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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

I hope you all have a Happy New Year.

Out With the Old

The Bean counters in Brussels are to get a new toy in the new year.
The European Commission is making final preparations to launch a new accounting system on January 1 to keep better tabs on the way European Union funds are spent and to crack down on fraud.
Better late than never I suppose, but ten years of non audited accounts is a lot by anyone’s standards. Under the old system, controlling whether work was actually done was very hit and miss.
Money paid out as an advance was listed as a cash payment - instead of as an asset - and it was up to an individual case officer to recover the money if the work was not completed.
Make a cash advance to a friend and forget about it. Nice work if you can get it. Whilst I always welcome any moves to improve the management of our cash, the fraud is of course nothing compared to the money legitimately paid out to Europe’s farmers. I’ll hold my party the day they get rid of that.

Tony Blair, Free Trade

Either he’s getting clued up or I’m mellowing. I agree with Tony Blair!!!
We also need to tackle trade barriers which push up prices for our consumers, prevent African countries exporting their products and see Europe spending more on subsidising its own farmers than on aid to Africa.
Ok so I shouldn’t get too excited it’s only a sentence in an article, but it’s a start. Tony, I have a suggestion to make. Tell this to Jacques, next time you see him. The thing is that the readers of the Economist are largely aware of this idea and support it. Your pal in France is a major obstacle to a solution. So instead of preaching to the choir, use your handbag like Maggie, until you get your way. In addition as we try to remove barriers to success for African Countries, could we do the same for our own. Lets start with burning the Acquis communautaire.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

On Opportunity for Someone

When such large sums of money are being spent, there always has to be someone who is happy with the result. It seems that there could be opportunities for interpreters.
It is up to the European Commission's Directorate-General for Interpretation to make sure communication at meetings and conferences is smooth. The problem was that professionally-trained interpreters in many of the candidate countries were few and far between. "You have to take into account that in post-communist countries like Latvia, interpretation was not a profession,"
Now however, it is a profession supported by the gravy train. Have no fear however, the cost of all this is cheap:
The cost of all translation and interpretation in EU institutions amounted to just over US$2.50 per citizen last year. That is about as much as a cup of coffee, the Commission likes to point out.
Doesn’t sound like much does it, until you consider that there are about 350 Million of us. That’s around 900 Million USD for translating meetings, on whether Bananas should be straight or not, from Finnish to Italian. On top of that it’s the cost of what comes out of those meetings that’s the real problem.

Stop Harmful Tax Competition or ??

The UK is no longer top dog in the business friendly stakes.
Tax advisers are warning multinationals against locating their headquarters in the UK, in a move that could erode its status as Europe's top destination for inward investment. Tax specialists say the UK is losing ground to other European countries, which have reduced their tax rates and created more business-friendly tax regimes.
So much for enterprise Britain. Before for long, Gordon Brown will be joining France and Germany in call to stop tax competition. The alternative of stopping harmful taxes would be too horrible for our pillaging chancellor to bear.

Minister of Propaganda

I missed these gems of wisdom from McShame, the minister for EU propaganda, in the Guardian last week. In a conversation with a constituent the following exchange occurs:
What I mean is this new thing we have to vote on. It's irreversible, isn't it? Once in, we cannot get out, can we?" I tell him that the new treaty has a clause which allows a member state to quit the EU. So if we want out, we can leave. "Oh, I didn't know that. They don't give us the facts, do they?
After which the evils of a biased media are deplored by our very own Comical Ali. The exchange raises an important point however. The Get out of Jail Card in the constitution is being hailed as an insurance policy by the Vote Yes side, to swing the undecided. I have an alternative message for those who, unlike me, think that the EU is reformable. Up until now, the messiness of a country extracting itself from the EU without any clear guidelines on how, was a big incentive to come to an agreement on issues of all kinds. The Get out of Jail Card is actually the federalists trump card. Any major disagreement is bound to end in a Belgian or French diplomat inviting Britain to leave. At the same time, its existence can be used by the Vote Yes side in the campaign. If you want to see the UK win the argument in Europe (Whatever that means) agreeing to a treaty that gives us the all or nothing option is not the best way. The best way to win any argument in Europe is to stick two fingers up to this terrible treaty. That might slow the juggernaut down. Only then does it have a chance of changing direction. Unless you enjoy swearing at your computer, don’t bother to read the rest of his drivel.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Precautionary Principle

Johan Norberg has some thoughts on the precautionary principle.
This would make sense in a perfect world with no problems and disasters. But in a universe with problems and where disaster might strike, it’s stupidity.
He is of course totally correct.

Stability and Growth Pact or Economic Suicide Pact?

A story concerning the stability and growth pact got me thinking. The EU is split between those who think that the pact is necessary to maintain fiscal discipline and those who think it stops governments from doing what they do best, spending other peoples money. From the more flexibility is needed side….
Domenico Siniscalco, Italian finance minister, on Monday claimed that Italy was supported by "a group of countries, including some large ones" in opposing a rigid interpretation of the pact on debt.
I have the inkling of a small idea. Why not have flexible interpretation for all EU rules. If it’s good enough for the governments of Europe it should be good enough for the people too. I am against rigid interpretation of rules on Novel Foods, the European Arrest warrant and CAP. Why should my demands be any less relevant than Senor Siniscalco. Shouldn’t this whole saga demonstrate to those who seem to think that the EU can do no wrong; the fact that one size fits all is a big lie. It was a lie when they applied it to Tee-shirts, and it is more so when applied to the laws which 400 Million people have to abide by.

Someone has a sense of Humour

In Parliament Magazine, MEP Struan Stevenson has a great piece, its worth reading the whole thing. My favourites included these: Speaking of Brugel’s paintings:
Some of the sharper elected members may have noticed a remarkable similarity between that artist’s striking picture of the tower of Babel and the tower of our own parliament in Strasbourg.
On the subject of the Lisbon agenda:
On the contrary, the majority of MEPs prefer to indulge in their favourite pastime of burdening the EU economy with enough red tape to wrap a million Christmas parcels.
And concerning the acquis communautaire:
Every one of which has to be obeyed to the letter of the law, by everyone except the French.
I shall have to remember that the official mouthpiece of the Strasbourg Cesspit is allowed to have a sense of humour.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More Anti CAP

The story of the anti CAP issue has a twist in the tale.
A petition calling on the European Commission to transfer the money will be handed out in hundreds of churches across Britain at the end of services over the festive period with the aim of collecting a million signatures. This would activate the implementation of a clause in the new European Union draft constitutional treaty. The commission is bound to act on any petition that has more than a million signatures of people from across Europe.
Forgive my ignorance, but when exactly did the constitution come into force?

CAP Money for Aids

Even when they are right, they are wrong. There is a campaign to redirect some of the money from CAP toward aid for Africa.
Over 100 MPs are backing a campaign to transfer billions of pounds from the European Common Agricultural Policy to people in the developing world.
I have to be happy that such a campaign against my most hated part of my least favourite organisation, but the logic is all twisted.
The Aids crisis is ''one of the most urgent moral challenges facing the world today,'' they write. ''That money could be most easily and fairly found by cutting the taxpayers' subsidies to Europe's richest farmers.''
Why only the rich farmers? What difference does it make how wealthy a farmer is as to whether he deserves a subsidy or not. Why should we keep the least productive farmers in business and punish the best. This is an anti Kulak policy, not an anti-subsidy issue. No-one is questioning the fundamental rationale of subsidies. Besides, the CAP is doing real damage to Africa, that a small sum of aid will do nothing to solve. Scrap the bloody thing and let Africa’s farmers sell us their produce.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Looking Ahead

The BBC sees the year ahead as a critical one for the EU. (Funny how they say that every year. There will of course be referendums on the constitution and the talks with Turkey will begin. The biggest issue though will be the budget.
For the Commission must work with the European Council to come up with an agreement on the next seven-year budget for the EU.
How many organisations or companies do you know of that have 7 year budgets? Nearly everyone uses yearly budgets, and more flexible plans for longer periods. They are agreeing to a budget, whose period is longer than the length of the commission, or the electoral cycles of the member governments. Talk about lack of accountability. Failing yearly budgets, wouldn’t five years be a more responsible length. The commission could state its aims fort he term and ask for a budget accordingly. On the other hand, perhaps they thought that 5 year plans would smack of a certain type of trans-national union with which they do not wish to be associated.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Seasons Greetings

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Whatever Nanny says, eat drink and be merry, its your life.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Brussels to the Rescue?

