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A final essay on Europe

Mark Mardell | 08:00 UK time, Saturday, 1 August 2009

Mark Mardell and crew in northeastern Poland (file pic)So this really is the last long goodbye. My next blog will be at the end of the summer from Stateside, over on the Americas index, where I am looking forward to covering not only the progress of the president but much else besides.

My successor here, Gavin Hewitt, will be writing this blog from September. He's covered the most important stories around the world for the last few years as the Ten's special correspondent and before that he was a long-time Panorama reporter, so he'll bring a great depth of experience and knowledge to the job. I wish him all the best. If he enjoys it half as much as I have, he's in for a great time.

One of the best bits has been writing this blog, and an essential component is your comments. There may be millions watching a TV report, but you don't feel the audience, which is why many of us imagine we are talking to a single person. But here I get a much better sense of audience and relish it all, criticism included. You have helped me understand Europe and the many perceptions of it.

When I came to the job I maintained that the story of the EU couldn't be told without understanding the politics of its component parts. I meant that in a rather obvious way: the debate about climate change can't be understood unless you also understand the unique position of Poland, because of its history and economy. But I now also think it is true in a deeper way, that the story of Europe is now a history of countries' differing views of nationalism, their own and others, and this is often expressed in attitudes to the European Union. This anyhow is my farewell From Our Own Correspondent, to be broadcast today.

The Land Rover jolted and jarred for what seemed like hours down a dirt track, deep into the pine forests of southern Spain, the farmer at the wheel talking with incessant enthusiasm.

Amid the heat, dust and chatter I reflected that my determination not to appear on TV outside grand buildings in Brussels with the EU's blue and gold flag fluttering in the background, but instead to put the people back into European politics was paying dividends, at least in terms of my own experience. When you meet the people at the sharp end of EU policies the almost incomprehensible blather of policy documents and directives comes into sharp focus.

In this case it was the EU's environmental policy I was investigating, the farmers' dodgy crop under plastic sheeting - dodgy because of question marks over how they get their water for irrigation. It was destined to be sold, not on some street corner, but from the shelves of Britain's top supermarkets and served with sugar and cream... strawberries.

This voluble farmer was living proof of why being on the road, or in this case a dirt track, is so valuable: it was on this trip, hearing about the plight of some of his mates that I first got an inkling of the then looming crash of Spain's construction industry, before I had ever heard the words "sub-prime".

And while I had long been alert to the consequences of the EU's expansion to the east, in the Land Rover I heard one I hadn't mapped out in my monthly briefing to editors: "The divorce rate around here has soared," said the farmer. "What can you expect, all the workers in our packing factories come from Romania. Very pretty girls they have in Romania," he said, still chuckling.

Four years of covering the politics of Europe has left me with vivid and treasured memories. Of course, after so many years reporting on British politicians at Westminster, it was fascinating to see how other countries' leaders play the game: the jazz bands and razzmatazz of Silvio Berlusconi's rallies in Rome, the controlled aggression of a Sarkozy performance, the low-key Mrs Merkel - more than a rival for the men in terms of substance, if not style. But it is the grittier stuff that sticks in the mind.

Recently a friend and colleague said to me: "You did a good job of giving the impression that you were excited by the European story. But surely you didn't really enjoy it did you?" Well, the sad truth is, I am afraid, that none of it was feigned. I really do find European politics fascinating. Do I understand the EU any better? Of course you can't spend four years at something without emerging with a deeper knowledge of the detail, but I mean do I really GET it? Well, perhaps I am groping towards some conclusions. On patrol in Maltese helicopter

The idea of "them" forcing "us" to do something is rarely true. But what seems to happen time and time again - it is a hallmark of the way the EU operates - is "us" or our political representatives signing up to something European, and grand, and ambitious; but then, through a judicious mixture of cowardice and common sense, failing to honour or finance what they've agreed to.

I reflected on this ideological overstretch on my last European assignment, soaring over the Mediterranean in a doorless helicopter, having carefully but not so gallantly made sure my slip of a producer was between me and a plunge of several hundred metres into the intense blue waters below. We were on a Maltese armed forces patrol, attempting to spot illegal immigrants from Africa trying to make it into the vast, almost borderless empire that is the EU.

Back, not on terra firma, but the open ocean, a Maltese officer with a perfect London accent had commended the sturdy craft to me: "Solid German engineering," he said approvingly. "Made in East Germany!" Given how long ago it was that such a country existed, let alone was building boats, it didn't suggest that the other EU nations were exactly pulling out wads of euros to help the power bloc's smallest country bear the brunt of a common policy on immigration and borders.

It's lucky that I rather enjoy tramping around muddy fields looking fascinated by the intricacies of food production, because the largest part of the EU's budget is spent on the Common Agricultural Policy.

The reasonable demand that we should know how our money is being spent wasn't uppermost in my mind arriving, rather later in the day than we had intended, on a hillside in Transylvania, not far from one of the many places claiming to be the original Dracula's castle. The herdsmen had corralled their cows into a wooden pen and were sitting around on little boxes milking by hand, the warm stream of white liquid jetting into a metal bucket. Yes I did take a draught, yes, it was good. Romanian cowherd

Communicating mainly by gestures one of the herdsmen, in a battered trilby-style hat, his face lined by sun and wind and warmed by a gap-toothed grin, gestured towards a small wooden hut. In the centre a very rough and ready fire of old sticks and twigs burned in the middle of the earth floor. This was where they made their cheese. A wooden press was produced and enthusiastic hand signals demonstrated how it was used. I took a piece, rubbery, and smoky, but not in a good way. But it wasn't the EU's health regulations that worried me - more its bureaucracy. How would these people fill in the forms that farmers all over Europe had told me were too complicated for anyone without an accountant. And without the forms how can we make sure our money is not being wasted?

But it was a frustrating and ridiculous experience on a hillside in Picardy that made me reflect on the purpose, the mission of the European Union. Tip-toeing through the tall grass towards a flock of sheep, hoping they would scatter at just the right moment to make brilliant TV pictures, a distant sound startled both me and the sheep. It was the bang of an automatic bird-scarer in a faraway field, sounding a lot like intermittent gunfire. Generations ago, on this very spot, the sound of exploding shells and whizzing bullets echoed all around. The farmer spotted something glinting in the earth and stopped to pick up the casing of a World War One shell. This was the Somme. Picardy sheep farmer

If the EU is constantly, sometimes irritatingly, seeking out new ways of making itself relevant it is because it has so successfully completed its original mission: to keep the peace after more than a century of war. An achievement so obvious, that it's pocketed without a thought by all the millions of citizens of this unique organisation. Of course that doesn't mean its current ambitions are right, or indeed wrong, but it does provide a bit of historical perspective.

Critics of the EU will say that it was Nato that kept the peace in Europe. But they are talking about keeping the Bear at bay, rather than solving the problem that plagued Europe for hundreds of years.

From the top of a control tower near the Rhine I stared out on a sprawling steelworks. There is no rust belt in Germany, this is a country which has kept her allegedly old industries alive. The panorama before me was lit by the dull orange glow of a video game dystopia. Spread out before me were smoking chimneys, an endless framework of railway tracks, the steelworks' own docks, vast buildings and beside them scuttling figures.

"It's like a city," I gasped. This was obviously an understatement our guide was eager to correct. "It is bigger than Luxembourg," he said with pride. That is what the very early forerunner of the EU, the Ruhr authority and then the Coal and Steel Community was created to do after World War II. A pan-European body, chaired by a Belgian civil servant, it was set up to control the raw materials of brute German power and bind the most nationalistic, most aggressive country in Europe into an international organisation dedicated to peace and co-operation.

This project has so obviously succeeded that to even mention this past sounds gratuitously offensive. But it is not meant to be: Germany is still the most important economic and political power in Europe, but with a sense of responsibility, an ability to reflect upon its past, a horror of war, that is I think unique and little short of a miracle, an outcome few historians studying the aftermath of past conflicts could even have dared to predict. It's probably the most grown-up country in the world today.

The magnitude of the change struck me as I was travelling for what seemed like an endless night-time journey across the biggest of the new member states, Poland. "This used to be Prussia," I marvelled early in the journey. A few hours later still travelling, looking for the home of a politician we had unwisely agreed to interview late at night, I thought: "This is still Prussia!" And we could have gone on travelling into what is now part of Russia and it would still have been old Prussia, the heart of the original German state.

This is part of the EU problem: it has completed its most important task, burying the destructive nationalism of the past, cementing this so firmly that most of Europe shares a currency, has no internal borders and has many basic standards and rules in common. So the search for a sort of European nationalism and more political union can look like scrabbling around for a raison d'etre.

This has many manifestations in perceived faults and failures that critics in Britain love to highlight. But the deep roots of the British problem with Europe are in our attitude to World War II. We British don't quite get the horror of this past. Of course, enough British people died and suffered as a result of the two world wars. Indeed, it is our defining way of looking at Europe and Germany. Bookshops groan under the weight of tomes about the Third Reich and Hitler, although you will be hard-pressed to find anything on Bismarck, let alone Willy Brandt or Chancellor Kohl.

Even otherwise intelligent friends of mine have been known to imitate Spitfires - "neeeeowwww rat-a-tat-tat!" - when Germany is mentioned. Our view of Europe is defined by "the few" and "our finest hour" - heroism that paid off, rather than by shame. The shame of being the defeated bad guys, the shame of conquest and invasion, the shame of collaboration.

Take a Flemish friend of mine. His great-uncle was a member of the resistance, he stashed guns under the floorboards of his uncle's farmhouse, to fight the Nazis. Pretty heroic, huh? Well the Nazis called on him to give himself up to certain death, and because he didn't, my friend's uncle and grandfather were tortured and sent to work camps, where they died a few weeks before the war ended. The rest of the family barely talked to this "hero" until the day he died. And this is just one among thousands, millions of such stories of moral complexity. And it's why Belgians, French, Germans, Italians may not always like the actual EU any more than sceptical Brits, but why, to them, the ideal of a political Europe is something precious.

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  • 1. At 08:59am on 01 Aug 2009, europeeno wrote:



    "Critics of the EU will say that it was Nato that kept the peace in Europe. But they are talking about keeping the Bear at bay, rather than solving the problem that plagued Europe for hundreds of years."

    Over the past few years, the European Union has demonstrated the capacity to deploy and employ armed force outside its borders in support of broader common policy objectives, creating a new player in nation-building operations. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 2. At 09:05am on 01 Aug 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Depite the lengthy preamble, the nub of your essay is that aside from Britain, the rest of Europe continue to strive towards a political union that will forever put away the weapons of war and leave europeans able to enjoy the fruits of peace.

    My sister, who spent meany years teaching the children of British servicemen in Germany and is a staunch Europhile with a love of Germany, Austria (where she now lives in ideal retirement visiting art galleries and museums, attending the opera and listening to beautiful choral and orchestral music)and France once made a comment to me that the one thing she sees as the difference between the indiginous British and other Europeans is that we are of Warrior stock.

    She, of course meant the tribes of the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish not the many johnny-come-latelies who probably would run at the first sign of trouble as compared to the French or Italians who romanticise their bravoury but really do just roll-over and play dead when push-comes-to-shove.

    The problem with the ideal of a European Union that binds ALL europeans into a love for one another and an ideal that ends internal strife and warfare until the end of time is that, instead of internecine disputes within the borders of Europe, the European Union will find itself faced with geo-politcal pressure that requires it to resort to war, gunboat diplomacy and stife with power blocs and other nations of the rest of the world in due course.

    We already have seen the EU go head-to-head with Russia and blink over the Georgia fiasco, we continue to see the EU undecided as to how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum and we know that, sooner or later, the European Nations are going to have to fight with Iran and prevent Nuclear War.

    I am also not convinced that, sooner or later, Europe is not going to come into conflict with Pakistan as unlikely as that seems at present. Pakistan is close to becoming a failed state and potentially, because it already HAS nuclear weapons, is a potentially worse opponent than Iran.

    Russia's political aspirations will always mean that there will be border conflicts with the far eastern edge of what is defined to be the EU. The potential future expansion of the EU (supposedly to benefit the EU and further peace?) to include Georgia and the Ukraine (and if they want to join the EU, who can honestly say "Non!")has already be marked by signs that Russia views such expansion as a threat to her.


    The fact is that the battle lines are being drawn now and eventually the political entity that is now the EU will have to resort to war with nations and powers outside ofthe Borders of Europe - it is inevitable given the nature of humankind.

    I am for Britain being a part of Europe but I am not sure that idealism of "Peace in our time" is a rock upon which the future success of the EU should rest. The question has to be asked: Should British boys and girls be sacrificed on the alter of membership of the EU to help when that time comes, when there will probably be a European Army, Navy and Air Force - much of it manned by British, German, French, Italian and other EU nationalities that lives need to be sacrificed for Europe rather than Britian. The fact is that I am not sure that Britain and the original indiginous inhabitants of the British Isles will want to make war on behalf of the French, the Germans et al and sacrifice their youth to save the political aspirations of an EU that is far more to do with keeping the internal peace of continental europe than of true benefit to Britain which, when all is said and done, still has stronger blood ties with the former nations of the Commonwealth of Nations and the USA!

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  • 3. At 09:06am on 01 Aug 2009, europeeno wrote:

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

  • 4. At 09:07am on 01 Aug 2009, trading08 wrote:

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

  • 5. At 09:19am on 01 Aug 2009, europeeno wrote:

    Four years of covering the politics of Europe has left me with vivid and treasured memories.

    From http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/alliance-with-extremists-europe-new-hard-right.html

    Welcome to the Cam-Kam, the new dance of the European hard right. Choreographed by William Hague, the new dance-master for the Europe-hating media and Tory millionaire MPs, the Cam-Kam allows the worst of 20th-century politics dislike of Jews, gays, immigrants to prance and preen on the European stage.

    Named after the alliance between David Cameron and Michal Kaminski, the Cam-Kam reminds watchers of the worst of ultra-nationalist politics

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  • 6. At 09:44am on 01 Aug 2009, Reiner_Torheit wrote:

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

  • 7. At 09:50am on 01 Aug 2009, argylefana wrote:

    A heartfelt 'thank you' to Mark Mardell for his European reports. With 37 years as a Brit 'European civil servant' on the c.v. (17 years European Space Agency, 20 years Commission) before retirement last year, I had the advantage of being an engineer, specialised in space policy, rather than one of the hordes of lawyers, economists and other generalists that make up (too much of) the staff of the Commission. At whose policy antics, convinced European that I am (born in '43: Mark's comments on no European war since '45 are part of my pro-European credo)I sometimes looked askance. Mark's reports always entertained, informed, amused - and very often hit the nail on the head.

    Good luck with the new assignment

    Tim Howell

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  • 8. At 10:38am on 01 Aug 2009, britishandeuropean wrote:

    Besides the idealistic inspiration for the EU (peace), there are pragmatic reasons for it: we are a group of highly interdependent neighbouring countries sharing the same corner of the world and facing similar problems. The EU is the framework we have developped to co-operate together. In doing so, we have created the world's largest free market, moderated by common rules on consumer protection, employee rights, environmental standards and fair competition. We sometimes get things wrong (what governmental structure doesn't?), but if it didn't exist we would need to invent it!

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  • 9. At 10:58am on 01 Aug 2009, citizenirish wrote:

    Mark,

    Thank you so very much for your insightful and entertaining blog on all that is Europe and many things that are conceived as European, be it in a negative or positive manner. As can be seen from so many of the comments posted in response to many of your articles, the greatest problem so many seem to have about the EU is the attitude of 'us' versus 'them' when this is far from the truth.

    All politics is about holding strong views, argument, negotiation, compromises and resolution. This happens so often in many of the EU's buildings but this is not how the EU is seen in a place such as Britain. It amazes me how a large section of a population can give so much credit to a near-conspiracy theory about 'faceless European bureaucrats and their apparent constant scheming to force Britain to submit to some great Empire. A rational person can see that this is absolute nonsense fuelled by a general lack of understanding of EU institutions and how the whole body functions (yes it has many faults). Secondly and more importantly people need to realise who these so-called faceless bureaucrats are, they are member state's civil servants as well as civil servants of the various European bodies not to mention that at the 'head' of all of this are the heads of government who dictate much of what the EU can and cannot do. The Commission is perhaps an exposure of the differences between civil servants and politicians that in often unseen in our own countries since by their very nature civil servants are often thought not always quite anonymous.

    It is time people stopped talking about 'faceless' Europe, 'Imperial' Europe or most infamously the 'United States of Europe' and time for people to understand what the EU really is. It is time for people to stop seeing the Germans as menacing genocidal fanatics who are plotting to form a new Reich, to stop seeing the French as stuck-up pretentious cowards and to stop seeing the Irish as drunken, ignorant and backward people somewhat akin to lazy Italians. All of this is straight up racism and a display of ignorance. The complexity of this content and all of its peoples needs to be fully grasped before anyone simply argues, using a racist stereotype or not, against closer co-operation and greater freedoms of travel and trade. Let us remember that so many critics of the EU and its institutions do not actually know how it functions, in fact many cannot even name them. I do not condemn all critics of the EU for we all must be critical of our political bodies, politicians and all involved in the many layers of government but I do condemn those who criticise and slight something without understanding it without abandoning so many myths, e.g. about it's laws. Ultimately the EU is ours and we can do with it as we like by using our vote and our parliaments to shape what it does and how it does it.

    Mark, I wish you the very best of luck in your next assignment in the United States of America, a country of great contrast but of continued promise. I hope that you get to return to Brussels frequently and if you feel like visiting a country on the 'periphery' of Europe that has benefited so much from its membership of the EU then do take a detour to Ireland! I look forward to your first blog from the US.

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  • 10. At 11:14am on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #6 - Reiner_Torheit

    Actually, I will miss him - so thanks again Mark - a great deal more than I would miss you Mr. Torheit.

    Actually, we have all had pleanty of opportunity to let off steam over the years on Mark's blog. To do so on his final thread seems to be the equivalent of getting drunk and breaking up someone's farewell party. Bloody rude and totally pointless.

    Good luck Mark and I hope Gavin gives us as much of his time as you have.

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  • 11. At 11:16am on 01 Aug 2009, Jur wrote:

    Signed up to thank Mark for a couple of good years and to wish him well on his new assignment.

    Regarding the British 'warrior stock' post, there are four problems in your reasoning:
    1. assuming that a Brit fighting for Europe is a different thing than me fighting for the people in my town. I have about as much in common with my townsfolk as with Rumanians. If Hawaians and Floridans can define themselves as Americans, Brits and Greeks can define themselves as Europeans, given time.
    2. given the amount of warfare in Europe's long history, I would be loath to argue that any European people has a more warlike genetic stock. A more warlike culture maybe, but cultures can adapt to changing environments. So if the world would turn as bleak as you think, European martial traditions, be they the Teutonic of Frankish Fury, can be easily reinvented.
    3. Your future worldview of warfare of all against all may prove true, but more likely not. I'm not saying that we are inexorably moving towards world peace, but the chances of another world war breaking out are remote at the present. At this point, the major political blocs are heavily entwined economically, and by the time that that has unravelled, we will be up to our necks in domestic trouble as well, possibly upsetting some of your assumptions about the viability of the nation state as well. So far, it's reading tea leaves.
    4. Nothing proves the need for the European project more than your world view. Only a united Europe can successfully stand up against other political-economic blocs if that would be the line of future conflict (as opposed to many other possible fault lines). And it is the best case for including as many states in the European project as is feasible. The more countries on our side and sharing our values and institutions, the better. And yes, that probably includes the U.S. and other westernised countries outside Europe as well.

