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A very foreign office

Mark Mardell | 00:01 UK time, Monday, 10 December 2007

The Foreign Office is built to impress. The grand staircase is very grand.

UK Foreign Office

A sweeping glory of red carpet, hemmed with banisters and pillars of different coloured marble, all gilded to within an inch of their life.

In the grey of a rainy London morning the chandeliers cast a little light on the scene, designed to awe visitors from around the globe.

The Justus Lipsius building in Brussels also has a red carpet, but the backstairs to the High Representative for foreign affairs are narrow and are more kitchen unit stone than real marble.

The Lisbon treaty will be signed this week, perhaps even by Mr Brown himself, and all say that one of its main purposes is to give the European Union a bigger profile on the world stage. But what does that mean for Britain's role?

At the top of the Foreign Office stairs is a series of pictures by the British artist, Sigismund Goetze.

In them Britannia poses, at peace and at war.

Sigismund Goetze's Britannia Pacificatrix

In the most imposing, painted after the First World War, America, a tall lass draped in the stars and stripes, head covered with a red revolutionary bonnet, gets a firm handshake.

Martial France, sword in hand and a cock-crowned helmet on his head, waits in line along with Italy clutching the rods and axe that Mussolini had named his party for, and a pretty waif like Japan with flowers in her hair.

Belgium, tattered flag in hand, clings to Britannia's waist, displaying a pert bottom and flowing golden hair.

Serbia, as her ambassador has pointed out, lies crumpled in a ball.

For those requiring, after all this supplication, refreshment is on hand, in the shape of fruit borne on the head of an African child.

Of course this wasn't a realistic picture, even in 1922 when the painting was hung. America had stepped decisively into European politics, not for the last time.

British rule

There was only a short period when Britain ruled the waves alone. British foreign policy has always been built on a shifting foundation of European alliances.

But does it now need a stronger common European foreign policy? No one I speak to doubts that one of the most important changes in the Lisbon treaty will be to beef up the EU's foreign policy role, by creating a new High Representative: the role that was called Foreign Minister in the defunct constitution.

Chris Patten, Lord Patten, used to be European commissioner for external affairs .

It is that job that will be merged with the current role of High Representative to create the new role.

The new High Rep gets commission staff and commission money. He or she will also chair the regular meeting of EU foreign ministers, currently the task of the foreign secretary of whichever country is in the chair for those six months.

Lord Patten says it is right not to call the person the EU's foreign minister. "There isn't going to be a European foreign minister," he says.

"There will be 27 EU foreign ministers and, when they can agree, there will be one person expressing their point of view. The representative will have to represent what the views of the members states actually are, and it is sometimes difficult to squeeze out what those views actually are."

He argues that, whatever the changes on paper, the political reality remains the same.

"The Extremely High Rep, or whatever we are going to call him, has the ability to shape policy if he wants to do it because he chairs the Foreign Affairs Council.

"But while I don't wish to insult 24 nation states, anybody who is trying to represent Europe will have to make damn certain he is representing France and Britain and Germany. If you want to be a High Representative for long, then you'd better be certain you've got those big member states on board."

Reality gap

Lord Patten is scathing about those who he says are worried about "ghosts or noises in the night" and repeatedly refers to the "reality gap", a space in which he believes European dreams and nightmares feed off each other.

Anyone who follows EU affairs knows exactly what he means. European enthusiasts paint a vision of a future and eurosceptics react as though it has come to pass.

But when it comes to the High Rep, it's understandable that those suspicious of further integration worry about "mission creep".

There are still very big questions about the role, which will only be settled next year. Slovenia's ambassador has already said that there are 40 parts of the treaty that need to be nailed down and that this makes him nervous.

Many of the details are, well, details. Complex and abstruse. But there is at least one bit that sounds wonkish but really matters. Will the High Representative, who after all will be a vice president of the commission, have the "right of initiative" that other commissioners have?

In plain English, will he or she be the servant of the nation states, or to a certain extent give them the lead?

British sources say the HR won't have the right to make or propose policy. Others disagree. Lord Patten says: "There is some lack of clarity.

"It's surprising that, while the Foreign Office have been nervously looking over their shoulder at what critics in the Telegraph or Times or Daily Mail are saying, they haven't sorted out those issues rather more clearly.

"At the moment, it seems to me one of the two or three questionmarks over the role of High Representative. He's not only chairman of the foreign ministers' Council but is also able to initiate policy and deliver papers to it.

"When I was a commissioner I initiated policies in some sectors but I didn't chair the council and I think there is at least a question over that."

Real world

Javier Solana, the man who is currently doing the job, has no doubt whatsoever when I ask him about this. He says: "He will be a member of the commission. Not only that, he will be part of the Council. As a member of the commission he will have all the rights attached to that position. The policy has to be adopted by the Council but he will have the right of initiative."

This is important but is perhaps pretty abstruse. What about the real world?

It has been notoriously difficult to find agreement on Kosovo, where some countries, like Spain and Greece, are worried about the knock-on effect of recognising a break-away province as a nation state.

Mr Solana's answer shows he thinks the difference will be in efficiency on the ground, rather than the making of policy.

"It will be very different. There will be a channel that can mobilise all the resources of the European Union. In Kosovo there are many problems that doesn't stop with its final status. We have to get an employment law, more energy, a more dynamic economy. People there need a lot of help. And the manner in which that help is given will be handled in a more coherent manner."

Lord Patten seems to agree: "Is the appointment of a Very High Representative going to make any difference in Afghanistan? Is it going to make any difference to whether we've got any policy in the Middle East?

Political will

"Unfortunately, I rather doubt it because you are talking about political will. I think the main plus to come out of this will be to pull the back office and the front office more closely together.

"It's become more and more apparent to me, when I was working in Brussels, that much of the real agenda of foreign policy these days isn't those age old questions of "The Eastern Question".

But the real issues are the impact of the environment on foreign policy, water management on foreign policy, epidemic disease on foreign policy, organised crime and the drugs trade on foreign policy.

"Those are areas where the commission has some responsibility. If you related that to the traditional discussion of foreign policy you might get rather further than we get at the moment."

He's dismissive of those who worry about a loss of British sovereignty: "The biggest issue to effect our sovereignty in the last few years has been our commitment in Iraq; without having any real say over what was happening there; which British servicemen and women were being shot at and being killed there.

"That is a huge sovereignty issue. Nothing, nothing, that happens in the European Union is going to be anything like that in its dimensions."

Is he right? Do we fuss about giving up sovereignty to the EU within a formal structure and not bother if it is handed to America? What about the other issues? Please do comment (and sorry if once again the technology has been creaking a bit).

Tomorrow William Hague's view of foreign affairs and the Treaty.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:28 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Lukas wrote:

I believe the treaty is just another minor step in the long road to a truly democratic European federation. I do not believe the creation of the HR represents the giving up of sovereignty because what he(she) will be able to do is already being done at the Union level. The only thing that nation states give up to him is the rotating chairmanship, which, once a state has had it, will not come back for some 13 years and thus its a minor change for individual nations, Britain included.

  • 2.
  • At 08:47 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • john newson wrote:

The glory of the EU - which I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) may be unique in history - is that it's an inclusive empire that people actually want to join. What does that mean? It means Kosovo, Scotland, Slovenia and Serbia and anyone else from large entities to small ones either can or could (if they wanted) sit safely within their own cultural borders and let wider 'group politics' take their fairly consensual course without fear of invasion or bullying. Of COURSE we need a high representative for the Union. Someone has to slap silly juvenile Russia around a bit for example. Trying on that old Hitler trick of finding the external enemy to pull your masses behind you just isn't on any more. Walk too far down that sort of road these days and you end up in a court eventually ...do you hear me Mr Putin? Then there's Darfur; the question of international exchange rates; a coordinated response to the failure of America; CAP reform. Do I need to elaborate?

  • 3.
  • At 08:55 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ola Frenchman wrote:

I completely agree with the last comment. You British, most Brits I talk to seem to complain about the European Union all the time, even tho its the greatest thing that have happen in Europe and for the UK ever.

You complain about national sovereignty lost to the EU in SOME areas such as agricultural policy and demand a referendum about having a closer relationship with the rest of Europe, the continent your isles are geographically connected to. On the other side, you love America so much that you are willing to go all the way with them without even questioning their motives, or their actions. You hand over army command and missions to the US without even asking questions. You give the blood of your sons and daughters to the US and THEIR wars without thinking consequences.
A few years into the Iraq war I was late compared to others to realize that this war is only going to lead to bad things, especially for the UK. Before the US was the main target of terrorism, terrorism was after all not a huge deal before 911, but now dominates every piece of politics in the US and the UK. The shame is that the Iraq war has created a whole new terrorism problem and breed of young men willing to do terrorism, it had created hatred beyond anything seen before, and the UK will take the worst hits, because not anymore is the US the main target, but the UK is, not mainly because its more hated but because of its proximity.