In a story which demonstrates neatly that our national leaders are always capable of competing with Brussels when it comes to stupid regulations, Boris – Apology to Liverpool – Johnson brings us the Saskatoon.
You may not have been aware that the saskatoon is to berries as the Cohiba is to cigars. It is the king of the bush. It is used all over Canada to make jams, syrups, salad dressings and even crème brulée. It turns out, of course, that there is a law against sensible exercise of free trade, whereby British people can eat at breakfast what their kith and kin enjoy in Canada. It is called the Novel Foods Regulation (EC 258/97), and it came into force in this country in 1997, and means that you cannot expect the authorities to accept that a food is safe, just because the Canadian population swears by it.
This is based on the same premise, the precautionary principle, much loved by eurocrats, to stop us making our own choices in life.
Under the Novel Foods Regulation, anything new to the EU market must undergo at least two years of tedious tests and safety demonstrations before it can be put on the shelves.
So a berry that has been eaten by Canadian Natives for centuries, needed two years of tests before we could tell whether they were safe for consumption.
The final absurdity is that the FSA fatwa is about to be unexpectedly overturned – not by Parliament, but by Brussels! The other day the German government decided that there was nothing wrong with the berries, and that the Finns had been eating them for yonks, and under basic EU single market principles, the Saskatoon is therefore deemed fit for consumption in all member states, Britain included.
It shows the state we are in when the unaccountable mandarins of Brussels act with more logic and reasonableness than our own government. But wait a minute; the law is based on an EU regulation. So whilst the idiots responsible for carrying out this ridiculous act are national, the original document was another piece of Brussels Meddling.

Some are more Equal

In a move that proves how even handed rules are in the EU, following the ignoring of France and Germany’s budget deficits, the European Commission is to punish weaker members for breaking the same rules.
The European Commission is set to pursue disciplinary proceedings against Hungary and Greece for breaking the rules underpinning the euro.
No you did not read that incorrectly, one of the countries involved is Hungary. As you are all aware the legal tender in the land of the Magyar is still the Florint.
However, Brussels is expected to suspend disciplinary procedures against Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cyprus and Malta.
So there were procedures in action against 6 countries which are not using the Euro as their currency. I’m sure that they must have signed up to this in some treaty or other, but is it not a little bizarre? Remember that the gone, but not lamented, Romano Prodi, described these self same rules as stupid, not so long ago.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Kill the Capitalists

Would you believe it.

THE City of London is being stifled by a torrent of legislation from Brussels intended to create a level playing field for financiers across the European Union (EU), according to a devastating report to be released this week.
They go like ninepins, sector after sector. First they came for the fishermen, and I did nothing because I do not fish, then they came for the chemical industry…… We need to stand against this kind of thing together. Only when we except that regulation is nearly always bad, can we win the argument.
While financiers initially welcomed the FSAP, imagining it would lower regulation barriers across Europe, they have now realised that an increasingly envious Brussels is simply levelling the existing regulatory burdens.
Naïve – Naïve - Naïve. How could the centre of a socialist nirvana, allow the greedy capitalists to show that their way was actually better.
The report stands in stark contrast to the reviews issued by the European Commission. They found the process had been a uniform success.
Funny how the EC enjoys the result of its own work, even if nobody else does.
"The City is now hostile to the single market and the whole direction of the EU," he said. "The City now needs to mo-bilise against the EU constitution and develop a new approach based on free trade, not harmonisation."
Let’s hope this is not an exaggeration. Up to now, the city has been a spineless boot licker to those in authority both in Westminster and Brussels. Its time they remembered what the Seventies were like and chose sides.

Those Dastardly Paymasters

National governments are seeking to slash future EU budgets by €210 billion, Josep Borrell has warned. The EU’s paymasters, Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands, are seeking to cut their dues.
I’ll personally take that as a promise rather than a warning.
“I cannot see how EU leaders can reduce the financial allocation and at the same time face up to the new challenges and priorities awaiting the union.”
Two options, either they are not horrible Socialists like yourself who believe that someone elses money is the answer to every problem, or they think that the challenges would best be met by stopping defining Spain and Ireland, among others as poor countries.
Commission proposals set spending at €336bn but the EU’s main cash contributors are pushing hard for funding to focused on the ten new, mainly East European, countries.
Terrible, don’t they understand that money is needed to buy loyalty. It cannot be wasted on the poor in such an irresponsible manner.

Hey Stoopid

Don’t do it it’s not worth it.

As the EU prepares to receive a new wave of accession countries, Norway remains split on whether to join the union, according to new polls published today (20 December).
Sentio Norstat’s December poll published today (20 December) by Norwegian daily Nationen shows an almost even split, with 45.8 percent supporting membership and 43.8 percent opposed.
So half of Norwegians want to donate large sums of their taxes to corrupt politicians and undeserving farmers. That’s not to mention the destruction of Norway’s fishing waters. The suprising thing is that more of them used to think like this.
"This is great, we are pleased. 2004 has been a tremendously good year for those not wanting Norwegian EU membership", said the leader of the No-movement Heming Olaussen to Nationen.
A year ago the yes camp had a clear majority of 12 percent. Despite this trend and two no votes in referendums, Norway’s wannabe Serfs understand EU politics only too well.
Pro-EU political parties are hoping for a third EU referendum after the next general elections in September 2005.
As the IRA used to threaten British Politicians, we only need to be lucky once, you need to be lucky always. So it is with the EU, a No Vote is only ever a maybe. But Norway Beware, EU membership is for life not just for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Tribalism and the EU

Both supporters and detractors of the EU like to compare it to the Roman Empire. In this week’s Spectator, the analogy is held up for analysis:
Whenever the subject of the EU comes up, someone is bound to compare it to the Roman empire. If the comparison relates to the beginning and subsequent development of that empire, it fails. But the end of the Roman empire in the West in the 5th century ad may well offer quite a good model of how EUthanasia will set in.
Unlike the voluntary (on the part of governments) nature of the EU, the Roman’s expanded by force or threats of it. Ok, but the EU does use bully boy tactics, a kind of post modern legion. I agree though, with the basic premise that empire building is about buying loyalty:
To put the issue simply: the empire ultimately depended on there being enough revenue coming in from the provinces to pay the Roman army to suppress any provinces that removed their revenues from Rome by rebelling.
In the Roman case, revenue paid for military muscle, especially by removing the young men from their homes, and thereby turning into Roman Soldiers those who might have rebelled. In the EU, it’s more direct, buying loyalty through subsidies and support budgets.
The question, then, boiled down to one of loyalty: to whom did these peoples feel they owed their allegiance? Rome, or their local tribal leader? More and more, the answer was the latter. ….. They therefore began to refocus their loyalties on their local tribal leaders.
Remove the benefits of loyalty to the emperor, and the local tribal chieftain suddenly looks a lot closer and his men a lot fiercer.
Indeed, the process has started: everything from conditions for joining the EU to financial stability pacts and directives is already routinely ignored. But if Brussels is nothing without voluntary co-operation, it is even less without revenues.
Taking this logic, budget negotiations are of great importance. Remove the umbilical cord from the previous beneficiaries of EU money, and their loyalty will die very quickly.
....the day will come when one of them, observing the disaster visited upon it by its membership and deciding that its loyalty lies with its own people, will secede, taking with it its contribution to the Brussels budget.
Just one stone can start a landslide.
Once one country has gone, others will ask ‘Why not?’ and follow suit. As revenues dry up with each secession, the power and influence so beloved of the EU apparatchik in Brussels and its member states will gradually disappear, and their reason for existence with them.
Its far from a certainty that such a thing could happen, but it’s a scenario that could be well worth fighting for. The first step must be to make sure that we never give up our rebate and that we push for more money to go to the East rather than current recipients. Turning Spain into a bolshie unhappy member would be easier if we withdrew from the CFP as well. But if we could upset the Germans by pushing for a fine over budget rules being broken, that would be the best of all. Without the chief paymaster, the EU’s days would be short indeed.

