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The European Gravy Train

Introduction

The European Union is a self-perpetuating bureaucratic contraption that regulates the European Single Market in order to manifest a political settlement, a single European state across the whole continent.

The single market is made up of four groups of countries; an inner core of the original six founder members of the Common Market, the 17 members of the single currency Euro club, 10 non-euro members and a group wannabe members, waiting to board the gravey train.

 

Waiting to the board the gravy train (more enlargement)

Being assessed by the Commission?

Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

 

The Copenhagen criteria (1993) or how do I get a ticket?

"Membership requires ........ stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy..... the rule of law...... human rights .....respect for and protection of minorities .....the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union."

"Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union."

 

Some countries with 'wannabe' status, like Turkey, which would have to become a lot less Turkish to gain entry. This group also includes some Balkan states which require the services of an exorcist, to remove the corpse of Stalin from their presidential palaces before they are allowed to join. See Press Freedom further down the page.

The European State Project began in the early 1950s. A brief gaze back over the period reveals plans to establish a political and military federation for Europe.

Due to various objections, the federalists settled for an economic community, at first called the European Economic Community or EEC, and then over time the EEC morphed like a Flash animation into the EC and then into the European Union or EU. In between each stage of the morphing process subtle constitutional changes were being put in place via various treaties.

The EU project is a three page document

On page one of the European Project, the design is to foster trade, encouraging a free market in goods, capital, services and labour, on page two, to harmonize and integrate social, monetary and legal affairs. And on page three: become a huge federal state and rule the world!

However, given our new understanding of quantum mechanics it is now possible that the project has a fourth page, in which the gravy train crashes into the Danube river. train

 

A bit of history

1950 - the European Coal and Steel Community is set up. The six founders are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

1957 - the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.

Significance - 1950 was about collective management of coal and steel, 1957 established a Customs Union, complete with an external tariff border, and began the move into non-economic fields, establishing the monolithic bureaucracy to run the show.

Single European Act (1986).

The Single European Act (SEA) was the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The SEA intended to remove barriers and to increase harmonisation and competitiveness among its countries. In short, the aim was to introduce a genuine 'single market'.

Maastricht Treaty (1992),

It created the European Union and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro. This treaty set out the so-called monetary convergence criteria for member governments, suffice it to say all the stated criteria for things like long-term interest rates and borrowing, and government deficits are now shot to bits.

 

The Copenhagen criteria (1993) or how do I get a ticket?

"Membership requires ........ stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy..... the rule of law...... human rights .....respect for and protection of minorities .....the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union."

"Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union."

Countries wishing to join the Euro club need to meet additional so-called convergence criteria, like Greece did when it joined?

And don't forget.... the

acquis communautaire

That's all the laws passed by the Union prior to you joining, which you will be required to adopt.

Treaty of Lisbon (2007)

This treaty amended the Treaty of Rome and the Maastricht Treaty.

According to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, “in this old continent, a new Europe is born”...... “enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union” and “improving the coherence of its action”.

All very interesting José but what do you say to critics who claim “the theatre of politics is all national and local, not European”?

Lisbon Treaty: A summary...

