who cannot win an argument with logic and truth, seek to discredit and undermine their opponents with inaccurate and misleading information"

    Further - they insult, obfuscate and seek to distract.

    As to your comment

    "given that the UK has traditionally been a zero nett contributor those comments are grossly far fetched"

    it has already been pointed out this is inaccurate.

    However I would refer you (and others interested) to the site below but recommend that any interested in viewing look at net contributors in terms of millions of euros rather than as euros/capita (the preferred EU method) which has been grossly distorted by EU encouraged immigration.

    http://www.money-go-round.eu/

    The cost of EU regulation is huge and vastly increasing

    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2009/02/mats-persson.html

    Yes we have an out-of-control Executive in the UK but that doesn't stop us criticising the out-of-control Executive in the EU. And as for democracy - look what happened to Vaclav Klaus when he proposed greater democracy. So much for our 'representative' MEPs!!!

    http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2009/02/klaus-provokes-walk-out-in-the-parliament/64053.aspx

    And as to your observation

    "The EU is not perfect"

    well yes I would have to agree with that.





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  • 33. At 3:48pm on 02 Mar 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (29):

    That works only in theory and in very simplistic economic model.

    The biggest problem is that in real world there seldom are perfect substitutes. For example in country A a manufacturing costs more because of pollution controls, but in country B a manufacturer doesn't have any pollution control thus making the product of the country B cheaper. However the product of the country B isn't actually cheaper, country B has just externalized cost of pollution to everybody as the environment that is polluted is shared by all.

    Now as the country B has competitive advantage, manufacturer of the country A is harmed resulting either it to lower pollution controls or withdrawing from the market. What has happened is that country B is rewarded for its harmful actions. The correct measure for country A would be to set tariff to product of country B that would cover the cost of its externalization of pollution.

    We should also acknowledge that country B could be subsidizing its manufacturer to give it competitive advantage. If the manufacturer of country B has competitive enough time, it will push all its competitors from the market and form an monopoly. After it has set up monopoly it will increase its prices and start to leverage its monopoly into other markets. Now you may object and say that market will create alternatives to the monopoly, but what you forget is that to create a new manufacturer to compete with the manufacturer of country B would need huge amounts of capital to build up not only the manufacturing plant, but its supporting infrastructure, educated workers, etc.. now we also have to take account that the monopoly holder has enlarged market power because of economies of scale and thus for any challenged it will be very costly project to gain the pre-monopoly position.

    The thing is that as long as we live in imperfect markets and world, that is how long we have to actively monitor trade and take active steps to harmonize it to avoid market faults. Currently we have many market faults, maybe one of the worst of these are USd artificial status of having monopoly on oil trade and Chinese Yuan that the Chinese government keeps artificially in too low position.

    Unfortunate truth is that our current world needs reciprocity.

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  • 34. At 3:58pm on 02 Mar 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    So M. Sarkozy thinks the UK is not pursuing protectionist policies - does he?

    Tell me what pursuing a policy of ultra low interest rates with the objective of lowering the pounds purchasing power in foreign currencies is, if it is not protectionist?

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  • 35. At 4:00pm on 02 Mar 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    *It suggests the "littles", as they are sometimes called in EU parlance, can call one of the biggest of the "bigs" to heel.*

    I look forward to the day when the *littles*, or any other EU member or members for that matter, call the *big* UK to heel on account of its protectionist stance, represented by its competitive devaluations and its refusal to implement the full rules of the single market:

    [Art. 3.2, Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union]

    " The internal market shall comprise an *area without internal frontiers* in which the free movement of goods, PERSONS, services and capital is ensured "

    Just as if every EU country engaged in the protectionism that the French wanted to revert to (but were forced to climb down from) the single market would be obliterated, if every EU country did what the UK does, by keeping its own individual currencies and picket fences in the shape of border police protectionism, the single market would be unworkable as well.

    Mind you, I think the reason the UK is allowed to get away with this protectionism is that the rest of the EU don’t want to put in danger the membership fees paid by this country or rock the boat by forcing the UK to abandon its protectionism or leave the EU.

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  • 36. At 4:03pm on 02 Mar 2009, Sparklet wrote:

    27. At 2:05pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio

    Threnodio,

    It's not only mikewarsaw who can distort the facts.

    I seem to remember you have form on this yourself.

    Nick Robinson's thread
    Labour's dilemma over Royal Mail

    (published long before many others before it)
    72. At 6:18pm on 26 Feb 2009, threnodio wrote:
    "May I suggest that posters read Postal Directives 2008/06/EC, 97/67/EC and 2002/39/EC before using them as sticks with which to beat the EU. These proposals relate to cross-border mail weighing less than 50 gr and costing less than two-and-a-half times the basic tariff as from 1 January 2006 - i.e. an estimated additional 7 % market opening to competition. They are available HERE."

    (Pointing to "The Requested Page does not Exist)

    and my own posting (which incidentally was not published by the BBC until almost 3 hours after I'd posted)

    73. At 6:41pm on 26 Feb 2009, Sparklet wrote:
    72. At 6:18pm on 26 Feb 2009, threnodio

    "No, thenodio, I suggest you read the full postal legislation agenda, it is patently not limited to what you describe."

    http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/post/legislation_en.htm


    (The link which showed the full postal agenda ending with - )

    2010 Full market opening for 16 Member States, which represent 95% of the internal postal market
    2012 Full market opening for remaining Member States that may use the possibility of transitional period.

    As I said - you have form!!





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  • 37. At 4:13pm on 02 Mar 2009, ricardopanama wrote:

    Amusing how, when Andy Murray says "anyone but England", it's deemed racist, but when the French argue their case, it's perfertly acceptable to be as chauvanist as one likes.

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  • 38. At 4:16pm on 02 Mar 2009, LibreHacer wrote:

    #27 & #18 mikewarsaw, threnodio

    It would be wrong to take so many heartfelt posts, lump them into anti EU democracy bashing for the sake of it.

    Throughout Mark's blog it is true that there is posts that are emotional about the issue, but the root issue id the question of what constitutes democracy?

    Is it merely a count of something, a mere once every 4 or 5 years vote followed by rubber stamping processes following the cohercion or influence of party power? (seems to be the current stage in the UK)

    OR

    Is it like #6 Democracythreat suggests a mixing up of liberal economics as the sole dominant idea overpowering liberal participation of grass rots communities in politics as seen in Switzerland?

    OR

    Or is it even a deeper confusion where nobody seems able to see past the 'block' mentality, where everything is about being big, grow more, all measured along a narrow set of parameters belonging to the economic paradigm of the day. Never mind that the environment is not holding up, that the earth resources are or would be stretched beyond any sense, that the number of species going extinct is also on parabolic rise, or any other number of catastrophic nuisances that the economic equation is so daft at capturing?

    As long as we have a camp pushing for quantitative democracy alone and ignore the qualitative aspects, from the lowest regional level right up to the EU, we will for ever, in true Babel style, talk at cross-purposes.

    The EU has a lot going for it, if it just could see the essence of the worth of cultural diversity beyond the money game. The solution its at home, it can easily grow from within.

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  • 39. At 4:21pm on 02 Mar 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    dwwonthew (30)

    I would not worry about it too much.

