EU negotiations outcome

by Henry on June 28, 2007

I should really have blogged the outcome of the Treaty negotiations before this, but haven’t had time to comb through the fine print of the agreement. Three points though that are pretty clear. First, as discussed in my earlier post, the presumption of the member states that this can and should be shoved through on a nod and a wink is both unwarranted and likely to do long term damage to the EU’s legitimacy if it succeeds. See further Glyn Morgan on why the UK in particular should have a referendum:

The ethical rationale for an EU referendum is even more important than the political rationale. It is not healthy in a democracy for people to believe – as they will, if there is no referendum – that the political classes are a rule unto themselves, heedless of public opinion, and eager to remove from the political agenda fundamental constitutional issues. It doesn’t matter that the current proposals change little, and much of what they do change is in Britain’s interest. It matters that people, rightly or wrongly, believe that the EU has gone too far, too fast and without their proper consultation. For that reason alone, Britain needs a referendum.

I think that the changes are more far reaching in their implications than Glyn does, but the point stands. See also James Wimberley, who further notes that lines of authority are becoming ever more bollocksed up as the EU moves more and more from the economic sphere into crime-and-terrorism (this is something I heard a lot about when I was in Brussels the week before last).

Second, Sarkozy’s success in removing market competition from the list of the EU’s main goals. As the indignation from the European Commission (which has used various aspects of competition policy to aggrandize authority to itself) suggests, this is actually likely to have real consequences, most obviously in the European Court of Justice’s jurisprudence. The ECJ has already been sounding a little more equivocal about market competition than it used to be, and has started, for example, to acknowledge that “public services” can sometimes be a legitimate defence. Expect this to accelerate, weakening the implicit alliance between Commission and ECJ in expanding EU authority. Whether this is a good or bad thing is hard to tell. On the one hand, Martin Höpner and Armin Schäfer make a good case (PDF) that the EU’s pro-competition bias is steadily undermining alternative, and entirely legitimate means of ordering the economy in Germany and elsewhere. On the other, I suspect that the main beneficiaries of these changes will be powerful semi-monopolies and national champions with good political connections, which can by no means necessarily be expected to act in the public interest.

Finally, the ‘energy solidarity’ reference is interesting – and provides the Poles with some comfort regarding their very legitimate grievance about the behaviour of larger EU member states. Mainland Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas, which has allowed the Russians very successfully to play the Europeans off against each other, and to pick on the newer member states that it regards as being rightfully under its sway. Germany has been a particularly egregious offender in turning a blind eye to Russian bullying (although it has to be said that Merkel is a considerable improvement on her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder). I have no idea whether or not this clause will be translated into real political action – but I imagine that it will at the least make it more difficult for Germany and others to get away with some of the stunts that they’ve been pulling.

{ 26 comments }

1

James Wimberley 06.28.07 at 10:25 pm

Thanks for the tip, but what use is notoriety by a mis-spelt name?
Market competition has disappeared from the objectives (Article 2) but reappears as a protocol which says it’s implied by Article 3 – see page 24 of the conclusions. Still, it is a downgrade, and competition now ranks lower than say “cultural diversity” or “territorial cohesion”, whatever that is. Sarkozy has certainly revealed his statist colours.

2

richard 06.28.07 at 10:52 pm

aggrandize authority to itself
that’s “arrogate,” surely – the main case in which one gets to use the root verb for arrogant.

If there is a UK referendum, I might actually vote for the first time, which would mean I’d have to pay attention to what’s actually emerging: do you have a link to a succinct description of what’s been decided?

3

John Quiggin 06.28.07 at 11:01 pm

A referendum certainly seems like a good idea for the UK, for the reasons Glyn Morgan puts. And since France voted “Non” last time, an explicit change of mind seems like a good idea.

OTOH, a requirement for referendums in every country every time the treaty is changed seems exactly the kind of thing that has to be given up as the EU grows.

4

luc 06.28.07 at 11:34 pm

Nothing but grief comes from those referenda.

And is it really necessary? The UK can reform an important part of their democratic order, the house of lords, without a referendum. Same in other countries.