Its time for the UK to be the English voice of communication on behalf of Europe, and question the actions of the US as the main English speaking nation in the European Union. Its time for the UK to also take a lead(together or on the sideline with/of Germany and France) in shaping European policies and Europe in general instead of standing on the sideline and complaining. The less the UK does for Europe, the more Europe grow apart from UK, this because Europe receive no influence from the UK, no positive leads or changes, and as a result the UK nationalism and phobia of Europe grows.

  • 4.
  • At 08:56 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • john somer wrote:

Why worry about a British soveignty that doesn't really exist ? Your ultimate guarantorr of it, your nuclear missiles, are controlled by the US Navy (that has the keys to their software).
You forgot to ask Lord Patten what would happen if Britain, France and Geremany were pitted against a unified "24 others"

  • 5.
  • At 08:57 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

The issue is simply one of practicality. According to a famous definition "the camel is the horse designed by the committee". How can a committee design a coherent foreign policy (let alone have it implemented in real terms) when its members represent countries/electorates with different visions of the international affairs, whose people can't even agree what is the biggest threat to the Western World? And how can EU effectively respond to such a threat (even if defined) when an attitude of the Brtis, for example, has been to rise to a challenge and fight, and an attitude of the French (at least in the recent history) has been to appease a bully? And what can an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable result in? Threatening to fight but in reality kow-towing? [drole guerre comes to mind]

I'm afraid that as a result of a foreign policy worked out by a committee EU might end up not with horses, but plenty of camels around, which, in turn, would require an importation of even more camel drivers.

  • 6.
  • At 09:21 AM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

Of course mr Patten is wrong, and he knows it. Because the constitution mark II isn't the treaty to end all treaties, but rather the beginning of a wholly new era.

Constitution mark II is the biggest integratory step made since 1957, despite EU-philes lying that is merely a 'tidying up excercice'. The veto represents sovereignty, so if that is (illegally, since politicians have no mandate to do so) given away, pieces of sovereignty are given away.

Once this 'thing' is ratified (I still hold out some hope freedom and national parliamentary democracy will be saved at the last minute, but it is more hope than expectation) the integrationists will not waste a second to explain all 'vague' articles in constitution mark II in the most beneficial way for the EU (ie more power for the EU, less for the member states).

This is the way it always has been done. We are just a few ECJ rulings away from a supreme government of Europe. The integrationists will (ab)use the ECJ (which has always been the motor of integration) to get their way. The ECJ is stuffed with nothing but zealous believers in integration for the sake of it.

And what is this rubbish of giving up sovereignty to America? No one has ever done that. And besides, any US administration is always temporrary, but once the anti-democratic unelected crowd in Brussels gets a 'power' or a 'competence' they will never return it to the nation states.

  • 7.
  • At 12:38 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • john wrote:

Lord Pattons views on sovereignty seem bizarre.

Britian has committed its forces to Iraq and can withdraw them when it feels like. US National Guard units are sent to iraq but their states have no say in iraq police or deployment responsible for them - US states are not sovergin.

How iraq underminds Britians soverginty while having forces under NATO in Europe/Afghanistan and half a dozen EU/UN missions doesn't escapes me

The problem, to me, with a common European Foreign policy is that once it is agreed it is supposed to set in stone, only to be changed if everyone agrees to change it. If a government changes, its mind or falls even on a Foreign policy issue, the country is committed to suporting the agreed policy.

  • 8.
  • At 01:10 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

Many thanks, Mr Mardell, for this illuminating analysis.

  • 9.
  • At 02:37 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

I'm a little unclear about how U.K. sovreignty has been subjected to America. Isn't Britain perfectly capable of pulling out of Iraq when it wishes? I'm not a fan of the Iraq war, but I don't see how Britain couldn't leave anytime they wished.

"The glory of the EU - which I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) may be unique in history - is that it's an inclusive empire that people actually want to join. What does that mean?"


It means it is an Empire the POLITICIANS want to join, and will join regardless of if the people they are supposed to represent want to.

The EU is not representative and is certainly not democratic. Fine, if you are a self-loathing Internationalist wanting to cling on the coat-tails of a bigger brother, eager to get to swim in a bigger pond and get access to a longer, deeper trough that is filled constantly without ever having to explain yourself to those who have to do the filling.

  • 11.
  • At 03:33 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Liberty Valence wrote:

As John (#7) wrote, there is no room in the current EU treaty for:
1. nations to change their minds over something they have already had to agree to because of qualified majority voting, regardless of new circumstances or the need for national policy changes following elections.
2. Nor is there room for nations to express disatisfaction with the conduct of either the High Representative or other EU Commissioners & officials. But initiating unsatisfactory policies should be a dismissable offence for High Representatives etc. In Britain's past several English Ministers were impeached (or worse) for High Treason. Is this sanction going to be available again? It certainly should be for treacherous High Reps, Commissioners, & EU officials etc!
3. Who takes precedence (both within nation states & also on EU premises) between EU officials & national Heads of States & ministers is also ambiguous. Frankly, no EU official should take precedence over national ministers, & especially not over national heads of states!
4. And what happens if there are disputes - & this pig's ear of a Lisbon treaty has created massive opportunities for them to occur? The best suggestion that I have heard going around is for nations to:
a) with-hold their regular cheques (ie contributions to the EU budget),
b) actually fine the EU for any misbehaviour, incompetence, arrogance, failure of the annual audit report to be satisfactory, & adverse ECJ decisions etc etc,
c) publically humiliate EU officials by publically disagreeing with them when they get too "uppity", or try to follow policies that are NOT appreciated by some countries. This could include publically supporting any country that the EU criticises, by publically backing them against the EU. Frankly the opportunities are endless!

And none of the above has been dealt with in the Lisbon treaty so far! If the anti-democratic EU had offered its up-to-now ever-patient citizens referendums on the EU treaty, these absurd omissions would almost certainly have been identified & resolved in a much less arrogant, deceptive, & imperious document than what has emerged so far in the Lisbon Constitutional Reform treaty. What silly people the EU officials & member countries' ministers (including the UK's) are! Do they really think the public have not noticed how often they lie & deceptive they all are?

  • 12.
  • At 03:41 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

As a European I would like to ask: What has Britain ever done for us?

Sorry, folks, but the europhobes have no model to offer to Europe and we certainly will not buy into their concept of divide and rule.

The EU decides collectively and that's the way it should be, also in foreign affairs. If you don't like it you can leave and draw your standing on the world stage from hanging on to the coattails of the Yankee imperialists. Not that this will get you much respect, but at least you don't have to learn a foreign language.

  • 13.
  • At 03:53 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Lukas wrote:

john wrote "US states are not sovergin."

Actually, due to its federal nature, the states and the federal US government SHARE sovereignty. This is what federalism means. Foreign policy and other important issues that need to be done at the federal level are done in Washington. Other things that mainly concern the states, such as environmental policies (e.g. California) can be decided at state level. Its perfect.

  • 14.
  • At 03:57 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • David wrote:

"European enthusiasts paint a vision of a future and eurosceptics react as though it has come to pass"

Congratulations, Marcel.

  • 15.
  • At 04:09 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

If EUrophiles are so sure that the 'Reform' (aka Constitutional) Treaty and all consequences flowing from it (such as the HR - a de facto EU Foreign Minister) are so beneficial, why do they not submit it to the approval of the people by referendum?

Why by referendum? Because there will be substantial additional loss of national sovereignty. Our elected representatives have not been mandated by the British people to hand over to a supra-national entity the powers and sovereignty granted to them only for the duration of a Parliamentary term.

As for Iraq, if the British people have a beef about the British government's policy then, come the general election, we can change our government. How do we change the HR or the leadership EU?

  • 16.
  • At 05:11 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Some of the important and learned contributors to the article do not seem to understand the difference between

(i) the Commission's right of initiative, as a collegiate i.e. collective, body as embodied in Article 17 (ex.9D) of the new TEU ("Union legislative acts may be adopted only on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. Other acts shall be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal where the Treaties so provide") and

(ii) the "right of initiative" of the High Representative in respect of the CFSP as set out in Article 19 (ex. 9E)("The High Representative shall conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy. He or she shall contribute by his or her proposals to the development of that policy, which he or she shall carry out as mandated by the Council. The same shall apply to the common security and defence policy").