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  • 12. At 11:25am on 01 Aug 2009, micheldaillet wrote:

    Thank you Mark, for all your contributions. It has always been interesting to read you.
    Michel

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  • 13. At 12:00pm on 01 Aug 2009, geopolitician wrote:

    If your job was to be a propagandist for the EU and European political elite; well done, you've done a good job. If you were supposed to provide objective and sceptical (I don't mean eurosceptic) journalism then I'm afraid you've failed. This most recent paean to the EU project says it all I'm afraid.

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  • 14. At 12:18pm on 01 Aug 2009, Lorentz wrote:

    Thank you and well done these past years. We do not always reach the same conclusion, but your reporting and insight is deeply respected.

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  • 15. At 12:29pm on 01 Aug 2009, britishandeuropean wrote:

    Forgot to say earlier that indeed Mark's hard work has been wide-ranging and perceptive, if sometimes leaning unduly towards the euroscepic view. Thank you Mark.

    Trust you will approach the USA in the same way: why should there be a USA - can't the individual states manage perefectly well on their own? Isn't it all a conspiracy to gang up on New York, which should leave the Union and team up with UK? Why a common currency, the dollar: wouldn't they be better off with separate currencies, like the Rhode Island Pound, the Massachussets Mark, the Carolina Crown, Pensylvania Pestea and the Florida Franc?

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  • 16. At 12:54pm on 01 Aug 2009, vagueofgodalming wrote:

    Thanks, Mark, and make sure you enjoy the USA's diversity, too.

    Menedemus makes me embarrassed to be British.

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  • 17. At 1:17pm on 01 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Thank you, Mark.
    I thought ab it, I had 3 clear advantages in joining your blog.

    Three friends. And a half :o) (an American half :o)
    by going contrary to the advise of the house rules a little bit :o)

    I obtained another life dimension to live in, to constantly check upon "how is it in the blog". Puts one's own home troubles into perspective,:o) expands one's horizons, "the world is bigger than we think it is" and all.

    Finally, would like to point out at the un-usual, therapeutic effect of your blog, not yet recognised by the mainstream doctor community. Good for health. I would have probably died from asthma last autumn if not your blog.

    Excellent measure to sit still, keep breathing even, have mind distacted from breathing difficulties, not to think about it but think about "something else". Nothing would have helped me to forget about asthma last autumn as much as reading Jukka Rohila's or Mavrelius heart-felt entries about Russia :o)))), you simply forget all the rest around. Could be due to an adrenaline rush, same principle as asthma inhalers :o)))))

    So, the blog came handy in many un-orthdox ways.
    "All sisters get (their respective) ear-rings" :o)))

    Ability to breathe; 3 friends; wider horizons - what else can one possibly wish for, from a blog?!
    I am very thankful to you.

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  • 18. At 1:58pm on 01 Aug 2009, seanmarkschneider wrote:

    No bickering, no complaints, just thank you for tackling a difficult job in trying to provide a narrative for a subject which beguiles many who try to tackle it. Good luck in America and be sure to smuggle plenty of real chocolate, cheese and beer; all of which are rather hard to come by stateside.

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  • 19. At 2:21pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #2 - Menedemus

    'Should British boys and girls be sacrificed . . . ?'

    Do we still have conscription or do these 'boys and girls' not sign up looking for a decent career - presumuably hoping that they will not have to shoot or be shot at in anger - but accepting that risk in return for being in the services? You have to accept the distinction between those who are dragged out of classrooms, lecture halls and civilian jobs and told it is 'their duty' to die for Queen and Country and those who know precisely what they are doing and getting reasonably well paid for it (democracythreat would call them mercenaries and he is not far off).

    "We already have seen the EU go head-to-head with Russia and blink over the Georgia fiasco . . ." - no, we have seen the EU react without thinking it through and subsequently acknowledging that the Georgians were, in no small measure, to blame.

    ". . . we continue to see the EU undecided as to how to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum . . ." - no, we see the EU attempting to fulfil the role originally allocated as part of the 'Quartet' arrangement.

    " . . . and we know that, sooner or later, the European Nations are going to have to fight with Iran and prevent Nuclear War." No. In the improbable event that we are reduced to that, it will not prevent one, it will cause one, not least because your scenarion does not work without Israeli involvement.

    On Pakistan, I reserve judgment but find your prognosis somewhat bleak.

    What I do not understand is why any of the above should necessarily lead you to the view that EU members do not have shared interests. The inference of your post is that, at some point the UK has to chose between NATO and the EU. I do not recognise this scenario.

    #16 - vagueofgodalming

    "Menedemus makes me embarrassed to be British".

    And what is being British? A few pints at the 'King's' or the 'Alfred' or the 'Anchor' of a Sunday afternoon? A few warm Hogsback's watching cricket at Busbridge Lane? Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding? How very English, how very romantic! You may not agree with him but your expression of embarrasment is misplaced and unfortunate. Not all of us believe that the intersets of Englishness (not Britishness) are best served by pulling up the drawbridge.

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  • 20. At 2:24pm on 01 Aug 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    To ironfranco:

    Thank you for your explanation of your screen name. I was obviously misinterpreting your motives and I apologise.

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  • 21. At 2:35pm on 01 Aug 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    To Mark:

    Your last posting really does lay bare your pro-"EU" bias. I disagree with so much of it but cannot be bothered to run through it again.

    A student at an FE college said of his European Studies course: "It's like a non-stop party political broadcast on behalf of the European Movement." I interrogated his lecturer. I asked her where she got her informationf from: "From the Europpean Commission" she replied.

    I haven't watched the telly for several years, but when I did, it was obvious that the people of the UK were being subjected to a non-stop drizzle of pro-"EU" propaganda from the BBC and ITN.

    The people of Britian actually pay to be subjected to enemy propaganda.

    I disagree with you but I don't hate you for it. Lots of "EU"-lovers, especially German ones, hate me for criticising the "EU". Their responses make me thing of those people who start killing people who disagree with them - scary!

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  • 22. At 2:35pm on 01 Aug 2009, SCL wrote:

    Really sorry Mark to hear you're moving departments though there can be no doubt that as far as your job goes, its a step up to be sent to the US!

    Your blogs have always been informative and very interesting - the BBC have always neglected the EU in their mainstream news coverage barring the big issues which has always been a shame, so your blogs and indeed reports have been useful in filling this void.

    I think the BBC has to do a better job of informing the public though about the EU - its not the only station to blame of course though as things such as the European Parliament not being covered on television cannot fully be the fault of the BBC alone.

    Its too easy for governments across Europe to blame the EU or Brussels for everything when it is them who are acting on our behalf to do such things as create the Constitution or Lisbon Treaty which the majority of Europeans do not want. Here people are too easily influenced by the propaganda of political parties - for too long now Labour have been playing the Conservative Eurosceptic boogeyman card and getting away with whatever they want on Europe. Thankfully this tactic is slowly failing.

    Introducing coverage of the European Parliament (and I dont mean some obscure 30 minute programme at 1am on BBC News 24 etc) or explaining to people more often what is going on in Brussels would allow them to understand why the EU is a good thing overall, but more importantly it would allow the people to see how little is achieved in the European Parliament for example and all the negative points about the EU which the government must be challenged on.

    Better coverage of EU issues would allow us to move away from the ill-informed, polarised debate on the EU in this country; with those who support the EU doing so because the government has drummed it into their head that Euroscepticism is a dirty word, and those who want to pull us out of the EU forgetting the benefits that the traditional EC offered and can offers.

    Thanks for playing your part though Mark and good luck in your new post!

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  • 23. At 2:42pm on 01 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    A Final Essay on Europe.

    Breathtaking! Astounding!

    Two wors to describe but really 3 are needed: It should be compulsory reading for any prospective Journalist who wishes to see how to write a piece onn the surface containing equality of thought and measure and beneath it is so biased and one-sided as to utterly confirm the 'pro-EU' bias of BBC in genral and you, Mr Mardell as a correspondent!

    The third? Shameful!

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  • 24. At 2:45pm on 01 Aug 2009, lucilinburugh wrote:

    Mark,

    I've just created a BBC login to thank you very much for probably the best bbc blog - even for someone from Luxembourg (thanks for mentioning us in the last article!) you've provided a level of detail and insight not found anywhere else in news. I hope you'll like America as much as you liked Brussels, and I retrospectively apologize for the 'black box' ; )

    All the best!

    (P.S. I hope your successor will keep on top of the car emissions legislation, like you did! It was very interesting to see it progress - or not!)


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  • 25. At 3:05pm on 01 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    What a bunch of rubbish. If your blog entries from America show as little in the way of profound understanding as these have been, they will be as superficial and lacking in insight as Justin Webb's were. He doesn't understand anything more about America now than he did when he started which is to say very little. That last piece about San Francisco being like a European city was so stupid it was hard to stop laughing long enough to type a reply.

    There is only one reason Europe remained at peace in the last 44 years after not a century but millenia of war and that is the presence of the United States Armed Forces and the political will of the American people. If what you said about the conflict among Europeans being over was true, then there is no longer any reason for NATO to exist and the US should be the first to pull out of it as it is dismantled. Frankly as an American taxpayer nothing would please me more. Have you forgotten that just 10 years ago, the US went into Kosovo under the pretext of NATO without a UN Security Council resolution but with the pleadings of most Western European governments not only to stop the genocide in Serbia that the UN and Europeans were powerless to end themselves, but to prevent World War I from being re-ignited? Have you forgotten how many times Greece and Turkey nearly went to war with each other? When I lived in France 35 years ago, you could still feel the seething hatred French had for Germans and I saw it first hand in a large lecture hall as a French professor publically humiliated a German student in front of 800 other students. He asked her a question and when she didn't know the answer, he said in French with a thick faked German accent "we have ways to make you talk." If Europeans are true to form as they've been in the past, deep down that hatred is every bit as alive today as it always was. I also saw discrimination against Jews first hand at a German Rathskeller at a trade show in France where a party of patrons I was with were refused service because there were Jews among us. I wondered why at the time we were defending and helping Europe rebuild, a question I still have no answer for.

    If the EU is an empire, it was one so badly contrived it's hard to tell what keeps it together, apparantly only by force in the same way the USSR was artifically kept together. In all your blogs, I did not see one in depth discussion of the countless deep seeded problems facing the future of Europe, how the EU plans to address them, and an expert critique of the likely consequences of those plans. From an aging population, xenophobia rejecting the illegal migrants it will increasingly depened on for low paying semiskilled and unskilled work, the huge and growing alien and alienated Islamic population within its midst, the manufacturing juggernaught of China, the software juggernaught of India and the US, the technological juggernaught of the US and Japan, the agricultural juggernaught of the US and other nations like Brazil in the developing world, its dependence on outsiders for much of its energy from nations like Russia who are hostile to it, the lack of sustainability or viability of the social safety nets Europe so luxuriously provides its citizens but can't afford to keep, its inability to reconcile the unwillingness of China and India to cooperate in any meaningful way on climate change and I could go on and on.

    "Take a Flemish friend of mine. His great-uncle was a member of the resistance, he stashed guns under the floorboards of his uncle's farmhouse, to fight the Nazis. Pretty heroic, huh? Well the Nazis called on him to give himself up to certain death, and because he didn't, my friend's uncle and grandfather were tortured and sent to work camps, where they died a few weeks before the war ended. The rest of the family barely talked to this "hero" until the day he died. And this is just one among thousands, millions of such stories of moral complexity."

    This story illustrates the quintessential mentality common to Europeans I have come to know over a lifetime. There is nothing complex about it unless you mean the difficulty of reconciling the irrationality and immorality of it with the illusions Europeans have about themselves and their civilization. Yes the resistor was a hero. His relatives were killed by the Nazis, not by him or his kind. Europeans not only have never had any will to resist enslavement, they resent those who do whether on their behalf or on anyone elses. That is why so many of them resented America's destruction of the USSR while at the same time denying the truth of it and why they resented America leading the liberation of Iraq, even the liberation of Afghanistan. It is also why the differences between Americans and Europeans are ultimately irreconcilable.

    Europe is a region in steep decline that nothing can stop. Not only isn't it making even a feeble effort to try, it refuses to acknowledge the reality of its plight. Perhaps if Western Europe hadn't turned from anger, resentment, and rage over America's superior and far more successful civilization to outright confrontation with it, it might have gotten help or at least sympathy for it but at this point, few in America care what happens to Europe anymore as you will soon learn Mr. Mardell. Watch Charlie Rose's interview with Nicolas Sarkozy on Rose's blog site and you will see how oblique and out of touch with reality Europe really is. How Sarkozy diverts to some crazy story about how as a child his grandfather used to take him on a train to the city and buy him a glass of orange juice. You'll hear his sycophantic pandering in what to American ears is a disgustingly cynical plea for help and display of egoism from the leader of a nation whose very name has become synonymous with the word "betrayal" in American popular culture.

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  • 26. At 3:10pm on 01 Aug 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    The last post is one of the worst; the regurgitation of tired old cliches that were probably in Mark's mind when he first went to Brussels. Let's hope Gavin Hewitt is a MASSIVE improvement.

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  • 27. At 3:26pm on 01 Aug 2009, toohardtologin wrote:

    We have no common heritage with the political class of Europe. We do not share a common philosophy, theology, language or culture with "Europe". We are, as Churchill said, separate fromn them. The EU has been built on lies and on stealth and has disemboweled Parliament to the point where Parliament is unnecessary. Europe always makes Britain bleed for it.
    The argument about the EU keeping the peace has been show to be a lie. The BAOR and the 8th Air Force and the USAF and US Army kept the peace in Europe and now it doesn't have sufficient military will to defend itself from the enemies within. I like some things European such as French nationalism (and pretty well everything French from the Champs Elysee to the Vendee Globe, her wine and her spacious beauty, German cars and engineering, Spanish family life and the intensity of night life in the Bodegas, the carelessness of the Italians and that is about where it stops. The EU political classes are the most anti democratic since the Politburo and the EUParliament is as the Duma before the Czar. The EU will eventually cause the war its architects willed to never happen again. You cannot force disparate people together without holding them by force. That is how Tito ruled successfully and why the EU will fail. Sadly the British have been genetically culled from the slaughter of the '14-'18 war to the destruction of the few and now those with survivalist instincts have left or are planning to leave. Europe as a political idea has been and will always be our Nemesis. Anyone with a modicum of understanding of history would have spotted the EEC/EC/EU/USE for what it was from 1972 on. For those who have not learned history which means all of those who have been "educated" since the sixties, go and read Hayek's "The Road To Serfdom", that will tell you where socialism leads, then read Leonard Peikoff's "The Ominous Parallels" and you will see we are back in the thirties and heading for another European war. Mad? I think not. Realistic? Yes, and sorry but that is the future of this wretched "Project". The EU has not buried nationalism, Mark, it has become its Midwife.

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  • 28. At 4:28pm on 01 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    "We British don't quite get the horror of this past (WW2 in mainland Europe)."

    No Mr Mardell, we British don't 'GET' how the BBC paid for entirely from British License Fee Paying money can subsidise the likes of you sticking your nose in the air to all things British!?

    E.g. 'vivid', 'treasured', 'excited', 'fascinating'... "so successfully completed its first mission..." all used by you in your valedictory address on behalf of the EU.
    Contrast that with ".. 'us' or our political representatives signing up to something European, and grand and ambitious; but then through a judicious mixture of cowardice and common sense failing to honour...".
    It seems European political leadership in your comparison are so much more able and honourable than the mediocre British. Of course we could turn that around and ask why the EU would propose measures/policies so grandiose that they know full well they are unlikely to be properly implemented? Perhaps that little policy-initiative inducement called 'money' granted to Brussels would explain the EU Commission's countless, tireless enthusiasm for new pan-European schemes?

    Oh, perhaps that would not fit the Mardell 'fascinating' Europe scenario!

    You go further: There are not enough books on Willy Brandt or Bismarck! Well, the war-mongering (I believe 5 in total) Germanic State builder Otto can be easily dealt with by this sentence's content. As for Willy? Hmm, last time I was in a Hamburg bookshop I didn't notice any books relating to Mrs Thatcher or Harold MacMillan but they did have quite a number of Churchillian tomes in German and English!
    And as Mrs Thatcher famously remarked, 'where would she be without her Willy!'

    Mr Mardell, book-shelves do not "groan", but, such feebly, unsubstantiated journalistic anecdote does bring forth sincere groans from those of us who expect a little more by way of intellect from a BBC Editor.

    And again, according to you the Europe of the EU is "..now a history of countries' differing views of Nationalism, their own and others, and this is often expressed in attitudes to the EU.."
    Whereas, the British Islanders' view of the EU in your words, ".. has many manifestations in perceived faults and failures that critics in Britain love to highlight. But the deep roots of the 'British problem' with Europe are in 'our attitude' to WW2..."

    Apparently in your version of reality post-WW2 it is the British who have the 'problem' with Europe because geographical luck and the pluck of a few airmen kept the Nazis at bay: Now, Britons must feel apologetic for not having been conquered and suffered the ravages of occupation!

    Any chance your interpretation may have completely misjudged one of the main points made in the Article?
    You know the bit that went, "...meet people at the sharp end of EU policies and incomprehensible blather of policy documents and directives.."
    And therefore, why would Britons want to remain trapped (or as you wrote, "them forcing us to do something..") with millions of others at that sharp end? At least many Britons have expressed a desire to be rid of the EU 'blather' and if their mainland neighbouring Citizens do not want to then they are free to remain attached to their chains!

    You are off to the States - - the population of British Isles and mainland Europe remain stagnating inside a one-size-fits-all EU - - and there is the conumdrum for you and 'us' as we hanker after release from a straitjacket and you get to really experience being a free Citizen.

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  • 29. At 4:41pm on 01 Aug 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    A heartfelt farewell to Mark Mardell and all the best in your new life and job across the pond. I am sure that the usual suspects won't ever accuse you of having a pro-US bias whatever you write about the US in your new post. I am also sure you will extremely relieved about that. I will miss your Euroblog and, all in all, I think it has been of very good quality and balanced, although there was often a gaping hole when it came to explore the huge Eurosceptic contradictions of a country where the EU is usually demonised but is not part of any of the EU's essential policies, e.g. the Euro, Schengen or the Charter of Rights. As it is, professional Eurohaters believe that they have joined a totalitarian superstate that they never voted for. I wonder what sort of irreversible nervous breakdown they would have if this country was actually a full and proper EU member (other than paying membership fees).

    Even notorious professional members of the Anti-EU camp have praised your even handedness, but it seems that the non-professional or (perhaps some of them professional?) Eurohaters in this blog disagree.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100005400/mark-mardell-an-unusually-fair-minded-bbc-reporter-is-leaving-brussels/

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  • 30. At 4:52pm on 01 Aug 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 22

    "Better coverage of EU issues would allow us to move away from the ill-informed, polarised debate on the EU in this country; with those who support the EU doing so because the government has drummed it into their head that Euroscepticism is a dirty word, and those who want to pull us out of the EU forgetting the benefits that the traditional EC offered and can offers."