Thought for the Week

The Real Meaning of Christmas

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. Luke 2
So you see, Gordon Brown would have fitted well into Roman society, but he probably would have needed Blunkett / Clarke, to keep track of everyone.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Birds of a Feather

When I was a child, my mother would warn me about spending time with the wrong kind of friends. People judge you by your friends she would say. Now a certain Mr Annan, under a cloud of suspicion due to the Oil for Fraud programme has discovered who his real friends are:
"Kofi Annan can be sure of the EU’s support for him and the for the United Nations", President of European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso said after the meeting.
It is not for me to say whether Kofi is guilty or not. I just find it amusing that there could ever be any credibility in one terminally corrupt organisation offering moral support to another. I also fail to understand how supporting an individual accused of corruption can be helpful to the image of the organisation that he works for. If only Kofi had consulted them earlier, they could have set up his accounting system so that there was no chance of anyone getting caught.

Which Planet?

We expect Guardian writers to concoct ideas based on falsehoods but this is a classic.
Of course, you can have doubts about the whole idea of Turkish entry. Of course - like the French and German parliamentarians I heard at a Lisbon seminar the other day - you can lament the fate of that ever closer union between the founding states and see Turkey's coming (not to mention a wretchedly Anglo-Saxon constitutional treaty) as a stake driven through its heart.
We Eurosceptics have of course seen the Turkey cause as a way of destroying the dream of ever closer union. But an Anglo Saxon Constitution, surely you jest. An Anglo Saxon constitution would not have relegated us to the role of Serf to our lords and masters. It would have been based on the concept that we were free people. This constitution is French down to its last full stop. How a former president of the French Republic could have produced an Anglo Saxon document is not explained. It is of course possible that supporters of this wretched treaty are complaining that it is too Anglo Saxon so as to mislead the voters. In this way our side’s arguments will sound like scare tactics. This assumes a great deal of intelligence on the part of socialists, whereas the other possibility is that Peter Preston is an ignoramus. I’m not sure which I believe. In another showing of his intelligence he talks of the benefits of Turkish membership to the current members.
The union of 25 needs Turkey for its youth, zeal and commitment to development, a tiger in our tank.
Apart from the shock at seeing a Guardian writer advertise the worlds largest oil company, has he not thought of the possibility that the EU way of doing business might kill Turkey’s youth, zeal and commitment? Europe does not need a tiger in its tank, it needs to take the regulatory foot off the brake another issue completely. Whether a large country with an aversion to rules and regulations can make a difference here is another matter entirely.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Question

Last week I recieved the following mail:

I apoligize for bringing up such an obvious tactic, which I'm nearly sure has been thought of before, but have you or any other Eurosceptic sites tried to campaign in the Netherlands or France, or provide support to groups that would, and link the European Union Constitution to the assension of Turkey to the EU or other immigration problems?
Any thoughts anyone? I think that the Dutch could be persuaded in light of recent events. The French have ensured a separation by promising a referendum.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Is the Pope Catholic?

Much has been said about the BBC’s approach to the question of the EU and the unequal treatment of the sophisticated cosmopolitan pro EU spokesmen and the common xenophobic types who don’t like Germans. So the question is, does the BBC favour the EU in its coverage? From Vote No, we have a view of the problem. Our experience is that the BBC has been institutionally sympathetic to the euro and the EU Constitution, sometimes to the point of bias. They give 6 specific ways in which the problem shows itself.
1) The wrong approach to this issue While print journalists from both sides of the debate often ring our campaign office looking for information, rebuttal lines, and stories to break, BBC journalists rarely come to us in this way. In our experience BBC journalists generally have a lower level of knowledge and less curiosity about the issue.
This sums up the BBC’s approach to many subjects. They think they know everything and do not therefore need to ask for advice. Funny though that BBC journalists are the ignorant ones on matters of Europe, not the public.
2. The Westminster focus The BBC also appears obsessed with reporting European issues through a party political Westminster prism. For example the BBC’s coverage of the decision to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution presented the issue as a Labour versus Tory battle, despite the fact that 88 percent of the public wanted a referendum.
Of course this has nothing to do with the BBC’s perception that the Tories are the nasty party. The only parties with very well defined positions on the European Union are the Liberal Democrats and the UKIP. Both Labour and the Conservatives are sitting on the fence. Admitting this would however be admitting that the issue is a complex one, not a simple nice versus xenophobe.
3. The BBC’s record We are also concerned about subtle forms of bias in the way issues are presented; the selection of people used to put the two sides’ cases; and the “body language” used by journalists presenting the issues. In particular, BBC reporting has been prone to present events as “celebrations” – for example the launch of the euro and the agreement on the EU Constitution
The celebration side of their coverage is the most obvious indication of the bias. Of course such occasions are set up by those in charge of them as celebrations. It does not take much persuasion to get the BBC to take the bait though.
4. The importance of reflecting public opinion Of the 29 polls conducted on the EU Constitution by various organisations since the start of 2003, only one shows a majority for the Constitution (a clearly inaccurate poll carried out by the European Commission). This has been cited by the BBC several times.
For years, the BBC has treated Euro sceptic opinions as they might train spotters or birdwatchers. We know it exists, we believe everyone is entitled to freedom of choice, but it is not more than an interesting part of the tapestry of life. It is certainly not in anyway mainstream.
5. The BBC’s “cultural bias.” We do not believe that BBC journalists have intentionally biased coverage of Europe. It is true, however, that opposition to the Constitution and the euro, while universal in all class and age groups, is somewhat less strong among London based, AB voters, who form a large part of the Westminster scene to which BBC journalists are regularly exposed
None of my friends are Eurosceptic, so therefore I can’t imagine that anyone who holds such views could be a decent person. Its the curse of Guardian appointments again.
6. Institutional problems which are particular concerns b) The use of independent “experts” who are not genuinely impartial. Often independent experts are recipients of Euro-cash, working for the European Union or generally pro for other reasons. c) Use of certain types of people to put the two sides’ cases: e.g. using business people from large companies to present the “yes” case and small business or parochial figures to put the “no” case. Producers of the BBC’s widely-criticised “referendum street” insisted on having the “no” team led by David Mellor, despite the fact he had no standing in the sceptic movement and proved unable to work with the other sceptics chosen to take part in the programme.
David Mellor is a Europhiles dream. He lacks appeal of any kind and probably wins the pro side votes every time he appears on TV. I’m sure there are many other options that would offer far more voter appeal on the anti side.
e) Focus on process for “yes” campaigners but issues for sceptics. Sceptics are almost always asked “isn’t this really about leaving the EU?”, while “yes” campaigners are often asked, “why isn’t Blair doing more to campaign?” or “how will you turn around public opinion?
I like this one, as I have noticed it a lot. They ask leading questions to enable one side of the argument to appear positive, whilst challenge the other side, forcing them into a more aggressive stance. So after all this, is the BBC Biased? Are Vote No right in their accusations? I think so, but privatise the BBC and it will not matter anymore.