  1. The European Council (a body composed of the leaders of the Member States, such as the Irish Taoiseach, the French President and the Swedish Prime Minister) becomes a formal EU institution – its role is to provide the EU with a political motor, driving forward its activities and defining its political goals. It will have an independent President, appointed by the presidents and prime ministers of the Member States for a term of office of two-and-a-half years, renewable once. The president will act as a consensus-builder and ‘umpire’ among these leaders.
  2. The European Parliament becomes an equal co-legislator with the Council of Ministers in the vast majority of cases. This applies notably to EU laws in the area of judicial and police cooperation and adoption of the EU budget.
  3. The European Parliament will increase in size to 751 members. Although this change does not affect Ireland, it is important for a number of countries, such as Spain and Malta.
  4. Some EU competences (which are national powers delegated to the EU institutions but adopted by national governments and, where appropriate, by the European Parliament) are expanded, meaning the EU can work in a wider range of areas that before. This applies, for example, to international trade, energy policy, judicial and police cooperation, innovation policy and tourism.
  5. The EU’s foreign policy is given new institutions in an attempt to make it more coherent and relevant on the world stage. To this end, a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is created; a post which is based both in the Council of Ministers and in the European Commission so that EU foreign policy can become more coherent. To support the work of the High Representative, a network of EU ‘embassies’ will be created across the globe, called the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EEAS will be staffed by national diplomats, staff from the European Commission and from the Council of Ministers, in equal proportion.
  6. National parliaments will have a greater say in EU affairs, such as a power to contest draft EU laws that are considered unneccessary; a power to block changes from unanimous decision-making to majority decision-making in the Council of Ministers. The job of scrutinising EU activities, however, is something national parliaments will have to organise themselves. Some national parliaments are better at scrutiny than others. In Ireland, the main responsibility for scrutiny of EU affairs is carried out by the Joint Cmmittee on European Affairs and by the Joint Committee on Euopean Scrutiny.
  7. The protection of human rights in EU law will be subject to two new texts. First, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which makes EU law subject to the fundamental rights and freedoms shared by all Member States. Second, the EU will join the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which means that all EU institutions and its laws will be subject to the application of the ECHR. Ireland has been a member of the ECHR in its own right since 1953.
  8. European citizens will be able to propose EU laws through an instrument called the Citizens’ Initiative. This instrument, a type of direct democracy, allows at least one million citizens from across the EU Member States to submit proposals to the European Commission.
  9. EU defence policy remains subject to national vetoes, except in a limited number of areas such as the decision to create permanent structured cooperation (a type of ‘enhanced cooperation’ that allows a group of Member States to work closely and share burdens in military matters). The decision to initiate a European defence mission still requires a unanimous decision of national defence ministers.
  10. Social protection is present in a number of provisions, not only in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, but also in the protection of services of general interest (i.e. public services), the provision for social dialogue (talks between trade unions and employers’ organisations) at EU level, and a number of clauses relating to equality between men and women and the prohibition of discrimination.
  11. A new voting system for decision-making among national governments on EU affairs will enter into force in 2014 or 2017 (the date depends on the Member States). The system removes the current ‘weighting’ of votes, whereby each Member State is given a number of votes. Presently, Ireland has 7 votes and Germany has 29 (the number of votes is based on the size of a country’s population). Under the new system, each Member State will have one vote each. For a decision to be passed, two criteria must be met: at least half of the Member States must be in favour of a proposal, and that half must represent at least 65% of the EU’s total population. To see how the system works in practice, see this calculator for voting in the Council of Ministers.
  12. The European Union becomes a single organisation: there will be no more European Community and no more pillar strcture; just one organisation.

 

Press Freedom

The erosion of press freedom has been most striking in Turkey recently. A shocking 50-60 journalists are now in jail (depending on who does the counting), mostly accused of plotting to overthrow the government or split the country. Some 10,000 lawsuits are pending against writers and broadcasters. Many journalists suspect that their phones are tapped and their e-mails read. Fear and suspicion pervade the media. In the press freedom ranking of Reporters without Borders, a Paris-based NGO, Turkey has dropped to 138th place, behind Iraq and only just ahead of Russia.

The situation in the Western Balkan countries is similarly worrying. Scores of journalists have been beaten up or intimidated. A couple have lost their lives, with their killers usually going unpunished. Some of Serbia's and Croatia's best-known journalists now live with constant police protection. Many of their colleagues prefer self-censorship to a life in fear or unemployment.

And governments are clamping down on the internet as well. The Turkish government has blocked an estimated 12,000 websites to date. It is now planning to make 'filters' compulsory to prevent Turks from viewing websites that contain pornography. Access to sites containing one or more of 138 'prohibited' words (including puzzling items such as skirt and homemade would be blocked automatically.