    By the time this current UK Labour Governemt and its party has spent up all our grand-childrens' and great -grandchildrens' taxes, introduced "Quantitive Easing" the like of which the UK has never seen, devalued the pound and shrunk all our incomes . . . 4.9 Billion or 50 Billion GBP will hardly be worth diddly-squat to the EU (even when converted to Euros as threnodio pointed out in #20) and I am sure that the UK will be back at it renowned place of being the "Sick man of Europe" with rubbish GDP and having the EU contribute to subsidise us "British" citizens whether indigenous or from all parts of the rest of the World.

    I bet the new EU member States are going to love having the UK as the poorest member state of the EU and having to subsidise us "British".

    rotfl

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  • 40. At 4:31pm on 02 Mar 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #18 mikewarsaw,

    If you wish to discuss the net contribution I would recommend you first read the document EU budget 2006 — Financial Report, filename fin_report_06_en.pdf which you can download. I then would be very interested how you can change the figures from page 48 onwards to support your contention that the UK is not a large net contributor. In fact for 2006 it was the second largest net giver with 4086 billion Euro and if it was not for the rebate it would have been the largest with 9307 billion Euro. Finally your comment about the UK being traditionally a net contributor are absurd, examine every years figures from 1976 onwards which is the first year in that document and elucidate which year the UK has received more than it gave.

    PS. Examine all the notes in the document as some of the tables are confusing but the notes explain how to extrapolate the figures and especially the 'traditional own resources' column(s).

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  • 41. At 4:43pm on 02 Mar 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    Protectionism is supposed to benefit the country that engages in it but sometimes it spectacularly backfires, as clearly reflected in this article:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c627278a-f6da-11dd-8a1f-0000779fd2ac.html

    By stubbornly keeping its picket border police protectionism, the UKs share of European tourism is being seriously eroded, as you can surmise from the statistics about Chinese visitors to France and the UK in the above article.

    The UKs refusal to implement the full rules of the single market, on account of its *police-state protectionism*, is hitting home hard.

    Imagine you were a Chinese tourist or business traveller to Europe and you had an option of two visas to visit European countries:

    - Visa A – Valid for 25 countries. Cost: ca. 50 GBP. The visa form is the same whatever the purpose of your visit and is two pages long.

    - Visa B – Valid for one single country. Cost: 65-200 GBP, depending on visa duration. No less than 10 types of visas to choose from, depending on the purpose of your visit (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/vafs/ ). Visa form is 10 pages long with all sorts of personal details being requested, including income, savings, living costs, how much of your income you spend on your dependants, etc.

    Which visa, A or B, would you choose, other things being equal?

    Exactly, the clearest example of how protectionism can backfire big time.

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  • 42. At 4:52pm on 02 Mar 2009, marcel33 wrote:

    Suffolkboy wrote (9)
    Can anyone tell me when it [Europe] was unified before?

    That would be between april 1941 and june 1944, when virtually all of Europe was under the control, allied to or sympathetic to ol' Adolf and his pals.

    I've always found it funny the EU is so proud of this, and call them the 'Reich' because of it.
    And add to that, the Third Reich's RSHA (Reich Security Head Administration) had plans for an European Union of their own. Which has to be said, in order to be fair, was not quite what we have now, though it wouldn't have been much less democratic. The difference was, Adolf and his pals didn't see the need for keeping up appearences.

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  • 43. At 4:55pm on 02 Mar 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Jukka_Rohila and Comment 22

    "Oh please only the ECB and EBC has power to issue money.."

    Oh please mate, will you stop writing and thinking becuase it is on an EU bit of paper that it actually means anything at all! I know Finns are very law-abiding; I am aware Finland has a very regulated society and that it has an inflexible Constitution, but, that is upto the Finns. If they are comfortable in that political-social environment that is fine by me. The world outside, however, is strategically different from the de facto organised structures you envisage as being sacrosanct.

    Bless you, but, you are so besotted with the EU that you just don't seem to realise anything about what is actually going on!
    Let me give you some examples of the value of Documentation when 'big' or 'little' Governments decide it is or is not in their interest to remember the content:

    The Convention on Human Rights, it doesn't get much more 'big' and more impressive than that does it? Well, China, USA, Russia, UK, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Zaire, Morocco and even Burma and N.Korea are all signatories of that document! Oh please don't tell me they don't break it everyday!?
    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Well, N.Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel sure pay attention to that one!
    The U.N.O. Charter on the Rights of the Child? I'm not going to list the 23 nations the U.N. declared in 2007 were in direct contravention of practically all its good ideas!

    This may be hard for you to accept, but, the literal, factual truth of the matter is that nothing the EU publishes has any worth at all except when the Nations want it to be used to their own ends.

    Hence as an anti-EU person I will consistently argue the EU is a pawn of France-Germany and at the very least the UK should learn from those 2 nations and just ignore the whole corrupt, venal institution whenever it suits our National interest to do so, e.g. as 'quantitative easing' is for France-Germany-UK-Italy a case in point at this time.

    Nobody gives a jot for what Msr Barroso really thinks: He will shut up and know what is going on and know he is at this moment powerless. Of course, Barroso will get offered some tasty 'federal-EU' morsels down the line when things look up. Right now, his EUrotocracy can do nothing because it is the 'big' players that will ensure the survival or otherwise of his EU dreams. It is the 'big' economies that will pay for the EU to continue or do you seriously think 21 or so tiddlers are going to do it?

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  • 44. At 5:01pm on 02 Mar 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (33): There is no example of any country ever lowering its environmental standards to gain a competitive economic advantage over others. Wherever you go in the world you see a strong correlation between wealth and high environmental standards. The US is richer and cleaner than Mexico which is cleaner and richer than Guatemala or Belize. Japan is cleaner and richer than Thailand, which is cleaner and richer than China, which is cleaner and richer than India, etc. People everywhere like clean air and water and will have the best environmental conditions they are able to afford. The only relationship between free trade and environmental standards is that free trade makes countries that were previously poor richer, so that they can better afford the clean environment they naturally desire.

    If you say you will not trade with e.g. India or China until their environmental standards are higher then you are actually keeping them in a poverty which guarantees they will not be able to improve their environmental standards. Free trade will do more to make the world clean than anything else imaginable.

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  • 45. At 5:28pm on 02 Mar 2009, LibreHacer wrote:


    #29 Free-born John - what you do not properly take into account is that the nature of the process since Adam Smith has been altered. Nothing or hardly anything is free anymore, least of all markets, if they ever were outside the lab.

    People and nations have made economics into a weapon and a tool of power. Hardly the essence of liberty and well-being. The equations are manipulated at will, be it to demonstrate the economic sense of derivatives, to exclude all kinds of costs and cover up any number of fundamental qualitative differences.

    Derivatives and the alike now are euphemistically called 'toxic assets' - maybe if one deleted the last 't' it would closer to the truth and explain how can anyone possibly 'lose' 65B in a quarter.

    The nature costs in the 'off-the-books- accounting' favored by the 'free' competing nations are estimated to be in the same order of magnitude as global GDP.

    And if people everywhere applied the social responsibility logic of the Norwegian sovereign fund when they visited shops, China would hardly be able to sell anything at all. Forget about tariffs, about government manipulations, overcome your frailty, vanity and greed, put some value on relationships, on community, grow out of the transactional mentality - and voilá - trade flows would change.

