Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Meeting with Dick Roche, Minister for European Affairs in the Irish Government

by Frank Schnittger Tue Dec 25th, 2007 at 07:24:34 PM EST

I have been invited by Dick Roche (one of my local members of Parliament and sometime acquaintance on local community matters) to meet with him early in the new year to discuss the EU Reform Treaty and the Irish Government plans for holding a referendum on it.  The sort of questions I want to ask him include:

  1. When will the Referendum be held?

  2. What plans has the Government got for a public information campaign on the Treaty?

  3. How is the Treaty different from the EU Constitution rejected by the French and Dutch voters, and what is the justification for bypassing a popular vote in other EU states on this occasion.

  4. What are the main lines of argument the Government will take in arguing its case for ratification?

  5. Who does the Government expect will oppose the Treaty and what will be their main lines of argument?

  6. What involvement in the campaign does the Government expect by other European Government and Opposition leaders

  7. Who are the key groups of "swing voters" who will be targeted in the Government Campaign

  8. Will the Treaty have any impact on issues such as Global warming, peak oil, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Darfur, Human Rights, Extraordinary Renditions and international relations issues generally.

  9. What are the long term implications of the treaty for the development of the EU?

  10. What will happen if the Referendum is defeated?


My personal interest in this is that I do not think that the political case for or against the treaty has been well made up until now, mainly as a consequence of the fact that it is not being put to the popular vote elsewhere in the EU.  

There may have been particular political circumstances surrounding the defeat of the EU Constitution in France and Denmark, but that does not, of itself, justify the EU elite agreeing a similar treaty a second time around and bypassing a popular vote in all other EU Member States.

There is also the issue that the Treaty appears to have been deliberately written in as abstruse a manner as possible to stifle and confuse popular debate:

Speaking at a meeting of the Centre for European Reform in London on Thursday (12 July) former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato said: "They [EU leaders] decided that the document should be unreadable. If it is unreadable, it is not constitutional, that was the sort of perception".

There is therefore a danger that the "debate" will revolve around hugely over-simplified and emotive symbols or images of "Neutrality", "Sovereignty", "Eurocracy", democracy and human rights which may bear little relationship to the actual content and long term impact of the Treaty itself.  

Given the growing unpopularity of the Irish Government itself, it seems unlikely that the Irish Electorate will pass this referendum "on trust" just because the major Government and Opposition parties all support it.

If any ET members have any questions they would like the Irish Government to answer in relation to the Reform treaty this would be a good time and place to raise them.  I would be particularly interested in the views and perspectives that have characterized the debate on the Treaty in other EU member states.

In Ireland that debate has barely begun.  This is our chance to influence it.

See also my previous diary on Our European Identity

Poll
Should the EU Reform Treaty be ratified?
. On balance, the EU Reform Treaty is a GOOD thing and should be passed 100%
. On balance, the EU Reform Treaty is a BAD thing and should be rejected 0%

Votes: 9
Results | Other Polls
Display:
You weren't around here at the time, but a major complaint against the constitutional treaty was that it was too long because it was a consolidation.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 25th, 2007 at 07:32:48 PM EST
Agreed, but that became a problem because it was called a Constitution.  Constitutions are generally relatively short documents setting out how a state is to be governed.  The actual content of that government, as incorporated in many treaties and decisions of intergovernmental councils shouldn't be in a "constitution" at all, as they are subject to ongoing review and change under the rules as set out in the constitution.  Insofar as the Reform treaty is just a consolidation of previous treaties it shouldn't require a new popular mandate.  However the bits that are new should require a new mandate, and it is these new bits that need to be teased out and debated.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 25th, 2007 at 08:18:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the EU Constitution did start out as a real Constitution, when the European Convention was set up after Nice, but under the mis-leadership of Giscard d'Estaing and then the EU Council's re-drafting, it became a completely different animal.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 06:47:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU Constitution was approved by 17 or 18 member countries, so there is no bypassing. The only bypassing could happen in France and the Netherlands, and there does not seem to be (at least in France) much protest about the new treaty.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 07:55:16 AM EST
Hogwash. There was a very deliberate decision made early on in the process of re-writing that the treaty would be combed through with a very fine-toothed comb for all passages that might provoke a plebiscite in any member state and then surgically excising those passages while leaving as much of the original treaty as possible intact. That certainly constitutes a deliberate bypassing such plebiscites.