Article 24 of the new TEU specifically states that "the adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded" in the area of the CFSP.

The grey area that will arise for the new incumbent in straddling his/her dual role as chair of the Foreign Affairs Council and member of the Commission is in the area of external economic relations which is governed by other articles in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. There will be a debate/struggle as to where these issues belong e.g. perhaps on the agenda of the General Affairs Council or another technical configuration(still chaired by a minister from the country holding the rotating presidency) rather than the Foreign Affairs Council. When Foreign Ministers wake up to the situation that their Heads of State and Government have created for them (i.e. providing them with a headmaster to rule over their unruly CFSP activities) one can well imagine that the tried and tested existing routines will win out.

This will be the case because many Member States feel that there is a risk that the CFSP tail may well wag the external relations dog (where the issues are much more bread-and-butter and closer to domestic political concerns).

  • 17.
  • At 05:30 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"Before the US was the main target of terrorism, terrorism was after all not a huge deal before 911, but now dominates every piece of politics in the US and the UK." [#3]

Oh yes, it was and for many years: from Algeria and Egypt, through India, Kenya and Lebanon, to Tanzania and Yemen.

And I'm not even talking about ETA, RAF, Brigadi Rossi, PKK or...IRA.

  • 18.
  • At 05:34 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Lukas wrote:

Max Sceptic wrote:
"why do they not submit it to the approval of the people by referendum?"
Winston Churchill said:
"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."
Thats exactly, why they do not want it and given that the British press is hijacked by Euro-hating Murdoch, its the best choice. I believe the only valid referendum in the UK should be: "Do you want the UK to remain in the EU and understand that this will lead to further integration that might result in a federation."
This would finally force the UK to make a decision; THE decision.

  • 19.
  • At 05:36 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

Lord Patten is not correct to say that British policy in Iraq indicates any loss of sovereignty. On the contrary, the decision to participate in the invasion of Iraq was taken after a vote in Parliament and with the backing (at the time) of a majority in the country. Nor does NATO membership involve a loss of sovereignty as he has claimed because Article 5 of the NATO charter only commits its members to “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force” and not the automatic declaration of war by a supra-national institution. Indeed the wording of the NATO Charter was chosen to preserve the war-making power of the US Congress – a parliament representing a sovereign people – afforded it by the US Constitution.

Lord Patten’s remarks on sovereignty here are rather strange because in 2000 he made a rather intelligent speech in which he showed he was clearly aware that sovereignty depends on the will of the people and also the reasons why EU institutions are not accepted as democratically legitimate. In particular he recognised that there is no European ‘demos’ (or people) that might legitimate pan-European decision-making and went on to propose some measures to shore up the democratic legitimacy of the Brussels institutions, notably by increasing the role of the national parliaments – the only bodies in Europe truthfully able to claim to represent a people - in the workings of the EU.

http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/news/patten/speech_00_402.htm

The then Commissioner Patten failed however to come to the obvious conclusion – that the powers of the EU already exceeded its legitimacy base in 2000. In the 7 years since he made that speech, we have seen the problems he identified exacerbated. The Commission’s own Eurobarometer polling shows the further weakening of European identity in all member states, such that now only 3% of UK citizens claim to be more European than British. This is important because it is the strength of these identities that leads to the strong solidarities required for individuals to accept as legitimate decisions with which they personally disagree but a majority of others favour. These strong solidarities exist within nations but not between nations, meaning that Brussels cannot take decisions in politically sensitive areas such as foreign policy without exposing the natural cleavages between the distinct peoples of Europe that stem from their distinct languages, histories and cultures. Therefore even if the EU still had the same powers it enjoyed in 2000 the weakening of European identity since then would have further undermined the legitimacy problem Commissioner Pattern identified back then. Yet rather than conclude the obvious - that fewer politically sensitive matters should be decided in Brussels - political leaders repeatedly decided to transfer yet more powers to Brussels, including in the most sensitive of areas and to do so in direct contravention of referendum results and election manifesto commitments. The result is that the EU has now totally overloaded its legitimacy base. In a democracy all sovereignty must be derived from a people. There is no reason why anyone should consider themself bound by EU decisions taken by institutions that are beyond the reach of our votes and whose powers derive from a succession of treaties which the British people (and others) have deliberately been denied any opportunity to endorse.

-----------------------------------
“People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws." – Edmund Burke

  • 20.
  • At 05:40 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Matthew Walsh wrote:

"Max Sceptic";
To change the HR or the EUC you can pressure or elect new members of the European Parliament to sack the commission. But how do we change the head of the Secret Intelligence Service in the UK? How do we change the Prime Minister but still keep his party in a parliamentary majority? Those are far more worrying and with far more power than any commissioner who was elected by the member states and approved by our democratic EU Parliament.

  • 21.
  • At 07:20 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • CHRIS WOOD wrote:

LET TAKE BRITAIN BACK FROM THE EU WE CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT IT AND BROWN AS NO MANDATE TO SIGN TREATIES AND THE EU AS BETRAYED ALL MEMBERS BY BRINGING IN THE OLD CONSITUTION THROUGH THE BACK DOOR SO SOONER OR LATER ITS ALL GOING TO BACKFIRE ON THEM AND THE EU WILL FALL APART AND THATS A FACT MAYBE IN 10 20 EVEN 30 YEARS TIME BUT IT WILL HAPPEN

  • 22.
  • At 07:23 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Matthew Walsh #17: your suggestion that we "pressure or elect new members of the European Parliament to sack the commission" is silly. How do we ('we' being the British people) elect sufficient MEPs to do any such thing when British MEPs represent less than 10% of all MEPs (78 out of 785). If Britain interests are at odds with continental interests then, when push comes to shove, we in reality can do sweet FA except either capitulate or exit.

Why would you wish to dismiss a Prime Minister but retain his/her party? As much as Blair tried, we do not yet have a Presidential system. Government policies and decisions are deemed to be collective. You ask about the head of the Secret Intelligence Service. Why so exotic an animal? What about a role more pertinent to the debate - let's say our own British EU Commissioner, Peter Mandelson? Twice ejected from government for impropriety and promoted by his crony to the graviest train in town, how do we British go about ejecting this living symbol of Nu Labour sleaze and spin? The answer is, of course, that we change the government (and then they get one of their over-promoted cronies to do the job, and we sit back and watch as they 'go native').

"Our democratic EU Parliament" is a farce. It can't even initiate legislation - at this time this remains the preserve of the Commission. It can only play with the toys and budgets it is given. It can spend money, but can't raise taxes (thank goodness actually!). It is powerless to decide even whether or not it commutes monthly between Brussels and Strasbourg. Eunuchs have more potency.

  • 23.
  • At 07:37 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Lukas (#18). Churchill said many fine things which can be used to support a variety of views. (For instance, he was in favour of a United States of Europe - a fact seized upon by EUrophiles. They forget to mention, however, that he was against Britain being part of it).

I am amused by your presumption to tell us what is or is not a 'valid referendum'. Anything else we must abide by?

Having said that, I agree that sooner or later we are going to have to make a decision one way or the other about 'ever closer union'. You admit that this is indeed federation. Unfortunately our political class is not as honest as you, and they keep trying to tell us otherwise.

But, the wool has fallen from our eyes.

  • 24.
  • At 09:20 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Mr A Hershko wrote:

Adding to what Matthew Walsh wrote, to Max Sceptic and the rest of the Eurosceptics:

REPEATING THE LIE ABOUT THE EU BEING UNDEMOCRATIC DOESN'T MAKE IT SO!

You, as European citizens, elect the European parliament, and your national government. Both bodies elect and approve the EU commission, and make EU laws. The UK is exactly the same - You don't elect your ministers and cabinet, and yet they rule you. They are elected for you by parliament. Ain't it a bit hypocritical to accept it for the UK, but call the EU undemocratic for the same thing?

And this is without even mentioning that in actuality, the UK is much less democratic than the EU, as it's also being ruled by the house of lords and the queen, both establishments being non elected (not even indirectly).

The UK press has repeated the lie about the EU being undemocratic so many times, people now just treat it as unquestionable truth. It appalling.

  • 25.
  • At 09:41 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Sticking to the issue which I had understood to be under discussion, that of the dual (and conflicting roles) assigned to the High Representative, a quick check through the "external relations" areas in the second of the new treaties(TFU) reveals the following;

(i) Common Commercial Policy (WTO etc.) exclusive competence of the EU,legislative acts under co-decision

(ii) development cooperation, technical cooperation and humanitarian aid; shared competence and also legislative acts under co-decision.