    All the many pieces of evident information are conveniently ignored in the so called free market argument. Either because we blindly revere Adam (and some also Eve), or because the money game has turned into an infectious disease, the idea of unquestioned freedom is at odds with political freedom. Lamentably we have neither one nor the other.

    The economic liberalism concept has been ridiculed beyond belief and in essence what we are experiencing now is the mere consequence of that. After buying the world on credit to get as any as possible on the bandwagon, many are opting out using their little remaining 'freedom', for instance not to buy.

    I would really challenge anyone to put forward a case balancing good and bad results of the 'cure' the IMF offers. But if you are at all familiar with what goes on now for decades the evidence is appalling:

    - The one cure system dislocates people from the activities they know best. Farmers in e.g. Latvia, are paid not to work the fields and become city dwellers catering for shops, which in turn rely on imports since no time has allowed local manufacturing to do anything, which depend in turn only on the money game. Now, many shopkeepers will join the entitlement queue or worse.

    - Similarly, the 'cure' reduces the pools of experience-gaining platforms in emerging regions. Small factories and shops where people acquire skills and develop experiences are sacrificed to great 'machine efficiency based concerns' from wherever without considering the state of people development. Capital investments, often kick-backs and deals, and heavy-handed negotiations determine the outcomes. Never mind that slave-like work in mines, fields, factories etc is very often not far removed. The poorest and least skilled are thus deprived of gradual skill building possibilities, forced into subsistence mode, transactional sex and similar. It will be interesting to see what adaptations the ex-factory people in the shops of the US will do now.

    - The 'cure' also has the negative effect of concentrating pools of skills and making them often inaccessible to the local market for harmonious development. Some research indicates that the monetization of IT services in India via an outsourcing export sector has deprived vast industry areas of productivity improvements worth 10 or 100 times more than any export value generated.

    - And then the 'cure' adds the bonus of concentrating power in a few who control the purse strings. Targets and numbers to be met, moneys to be handed out and rules to enable games to take place. Winner take all emerges as the natural outcome and people wonder why corruption happens (I hope not honestly because it would imply terrible lack of brains). Maybe not always, but the process has shown all over South America, Eastern Europe and Africa that this is the 'orthodoxy's ' result.

    Farmers elsewhere - e.g. in France of course are not really subsidized except in the eyes of traitors and other deviants. Chinese industry is really competing fairly with pollution controls, labor laws, etc. Migrant labor in African mines has nothing to do with the HIV pandemic. Trawlers devastating ocean floors are really in the same 'market' as local fishermen since they produce just fish. There is no end to these cases where sweet milk flows from the bosom of the land of honey.

    Ready or not, open everything is better. Right! reality is that the most valuable skills of long term planning, collective interest and skills development are formed over long periods and slow development. Not in highly mechanized systems with uprooted people. Every dictatorship knows it and therefore destroys agriculture and local business, as this is the core of culture formation and adaptation.

    You don't get to 2% population in the fields and efficient modern industries and services just like that. People grow through experience, painfully and in steps. Where will they learn? in government jobs? in the unemployment queue?


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  • 46. At 5:36pm on 02 Mar 2009, A_View_From_France wrote:

    mikewarsaw, you have an interesting approach to statistics, you made go scrambling to the internet to check your stats, from the public domain documents I have viewed it seems that your claims do not stand up.

    I also wanted to address another of your points:

    "Abuse of governmental power and privilege is all too common in post September 11 Europe including the UK, apeing the USA of the Bush administration", so you think that the USA is somehow responsible for everything that has happened in Europe post 9/11?.

    Again, I ask you for proof of your allegations, was Clinton somehow better behaved then Bush?.

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  • 47. At 5:36pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #36 - Sparklet

    Since this is a totally different subject, I won't dwell on the postal debate beyond saying - as you acknowledged in a subsequent post - that the page you linked to (as did I - we can all make typos in html from time to time) was open to interpretation and that was mine. The force pf may point was that noting in it required this or any member nation government to privatise all or part of their postal services. Merely ensure competition, which is a whole different ball game.

    No the same thing as 'having form' when it comes to deliberate distortion, I think.

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  • 48. At 5:48pm on 02 Mar 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (41): The Chinese government does not allow its citizens to visit the UK (or USA), so your calculations about the cost of visas is completely irrelevent. Your whole post is therefore the complete garbage that we have come to expect of you.

    The Chinese government feels that it would be dangerous for its citizens to come to the UK because they might be infected by the same ideas of liberty and democracy that underpin British EU-scepticism. They block this site for the same reason. How proud are you that world's largest dictatorship thinks that Continental Europe is ideologically safe enough for its citizens to visit?

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  • 49. At 7:58pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #48 - Freeborn-John

    If your idea of a democracy is a place people are prevented from visiting for fear of them becoming radicalised and your idea of free speech is to dismiss the opinions of those who disagree with you as garbage, you are welcome to both.

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  • 50. At 8:02pm on 02 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    It is difficult to see how folks can justify placing economic liberalism above political liberalism, simply because without political power the individual has scant practical liberty to take part in economic activity.

    In other words, in the corporate world you can do what you are told and that is about as far as your economic liberty takes you, unless you are a significant shareholder.

    On a historical note, this is what Lenin wrote about banking in 1917, just after returning to Russia having lived in Switzerland for three years. (Lenin disliked Swiss socialism and claimed it was the "worst ground for revolution")

    The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution
    ...
    7) The immediate union of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.

    Heh. Bring on the EUSSR

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  • 51. At 8:20pm on 02 Mar 2009, dwwonthew wrote:

    Re: 35

    if every EU country did what the UK does, by keeping its own individual currencies and picket fences in the shape of border police protectionism, the single market would be unworkable as well."

    "Mind you, I think the reason the UK is allowed to get away with this protectionism is that the rest of the EU don?t want to put in danger the membership fees paid by this country or rock the boat by forcing the UK to abandon its protectionism or leave the EU."

    Well, I remember attending a meeting in Schlesweg Holstein at which a leader of one of Germany's key industries told the audience: "We are not free-traders like the English. We believe in protecting our industries".

    And didn't the French designate yoghurt production of vital strategic interest to prevent the take-over by a British firm?

    Also, French and German companies have taken over several of our key ultility companies but don't seem too keen on the reverse situation.

    also: "by its competitive devaluations"

    The reversal of that is that the eurozone is anti-competitive because it has kept interest rates and thus the value of the currency too high.





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  • 52. At 8:20pm on 02 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Lenin makes curious reading in the current times, especially with regard to a united europe.

    He wrote a pamphlet called: "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe" in 1915.

    This is how the publisher summarized Lenin's views:

    The demand for a United States of Europe, as advanced by the Central Committee’s Manifesto, which accompanied it with a call for the overthrow of the monarchies in Russia, Austria, and Germany, is distinct from the pacifist interpretation of this slogan by Kautsky and others.

    Issue No. 44 of Sotsial-Demokrat, our Party’s Central Organ, carries an editorial proving the economic erroneousness of the United States of Europe slogan.[1] Either this is a demand that cannot be implemented under capitalism, inasmuch as it presupposes the establishment of a planned world economy, with a partition of colonies, spheres of influence, etc., among the individual countries, or else it is a reactionary slogan, one that signifies a temporary union of the Great Powers of Europe with the aim of enhancing the oppression of colonies and of plundering the more rapidly developing countries-Japan and America.