Auditing Examples

Tim Worstall has a great post about the EU and Auditing firms. You would think that an organisation that has not been able to close its books for ten years would think twice before making statements about auditors.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Better off out

It is rare to read a well informed article by a Turk over the subject of EU membership. Pro EU Turks talk of a land flowing with milk and honey, an end to all their countries ills. The Anti side tends to be the very negative type of nationalist, whose reasons for not joining are very isolationist in their approach. I was therefore pleased to read a more thoughtful piece in the FT by Hasan Unal a professor at the department of international relations from Bilkent University. Highlights include:
The chattering classes, mainly in Istanbul, have presented the EU as the answer to all ills. For them, Europe is not an economic matter but a political statement about their identity. Turks have this complex about Europeans looking down on them. They somehow feel that EU membership would correct that.
The current condescending attitude of certain member countries toward some of the poorer members shows this belief for the falsehood that it is.
They have also misled the Turkish masses about what they can expect. Look at Greece, they say: there is not much work there, but life is wonderful because of the goods pouring from the German cornucopia.
Most people really think that all there is to solving the economy's ills is to join the EU. Money will poor in and everyone will be happy.
The reality is that the Turks are in for a bit of a nightmare - a decade of acrimonious, protracted negotiations in advance of which they will have to make enormous concessions, including some that could easily excite the very nationalist-Islamist backlash that Turkey's pro-Europeans seek to forestall by opting for EU membership.
The cure could prove worse than the disease.
After all, to a developing country such as Turkey what use are expensive EU regulations that would make its products less competitive in world markets? Turkey could only benefit from the transformation of the existing customs union with the EU into a free-trade agreement, which would allow us to make our own third-country trade pacts.
Economic development has to be the number one priority for a poor country like Turkey. If the brightest and best managers in the most professional companies in the country are spending all of their time and effort on meeting new regulations, the chances for development are limited. Even if EU cash is available, welfare payments are no substitute for a job.
Another important point is that, if all parties had a clear view of Turkey's economic and political future, foreign investment would at last flow. …. Enormous opportunities would open up if only both sides would stop baying at the moon.
Most people are astounded when they visit Istanbul for the first time and learn a little about the economy. The potential is enormous. The misguided obsession with EU membership has put more important economic issues on the back burner.
The trouble is that Turkey's all-or-nothing policy and the Europeans' confused response could poison the whole relationship. An EU-Turkey crisis could not fail to harm the Turkish economy, and would perhaps even upset the present political stability. But if that did happen, I suppose the chattering classes in Istanbul would be able to salve their consciences by explaining to the unemployed and the hungry that Turkey's democracy, Turkey's human rights, Turkey's marriage laws and Turkey's rights for minorities were at last fully in line with the standards laid down by Brussels.
As important as some of these changes are, you cannot eat democratic reforms and a mass of poor disgruntled people can soon force the undoing of many of these and more. Lets hope we don’t see it happen.

Turkey Invited

So as we all expected, the Turks have been given an invitation to start talks on EU membership late next year. A little grandstanding aside, it seems as if Turkey will accept the invitation sometime today. As with all such summits, the rhetoric is exaggerated and full of diplomatic intrigue. A couple of nice examples:
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the 3 October date would give Turkey enough time to allow its parliament to ratify the move.
Mr Berlusconi is obviously not up to date with the way the Turkish Parliament works. As a Dutchman commented to me recently, Turkey is a country that can change its law overnight in response to a negative piece of news in a European Newspaper. I think the date is rather of Mr Chirac’s choosing. But European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso hailed the offer.
"Tonight the EU has opened its door to Turkey," he said.
I know its what Turkey wants but I still get the vision of a cell door when I hear these words. From the Turks:
Mr Erdogan has not yet responded, but in a newspaper interview published on Thursday he cautiously welcomed EU leaders' backing for the Turkish bid. He promised to scrutinise "every word" of the EU leaders' decisions.
Meaning, we will bluff and complain and make threatening noises, before finally Kowtowing to the EU leaders some of whom have spent the last few months maligning our country, culture and religion. Seeing as Turkey is a country where the contents of the Constitutional treaty has hardly been discussed at all and where joining the EU is all about being accepted as “European”, don’t look for a rejection of this decision. Turks are already saying, we are European, they accepted us. In time they will understand that being European is a meaningless description, whilst EU membership has many costs and few benefits.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

French Version of History Correct

It has been referred to in an earlier post and now the French foreign minister is bringing up the subject again. Only France’s version of history is acceptable.
France has demanded that Ankara recognise the mass killing of Armenians from 1915. French foreign minister Michel Barnier said
"France will pose this question. I think Turkey as a big country has a duty to remember".
Mr Barnier made it clear that France's demand is not a condition for opening membership negotiations with Turkey but said it would be raised once talks are opened.
As I said before, I am pushing for no particular version of history, but I fail to understand why the final arbiter of historical truth should be a French government minister.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Grass is Always Greener?

An interesting article by a publication that usually makes Neil Kinnock look like a UKIP supporter. Speaking about the desire for countries to join the EU, FT commentator John Kay says:
There is something odd about a club that arouses more enthusiasm from those outside than those inside. But there are reasons. Mutual support for freedom and democracy is one of the purposes, perhaps the central purpose, of the EU. But such mutual support is a process from which the weak gain more than the strong. Integrity of institutions, like personal integrity, is enhanced or diminished by the integrity of those with whom you associate. Only three European nations have been truly democratic sovereign states throughout the last century. The two that are members of the EU, Britain and Sweden, are among the most eurosceptical. The other, Switzerland, has chosen not to join. The stronger a country's own institutions, the less need it perceives for those of Europe.
Whilst not supposed to be a refutation of the value of our favourite club, it does make a very valuable point. It in effect agrees with those who have been saying for years, our system of government is superior to that of most other countries. Whilst the current government’s determination to destroy that which is good about our system has led me at times to doubt the truth of this belief, I think he has hit the nail on the head. The grass may look greener over here, but membership is far from a magic solution to a country’s problems. Unfortunately, like recovering alcoholics, countries need to solve their problems themselves. Help cannot be imposed from outside. Subscription only so link not provided.

Euro mortgage

I support the idea of individuals being free to buy goods and services from whom they like, when they like. So why does this make me feel uneasy?
In a report, the European Commission suggested the creation of a single European mortgage market, claiming that house buyers should be encouraged to shop around in the 25 member states. The EC's Forum Group on Mortgage Credit said an effective single European market for mortgages could mean cheaper loans for all.
Because with the EU nothing is ever about freedom of choice and everything is about harmonisation. Plan of action will probably look something like this.
  1. Find the worse and least competitive mortgage market in Europe to use as an example.
  2. Conclude that this is the best example in Europe.
  3. Research into those unhappy with the choices that they freely made when choosing a mortgage.
  4. Conclude that consumers are all making the wrong choices.
  5. Write a bunch of useless regulations that protect no-one and force everybody to get a compromise package.
  6. Indulge in horse trading between the governments, and change the few decent rules that managed to creep in, in exchange for a deal on agriculture, fishing or support for the arts.
  7. Pass directive that does nothing to make the mortgage market more European.
  8. Conclude that the plan didn’t work because financial institutions are bad and are screwing their customers.
  9. Punish them with tougher regulations.
The result will be no new choice for consumers, but many new regulations for providers. So what was in the report?
Unveiling the report, which concentrated mainly on plans to introduce uniform mortgage legislation, Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's commissioner in charge of the single market, said he would produce proposals for the Euro mortgage by mid 2005.
What did I tell you?

Are we for Sale?