    This reminds me of the nonsense that I read in an article on the Torygraph:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/simonheffer/5926966/David-Cameron-is-likely-to-win-but-dont-expect-a-Conservative-government.html

    "He [David Cameron] can't stick up for those who fear the effects of the Treaty of Lisbon by offering to repeal that if it is enforced by the time he comes to office, because of the ructions that would cause among the Euro-fanatic minority."

    Whatever reasons people like me have to believe in European integration and cooperation, "the government has drummed it into their head that Euroscepticism is a dirty word" is definitely not one of them. This is in total contradiction to what you say earlier in your post: "for too long now Labour have been playing the Conservative Eurosceptic boogeyman card and getting away with whatever they want on Europe. Thankfully this tactic is slowly failing." which I find a lot easier to agree with.

    And turning to that rubbish ill-thought nonsense that I quote from the Torygraph above, whatever reasons Cameron has to support this country's continued membership of an EU that doesn't exist other than in history books (i.e. the only one that *currently* exists includes the Euro, Schengen, et al), it is as sure as death that fear of upsetting the "Euro-fanatic" minority is not one of them. Since when mainstream politicians in this country have had any qualm in upsetting any minority? Surely Cameron would be very careful not to upset the Mail, the Sun and the Torygraph, the papers read by his traditional supporters, but not the minority of us who support European integration (not necessarily leading to a federation or a superstate).

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  • 31. At 4:58pm on 01 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    toohardtologin and #27.

    Unfortunately, I fear, you are only too accurate with your prediction of what the EU has done for 'nationalism' and what lays ahead.

    If the UK/England can gather enough political-Citizen momentum to breakaway from this den of pan-European servitude there is still a hope as other nations will surely follow. Strange how history comes around - - France and Germany will try to enforce their crackpot one-size solution so beloved of former rulers in both - - to England and possibly Britain if it still exists again facing the challenge of holding out until from across the Atlantic comes the cavalry of free-will, divsersity and enterprise so loathed and feared by Paris-Berlin-Brussels.

    It is not too late but rather like the 'cold war' nuclear clock that was 5 to midnight (Cuban Missile crisis and other incidents) I think after Eire folds-up this October and gives Lisbon the go ahead the minute hand will have gone to 4 minutes to and counting down very rapidly in Europe.

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  • 32. At 5:10pm on 01 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    To someone with the perspective of distance, having some real knowledge of how and why the United States of America works based on historical facts about it and how and why it is constructed the way it is, it is truly amusing and amazing to watch the efforts to build a carbon copy, a United States of Europe. The people who are trying to duplicate the USA out of jealousy and the desire to challenge it as one of the dominant political forces in the world are so obviously clueless about how the original one works, their efforts suggest to me a group who saw a 747 airplane from a distance, wanted one of their own, and carved the best replica they could out of stone. Then they expect it to fly. It's so pathetic you don't know whether to laugh or cry. Were I European, seeing this thing happen...I'd just turn tail and run...away as fast as I could. I certainly wouldn't get inside it for its maiden and likely final voyage. A modern day Titanic; big, daunting looking, and doomed because it is incompatible with the realities of the world it must survive in as it exists, the Eurosaurus Wrecks.

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  • 33. At 5:45pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #32 - MarcusAureliusII

    I have no wish to get involved with another scrap with you and I am more than happy to continue the debate with people who are opposed to the European project on priniple but your assertion that the federalists are attempting to close the USA is absurd. You obviously know your own constitution and you profess to have some knowledge of Lisbon and it's precursors.

    A fairer analogy might be that they are trying to build a constitutional 'Airbus', an alternative to the Boeing rather than a look-alike. It may or may not fly but it will not be the same. We should, after all, learn for others' mistakes, not replicate them and we do not have the luxury of a 200 year test period.

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  • 34. At 5:53pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #33 - Erratum

    "attempting to close the USA" should read "attempting to clone the USA"

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  • 35. At 6:42pm on 01 Aug 2009, PaulVictoria wrote:

    It's an honest man, Mark, who will admit that he doesn't understand everything.
    Thank you for your honest reporting and your final blog.
    It's a shame that some of your blog critics do not have your honesty.

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  • 36. At 6:47pm on 01 Aug 2009, PeterPaulvD wrote:

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for these and past stimulating and challenging insights. But dont overlook the silent and unplanned triumph of European integration: the end of the Irish Troubles. Two processes, the EU Regional Funds setting particularly the Republics economy on its path to the Celtic Tiger, and EU political integration, together greatly reduced the economic and politico-ideological differences between Northern and Republic Ireland. With the difference between being part of the Union, or part of the Republic, becoming less acute as EU-homogenization set in, part of the ideology sustaining the Troubles slowly evaporated. Indeed the Agreements and Accords were reached by visionary and courageous leaders on both sides, but the context in which this progress could eventually succeed was largely shaped by EU processes.

    Yeah, I'm sure many posters to this blog will disagree with the analysis and/or conclusion. But did you live there through that period? Seen and felt the effects (supportive and obstructive) of the EU on the ground? No political system is perfect, not communism, not socialism, not Sharia, or the socialized, subsidized capitalism recently deployed in the US; but it seems the EU is on one of the less disastrous paths forward.

    Peter Paul

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  • 37. At 6:56pm on 01 Aug 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:

    Thanks for the excellent essay of Europe that you did
    for the audience here on your blog page....

    Also, Welcome to the United States from me to you...Enjoy your time in the U.S.A.

    Also, thanks for the best introduction to Gavin Hewitt to the new blog...

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 38. At 7:31pm on 01 Aug 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Good luck Mark,

    A final note: With a very few exceptions, the food in Brussels is superior to the US. (And to that of most other places, come to think of it...).



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  • 39. At 7:53pm on 01 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    PeterPaulvD and #36.

    Well, the 'pro-EU' have over the years claimed it was EU technology led to the moon-landings, EU unity led to the 'iron curtain' coming down, EU science discovered depleted ozone-layer, EU expansion freed the Balkans, EU CAP fed the African continent.... Hang on, there's one I forget... oh yes, and EU woke Snow White from her sleep..

    Thus, ".. the context in which this progress (ending the Irish Troubles) could eventually succeed was largely shaped by EU processes.." becomes a natural must-have for the seasoned EU lobbyist.

    Yeah, right! Solving the Irish Troubles is just one more fairy tale to add to the lengthening fantasy list of EUthusiasts!

    Honestly, how do you sleep at night? What part of the human anatomy lets you write such incredible nonsense so baldly? Where did you get any semblance of an idea that the EU had any impact upon Eire - 6 Counties political inter-action?
    Are you sure you lived though the era (30+ modern years by the way, or if Irish, 200+ years)?

    "..EU-homogenization set in.." ! That would be the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force community redevelopment efforts along the Falls Road and Shankill Road: Yes, I recall it all so well... especially reconstruction via bullet and bomb directed from the Divis flats etc.
    And the present 'Peace-Lines' that divide Nationalist and Loyalist areas all have those distinctive EU-logo... Orange Order on one side and Green murals on the other.

    Truly, the EU is "one of the less disastrous path forward" is such a misplaced sentiment where the Irish Troubles were/are concerned: EU played almost no part in any aspect of the efforts to bring about a ceasefire between the warring factions and the British. There was no concerted economic or financial push by the EU in the 6 counties; on the contrary the EU was significant by its absence of on the ground investment in Northern Ireland. There can be no argument the Eire economic expansion was induced by EU measures, but, even that can now be seen and measured as less than secure over the longterm in view of the declining situation for which Dublin has had to find its own resources to ease the path.

    Your account of the settling of the Irish Troubles is a travesty of the reality and insult to thousands on all sides who with nowhere to go had live through it: In the USA and other places dupes like yourself made the sectarian criminal gangs nastiness just that bit easier and the unpleasantness for the ordinary Citizens that much harder.

    You wrote, ".. no political system is perfect.." and you would have been right in the realm of truth had you just had the integrity, decency to tack on the words.. '..and the EU is one more example of that..'

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  • 40. At 8:10pm on 01 Aug 2009, kenneth jessett wrote:

    This is the first time I have read anything by this writer, and to be truthful, having read through the entire piece, I find I didn't read anything particularly enlightening in it. Just filling in the space speech?

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  • 41. At 8:46pm on 01 Aug 2009, karolina001 wrote:

    Europe or EU..?

    EU is non-existent, it exist only in dreams of elites.

    Europe is here to saty and divided always and that's the way we live :)
    so we know that there is democracy..

    otherwise EU is dictatorship of the elites

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  • 42. At 9:09pm on 01 Aug 2009, bonzerpeach wrote:

    Well, good luck in the States. I hope the future blog will be meatier than it has been on the EU - too much anecdote (and generalisations drawn from the particular) and not enough objective analysis. I enjoy the subject matter,but often I get the feeling it is just a question of writing the required number of words. The journo's quota. Not quite pollyfilla but damned close.

    Cannot agree about the EU keeping the peace. It's been the bomb, NATO and German shame at its past. Economic interdependence as we now have in Europe does not depend upon transnational political institutions in Brussels. The whole world has become more interdependent, and trade barriers have been reduced or eliminated over wide swathes of economic activity. Is war likely with the US, Canada, Norway or any other democratic economically advanced WTO member?

    The essential of the EU debate is that the British have more libertarian instincts than its continental neighbours and, being in a minority, they will constantly be struggling to maintain their freedoms which the majority do not understand or place no value on. Eventually, Britain will be submerged in the European State - inevitable because over time political and economic units expand to take in more territory/resources. But that does not mean we have to like it, or to simply accept whatever emerges from the eurocrats. Britain should fight its corner strongly.

    Let us not forget the EC accounts are never approved by the auditors, and whistleblowers in the Commission are persecuted. And the scale of the waste of money!

    I write as a former consultant over many years for the Commission, and one who now lives in France. One can be pro-European and anti-EC at the same time!

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  • 43. At 9:10pm on 01 Aug 2009, GardeniaHut wrote:

    Welcome to the US Mr. Mardell! Having just finished reading Justin Webb's farewell to the US, I find myself wondering what your impressions will be after a tour. I found Mr. Webb's comments insightful, more so than a few Americans would like to admit I suspect. His capture of the essence of risk and reward may very well identify the American experience, but it also speaks volumes about the absolute hypocrisy of America's so called christian underpinnings. Smorgasbord christians I like to call them. Those that select what they want to emphasize in the Bible, when it seems advantageous. Those that want to combine church with state, when it suits, and not so much when it doesn't. Talk about not following the founding fathers of the constitution!

    But I've already lost half the audience by now, because we can't even discuss issues such as faith based initiatives any more. There is no middle. Funny how the right wingers don't seem to see the correlation with Iran's current government and their vision of America as a christian nation. Sans veils.

    "Me First" capitalism may move America faster and further ahead from a purely economic perspective, but it comes at a huge cost with an increasingly fractured social and polarized political culture. We aren't growing closer as a nation, but rather are becoming a nation no longer united in the truths we all used to share regarding the role of the nation in our individual lives and our collective responsibilities.

    So Mr. Mardell, hope you are ready for what must seem a bit daunting and surely challenging. Very best luck on this ride. But I think it is America that could benefit the most from your vision of the future as seen through your European eyes and with your feet planted on this side of the Atlantic. I hope so.

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  • 44. At 9:32pm on 01 Aug 2009, Itsallaboutwinning wrote:

    By pure chance I recently discovered an important piece of European Legislation which has been the subject of a typing error - thus pointing it at a totally different article than that which it was originally intended. Contacted newspapers but none of them seem interested - it's amazing how we seem to care more about who David Beckham is having an affair with than legislation which actually helps govern our lives.

    The incorrect legislation is now actually published on many websites because they have taken the incorrect version straight from the EU website!

    Does anyone care?

    It seems not!

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  • 45. At 9:52pm on 01 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    threnodious;

    "I have no wish to get involved with another scrap with you and I am more than happy to continue the debate with people who are opposed to the European project on priniple but your assertion that the federalists are attempting to [clone] the USA is absurd."

    Then why do they sometimes call it The United States of Europe? Why did Chirac, deVillepin, and so many other ardent EU advocates say they wanted to create an entity to "challenge" the USA by creating a "multipolar world?" Their words not mine. It's a matter of pure envy. The French in particular have been jealous of the USA for most of its history. They are particularly angry that the American culture has and continues to be the strongest influence on what is becoming a world culture including the domination of English over their own culture and language as they had hoped and expected. That is why they conceived the EU in the first place. And that is why it was sold as the deception of a trade agreement. Nobody would have bought into it if they'd been fully open of their ultimate intent from the beginning, a continental empire where power was controlled by a shared axis of Paris and Berlin through a huge bureaucratic intermediary in Brussels. Believe me I am not an opponent of it. How could I be since I also see it as an adversary. What better adversary could one wish for than one so impossibly clumsy, absurdly conceived, badly assembled, utterly unworkable, incoherent, and irrational as the EU?

    "You obviously know your own constitution and you profess to have some knowledge of Lisbon and it's precursors."

    The Constitution of the United States is a document of very few words which structures the American government defining the roles and limiting the powers of its individual components and as a whole. If you take the Bill of Rights, its first ten Amendments at its inception which were necessary for it to be adopted, it was only amended about two dozen times in nearly two and a quarter centuries. It does not proscribe laws, it leaves that to future generations to decide what is best for them. Except for limiting government to what it can't do, it is process only not prescription. It is written in plain language anyone of ordinary intelligence and education can easily understand. Yet its precise meaning based on both what it says explicitly and what the founders had in mind when the words were written has been debated by the Supreme Court in deciding cases of whether or not laws passed were constitutional or not for all these 200 plus years.

    The EU constitution by contrast is a very different animal. It is a pescription of laws which define every aspect of life of every citizen in Europe from cradle to grave in an incomprehensible 400 word tome that few of its 500 million citizens have read let alone understood. Its advocates had the hubris of expectation that all of its memebers would see the inescapable wisdom of it and so the EU founders decided that it would require a unanimous vote of all the members to enact such a document. It also gave cover to the lie that nothing would be forced down the throats of any member nation without their consent. Therefore, when not only the people of Holland but of France itself rejected it in a public vote, the EU elites were in shock. France's government of any political stripe course will never make the mistake again of allowing its people to vote on something so important lest they make the same mistake in voicing their wrong headed opinion and stand in the way of the grand plan. And so the Lisbon treaty was created, a modified and expanded version of the constitution which removed some of the most superficial trappings of a single nation state such as a flag and anthem but typically deviously disguised its addition of 8000 words by changing the typeface and line spacing to allow it to be printed on fewer pages. Meanwhile, objections by the UK were addressed in what are called "red line opt outs." But when you read that 40 page document carefully, you find they are not really opt outs at all but a 5 year deferral of some provisions after which time if the UK doesn't adopt the entire constitution, it will be subject to fines and penalties without limit by a panel in which it will have no voice, no seat, no vote.

    "A fairer analogy might be that they are trying to build a constitutional 'Airbus', an alternative to the Boeing rather than a look-alike. It may or may not fly but it will not be the same. We should, after all, learn for others' mistakes, not replicate them and we do not have the luxury of a 200 year test period.'

    Not only doesn't Europe learn from other people's mistakes nor its own for that matter, it doesn't learn from their successes either. That is because its hubris leads it to believe that it is inherently smarter than all other people elsewhere in the world. The exact opposite is closer to the truth. When taken together with the political manifesto of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States is the most brilliant political document that was every created by anyone. It's ingenious design assured that the United States of America would one day become and remain the pre-emminent civilization in the world. That Europe hasn't studied it, doesn't even understand it, let alone try to copy it demonstrates just how foolish and doomed Europe truly is.

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  • 46. At 10:08pm on 01 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    vios con dios;

    ""Me First" capitalism may move America faster and further ahead from a purely economic perspective, but it comes at a huge cost with an increasingly fractured social and polarized political culture. We aren't growing closer as a nation"

    I suppose the election of Barack Obama to be President of the United States is proof of that. And in a nation plagued by such terrible social rupture where the major recent story of racial disharmony was a black man arrested by a white cop for disorderly conduct after breaking into his own home because he lost his house key and the cop's black partner saying the cop acted correctly arresting him, and although charges were immediately dropped and the man released, the affair had to be negotiated by the President and the Vice President of the United States over beers at the White House between the cop and the man who was arrested as the whole world watched riveted. And while no apologies were given the cop said he respected the man he arrested. Where else in the world do you find such renting social disharmony?

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  • 47. At 10:24pm on 01 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    MAII and #45.

    Sometimes MA you leave us gasping in despair at your perverse and wholly inexplicable tirades against all things European, British, World, whatever...

    And, it must be said, on a few exceedingly rare occasions your contribution strikes the nail so fairly and squarely on the head as in #45, one is left wondering how it is you can be so uninformed and illogical in others.

    I thoroughly support (not that it will mean anything to you) your closely argued debunking of the European Union: It should be compulsory reading across the EU Member States and recited in the EU Parliament when it next sits by UKIP or some such anti-EU group in order to have its accuracy placed on the record.

    That way no one can later argue they did not know the reality of the EU.

    I would only have made one minor alteration to your comment: The sentence that reads, "That is because (its) hubris leads it to believe it is inherently smarter than all the other people elsewhere in the world." The 'its' should have been 'Brussels-EU', but of course, with your views on us this side of the Atlantic you condemn all with the same broad brush-stroke approach.

    All the same I find myself in total agreement with #45 as an expose of the Paris-Berlin-Brussels axis of ill-intent European Union.

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  • 48. At 10:28pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #45 - MarcusAureliusII

    "The EU constitution by contrast is a very different animal".

    Exactly. I rest my case.

    "Then why do they sometimes call it The United States of Europe?"

    Some people do. Wishful thinking possibly?

    "Why did Chirac, deVillepin, and so many other ardent EU advocates say they wanted to create an entity to "challenge" the USA by creating a "multipolar world?".

    These views, do not forget, come from the Bush era. The Bush administration was deeply unpopular over here just as the Chirac government was over there. There was no love lost between the UK and France at this time either. Chirac was looking for a third way in the global order in exactly the same way Blair claimed to be in UK domestic politics and Chirac was on fertile ground given the distaste for Bush. We can only hope that those days are over.

    But belive me, whatever it is they are trying to do, copying the USA model is not one of them.

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  • 49. At 10:30pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #44 - SteveINMalta

    It would be easier to care if you were to point out the specific error so that we can judge for ourselves rather than relying on a general observation.

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  • 50. At 10:37pm on 01 Aug 2009, hms_shannon wrote:

    Hi Marcus,
    Whats a nice American like you doing on a blog like this? still churning out your Americain Utopia inc.Our Elizabethen poets Shakespeare/Marlow had your type taped even then, with a phenomenal insite to the human condision,& profound accuracy of your type.

    O hell!what have we here?

    A carrion Death,within whose empty eye ,there is a written scroll! I will read the writing.

    All that glisters is not gold,
    Often have you heard that told;
    Many a man his life has sold,
    But my out side to be hold.
    Gilded tombs do worms infold.
    Had you been as wise as bold,
    Young in limbs in judgment old,
    Your answer had not been inscroll`d.
    Fare you well, your suit is cold.

    Cold indeed and labour lost
    Then farewell heat and welcome frost.