Yet for the EU referenda are necessary? We may be stuck with it, for example I don’t see the local Dutch parliament do a deal to forego one if others are going the referendum route.

But Glyn Morgan makes an argument I don’t follow. First stating that not holding a referendum in the UK is undemocratic, and then proposing a silly question as a substitute for the real one:

“hold a referendum on the big question: “Are you in favour of withdrawal from the European Union?”.”

5

Randolph Fritz 06.29.07 at 1:33 am

If it were the USA, I would suspect that removing market competition goal would protect agribusiness. In France, I suspect it is to protect small farms. Le plus ca change,… (can’t find the bleeding cedile, sorry)

6

Harald K 06.29.07 at 5:57 am

I lost a lot of inklings on that, I did. I thought Poland would veto for sure.

7

ejh 06.29.07 at 8:34 am

If the referendum goes the ‘wrong’ way, will it be held again until the political class get the right result?

8

Glorious Godfrey 06.29.07 at 9:18 am

Hold a referendum on the big question: “Are you in favour of withdrawal from the European Union?”

The day the British decide to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, people will be using their personal flying pigs to travel to the skiing resorts of Hell.

It’s a dirty secret but actually, out of the UK’s foreign trade, the proportion of its trade with the rest of the EU is larger than that of, say, Germany and several of the other more export-oriented countries.

Wait a minute. Does it mean that in a sense the flexible Britons are less integrated in the Global Economy(TM) than some of those sclerotic continentals? No, that cannot be, because then we’d have to call politicians like “summit-happy Blair”:http://www.eu2005.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1107293391098&a=KArticle&aid=1119527321606 and some media people in the UK pompous windbags.

9

Glorious Godfrey 06.29.07 at 5:26 pm

Astute readers will have not failed to notice a certain penchant for score-settling and mindless repetition, in this poster. I’ve avoided mentioning the Economist, though. That’s admirable restraint.

And as we will see, it’s not like I’m the only one given to droning, concerning this issue.

For example, J. Wimberley says:

The real beauty of Merkel’s plan is the way it deals with the probable reason for the referendum noes, [the French and Dutch] learnt from the constitution for the first time what the EU was really up to and decided they didn’t like it. The defect of Giscard’s draft was that it was comprehensible. The latest plan is, following longstanding practice, written in opaque bafflegab; the peasants may grumble, but they can’t follow it enough to revolt

Have we heard that before? You bet. Is this, the “if you can’t convince them, confuse them” bit that has made its way into so many trashy management bestsellers, the only explanation that is advanced of the intricacies of EU decision-making? Sort of.

Is it woefully simplistic and for the most part just plain old wrongheaded? Certainly.

JW complains about how bizarre voting in the Council has become after the summit. But there’s no conspiracy behind it, only the manxome defence by Poland’s very own leaders of their “national interest” (which often appears to get mixed up with the interests of nationalists, but I’m digressing).

In fact, JW manages to avoid mentioning the Kaczynskis at all. Talk about being clear and didactic and all. Why mention the gorilla in the room when you can aim buckshot at the canny Kraut vixen?

There’s a pattern there. Encroaching federalism is generally far less to blame for the complications of EU law than the nation states dicking around to “protect” themselves by qualifying said law to death.

And you know, a person can only take so many ominous references to the insidiousness of the equivocating Eurocrats before she makes up her mind on the topic. After being regaled with the same bit of insight for the ten thousandth time or so, it becomes somewhat tedious.

As for the probable reason for the referendum noes, [the French and Dutch] learnt from the constitution for the first time what the EU was really up to and decided they didn’t like it:

says who? Will people practice what they seem to preach and stop trying to put a British spin on the results from other countries?

There were two clearly defined camps that favoured the no, both in France and the Netherlands. The nationalist right and far right, led in France by Philippe de Villiers (Le Pen cleverly chose to sit this one out) and in the NL by Geert Wilders. Those have never liked the EU, so the debate around the constitution was hardly an eye-opener.

As for the left, theirs was basically a vote of protest, often but not always quite vague, against the erosion of the welfare state. Add to that a healthy dose of mostly unwarranted fear of the new member states, and you’re set. But the opposition to an EU [that] has gone too far, too fast and without their proper consultation did not feature too heavily, really.