Now, you can certainly attempt to make the case that avoiding plebiscites on Union treaties is a Good Idea, and then we can argue about it until we are blue in the face, but denying that the bypassing is happening strikes me as about as above-board as Enron accounting practises.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:05:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but a different one.

The question of whether the French or Dutch votes are ignored or not with the new treaty is first and foremost a question for the French and the Dutch. Other countries that had approved the earlier treaty are now asked to vote, via their chosen (or compulsory) internal domestic procedure, on the new one. I fail to see where there is bypassing there.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:38:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The question was not whether or not the "voters" were "ignored" - the question was whether or not "popular votes" were "bypassed." You can certainly make the case that parliaments as the voters' elected representatives provide sufficient guarantee that the voters are not being ignored. But it's quite hard to see how that makes much difference to whether a popular vote or referendum was bypassed.

As for the question of why eurosceptics like plebiscites, I suspect that there are a variety of reasons. I would imagine that part of it is due to the perception (whether justified or not) that referenda are the only real direct input from the population into the Union decisionmaking. And certainly part of it is due to the unfortunate fact that the only time the Union is discussed in any detail is when there's a referendum scheduled.

For myself, I think that much euroscepticism could be averted if we did away with the Commission in favour of a much stronger European Parliament with genuine power of the purse (and which issued taxes directly rather than indirectly through membership fees) and a real executive body instead of the neither-fish-nor-fowl Commission whose membership is dictated by the local policies of the member states rather than pan-European concerns.

But I've expanded upon that elsewhere, and we've already had one threadjack this week, so let's save that discussion for another comment section.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:13:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see a real contradiction with what Jérôme has said. The point is that the conscious effort to bypass popular votes was a conscious effort to bypass some popular votes. (There were successful referendums in other countries before France and the Netherlands.)

I add here another possible interpretation of the situation (which is not necessarily mine): if we take the view that the EU Constitution was an intergovernmental treaty with the wrong name, then putting it to popular vote was a consequence of the wrong naming in the first place, and what we saw from Merkel et al was reverting back to reality.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 06:53:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do wonder why the euroskeptics are so keen to get referendums, given that a no vote just means that business as usual continues, and a yes vote gives political and institutional legitimacy to the EU. I fail to see what they gain - except maybe in the UK where a no might lead to being expelled from the club (or for it to be rebuilt without them).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is obvious why Eurosceptics (in the UK at least) want popular referenda on EU matters - even when there is no constitutional requirement or tradition of holding popular plebiscites on particular matters - as in the UK.  It is because the are confident that they would WIN, and thereby stop the process of EU integration in its tracks.  These same people would often be totally against plebiscites on other matters as they are often very anti the plebs!!!

Eurosceptics play on the perception of the EU as an elite project undermining national pride and sovereignty and the xenophobia that often goes with it.  They point to the lack of popular control of the EU Commission and ignore or seek to derail attempts in the Reform Treaty to make those processes more democratic and accountable.  They do not want the EU to succeed, and thus anything which enhances the EU's democratic legitimacy is to be deplored.

It is precisely for these reasons that I think it is regrettable that the Reform Treaty, in both its content and manner of adoption in most EU countries does not appear to make major progress in enhancing the direct democratic legitimacy of the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:56:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

It is because the are confident that they would WIN, and thereby stop the process of EU integration in its tracks.

I'm perfectly willing to entertain the idea that they would win (although I think this is a notion that begs to be tested), but I fail to see how that would stop the integration process in its tracks. Quite the opposite, it would finally eliminate the requirement to indulge the UK euroskeptics and EU integration would move forward anew, without the UK, which would be pushed back to an EEA equivalent, with no say on EU matters, but the de facto obligation to follw all its rules. Frankly, I cannot wait for a UK referendum to happen (and, in my mind, it was the whole point of the EU constitution: put an "in or out" question to the Brits).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:07:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the British eurosceptics disagree with your analysis of Britain's importance ;-)

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:17:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely - they think the UK should be running the EU - and resent having to deal with former defeated foes and colonies as equals.  It's bad enough playing second fiddle to the former colonists in America, but the French and Germans?  Strewth!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:30:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think they'd be happy to be out of the EU altogether. It's a consistent position, at least, which is more than can be said for the UK's actual policies.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:33:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
I'm perfectly willing to entertain the idea that they would win (although I think this is a notion that begs to be tested), but I fail to see how that would stop the integration process in its tracks. Quite the opposite, it would finally eliminate the requirement to indulge the UK euroskeptics and EU integration would move forward anew, without the UK, which would be pushed back to an EEA equivalent, with no say on EU matters, but the de facto obligation to follow all its rules.