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  • 53. At 8:28pm on 02 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    By the way, i am in no way advocating Lenin as a source of wisdom. He was a bit of a nut, in my view.

    When living in Switzerland, he signed his correspondence "Hereditary nobleman Ulyanov", and tried his best to start class war and revolution. Evidently the Swiss socialists were not enthused by Lenin. In three years he raised 7 followers, and went back to Russia when permitted in 1917.

    I am curious to know why Lenin preferred mass central government to grass roots democracy as he found it in Switzerland. My suspicion is that he was a power hungry nut from a family destined to rule.

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  • 54. At 10:15pm on 02 Mar 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #51, dwwonthew,

    also: "by its competitive devaluations"

    "The reversal of that is that the eurozone is anti-competitive because it has kept interest rates and thus the value of the currency too high."

    Quite so and it can be justifiably be claimed to be so since it attracts investors to place their ever depleting funds there. Unfortunately the bubble has burst and no longer does it work.

    #35, JorgeG1,

    Maybe one of these days you will understand the difference between the UK and the old EU countries like France and Germany. If you haven't yet guessed it's the difference between covert and overt, and for me at least in the UK the nature of the beast is mostly visible, unlike your favoured countries that are covert and hide their abject deceit behind words.

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  • 55. At 11:07pm on 02 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Eastern Europe is about to die. When they do, they will take West Europe's banks down with them. Europe may be counting on the US to help bail out West Europe's banks but there will be a taxpayer revolt in America of Obama's government tries.

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  • 56. At 11:38pm on 02 Mar 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #55 - MarcusAureliusII

    Eastern Europe is nervous and is undoubtedly suffering from cash flow problems, mot of which are of the west's making.

    Having said that, I see no evidence of terminal decline and given that I am three floors above it, not a half a world away, I think I would have noticed if it were in it's death throes.

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  • 57. At 00:05am on 03 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    threnodious, how would you know?

    THE FOG comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on

    Carl Sandburg

    "I see no evidence of terminal decline and given that I am three floors above it..."

    And did you see the calamitous collapse of the financial world in Western Europe and America coming or were you in a coma when that one was on its way too?

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  • 58. At 00:19am on 03 Mar 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    38. At 4:16pm on 02 Mar 2009, LibreHacer wrote:

    "#27 & #18 mikewarsaw, threnodio

    It would be wrong to take so many heartfelt posts, lump them into anti EU democracy bashing for the sake of it...."

    The "EU" is undemocratic because it exists. We were lied to before we joined. We have been lied to ever since. We were promised a referendum on the new constitution which we did not get. The "EU" interferes all over the world, but when we in the UK were denied our right to a referendum it supported the anti-democrats like Blair, Brown and Milliband.

    I hope nobody thinks that Brits like me are going to defend this monstrosity in time of war.

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  • 59. At 00:23am on 03 Mar 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    42. At 4:52pm on 02 Mar 2009, marcel33 wrote:

    "Suffolkboy wrote (9)
    Can anyone tell me when it [Europe] was unified before?

    That would be between april 1941 and june 1944, when virtually all of Europe was under the control, allied to or sympathetic to ol' Adolf and his pals...."

    The unrepentant ex-SS man who repaired my phone in German said: "Why do they say all these nasty things about us? They are always talking about a United Europe. That's all we wanted a united Europe."

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  • 60. At 00:39am on 03 Mar 2009, SliceJohn wrote:

    So the Chinese police did not shoot the monk who set himself on fire. I wished they did because that would have been the first reported case in history.

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  • 61. At 01:18am on 03 Mar 2009, Cracklite wrote:

    "They want protection, not mega corporations posting record profits.

    But all the EU has to offer is the old philosophy of greed: Economic liberalism to create the wonders of the corporate elite world. Space ships and supertankers, jet fighters and vast presidential palaces."

    Sure, but guess what country in Europe is leading them in the exact opposite direction ? The UK off course, with it's love of ultra liberalism and deregulation. The European council that you so despise is completely sold on Anglo saxon capitalism, not social democracy like Germany or France ! Now isn't that ironic ?!!

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  • 62. At 01:28am on 03 Mar 2009, Cracklite wrote:

    "Of course it helps that Europeans by nature do not stand up to aggressive malevolent forces arrayed against them. They've proven it in WWII, the cold war, al Qaeda, and now with Iran and Russia among others. Pathetic."

    No, you're pathetic, and a xenophobe, and a revisionist. Did I forget something ?!

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  • 63. At 01:32am on 03 Mar 2009, phoenix wrote:

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

  • 64. At 02:02am on 03 Mar 2009, karolina001 wrote:

    EU has been protectonist all time long..

    if not then why we have EU, and not Europe..?? why differentiate between EU and non EU..?

    why European people dont have same rights?? but some EU and some non EU???

    we have protected and rewarded incompetency and lazyness.
    promoted slavery and abuse.
    and involved in drugs dealings in afganistan and financial scums.

    if we were or are not these, why this will happen today to us.. if we were or are so inocent, even to ourselves.

    unrest is looming.. in a democracy everybody is equal before the laws.. even the fat cats, and the EU politicos

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  • 65. At 02:28am on 03 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Crackpot

    "No, you're pathetic, and a xenophobe, and a revisionist. Did I forget something ?!"

    Yeah. Somewhere in there you left out the truth.

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  • 66. At 08:08am on 03 Mar 2009, SCL wrote:

    #61,

    Sounds a little like sour grapes to me. Here was me thinking that if the majority of member states in the council are not in favour of the Franco-German model social economic model then it'd be fair - to have the opposite would have the minority imposing their views on everybody else.

    The UK has hardly been dragging the Netherlands and co kicking and screaming with their love for competition policy bordering on the neo-liberal. To suggest otherwise is complete nonsense. The majority of member states (who now include most of the eastern states, they are also members of the EU remember) instead have clearly been convinced of the Anglo-American model. And as long as lessons are learned (worryingly there are signs that there wont be) then there is no need to abandon what has made Europe so prosperous until now.

    Like I said elsewhere, if the EU can't ever get over this crucial, yet simple disagreement over the correct economic model for the continent to apply, then it will never truly achieve its economic potential, if not crumble and split into factions.

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  • 67. At 10:33am on 03 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    SCLSCL wrote:

    "Like I said elsewhere, if the EU can't ever get over this crucial, yet simple disagreement over the correct economic model for the continent to apply, then it will never truly achieve its economic potential, if not crumble and split into factions."

    Why the fascination with economic models?

    Surely the debate that threatens the EU is concerned with political models?

    I put it to you that the political model adopted by a society dictates the evolution of any subsequent economic model. Therefore large centralized government will beget large centralized elites, and small localized democracies will beget small localized elites.

    Economic theory cannot predict the future of a society if it is discussed as separate to the political structure that controls taxation and the spending of public revenue.

    Even Adam Smith took pains to explain his economic theory in terms of the political structure that was required to harness forces such as the unseen hand. He was clear, the individual must have authority to make decisions at the lowest level possible, in order to obtain overall efficiencies in the redeployment of badly invested capital. Centralization slows this process, and perpetuates bad ideas and wasted capital resources.