In France in particular many on the left expressed their disappointment with their “yes” vote to Maastricht, back in ’92 or so, which was not followed up with any kind of contrepartie sociale*.

They were voting against l’Europe libérale**. But their ideas on a political EU should have given your average Tory a case of the vapours. Some were so ambitious as to border on mania, really.

It can be plausibly argued that the Dutch “no” gave more of a snub to the idea of political integration than the French result. But it’s still very far from British levels.

[* & **: I’ve forgotten the italics. Please do impose a penance.]

10

Glorious Godfrey 06.29.07 at 5:29 pm

There’s another thing that is almost never missing in these (literally) timeless extempores on the many flaws of the EU. Our commentators love to confront us with the notion that the EU, like an unholy version of Matsya, will continue to grow in powers and competences. The horror of such an idea must be great indeed, for it is always left unexamined, all the more chilling in its self-evidence.

Which is funny.

There are lots of people who happen to think that the EU has grown beyond its original, already dated purpose of being a bulwark against Europe’s bloody past, and that it is to be regarded above all as a fundamental tool for the continent to retain a measure of relevance in a century that’s bound to be complicated.

And no, to retain a measure of relevance you don’t need a full-blown federation. But one can’t get around things like a “common foreign policy” that happens not to be a joke, I fear.

What are the geopolitics of your average Anglo eurosceptic, hmmm? Are they, as a group, somewhat attached to a vision that appeared to be inevitable in the years after…1989, perhaps? Are some of those people, on both sides of the Atlantic, still clinging to that vision, somewhat strenuously?

In addition and throughout the years, the difference between a “common market” and a mere “free-trade area” seems to remain elusive. To some on the left, it’s all the same. To others like the stupendous Open Europe think-tankers, the EU kills promising reforms in the bud with its “socialist” nonsense.

And all ignore that the nature of EU legislation is not quite immune to the kind of politician you vote into the European Parliament, or to represent your country in the Council.

Funny, and funnier still.

By the way, the expression “messianic pragmatism” used by Mr. Wimberley is just priceless. Messianic? There’s certainly an element of ideology, anti-nationalist ideology to be exact, in most pro-EU stances, but I’d like to think that pragmatism is the predominating component of the mix. I mean, the whole thing has been going on for fifty years and counting and the dreaded Superstate is still far from a reality. Wake me up when the EU levies its own taxes and has a budget comparable to that of the US (i.e. some twenty times its current size).

And, really, isn’t there a blatant element of ideology, of somewhat opposite persuasion, among many eurosceptics? The crowd that uses terms like “subsidiarity” as a blunt weapon? That lives in fear of the federalist scarecrow* ? Could some folks be dogwhistlin’ some?

[*: the indispensable comic book reference. We only need to work in the requisite shit joke to cover the quota.]

Now, you may argue that nationalism is not quite what it used to be. This may prove right or –paradoxically, if you want to be cute– turn out to be a decidedly eurocentric notion instead. This century will be dominated by big nations.

Really, Luc above is perfectly right. I wouldn’t like to sound uncompromising or anything, but this is quite a fundamental set of disagreements we’re talking about. A half-hearted measure like a referendum on the treaty, attached to vague, silly hopes of swaying the deuced continentals and put an end to the integration process, will not cut the mustard. To settle the question of the democratic legitimacy of the EU in a clear, unequivocal manner, our British friends should hold a referendum to decide whether they’d rather fuck off to NAFTA, which does not appear to be going anywhere as far as an “ever closer union” is concerned.

11

richard 06.29.07 at 5:44 pm

The day the British decide to walk the walk and not just talk the talk

What is this the British to which Godfrey refers? Is it a small cadre of British politicians who have talked about Europe, an even smaller cadre of pompous windbags, or the people who would vote in a referendum, who have been stolidly and pointedly not asked their opinion on Europe (as voters) to date?

12

Glorious Godfrey 06.29.07 at 6:58 pm

Who are the British? Why, the sons and daughters of Albion, aegis-bearer of notorious perfidy.