According to Vote No, come referendum time, weighing in on the side of the government could be a number of foreign companies.
A leaked memo from Britain in Europe (BiE) last week revealed that campaigners for the EU Constitution plan to seek donations from foreign companies with close links to European governments. The document reveals that among the companies BiE plans to approach for money are the Swiss bank UBS, Deutsche Bank, Thales (which is a third owned by the French government), Telecom Italia, and EADS, (which is also part-owned by the French government).
The idea of non citizens making political contributions has always been a hot potato. When the campaign is one in which foreigners have a major interest, it becomes more so. The continental version of business is one where politicians have a large amount of influence in how companies are run. Persuading a large firm to donate to BiE, would be very easy, whether or not they were state owned. So we expect to see the governments of our neighbours, try to buy an election result in the UK. Nice isn’t it this supra-national democracy. On our side of the channel, expect the ass licking to continue:
Although polls show that business people are 59 to 18 against the Constitution, it is likely that some multinational bosses will decide to support the 'yes' campaign in order to maintain close relations with the Government.
Just a small suggestion: Those companies that support the constitution should be flooded with complaints. Perhaps we could buy shares and go to the AGM to ask questions. We at least need to make them remember, that customers are more important than government ministers.

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Power for Old Europe?

An article in The Nation magazine is talking with some approval about the growing clout of the EU versus the USA. Called New Power for Old Europe, it describes how the EU is using regulatory power to force companies from around the world, including might US companies. As an example it talks about the REACH directive, which is likely to come into force next year, and its effect on the chemical industry.
The REACH directive represents an upheaval in the basic philosophy of chemical regulation, flipping the American presumption of innocent until proven guilty on its head by placing the burden of proof on manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe what is known as the precautionary principle.
As a rejoinder to its love of government regulation, I would just like to say that the precautionary principle applied to our daily lives would actually mean that we were unable to do anything. Proving a negative being almost impossible is a deluded way to come up with rules and regulations. The scaremongers would like us to believe that we are living in a dangerous chemical soup. Despite this toxic cocktail, we are all living longer and healthier lives than ever before in history. As Bjorn Lomborg illustrates in his best selling book, the tests for toxicity that are required for chemicals are bad science in the extreme. They prove nothing. It is such tests that will be required now under the new rules, for chemicals that have been used for decades without problems. I would like to see the EU use the precautionary principle in the preparation of new regulations. No new regulations unless they can prove that there will be no damage caused by them. They would struggle somewhat to interfere anymore in our lives. As for Europe wielding power, the power to screw up the economy beyond your own borders is not the most obvious thing that was missing. Thanks to Martin Stabe for the link.

Thought for the Week

Freedom, equality, justice; all are based on national sovereignty.
M. Kemal Ataturk This is probably the only time I will ever have a thought for the week from a Statist, but in the week of the decision for Turkey, I think that Turks should ponder what they are getting themselves into. Whilst the decision is theirs to make, membership of the EU is incompatable with national sovereignty.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Two Thirds Of EU Citizens Favour A Constitution

In the latest edition of the Eurobarometer, people across Europe were asked whether they favoured the idea of a European Constitution. A full two thirds of those asked, supported the idea of a constitution. Eurobarometer warns however that:

It translates solely the extent to which people support the concept of a Constitution for the European Union and not an assessment of the content of the text proposed for ratification in the Member States, and even less an indication of voting intentions in a possible referendum.
Even in the UK, the second most negative nation on the issue, a full 49% of respondents said they agreed in principle with the idea of a constitution. Only 29% were against. The question asked was: What is your opinion on each of the following statements? Please tell me for each statement, whether you are for it or against it. A Constitution for the European Union? Assuming that the poll has been conducted reasonably, it shows that we are very far from winning the argument, despite the negative image of the EU in the UK. The fact that people still believe that the EU should have a constitution shows that the two sides of the argument can claim some degree of success: People believe in the ideal, but want a different sort of EU. The result suggests two things for Eurosceptics:
  1. The constitution referendum campaign must keep the details of the text at the forefront.
  2. We have a long way to go to convince the public that the very idea of European Union is a bad one.
Somewhat ironically, the number one concern of many respondents is unemployment.
Unemployment continues to be the major concern of citizens. This recurring problem was evoked by 46% of interviewees and continues to grow constantly (+5 points since the beginning of 2003) Moreover, unemployment seems to be of particular concern in the new Member States, where a very high rate of citations was observed (62%).
So the one organisation that through its rules and regulations promotes unemployment, is supported by those whose greatest worry is unemployment. It would be laughable, if it were not so tragic.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Record

I have just finished watching The Record, a programme on EU politics on BBC World. The main topic of conversation was the working time directive an the Opt out given to members most notably Britain. The tone of the BBC toward those who do not slavishly follow the agenda on Europe is always condescending. Take this:

The rest of the EU has implemented the law, why can't the UK?
Do we have to fight again for every opt out or concession that was granted earlier? If the other members are not happy, its their job to make the argument. In addition
The opt out makes a mockery of the idea of pan European legislation.
We expect the guests to make big claims, but this was the BBC's person in the middle, Shireen Wheeler. She did actually bring to our attention an important issue without of course meaning to. There is no point in pan European legislation, which this little spat shows only too well. As with all such discussions, the conversation veered into cloud cuckoo land as British Labour MEP Stephen Hughes claimed:
that the only difference between the UK and Continental members was the low pay problem. People were forced to work long hours because of low pay.
This legislation would somehow solve this? He also claimed the law was a health and safety measure. It was of course actually past as such because health and safety was a majority vote issue rather than a unanimous one. Annemie Neyts Belgian Liberal MEP, talked about the need for a balance between economic development and workers rights. This seems to be the main area of discussion. With the exception of a single throw away sentence from British Conservative MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews nobody mentioned the real crux of the matter. No government European or National should have the right to tell people how many hours they are allowed to work. They should choose for themselves. If the EU member states were not so terrible at creating jobs, workers would be more than able to stand up for themselves. When you create a surplus of workers through wrong headed regulations, they will of course be weak versus the employers. Cut the red tape and watch a shortage of labour drive up wages and improve working conditions. Oh I forgot, if the people could look after themselves you would all be out of a job.

Friday, December 10, 2004

When State action fails, More state action needed

The Guardian has taken up the story of the ban on fishing in parts of the North Sea. As we have come to expect from that publication, the views and solutions offered choose to ignore basic economics, in favour of putting the blame on big business.
If there are three things guaranteed to induce white noise between your ears, it's anything to do with the EU, fishing quotas and maps of the sea with shaded bits. We have all of these, and more, in the latest report from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, which next week will recommend a 30% shut-down of North Sea fisheries. The message most people will take from the coverage is that fish such as cod, haddock and plaice are endangered. Good. This is a valuable lesson.
So everyone needs to be educated, lets see why not have a government sponsored programme.
However, the demand for fish is set by the consumer, not by fishermen, and there is little here to empower the man or woman with the money and the shopping list.
I know that it is a heresy in the hallowed corridors of liberalism, but consumers are empowered by a form of knowledge transfer known as pricing. If a real market existed in fish, the rare ones would cost more. Thus someone whose knowledge of fish stocks was zero, would make the right choice as to what to buy. Controversial I know, but it seems to work everywhere else. But with the dastardly capitalists in cahoots with the state, controlling the business we are powerless.
Fish isn't marked as sustainable because, if it was, it would become obvious just how much fish that wasn't sustainable was sold.

Tin foil hat time.
The subject of overfishing is incredibly complicated. It once took me two days, several phone calls and half a head of hair to get to grips with the common fisheries policy. The normal person shouldn't have to bother with it. That's what we pay government ministers for.
So you are naive enough to trust government ministers with a subject that they have consistently screwed up. Bad idea. Democracy depends on an informed electorate who have the ability to ask difficult questions of their leaders.
Instead of putting all the heat on fishermen, Brussels should aim its bureaucratic blowtorch at supermarkets, and in so doing, arm the consumer.

Actually, the cause of over fishing the world over is what economists call the tragedy of the commons. Solve the issue of ownership of the fishing rights in the seas and the problem will disappear. It really is that simple. Free for all means nothing for anyone. Screwing with the supermarkets might make lefties happy, but it will do nothing to solve the problem.