However, in respect of "international agreements" (Article 218 of TFU), "the Commission, or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy where the agreement envisaged relates exclusively or principally to the common foreign and security policy, shall submit recommendations to the Council, which shall adopt a decision authorising the opening of negotiations..."

Given the limitations mentioned earlier, the scope for the Council alone to adopt decisions (as a legal act but not as a legislative instrument)on international agreements seems hardly earth-shaking, although the ambiguity of the wording must be added to the list of "grey areas". The ECJ has no powers, for example, in relation to the CFSP (other than to ensure that there is no encroachment by it on other ares of EU policy).

The future High Representative will have an interesting time arguing with himself/herself and/or his/her legal advisers in the Council Secretariat and his/her legal advisers in the Commission as to whether a particular proposal for an agreement "relates exclusively or principally to the CFSP".


  • 26.
  • At 12:20 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

Corrections:

#3 (Ola Frenchman) says "terrorism was after all not a huge deal before 9/11.. but now dominates every piece of politics in the US and UK"

- WHOAAAHHH! Before making comments like that, maybe you should read a British history book. Well before 9/11, Britain suffered years of mindless violence at the hands of the IRA and other terrorist groups like Combat 18. My own grandfather was caught in the blast of an IRA bomb (luckily he was not hurt). Terorism has been a major subject in UK politics for decades. When I was younger I remember the news being dominated by the IRA for weeks. So get your facts straight.

# 12 (Ronald) says "What has Britain ever done for us?... hanging on the coattails of the Yankee imperialists"

- Britain contributes more money to the EU than any other member state - despite the fact that Germany has a much larger economy.

With regards to your latter comment, while I think that Britain was wrong to join America in Iraq, I am proud that my country has a strong relationship with America.
This strong relationship stems from the alliance our two nations had to make to save Europe from itself in the two world wars and from the rise of the Soviet Union. You could argue that Germany created Britain and America's "special relationship". Nevertheless, I am still pro-European.

As for the main point, I have to say I do think we worry too much about sacrificing our sovereignty to the EU. As a pro-EU Briton, I think it's important to have a united Europe and try and speak with one voice as much as possible.
With China and India emerging superpowers, America already one and Russia becoming more and more influential, it's vital that the tiny nations that make up Europe try and speak with one voice. The EU is the best way to do it and I think the creation of this exclusive club is one of the greatest success stories of the 20th century.

  • 27.
  • At 12:28 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • pintea wrote:

Modern Europe was build as state nations. For years nationalism and nationalisation governed states politics. It is normal for today people to be surprised by a major change in politics. Yesterday they told me my country and my culture is the best in the world. Today they tell me that diversity and tolerance is better. maybe I am a little bit confused.
But I know for sure that a High Representative is useless as long as there is no agreement between member states. I know that as long as this HR will represent mainly the biger states(Germany, France, Britain etc.) and less the smaller one (i.e. Malta) his role is useless. A HR and anyone within EU structure shall represent the interest of any UE citizen.
EU is moving slow maybe to slow comparing to its main competitors (China, India, Rusia, USA).
What sovereignity?
For how long do you think that any country can be called sovereign with a stronger global influence from USA, China etc,?

  • 28.
  • At 02:32 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Is it real, or is it all done with smoke and mirrors? Is the EU actually becoming a superstate, or a lot of little states trying to appear to the outside world like one big one? It's hard to tell but to me it sure seems like there are a lot of people who dream of a USE to "challenge" the USA and also Russia, China, India, Japan, and whoever else comes along like a United States of Africa or a United States of Latin America.

I for one look forward to it but it does present some interesting dilemmas. Will the USE have two votes in the Security Council or one? 27 votes in the General Assembly or one? How many embassies in foreign capitals and how many consulates? How will the USE relate to NATO? Should it finally pay an equal contribution to the USA having approximately equal GDP? Or should NATO be disbanded altogether because it will be impossible for the USA to have some sort of split policy where part of the USE is a participant and part isn't. There are lots of questions like that but what intrigues me most of all is how the USE will get 27 open demoncratic nations to agree on one foreign policy when I don't know 27 individuals who can agree on anything in life. I'm waiting to see just what kind of smoke and mirrors it takes to pull that one off.

  • 29.
  • At 05:39 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Commentator Lukas (originally #18) repeats a well-known quote from Winston Churchill as an argument against democracy.

Unfortunately, the defect with this line of argument is that it is nothing more than a statement of personal opinion (Winston Churchill's opinion, but a personal opinion nonetheless).

There is no a priori principle whereby Churchill's anti-democratic opinion may be accorded greater weight than the opinions of other people, including in particular the opinions of those who might support democracy were it to be put to a referendum.

(Some may be tempted to use the same argument against democracy itself. However the symmetry breaks down: democrats, or at least logically consistent democrats, do not seek to have greater weight accorded to their opinions - only that all opinions be accorded equal weight in a referendum.)

Were (so-called) "representative" government to be authorised by referendum, it could be argued that that referendum provided a democratic basis for its legitimacy. However, at no point in the entire history of the United Kingdom has such a referendum ever occurred.

  • 30.
  • At 07:18 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • harry starks wrote:

Denis O'Leary makes good points.

The Council will adopt legislative acts in respect of commerce, trade, development aid, environment, energy etc., all of which may have implications for the EU's common foreign and security policy. Will these limit what Foreign Ministers can decide? Or will Foreign Ministers and the High Representative have a role in determining the policy to follow in those other areas?

In Council meetings the President will as Chair have the task of facilitating agreement on action to be taken on a proposal from the Commission. That means the relevant Commissioner will be at all Council meetings to defend the Commission's proposal.

I don't understand what is supposed to happen in meetings of the Foreign and Security Policy Council, where the High Representative will, apparently, be responsible both for defending the Commission's policy proposal and facilitating Council agreement on it. Nor do I understand the respective roles of the Commission's staff (the relevant DG) and the Council Secretariat in this process.

  • 31.
  • At 07:27 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • john newson wrote:

I note a consistent trend for many people to analyse this issue by looking at the technicalities and specific clauses of treaties and agreements. Why? History tells us that the legal word is usually fleeting (three cheers to the UK for no stultifying constitution) so why not look through the screen of words to the feeling of the meaning behind them? I'm a Brit - a country that I left because I didn't like the culture any more, living in Slovenia. I've been a European and an Earthling all my life, although I left Europe behind for many years, recently returning to live in its cleanest pocket. However, I've never left the Earth: nor have any of you. Why not think "Neighbour" just like you would at home, and behave ethically? Sod the words on the documents. They'll get pencilled-in eventually.

  • 32.
  • At 09:53 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

"it sure seems like there are a lot of people who dream of a USE to "challenge" the USA" [#24]


"Man can't live without dreams" (V.I. Lenin)

"We shall soon catch up with and surpass the United States!"
(N.S. Khrushchev - 1961]

"27 EUnuchs singing falsetto in unison are still impotent"
[Mirek Kondracki -2007)

P.S. An assumption that UK and France would give up their seats in UN Security Council so that EU could have one is about as realistic as an assumption that China would agree on India's membership in the UNSC or that Russia and PRC would allow Japan to get a seat in it.

Ronald Gruenebaum asks "What has Britain ever done for us?"
I think that is a rather tactless question, if, as his surname implies, he is German or Austrian. Britain has historically played a role in saving continental Europe from its own worst excesses, and was committed to defending Germany from the communist threat until only 17 years ago. That is not a negligible history, and is a sign of commitment to the well-being of Europe; along with the uncomplaining allowing of the EU to take large quantities of British money and spend it in highly unaccountable ways.

  • 34.
  • At 10:58 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

One letter even says what has Britain ever done for Europe! What planet are these people from? I am not going to belittle my country with an answer. Just go back to school and read some history.
As far as the present day is concerned Britain pays into the EU kitty a hell of a lot more then it gets back so don,t even go down that road.
Pleased to say the majority of us Brits do not want to be part of a United States of Europe and the sooner we let the countries who do, pay for it and not us the better.

  • 35.
  • At 12:50 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Replying to Harry Starks (#30), I am equally puzzled (and it seems that some of the main protagonists are not too clear in their minds either).

The dual mandate approach ignores the separation of powers between the institutions on which the Community method is based i.e. decisions by the legislature (Council plus Parliament) on the basis of QMV (however defined), acting on the basis of a proposal from the Commission (sole right of initiative) and with no capacity for the Council to overrule the Commission except on the basis of unanimity.