Seriously, though. One is not making a particularly extravagant claim if one says that the level of unhappiness and general cynicism towards the EU in the British media –which as far as the topic is concerned suffers from no shortage of windbags– and in the midst of the broader population is rather high, no? All things being relative and such?

So, perhaps, the question should be, if you truly want the British to get some sense of resolution…do you want to leave the outfit?

It’s either that or settling in advance for the foreseeable outcome, if a mere referendum on a treaty is held: there’s a negative result; the UK negotiates a whole new array of opt-out clauses; the chattering classes keep on chattering; see you next time, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

Nothing wrong with any of that, except for the last bit.

I mean, the Spanish accepted the EU constitution, by a wide margin. They want something to be done with Europe. Are their voices unimportant? Ruuuuuule Hispania???

The simplest solution would be for those countries that want to forge ahead with closer integration to do so, while those that don’t can choose to stay out.

But then again, the less gung-ho get very jittery, when there’s talk of a Europe of different speeds, don’t they?

What is the exact purpose of all this je t’aime…moi non plus tomfoolery, if I may be so bold? I think I know the answer, but you learn something new every day…

13

Martin Bento 07.01.07 at 12:17 am

GG wrote:

“The simplest solution would be for those countries that want to forge ahead with closer integration to do so, while those that don’t can choose to stay out.”

That sounds to me like the best solution too, and it should be put to voters such: everyone gets a referendum, and the yea-sayers have the option of proceeding alone. That increases the penalty for a no vote, but also recognizes its legitimacy.

In a previous thread, abb1 put forth the old Marxist position that there are no sincere procedural ideologies, only sincere substantive ones. I’m a procedural ideologist. The EU needs democratic legitimacy regardless of the substantive merits. Needs it not just practically, but morally, and needs it absolutely. On the substance, I favor furthering European integration, with many caveats about how it is done. However, I think the procedural issue of democracy is more important than the substantive one of integration.

Perhaps an interesting ethical question would be this: if the European elite insist on continuing to push broad structural changes regardless of the popular will, does this at some point justify revolution? Is it legitimate to have a revolution for democracy per se or only response to specific grievances such as claims of oppression or denial of human rights? And, is the answer is no, was the American Revolution legitimate? Did the colonists really have any grievances that rose to that level other than having no voice in decisions that affected their lives?

Yes, I recognize that European integration is being done by elected governments. But democracy at a remove is a decline from the democracy that exists at the national level.

14

magistra 07.01.07 at 7:15 am

I’m a pro-European Britain, but I’m increasingly inclined to think we should have a referendum on whether we should stay in the the EU or leave it. A referendum on ‘the treaty’ would in practice be one on whether we ‘like’ the EU or not, but with no other positive choice on view. Similarly, all the Conservatives really have as a positive view of Europe (as opposed to ‘UK says NO’) is going back to something like EFTA. They are not going to win this argument within the EU (and they know it) and they don’t want to make the EU work, they just want it bogged down doing nothing. A referendum on leaving would force a lot of Conservative supporters to think hard about what they do really want (and would increase the legitimacy of the EU within the UK if there was a vote to remain inside it).

15

Glorious Godfrey 07.02.07 at 10:33 pm

Now, let´s go for the standard balmy barrage™ of posts.

Martin, I agree, but with some important caveats

When you say ” democracy at a remove is a decline from the democracy that exists at the national level”, it’s obviously worth pointing out that an obvious solution is to increase the powers of the European Parliament.

Even more importantly, one shouldn’t disregard the odd systemic crises of national democracies. If we regard nationalism as a common outgrowth of nationhood (hardly something that runs counter to most of the historical record) and as an inherently uncivilised phenomenon, the question of the quality of democratic life and governance in a world where conservative notions of nationhood run rampant becomes inevitable.

What priceless nuggets of political goodness are we recovering from the deep pits of nationhood? The usual suspects crop up all the time: for example, Václav “Broadsides” Klaus, Howard in Oz, the Kaczynskis and their coalition partners or the Republican nutbar du jour have had their own threads on this site in the last two weeks or so.

