Friday, 23 May 2008

Alfred the Ordinary

You take up so many levels of matters and such various grounds for discontent in your comment on transport support and protection that it is difficult to answer within the space of comment of normal proportions. In a way, my writing about the Lisbon Treaty is a running commentary, although only one Article is dealt with each time.

Treaties: In spite of the fact that my postings are excruciatingly dull to read, I think that they have some merit in that they deal with every provision of the Lisbon Treaty, including the unchanged ones of little interest to national governments and parliaments with regard to the ongoing ratification processes.

Importance of treaties: Like it or not, but the European Community (European Union) is based on the rule of law. Thus, what the treaties say and what they omit forms the basis for secondary legislation and subsequent action.

Transport: I have to admit that the vagueness of the (unreformed) transport Articles is somewhat disturbing. Yesterday I proposed that the treaties should be overhauled as to the internal policy areas. The common agricultural policy and the common transport policy are two examples of practically unreformed areas, and there are many more or less redundant provisions elsewhere, which have been technically adjusted, but just clutter up the coming TFEU.

EU studies: If, as some purport, 80 per cent of national legislation emanates from “Brussels” (or even significantly less, as I believe), curricula for EU law and politics should be extended significantly. Yesterday I noted that students probably learn nothing about EU transport (or most other policy areas) from the standard EU law coursebooks in English. I also noted that many continental students seem to get a more complete view of the EU.

Internal market, competition and protectionism: French protectionism has deep roots; a sense of inferiority running back to at least German unification in the late 19th century. But if you abolish the internal market and its competition rules, as well as the supranational Commission as the guardian of the treaties, what would result? Enforcing and improving competition rules is a hard slog for the Commission, but have you thought through the alternatives to the EU (countries) as a whole, or even the situation for the United Kingdom after possible secession?

CAP: In my view, the EU would be much better off if the resources spent on the common agricultural policy were used to improve the conditions for Europe to compete in a globalising world. But how can the resources and expenditure of the EU be reformed decisively as long as the member states’ governments have to reach unanimous decisions on the financial perspectives?

Fisheries: Is not the global root problem overfishing? What should be done about that?

Black and white: Any working human society requires some sort of adaptation, be it family, work, municipality, region, state or the EU. Wholesale rejection is seldom the right answer. I have to adjust to the fact that some of the decisions and actions of these entities are less palatable, even distasteful. When in a minority, I can try to influence opinions and to work for what I believe to be a more constructive future majority. Where does anger lead, if not turned into action for improvement?

Intergovernmentalism: Many of the basic problems of the European Union have much to do with the defects and limits of intergovernmental cooperation. Often it would be better to ask about the interests of EU citizens, instead of brandishing barren concepts like ‘sovereignty’ when the nation state is incapable of offering solutions.

In my humble opinion, we Europeans need a European Union, but a better EU based on effective decision-making, democracy and solidarity.

Imperfect as it is, the Treaty of Lisbon is a step in the right direction, but many more are needed.

Ralf Grahn