    Economic is not just about materials and technology. It is about people, and political rights to do what is proper. Hence "property".

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  • 68. At 10:44am on 03 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    MarcusAureliusII wrote:
    "Eastern Europe is about to die. When they do, they will take West Europe's banks down with them. Europe may be counting on the US to help bail out West Europe's banks but there will be a taxpayer revolt in America of Obama's government tries."

    You read the economist. But, anyway, you should pay more attention to the fine news broadcasts on the BBC. It was decided yesterday that the EU would bail out the western european banks in Eastern Europe.

    The plan is to prop up the current economic structure of eastern europe by throwing more money into the hole that has opened up there.

    It is a good plan, insofar as it is bold and decisive. the only details missing are where the money will come from, and where it will go.

    It is supposed to come from the taxpayers in the member states, as that is where the EU gets its money, if not its legitimacy.

    And where will it go? Oh, into the same economic model and practices as have been the fashion for the past ten years, directly culminating in these current vast losses. In other words, the money will go to the same people who recently took the capital of western banks and gave it all to eastern european ex-communists in exchange for a signature on a mortgage contract for their whole society.

    And what will these worthy intellectuals do with this money?

    Prop up their share price, so they don't look bad.

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  • 69. At 11:53am on 03 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Lenin wrote a pamphlet in 1917, just after taking power in Russia, called:

    'How to Organise Competition?'

    In it he wrote:

    "Now that a socialist government is in power our task is to organise competition."

    It seems to me that the EU commission sees the world in identical terms. They have seized power. they control the market. Now they must organize competition.

    Reading Lenin, one is struck by two things. Firstly, he is a nut, and has almost zero understanding of finance and international trade. Secondly, he would have fitted into the EU brilliantly.

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  • 70. At 1:10pm on 03 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    deleriumtremens;

    "You read the economist."

    Actually World Focus, the news program that replaced BBC World on WNET read it. I watched World Focus. (I also caught BBC World on WHYY.)

    I've made the point many times that it is the same people who created the crisis in the first place are now given the responsibility to fix it. Doesn't leave much room for hope that they know what they are doing and can succeed.

    I've also made the point that the bulk of the damage is not what is being done now but what was done that led to the crisis over the past decade. What is being done now may lessen or worsen its impact or direct the consequences of the damage to which place the impact will be greatest felt but it is not the core of the matter. At one point those who control whatever financial resourses are left will have to consider whether or not they are throwing good money after bad.

    The decision to prop up Eastern European economies far beyond what their efforts were worth by giving them huge subsidies by taxes imposed on more productive people whether by the USSR or the EUSSR was an economic decision made to achieve a political end. This invariably has disasterous consequences. In both cases, it was a desire by some for an empire. In the case of the EUSSR, it was a decsion made by Chirac, Schroeder, and those of their school of thought. It was an effort to buy the membership of these countries to create a political entity of the apparent size and gravity necessary to challenge the USA politically. France and Germany each decided that since they could not create a major empire individually, they would create one jointly. Russia is still trying to do the same using its own levers of power, mostly energy but also the presence of large numbers of Russians imposed on their neighbors in their "near abroad." It's the same 19th century mentality that led to two world wars and almost a third. They never let go, they just switched tactics. As a consequence, those suckered into this scheme with them will also go down with the ship of state. The dangerous collusion of the liberal mind set which seeks to re-engineer society by massive transfer of wealth from those who produce it to those who need it most and the conservative mind set to achieve the greatest profits possible by eliminating fear of loss from financial makets leaving greed unchecked in the fear-greed equation is why we are all bankrupt today. Ultimately, even if they appear to work for awhile, such schemes are doomed to fail.

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  • 71. At 1:24pm on 03 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    deleriumtremens;

    "You read the economist."

    Actually World Focus, the news program that replaced BBC World on WNET read it. I watched World Focus. (I also caught the much inferior news program BBC World on WHYY.)

    I've made the point many times that it is the same people who created the crisis in the first place are now given the responsibility to fix it. Doesn't leave much room for hope that they know what they are doing and can succeed.

    I've also made the point that the bulk of the damage is not what is being done now but what was done that led to the crisis over the past decade. What is being done now may lessen or worsen its impact or direct the consequences of the damage to one place or another where the impact will be greatest felt but it is not the core of the matter. At one point those who control whatever financial resourses are left will have to consider whether or not they are throwing good money after bad.

    The decision to prop up Eastern European economies far beyond what their efforts were worth by giving them huge subsidies from taxes imposed on more productive people whether by the USSR or the EUSSR was an economic decision made to achieve a political end. This invariably has disasterous consequences. In both cases, it was a desire by some for an empire. In the case of the EUSSR, it was a decsion made by Chirac, Schroeder, and those of their school of thought. It was an effort to buy the membership of these countries to create a political entity of the apparent size and gravity necessary to challenge the USA politically. France and Germany each decided that since they could not create a major empire individually, they would create one jointly starting with the ruse of an innocuous looking trade pact. The reason most European leaders went along with it even if it meant taking the right of a plebecite to reject it away from their populations is because they are of exactly the same mind set. This includes the tyrant Gordon Brown. Russia is still trying to do the same using its own levers of power, mostly energy but also the presence of large numbers of Russians imposed on their neighbors in their "near abroad." It's the same 19th century mentality that led to two world wars and almost a third. They never let go, they just switched tactics. As a consequence, those suckered into this scheme with them will also go down with the ship of state.

    The dangerous collusion of the liberal mind set which seeks to re-engineer society by massive transfer of wealth from those who produce it to those who need it most and the conservative mind set to achieve the greatest profits possible by eliminating fear of loss from financial makets leaving greed unchecked in the fear-greed equation is why we are all bankrupt today. Ultimately, even if they appear to work for awhile, such schemes are doomed to fail and destroy the very systems and organizations which imposed it at the same time. It should be understood that the actions of the last decade didn't make the current situation possible, it made it inevitable.

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  • 72. At 1:28pm on 03 Mar 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 48 FBJ, my garbage or your garbage, any garbage is allowed here so long as it doesn’t break the House Rules. Obviously these rules allow people to dismiss as garbage the opinions of others that they cannot refute by normal means (particularly if they relate to your pet hate, the EUs border union, aka Schengen, of which both EU (except UK and Ireland) and several non-EU countries, including Switzerland, are part).

    You say that the Chinese are not allowed to visit the UK. So where did the 150,000 that the FT talks about (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/c627278a-f6da-11dd-8a1f-0000779fd2ac.html ) come from.

    Also, please inform the ONS that they are wrong with their statistics:

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/Product.asp?vlnk=1391

    Travel Trends 2007 (PDF), page 32:

    Number of visits to UK: by country of residence =

    2007 – 178,000 visits from China


    Please inform the Home Office as well

    http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/consultations/closedconsultations/visitorsconsultationpaper/

    and open Visitor visas consultation, page 9

    " Under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) Agreement between the UK and China, Chinese nationals can obtain a group visit visa for the UK provided that the travel is organised by an approved tour operator. "

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  • 73. At 2:05pm on 03 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    I don't buy the grand conspiracy theory involving the quest for German and french empires.

    We are talking about banks. Back then, way back in the old days (ten years ago), banks were in the business of making money.