As this immensely strong institutional and legal system has stood the test of time and is retained in the Treaty of Lisbon, my assumption is that it will trump any attempts to circumvent it.

Some obvious avenues of institutional resistance suggest themselves e.g. the technical councils (and the relevant Commissioners)that you mention guarding their territory - including external aspects - jealously.

In a parallel thread on Mark's interview with Willian Hague, the issue of the likely tension between the President of the European Council and the High Representative has been raised. This is equivalent to two bald men fighting over a comb.

We already have a rotating President of the European Council who invariably sees the task as an opportunity to promote national objectives (the last - if everything goes to plan - being Nicholas Sarkozy). Neither he (or the future appointed President), or the High Representative, will be able to do anything that Member States have not agreed to unanimously i.e. the present situation.

Apart from the ambiguous wording on international agreements, the barriers between CFSP and the rest of the Union's activities will, if anything, be more watertight under the new treaties than under the existing texts.

The two appointed individuals (repeat, individuals)involved will have a status equivalent to that of equivalent posts in any international organisation. This will not be true either of the Commission or its President as they will continue to represent a key institution not a vague mandate. Nor will it be true of the Head of State or Government whose Ministers, with a political responsibility which the two appointed officials will lack, are chairing the various technical configurations of the Council. It is in this context that the real tensions will arise.

If there is any doubt about the important political role of the Presidency, including for example the right to decide when a vote is called under the Council's rules of procedure, one need look no further than the recent furore about the working time and part-time working directives. I refuse to believe that Europe's leaders in their collective wisdom (not very much in evidence at the moment)will fail to recognise that such political calls must remain where they belong viz. with the elected representatives of the peoples of Europe.

  • 36.
  • At 03:20 AM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

Ronald Grunebaum (12) read (33).
A thought has just come to mind with his carrying on about'THE COLLECTIVE'
Has anyone out there seen a movie with aliens called THE BORG !
They go all over the universe taking over planets into'THEIR COLLECTIVE' If you don,t agree with them,hard luck. You do not get a referendum on the subject.You just have to comply. Maybe this guy is a plant!
Sounds crazy to you?
Well this guy sounds crazy to me!

  • 37.
  • At 04:26 AM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Jukka Rohila wrote:

For those discussing the budget of the Union and who contributes most and who gets what, please look on to the Wikipedia article about it: Budget of the European Union

For those who are too hastly to browse it, Germans pay most, followed by France, Italy and UK. The only thing missing from the table unfortunately is measurement by per person basis and by GDP.

To comment the matter on hand I think it's very important that EU gets united front and front man. It doesn't matter that the united front in most cases wont propably get any decision made quickly or come to an agreement on short time. This still doesn't mean that having united foreign policy with a High Representative would be futile. What having united policy, united decision making with HR as an outside face means that EU members play less and less solo. Solo playing only hurts nations and the whole Europe in the long run.

And of course... Does Europe have any other choice? US is willing to more and more use unilater action and other powers as in Russia and China would be as eager for unilater action if they just had the resources to do so. In this context, Europe needs one voice and one policy to ensure that Europe and a European way can succeed in the future.

  • 38.
  • At 04:28 AM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

Pinta (27)
'what sovereignity '
Mayby a lot of the political classes do not mind the pooling of their sovereign state but i think the people do. Why do you think that countries do not hold referendums on the subject ?
Please don,t say that the people do not know enough about the subject and we should leave it to the polticians etc.That is just a big lie by the pro lobby.
We should trust in the people.
The dictionary says Sovereign state; Self-governing and not ruled by any other state.
Of course we can work together on things we agree with like trade, climate control,aid etc. but we do not need and will never accept the road the pro lobby want to go down.

  • 39.
  • At 02:43 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Caspar Heetman wrote:

Britain always seems to look at the negative side of things. When it comes to the EU, for Britain, the glass always seems to be half-empty, but never half-full. I think Britain should regard this treaty as an opportunity to have a greater, not a smaller influence on European foreign policy.

There is a tricky, but therefore interesting, difference between formal power and informal power, as Lord Patten pointed out: "But while I don't wish to insult 24 nation states, anybody who is trying to represent Europe will have to make damn certain he is representing France and Britain and Germany. If you want to be a High Representative for long, then you'd better be certain you've got those big member states on board."

Britain will ALWAYS have to belong to the coalition of countries that has to support a proposal for foreign policy. More important, while formally, all 27 member states have a say, the policy positions of the 3 biggest states matter most. In previous years, Britain, Germany and France have for instance been negotiating with Iran on behalf of the EU. There are more such examples of how the Big Three acted on behalf of the rest. Effectively, this gives Britain a 33% say over ALL foreign policy of ALL 27 memberstates, since especially the smaller member states will want to conduct foreign policy as much as possible through the new EU channel. Just to compare: right now Britain has a 100% say over only one twentyseventh of all Foreign policy of EU countries. The influence of Britian ver foreign policy in the EU will rise from 3,7% (one twentyseventh) influence to approximately 33%, one third of influence. That's an increase of 891%!

Why is Britain then still complaining? It should be the other 24 member states that should be complaining.

The British, like most other Europeans should learn that the nationstate is only a tool by which a people tries to conduct foreign policy in order to change the foreign or domestic policy of other peoples living in other (nation)states. That tool, the nation state, is becoming increasingly less effective.

As Lord Patten correctly pointed out the US is currently influencing British foreign policy in what is essentially a relationship between unequal partners, called the 'special relationship'. As a sceptic of this relationship, I like to point out that it is mostly beneficial to the US, because in practice it guarantees the US of a loyal ally, while Britain hardly has any influence. Or was former Prime Minister Blair able to change President Bush's mind back in 2003, when the Second Gulf War started? He wasn't: Britain either had to go along, or join Germany and France in their protest. Grudgingly Britain accepted and went along with the US, to carry out foreign policy on which it had zero influence.

The EU is a new vehicle through which nationstates in Europe can gain more control over what is happening in the world. It is a new tool for the peoples of Europe, to partly replace their outdated nationstates in the areas where the nationstate can no longer effectively defend the interest of the respective people in the international arena. This has been pointed out by Alan Milward already back in 1992, in his standard work "The European Rescue of the Nationstate".

Britain would do well to get accustomed to this new reality of the world and adapt its view regarding the EU to it

  • 40.
  • At 04:47 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Denis O’Leary (35): As your own 2nd paragraph illustrates there is no separation of powers in the EU. The EU’s institutional structure is based on a “separation of interests” model rather a separation of powers with the Council of Ministers (supposedly) representing the interests of the member-states and the Commission and EU Parliament representing the supra-national interest. Executive power is distributed between the Commission & Council of Ministers and Legislative power between Council of Ministers & EU Parliament. Montesquieu never went to Brussels.

The ‘separation of interests’ model has largely been abandoned throughout the world because it leads to infighting between various institutions rather than a focus on optimal policy outcomes. But its major problem in Europe is that it gives national executives (who sit in the EU Council of Ministers) an opportunity to produce legislation which cannot be blocked by national legislatures. The effect of the EU institutional architecture is therefore to weaken whatever separation of powers there may be at national level, re-enforcing the power of the (already over-mighty) national executive relative to other branches of government. The EU is therefore leading to a breakdown of the separation of powers at national level.

If the present course is maintained national legislatures will at some point be prevented (by the ever-swelling body of superior EU law) from legislating at all. At that time our national elections will be reduced to simply determining which party sends a representative to the EU Council of Ministers and then returns to tell us he/she was outvoted and so must live under law we disagree with but cannot change. Nor will the EU Parliament preserve democracy in Europe because ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ requires a people and this does not exist at EU level. Majority voting at supranational level simply means the biggest countries (or an alliance of a couple of them) decide for the rest.

The point you made earlier (16) about legislative acts in the area of foreign policy being ruled out by Article 24 TEU is a red-herring. By its very nature foreign policy is not an area where legislation plays a significant role. It is the right of policy initiative which matters in foreign policy and as both Lord Patten and Javier Solana indicate (and they should know) this is a power which Javier Solana would yield in the role of EU High representative/foreign minister. Furthermore, the resurrected Constitution allows majority voting on the new high representative's proposals for implementing unanimously agreed policies. We can fully expect this ambiguity between deciding and implementing foreign policy to be exploited to the maximum federalist extent possible. Is the sending of troops to an existing hotspot the implementation of policy for example?