The matter goes well beyond the occasional election of shitty politicians, disruptive and dangerous as they may be. A few weeks after the fall of Bhaghdad, I read on a right-wing Spanish newspaper, El Mundo I think, a puff piece about Aznar. Now, he was not the absolute worst of the paltry lot that has been in power lately, but he´s at any rate a pretty sorry excuse for a moustachioed panjandrum. The author, who seemed to have studied Latin for at least two or three years, went on about how “Josemari” had something that went beyond his potestas or legal faculty as PM. That something was more akin to the senatorial auctoritas, roughly defined as credibility, clout and general awesomeness. Now, I´m sure that Cicero and Mommsen were turning in their graves but, in a twisted mirror kind of way, he had a point.

Where does this meretricious variety of auctoritas come from, in our sorry times? Quaint stuff like body language and dress, rhetoric tailored to the hang-ups of local constituencies, the ability to zero in on highly-motivated fringe groups of the electorate that would prove unreachable to any poor fool who put too much stock in Lockean “natural states”. Under such terms, obviously, I want my politicians to mind their potestas, thank you very much, and to stick their auctoritas in whatever bodily orifices they may deem suitable.

I guess it´s all an overblown way of saying that traditional nations, particularly in Europe, are in no small measure ill-defined assemblages of cosmetic, insubstantial and/or noxious subject-matter, and that they provide the richest source of material for political confrontation that is based on “personalities” and not on the issues. Ergo, shit democratickin´all across the board.

The example of NAFTA in the above post is not just facetious, it highlights how limited mere “free” trade is in the political domain. Without the EU, a continent as divisive and riven with prejudice as Europe would undoubtedly have turned out to become a nastier place, even assuming that it would have been possible to exorcise the spectre of war. Without such a moderating influence, how much coarser, cruder would the “democracies that exist at the national level” have become over the years?

BTW, nationalism is hardly the preserve of the Right, unfortunately. In fact, in my admittedly limited experience, the many and varied flavours of the Left tend to cave in before it all the fucking time: the fusion of cult of personality and “patriotism” with Stalinism; the flimsy justifications provided by communism to post-colonial nationalism, even its less healthy manifestations; the fact that it is la izquierda Abertzale and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya that are at the forefront of nationalist sentiment in the Basque Country and Catalonia, respectively; the xenophobic streak in some forms of anti-globalisation or in the plombier polonais scare, etc. etc. The list goes on. Even the recent ongoing feud in the British and American left between those who thought that Slobo wasn’t such a bad egg and the Decents is on one level a dispute between two forms of capitulation to mutually inimical nationalisms.

16

Glorious Godfrey 07.02.07 at 10:35 pm

Just in case I haven’t tried to hammer the point home in, like, all my posts on the topic, it´s important to separate your position from that of the average eurosceptic pundit. Those gentlemen have a very limited répertoire of tired talking points, lies and half-truths, which they spout at every opportunity, in unison. Compare JW as linked by Henry with this Rachman piece I mocked in the other thread.

[As a curmudgeonly aside, I’d point out yet again that the most glaring sign of the UK’s lack of true concern for “democratic legitimacy” and “national sovereignty” is to be found in the ideological supremacism and general too-cool-for-the-room attitude of its political and media elites. Only a British magazine like the Economist –oops, I promised not to bash them in this thread. Oh well, what the fuck– could put a picture of Thatcher on its cover with the remark “What France Needs”, or a blindfolded cock –during the student strikes against the de Villepin failed labour market reforms– under a subtle, didactic heading like “the French Vision of the Future” or some such. As for Blair, do you think he convened the informal summit I linked to above to listen, learn and be humble?]

17

Glorious Godfrey 07.02.07 at 10:36 pm

On a purely practical level, for the foreseeable future we’re stuck with the status quo, and in spite of all the rhetoric, the British “elites” can live with that. The common market is far too big for it to be deemed practicable to leave it (i.e. they have outsmarted themselves on the enlargement issue) and, as magistra well says, at least now they get to try to keep the EU “bogged down, doing nothing” and perpetuate the illusion that the UK can remain in its Suez funk for another fifty years.