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  • 51. At 11:01pm on 01 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    I was very struck by the headline on this page which reads "EU reaches gas deal with Ukraine".

    In reaching a gas deal with a country which doesn't have any gas, the EU has achieved something truly remarkable. Maybe we are going to see more similar deals. What about a coffee deal with Moldova? There is no coffee in Moldova? No problem - advance them some money, they can buy it in and then sell it to us - if they have not spent it on something else by then. Brilliant. Why didn't we think of that?

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  • 52. At 11:41pm on 01 Aug 2009, GregLWEUroRealist wrote:

    It seems clear that experience gives the ability to write in double speak and money will buy any opinion required.
    Congratulations on a well paid career as a propagandist of competence such that many believe you to be something of a EUroSceptic when detailed reading shows your material to be virtually without exception the BBC's perceived wisdom propaganda.
    What will be your task in America?
    No doubt you will be superficially supportive of America whilst regularly but subliminally excorriating them and our relationship with that part of the Anglosphere.
    They may well be paying you hugely; but this vault face from a superficial support in text whilst the sub script is dedicated promotion of The EU - will have been practice but will the converse be as natural?

    I wish you failure such that you may continue to fail to dupe some of the people some of the time but do enjoy America it has much to offer, unlike the outdated and outmoded centralised committee dictatorship of the EU. America's democracy may be shakey but unlike the increasingly 'communised' EU they do at least have a pretence at and a thirst for democracy!

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  • 53. At 00:55am on 02 Aug 2009, Hesiodos wrote:

    Good final blog, Mark. Liked the FOOC piece when I heard it, and again when I read it.

    If you bring such a good attitude and insight to the America desk, it'll be more than welcome, and a considerable improvement, I'm sad to say.

    Peace and Godspeed.

    Salaam/Shalom/Shanthi/Peace

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 54. At 01:18am on 02 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    threnodious;

    "These views, do not forget, come from the Bush era. The Bush administration was deeply unpopular over here just as the Chirac government was over there."

    The forces which propel nations to choose one course or another in those affairs which determine their destiny and that of the world transcend the mere inconsequential personalities and coincidental events of the moment. Chirac and deVillepin didn't speak for themselves but for a point of view that is rooted in where they came from, where they were, and its perspective of the world. It's not who you are but where you stand and what you see that determines what you will perceive. Theirs was a limited vision of a world in which the importance of what they valued most is shrinking and what sustained it is on the verge of extinction. There was nothing they could do to save it. The irony of course is that the very actions they took trying only accelerated the process they dreaded. Once the meteorite hit, the conditions for the dinosaurs to survive was gone. With the end of the cold war, the reasons for America to defend Europe and assure that it prospered no matter what else happened were also gone. Europe's extinction was inevitable because it failed to recognize that the change would eventually come and adapt to prepare for it. Of all of Europe's leaders in the last 50 years, Margaret Thatcher was the only one who saw it and tried. And for that she was loudly condemned and eventually expelled.

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  • 55. At 01:32am on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    threnodio @51 :o) I saw a couple of lines in the Russian media where they briefly mentioned "looks like EU has decided to pay for Ukrainian gas /gas for Ukrainians/ so that they will be able to pay us".
    Don't know the details; remember though that the last time we quarreled with the EU about what to do with Ukraine, Medvedev offered Brussels to keep Ukraine fifty-fifty. So may be you agreed to pay one half of their bills. May be the whole, in order to "influence" them alone. No idea.

    Generally, summer is the time when Ukraine is to pump up gas into their underground reservoirs, to stock them up, out of which Ukraine is pumping out in winter to send gas to the EU. Some technicalities.
    May be they stocked nil; that's why Brussels got alarmed.

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  • 56. At 02:05am on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    On the second thought, it must be because Medvedev finally refused Ukraine in 5bln dollar loan they wanted. As Julia T. wanted but Victor Joushenko said he doesn't :o) (as usual).
    Julia Timoshenko would be enough, as a PM she is entitled there to borrow alone, on behalf of whole Ukraine, but she was un-able to explain how they will return and when. And anyway it's troublesome, when country president officially declares he is against the loan.

    Overall I don't understand why 138 mln people Russia should finance 60 mln plus people Ukraine. They are healthier people, in a much warmer and healthier climate, quite energetic, in a large country, why do they see that Russia "ought to" give another loan , No 100, for granted. Because they do, and got angry when we refused, for the first time. We are not on so good terms that it should be taken for granted that we give a loan.
    After the gas war, I am simply amazed at the cheek.

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  • 57. At 03:50am on 02 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    WA

    "threnodio @51 :o) I saw a couple of lines in the Russian media where they briefly mentioned "looks like EU has decided to pay for Ukrainian gas /gas for Ukrainians/ so that they will be able to pay us."

    If the EU had one ounce of brains, they'd have done that the first time the Russians turned off the gas. When the USSR built those pipelines to Western Europe, they never considered that one day they'd lose control over a vital link between themselves and their customers in the west. How much could paying for Ukraine's gas cost the EU compared to having it turned off unpredictably whenever Ukraine and Russia have a dispute? And they don't know when it will be turned back on again. New pipelines through other routes are being built but it will take time and because they have to cross several countries to get from Russia to the west, there's no guarantee it won't happen again elsewhere. Meanwhile there are other threats. China and India will be looking greedily at their own needs and compete for the Russian supply. Russia has alienated foreign oil and gas companies who will no longer be willing to apply their expertise to help Russia increase production. Also, Russia's energy is a powerful political weapon when Europe does something it doesn't like. There has never been an in depth discussion here on what Europe's projected needs are, and what its long term alternatives are for meeting them. Also, there has been a complete disconnect between Europe's demands for oil and gas on one hand and its concerns about global warming on the other. There's some sort of imaginary wall that they put up as though these aren't connected and can be addressed separately. What a bunch of bananas run Europe.

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  • 58. At 06:18am on 02 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Mark writes: "Critics of the EU will say that it was Nato that kept the peace in Europe. But they are talking about keeping the Bear at bay, rather than solving the problem that plagued Europe for hundreds of years."

    As Marcus rightly pointed out, above, this is regrettable twaddle.

    Mardell, "they" are not talking about keeping the bear at bay. "They" are talking about the bear and the eagle keeping the European lords at bay, so the bear and the eagle could rebuild markets for their economies inside this geographical area.

    Still, I guess there is not much point in analyzing the words of someone who sees himself as writing the first draft of history when he hasn't the faintest grasp of how the world really works.

    The basic facts scream out for attention, if we are going to talk about european security. Reading this piece, you'd think that Germany and France were in a position to act with military aggression during the past 60 years, and that the EU somehow prevented this occurrence. Absolute fantasy. Sheer ignorance of the military facts of US troop deployments.

    And this ignorance of the military reality on the ground leads inevitably into a misunderstanding of the economic behaviour that is subsequent to the military activity. Mardell makes zero comment about the influence of US corporations on the political welfare of various EU states, because he just doesn't understand it. For all Mark seems to understand, the USA really was in Europe for the sake of the foolish Europeans, and didn't make a buck out of the deal, and doesn't have independent diplomatic relations with individual european states.

    His analyses of the "bear" is equally shallow. The bear?

    He means Russia and the former soviet union, all wrapped up into one bizarre bundle that we are supposed to understand existed as a threat to European states. So whereas the "bear" has removed its' troops from europe, and the USA has not, Mardell still sees the situation as some sort of cold war cliche.

    But worst of all, Mardell seems unaware of just how vacuous his coverage of the EU money spending has been. Consider these comments:

    "It's lucky that I rather enjoy tramping around muddy fields looking fascinated by the intricacies of food production, because the largest part of the EU's budget is spent on the Common Agricultural Policy.

    The reasonable demand that we should know how our money is being spent wasn't uppermost in my mind arriving, rather later in the day than we had intended, on a hillside in Transylvania, not far from one of the many places claiming to be the original Dracula's castle."

    And ?????

    So?????

    I mean, its twaddle. Yes, it is vaguely entertaining, if you want sort of half jokes about count dracula. But it is also completely vacuous. It says NOTHING. It doesn't inform anybody about how or why the EU gifts so many billions of taxpayers money to land owners across Europe.

    It doesn't mention that these gifts are never under scrutiny from national governments, and that the process is therefore beyond democratic control and taxation without representation. It doesn't investigate HOW the EU decided to choose the landowners in the new baltic states, or verify that the new landowners in Poland and the former communist states were legitimate recipients of UK taxpayers money.

    The is no investigation of these issues, nor any real information supplied. It is just a few vague comments that then ramble on to some other vague twaddle about nothing much at all.

    Mark, you are dead right when you say that the reasonable concern of how taxpayer money is spent has not been foremost in your mind. I think this is an adequate epitaph for your tenure as European correspondent.
    You think you are drafting history, and consequently your primary concern is to write flowing prose that reads rather nicely according to the chaps, but which doesn't step on any toes.

    This is not surprising, as after all you are a journalist who has taken a job with the BBC and is therefore paid for by the taxpayer.

    Well, let me offer you the following advice as you set off to spend the taxpayers pennies swanning around the USA: Prose is supposed to be a clear pane of glass, allowing the reader to look clearly at the subject matter.

    Just now your prose is muddied by a dominant reflection of your own vanity as a writer. You have little to say, and you are primarily concerned with saying it in a nice way. Perhaps if you were an investigative journalist you might investigate something, and perhaps if you cared about the taxpayer you'd hold government (both your own and EU) to account for how they spend OUR money.

    Good luck. You write much better when you decide to say something.

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  • 59. At 06:35am on 02 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "Russia has alienated foreign oil and gas companies who will no longer be willing to apply their expertise to help Russia increase production."

    Yeah they will.

    If there is the promise of a buck in, they will.

    And even if they don't..... why would the russians care?

    As you point out, they have the energy reserves, and Europe, India and China have the demand. If anything, Russia should be restricting the production of fossil fuels in order to drive up the price, and thereby give their indigenous industry a massive head start when counting the costs of production.

    A lot of folks have criticized russia for having a one dimensional economy, dependent on oil and gas exports. Well, so it follows that restricting production here is a good thing.

    Hasn't the USA passed laws to stop the exploitation of its remaining oil reserves, in order to force foreign reserves to be depleted first?

    Why don't you complain that this hurts US oil exports? Because it does.

    And as for this suggestion that it is a smart move for the EU to pay for Ukraine's gas bill...... how do you figure?

    In what way is this smart?

    I know you tend to see the world in back and white, but even you must admit that Ukraine has been characterized by the most appalling mismanagement of industry and political corruption. Paying her gas bill because otherwise she will threaten your gas supply...... how is this wise? What message does that send to Kiev?

    Anyway, the last time i checked, the EU didn't have these billions to be bailing out Ukraine. And inside Ukraine, what will be the result?

    Ukraine already gets massive subsidies from Russia. Well those are conditional on how Ukraine deals with the EU. Russia will take that money away if the EU gives it to Ukraine. Why? BECAUSE IT IS COMMON SENSE.

    The billions already promised to Ukraine from Russia are not going to flow if the EU offers them first. Net result? Ukraine in exactly the same position EXCEPT..... the money goes to Russia from the EU, via Ukraine, instead of gas going to Ukraine, from Russia, as a gift.

    In short, the EU is vying for position to be creditor of a country that can't pay it's bills. And as long as Ukraine continues to have a president who trades on anti Russian sentiment whilst presiding over a nation that speaks russian and writes russian and half of which thinks it is russian......... where does that lead?

    There is a Ukraine sized hole in eastern Europe, waiting for the EU to throw money into it. And as soon as the money is thrown in, it will fall out the other side into Russian banks. And in the end, Ukraine is going to side with Russia in foreign policy matters, because Ukraine would rather Poland be the prospective battle ground of the next European war, rather than Ukraine.

    Because Ukraine .... is ..... full..... of..... RUSSIANS!!!!

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  • 60. At 08:26am on 02 Aug 2009, bena gyerek wrote:

    bye bye mark. i hope you don't get bored in that parochial backwater. my recommendations: don't waste your money on cable tv, and watch out for the chlorine in the washington water supply.

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  • 61. At 08:49am on 02 Aug 2009, bena gyerek wrote:

    dt @ 59:

    tymoshenko and other west-leaning ukrainians realise now that yushchenko made a big strategic mistake. ukraine needs to focus on eu membership, not nato membership. eu membership is not perceived by russia as a threat, as the eu is not perceived as inherently anti-russian. it is for this same reason that eu membership is much more acceptable (less unacceptable) to the the population of south-eastern ukraine. moreover eu membership is much more useful than nato membership, and it implicitly carries a security guarantee anyway.

    if tymoshenko or yatsenyuk wins the election in january, i would expect a much more conciliatory public line towards russia coupled with an absolute determination to get into the eu asap. i would not be surprised if even a yanukovich presidency took this line. it is in ukraine's national interests.

    i also think eu membership for ukraine in the next 10-15 years is quite realistic, if the ukrainians do the right things. ukraine does not have a large and growing muslim population that is perceived as a threat by the electorates of other european countries. and i think after the western balkan indigestion, the big eu members will be glad to have a large country join, as this would help make the horse-trading at the heart of the european project become a bit more manageable again.

    btw, any talk of a general war between europe and russia is pure hyperventilation. proxy wars with nato, quite possibly. but not a general european war.

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  • 62. At 09:21am on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #61 - benagyerek

    Yes but, as thinks stand, Ukraine would struggle to meet the EU's criteria both regarding transparent democratic governance (as witnes the bi-polar struggles between the president and prime minister's departments and some of the dirty tricks used) and there would have to be huge concessions regarding the economic convergence criteria given the level of state borrowing.

    By contrast, some in NATO would like to lock in Ukraine as soon as practical while a perceived opportunity exists to take her out of the Russian sphere of influence once and for all. Personally, I view this hawkish approach as very misguided. Ukraine needs Russia for energy security and there is no getting away from the fact that a considerable number of Ukrainias are Russian. There would certainly be tensions in the Sebastobol situation and it would be a recipe for regional instability.

    I think your analysis that Russia views the EU, as opposed to NATO, as non-threatening is correct and I think we should be seizing on that to reach accomodations with the Russians wherever possible. I know this will incur the wrath of those who say that we would be letting them off the hook as regards human rights, progress towards - or rather away from - democracy and so on but I continue to believe that these are internal matters for the Russians and should not get in the way of normalisation.

    Any undue haste in involving Ukraine (or, for that matter, Georgia) could only harm this process given that I do not think they are ready anyway.

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  • 63. At 09:49am on 02 Aug 2009, SCL wrote:

    #30,

    Yes but Jorge you seem to miss the point that you are not (and neither am I) representative of the majority of the public out there who do not know anything about the EU. If we were, we would not be posting here on an EU related blog that most members of the public won't even know about.

    I wouldn't normally respond to somebody who tries to describe my views as "nonsense", as that sort of person is normally not worth wasting time on (all the time I have posted here it has never stopped to amaze me how the Very Pro-EU/Federalist individuals have adopted an unyielding "you don't agree with me therefore you are wrong!") but we will have to disagree quite clearly then on the fact that those who want to completely pull us out of an EU are mostly ill informed in this country as are most people in this country who would call themselves "pro European", this pro European attitude based on a feeling of "I have to be - to be Eurosceptic would be to be extreme like those crazy Tories" (at least up until recently - as I said, this will change over time with a new Tory government clearly).

    And Schengen and the Euro being successful is a different kettle of fish from the abolition of the Pillars and the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty as you should well know.

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  • 64. At 10:41am on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    Several strands of this thread come together here.

    #39 - ikamaskeip

    - was quite right to take issue with

    #36 - PeterPaulvD

    - about the EU claiming to be central to the Northern Ireland peace process. It is plainly rubbish. Actually, from the British perspective, one should identify Major and Ancram for indetifying the possibilities, Bill Clinton for having the courage to promote it to the Republican movement, George Mitchell for doing the hard work on the American initiative, de la Billiere for patiently monitoring it all and Mo Molem for thinking the unthinkable at the right time. One should not forget also the new realism in Dublin which contributed hugely and, of course, Alistair Cambell for making such Blair was in the right place to take all the credit.

    However we also know that huge economic benefits have accrued as a result of the peace process and that a considerable proportion of inward investment has been facilitated by the EU. Tat EU funding is usually channelled through government is established practice and the fact that the Falls Road is not littered with EU logos does not mean it has not participated fully.

    What the EU can also do is to provide an umbrella under which people can be treated equally and equitably. If the EU develops in the right way with an appropriate focus on local and regional incentives, issues such as Northern Ireland, Basque separatism, ethnic Russians in Latvia, Transyvanian Romanians and so on should receed as all of these peoples identities are secured within the wider project. This argument, of course, runs counter to the trend identified by many sceptics towards a centralised superstate and is one of the reasons why I have repeatedly said that the direction of the European project may well be wrong but that does not discredit the idea altogether.

    However, there is a big problem on the horizon because this view of Europe is heavily dependent on the free movement of people, goods and services. It is clear that, were it not for the British, the Irish Republic would have signed up for Schengen. British antipathy to Schengen and the resulting need for border controls could very well bring renewed tension and antipathy in the Irish situation and undo a great deal of what has been achived so far. Jorge is right to draw attention to this.

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  • 65. At 12:07pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    benaguerek, you are right, we are not same hysterical about EU joining Ukraine, oj sorry, the other way around :o)))) than about Ukraine joining NATO.
    The EU is still seen a peaceful organisation :o)))) in Russia, while the NATO - I'm sorry! :o) is not.
    So when a border country joins peacefully peaceful things it's alright, their business.
    But when a border country joins an anti, military block, armament gets closer to your borders, in simple terms, shorter flight times, and it is un-lovely and better be avoided until not too late.

    However, in Ukraine joining the EU the first gaping abyss that arises is non-visa circulation btw Russia and Ukraine and absence of borderline built(physically), between Russia and Ukraine.

    This means that either the EU decides it can live non-visa with Russia, as, without a borderline - there is no natural stopping of Russians and Ukrainians hopping in between in all directions, or the EU starts building a loooong Chinese wall - because don't even hope Russia will pick up the cost, why should we, we've got 1/2 Ukraine Russians. and Ukraine has money nil.
    ? kind of a riddle

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  • 66. At 12:12pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    On the other hand, even Israel, who are traditionally very alert about terroristic threats and various dangers, arising from arriving people, like, very careful about their border control procedure - bravely decided last autumn they can live with Russians arriving without visas and warnings, that they will not check the papers and sources in advance re who is going to come, they simply let all Russian passport holders in. They decided we are not going to blow them up :o) or harm in any way, so , you see, some people are brave :o))))

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  • 67. At 12:14pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    This must be because Israel is 25% Russians by now anyway, so what for the papers? those 25% have acquaniances and anyway can tell who is coming, by simply checking their telephone books :o)))

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  • 68. At 12:23pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Mavrelius, you are geographically wrong, the new tubes built towards the EU from Russia are direct, on the sea bottoms, no transit countries on the way. The third tube, Nabukko, does go on land, but via places the EU thinks are in its "sphere of influence" - Turkey, to who the EU memebership is vaguely promised, so on a hook, and small countries other.
    With China, yes, all bad. I don't know why such Gazprom idiocy, but after the February gas war, when Ukraine was supported as a white fluffy darling by the EU and all scolded us, Kremlin must have gone desperate about ever finding an understanding with the EU, looked around for other customers as sources of income, and signed up an oil deal with China.