    The EU presented a way for western banks to increase their market shares: by bringing these new countries, all the resources owned by the "state" could be mortgaged by the "representatives. So the western banks sponsored the conservative democrats to bring about a system of lending to eastern european states that was all about profit for the banks. It was NOT about empire building.

    One does not build an empire by crippling the economy of the new territories.

    No, the EU expansion was plain old market greed by massively powerful private entities called banks. They went in for money. They went in lending as much as they possibly could, and securing contracts obliging future governments to repay the interest on the debt from tax revenue of the region.

    The EU gave them a legal structure that would enforce the debt obligations, effectively underwriting the loans. That is why no care at all was taken to make sure the loans went to economically productive ends. That is why the western banks lent everything they had, and a whole lot they didn't have, into eastern europe.

    It wasn't empire building, it was never "providing capital to an emerging market". It was simply the swap of money for mortgage rights, for the sake of generating profits for privately owned banks.

    You've said yourself, Marcus, that only fear and greed exist as emotions in the market.

    There was no conspiracy, beyond the conspiracy to make profits lending money in the controlled market of the EUSSR.

    I put it to you that the germans and the french couldn't build an empire if they given the plans.

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  • 74. At 2:44pm on 03 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    "Back then, way back in the old days (ten years ago), banks were in the business of making money."

    Everyone goes into business to make money. Why else do you think they take risk, exert effort? For the fun of it?

    "The EU gave them a legal structure that would enforce the debt obligations, effectively underwriting the loans."

    Why would the EU underwrite loans that were bad risks putting the money of taxpayers who would ultimately pay if the loans defaulted in jeopardy? The answer is because they had a larger political purpose which transcended their fiduciary obligations as bank regulators. It is the same reason the US government made it possible for loans to be granted to people to buy houses they couldn't afford. The political goal of having people own a house transcended the fiduciary obligations of the government to protect the nation's financial institutions from uncontrolled greed by leaving in the counterbalancing fear of loss and bankruptcy. This is how polticians meddle in markets that work by unregulating them and making explicit and implicit guarantees against catastrophic loss for reckless investments. Why did the EU do this? Because it was the price it had to pay for extending its empire making it large enough to challenge the US. Chirac and deVillepin said it over and over again. Weren't you listening Jorge?

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  • 75. At 3:33pm on 03 Mar 2009, Deathisha wrote:

    At:

    40
    4:31pm on 02 Mar 2009, Buzet23

    How many billion? I went and looked up the document you were talking about, because the statistics you pulled out of it just seemed ridiculous. I mean, according to a really quick glance at Wikipedia, the UK economy produced 2,804 billion dollars in the year 2007. For it to contribute more euros (seeing the euro > the dollar) than the dollars it produced to the EU just seemed really fishy.

    At a very quick glance I pulled these statistics from the document:

    8 294.2 million euros spent on Britain (total).
    12 380.6 million euros contributed by Britain.

    This means Britain contributed 4086.4 million euros more than it received from the EU. Just to clarify, that is 4.086 Billion. A far cry from your horrendously misstated 4000 something billion.

    I honestly am not seeing what you are seeing.

    For anyone interested, a quick glance at pages 60 and 61 on this document will provide verification for everything I have said:

    http://ec.europa.eu/budget/library/publications/fin_reports/fin_report_06_en.pdf

    In closing: The UK has indeed been a net contributor to the EU for the past how many years, but to really be able to asses weather membership of the Union is good or bad for the UK (and DE, FR etc... the 'richer' Europe) it is important to understand that as the economies of Eastern Europe grew, they provided a hungry market for a lot of Western European goods. Building roads in Hungary (as someone said) stimulates the Hungarian economy, which in turn can shop from the UK economy. The current situation is unfortunate (I really don't know what else to call it...).

    Latvia had an economic growth rate of 11'ish percent in 2006 (inflation at 6%). Its economy is due to contract now, but even then it's only by a minor 0.4 percent. (See the Economy section in the Latvia article on Wikipedia for 11% and the list of countries by GDP growth (real) for 0.4%).

    Perhaps any Western Europeans that don't want to "pay" for Eastern Europe should find themselves sanctioned, preventing their exports from reaching the places where they can earn the most money, namely the economies they (the Westerners) refused to help fuel.

    (Anyone that questions the fact that the building of infrastructure strengthens and stimulates an economy should do a few courses in economics before saying anything further. It's too much to explain on a blog.)

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  • 76. At 4:43pm on 03 Mar 2009, SCL wrote:

    #67,

    "Why the fascination with economic models?"

    Oh, I don't know, perhaps because one of the pillars the EU is based on is the largely economics concerned EC?

    I mean, thats just a thought. The Economic model that the EU adopts is just as important as the political or social model adopted within each EU country.

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  • 77. At 6:18pm on 03 Mar 2009, rodrigas wrote:

    Dear Mr Mardell,

    I fear your blog has become a forum for Eurobashing.

    What is alarming is the fact that because it - let's face it - is mainly read and contributed by British people, the anti-EU venom poured in copious quantities here just serves to reinforce the stereotypical English - note, not Scottish or Welsh - antipathy towards the European Union, that runs in the country. Have some people taken leave of their senses when they call for the UK to pull out of the EU? Do they feel somehow less British now than they were, say, 40 years ago? Having spent 35 years of my life in Britain I have not witnessed any loss of identity or national characteristics on account of the of accession to the EU. I have, however, seen a steady improvement in people's wealth, choices and taste. Brits have spread far and wide within the EU. Ask any British expatriate with property in France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere what their experience has been.

    Although not of that nation, I fail to appreciate why so much negative comment is reserved for France and her "majestic" president Sarkoszy. What is so objectionable about the French attempt to save French jobs and safeguard French investment? The British also do it - look at the bank rescue efforts and the bruhaha about "jobs for the Brits" in the recent industrial unrest - and so should any government worth their salt. The French taxpayer has for long been paying top Euro to create and maintain an enviable infrastructure and strong industrial sector in their diversified economy. It is only a natural reaction of individuals not to want to join the dole queue in France while paying for other "brother" Europeans to remain employed. Maybe Mr S. should have been more canny, like the Germans for example, and offered a deal to the Czechs and Hungarians whereby they share pro rata the financial burden of the car plants' rescue. That would have silenced cries of the dreaded P word.

    As for the British, if only they hadn't run down their once-reknown industrial base to the benefit of the City and its bankers maybe the country would not have been affected so deeply by the current crisis. It makes a sad reading to still see so many Thatcher apologists present in your blog masticating the "No, No, No" line and hysterically waiving imaginary handbags, when it was Her who did the dirty deed back in the 1980s.

    Finally, the comment about the Swiss and their way of doing things makes a helluva interesting read. I vote for that author to succeed Sig. Baroso.

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  • 78. At 9:16pm on 03 Mar 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #75, Deathisha,

    Congratulations, you are the first to notice my typing error, as I'm sure you noticed this document is couched in millions of Euros and I forgot the comma ( or point depending on what you use).

    However you should not trust Wikipedia all the time as this document was mis-translated when it was put there, the TOC column was not understood by the transcriber and if you put the figures into Excel you got the wrong answers. I believe that may now have been corrected though.

    As for UK exports, I suggest you look at the balance of trade figures to see how strong the UK is for this. That unfortunately for the UK is yet another gift to the EU, although the crisis is redressing this since few these days are buying, viz a viz why Germany is struggling as it is the premier exporter.