Of course it would be much easier to solve if the UK government took back the rights to waters around our island.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

European Ideals

European idealism is never more on display than in the friendly and generous discussions that take place concerning spending money. The selflessness and community spirit shown by all participants is an example to us all. And so:
A row is brewing over the distribution of funds to the EU’s poorer regions, threatening to further hinder attempts at agreement over the already thorny issue of the EU budget from 2007-2013. The row threatens to pit new member states against some of the poorer, mainly Southern European "old member states".
So the nations in which the EU wished to guarantee democracy in, that have been the recipients of massive largesse, paid for by the long suffering taxpayers of the UK, Germany and the Netherlands among others, have decided not to extend the same chances to the newer members.
EU sources say that Spain has requested key changes to a draft working document on the budget to remove specific references to solidarity and the particular needs of the EU’s new member states when handing out EU cash to poorer regions.
So Spain, like all welfare recipients thinks that it has a god given right to the money it receives. The fact that It has become much richer and the other potential recipients of the cash are much poorer is obviously not important. Spain is widely regarded as a pro European country, whatever that means, largely because the populace is happy with cash flowing from the other states. Why is it only countries like Britain that have philosophical differences with the EU that are regarded as a problem, whilst normal selfishness is considered part of the game? Will Spain and Ireland among others still love the EU when they are net contributors? It seems very unlikely. In a comment that shows that most of our politicians live on another planet:
A senior German diplomat recently said that the negotiations were set to be harder than those over the Constitution.
So the money to be spent over the next few years is more important than the rest of eternity. That figures.

Who exactly are we working for?

EU employment ministers have failed to reach a deal on a revision of the working time directive. It is a prime example of a law that needs revision, or preferably abolition if Europe is to ever have more of a snowballs chance in hell of becoming a dynamic growth area. But:

The Council was divided on the issue of the opt-out and therefore failed to approve the complete revision of the Working Hours Directive, the Dutch presidency said in a statement. Germany, The Netherlands, Britain and the majority of member states backed a compromise package.

The subject is also a neat illustration of what is wrong with the concept of the European Union. The majority of members want to revise a directive, because they believe that a mistake has been made or that circumstances have changed. But it is incredibly difficult.
But a blocking minority made up of France, Belgium, Sweden, Greece and Spain remain fully committed to the permanent phase out of the opt-out, and voted against the proposals.

Which leads us to the questions. Why the hell do subjects like this have to be decided at European Union level? Let the French and the Swedes pass whatever rules they like whilst the UK and others do their own thing. Where is the problem? The proposal for revision was

Enabling employees to 'opt-out' through collective agreements between unions and employers.
Which raises another question entirely. What right has any government, national or otherwise, to dictate to consenting adults how many hours they can work? Why should any agreement be possible only through collective agreements? Why could they not simply leave decisions concerning our personal lives up to the individual?

Wild Claims and Propaganda

I love organisations like the Euphemistically named Britain in Europe. Set up by the great and good to persuade their fellow citizens that everyone should see things from their point of view, they very often end up like a parody of Pravda. Take this headline for example: Being British Means Being Pro European. Is that not cringe inducing in the extreme. It would not look out of place alongside slogans such as Working for the Motherland, You are on the Right road Comrade or other meaningless platitutdes. We all happily disagree on what the meaning of being British is. If there is one thing that defines us better than anything it is this willingness to tolerate dissenting opinions. If Britain in Europe wishes to refute claims that the government has constantly lied or obscured the truth about the EU, slogans suited to a Union of European Socialist Republics is probably not the way to go about it.

The Final Frontier

Jonathan Lockhart comments on the never ending appetite of the EU to expand its area of influence. It seems that our masters in Brussels have decided that there is not frontier beyond which they will not go. According to the newly signed constitution, space is now a shared competence, which means members are not allowed act without asking nanny first. The fact is that if the constitution if it is accepted at all will become activated in 2006. The fact that it may well be rejected is another issue entirely. But the message from Brussels is, we don’t care, we are starting to implement it already.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

No Cheating on the Question

One of the fears that Europhobes had and a hope of Europhiles was that the question in the referendum would be loaded. Do you wish to sign the treaty or go to war with Germany, might have been a good one. No funny stuff is to happen according to the latest reports.

The question, to be published in a bill in the new year, is expected to say: “Should the United Kingdom approve the Treaty establishing a Constitution for the European Union?”
I guess the powers that be decided on credibility rather than victory at all costs.

First Destroy, then Ban

In a desperate effort to undo some of the damage wrought by the stupidity of the Common Fisheries Policy, a complete ban on fishing in some parts of the North Sea is being proposed. Decades of treating the seas around Europe as common property combined with subsidizing the building of every more efficient fishing fleets has led to a collapse in fish stocks. No one, whatever their stance on the issues involved is arguing that the problem can be ignored. However, if the sea continues to be treated as a common resource, there will be no solution. Fisherman are not allowed to land the fish that they have caught because of quotas, but do not have the option of not catching them. Masses of fish are uselessly killed in this way. Full ownership of fishing rights for specific sections of the sea is the only solution. Despite, this headline, the push for the ban is not coming from Brussels.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Turkey's EU Accession

The following link is Al Jazeera's view of Turkey trying to join the EU. Al Jazeera Not very flattering but funny none the less.

Sweat Jacques, Sweat

Jacques Chirac is getting more stressed as the 17th of December draws ever closer. Fully aware that the average French voter wants Turkey in the EU about as much as they want GW in the white house, he is trying to set his own preconditions for talks. The most important of these is actually:

The president has asked for accession talks not to start until the second half of 2005. This last demand is to make sure that the discussion on Turkish EU membership is separate from the debate on the EU constitution.
One of the only issues that could swing the French to a no vote is that of Turkish membership. I hope Jacques does not get his way. More than anything I would love to see the French voters reject the treaty.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Honesty is not the Best Policy

Denis MacShane, Britain's minister for Europe has landed himself in hot water for the crime of being honest about his views on Europe. In a talk to students at Durham University he included the following controversial ideas.

  • Chancellor Gordon Brown's five economic tests for joining the single European currency are a giant red herring.
  • The European Union Constitution won't be the last word in the Brussel's integration project
  • The idea of sovereign foreign policies held by member states over crucial issues affecting Europe was one that did not fit with his view of the EU future.
These words are of course music to the ears of Euro sceptics everywhere as they give lie to the official version of the Governments policy on the EU. If the Government’s own spokesman on Europe is saying that the constitution is not the last word, how can we believe the official party line. This makes selling the notion of the treaty as a step towards a federal state much easier. He is of course correct about the five tests, as the Euro is a political not an economic project, but the tests were devised to obscure that. Admitting it is not the best way to convince a skeptical public. As for the idea of different policies on issues effecting Europe, all issues potentially effect Europe, so there is no end to where that could lead. In a typical piece of Eurospeak, he goes on to say: But if Britain says no to Europe in the political decisions we'll have to take in the next few months, then I think that will be a dark moment in British history. If disagreeing to a particular treaty, and a very bad one at that, is saying no to Europe, then I think most of us will want to say no. Its funny how disagreement with one view of European Integration is always spoken of in such apocalyptic terms. If we insist on working more than 48 hours per week or refuse to pay sugar farmers three times the world price for their products, then Germany will invade France. Is that what we want?

Europe Still Isn't Working

A new report claims that failure to reform Europes economies is costing 1 Trillion Euros per year.

MOUNTING levels of red tape are costing the econ-omies of the European Union more than E1 trillion a year in lost output, a devastating report from the European Commission has conceded. The huge and growing burden is revealed in the European Competitiveness Report 2004, published as a European staff working document.
What was that about Lisbon agenda?