  • 41.
  • At 05:32 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

I would be very much in agreement with the points made by Caspar Heetman (#39). He has adverted to the elephant in the corner of the room; the fact that the Treaty of Lisbon greatly enhances the power of the six largest Member States (although, as Lord Patten has pointed out, Germany, France and the UK are essential to any major foreign policy decision). Indeed, this is particularly so because, not alone are France and the UK nuclear powers and members of the UN Security Council, they are also, for historical reasons, the only two member states capable of projecting significant military power. This reality was copper-fastened in the St. Malo agreement negotiated between Blair and Chirac (which still survives, despite Iraq).

Unfortunately, other contributors, it seems to me, are also correct in their view that, because of a comedy of political errors, European leaders have lost the confidence of their electorates, as evidenced in their unwillingness to submit the Treaty of Lisbon to referendum.

I also agree with John Newson (#31) that there is excessive focus on texts but, at the present juncture, there is no alternative if one is to come to an informed opinion.

This is particularly so as the texts in question will be gone over with a fine tooth comb in the debate in the British Parliament which Mark says in another thread, following an interview, that he thinks William Hague is looking forward to (as well he might).

But to argue, as William Hague apparently does, that a treaty, negotiated and ratified in accordance with parliamentary procedures in the mother of parliaments, would still lack legitimacy seems to me to venture onto very dangerous ground. Pacta sunt servanda.

As to why the smaller Member States are not complaining, I think that this is attributable to the fact that the Treaty of Lisbon is an honourable compromise, the area of foreign policy being appropriately insulated from the areas of the treaty where more formal decision-making arrangements - protective of the interests of the smaller Member States - apply.

  • 42.
  • At 07:54 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Denis O’Leary (35): It is ludicrous to say that the current institutional architecture in Brussels is ‘immensely strong’. It has been modified 5 times in the last 20 years; more often than the Constitution of a banana republic, or even Russia. Political institutions that do not have the support of the people they rule over can only be described as inherently weak.

You are also wrong to say that the EU institutional structure is based on a separation of powers. It is in fact based on a “separation of interests” with the Council of Ministers (supposedly) representing the interests of the member-states and the Commission and EU Parliament representing the supra-national interest. Executive and legislative powers are not separated but shared; executive power between the Commission & Council and Legislative power between Council of Ministers & EU Parliament. Montesquieu could never have been an influence on the Brussels system because Monnet devised the EU institutions with a completely different purpose in mind than enduring liberty. The goal of his “Action Committee for the United States of Europe” was the steady transfer of powers to the bodies representing the supranational interest. Therefore only the Commission is allowed to propose changes (to ensure that all proposals are in the direction of ‘more Europe’) and a one-time vote in the Council of Ministers is sufficient to secure a permanent loss of legislative power from our national parliaments.

These institutional mechanisms actually contribute to the violation of the separation of powers at national level because they give members of national executives (i.e. cabinet ministers sitting in the EU Council of Ministers) an opportunity to produce legislation which not only cannot be blocked by their national legislatures but which permanently prevents that national Parliament from legislating in that area again. The effect of the EU institutional architecture is therefore the gradual breakdown of whatever separation of powers there may be at national level, weakening the legislature – the voice of the people – relative to already over-mighty executives.

Given current EU treaties a point in time will be reached when national parliaments will be prevented by the swollen body of EU law from legislating at all. At that time our national elections will be reduced to simply determining which party sends a representative to the EU Council of Ministers and then returns to tell us he/she was outvoted and we must live under law we disagree with but cannot change. Nor will the EU Parliament preserve democracy in Europe because ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ requires a people and this does not exist at EU level.

http://www.ena.lu/europe/19501956-formation-community-europe/action-committee-united-states-europe-paris-1957.htm

The point you made earlier (16) about legislative acts in the area of foreign policy being ruled out by Article 24 TEU is a red-herring. By its very nature foreign policy is not an area where legislation plays a significant role. It is the right of policy initiative which matters in foreign policy and as both Lord Patten and Javier Solana indicate (and they should know) this is a power which Javier Solana would yield in the role of EU High representative/foreign minister. Furthermore, the resurrected Constitution allows majority voting on the High Representative's proposals for ‘implementing’ unanimously agreed policies. We can fully expect this ambiguity between deciding and implementing foreign policy to be exploited to the maximum federalist extent possible such that policy decisions are disguised as implementation in order that they be determined by majority vote. And of course the most important means of implementing foreign policy is known as defence policy.

  • 43.
  • At 07:54 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Caspar Heetman wrote:

Britain always seems to look at the negative side of things. When it comes to the EU, for Britain, the glass always seems to be half-empty, but never half-full. I think Britain should regard this treaty as an opportunity to have a greater, not a smaller influence on European foreign policy.

There is a tricky, but therefore interesting, difference between formal power and informal power, as Lord Patten pointed out: "But while I don't wish to insult 24 nation states, anybody who is trying to represent Europe will have to make damn certain he is representing France and Britain and Germany. If you want to be a High Representative for long, then you'd better be certain you've got those big member states on board."

Britain will ALWAYS have to belong to the coalition of countries that has to support a proposal for foreign policy. More important, while formally, all 27 member states have a say, the policy positions of the 3 biggest states matter most. In previous years, Britain, Germany and France have for instance been negotiating with Iran on behalf of the EU. There are more such examples of how the Big Three acted on behalf of the rest. Effectively, this gives Britain a 33% say over ALL foreign policy of ALL 27 memberstates, since especially the smaller member states will want to conduct foreign policy as much as possible through the new EU channel. Just to compare: right now Britain has a 100% say over only one twentyseventh of all Foreign policy of EU countries. The influence of Britian ver foreign policy in the EU will rise from 3,7% (one twentyseventh) influence to approximately 33%, one third of influence. That's an increase of 891%!

Why is Britain then still complaining? It should be the other 24 member states that should be complaining.

The British, like most other Europeans should learn that the nationstate is only a tool by which a people tries to conduct foreign policy in order to change the foreign or domestic policy of other peoples living in other (nation)states. That tool, the nation state, is becoming increasingly less effective.

As Lord Patten correctly pointed out the US is currently influencing British foreign policy in what is essentially a relationship between unequal partners, called the 'special relationship'. As a sceptic of this relationship, I like to point out that it is mostly beneficial to the US, because in practice it guarantees the US of a loyal ally, while Britain hardly has any influence. Or was former Prime Minister Blair able to change President Bush's mind back in 2003, when the Second Gulf War started? It is useful to be reminded that Blair didn't like Bush's approach and wanted to build a more solid coalition. However, he wasn't able to change Bush's mind: Britain either had to go along, or join Germany and France in their protest. Grudgingly Britain accepted and went along with the US, to carry out foreign policy on which it had zero influence.

The EU is a new vehicle through which nationstates in Europe can gain more control over what is happening in the world. It is a new tool for the peoples of Europe, to partly replace their outdated nationstates in the areas where the European nationstate can no longer effectively defend the interests of the respective people in the international arena. This has been pointed out by Alan Milward already back in 1992, in his standard work "The European Rescue of the Nationstate".

Also the very existance of NATO conceals the fact that nowadays no single European country is able to defend its homeland against the military power of the great powers in the world, without the help of the US. Individual European countries, Britain included, are in practice not nearly as sovereign as their constitutions state.

Britain would do well to get accustomed to this new reality of the world and adapt its view regarding the EU to it. It is in the interest of the British people to embrace the EU.

  • 44.
  • At 10:21 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

Interesting mathematics Caspar (39) but as I recall it was Margaret Thatcher who persuaded George Bush Snr. of the need for the 1st Gulf War with her phrase “this is no time to go wobbly George”. Perhaps if she had still been British PM at the end those hostilities they would not have ended prematurely and Sadaam Hussein could have been removed from power in 1991 with no need for a 2nd Gulf War to finish the job.

Fundamentally the relationship between the UK and USA has endured and will endure because it is based on shared values. The sight of EU leaders lining up last weekend to shake the blood-soaked hand of Robert Mugabe shows that different values prevail on the Continent. That a British Prime Minister could not persuade Continental leaders not to go ahead with what was a clear propgandanda coup for the Zimbabwean tyrant would suggest that (i) Britain does not have the influence in European capitals that your ingenious mathematics would suggest and (ii) that European leaders so lacking in a moral compass should not have any role in setting our foreign policy.

  • 45.
  • At 12:50 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Jos wrote:

No country is a purely sovereign power - not even the USA today or Britain at her imperial height. Every country has to work with others to achieve its aims, and it has to compromise, especially these days. The weaker the country, the more it has to compromise. The real question is over what the compromises are made, and with whom. The EU as represented by 26 mainly continental countries is not a natural partner for the UK - these countries are geographically close, that is all. And in the modern world of global communications, there is no reason to base partnership or give away sovereignty purely on the basis of geographical proximity. Roll on a Union of equals and like minded countries. The EU hardly fits this description.