    By this deal - it is leg chains. We have signed up for providing China with outrageously huge amounts of oil, at outrageously small price, for years ahead, I need to look up the details, nobody exactly boasts of the deal here :o)) it was a passing short info

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  • 69. At 12:25pm on 02 Aug 2009, Silverian wrote:

    I am new to this blog. Mr Mardell, I believe you have done your best whilst attempting to cover this vast place called the EU. Was your best good enough? In my opinion it was... simply because you tried (at least) to have a reasonably balanced approach. Good luck with your new assignment.

    I am a European and my partner is American. I have managed to have some sort of insight into the 'psyche' of both cultures. I am against people in the EU and the US who tend to severely criticise every aspect of life and government on the opposite side of the Atlantic.

    Overall, the US has been a force for good and progress. Europe is in some people's eyes (even today) the source of all war and evil. A pretencious and corrupt force that cannot make up its mind on anything and is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    The truth of the matter is, Europe is the source of most aspects of modern human civilisation, good and bad.

    Some commentators of this blog(e.g. Marcusaurelius) will accuse EU officials of being crazy, of being of low mental capacity, having no vision being corrupt etc etc. I'm sure they know that corruption is an integral part of any administration even in the US.

    In Europe/EU we haven't yet managed to match our American friends for their amazing ability to adapt to change and perhaps social mobility is not as manageable as it is in the US. However, we are also a force for good, for quality rather than quantity and (until recently) social cohesion rather than outright exploitation of people and resources.

    The EU needs to be more open and democratic to its citizens. It is not because Europeans would be more likely to react to a lot of things the EU does. Isn't that what happens in every 'Democracy' in the world today? That does not mean we should accept it. Nevertheless, it is hypocritical of all eurosceptics and US-idealists to claim that the EU is the 'bad guy' in international and national politics.

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  • 70. At 12:25pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Right I read someone of analysts saying, that "China does not need to take Russia military - "they can buy whole Russia, all they want."

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  • 71. At 1:04pm on 02 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    threat to democracy;

    Russia has only one effective weapon left in the world and that is the energy it sells in the form of oil and gas. It is also it's one valuable source of foreign revenue except for the arms it sells to countries like Venezuela who can't buy them from the US. Europe doesn't rely entirely on Russia but the percentage it buys is great enough to make the difference between Europe having a sufficient supply and having serious shortages especially in some countries like Poland and Germany. At the moment, Ukraine is a bottleneck in the delivery system. Much of this resource that is critical to Europe flows through Ukraine which is no longer a Soviet slave state and at least is theoretically an independent nation beyond Russia's control. But Ukraine cannot afford the cost of Russian oil and gas it needs for itself which it must now buy at world prices, the cost no longer being subsidized by the USSR. But for Europe, if Ukraine can't pay and Russia cuts them off, they are also cutting off the supply to the EU. This is why it is in the interest of some EU members to pay to subsidize Ukraine's gas needs, it is assuring that it's own needs will be met at least for the time being. For nations like Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, the burden is not nearly as great as the penalty for Russia cutting off its supply.

    Investments in large scale energy projects require huge amounts of capital, a long time to design and build, a vast range of technical and managerial expertise, and the payback on that investment can take decades. Russia does not have that expertise within its borders which is why it relied on huge private oil firms from the outside. This entails risk but BP and Shell both got burned because the Russian government effectively expropriated these investments before those expected profits could materialize. This was a warning to all future investors in Russia's energy sector, you will only be allowed to invest until the projects are complete enough for Russia to take them over and then you will be thrown out with or without some compensation. Russia's insistance on maintaining complete control over its energy sector and its track record of expropriation is a deterrent to further foreign investment not only in that sector but in all sectors. BTW, the operation an maintenance of these plants also requires a great deal of expertise and investment to be sustained, a fact both Venezuela and Bolivia will learn the hard way. It's fact both Iran and Iran have also learned from experience.

    WA

    Some new pipelines will go under the sea but others won't. Don't be so sure about good will between Turkey and the EU. Both the governments of France and Austria have declared publically that they will block any efforts for Turkey to join. Others who feel the same way may just be silent for the time being. Approval of new applicants requires unanimous approval of existing members.

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  • 72. At 1:43pm on 02 Aug 2009, bena gyerek wrote:

    threnodio @ 62

    i certainly agree that ukraine has a lot to do to get in. but eu membership has always been a process by which countries "normalise" their political and economic institutions in a bid to join. in order for that process to work, there has to be a credible prospect of eventual membership once the hard work has been done. this is why turkey has been slipping the past couple of years - why make hard (and politically dangerous) decisions over cyprus, the military, armenia, etc when sarkozy would veto membership anyway? however, my point is that in the case of ukraine i think the prospect of eventual membership is now very credible. one can only hope that the january elections will allow the country to escape from messy immature cohabitation politics and establish a governing coalition united by a desire to ready the country for membership as soon as possible. slovakia post-meciar springs to mind.

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  • 73. At 2:23pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #72 - benagyerek

    Fair comment. In a way, this new deal could be a good testing ground. If Ukraine is as good as it's word, uses the new funding to pay Gazpron and ensures next winter's supplies to the EU, they will have made some progress to that end. If January's elections occur in an atmosphere of energy crisis because they have not delivered, one suspects they will have blown it for some time to come.

    This still does not affect my view that ongoing animosity over niggling issues with Russia is not helpful to anyone.

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  • 74. At 2:49pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Mavrelius, not a single foreign oil and gas company left Russia, all are here, and still find it profitable business, in spite of bureaucracy and having to mind Russian laws (and whimsies). Rather, you won't be able to pull anyone away by the ears. :o)))) It is difficult enough to enter, but after you did, you only grow presece in various sectors and shares and deals at different excavation/obtaining places. Which are -around 50 sites.

    Haven't seen any one saying "Oh? Then we are packing up. You will regret." Germany grows its presence, in anticipation of the North Stream. Which is understandable, they want to be on both ends of the pipe. But not limited by the North Stream supply site.

    I regularly see on TV TNK-BP foreign chaps interviewed and translated, speaking of their problems and successes this and that, giving updates, complaining on this and that, or telling figures/numbers/ whatever.
    They don't pepper heads with ashes but rather look quite, how to say, involved and focused on running the business details, busy-bodies.

    And why do you despair so much about Shell? Every fourth-fifth fuel station on the roads seems to be Shell's, they don't seem exactly poor sufferers to me.

    "investors deterred". Not very much "deterred", well, in fact yes, on hold, by the crisis. Un-sure of the mass market ability to buy. Car assembly foreign factories have stopped last week, most of them, for the whole August. Sent employees on 2/3 paid leave but doing nothing. To sell away car stocks and not to make more in August.
    But when it's not mass market, it goes on. Half of Holland seemingly, for example, is building a new port in St. Petersburg now. On the land they create in the process, making a new island in the sea. And who would know better nearby us, the Dutch know how to gain land from sea.

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  • 75. At 2:58pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    An illustration on the borderline btw Russia and Ukraine at present.
    I recently sold two antique rugs to a travelling Ukrainian in expedition to St.Petersburg after old carpets. Currency of the deal - cash dollars, in 100-dollar banknotes. :o) Means of the girl who was buying carpets arrival - daily train St. Petersburg - Kiev. Visa concerns - none, just a train ticket, the return one she bought an hour before train departure, at the RW station. Travel time - 24 hrs. Customs' check in teh train one would think are existing. However allowing cash dollars stocks LOL in thousands, and allowing the return journey with 36 (thirty six) antigue (very, very visisbly antigue) carpets in the luggage. :o))))

    One would think the Customs' aren't exactly raging in that train, because simply imagine the amount of bribe you have to give to pull through awfully expensive 36 antique huge carpets. You'll be robbed. Looks, it's not a problem.

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  • 76. At 3:11pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #71 - MarcusAureliusII

    I completely agree.

    This is why we need to stop getting high and mighty about the internal affairs of Russia, normalise relations and stop giving them an excuse to mess around with BP and Shell and an opportunity to Ukraine to play both ends. What Clinton H calls pressing the reset button.

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  • 77. At 3:47pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    threnodio, "we'll see", "if Ukraine is as good as their word" :o)
    You mean, they might take the loan and still not pay their gas bills with it :o))))) now, that will be something! even for Ukraine! :o)))
    Anyway we all hope all is well that ends well, I mean it is not so complex a task we all hope, to pass over borrowed money to Russia, not very high a standard that the EU sets them :o))) a loop to hop through, I trust in Ukraine's ability :o)))))

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  • 78. At 3:48pm on 02 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Silverian and #69.

    Re, "..Nevertheless, it is hypocritical of all EUrosceptics and US-idealists to claim that the EU is the 'bad guy' in international and national politics."

    It is perfectly true that no International group whether a collection of Nations, Companies, People is 'all good': Look no further than the UNO, EXXON, Hamas etc. for such.

    However, your generous defence of the European Union simply does not bear any close examination.

    1) Which international union of States has for the 5th Parliamentary Election in in a row seen a decline in Electoral Turnout of Citizens and for the last 3 elections has failed to even achieve 50%? EU.
    2) Which international union of States has flouted results of Referenda held in member states over the last decade and insisted on the introduction of Rules-Regulations-Authorities-Policies that referenda had shown were rejected by the Citizens? EU.
    3) Which international union of States has at its core policy-making an unelected Commission unresponsive and unaccountable to any Citizens; and a Supreme Court that supplants all National Legal systems despite those Laws being made by Nationally Elected Governments with policies that must have had the support of Citizens? EU.
    4) Which international union of States has persued a policy of Federalisation without any indication of a mandate from Citizens: This is plain from recent election results which showed clear support of groups in favour of more integration but as overall Citizen Turnout was less than 45% of total electorate there is clearly substantial doubt amongst Citizens? EU.
    5) Which international union of States has over the past decade begun to form an entirely new International Defence Force drawing investment, resources and personnel from the Atlantic alliance, NATO, and thus reduced the overall collective effectiveness of NATO? EU.
    6) Which international union of States has failed entirely to cope with the ongoing Economic downturn resulting in record levels of bankrupt companies, record high unemployment and in some areas among under-25s, 1 in 3 unemployment: This is despite its much vaunted, never-ending proclamation of 'stength-through-unity' and 'one-size-fits-all' which quite patently from recent months has been proven an utter failure for member States and its Citizens? EU.
    7) Which international union of States has shown by its foreign and military policy direction undermining opposition to the USA and undermining disruption to Russia's western borders? EU.

    Of course that is not to say every other State and organisation etc. is not also persuing their self-interest, however, the EU is at the forefront of policies that almost entirely are at odds with the free-will of the 450,000 Citizens and of stirring up international tension where there is no need, and therefore is most certainly as 'bad' as it gets in National and International terms.

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  • 79. At 4:35pm on 02 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    threnodious I think you misunderstood me. My posting was merely one of observation. I have no sympathies one way or the other but in fact as you well know, I see Europe as America's adversary. Whether Europe has good relations with Russia or Russia breaks off diplomatic ties is of no concern to me. Russia right now is like a wounded animal, frightened, angry, and has revenge in mind. They will never be the USSR again, Vlad Putin's dreams notwithstanding and so they will no longer pose a threat to invade Western Europe militarily. Since preventing the USSR from doing that was the sole purpose of NATO, I see no reason for it to continue to exist. As a mutual defense alliance it stinks. America was attacked by a force in Afghanistan and Pakistan yet most NATO countries have not come remotely close to fulfilling their obligations under the treaty. Why should America then stay? I'm sure the money it would save by pulling out of Europe would go a long way to paying for national health care insurance in the US. If Europe wants to defend itself militarily, let it pay for its own defense. We'll see how much it has left for a social safety net if it does...or who attacks it if it doesn't.

    What Europe never understood is that its current state of prosperity such as it is was not brought about by its own efforts. After WWII, the US was very worried that the USSR would take over Western Europe the way it enslaved Eastern Europe. The US government could not bring about prosperity that would make conditions for communist ideology to take root and grow unlikely by itself. It called on the efforts of American industry, the most powerful engine of wealth in the world. It did this through tax incentives, giving Europeans free access to the American market, the largest single market in the world while allowing it protectionist tarrifs to protect its domestic markets, and other strategies. But that has come to an end as Europe was rebuilt and no longer needed it. It was shifted to China because 35 years ago, China was a very dangerous nation. Today Europe must compete on a level playing field for all markets against all products from around the world. It is not well equipped to do this. It's culture and mentality are not geared for it the way its competitors are and its hubris makes it blind to its extreme vulnerability and plight. In the global competition for resources, markets, investments, it is in a losing position with no likelihood of change for the better.

    WA

    There is little profit in gas stations selling gas. Many if not most of the Mobil and Exxon stations near me have become Lukeoil which is Russian. Naturally I don't buy my gas there anymore. Who knows what kind of dioxin it's tainted with.

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  • 80. At 4:37pm on 02 Aug 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ SCLSCL

    I would like to clarify that I didn't label your comment as 'nonsense'. What I said is that it reminded me of some nonsense that I read on the Torygraph.

    Neither I deliberately tried to 'adopt an unyielding "you don't agree with me therefore you are wrong!" '

    All I said is that my opinion of the EU is not affected by government propaganda and I stick to my guns that the extract that I quoted from the Torygraph (see #30) is utter nonsense.

    As a general comment I will say this: If the EU is a superstate (which is not), as the Eurohaters never cease to claim, the UK is definitely not part of it, precisely as a result of the influence of the Eurohaters and their unelected tabloid bureaucrats, something that they, the Eurohaters, never admit (i.e. that Britain is not part of any supposedly existing superstate).

    If there is a superstate called the EU, I have never heard of any territory that is member of a superstate that doesn't share the same currency with the rest of that superstate and that has picket fences with border police to separate itself from the rest of that superstate.

    Therefore the facts contradict the hysterical rants of the Eurohaters.

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  • 81. At 4:39pm on 02 Aug 2009, Itsallaboutwinning wrote:

    All I will say is that it concerns legislation on the WEEE Directive - is that important enough?

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  • 82. At 5:32pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #78 - ikamaskeip

    Normally, while we do not often agree on matters EU, I hold you views in great respect but, in this thread, you seem to have gone completely over the top.

    1). Elections and turn out. The logical outcome of this argument is not that the EU is not worth the candle but that democracy is not worth it. If our case is that people were denied the right to vote, I would agree. But they were not denied anything. They simply didn't bother. You could equally well argue that, presented with the opportunity to stab the whole project in the jugular, the EUsceptic movement failed spectacularly. If you want to build a case against the EU, you cannot rely on voter apathy because it cuts both ways.

    2). Flouting results of referenda? Where? When? Agaiun, I have repeatedly agreed with you that rebranding Lisbon as a treaty to avoid referenda was indefensible and that referring back the Irish result is highly questionable. What you allege is of an entirely different order. You suggest at 1) that people don't care about democracy then, at 2) imply that there is none anyway. You kill a perfectly good argument by overstating the case.

    3). Yes, valid point but it remains in the power of nation states to institute national constitutional courts with the necessary powers. The fact that those which do have such institutions may not use them to your liking - for example recently Germany, you cannot blame on the EU. I agree about the Commission and have long pressed for reform.

    4). See 1). above.

    5). I don't know. Please tell me. I mean, if you are suggesting that the European Defence Force is acting against the interests of NATO, why are the Americans and Canadians not up in arms about it? Why are they broadly supportive? Could not be because you are clutching at straws could it?

    6). This would be the economic policy that has so disaterously failed that the currency is in demand aganst the dollar, sterling, the yen and the SF to the extent that those currencies now look vulnerable, would it?

    7). I am not sure I even understand that one. The EU does not have a collective foreign and defence policy, if it did the undermining of opposition to the US would, I would have thought have been welcomed by Washington. I have no idea why we or anyone else would want to disrupt Russias western borders or of any attempts to do so.

    Since when has the EU become an 'international union of States'? How can you possibly know that it is 'at the forefront of policies that almost entirely are at odds with the free-will of the 450,000 Citizens' when, as you state at 1), not many have bothered to express an opinion of any description? And who are you suggesting is 'stirring up international tension where there is no need'?

    Uncharacteristic over-icing of the cake, I fear.

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  • 83. At 5:51pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    On the subject of statistics, in their respective referenda Netherlands voted 61.6% against on a turnout of 63.3%, France was against by 58.87% on an impressive 70% turnout and Ireland 53.4% on a 53.1% turnover.

    #78 - ikamaskeip

    Now since you are fond of using electoral (or rather non-voting) statistics to make your case, would you not agree it is perfectly possible to infer that 61.01% of the Dutch, 65.6 of the French and an astonishing 72.6% of the Irish did not have a problem with the proposition on offer? Or do your turnout figures only matter when they suit your case?

    Not only do you over-ice the cake, you seem to want to have it and eat it too.

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  • 84. At 5:56pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #81 - SteveINMalta

    I am sure it is important but where is it - this horrendous typo? It may be Sunday afternoonbut some of us have btter things to do than play Watson and Holmes. Be specific please or just leave it.

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  • 85. At 6:18pm on 02 Aug 2009, oliderid wrote:

    MarcusAureliusII
    "What Europe never understood is that its current state of prosperity such as it is was not brought about by its own efforts. After WWII, the US was very worried that the USSR would take over Western Europe the way it enslaved Eastern Europe. The US government..."

    It is certainly not my aim to diminish the US Marshall plan. But using a 60 years old event to describe ad nauseum every single current European political event is rather limited.

    For your own good, read this loudly:
    the USA is the greatest country that has ever existed. You are great! Everybody wants to be like you. What's the point to make a blog about Europe, we should talk about the USA on every single blog the BBC provides. Every American tourist should be worshiped like a God for what they forefathers once did. Flowers should be put on his path. Singers should entertain their visits of any touristic places. All Europeans should start their day singing "I thank the USA!". Dear We love you,
    you are our heroes. The new Roman Empire, the pride of the western world, the almost invisible army, the arms, the heart and the brain of the free world.

    Read again and again until you feel no need to bomb this blog with your American nationalists posts.

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  • 86. At 6:41pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #79 - MarcusAureliusII

    I don't thik I misunderstood, Marcus. For once, I agreed with you. If you find that distressing, I will try to do better in future.

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  • 87. At 6:57pm on 02 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio #82 and #83.

    Sorry, been there before with you: Electoral Turnout is what it is each and everytime. A 'mandate' in electoral terms is, 'support for a policy or course of action, regarded by a victorious party/group/candidate as derived from the wishes of the people in an election' (Concise Oxford).

    If you are claiming the no-show in European Parliament elections is an endorsement/mandate and vice-versa the no-show in referenda then you have joined the ranks of the duplicitous 'pro-EU' as opposed to the reasoned proponent.

    Some of of your points in #82 are just plain wrong or misguided wishful-pro-EU-thinking: The EUro did climb against other international-value currencies during the opening months of the crisis, but has been declining again in relative terms against all major currencies on money-markets across the board over recent weeks as the EU ineffectiveness in the Economic crisis has been exposed and National Governments have had to step in: There is nothing to suggest the EU has any significant part to play in the Economic Recovery. Quite apart from which do not be misled by currency exchange-rates as they are not the universal final indicator of Economic-Financial well-being (otherwise the Dollar would be on the floor); rather the currency is a measure of qualitative Gross National Capital Income and Gross National Product by which standard the USA is still first compared to China, India, Japan, Germany and our former Isles... G.B. which on that scale is 14th in the World Economy. I could go into tedious detail but that's not the purpose of this little debate with you.