Double Talking

One of my biggest complaints about Europhiles is their predilection for making idealistic statements in support of European integration, which have little or nothing to doing with the reality. The Economist illustrates this nicely with an article concerning Ukraine, which is unfortunately not freely available. It concerns the reluctance of many of the EU’s most ardent supporters to consider Ukraine and Turkey for membership.
The goal of the founding fathers of the European project was above all the establishment of peace on the European continent. Another war between France and Germany is now unthinkable. But the first world war started in the Balkans and the second with the invasion of Poland. Ensuring that these regions are safely incorporated into a liberal, democratic club may be thought a higher task than trying to guarantee that all Europeans enjoy the dubious delights of CAP subsidies and directives on working time.
There is not much that I can add.

Thought for the Week

For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery
Jonathan Swift It looks like the people of Ukraine have brought to an end their era of slavery. Judging by what many are claiming to be the goal for their country however, they simply want to be serfs to another feudal lord.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


North Sea Diaries raises a good point about how the question of Armenia is going to rise to the surface as the prospect of Turkish accession to the EU comes closer. This is an issue where I think both sides of the argument are wrong. Whatever the reality of the events that occurred in the Ottoman Empire during world war one, they are for historians to decide the truth. Unfortunately, some countries in Europe, notably France, thinks that history is a democratic subject. So if the French Parliament decides that a Genocide did take place, then it did. The logic behind this is bizarre to say the least. We expect politicians in communist countries to change the past, but not in democracies. On the other hand, we have Turkey, a country which also refuses to allow people to have an opinion on an historic event. In contrast to France where everyone must call it genocide, in Turkey to do so is a crime. I had thought that crimes of thought were something that Turkey had to abolish in order to join the EU. Unfortunately it seems that crimes of thought are acceptable, as long as they are the right ones. Call me controversial, but would it not be far healthier to leave the question of what really happened open to discussion. I sure we would all end up being much more enlightened. It would also provide a solution to the potential disagreements between France and Turkey.

New Format

I have decided to change the format as the other one was a little difficult to read. I hope you like it.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Euro Army

I would like to extend my condolences to those of our armed forces now serving under a Blue and Yellow Flag. Its a change of flag, rather than a change of soldiers:

There will be no Domino Effect

The Guardian is breathing a sigh of relief over the Socialists agreeing to support the constitution.
France's socialists are not alone in breathing a sigh of relief after the opposition party's vote for the EU constitution. The result makes it more likely, though not certain, that the text will be approved in a national referendum next year and stop a domino effect of no votes blocking the required unanimous ratification of the new treaty.
I assume the large minority of French socialists who voted no are not among those who are happy with the result. Besides, a domino effect is unnecessary to stop the constitution, we can manage it all on our own.
The constitution clarifies the division of powers between the union and its member states, improves efficiency by creating a long term president and EU foreign minister, but does not give a significantly bigger role to Brussels.
Apart from the fact that significant is in the eye of the beholder, I am sure that many people will be made aware during the coming campaign, the extent to which we have already lost our sovereignty. I think many people will focus on that rather than exactly what extra powers we are transferring. I look on the bright side. The day after we the UK voter rejects this treaty, reading the guardian comment page will be a treat. That is if the Guardian commentators do not all die of shame or apoplexy first.

Turkish Accession, From Turkey's Point of View

The Centre for European Reform has published an essay which is unique in its level of understanding of the Turkey EU accession issue.

Why, because:
It considers which aspects of the accession process and the EU’s rule book will be unpalatable to various Turkish interest groups.
Most western groups simply focus on what citizens of current members think.
In 2005, the Commission will set out in detail those other conditions for entry particularly those that concern economic reform and the implementation of the EU’s rule book, known as the acquis communautaire. EU accession requires an enormous range of changes, from environmental policy to financial services. Many of these reforms will be difficult for Turkey to swallow because they will entail significant costs, as well as deep restructuring of the public administration over a long period.
As I have tried to tell many Turks, some of these reforms are probably necessary anyway, but many of them will be an enormous waste of Money, far more important than any welfare that can be cadged from the EU. They still prefer to believe that the EU is a silver bullet that will cure all their countries ills.
Many Turks including otherwise well-informed politicians, journalists and business-people, are unaware of what the EU will demand of their country.
Many are completely surprised when you tell them that regulations will add huge costs to doing business and that bureaucracy will get worse rather than better. In addition:
The Union therefore often asks applicants to undertake reforms in areas that are not in fact covered by common EU policies.
Try explaining that one to a sceptical public. There are certain sections of the Turkish public that will see this as way past the mark.
The Central and East Europeans found some EU rules difficult to adopt because they cost a lot. For example, the costs of compliance are very high in areas such as environmental standards for cleaner air and water. The Central European countries have estimated that the total cost of EU-related improvements in the condition of the Turkish expenditure from their national budgets after membership is about 3-4 per cent of their GDP.
Turkeys economy being such a strong one will of course have no problem spending such sums. No sorry what I wanted to say was that such sums could be spent on improving literacy, healthcare or other fundamental problems rather than on the curvature of Bananas. Besides, Turkey is not as developed as the majority of Eastern Europe, so the cost as a percentage of GDP could be higher. Just think what cıould be achieved with more sensibly chosen priorities.
Local authorities are also bridling at the EU’s demands that they should allow more competition for public contracts, both from local and foreign companies.
Corruption in public contract tenders is a huge source of problems in Turkey. Addition of tighter rules could be helpful, but then again looking at Brussels, the idea that the EU could help fight corruption is too outlandish to bear thinking about.
The practical consequences of membership negotiations will be difficult, but the change in mentality required will be even harder. The Ottoman Empire was a great power. Britain’s experience shows how hard it can be for ex empires to accept sharing sovereignty in the EU, especially if they go on thinking that it is primarily an economic union.
The crux of the matter. Turks will in the end, I believe, refuse to kow tow to the mandarins in Brussels. Like the British, they con themselves into thinking that the EU is primarily or totally about economics. When the truth strikes home, they are not going to be very good at playing happily with the other members.
The political elite hopes that it will ensure Turkey’s future as a democracy with a stable economy. But the Turks will find that the EU is not just a club based on a shared identity, but also a huge set of rules and regulations. Its day to day business is not about values but about fire safety in shops and hygiene standards in dairies.
What the political elite fails to understand is first that the EU as a guarantee of democracy is in itself a bizarre notion, but that secondly, democratisation is a process that almost always goes hand in hand with economic development. The EU accession process has undoubtedly sped up the process in certain respects, but it was going to happen anyway. There are two economies in Turkey, as in other developing countries. The first one pays taxes, keeps to regulations and pays social security on its employees wages. The second economy is based on cash, personal contacts, minimal tax and corruption. The more rules there are, the bigger the advantage will be for the underground economy. Big business will be unable to compete, the professionalisation of the economy which is currently rapid, will grind to a halt. Professional dairies will whither, the worst kind will flourish. Not the aim I know, but that’s the reality.
Turkeys leaders have to start explaining to their country that the long road to EU membership will be hard, but the destination will be worth it.
In this whole essay, there is not one single fact to support the assumption that it will be worth it. But if the Turks want to risk 4% of their GDP, risk becoming a welfare case, and to divert their attention from the real issues that face them, then whom am I to disagree.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Proud of Britain

Attempting Escape is organising a Google Bombing of the New Sickly Labour Site Proud of Britain. So check out the alternative Proud of Britain All the things that make us Proud of Britain are unfortunately those things that Mr Blair wishes to sweep away.