  • 46.
  • At 02:59 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Mark Johnston wrote:

Mark, Only the Commission as a whole, and not any of its individual members, holds the right of iniative. For a draft Solana proposal to be formalised, he must obtain a simple majority (at least 14/27 votes) amongst his colleagues. That said, Presdient Barroso has NEVER held a vote, and by habit tends to rule alone.

  • 47.
  • At 04:25 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Replying to John (#41), I did not say that the institutional architecture of the EU as a whole is immensely strong, I said that the Community method is. It has remained unchanged since the Treaty of Rome and will remain unchanged in the new treaties. If that is not an indication of its solidity, if not its worth, I do not know what is.

In saying that it is based on a separation of powers, I was stating a fact. I did not compare the system to a classical national political system as such a comparison would be invalid. The system is unique to the European Union. The Union has progressed from 6 to 27 Member States and continues to function effectively. Please see also my later blog #40 replying to Caspar Heetman in which I underline the importance of Ministers with political responsibility staying in charge of all Council formations other than Foreign Affairs.

I am no fan of the appointment of the two individuals "President of the European Council" and "High Representative". Indeed, the burden of my argument is that the appointments represent an attempt at a facile answer to a complex problem viz. giving more coherence to the external action of the Union.

One commentator some years ago described the fundamental element of the European democratic deficit as being the inability of national parliaments to control what their representatives do in the Council. They have a much better possibility of controlling these representatives in the structured institutional and legal framework of the Community method e.g. by insisting that Ministers come before parliamentary committees before - and not after - they commit a member state.

The following is a quotation from the Opinion of the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament of 4 December on the Treaty of Lisbon;

"Notes, in this regard, that the Union's external action also covers the Common Commercial Policy (CCP)and that the High Representative should not only ensure the balance between the intergovernmental logic of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the supranational logic of the CCP, but also ensure that the intergovernmental logic of CFSP does not contaminate the CCP".

Again, the burden of my argument is that the new treaties provide a better guarantee that such "contamination" will be avoided than the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe would have.

Finally, the Union is not disputing national prerogatives where they have not been transferred (in very limited areas) to, or shared with, the Union. Indeed, that is what the delimitation of competences in the new Treaty on the Functioning of the Union is intended to copperfasten.

The Union as an all-devouring legislative monster is a myth. This is reflected in its tiny relative percentage share of national government spending (2%). There is neither intention or possibility, either in the old or new treaties,for it to pick up the bills for the rest (health, social scurity, defence etc.). The bulk of national legislation deals with these issues. The comparisons floating around in this area are a product of a general malaise - afflicting all political parties in all Member States - that of attributing blame for anything even vaguely uncomfortable to Brussels (see separate thread on latest bogeyman; on the threat to the NHS).

The fact that the administration of the EU is largely in the hands of the Member States themselves must also be borne in mind. (The latest figures I saw for bureaucrats in the infamous Brussels machine was for a total of about 40,000. France has a public service of over 5 million. I do not know the UK figure or for the EU combined).

  • 48.
  • At 10:46 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

Reply to Dennis (41)
I do think Hague is right in saying the Treaty would lack legitimacy.
The Government said we would have a referendum on the one(Constituation) but not the other(Treaty).
According to the majority of people and political commontators the two are the same.
So the government has gone against its written pledge for the people to have a say in a referendum. That is why i think it lacks legitimacy.

  • 49.
  • At 06:53 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@Denis O'Leary

According to former German president Herzog who was also a member of the constitutional court, 84% of domestic legislation comes from Brussels directly or indirectly.

The EU has its tentacles so deep into national affairs that whole departments should be considered to effectively being under EU control. This raised the # of EU bureaucrats to some millions. All the bureaucrats working in the member states on EU directives e.a. should also be counted.

  • 50.
  • At 09:31 PM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • Caspar Heetman wrote:

Reply to John (44):

You are surely aware that Margaret Thatcher stepped down as Prime Minister 15 years ago. You are surely also aware that a lot has happened in those fifteen years. While Britain was still a country with considerable power at the end of the Cold War and a nuclear power as well, today that is much less so.

Firstly Britian has witnessed India and China and, to a lesser extent, certain Latin-American countries rise to an increasingly powerful status. The sheer numbers of their populations provide them an opportunity to gain a degree of power that will likely surpass that of the old British Empire. Then we haven't spoken of technological innovation, which can provide both countries with military power to equal that of the US at that time. With all respect for Britian, but the role of an independent Britain will be very limited in the face of that. Britain's seat in the Security Council may be challenged by these countries as well.

Secondly, Britain has grown increasingly interdependent, like all countries in the world. But the smaller the country, the more interdependent it has become. Britain, as described above, is becoming relatively an ever smaller country and increasingly like it's continental peers, if it wasn't already following the decolonization. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium have a much smaller population than Britain, but the countries are in fact not so different: they roughly have to deal with the same issues, mainly in domestic but sometimes also in foreign politics.

Especially the Netherlands and Britain are very, very close from a perspective of foreign policy, being both former colonial powers and competitors, wealthy countries, net EU contributors, committed to military interventions and loyal long-standing US allies, to mention a few important parallels. These characteristics cause both countries to have a similar foreign policy. Still one is off the European continent and one is on it.

Interdependency means that countries have become entangled in a web of dependencies on other countries and international institutions and organisations. Britain is no different. Even the US is entangled in this web to a good extent. It is the reason why the White House has not yet started bombing Tehran and is trying to solve the issue of Iran diplomatically. The same is true for Britain. And while Gordon Brown may not show up at the EU-Africa summit, he cannot ignore Africa's problems, if only for the simple reason that the problems will come to him, in the form of illegal immigrants to mention one result. Terrorism, international crime and environment/climate-related problems are other examples. As such, African countries are not only dependent on European countries, but these in turn are dependent on their African counterparts.

Thirdly, the last fifteen years we have seen the introduction of unconventional and irregular warfare. Increasingly, this type of warfare is replacing the traditional conventional warfare. All wars of the last 15 years fought by the West, Britain included, have been such unconventional wars.
Nuclear weapons have become useless as a result of the absence of a clear enemy with nuclear weapons.

Unconventional wars are not decided on the battlefield. While virtually every western country can easily defeat any other non-western country on paper, because of theoretical military superiority, in practice, the enemy is equal or superior to the West. We are seeing this perfectly in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have the power to bomb the country back to stone age, but we can't do that, because the international norm these days is that you can't do that, because then you hit innocent civilians. Insurgents hide between these civilians. We are fighting against "ghostly" insurgent soldiers that can at one moment appear and attack or disrupt order and disappear one moment later. Britain, along with the US, Canada and the Netherlands is one of the countries in the West that are specialised at this. But even these countries are not superior to the enemy. We have become a lot less powerful militarily over the past 15 years.

Finally, there is economic competition between different parts in the world. The EC-countries adopted means to control their currencies in the 1970s and 1980s. In the same period the common EC-policies started to turn Europe into a new economic power. The Common Market and the development towards a single currency and the eventual adoption of it, have greatly strengthened Europe as an economic power. Was the US 15 years ago still the dominant economic power, today, both American and European scholars and journalist observe, the EU and particularly the Eurozone is defining the world economy today. In the WTO, there are two big players of virtual equal strength: the EU and the US. Big multinational companies have to adapt their policies to the wishes of the Brussels instead of Washington. The impact, one American journalist wrote, is felt in the US, where certain companies sell their brands in metric units now. If the weakness of the Dollar and strength of the Euro continues, analysts observe, the Euro will continue to overtake the Dollar gradually as the most important international currency. That process is already underway.

For Britain this means that the more it keeps a distance from Europe, the more it misses out on this economic development and the more it becomes isolated and dependent ... on the continent. Denmark has already seen this happening: the Krone, the Danish currency is in practice tied to the Euro, without the Danish people or leaders having an opportunity to change that, but at the same time having no say about the ECB's monetary policy. Denmark has effectively lost its economic independence. For Britain this is slightly less the case, but as the Eurozone grows in both number of countries as well as trade volume, Britain is losing terrain to the Eurozone.

Although the Eurozone is an enormous market and keeps expanding, China and India have much more potential. These countries will over the course of the next few decades develop further and likely aim to replace the Eurozone/EU as the most important economic player in the world

All these facts combined are the reason why I am arguing that the role of the independent nationstate in Europe is almost over. On all fronts, the EU is taking over the roles that the nationstate used to play. It doesn't go easily still, like in the area of foreign policy, but it is happening nonetheless, and it is, as a result of interdependency, irreversible. We cannot stop the train on our own, we are just faced with the choice to stay on it or jump off it. The latter will likely mean that a people joins the powerless and defeated peoples of all time, a footnote in the history of mankind. That is a fate unworthy of Britain and Europeans in general.