    Please, we have rehearsed the Constitution argument many times before and going over it again is pointless; and, correct me if I am wrong, but is not Eire having to vote again on Lisbon?
    The Constitution via Lisbon is a direct flouting of the votes of the Dutch and French electorate and for you to try to traduce the key-point - - EU will have its Constitution by hook or by crook (typically EU both former and latter apply) - - simply shows a lack of candour that I had thought you at least might rise above.
    The same applies with the European Court of Justice which you half-heartedly agree and then try to wriggle around - - fact: The ECJ can over-ride every single Law and Regulation made in the national Parliament of any of the 27 members - - thus, it is above and is able to negate the wishes of the Citizens as expressed in that Ballot box you elsewhere in your comment press on me as being sacrosanct!

    I do not 'know', but very much deduce from the available evidence the EU is in the forefront of anti-democratic forces opposing free-will of 450,000,000 Citizens, but again, as the great majority of the EU Citizens for the 5th time did not by over 50% vote for the EU's pre-eminent Public institution I am very certain you and other pro-EU (e.g. Barroso) have absolutely no right to claim a Mandate for any expansion to the East (which is unsettling Russia) or for a European Defence Force (which is unsettling NATO) and threatens the stability of the Atlantic Alliance.
    Jukka_R would have us believe if it is old it is passe and therefore of no relevance to the future of Europe and UK/England; well, the 60 year NATO and 90 year Atlantic Alliance should not be dismissed for the sake of over-ambitious little tyrannos seated in Paris-Berlin-Brussels. He thinks they are the future! Surely you know better?

    It is clear from your points that you are now leaning heavily toward the Paris-Berlin-Brussles axis of ill-intent which I believe intentionally wishes to undermine the USA and must to achieve that, break the historically strong UK/England alliance with North America/NATO. That is your choice: I believe that EU policy is the way to a disaster and will end in war.

    There is no over-icing; there is a mortal fear for my children and grandchildren's future: I urge you and all who share your pro-EU views to reconsider and not allow the ancient, divisive, dangerous pipe-dream of pan-European unity to once more bestride Europe. No good at all will come of it.
    I cannot put it more starkly than that.

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  • 88. At 8:16pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    "If you are claiming the no-show in European Parliament elections is an endorsement/mandate and vice-versa the no-show in referenda then you have joined the ranks of the duplicitous 'pro-EU' as opposed to the reasoned proponent".

    No, of course I do not claim that. I simply argue that you are not entitled to claim the opposite. You simply cannot reasonably infer that the lack of a ringing endorsement is, by definition, rejection. If you were arguing that widespread indifference indicated that the whole project is not worth the candle, I would reluctantly be forced to concede but you don't stop there. You assume that apathy and antipathy are one and the same. I simply do not accept that argument.

    I do concede that you are the economist, not me, so I will not persist with the economic argument though I have encountered those who would. It was central to my earlier post that Lisbon without referenda was indefensible and I have absolutely no enthusiasm for the Ireland rerun so there is no point in going there. We agree.

    Since we have been down this road before, you know I am not an enthusiast for the Berlin-Paris Axis (I actually see Brussels as a cog in their machine - not a partner in it) so again, we are not light years apart. I will even agree that you are probably correct about the EU having their constitution by hook or by crook.

    I simply am unable to see the EU as an organisation that has set it's face against NATO and is willfully disrupting the world global order to its own ends. It is in desperate need of radical reform, it is moving in the wrong direction and it is flatly refusing to see what is staring it in the face - a huge democratic deficit which current thinking will simply enhance. But it is not the evil empire in the making and we will not change it but hoping and conspiring to make it go away and the selective use of electoral data serves neither of our causes well.

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  • 89. At 9:59pm on 02 Aug 2009, ironfranco wrote:

    @20 SuffolkBoy2
    You are welcome. I would rather communicate under my real name but we should play the game as per the rules of the BBC.
    @33 Threnodio
    I have missed several occasions to comment your posts which I approve almost entirely.
    If I should make the balance of it, the result would be very sad, at least for me, being an euro enthusiast. All important and sensible topics concerning the strengthening of the EU M.M. launched lately for comments would trigger responsive and working ideas among many bloggers here the majority of whom come from the mainland of Europe. At the same time, there are other bloggers who would cancel easily the Lisbon treaty and who would neglect or would totally disapprove of all the positive results of the half century existence of the EU /calling it EUSSR etc./. As long as I understand many /if not all/ of the said bloggers come mainly from the UK & the US.
    Nothing to do my friend, *personne nest prophete dans son pays* /fr./ (nobody is a prophet in his kingdom). M.M. is not an exception in this case (and so are you).

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  • 90. At 10:09pm on 02 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Mavrelius, "saving Western Europe" "from military take over" by USSR.
    ugh. you over-estimate your services. what was there to take. we have divided - with you - and Britain - and kept by an inch to the deal - a./
    (ugly as it sounds now)
    b./ what was there to take. France USSR was friendly with anyway, the only capitalistic country. all perfumes and cultural exchange programmes.

    Britain was the previous war ally, and anyway can't imagine Russia attempting Britain. uncompatible, a no-go exercise.

    Of Germany we had the politically correct best part :o))))

    With Spain Russia was always kind of feeling, not alien. So many Spanish children exported here out of the war (in which we theoretically did not participate :o))))
    With Italy we always sympathised. Before our revolution they were as poor as us, thus, understanding. Besides a hat off for their one live museum type of a country.

    So what would be to bother about - in the great expedition - to conquer Benelux?

    Better remember how you were saving Vietnam, from I don't know who, for 12 years. Until you had to pull out. Anniversary 2nd of Aug. To saving Vietnam the USA were morally prepared to lose more people than you allocated to the 2ndWW.
    Vietnam exactly cost the USA ten (10) times more than the whole 2ndWW, in loss and wounded. First France was saving Vietnam, pre-war, then Japan was saving Vietnam, during the 2ndWW, then France again post-war was saving Vietnam, by the French Legion, which in Vietnam consisted mostly of Germans, then the USA joined the Vietnam saving campaign, and fought the same people. I think there is more to NATO, than "protecting Western Europe from the USSR".

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  • 91. At 10:15pm on 02 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio and #88.

    An 'evil empire': Now that is where we have to part company entirely.

    The European Union is exactly that; it is the modern incarnation of any pan-European exploitative hegemony you care to mention.
    Just because the EU was created by subtlety and not brute force does not mean the overmighty-centralising-aggrandizing driving force is not at work. On the contrary, the EU is all the more dangerous to UK/England and European Citizenry for all the stealth it has shown in its gradual rise to supreme power.

    Ask yourself:

    1) Is it the Nation State that the EU represents?
    2) Is it the National Citizen that the EU represents?
    3) Is it the indefinable conglomeration that the EU represents?

    In my opinion it cannot be '1' it represents as no manner of 'Democracy' could ever be devised to suit 27, 28, 29, 30... disparate Nations: It is quite simply unfeasible as a working political entity.
    So, it is even more unlikely to be '2' the EU represents for if it cannot create a 'Democratic' method for 28 Countries how is it even considered to be able to take care of the interests of hundreds of millions of People.
    Thus, we are left with '3'! But what is '3'? How is '3' constituted? Is '3' real, or some ephemeral-near liquid format? But how then can there be a 'conglomeration' if nothing is really tangible?

    Well, let us see what is allowing the EU to be afloat: Whether we agree on the interpretation or not of the Ballot box results it is clearly not dependent/reliant on the overwhelming support of the Citizens; equally, it is not the overwhelming conviction of the 28 States body-politic who regularly undermine it to Citizens, convey and incorporate its policies to suit themselves (opt-outs etc.) and/or abuse its regulations and funding etc.; one very underwhelming Tune aside played for Eurovision sponsored events etc. the EU has no cultural-heritage identity directly attributable to its formation; EU rules-regulations-directives are not stirring the blood or capturing the hearts and minds of a Hungarian anymore than they do a Briton, a Greek, or a Swede and as for identifying with and upholding EU standards and values it would difficult to find anyone who actually knows what EU stands for that is any different from what each Nation already had in place (given the downfall of communism made the 'east' progression to acceptable-recognised forms of 'democratic' institutions more recent).

    So, are we not all protected by those 'democratic institutions'? As the individual Citizen has in practise very limited access to that democratic process within their Nation whatever form it takes the 'protection' is reliant on the scrupulous adherence to established legal methods supposedly guaranteed to each one of us as Rights and Responsibilities. Put simply, if there is a miscarriage we all rely on the Law to correct that error at some stage and we all have equal access to the Law in order to be able to do so. The Rights and Responsibilities under a Legal framework took hundreds of years in the making.
    I wonder if more than a few thousand French realise their beloved EU totally did away with their Napoleonic Code Civil which France's children are still all taught about and urged to uphold in school lessons!? The same is applicable from Madrid to Helsinki to Vienna and Valletta.

    The EU has forsaken all that long-established legal protectionism for the individual: Ironically, the EU has used its pre-eminent Authority to circumvent and usurp Common Law and replace it with EU Statute which all Citizens are subject to and yet those Laws final arbiter is an EU Legal agency and along the way to it all National Police and Judicial Forces etc. have also to submit to the higher power that is the EU.

    Thus was Democratic accountability removed as a Right from the Citizens and hardly one of them blinked an eye!

    We are left then with the traditional motivators of human kind as the grounds for the EU's existence: The attainment of Power/Authority in order to attain Money and Profit.
    There is '3' and the 'conglomeration' - - a marvellous invention the EU - - tell the Citizens it is all being done for them whilst all the time it only exists for those that can actually thrive on its unverifiable, unresponsive, undemocratic institutions.

    Take the Working Time Directive: A classic of the EU unity syndrome - - ostensibly there to ease/equalise the burden of the workers - - reality has business in control of the workforce/labour market and able to affect pay and conditions on a daily basis. Power-Money-Profit.
    Take the open-borders policy - - EU liberating the flow of Citizens and Goods between nations cannot be argued - - though that liberation allows significant increase in exploitation of vulnerable people, huge growth in transport of illegal substances, creation of a permanent migratory-transient workforce underclass. Power-Money-Profit.

    Thus the EU to succeed must be a self-perpetuating entity needing (and indeed ambivalent toward) neither Public nor National support but reliant on and in turn relied upon by the tentacles of big-business and global networking of its facilities and services. There are only a few years ahead of the EU for it to review and revise its methods by political means; if it does not it may implode by an awakening of the Citizens, but as likely EU will adapt to conditions and abandon the pretence of Parliamentary democracy and settle for a Brussels' Reichstag Enabling Law whereby Brussels may Govern for x number of years unchallenged by tiresome things like Elections of MEPs who will be reaffirmed in-post by Authority of the Commission!

    At the International level the EU is an expansionist entity driven by that trio of malcontents Paris-Berlin-Brussels who are in thrall to global goals for yet more Power-Money-Profit. It is no less of a search and calculated desire for 'lebensraum' in the east than it was in the 1930s or when Caesar Augustus invaded Gaul. The same motives exist: They drive unimaginative-unscrupulous leadership to ever greater gambles with the lives of their Citizens. Human nature being what it is there will come a time when a Barosso or a successor will attempt one more aggrandizing initiative and human nature being predictable the opposing, most affected power whether it be Russia, USA or even further afield will strike back because they will feel all warnings have gone unheard and no other option remains.

    'Selective use of data' is not what is ill-serving the Citizens of Europe though the EU is past master at that bit of symmetry too, however, far more importantly the presentation of the EU as a cause for peace and prosperity is the great disservice being done to 450,000,000.

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  • 92. At 10:39pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #89 - ironfranco

    Thank you for you remarks but I would guess you posted them before my #88 appeared. You may not be quite so well disposed towards my thoughts now. Let me be clear that I remain enthusiastic about the EU project but I also think that the current leadership are heading in the wrong direction. I do not even specifically oppose Lisbon but I do believe that the process lacks democratic credibility and is flawed for that reason. Ikamaskeip has, in my view, overstated the case more than somewhat but I do believe there has been a certain high-handedness and arrogance about the way in which the Commission and Coucil have cheerfully assumed they can bulldoze the whole process through without taking proper account of public opinion. I do not agree that public antipathy should be interpreted as antipathy as I posted earlier but I do believe that the EU must now take urgent steps to redress the democratic deficit. Without this, I fear we are all heading towards ever growing polarisation and discord which could eventually end in the whole process 'coming off the rails'. If we are to avoid this and move on, the EU has to fundamentally rethink its relationship with ordinary voters while there are still some of us left. If not, I fear they may mistakenly hand victory on a plate to their opponents.

    On a lighter note, I have just had an opportunity to watch a feature length 'Yes Minister'. Much of it was focused on EEC matters (as it then was). It was entertaining to note how very little has really changed in the last quarter of a century when it comes to attitudes. It remains very funny.

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  • 93. At 11:22pm on 02 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    In 2005, an election result secured on a 36.1% majority of the popular vote on a turnout of just 61.4% but resulting in a ligislative majority of 55%. It was gained, in part, by an undertaking to give a referendum on a new European constitution which was never realised because this was renegotiated and rebranded as a treaty. In the meantime, the then leader was replaced quite arbitarily and without any democratic mandate in what amounted to a one party coronation. Throughout the lifetime of this administration, it has lived in the thrall of big business, been driven remorseless by the ambitions of an unregulated handful of people with a grossly disproportionate share of wealth with disaterous consequences for the economy. During this period, it has eroded layer upon layer of civil rights, spying on its own people, stripping away freedom after freedom. It has pursued a foreign policy (if you can call it that) which has been dictated for the most part from a capital city not a a few hundred kilometers away but 3,500 miles away which has led to two hugely unpopular wars, one of which is still in progress.

    Brussels, Barroso, the EU? I don't think so.

    The 'evil empire' - if it ever becomes a reality - will be the sum of it's parts and the child of it's creators. So please do not lecture me about democracy. They are not many of us left old enough to remember what the word means.

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  • 94. At 00:08am on 03 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    By the way, a very nice photo, "Mardell family on the move (again) :o)
    Sweet.

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  • 95. At 01:25am on 03 Aug 2009, McFlensburger wrote:

    Thanks Mark,

    Your final blog from Europe made me finally to sign-up and enter the BBC blogoshare. I have read most of your blogs and found to be oddly at home in them, as you tried so much better then me to explain to your mainly british readers how the diversity of the different european people made Europe work and why this diversity is so important to keep it working. You came across as one of the few, born in this country (UK), that tried to understand why there is quite such a determination on the 'continent' to make the EU working, with all its short comings. Living in your country now for nearly 20 years and having watched all the ups and downs of Britan's relation to and with the EU, I am sad to see you leave your post, as you tried to understand what the european idea was and still is. A coming together of the european people after centuries of war living in peace and preserve this peace, as there is enough war going on elsewere. I think you understood what it took for de Gaulle and Adenauer to shake hands or Mitterrand and Kohl holding hands at Bitburg or Brand falling to his knees in Poland or what bananas stood for in 1989.
    I wish you all the best when moving over the pond and hope that Gavin will share your interests and sensetivity to the differences of the poeple that make Europe.

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  • 96. At 01:28am on 03 Aug 2009, Silverian wrote:

    Re: #91 ikamaskeip

    I appreciate the analysis of your arguments against the EU and I the way in which you have expressed your opinion throughout the commentary.

    Let me clarify that I am pro-European. I am not all for the EU as it could be shaping up (with the possible future inclusion of countries that have very little in common ,culturally, with the rest of the Union).

    All your arguments point to your beliefs that the EU has been suffering from a gross deficit of democracy and its citizens are not being served or represented by 'it' in any way. I would tend to agree fully with the 'deficit of democracy' argument.
    On the other hand, we have a 'chicken and egg' situation with the apathy and lack of representation or service of the EU to its citizens. Which came first? The apathy, negativity and national interests of Europeans or the disservice of the EU to (some/all of) its citizens.

    Before I answer that question I will say the following:

    All major powers are formed with a 'big idea' in mind usually with force. The 'big idea' of the EU (as with any big idea) was and always will be the idea of an Elite/a few people. Europe being Europe with citizens of various historical nation-states (formed by the hammer of war) rather than just a huge bunch of immigrants (US) was never going to be an easy 'pitch' for the elite who wanted to 'advertise' the idea of One Europe.

    In other words, if the EU had not been virtually forced upon us by this technocratic and bureaucratic 'elite' (that I do NOT admire) it would have taken another 50-100 years to 'democratically' promote a Europe with a single voice to its citizens due to the nationalism that existed and still exists in Europe. Even if this elite eventually did convince Europeans that this is the only way forward (due to globalisation etc etc.) it would have been too late.

    So, in conclusion, 'elites' have been dragging Europeans along this necessary (in my opinion) evolutionary supra-national path (with a deficit of democracy, inefficient and bureaucratic structures, out-of-touch officials). It's all too easy for some to criticise a structure they are not willing to do anything about (once they're done ranting about it). Maybe if most of us start caring, things could happen.

    Here's the problem. Most dissatisfied folk, seem to ultimately want to tear the whole thing down (i.e. all but the very moderate/soft eurosceptics) or at least pull out of it instead of fixing it. That behaviour just reminds me of a spoilt kid that doesn't like the football game they are taking part in and they are either willing to destroy the game from the inside or by leaving from it.

    Europeans can change the way the EU works through the EU parliament and their national governments.

    It took a second Bush to wake the Americans up. What will it take for the Europeans to do the same?

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  • 97. At 01:35am on 03 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    oldndriedout #85

    Finally someone in Europe who told the truth for once. But where were the flowers strewn at my feet when I lived there? Actually it only happened once in a restaurant in Lisbon, a superb restaurant where the food, wine, service were outstanding and the prices very reasonable. We left a customary 15% tip even though service was already included in the bill. Other patrons wanted to kill us for it but the staff rolled out the red carpet as we left. I think we got some flowers too. So then why did Europe ultimately decide to declare war on the US, one it cannot possibly hope to win and where the rupture may never be repaired?

    One technical correction. The Marshall plan was not responsible for the reconstruction of Europe over the decades that followed the war. It's principal aim was to prevent immediate starvation and alleviate the humanitarian disaster in the non Communist countries directly after the war. The initiative I described that restored those economies came in its aftermath. American taxpayers and workers paid a heavy price for it. Also NATO relieved Europe of the need to spend most of the money required to defend itself militarily. This freed it up for internal investment in its economies.

    WA

    Your facts of history are wrong. What you get taught in school and in the media in Russia may be different from the lies they are taught in Western Europe but they are still lies. For example, Austria and Greece were within a hairs breath of being lost to the USSR's empire. Only a sustained American airlift thwarted Stalin's efforts to take over all of Berlin. The USSR's ambition to rule the world was total. Cuba was to be a launching point for the takeover of South America. Che Guevera died in the jungles of Venezuela. Cuba sent troops to Angola, the USSR sent arms all over Africa, especially the Congo. Africa is a mess today and filled with arms in part because of the USSR's efforts to colonize it. Vietnam was just one more episode. The US lost 57,000 dead in Vietnam. It lost far more in Europe and in the Pacific during WWII. Had the government in Hanoi had the same Capitalist outlook in 1959 that it has in 2009 there would have been no war at all even if it is still a despotic dictatorship.