Even Tony Blair in his prime - before he wasted his enormous political capital on Iraq - would have had difficulty winning a referendum on the constitution in the UK - although I share your emotional wish to have the Brits make up their minds one way or the other (shut up or put up) and let the rest of us move on.

However I also think your assumption that a negative vote would see the UK more or less expelled from the EU is mistaken.  There is no procedure for expelling a member state, and under current rules, each member state effectively has a veto.  Thus the French and Dutch effectively killed the Constitution for all of us.  Ireland could do the same with the Reform Treaty.

If that happens it will be status quo ante.  There is nothing to prevent some member states agreeing further integration measures amongst themselves (as with the Euro) but all matters effecting all EU members are subject to the unanimity rule unless a Member voluntarily accedes to such changes or withdraws from membership.  

I cannot see any member state, not even the UK, doing so, and thus we are effectively stuck with a situation where progress proceeds at the pace of the slowest member.  This is the structural weakness which should have been addressed prior to enlargement and which is now, regrettably, likely to be a permanent feature of the EU - the Reform Treaty notwithstanding.

The stakes are thus very high - and we mustn't take the Irish vote for granted - that is why Nice was defeated first time around.


Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:26:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
between the French or Dutch saying no, and the Brits saying no. Wit hthe UK saying no, what would happen is that the enhanced cooperation mecahnism would be "rediscovered", and the other countries would suddenly no longer have qualms meeting, and deciding things, without the non-core members, ie without the UK.

There cannot be any core group without France.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
There cannot be any core group without France.

Sorry, Jerome, but I think your chauvinism is showing!  France may always have been at the heart of the EU project, but there is no reason why that always has to be the case.  Had Sarkozy not won, France was increasingly out on a limb in its dirigiste policies and a realignment may in any case take place as the centre of Gravity of the EU moves eastwards.

The Franco-German alliance has always been the absolute core of the EU.  If Germany were to look eastward or northward that could change.  French attempts to create "National Champions" in defiance of EU law has already created a bad taste.

Whether you like it or not, the "anglo-saxons" are as vital to the future of the EU as the French.  The Brits may mutter and complain a lot, but they actually tend to abide by EU Directives, something that can not always be said of the French!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:48:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
dictated by geography as much as long term domestic and European dynamics. I agree that the EU is not only about France, and France alone can now do much less than in the past, but there are a few countries without which the EU makes no sense, and France (like Germany) is one of them, while the UK is not.

As to your dismissive comment about "dirigiste policies", haven't you been reading (and approving my other diaries)? The problem in the world today is that we don't have enough dirigisme and too much deregulation, not the opposite. Especially the French kind of dirigisme which, by an large, was a very competent one.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:14:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
there are a few countries without which the EU makes no sense, and France (like Germany) is one of them, while the UK is not.

As to your dismissive comment about "dirigiste policies", haven't you been reading (and approving my other diaries)?

I always approve your diaries and comments, Jerome, even when you are wrong!  I'm afraid we are going to have to disagree on whether France is essential to the EU.  Frankly, I do not thinks so, (or at least no more so than the UK) and I doubt whether many in the new accession states think so either.  Things move on.  The accession of Turkey and Balkan states would further reduce French influence.

The sclerotic nature of the Chirac regime was in grave danger of making France irrelevant to the future leadership of the EU.  Iraq was one of the few things he got right.  As I understand it there has even been increased disenchantment with the EU within France itself - because the EU is no longer simply an extension of the collective French ego.  If Sarkozy rubs Merkel up the wrong way much more, I have no doubt she will befriend Brown and Tusk instead!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cooperation between Germany and France is not limited to the political top. The political top is very important, of course. But it is not all. Germany good not switch to an 'as good' alliance with the UK. They would have to build up a lot from scratch.

Shifting to the personal, no doubt Sarkozy would be better advised to build a good relationship with Merkel because she is going to remain in power for some while (it's likely that she'll win the next elections) and philosophically they are not very far apart. And if Sarkozy continues trying to construct alternative levers for power, like the Mediterranean Union, Germany might respond in kind.

But Gordon Brown is just very much uninterested in Europe. Not a likely match.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 01:28:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to disagree. It's not a simple matter of who would like to ally with whom. Alliances of like-minded disintegrate. The Franco-German engine wasn't an alliance of like-minded, more one of the compromise-ready. I just can't see Britain to play that role vis-a-vis Germany, not under Brown and not under Cameron or any other establishment figure, while Poland is too small. And left alone with Germany and Britain, the governments of us new members might soon begin to growl at German hegemony, while in Germany the now subdued voices complaining of other countries benefitting from German EU taxes might grow and win elections.

