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


  1. Grahn, Anger is unhelpful and I apologise.

    Reading your post I see a fundamental problem. In the UK we are being told that we need to work with the EU in the new global economy, but that that does not impact our sovereignty. This is deception of the worst kind. We have handed over sovereignty in most areas of government to the EU, retaining a few important areas. It is this deception that makes me more angry than anything. You, I'm pleased to say, understand that we are governed by the EU in almost all areas. The best estimate for law generation that I have seen is that about 50% of legislation is now created in Brussels, but as you well know, the way that directives etc filter down onto provincial statute books makes it difficult to see the direct translation of EU legislation dictates etc into provincial law.

    In areas such as Justice and Foreign policy, I watch the maneuovering to achieve EU competence and watch how every crisis is played up into a scare to show how only a strong EU government can deal with a global issue. This is also deception IMO. I can understand that the Finnish view might be that your country is better served as part of a larger Empire and your small numbers might feel better protected as part of such. I disagree with that as I watch the EU try to micro manage every aspect of people’s lives with one size fits all legislation, which so often obeys perfectly the laws of unexpected consequences. EU laws have had devastating effects in the UK on small businesses, farming, fishing, steel, coal to name but a few, leaving us with not a lot more than a finance sector. Still our provincial government insist that they are in control, although, as with the latest Scottish fishing debacle, the UK Minister for Europe is at last admitting that he has no power as this is an EU (in)competence. (Our fishing grounds have been all but destroyed by the EU policies. We have not been able to manage our fishing stock as we have not been allowed to. That is the answer to over fishing – allow the nation states to manage their fisheries as they know best like Iceland does, like Canada does.)

    Your posts on the Treaties are valuable and are not designed to address the issues that make me so angry, so I will endeavour not to post any more on your blog. For someone who accepts the EU takeover, they explain a great deal and will be useful. They do not explain that we are ruled by a Commission that is unelected which itself is influenced in its law generation by unelected special interest and industrial pressure groups. The checks and balances that have kept democratic countries from falling into dictatorship are missing in the EU. That alone should be sending shivers up your spine especially when any attempts to change that situation or highlight it are squashed. What is the reward for an EU official who criticises the EU? Answer – dismissal and a police search of his/her flat. What is the reward for a member of the parliament, who cannot be sacked, for criticising the EU? A fine and other censures.

    If I saw a bit of honesty in the UK and our provincial parliament asking people if they were content to be run by Brussels in this new global economy, and they said yes, then that would be a democratic decision, but that is not happening.

    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?

    Yes. The world is a bigger place than just the EU. We buy far more from the EU than we sell. We would be freer to trade with the rest of the world without the EU tarriff barriers. World food prices are lower and we are a large importer of food. We would no longer have to accept EU farm produce dumped on us with illegal (hidden) subsidies. We would no longer have to accept the lowest tender in bids when we know that the EU country had used state subsides in a bid in an effort to destroy our ship building/railway engine building or whatever industry is in the gun sights. We could arm our Armed forces with working equipment rather than be forced to purchase armament that did not protect, although I lay much of the blame here on our own Ministry of Defence. We could be flexible with our employment legislation, although we still have many freedoms here, to react to world changes. We could have fishing arrangements with Senegal and others, if we wanted to, that didn’t destroy the livelihood of their fishermen. We could contain immigration within limits with which we could cope which didn’t put our maternity wings into crisis, our short term housing into crisis, which didn’t require us to send generous family allowance back to siblings in a foreign country, which allowed us to send EU criminals back to EU countries. We would not be contributing GBP 10BN a year, after rebate (UK Government figures), much of which seems to be going to a French national policy of sustaining small farms in rural areas. The french should be free to do that if they want, but should not expect other countries to pay for their internal policy. We would have representatives who could actually represent our views to the government in power. Our MEPs have little power in reality. Most of all we could continue with INTERGOVERNMENTAL agreements with other countries that, for all their faults, allow sovereign nations to decide on a balance between world view and national view.

    Wholesale rejection is seldom the right answer.

    Unelected Empires have a poor world history. Do you really want to be part of the next big failure? Wholesal rejection of this unelected Empire is absolutley the right answer, IMO.

    I will not post again as I am detracting from a useful blog that is aimed at analysing the words of treaties rather than the actions of an unelected elite. Thank you for not just deleting my past comments.

  2. Alfred the Ordinary,

    Thank you for your comments, which rather add to than detract from my blog on ‘the words of treaties’.

    It is hard for me to see how the EU could be an effective force for change if the member states do not pool their resources (sovereignty, if you like). I thank you for taking the trouble to state your reasons for secession.

    With regard to unelected EU elites, the elected ones seem to be able to make the wrong choices, too. A few moments before I saw your comment, I glanced at what Open Europe reported about the actions of the leadership of the European Parliament concerning MEPs’ expenses.

    A depressing re-run of their earlier measures to sabotage scrutiny.

    Still, in the long run, I hope for a democratic European Union, with a European Parliament not only elected by the citizens, but feeling accountable to them, and with powers to hold the EU’s government to account in all areas of EU policy.

    Not everyone has to be elected, though. I rather favour independent and competent civil servants and judges. The European Court of Justice, for instance, has done much to give individuals and firms protection from their governments, and much of the Commission is a civil service trying to defend the general interest.

    Europe has had its fair share of unelected empires. The European Union is the first that comes to my mind as peaceful, voluntary and potentially based on democratic rule.


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