The European Commission, in charge of monitoring accession countries' compliance with civil liberties and democratic standards, is getting seriously worried. It has repeatedly flagged up the deteriorating media environment in its annual assessments of accession preparations. Yet the situation keeps getting worse. To help it figure out what to do, the Commission gathered over 450 journalists and activists from the Western Balkans and Turkey in Brussels on May 6th. Many of them were seething with frustration: "The Europeans are hypocrites. They say they worry about journalism in our countries. But they still support our governments", said one editor.

 

EU Institutions

The European Council and the Council of the European Union

The Council is made up of all the heads of the EU member states and it acts like a collective presidency, pointing in the general direction of policy, while Baroness Ashton makes the tea. Ashton is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and she represents the Council across the globe.

Citizens might easily be confused by the fact that something called The Council of the European Union also exists, this is also sometimes called the Council of Ministers, just to confuse everyone a little bit more. The Council acts as one of the two chambers of the EU's legislative branch, the other being the EU Parliament.

Executive powers moved from the Council of... to the EU Commission under the Lisbon Treaty.

However, the European Council was established by the Lisbon Treaty to " provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development". Clearly, the Council of... wasn't capable of impetus.

Baroness Ashton: more than the tea lady.

Beside representing the EU at international fora and co-ordinating the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy, she is:

- ex-officio Vice President of the European Commission
- participant in the meetings of the European Council
- responsible of the European Union Special Representatives
- head of the External Action Service and the delegations
- President of the Foreign Affairs Council
- Secretary-General of the Western European Union
- President of the European Defence Agency
- Chairperson of the board of the European Union Institute for Security Studies

That may sound like a lot of jobs for one person, at a time of high unemployment but the Baroness does have a purpose. That is, when some old lunatic like Henry Kissinger calls and says ‘ I want to speak to Europe’, they connect him to the Baroness.

 

To CAP it all.....

There is a conspiracy theory that the whole Euro project was dreamed up by a gang of French hill farmers seeking a perpetual scheme that would subsidize them forever, called the Common Agricultural Policy.

British households pay an extra £832 a year in grocery bills due to the huge EU subsidy system that is also depriving tens of thousands of African farmers of their livelihoods.

Everyday goods such as bread, milk, sugar and chicken are all more expensive because of the payments made to British and European farmers. At the same time, dumping of subsidised produce in African countries is forcing local producers out of business.

The £30bn-a-year EU agricultural subsidy regime is one of the biggest iniquities facing farmers in Africa and other developing counties. They cannot export their products because they compete with the lower prices made possible by subsidies.

 

The End of European Dream

 

The European Union continues its dissent into chaos but the politicians and the eurocrats pretend it's not happening, as the citizens of Greece eat from the garbage bins and the Spanish organise raids on supermarkets and the young people of Portugal pack to leave. All these countries are seeing social unrest and Greece in particular is shifting dangerously back to the days of the generals.

In Cyprus the eurocrats have ordered the government to steal from the bank savings of its citizens, and impose limits of withdrawals, as a part of a deal to save the country from bankruptcy.

The EU principle, of the free movement of capital has been forgotten, as restrictions are imposed - to stop the Russians getting their funds out of the country.

The economic crisis brought about by the vain attempt to impose a single currency across a host of nations at different stages of economic development has led to an erosion of the political realm. We have already seen Italy and Greece have an executive imposed on them by the eurocrats and the government of Ireland was treated like a small child. Greece and Italy have both had indecisive outcomes in recent elections, making meaningful decision making impossible.

It is not only the failure of the euro experiment that is hastening the end of the European Dream, much of the blame must to be laid at the door of the Commission, for lack of due diligence when it came to the question of enlargement. Countries were allowed to board the gravy train without meeting all the necessary criteria for making the journey. Clearly, economic pragmatism was trumped by political expediency.

The European Dream is over, its time now for the failed olive growers of southern Europe to cash in their euros and time for the Mercedes Benz league of the north to forget federalism, forget enlargement and focus on consolidation. Time to get out the flip charts and marker pens and do some blue sky thinking. Item number one on the list should be: Tell the Bilderberg Group to get lost, their input is nolonger required.