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  • 98. At 04:25am on 03 Aug 2009, parityisbetterthancharity wrote:

    #85 oliderid--
    Please accept my apologies for the blogger you mention. He was annoying Americans and British ex-pats a huge amount on Justin Webb's America blog and I see that he has shown up here. I assure you he does not represent regular Americans. Most of us hold no ill will towards you and your country mates.

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  • 99. At 05:09am on 03 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Marcus writes: "The USSR's ambition to rule the world was total."

    You hysteria is total.

    Look, learn something about the subject, Marcus. Stalin never even wanted to pursue a policy of war communism. (whereby the doctrine of revolution was that all people from all states needed to be joined in the revolution, and thus the revolution should be exported to other states)

    That was Trotsky's grand idea, the guy whom the west made into a darling after he was ice picked. In fact, it was precisely Stalin's rejection of war communism that allowed him to do such great business with the west, and which allowed him to rise to exalted heights within the USSR.

    Not even the USA wants to rule the world, Marcus. "They" (meaning the people who own and run the USA) just want to make money out of the whole world.

    And what the USSR wanted was the same. They wanted security and stability, and they wanted markets.

    And there's the rub, with regard to the way Europe was divided up between the USSR and the USA. The soviet union obtained markets and resources from the east, and the USA obtained markets and resources from the west.

    Both empires placed a huge number of troops on the ground in order to secure these markets and resources.

    The soviet troops are gone, but the US troops remain. this is why I accuse Mardell of being hopelessly ignorant of the military and economic basis of the EU itself, and why I an deeply skeptical of any analyses of the EU which does not take into account unilateral relations between the USA and individual member states.

    This idea that the USA deploys troops without reference to the economic benefits that thereby accrue to US corporations is just plain childish. It is worse than absurd, if we are going to discuss the broad pattern of history. After all, has there ever been an Empire that did not travel abroad on military missions without generating economic activity for its own ruling class? I mean, even once?

    The brits admit it. The romans were fairly clear about it. Why must Americans pretend to themselves and to others that their congress does not go to war with the economics foremost in their consideration?

    The reality that nobody talks about in Europe is that NATO, meaning US troops and weapon systems, is absolutely present and doing its thing: securing US business interests in Europe. And they are considerable. I suggest that the reason nobody talks about this military and economic presence is precisely because it is still there, still doing its thing. It is the elephant in the room, as far as Europe is concerned.

    Consider the main policies of the EU. What are they, in simple terms?

    1. Agricultural subsidies. These serve to reap taxation from the economic system of Europe and to place it squarely in the hands of European aristocrats, despite the presence of "democratic" governments who are beholden to laws that require a US friendly system of economic law. Thus a cynic could say one primary aim of the EU is to enrich the class of aristocrats who lost their fortunes and rights to plunder the average european to the Americans.

    2. A common trade tariff policy. This serves to prevent foreign powers who control the military forces within, and therefore the access to, the EU from dumping exports into the EU and using it as their private, exclusive marketplace. Again, a cynic might suggest that this policy is designed to lessen the economic grip that the occupying power holds over the indigenous aristocracy of Europe.

    In short, the institutions of the EU were created as a means of countering US economic dominance and exploitation of Europe. Look who created the EU, for pities sake. Precisely the same people who lost their primary source of revenue when the second world war ended. Those who supplied the military, in other words. In europe we traditionally called these folk the aristocracy. In the USA, where class does not exist and the military is blinded by its commitment to freedom pure and simple, we call these folks the owners of the corporations who supply the pentagon. Or the military industrial complex, for short.

    But which ever way you cut the cheese, the USA has been doing huge business in Europe since it occupied the continent, and the EU can usefully be seen as an indigenous reaction to that occupation.

    I say "usefully", because there doesn't seem to be much use in analyzing the EU if we don't first acknowledge who has troops on the ground and who profits from this arrangement.

    And for anyone who doubts the ability of the USA to influence the political landscape of "democratic" states within the EU, ask yourselves who built the constitutions of the EU member states, and what those constitutions say about international trade and corporate ownership with regard to US investors.

    You see, there are two ways of looking at this paradigm which says the "russian bear" threatened western Europe and that the US was protecting the poor timid folk from the evil ruskis.

    One is to suggest that the US was in the game as an act of charity. Everything was done out of pure motives, and the occupation was paid for by the generosity of US taxpayers.

    The other way to look at the same situation is to observe that US investors put vast sums of capital into Europe and were able to export vast quantities of goods into post war europe without any competition from other states. The end result was that US investors ended up owning most of the corporations that call themselves European, and THEY STILL DO. and they made vast profits from the reconstruction of western Europe, which might just explain the boom in US wealth during the same period.

    Now the point to take away is that US investors STILL OWN the vast majority of European industry and financial institutions. Why? Because they invested the capital to build them. that is how international capitalism works, you see. Those who provide the capital for reconstruction OWN the resultant company. Sure, they employ locals. Sure, they pay taxes. But they own it unless they sell it, and they generally don't sell it unless forced to do so, and that doesn't happen while military forces are present to ensure ownership is respected.

    In short, the US colonized germany and france after the second world war. Call it corporate investment backed up by military force, or call it pure corporate colonialism according to the british model.

    Either way, the military and economic reality is there for everybody to see, and that is why I accuse Mardell of writing fluff. We have Marcus claiming that the US military is a charitable organization, and the Europeans pretending it doesn't exist in Europe, because it tastes nasty to talk about who actually owns industry in Europe.

    Meanwhile eastern Europeans whine and moan about the evil soviet union occupying their wonderful little states for 50 years, and how unfair that is. Tell the Germans! The US still occupies Germany.

    Why do you think the Germans are so resolutely behind the idea of the EU????

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  • 100. At 08:17am on 03 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio and #93.

    Nobody is 'lecturing' you on 'democracy'.

    Some of us are trying to point out that the attachment to the EU you so often express in your Comments is largely based around what the EU could be and not what it is.

    It could be more democratic: But, it is anti-democratic.
    It could be more responsive to Citizens: But, it ignores Citizens, e.g. Referenda, and then puzzles over why it is not supported by the Electorate.
    It could be a Low Tariff-Free Movement and even Single Currency area: But, it isn't , it instead takes over National Government authority to promote its versions of Health, Welfare, Education, Policing, Judiciary, Foreign and Defence policy as well a hundred other aspects of Citizens' lives that are best and most accurately dealt with at National and local level.

    You may remember 'democracy' and constantly lambast the UK/England for its faults, but, all you offer in its place is the same set of venal, corrupt, undemocratic institutions at an International Level!

    Where's the Democracy, threnodio?

    Don't come on here telling all of us how you 'remember' and infer we do not: I can never remember a time the UK/England was the prefect ideal though the 'Darling Buds of May', 'Heartbeat' etc. all do really lovely rose-tinted spectacle stereotypes of that ideal (I mention them as with respect to age we are not so far apart and the pre-WW2 is not applicable to either of us though some would wish for the Victorian-Edwardian!). Personally I really enjoy the nostalgia but as for living in that dreamland, no thanks, and when it come to the EU I foresee the same dreamland approach wherein everything is lovely in the end but the reality is that behind the closing credits Citizens of all types are paying an unacceptable price for the roses shown upfront.
    Mr Mardell's EU is much like those iconic programmes - - all gloss and wisdom in one compact performance - - an EU without democratic substance or human soundtrack, not even a homily for the urchins on the street because if they don't fit the framework then they have to change or be changed.

    UK/England is what it is - - it is evolving and it will continue to do so in political-cultural-social terms - - what I will not agree to is that as part of the evolution UK and especially England needs anymore than a very basic tie-in with mainland Europe. That present all-enveloping Brussels-connection is an ongoing political-cultural-economic-financial-social 'democratic' disaster for Britons and especially the English. It should be done away with as soon as humanly possible.

    You claim the UK/England has fallen under some overmighty Government in all its affairs over recent years: I do not agree (except where this applies to the EU influence), but, can follow your reasoning in so far as the Isles' Citizens have not fared as well over these last 12 or so years as was anticipated. Democracy, such as it is in the UK/England, did allow the Citizens to weigh the 3 main Political Parties and found 2 wanting - - that Ballot box will come into play again within 12 months - - whoever gets first past the post there will be enormous anticipation of change and progression which in time having run its course, will suffer similar disappointment. (See Atlee - MacMillan - Wilson - Thatcher - Blair for the cycle)

    Just because you are disappointed by the outcome does not mean it was not worth having a go: When I read some of your content I get the impression that as England is not to your liking you think no one should like it, whereas, I still admire and support it wholeheartedly though I live abroad as I am able to do so and through circumstance of making a promise to my wife some 37 years ago.

    I don't know of a Briton... English, Scot, Welsh or Irish who feels any genuine admiration or support for the EU-entity. SNp etc. may see the EU as helping weaken the tie-in to England and as a way to survive with cash handouts from Brussels but that's not admiration or support... that's servitude by dependence and they are heading out from under the English just so they can look up at Brussels. What a pigs-ear they are making of their well-deserved freedom!

    Well, that is their Right and privilege and it may work out for them. I believe it is the Right and privilege of England and the English having got rid of Scot-Welsh-Irish connections except those of kith and kin and our communal landscape should stand alone for the first time in aeons: The breath of fresh, undiluted financial-political-social freedom England's 49,000,000 will experience will surely galvanise the Nation in a manner no stultifying blanket of EU regulations could ever do.

    If you are genuine in your claim, and do remember what 'democracy' means, then you will know that at its heart is the right of every person of whatever creed, race, sex etc. to make their choice in life - - Mr Mardell wrote eloquently about the WW2 Flemish resistance fighter whose family disowned him - - had you or I been in that situation what would have been our decison? One can only speculate. We live in the present and the choice I make is to stand for what I believe to be the best way to advance the free-will of Citizens across the Isles and mainland Europe; it is my perspective on what is the right thing to do. There is no doubt we differ on that choice and nobody is stopping you from making yours, but one of us is going to lose the 'democracy' we both prize and, just as always, the future of family is at stake.

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  • 101. At 09:03am on 03 Aug 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #100 - ikamaskeip

    On the contrary, I am deeply attached to England and Britain, enormously proud of what she has achieved and I will defend what she was against all comers. But not what she is today. I am not looking at it through 'rose tinted glasses' and Darling Buds myopia and I am certainly not inferring that there are not still some of us around who remember well what she once stood for. I have simply come to believe that those values have been either sacrificed or allowed to go into terminal decline. I am looking for an alternative model which I can believe in but the European project seems to have embarked on a similar route.

    Maybe those of us who were lucky enough to live through an age of great opportunity and good priniples are destined in the end to witness nothing of real worth whether in the nation state or the multinational adventure.

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  • 102. At 10:15am on 03 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio and #101.

    There is no 'maybe' about it. The World turns and people and things move on.

    In my view, not a lot actually changes in terms of Human nature, but, every generation dresses up their version of life as either being 'better' or 'different' or both from the one before, and so it goes on.

    Not sure which age of 'great opportunity' and 'good principles' you are referring to, but, assume you mean post-WW2, circa 1950s to 75/89? In which case it becomes all the more confusing to understand how you now conclude the pariah EU of Maastricht onwards is the way to go!
    A startling side-step that bears no relation to the G.B. era you allude to as having been 'sacrificed' - - well isn't a good deal of that sacrificial passage brought about by the UK/England being dragged ever deeper into the slough of despond that attachment to Brussels represents - - rather as Bunyan's description of the inhabitants of Lilliput who are misled to a degree that none know or trust their true selves.

    You claim those good points are in 'terminal decline': You seek an 'alternative model' via the 'EUrope project'.
    Yet none of those values, traditions, expectations, opportunities you lament of are 'European' unless somehow you imagine Great Britain's society-politics-law was always a part of some pan-Europe approach to the World at large.

    This is clearly not the lesson of History of the British Isles anymore than of continental Europe. The United Kingdom expressly turned away from Europe and its internecine-nation building struggles and took a path of aggressive imperial-colonial expansion that dwarfed all the other European overseas ventures. For better or worse the course of Human History upon the earth was quite often shaped by that British Island peoples' attitudes and actions. Whether Attilla, or Genghis, or Adolf, or Cecil Rhodes had more to offer the World is a mute point. Nevertheless, it is the 'British model' that survives, albeit misshapen, derided, battered, but, all the same from the world's largest 'democracy' India to South Africa to Canada and New Zealand (and in South America via the G.B. off-shoot USA influence) it is the civilisation most would seem to have aspired to, and is now even installed in Russia.

    Thus the World has inexorably turned and those subject Peoples have come of age and speak with their own voices as is their fundamental Right and Responsibility. How strange then that you would now support the diminution of UK/England Rights and Responsibilities by making them subject to an imperial-colonial movement in Europe?

    Rhodes once proclaimed, ".. the Age of the Nation is over... this is the Age of Empire.." He was so right and so wrong, wasn't he? And in that sense I can concur with your thought that we maybe 'witness to nothing of real worth whether in nation state or the multinational adventure'.

    However, I would suggest there is a lot greater chance of something worthwhile emerging and being achieved by an independent UK/England than a controlling supra-national entity.

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  • 103. At 10:17am on 03 Aug 2009, mikewarsaw wrote:

    I have just spent the past weekend accompanying my godmother (aged 90 who flew in specially from London), around the various official and unofficial 65th anniversary celebrations in memory of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 (she fought in it as a 25 year old). The best sentiment that I can paraphrase is "Incredibly brave LIONS led by donkeys", a comment originally made of the soldiers of an earlier war who were led by a British general.
    Warsaw ended WWII 87% detroyed. Only 1 in 10 houses habitable, no water, no electricity, no gas, over half the population killed, the rest deported. It had to be totally rebuilt in that politically unstable land between Germany and Russia (Soviet Union). After 1989 it finally became free again, an integral part of NATO in 1998 and the EU in 2004.
    Poles of all persuasions and age see their freedom as a sovereign people and nation being guaranteed by membership of those two alliances/organisations. No more war or destruction ever again was the sentiment being most voiced over the weekend, both by ordinary people and the politicians. For the first time in a century there is a solid peace in eastern-central Europe and rapid economic development. Thanks to membership of NATO and the EU. Something people in the UK (and elsewhere) all too often forget.
    Thank you for your perceptive and often humorous articles on the EU. You have clearly NOT "gone native"! And do show an equally critical eye on the USA in the near future.

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  • 104. At 10:19am on 03 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "I am certainly not inferring that there are not still some of us around who remember well what she once stood for."

    Empire and the conquest of "lessor races", and the utter destruction of the environment?

    The divine rule of monarchs?

    A class system?

    Multiple negatives within single sentences?

    You're such an optimist and a romantic, threnodio. Wehnthe revolution comes, I don't know what is to be done with you.

    ikam wrote:

    "Some of us are trying to point out that the attachment to the EU you so often express in your Comments is largely based around what the EU could be and not what it is."

    He's right, you know. Sooner or later, the fuzzy intellectual possibility of what the EU might have been must be reckoned with the bare facts of what the EU really is, in our material world of today. And at that point, you either take a position for or against it, or you keep pretending that the people who own the EU are open for fuzzy intellectual discussions about what is ought to be.

    Now you know I am also for a united europe. But I know what I am looking at with this dreadful farce called the EU, and I have no illusions about the sort of people who own it.

    What we need is to be rid of this "EU", and to create an "EF". A European Federation. Of independent democratic states. Each run according to principles of direct democracy and with a full rejection of hereditary titles and privileged political classes of human beings.

    Say what you want about Marcus, but he is right to sneer at Europe. We have lords and barons and countesses and princes and Queens and Kings.

    It is ABSURD. Why don't we ridicule ourselves completely, and bring back the inquisition, and trial by ordeal?

    I know, why not reintroduce 13th century feudalism? Turn back the clock completely, and let's all have a big dark ages fancy dress party! Except for real.

    Europe will never unite in a worthwhile manner until it can rid itself of the absurd trapping of its past. The notion of people being born equal must be taken seriously, or all politics becomes a snide and bitter struggle between those who are taught they were born to rule and those who are taught they were born to rebel against those who were born to rule.

    This is why I say first human rights, and second direct democracy. First Europeans must acknowledge their past, and they must put the practice of first class human beings being born into rank behind them. Only then can they hope to achieve anything progressive.

    It is not that I have any dislike for royalty, or that I respect revolutionaries. I rather like wealthy people, as they treat people like me very well. And I find revolutionaries to be appallingly ego driven, and generally religious whackos into the bargain.

    But even so, as long as Europe labours under fantasies about class, and as long as Europe gazes into its navel and fails to comprehend the inalienable rights of the common people, there can be no intellectual progress towards a meaningful union of europeans.

    The history of europe is in fact that history of a united europe. A united europe that has been a battlefield, where the blood of common people has been spilt for the amusement of their owners and their lords.

    Were not all the royal families of Europe related at the start of the great war? And after that conflict, which nation was set upon by all the others? The only nation to rid itself of its royalty: Russia. It has never been let back into the club, since it broke the fundamental rule.

    The fundamental rule in Europe is that the ruling class of nobles rule the common folk. And these people have always been involved in their own european union. Read the history. Has there ever been a time when British lords and German Barons and Italian princes have not swapped daughters and made war for personal ambition?

    How can this be called a lack of union? It has been bloody and dreadful for the common ranks of people, but WHO CARES? They just do not matter. And THAT is your european heritage. A class system where idiots have been farmed by the church and by their "nobility", such that the nobility can control ownership of the land and people for the glory of the nobility.

    Europe does not need unity to be free of war. It needs humanity. It needs to wake up, and understand what the Americans understood many years ago: The church has no place in a modern political structure, and kings, princes and noble birthrights are a sign of a backwards and decadent culture. Hallmarks of a servile and idiot people.

    Europe has been protected from its own "nobility" by the armed forces of the USA and the soviet union for the past sixty years. Both those great powers made the leap away from farcical beliefs in feudal ownership over property and people, and both, in their own ways, became home to great advances in human endeavor and intellectual achievements.

    You lament what was good about England, but your lament is 200 years old, threnodio, and misplaced with national pride as the cause.

    We cannot work with the current political regime in Europe, because it is staffed and OWNED by hooray henries and hereditary lords who have been blessed to be born as a superior class of human beings.

    If those who lead Europe are these people..... we are not going to move forward.

    Therefore we should aim to utterly dismantle the EU, and to dismantle the archaic and absurd systems of class that pervade so many european nations. We do not need socialism, but we do need to strip the nobility of "their" wealth, and give the people back their state and their rights.

    Just as the cantons of Berne and Zurich stripped the church of its lands and gave the Swiss people freedom from economic and ideological exploitation during the reformation, and just as Geneva rid itself of the tyranny of the Savoy lords and embraced economic freedoms and growth for all citizens, modern Europe needs to move forward in a profound and meaningful way, by removing the power that retards intellectual and political development.

    Let people have their religion, and let people call themselves whatever they want. But strip the church of its assets, and reclaim the property that has been seized by those who claim titles of any kind.

    Only then can the people hope to rule themselves.