Je t’aime – moi non plus
Comme un vague irrésolue je vais et je viens entre tes reins
et je me retiens
Tu es la vague, moi l’île nue
Je te rejoins…
Oh mon amour
Non! Maintenant, viens!

The eroticism of the famous Serge Gainsbourg ditty is questionable, but the lyrics are a laugh riot.

18

Glorious Godfrey 07.03.07 at 9:00 am

#15: “In the newspaper”. Fuck.

19

Katherine 07.03.07 at 10:05 am

I think I’d be more in positive favour of a referendum (as in, positively talking about it as something to work towards, as opposed to a passive sort of “yes that would be a good idea”) if I had any confidence that the media in this country (the UK) would be in any way fair and accurate in their reporting on the EU. On the record of the British press so far, however, the tabloids in particular would be full of sloganeering, distorted, grandstanding rubbish. The broadsheets haven’t been much better. I don’t think any side of this “debate” could currently say that the British public is decently informed on EU issues.

20

Martin Bento 07.03.07 at 5:42 pm

GG, responding to all that in depth is probably not worth it, as this thread is not long for this world. I would like to see the Parliament strengthened, and the independence of the Central Bank weakened, and would be interested in the fate of a referendum that did those things.

On the more fundamental point, I disagree that nationalism, at least is all its senses, is necessarily evil. Or, if evil, it is still necessary. Europe has a group of countries whose citizens, even pretty much the rich ones, are willing to make sacrifices for the common good. Hence, it has quite a generous welfare state. What makes human beings willing to do this? Liberals err to the extent that they regard this as normal human behavior; it is something that needs to be constructed by giving people a sense of fealty to a greater whole for which they will sacrifice, even, in extremis, lay down their lives. It is a rare bird for whom “the human race” will command this sort of fealty. We are evolved as tribal beings, caring about our kin and those to whom we are personally aligned. It is an amazing achievement of culture to create larger alliances. This is why the left and right unite in Euroskepticism: without nationalism, there will be no support for the welfare state. Rich French people will tolerate high taxes to help poor French people, not poor Portuguese, still less poor Turks. Since I think the welfare is absolutely necessary in the modern era, I accept the nationalism. The EU will work to the degree it creates a continent-wide nationalism.

21

Glorious Godfrey 07.03.07 at 6:43 pm

Yes, it´s somewhat futile to post lengthy responses. I love futility, however.

I disagree that nationalism, at least is all its senses, is necessarily evil…

Not entirely evil, “just” uncivilised, in this day and age. It´s a small but not entirely insignificant difference. At any rate, we can go back and forth on this forever. Let´s chalk up the disagreement to a different set of life experiences.

Whatever the case, nationalism isn´t going away any time soon, that´s for sure. Nevertheless…

without nationalism, there will be no support for the welfare state…The EU will work to the degree it creates a continent-wide nationalism.

This allows the biggest, dumbest fallacy of euroscepticism to sneak through the back door, surely? Doesn´t it lend itself to the oh-so-common suggestion that EU supporters are hellbent on creating a state and on creating it NOW, and that, in their wilful ignorance of the ugly realities of nationalism, they are dangerous or “messianic” utopians, and so on and so forth?

The EU, let´s not forget, has a budget that for any modern state´s standards is minuscule compared to its GDP. It´s no welfare Superstate in the making. Transnational transfers are already a source of some aggravation at this level (proving the general thrust of your point, one guesses), but as they are there´s no big pressure to scale them back.

[Except on the part of eurosceptics. You know, that contingent that happens to be very well represented in a country that otherwise purports to be the best ally of Eastern Europe in the EU. But I digress, and I´ll end up giving the impression that I dislike the denizens of that country as a whole, when nothing could be farther from the truth.]

In addition, you don´t need to leave nationalism behind entirely at all to understand as basic a concept as “strength in numbers”. That´s why popular support of moving towards a common foreign policy –one of the big dossiers the EU will have to tackle decisively somewhere down the line, whether it likes it or not– is pretty high in most member states. It does not require a big honkin´ welfare state either.