  • 51.
  • At 11:55 PM on 16 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Denis O'Leary (47): This latest “fact” from you about the EU being based on a separation of powers has no more truth than your earlier claim that the CAP does not cost anyone in Britain a penny. Nor should any democrat accept you describing the policy preferences of the elected governments of Europe as “contaminating” EU Commission policies. The EU Parliament also demeans itself in saying such things. And forgive me if I do not believe your assurances about the EU not being “an all-devouring legislative monster” when the one constant in Brussels is the relentless quest to acquire more powers and the resurrected EU Constitution carefully defines EU “shared competences” to be both open-ended and only shared until such time as the EU acts to create legislation in these areas.

National vetoes are the traditional method by which supra-national decision-making is legitimated because they prevent the policy preferences of a majority of voters in one country being over-ruled at EU level. The use of the ‘community method’ with its attendant use of majority voting clearly weakens the ability of national parliaments to control the EU Council (without in any way increasing the power of the EU Parliament). You define the EU ‘democratic deficit’ as “the inability of national parliaments to control what their representatives do in the Council”. Even by your own (somewhat ad-hoc) definition you can only conclude that the greater use of the community method you champion actually increases the EU democratic deficit.

The ‘community method’ may have existed since 1957 but its application to politically sensitive policy areas has not. When it was used to decide trivial matters of single market regulations (e.g. maximum curvature of cucumbers, etc.) it could not lead to tensions between nations because nobody cares much about such things. That is to say that its inherent lack of democratic legitimacy was merely hidden by the triviality of the issues decided by it. But as the community method is applied to more sensitive matters that used to decide our general elections its lack of democratic legitimacy is revealed more and more leading to the relentless decline in EU popularity. The resurrected Constitution will only make this problem worse.

The number of people on the Commission payroll is another red-herring. There are plenty of examples of small numbers of people dominating large populations throughout history. The British Raj ruled 300 million Indians with just 1500 British administrators of the Indian civil service plus ~3000 British officers in the Indian Army. They managed this by co-opting far greater number of locals which is exactly what Brussels does. The EU Commission is but the centre of a vast network that relies on millions of civil servants in its member states whose tasks flow directly from EU regulations. With more than 80% of law coming from Brussels it is increasingly EU law that those 5 million French civil servants are implementing and enforcing. And the same is true in every other country so long as it remains part of the EU.

  • 52.
  • At 03:04 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Just a footnote to wind up. The European Communities (Finance) Bill was given its second reading on 19 November in the House of Commons and the debate was lively. One contributor compared it to that on the Schleswig-Holstein question quoting Lord Palmerston "Only three people understand it, one is dead one went mad and I am trying to forget".

  • 53.
  • At 11:29 PM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Denis O’Leary: It strikes me that anyone who describes the policy preferences of the elected governments of Europe as “contamination” – policies which they put before their voters and upon which they ran successively for office – must have some connection to the Brussels bureaucracy.

Perhaps you could explain what personal interest motivates you to say such things?

  • 54.
  • At 10:10 AM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

Replying to John (# 53). If you read the post again, you will see that the reference - not particularly well-chosen - is from a European Parliament document (and probably a translation from French).

What the relevant committee of the European Parliament was saying, I think, is that it would be unhelpful in its view if areas of the conduct of the Union's external relations, at present subject to the Community method, became subject to control by individual national governments in an inter-governmental manner. I happen to agree with this view.

There are many recent examples of how problems can arise when there is no Community context (i.e. matters are dealt with government to government) to the handling of commercial relations e.g. Libya, China etc.

The approach advocated by the European Parliament committee has the support of those Member States (a majority) that attach importance to the multi-lateral trading system and the European Union's involvement in it. This would, I presume, include the United Kingdom.

Finally, and to repeat the point, the role of national governments and parliaments, which you evidently support, is stronger under the Community method than any of the alternatives.


  • 55.
  • At 01:03 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Denis O'Leary wrote:

A postscript to my reply to John (#53). One way of illustrating the fact that the debate relates to methods of decision-making and nothing else would be to consider the role of the EU at the climate change summit in Bali. Matters relating to the enivironment are dealt with under the Community method. The EU was able to hold a coordinated position right to the very end and to play a significant role in the (reasonably) successful outcome. This would have been impossible under the inter-governmental method.

  • 56.
  • At 04:18 PM on 20 Dec 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Denis (54/55): The Bali conference on climate change disproves your points because it shows that agreement can be reached in inter-governmental conferences without the use of anything comparable to the EU’s ‘community method’ and do so while preserving democratic legitimacy even when 100+ states are involved. Indeed the Bali conference illustrates two things that are impossible in any state that is a member of the EU:

(i) One state (Australia) changed its position following the formation of a new government elected on a promise to ratify the Kyoto-protocol,
(ii) The executive branch of the government of another state (the USA) signed up to the Bali agreement but this is subject to the approval of a body (US Senate) more representative of the American people.

No doubt you regard the policy preferences of the American or Australian people as ‘contamination’ and would prefer to simply crush them with a qualified majority vote in a supra-national forum. But to do so would destroy the democratic legitimacy of the agreement reached in Bali which is why all supra-national bodies (except the EU) have felt it wise to preserve national vetoes when making international decisions.

For some reason you still hold to the opinion that the role of national governments & parliaments is stronger when the EU ‘community method’ is used than under inter-governmental co-operation. But no matter how times you say this you will still be wrong. Neither national governments nor parliaments can propose anything at EU-level (this being a power of the Commission alone), no government can block proposals that are supported by a qualified majority of other countries, and no parliament can do anything at all except pointlessly ‘scrutinise’ a Commission proposal in the certain knowledge that the Commission is free to ignore it. If you want to repeat your claim again then please tell me what precisely are the mechanisms by which a national parliament in Europe can either initiate policy-making at EU level or prevent its imposition on the people they alone represent?

When one compares the ability of voters in European countries with those Australians or Americans to determine the environmental polices they live under you can only conclude that we are in a very bad position in Europe which is getting worse, and that it is the EU ‘community method’ that is chiefly to blame.

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

To Casper (50). Whatever you may believe the nation-state is alive and well because it is the ultimate form of governance yet devised and the only one (due to the strong solidarities of its ‘demos’) within which democratic politics is possible and within which taxpayers tolerate redistributive social policies that many voters desire. The global trend is towards more and more nation-states as peoples that were once forced by military or economic necessity to be part of a large bloc chose their independence. The number of nation states in the UN has risen from ~60 in 1946 to near 200 today. The number of European states has increased from 30 to 50 since 1989 alone. This process has not ended even in Europe and it has scarcely begun in Africa and parts of Asia, where current state boundaries were drawn up by colonial powers with little consideration for the wishes of indigenous peoples. It can be expected that many more nation states will emerge this century – perhaps hundreds more - as peoples from Kosovo to Flanders & Walloon, Quebec to Kashmir, Tibet to Catalonia and many more chose a national self-determination that was always desired but never previously attainable. A key reason for this trend is that the factors sustaining national identity – language & culture – are extremely resistant to change, but the cost of national independence is getting lower as a genuine global market emerges in which all nations can prosper irrespective of their size. The success of the GATT & WTO means that the EU’s average external tariffs are now down to ~10.9% in agriculture, ~1.9% in industrial products and 0% in the services sector. With 75%+ of British workers now employed in the tariff-free service sector the previous benefits of being inside the EU common market has vanished like a morning mist leaving only the high costs of its over-regulation and the intolerable cost to our democracy of living under EU law that can be imposed on us against the will of our elected government and which we can never again change through our votes.

  • 57.
  • At 04:43 AM on 21 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

It was only a matter of time i suppose before climate change was metioned in connection to us being a member of the EU.
This is an area, and there are others, where we can work together. However i do not think it made any difference to the Americans whether Europe spoke as the EU or they joined together as individuals.As far as i can see the European nations were all agreed anyway.
Just because we can work together on climate control,space,aid and other worldly concerns it does not mean we have to be a member of this EU.

  • 58.
  • At 07:21 AM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • MJB wrote:

John (56)
I just wanted to say,well written. It puts my short notes into the shade but at least the two of us and many others are reading from the same page.
To all the readers of this blog who are with us may i wish you a Happy New Year and remember to keep up the fight to get our country back.

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