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  • 105. At 10:42am on 03 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    Mavrelius, how is it "your facts are wrong"? You say the USA lost in Vietnam 57,000 people, "Russian propaganda" number is 58,000.

    No wonder the very mention of Vietnam failure cost John Kerry the place in the race, a leader who dared to call attention to the wrong and cruel US decision to invade Vietnam had immediately became unpopular with the American public. Apparently the people who turned away from him were of your category "America does no wrong by definition, a shining example of well-meaning intentions towards the world on the hill" :o))))))

    "Russian propaganda" on the subject also includes 3 million Vietnamese dead from your best intentions, US use on them of napalm, gas and chemical weapons. The fact that post war so far 140,000 Vietnamese died on the un-exploided yet US bombs in the ground, and that their sappers still continue de-mining the country, now - in 2009. They've got special troops working on it non-stop, for 34 years, and the estimated amount of time it will take, to de-mine whole country's territory is : attention: 300 years more.
    Add to this the fact that 14 per cent of their ground won't be liveable never at all, in foreseeable so far future - it's chemicals throughout, saturated with the chemical weapons you used on them, they simply don't even come there close.

    "if Hanoi was back then" Don't even mention Hanoi, the USA once bombed it for 12 days non-stop, and Russians don't need any external sources to know, because we had 100 own people there during your bombing of Hanoi, technical experts "advising" the Vietnamese how to man anti-air raid Russian systems :o))))
    In case your "American propaganda" forgot to inform you, you did 2,000 exactly bombing flights on Hanoi within those 12 days, had 800 airplanes bombing the capital, of which 83 were B52.
    Vietnam :o) managed to kick off the sky just 81 of the dark cloud, 34 destroyed were B52 though. A well remembered here anti-air raid versus US aviation battle.

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  • 106. At 11:03am on 03 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    "Austria and Greece were within hair's breadth of loss to the USSR empire".

    Don't know about Greece, they had it complex a combination at home, without any USSR part-taking, I think we had nothing to do with it, their own "black colonels" and own ideas.
    Greece was beyond USSR war theatre, so no data at home. I thought it was invaded by Germany, and then Britain was doing something to fix it - not Russian "sphere of influence".

    As to Austria - I know. Austria, in the "grand split" was not USSR control sector, we were neither to liberate it nor to keep it "influenced" post war, by the deal. It was clearly "Western Europe" none of USSR business.
    By the plan of the offensive - Austria was to be liberated by the Americans, of the Allied forces, not by the British. It was your duty, Mavrelius, by the plan of the offensive, to fight nazi troops from Austria away off.

    Only you didn't. You lingered and waited, unclear what for. In 20 miles away off from Austria you had an army, and all dates had passed, and you still didn't begin the advance. Explain me why, if you know. Meanwhile, in Vienne there started an uprising, people sure that the help is near - here it is - any next hour the US army will come - began an uprising against nazi headquarters in Vien. And for 3 days their uprising was drowining in blood - only you didn't care to move an inch closer. They called for help Red Army - and Red Army didn't have nearby any "army". No regiments, no "army No ..." no nothing, because we didn't have Austria in plan. In the result Vien was liberated by Russians, by two batallions, one torn away from here, one torn away from there, and both were most un-suitable for the job, LOL, as these were bla-bla-bla men, political comissars, KGB, not a regular army but some political information!!! quarters, destined to bla-bla-bla post war here and there in the Red Army. A great enforcement! Well these two comissar batallions liberated Austria, the irony of the situation :o))).
    And passed it over to the Allied forces - strictly according to the deal. Not ours. Vienne was liberated by KGB - mind it.

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  • 107. At 11:07am on 03 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Democracythreat and #104.

    re; "..why not reintroduce 13th Century Feudalism.."

    I thought I had already set out how the EU is exactly that 800 year old phenomenon in a new guise.

    re, "..we cannot work with the current political regime in EUrope.." and "..owned and staffed by hooray henries and hereditary lords.."

    Fairly accurate and in that sense you and I find common cause with (horror of horrors) MAII!
    There is light though: You and I are part of a growing number (and threnodio could be on board soon) across the World with European interests (I gather you live in Switzerland) who are recognizing the EUropean Union is a fraudulent affair, created without concern for the Citizens other than as commodities to be bought, sold, exchanged.
    When it comes, the 'crash' will be as devastating as anything the present Economic collapse has brought about and because the EUrocrats will be desparate to hold on to their 'Authority', 'Privileges' and 'Wealth' there will be suffering on a scale not seen in Europe since 1945.

    Of course that is the worse case scenario: I am hoping just as the EU evolved through stealth and the laziness of self-satisfied Politicans across UK/England and Europe, so, with the recognition of the dangers of the institution comes the awakening amongst some Citizens and Leadership who will bring the whole thing to a halt. It will take more than luck of course, mental courage, a willingness to risk being outside the comfort-zone of EU-Plutocrats and all the 'extra comforts' of being an uncritical member.

    I know where you are coming from with the sentiment, '..only then can the people hope to rule themselves', however, that particular situation is unlikely anytime whilst Power-Control-Money are the principle moitvational senses of Humans. That said, the EU is a particularly unpleasant form of that triple-scenario as it has cleverly opted for the non uniform-parades-all for one harangues that typified previous forms of centralised power in Europe and elsewhere: Hence its cunning willingness to abandon the Flag and other 'representations' of its Constitution whilst keeping every Rule and Regulation in mark II, the Lisbon Treaty.
    People and the small-print! From that 13th Century to the Present-day we keep falling for the easily visible and only when it personally affects us do we suddenly realise that as a vassal-serf-villein our liege lord has us by the short and cur... !

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  • 108. At 11:12am on 03 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    In some times of history, even KGB can come useful :o))))
    And, of course, it was not later times fat KGB, but rather quite lean political comissars who fought the war the previous 4 years and in the forefront, by job due to show an example and raise troops in (often hopeless) attack. Everyone Russian who made it alive to that point in time and geography knew how to hold a gun, to put it softly.

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  • 109. At 11:16am on 03 Aug 2009, WebAliceinwonderland wrote:

    As to "propaganda", Mavrelius, there is now an idea to write combined German-Russian first school history book. The quarrels btw historians and politicians will take some time :o)))) but the plan is not hopeless, and when we are finished - you are welcome to brush up your knowledge of the XX century.

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  • 110. At 11:19am on 03 Aug 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Mike Warsaw and #103.

    Been to Warsaw a number of times on my way to my late Polish Godfather's village home.

    The Poland and Polish you rightly praise is of course not the pre-WW2 Poland: That Poland the 'uprising' of communist-jewish-catholic resistance movements perished when Stalin annexed whole chunks and then moved the entire Prussian population westward to re-jig Poland's borders from May 1945 onwards.
    Mark Mardell was alluding to it in his Article.

    Among my Polish friends there is deep-seated praise for the USA and NATO and I cannot think of 1 Pole not in favour of their Nation's membership of the EU.
    Then again, I do not know of 1 Pole who does not find the present EU a totally top-heavy, overbureacratised, unresponsive organ of centralised control - - sound familiar - - in your travels did you happen to chat with the Poles who recall the soviet style regime and whilst enjoying their new-found freedom do point to Brussels as the new style Kremlin!?

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  • 111. At 11:36am on 03 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Web alice, you don't seem to understand. It is not acceptable to talk this way about vietnam.

    Everybody knows that the people in vietnam were BAD PEOPLE. That is why they were killed.

    If they were not BAD PEOPLE...... why were they wearing black hats?

    Seriously, why?

    These people were bad people, because otherwise the USA would not have killed them. Good people don't die when the USA bombs them. God sees to that. If they are wearing white hats, god wraps them up in a big old american flag and protects them from the BAD PEOPLE. Who wear black hats.

    It isn't so hard to understand. This propaganda you are spreading about vietnamese people dying because of that war.... only bad people are dying. Because NATO doesn't kill good people. I hate to repeat myself, but the matter is really very important to a lot of people, and we cannot have you confusing everybody by suggesting that bombing people from the air is not the height of heroism.

    So let me make it clear:

    IF someone is killed by the USA, this is proof that they were:

    a. wearing a black hat, and
    b. A BAD PERSON
    c. hated by god

    as for all the vietnamese children who get blowed up or poisoned by american mines and chemical weapons..... at least they are not communists!!! Or, at least they are not as communist as they might have been, if we hadn't bombed their country and poisoned it with chemical weapons.

    That is another thing: NATO doesn't use chemical weapons. If we do, we don't. Is that clear?

    It is like Israel using white phosphorus on civilians in palestine. If they did it..... wait three days, and you'll find nobody talking about it. Why? BECAUSE THEY NEVER DID IT.

    You see, if the journalists don't talk about it, it never happened. And if it never happened, well then even if it did happen then it didn't. It is easy once you get the hang of it. the thing to remember is that the bad people wear black hats, and the good people, whom god loves, wear big american flags.

    Now this is very, very important to understand, because right now we are NOT killing a whole bunch of Pashtun civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If we were, we wouldn't be, if you follow my reasoning.

    Because if we were, well then maybe people would hate us and believe that we go around dropping bombs on people because our journalists keep telling us stories about people in black hats who are BAD PEOPLE (possibly communists). And then, if people hated us, well then god would hate them, and then they would be wearing black hats, and then they would need to be bombed.

    So, it becomes obvious, even to a stupid person, that we are NOT bombing civilians to death in Iraq or in Afghanistan. And we never did.

    Because we never talk about it, and that means it didn't happen. You watch, a government enquiry is about to start that will discover that Blair never told any lies so he could go and bomb a whole bunch of civilians and be a war hero for a weekend. He never did that. And nobody in the intelligence services told him any lies either, or they would have been sacked.

    So all in all, nobody told any lies, and nobody was killed who wasn't wearing a black hat. And remember, IF.... and it is a very small and possibly communist IF.... IF they were killed..... then they weren't killed.

    Why? Because we don't talk about it. And if we do talk about it, then we are talking about people who were NOT killed due to an illegal war and bombing from the air with drones.... because clearly if these people were killed, we'd be talking about it. but we're not talking about it, so they weren't killed. Even if they were.

    And if they were, it was because they were wearing black hats.

    I hope that has cleared the matter up for your satisfaction.

    The important thing to take away is that we don't kill civilians or children, because if we did we'd talk about it, and we don't, so we didn't.

    And heck, aw gee, what is the point in loving your flag if you can't feel good about bombing some babies in black hats?

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  • 112. At 11:38am on 03 Aug 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    #103,

    mikewarsaw,

    You are rightfully ellated about the EU and NATO bringing peace and prosperity to Poland. After all, Poland has for long been the darling of Western Europe, and EU will make sure this policy is continued. Judging by the recent example of EU allowing the Polish government to prop finacially the ailing Gdansk shipyard, in contradiction to its own rules about government help to private companies and market economy, this has already happened.
    I have always wondered what lies behind this all-out love of EU for Poland and the Baltic countries. After all, the EU has been less than forthcomming when it comes to supporting shipyards in other Eastern European countries (take Bulgaria and Romania for example) and the EU leaders have not exactly been flocking to celebrate the anniversarries of the Serbian single-handed victory against the occpying Nazi Germany troops. Either the EU really considers that the Serbian efforts in the WW2 were less worthy compared to those of Poland or there must be somethig else. I remember an article which I read a few years ago (do not remeber who by)- it claimed that culturally and gerographically Europe (and presumably EU) ends where catholicism ends. It claimed that Greece is an aberration in that rule, which however can be tolerated for strategic purposes. At that time none of the Central or Eastern European countries were in the EU, thus the pattern was somewhat unclear. As we have seen however, after a few years the expansion of the EU has followed the above mentioned rule, with the small aberrations of Bulgaria and to some extent Romania (both strategically important as lying on the transit routes of the so-called alternative gas pipe-lines).

    This whole theory is too close to a conspiracy theory for comfort, however its whole existence does not bode well for the future EU membership of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Belarus, Turkey and possibly Ukraine. Although in the cases of Turkey and Ukraine, the USA interests might bring the pressure to bear, thus allowing those countries to be come 'aberrations' themselves, the whole process will be nowhere near as smooth and unquestioned as the case of Poland and Lithuania, for example. As to the rest of the hopefulls, thye seem to be in for a long wait.

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  • 113. At 11:39am on 03 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    falseconservative;

    I find your apologetic self effacing posting disgusting. You don't know the history of the world or the role America played in it. I don't know how you have the audacity to speak for other Americans or anyone but yourself but if other Americans feel as you do, it is because they are also ignorant of history as well. Small wonder considering how badly our primary and secondary educational systems have declined. It's time for students to start cracking textbooks that tell history the way it actually happened and throw out the feel good Kumbaya trash we inhereted from the mentality of the baby boomer brats of the 1960s. Time for Americans to understand their legacy so that they can realize their destiny.

    threat to democracy, you understand as little about the doctrines of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, as you understand about the policies of Stalin, Khurshchev, Breshnev, and the Soviet politburo. You don't understand real world history anymore than others on the left in America or in most of Europe. I suggest you start by reading the Communist Manifesto and the life of Karl Marx. The Communist Manifesto was required reading in high school when I went to school, and in college too. It is the underpinnings of the rationalization of worlwide domination of "scientific socialism" as a natural evolution of human society through violent revolution of the proletariat. Then read the Breshnev doctrine which helps explain how Stalin and all Soviet leaders after him expected to achieve it under direct control from Moscow. Soviet activities in every corner of the world to undermine, subvert, foment and arm revolution, and ultimately replace every non communist government in the world including in the United States itself during the period even preceding the cold war is proof and the mountain of evidence supporting it is overwhelming and incontravertable. Vestiges of it still exist in the minds of Vladimir Putin and his like although the odds against them now are impossible.

    WA

    100 Soviet experts in North Vietnam? How about tens of thousands. You yourself admitted that Soviet pilots flew Migs for the Syrians. What makes you think they weren't flying them for the North Vietnamese as well? The domino theory was an entirely reasonable one during that part of the cold war and no, the war in Vietnam like the war in Iraq was not unpopular immediately, quite the opposite. It wasn't until it did not go well militarily and the children of the middle class were conscripted in large numbers to fight that the public turned against it. Up to that point when it was just farm boys and poor inner city kids, it enjoyed widespread support. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave President Johnson the go ahead only got two no votes in oppositioin as I recall, Senators Fullbright and Morse. You can look it up, I'm sure there's plenty about it on the internet.

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  • 114. At 11:53am on 03 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    Alice wrote:
    "there is now an idea to write combined German-Russian first school history book."

    That is a curious idea. It will be an exciting read.

    I tell you, god's hair turned white after he witnessed the eastern front in world war two.

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  • 115. At 12:04pm on 03 Aug 2009, democracythreat wrote:

    "You don't understand real world history anymore than others on the left in America or in most of Europe. I suggest you start by reading the Communist Manifesto and the life of Karl Marx. The Communist Manifesto was required reading in high school when I went to school, and in college too."

    Ok, you made me smile. I am "on the left". Heh. Sure.

    Why not?

    Marcus, you don't fool me or, I suspect, anyone else here. Your depth of reading is painfully obvious, and it certainly doesn't extend beyond the adventures of horny pumpkin and the 12 great heros of the US marines.

    Tell me, this book "The Life of Marx", who wrote that?

    I'd love to take you up on the challenge to read it, but dang dong my dings if i caint find it in the library!

    A communist must have hid it whilst I was moving to the left.

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  • 116. At 12:30pm on 03 Aug 2009, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    WA

    "As to "propaganda", Mavrelius, there is now an idea to write combined German-Russian first school history book. The quarrels btw historians and politicians will take some time :o)))) but the plan is not hopeless, and when we are finished - you are welcome to brush up your knowledge of the XX century."

    Where, in a Eurasian re-education camp similar to the kind communists invented and used on millions?

    threat to democracy

    The VietCong did not wear black hats, it was black pajamas. There are several kinds of Communists; malcontents who want to change the world, megalomaniacs who will stop at nothing to gain as much power as they can and find communism a convenient doctrine towards that end, opportunists who want to profit personally from it, and fools and dupes who will go out to fight and die for the others because they are convinced they are doing good for humanity no matter what crimes they commit in the process. All of them are dangerous to civilized society.

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  • 117. At 12:53pm on 03 Aug 2009, JohaMe wrote:

    Mark, since one cannot be thanked enough: thanks again for your balanced reporting. As opposed to many others, you at least tried to understand what is going on.

    In general, approaching things from an open state of mind is something everyone should try. The world would be a far better place when people learn to let judgement FOLLOW understanding, instead of the other way around.

    In my opinion, the most memorable blog post was the one about St. Nicholas and Black Peter. I got the feeling you really attempted to understand that tradition!

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  • 118. At 1:27pm on 03 Aug 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    Mark,

    I myself have enjoyed your blog and your reporting on the European Union and Europe in general quite much. In my opinion you have raised the standard on reporting on European issues to a quite high standards and I very much hope that your successor will continue with the line that you have set up.

    I hope the best of luck to you on reporting the workings of the USA. While I probably wont participate on the discussions in your new American blog, as USA just doesn't interest that much, I will surely read your entries with interest. I especially do hope to see reporting from different parts of the USA, from South to North, from California to New York, from bible belt to rust belt.

    So long and thanks for all the fish!

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  • 119. At 1:51pm on 03 Aug 2009, powermeerkat wrote:

    "Critics of the EU will say that it was Nato that kept the peace in Europe. But they are talking about keeping the Bear at bay, rather than solving the problem that plagued Europe for hundreds of years."


    Nope, it would be US (U.S.) since nobody in Europe would have had stomac and wherewithal to stop the Bear if push had ever come to shove.

    "Old Europe", to use Rumsfeld's parlance, had been finlandized as well as Finland itself by the Soviet Union. That's why it never dared to stand up for "New Europe"'s countries when they suffered for half a century under Soviet yoke.

    But it was NATO which kept the peace BETWEEN its original members.

    Without that Treaty we might have witnessed more than one military conflict, for example between Greece and Turkey.

    Having said that, I hope you'll enjoy your stint in "the land of the free and the home of the brave"; a veritable pluribus unum.

    Give us hell, Mark! We can take it. :-)

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  • 120. At 2:24pm on 03 Aug 2009, neuebiene wrote:

    Dear Mark

    This blog is and always has been completely and shamefully biased in favour of the EU and all things Continental. For years, we, your open-minded, critically thinking readership, have been disgusted by its blatant partisanship, and have barely been able to bring ourselves to attack your unabashed boosterism time and time again. That you persisted in pointing out that such a loathsome institution has positive aspects speaks volumes about your lack of perspective. Hopefully you now see the error in professional judgment that you made by spending too much time in Europe and letting your objectivity be compromised by getting too close to the persons and events which you were charged with covering. It can only be hoped that you will be reporting on American politics from a base in Canada or Mexico so that you can maintain at least a semblance of objectivity next time around.

    We look forward to completely neutral, unbiased, fair and free commentary from your eurosceptical successor.

    Signed
    Your critics

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  • 121. At 2:41pm on 03 Aug 2009, powermeerkat wrote:

    Mendemus,

    I have a hard time to find anything in your post of August 1st, I could possibly disagree with.

    If I was writing in a US forum I'd say that "Old Europe" lacks balls.

    But since it's a prim&proper EUSSR one I'll simply venture an opinion that "Old Europe" lacks testicular fortitude.

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