Remember, the point of my reply to your first post is not the fervent denunciation of nationalism and the attempt to call down the righteous lightning of the EU to strike down the beast: the point is that the EU, already in its present state and doing what it does, exerts a most salutary moderating influence on nationalism in Europe. Which in turn helps keep national democracies healthier.

Which is meant as a somewhat critical complement to your talk of “procedural ideology”.

22

Martin Bento 07.03.07 at 6:55 pm

GG I don’t love futility, so briefly, I’m not sure you got me right. I’m in favor of a pan-European welfare state, but I think the EU has been somewhat hijacked by the liberals (in the European sense) who got a strong central bank, and are pushing Europe away from its welfare state commitments. I like the EU united attitude, though choosing Blair as Mideast envoy makes me suspicious of their direction. As structured, I don’t see the same counterweight to business interests in the EU that I see in most of the members (excluding most of EE), so I think it logical for there to be leftist opposition. More worryingly, the structure of the EU makes it easier to drift further in that direction over time, as the ability of the populace to compel the elite is limited, as that is really the only basis on which the popular interest has ever really gotten anywhere in the long run.

23

Glorious Godfrey 07.03.07 at 10:51 pm

i> I’m not sure you got me right

Wouldn´t be the first time. At the same time, bear in mind that at first I was only responding to a specific point of yours.

I’m in favor of a pan-European welfare state

I would be in favour of such a thing if I deemed it a realistic prospect.

The EU, however, is no state, and is not about to become one in the foreseeable future. With or without welfare appurtenances. The EU is a very special community of states however, and I´m in favour of making the most of such a unique polity.

Europe already has welfare states, at the national level. Contrary wo what one may hear in much of the Anglo-Saxon press, the different modalities of the welfare state you find in Europe are, in spite of some essential similarities, in critical respects very different from each other. Ask a Scandinavian about the French model, and if he or she speaks French, the word repoussoir i.e. “something we don´t want” will be used. This obviously makes the establishment of a “pan-European welfare state” very difficult. The point of the common institutions of the EU and of its comparatively small budget is (or should be) to allow to realise the benefits of a common market without hampering the nation states in the pursuit of their social models of choice.

It is clear that you´re no eurosceptic. Nevertheless, your apparent lack of willingness to handle the EU in its own terms –i.e. as the aforementioned peculiar polity it is– seemingly leads you to the same basic, generic considerations about nationhood as the basis of statehood that justify the euroscepticism of less progressive souls than yours.

I think the EU has been somewhat hijacked by the liberals (in the European sense) who got a strong central bank, and are pushing Europe away from its welfare state commitments.

Everything has been somewhat hijacked by the liberals in the European sense, friend. Most critically, national politics. More on that below.

We live in times of growing dissatisfaction with globalisation. This is something that indeed needs to be addressed, and even those who sing its paeans seem to get it. But, as of now, the opposition to it has been pretty scattershot and haphazard, to be perfectly honest.

The EU is a big, visible target, that hasn´t been around long enough to be quite taken for granted yet. It´s easy to assume it´s an artefact of globalization, rather than a complex polity that can be put to many, varied, actually wildly different political uses.

As for the strong central bank, it would be interesting to hear how you create confidence in a fledgling currency without a minimum amount of independence for the bank that manages it.

The alternative, BTW, staying with national currencies in the fraught times of global wage arbitrage and excess liquidity we´re living in, could have led in a commercially integrated continent like Europe to funny stuff, like proper deflation in Germany and hyperinflation in places like Italy (i.e. “competitive” devaluations that prove hard to handle), mutually reinforcing each other. That would have put the welfare states under far more strain than the euro. We´ll never know because we cannot turn back time but…just saying.
Most importantly, it almost always comes down to the fucking national governments. It´s not like there isn´t anybody who´s saying that the mandate of the ECB could be reviewed at this point. Sarkozy, that notorious lefty, has been talking about the issue since he started his presidential campaign. Guess who´s been telling him to stuff it? The finance ministers of the other eurozone countries.