The British Press

Europhiles often blame the British Press for attitudes to the European Union in the UK. I am of the opinion that newspapers publish more or less what their readers want to hear, although you cannot deny that they have a great deal of influence. Recently two pro European Union individuals are making this point: At Straight Banana he asks,
The question is why the UK stands out as markedly more eurosceptic than anywhere else. For a eurosceptic, the most obvious candidate explanation is that the UK is just different.
Thats a possibility given our unique island status and political evolution, but I can imagine some people having trouble with that notion.
Eurobarometer results confirms what many EU enthusiasts have been complaining about for years: perhaps it's the media's fault. Fewer UK citizens feel that media coverage of the EU is about right than citizens of any other member country.
Does that mean they want more stories of curved Bananas or less, we are not told.
Self-assessed ignorance correlates with negativity.
The more we know, the less we will dislike. Why do I find that idea unconvincing. Despite my comments, it is a measured and questioning piece whether you agree with the conclusion or not. On the other hand Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform is a lot more blunt. He tells us that in the UK:
Three quarters read papers that are unremittingly hostile to France, Germany and Brussels.
And that:
British journalists get away with such factual inaccuracies because editors and proprietors encourage them, and because they face no sanction.
What we are not told is whether Editors across the water are encouraging positive stories about the EU. Perhaps they are inaccurate with a pro bias. He goes on to say that…
No fair-minded person can claim that the British press will cover the referendum in an even handed way.
No I agree, The Sun will scream about the end of our nation whilst the BBC will talk about a streamlined Europe better suited to 25 members. To claim that either one is unbiased would be unreasonable. The difference between them is that one of them is spouting bias paid for by us all whether we agree or not, whilst those who do not warm to The Voice of Common Sense, can always buy the Guardian. Typically he quotes from the Sun to support his theory. One paper has what he calls factual inaccuracies and he damns all the anti EU papers with that one example. The fact that the EU constitution, like all EU treaties is deliberately open to widely varying interpretations is not mentioned. The fact that many clauses can be reasonably interpreted as either chalk or cheese, is a leading reason for the difference in press coverage. I feel sorry for our continental cousins that they have such a tame press. The lack of ability for journalists to probe funny goings on in France is legend. I am only glad that we are having this vote before that repulsive Blunkett muzzles our press freedom entirely. With the weight of the BBC and the government machinery on the side of the treaty, it is only the bias of The Sun and friends that keeps us from being sold down the river by our cheating, lying and conniving political class.

Shocker, EU Not an Anglo Saxon Conspiracy

French Socialists must have decided that the EU is not a Neo Liberal Anglo Saxon conspiracy against French interests. They voted to support the yes side in the referendum campaign.

The man leading the "no" campaign within the party, former prime minister and now deputy party leader Laurent Fabius, has accepted defeat. He had tried to rally supporters by saying he loved Europe too much to let France sign up to a bad treaty. For him, the European Constitution is too Anglo Saxon, too much about free markets and competition, too little about workers rights or full employment.
The question of whether a wish list of socialist ideas and a plethora of open ended rights and restrictions has any place in a constitution, was apparently not raised.

People to look up to?

Brussels based weekly European Voice has announced the winners of its annual awards. Those who were chosen say a lot about the priorities of those who read the magazine. European of the Year: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Presumably because he has pushed so hard to meet the criteria for entry. The man is a vile autocrat by nature who thinks he owns Turkey, but that is an attitude unlikely to put off Pro Europeans. Statesman of the Year: Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. This was for completing negotiations on the EU constitution. While I am against the constitution, the man did an impossible job, so what can I say. Commissioner of the Year: Gunter Verheugen. Of course this man has been very dedicated to his job of enslaving the Eastern half of Europe, so I guess he deserves it. The one that really pissed me off was this one. Campaigner of the Year: Irish health minister Micheal Martin. For introducing a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. I have never smoked, I think it is a disgusting habit, but banning it is illiberal in the extreme. To think that the raw material for smokers is subsidised by CAP whilst the powers that be are pushing hard for a ban. What kind of crappy crazy world do we live in. My personal choice for European of the Year is Hans Martin Tillack, someone who really cares what kind ofEurope we live in.

Those Naive Candidates

I often have a difficult time explaining to citizens of candidate countries what joining the EU really means. They have a rosy image of all the pros and no knowledge whatsoever of the cons of membership. I mentioned last week how upset some people got by the mere mention that EU membership might have negative rather than positive results for Turkey. Now it seems there are people in Serbia who are less naive. Here is an example, taken from a blogger who sees the story a little different from me.

In reply, one of the officials, a deputy minister, said that he did not believe that outsiders should be fixated on Serbia's EU prospects. It was not that important for the country. In fact, many investors had told him how pleased they were that Serbia was outside of the EU as it did not have to comply with various regulations, such as those relating to the environment.
So some people are starting to understand that EU meddling has a very high price especially for developing economies. As a country so recently devastated by war, worrying about whether people are working more than 48 hours a week, or whether a chemical that has been in use for decades has been tested and approved by some Brussels Bureacrat is probably not at the top of the agenda.

A talk by Marta Andreasen

Marta Andreasen the whistleblower sacked by Neil Kinnock for having the temerity to do her job, is to give a talk in London next week. The talk is entitled Europe needs real reform, not the EU Constitution. The talk will be in Westminster on Monday Evening. Because the Vote No campaign seems shy of giving the details on their website, anyone interested should send a mail to this man:

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Fair Trade or Free Trade

Today, Laurent Fabius will try to convince French Socialists that the EU is an evil Anglo Saxon plot. It is inhabited by free market liberals who are out to destroy the French way of life. As it happens one of those alleged Free Marketeers is today explaining the dastardly liberal trade policy in that organ of the Anglo Saxon imperialists, The Guardian.
My mission, as Europe's new trade commissioner, is to make trade fair for the many, not just free for the few. By fairness, I mean enabling all countries, including the poorest, to share in rising global prosperity.
Free trade for the few is an oxymoron, its hardly free unless its for the many, but I welcome the idea of helping poor countries to share in globalizations gains.
Europe must never pursue protectionist policies that help the richer countries in the face of this new competition.
Peter failed the first question. Protectionist policies do not help any countries. Never mind his heart is in the right place.
But for poorer countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, free trade is not such a magic wand.
Of course working institutions, the rule of law and property rights are important, but allowing greater access to our markets will still make an improvement. Besides, protectionism is a way of the ruling elite to help their friends, so free trade boosts democratic accountability. This magic wand argument is akin to saying that stopping smoking will not cure lung cancer, so the patient does not need to stop.
But open trade cannot take place before the framework for economic development is in place.
We believe in it for the future. Not now.
In August, Europe made its historic commitment to reform the common agricultural policy and sweep away export subsidies in agriculture as long as other rich countries, particularly the US and Japan, do the same.
Is it just me or is there a touch of playground in this posturing. We will only stop a damaging and expensive programme if they do it as well. What happened to leading by example. As for historic commitment, how much exactly was the budget decreased, oh yes, 0% until 2013.
Even where European markets are open, obstacles can still stand in the way of access: exacting standards of food safety and rules of origin, for example. We should offer more help to the poorest countries to comply.
Peter, I know that you are new to the job, but the point of these exacting standards is to protect Europes farmers Therefore helping competitors to meet them would be illogical. Screwing competitors or abolishing the standards are the only two logical options. One of them is immoral and the other enlightened, the choice is yours. Sorry that should read the choice is to be made by the French Government.
We cannot maintain old arrangements with, for example, an EU sugar price almost three times the world price.
Get that, there we have a great example of why the EU is a bad idea. Everyone agrees on a programme, rightly or wrongly and the programme is implemented. Later on either because the choice was wrong or because things have changed, the programme is seen to be a mistake. But now we cannot agree to abolish it. Sustained resistance by a small number of countries can stop any change. So we have the ratchet effect. The only release is when it breaks completely. Of course Nanny probably likes the idea that sugar is expensive it stops us horrible fat citizens from eating even more and spoiling his lovely hospitals with our fat sweaty bodies. So there you have it. The evil capitalist Peter Mandelson who is the hope of some and the fear of many. If this is what the French believe is a threat to their civilization, I cannot imagine a day when to be a liberal in France will not be a crime against humanity. Lets divorce these statist peasants before they sap our freedom completely.