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  • 79. At 9:24pm on 03 Mar 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #77, rodrigas,

    Most of us stopped believing in fairies a long time ago so it's sad that there are still some out there that believe Sarkozy is the fairy godmother. I would suggest you listen to the French themselves as many if not most now regret the passing of Chirac to be replaced by such a clown as Sarko.

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  • 80. At 05:35am on 04 Mar 2009, William1950 wrote:

    I am having a hard time understanding the idea of protectionism. I suggest if Americans stated they could build what was to be used in America here, built by Americans and have any item made from Europe to China cost the same as the American product you may think that is protecting the American market. I on the other hand feel it is time to invest in America, as Germany or France may like to invest in their counties, to put my people to work doing the jobs we shipped around the world.
    The world needs America to buy, Americans need good jobs to purchase items, what this down turn, this ripping off the mask of international banking, oil and medical greed will do is rebuild America. After all unless we are strong at home, we can't again save Europe when the cold winds of war again raise their ugly head. So think of it not as protectionism but as a return to America the manufactoring we need in America.

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  • 81. At 08:28am on 04 Mar 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #80, William1950,

    In many ways you are right, as the old adage was always when in trouble go back to basics. Globalism in the search of ever cheaper manufacturing facilities to inflate profit margins was always of limited longevity since eventually costs would rise by normal progression. What the crisis has done is to move forward that process and it is that which is now being hailed as protectionism. When we look at the UK balance of payments situation whereby UK is by far a bigger importer than exporter it is clear that state of affairs creates a financial imbalance these days that will make it harder for the UK to recover. Therefore logic says the UK has to create real manufacturing jobs to recover as service section jobs will contribute very little, meaning that jobs exported must be recovered.

    The US has also always relied on being a very large exporter, often helped by it retaining virtual monopolies on many hi-tech products, although that it much less enforceable these days.

    One curious thing that seems to be little mentioned in the rhetoric against protectionism is that local production helps cut the greenhouse gases since there is a much smaller transportation effect. I have seen for some while now in Belgium the rise of small local production of food products and the large supermarkets have been effected by this. Personally I would much rather be protectionist and buy from my local farmer or butcher than a large chain, you support your area and you also know the quality better.

    For me the debate about protectionism within the EU (France Vs Czech) has more to do with does the EU work as a single entity, or as a mismatch of dissimilar states. This crisis is proving that it is the latter that rules and although there has been some realignment of states the inherent problem of the EU still trundles on. The debate is however publicising the protectionism and restrictive practices that have long been there but have been hidden behind a pro-EU smokescreen, and for that I am grateful as maybe changes can now be effected and the direction of the EU altered for the better.

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  • 82. At 08:50am on 04 Mar 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Rodrigas and Comment 77.

    I applaud your heartfelt sentiments concerning Britain and the European Union.
    As someone who has evidently lived in the UK for many years it is a genuine and intersting perspective on British attitudes and British experiences.

    Are we (Brits) any less British after 35 years of enforced association with the EU?
    Well, take out the keyword 'enforced' and maybe, from a certain perspective, not so much has changed: That is not to say the UK was forced to join the Common Market, on the contrary, I and millions voted "Yes" to signing-up in 1975.
    However, that was the last time I or those millions were given any say by our venal, unjust and cowardly National Governments. So, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest almost everything has changed for the British Citizen. We are no longer free to participate in the choices of our Islands' destiny. All the crucial decisions are made in Brussels by a EUrotocracy that has no concern or interest in the British Citizen and appears intent on imposing European Political-Judicial-Social-Economic traditions and customs without allowing the British Citizen any say or influence.

    How can an institution as great in its legal and legislative propensity founded on democratic ideals consider it fit and proper that 60,000,000 of its population membership from one State should be denied the right to decide for themselves whether this association should continue?
    If their National representatives will not stand for true and revealing democratic free-will then surely it is the responsibility of that EU, if it is to be of any relevance or possess any esteem in the eyes of its Citizens, to ensure those Citizens are able to exercise their rights and responsibilities?

    You may not have '..witnessed any loss of identity or national characteristics..' in the UK, however, that is not to say they have not occured. Since Britain first joined the European Economic Community in 1973 I would venture to suggest there have been enormous changes. Some, as a result of the dogmatic policies of Government (as you allude, PM Thatcher's destruction of G.B. manufacturing base), then there are the natural developments of time bringing new ways, ideas and technologies etc. and some, as a result of the deliberate acts of the European Union.

    It is the last group of changes (EU-inspired) that I consider almost entirely detrimental to the British Isles and to its National identity and characteristics. It sems fairly clear you have welcomed those alterations as positives, but, I see them as having a longterm negative impact.

    This is not so simple and invidious, as you characterise it, as "Eurobashing", but rather the general view of many millions of Britons that the British Isles and Islanders should not be in political and judicial union with mainland Europe. For you to claim that we are indulging in Thatcher's "handbagging" is insulting and unfair. True enough, and sadly, there are those so ignorant in these Isles, that they perceive French, Germans, Italians etc. as all dangerous, dirty and downright 'foreign'! Baseless ignorance shared by a small minority which I have come across in many European and indeed other nations across the world inc. the 3 mentioned above.

    Not sure why you would refer to 'Brit expatriates' and the rising value of prperty etc. It is not the EU that has done that but the steady rise in population putting pressure on available land for development and therefore prices. Alongside that has been the growth in prosperity across Europe, but it is due almost entirely to reduction of Tariffs and easier cross-border Trading which does not require any of the Federal-EU legislation etc. A 'political entity' which the British have never wanted or accepted.

    From time to time in these Blogs I have referred to the "axis of ill-intent" that the EU represents in its 3 main vested interest parties: Paris-Berlin-Brussels. I make no apology for so describing the pro-EU stance of these Political Capitals. Their concern for London as a Political entity is demonstrably not one of friendship and alliance but of desiring takeover and capitulation. The British Isles are richly diverse and have for centuries been the envy and target of mainland European opportunists: They could never be taken by force and how much better to do it by economic, judicial, bureaucratic stealth until the fait accompli goes unremarked (even by the Daily Mail)!

    Why would I see it so bleakly and you so rosily? There lies the heart of the matter: With my English-German-Dutch-Belgian Grandparents and a Finnish wife how is it possible to see unity as a danger? Of course, I do not see unity amongst the common Citizens of mainland Europe as a something reprehensible anymore than I do amongst the Welsh, Scottish, Irish of these Islands. However, I respectfully suggest that where the Welsh, Scots and Irish saw the United Kingdom as an imposition and even after 100 or 200 years it was not to be endured, so it is with the EU. England (the other States may make their choices) is not suited to be one of many and certainly unwilling to suppress its Nationhood for some intangible general good. This Union in essence is 'free' only as a 'market' for big business to exploit Citizens, an overmighty EUrotocracy to ensnare Citizens and venal, duplicitous politicians to govern Citizens corruptly. Human nature being what it is all those things exist at a National level. It is my contention the Citizen may cope and deal with the corruption at national level; once it is pan-European no Citizen may ever have any chance of redress against the vast panoply of Europeanised bureaucratic intransigence. It may be that the European Court of Justice is a very laudable judicial process, but, why appeal to it when there is a National level of UK Appeal Courts? It may be the Social Chapter of the EU Directives on Employment etc. has many useful provisons, but why refer to it when there are perfectly feasible UK Employment laws? The EU Defnce Force may be what the mainland wants in place of or as rival to NATO, but why would the UK place its Armed Forces under another foreign commander when NATO has served the UK so well for so long?
    In short, given the whole new layer of Governance, Judiciary, Bureaucracy and Taxation, why would the UK Citizens conceive of the idea that Europe had anything more or better to offer than is already there at National level?