It´s not only Sarko. Everybody and their dog in France, basically, has been griping about the ECB. I think they are a bit full of crap, but at any rate, where there´s a will there´s a way and they only need to garner support among their pardners…

Besides, there´s far more to the controversy surrounding the attitudes of the ECB than pure neoliberal stylings. It may purport to be very monetarist, but its idiosyncrasy, while certainly questionable, is not so easy to pin down ideologically. Much of its modus operandi is, essentially, a bad BuBa legacy. “Our mandate is to do stuff like the Bundesbank cause Germany did great under the Bundesbank and Kohl was very fond of the Bundesbank”.

Note that the Bundesbank never prevented Germany from having a generous welfare state.

As structured, I don’t see the same counterweight to business interests in the EU that I see in most of the members

Apples and oranges, mate. The institutional arrangement of the EU is not that of a state.

Curiously enough, most dyed in the wool supporters of (faux-)free marketeering see lots of such counterweights. They call them “bureaucracy” and “complicated legislation”. According to them, they are very prevalent in the EU. Funny, that.

the structure of the EU makes it easier to drift further in that direction over time, as the ability of the populace to compel the elite is limited

This is, again, vague and generic talk about the impenetrability of the “structure of the EU” and is, again, whether you intend it to be or not, a slightly refurbished version of Standard Eurosceptic Talking Point #6.

There´s a very simple mechanism that explains most of that “drift” towards liberalism: the notorious let´s-pass-unpopular-stuff-at-the-EU-level-and-blame-Brussels-afterwards scam which national governments are so fond of. It´s a bad practice that has become a bad habit, rather than a structural feature, set in institutional stone.

And, obviously, the continuation of the bad habit is contingent upon the political orientation of the assorted national governments. Inasmuch as national governments are involved in the affairs of the EU all the time, the people are voting on the EU all the time.

But stronger corrective countermeasures are indeed needed. Those are, as already stated, pretty simple: a stronger European Parliament, a weaker Council, more vigilant national parliaments. The EP is a place that tends to have a pretty big Socialist group, in line with national politics, and the Greens and other progressives have a very decent presence too.

As for I would like to see the Parliament strengthened, and the independence of the Central Bank weakened, and would be interested in the fate of a referendum that did those things.

Well, the draft Constitution shot down by the French and the Dutch, and the much-maligned Treaty jumpstarted in the last summit grant you at least one of your wishes, the most important one by far. In France, however, since part of the left was angry, still felt dirty for its “yes” to Maastricht in ´92 and didn´t feel like checking the same box twice, it sort of shot itself in the foot too.

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Glorious Godfrey 07.03.07 at 10:52 pm

Argh. Double post. Please delete at will.

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Martin Bento 07.04.07 at 12:08 am

I don’t see any new post from you, so I suppose someone took you at your word and had quite some will to delete.

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Martin Bento 07.04.07 at 3:10 am

GG, I guess you were in moderation when I posted that previous comment.

There is a basic problem with having a welfare state at the national level, but having market access, capital flows, and basic business regulation at the supra-national level, and that is the famous race-to-the-bottom. Lots of companies theoretically making tons in their Irish divisions, where money is appreciated more than taxed. That same profit in another country would be supporting a welfare state.

I don’t think the currency of the world’s largest integrated market is all *that8 hard to keep credible. You want to do business with Europe, you need Euro’s. Admittedly, they couldn’t be completely irresponsible, but had they been pursuing a more stimulative policy of late, the unemployment picture would be better, the Euro would be somewhat weaker, but that would be good for exports. More inflation. No disaster. I think having a major currency under popular rather than banker control would be a vastly good thing. Here in the US, every Fed chairman since at least Burns has used the institution to help Republicans and either undermine (Volcker, Carter) or impose Republican policies on (Greenspan, Clinton) Democrats. Europe seems to face a similar danger; the Central Bank is independent, but the continent is not independent of it.

“The notorious let´s-pass-unpopular-stuff-at-the-EU-level-and-blame-Brussels-afterwards scam”

But that *is* structural. You can’t take gamemanship out of politics; that is what politics is. The national politicians are playing the game as the rules permit. If that is not good, there is no point scolding; you must change the rules. If some Repubs vote with Dems on the minimum wage for points with their constituents, knowing Bush will veto anyway, there is no point decrying their insincerity. Accept the action or change the rules.

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