    The UK Political Parties seem intent on ignoring the UK Citizens' democratic free-will: This can only lead to a dangerously unbalanced undemocratic system failing to recognise the Individual Citizen's rights and responsibilities.

    Now, that Rodrigas, IS A SERIOUSLY DAMAGING CHANGE TO BRITAIN!

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  • 83. At 10:29am on 04 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "Finally, the comment about the Swiss and their way of doing things makes a helluva interesting read. I vote for that author to succeed Sig. Baroso."

    You have taken leave of your senses. I cannot imagine anything more appalling than myself in a position of power. I am precisely the worst sort of person to wield power. I get excited by ideas, and I prefer horses to people, most of the time.

    If I ran a club like the commission, there would be war with the church, revolution in the UK and russian would become the 2nd language after English.

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  • 84. At 10:51am on 04 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Marcus Kulakas wrote:

    "Everyone goes into business to make money. Why else do you think they take risk, exert effort? For the fun of it? "

    To provide liquidity to the market. It is a social service, you see. Look, I agree with you. But this is what the banks themselves have been saying.

    It is their justification for asking the public for gifts of money. They are not just massively wealthy heirs of feudal lords, out to increase their money so they can be richer than their cousin. Oh no.

    They provide social services. The provide "liquidity to the market". Hence, we need them. hence, we must pay to keep the same shareholders in power, even if they lose all their money.

    Just so, car makers need help because they provide jobs. A social service. Therefore we must pay so that the same shareholders can retain their position in society.

    You then wrote that the economically useless financial activity in both the US and the EU was caused by political theory.

    I guess you have half convinced me. You make a good case, certainly there is some evidence there. Yes, the politicians in the US did indeed push banks to create the fabled middled class with magic credit. And yes, the politicians in the EU did indeed proclaim the glory of an ever greater union.

    BUT... I still dispute that western representative democracy, and even less the EU, operate to impose ideology on the market. The whole point of unbridled capitalism is that massive private powers arise, in the past as kings and now as corporations owned by the decedents of kings. These private powers do not want to be constrained by ideology. They want to be free.

    I think what Mardell means when he refers to the "free market". The freedom of the super rich nobility to pursue more profit.

    My own world view is that we do have representative democracy in the west, and freedom as a result. BUT ... the democracy is for fiction legal people (corporations) and it is they who are represented in parliament. It is also they who are free to act economically. The common people are like the slaves and women in ancient Athens. They just don't exist within the democratic model.

    But this idea you have that the ideologues in washington and brussels somehow conspired to bring political change ... it disputes the existence of the freedom of the nobility. I don't see that. I see the politicians spouting justifications for the rapacity of the nobility, but not the nobility obeying the will of politicians. Politicians are poor, a dime a dozen.

    The nobility in Europe have a long tradition of freedom. They have been free to start wars, to invade foreign lands and build colonies, and to create a system of privately governed public finance. Greed and the thirst for luxury and power, these are the guiding motives of the ruling class. I do not see any coherent ideology. They are free of it.

    And so was Lenin. And so are the vast majority of folks around the world.

    The separation of power doctrine works because it acknowledges that greed is superior to ideology in the human condition.

    That is why direct democracy works, too. The Swiss have arguably never seen a single good idea come from their system of direct referendums. But they have vetoed EVERY very bad idea. The system works because it stops special interests corrupting the law and perverting it for private profit. Corporations are not wiling to sponsor government because it is a waste of money. I mean, you spend all that money getting your law through.... and then some folks get together, force a popular vote, and you are back to square one. Minus your cash.

    That is how and why direct democracy works, and how it can cure the perversion of representative democracy by the corporate elite.

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  • 85. At 1:55pm on 04 Mar 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    deleriumtremens

    You can be sure that when executives face shareholders they never tell them they are in business as a social service. If they did, they'd be tossed out like hot potatoes. It is only when the consequences of their disasterous blunders manifested themselves in financial collapse of their enterprises that they trotted out the number of jobs that would be lost directly, indirectly, and the fact that the financial system is the underpinning for all other businesses, and therefore their bankruptcy was used as a club to extort money out of government at taxpayer expense to keep them going. If they are so social minded, why were they so reluctant to give up their exhorbitant compensation especially when they hadn't earned it? Why did three automobile executives fly down to Washington DC from Detroit in three separate Corporate jets to plead their case?

    Nobody wants to be constrained by anyone or anything. A world with no constraints is called anarchy. That is what was created when all of the regulations on markets were removed or ignored. What was worse was that the fear of failure for bad decisions was removed while the incentive for taking on investments that were certain to fail in the long run was short term personal gain. In such a case, it was not in the least surprising that every dime these lenders could get their hands on would be thrown away on such loans. Markets have only two emotions driving them, greed and fear. Both are valuable and positive when held in check by the other but when one is removed from the equaiton, in this case fear was removed, greed ran unchecked and created a bubble that had to eventually burst. Now the flip side of the coin is total fear. This market is equally dangerous. A flight to what appears to be complete safety, US Treasury bonds is creating another bubble that will burst because when inflation rises as money is printed to pay for the huge government bailouts and incentives, interest rates will rise and the trading value of these bonds will fall. It is true that they will be paid back with whatever interest is due on them, every last penny but those dollars will have increasingly less value as the result of inflation. The bond traders will be wiped out just like the stock traders were.

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  • 86. At 6:44pm on 04 Mar 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Marcus the kulak wrote:

    "A flight to what appears to be complete safety, US Treasury bonds is creating another bubble that will burst because when inflation rises as money is printed to pay for the huge government bailouts and incentives, interest rates will rise and the trading value of these bonds will fall. It is true that they will be paid back with whatever interest is due on them, every last penny but those dollars will have increasingly less value as the result of inflation. The bond traders will be wiped out just like the stock traders were."

    I cannot fault your logic. I have been wondering for a while where all this money is going to come from, given that the banks aint lending and China aint "happening".

    I think you are right. The money is going to have to come from the printing press.

    I guess the mass printing of money and the consequent utter destruction of the middle class is next years news.

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  • 87. At 00:15am on 02 Jul 2009, JusttKate wrote:

    Clearly this crisis has put an enormous pressure on the EU. Whether we want it or not, it will highlight all the problems and will show who is a team player and who is not. However, despite the fact that we are all meant to be working together it seems that some countries have an ability to cope with complicated problems better than others. While our government has decided to help straggling banks and nationalise them, they dont seem to be doing much to help their people. You are right manufacturing is not on their agenda and neither are home owners who are unable to sell or remortgage their homes. Unable to sell, people try to rent their existing houses, but they cant even transfer it to a [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] buy to let mortgage as there are hardly any deals available from state owned banks. The situation is not exactly the same in other countries as they dont believe that they should try to interfere with the free market.

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