Creating National Champions isn't a France-only sport, this is another instance where other states like to stay in the background and let one stand in the limelight. So while complaints from Brussels (and some private companies) might be genuine,  voices or silence from other quarters more tell of hypocrisy.

Further, while France ignores some EU Directives, Britain won't even ratify others, not to speak of some basic rights, or the Euro. You seem to reference Bliar-time British government EU image campaigns (which well may have had an effect on wide swathes of European political-media-economic elites and thus MSM received wisdom).

With all that said, I do think Jérôme over-emphasizes France's role, under-estimates the potential for negative development in the future, and Britain's (IMO mostly negative) influence in the EU. While not leaving the EU, I can envision a medium-term development with France's importance sinking lower than Italy's now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 07:14:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy's importance right now is entirely down to population and Prodi's stature.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:52:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just two comments:

  • on the potential for negative development, I partly agree with you in that it can happen, but, thankfully, it is corrected by (partly invisible) longterm trends such as the European Parliament slowly but surely asserting its power and getting increasingly involved (it's often arcane prodecural stuff, but it does matter), and people increasingly taking for granted things like a joint currency, no borders and the fact that lots is decided in Brussels. Also, the inertia of the technocratic machine makes Brussels de facto in charge of lots of stuff that goes under the radar. One can lament the lack of political accountability while rejoicing that it's happening at the European level rather than the national;

  • on France's importance, I am in a way conforted by Chirac's experience: he was deeply euroskeptical, started at the European level by creating a huge mess and big fights with the Germans, and ended up accepting the need for European action and at least cooperation with the Germans; the way he did it weakened France's voice, but reinforced the EU. I'm not sure where Sarkozy is going, but I suspect it will be the same kind of drift. A more relevant point as to France's importance is that France's nuisance capacity is massive, and it has no qualms using it. Negative power does not lead anywhere, but it matters, and this one exists.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:41:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
Not chauvinism, just a fact (none / 1) dictated by geography as much as long term domestic and European dynamics.
Except that with the eastward expansion, an enhanced cooperation excluding France is conceivable. The thing is, in that case it is more likely that at some point along the way France will have decided to get on the bandwagon to try and steer the agreement in a way that gives France some control over the outcome. That is the difference with, say, the UK, which in those cases tends to just dig its heels.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:49:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Except that with the eastward expansion, an enhanced cooperation excluding France is conceivable.

I just don't see that happening. I see your point about joining the bandwagon, and turning a regional idea into a European one with France's blessing, but I don't see a regional idea turning into a European one without France on board.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:44:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a running joke that the UK Eurosceptics should approve the Reform Treaty because it, for the first time, includes a clause that allows voluntary withdrawal from the Union. But one has to suspect at this point that the goal of Eurosceptics is not so much to stay out of the EU as to undermine it, which requires staying in it. I also strongly disagree on using the result of a referendum on a treaty to infer anything about EU membership, one way or the other. A referendum on membership has a much simple question with no need for interpretation of the simple answers.

Frank Schnittger:

If that happens it will be status quo ante.  There is nothing to prevent some member states agreeing further integration measures amongst themselves (as with the Euro) but all matters effecting all EU members are subject to the unanimity rule unless a Member voluntarily accedes to such changes or withdraws from membership.  
I don't think you're right on that. The Schengen Treaty and the Economic and Monetary Union are examples of the enhanced cooperation mechanism that has been in the treaties since the Treaty of Amsterdam but has been taboo so far. If the Reform Treaty fails again, the taboo will go away and the EU will progress by Enhanced Cooperation.
EUROPA - Glossary - Enhanced cooperation

Enhanced cooperation allows those countries of the Union that wish to continue to work more closely together to do so, while respecting the single institutional framework of the Union. The Member States concerned can thus move forward at different speeds and/or towards different goals. However, enhanced cooperation does not allow extension of the powers as laid down by the Treaties. Moreover it may be undertaken only as a last resort, when it has been established within the Council that the objectives of such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by applying the relevant provisions of the Treaties.

The general arrangements for enhanced cooperation are laid down by the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty, Title VII) and relate to both the European Union and the European Community. In principle, at least eight States must be involved in enhanced cooperation, but it remains open to any State that wishes to participate. It may not constitute discrimination between the participating States and the others. Enhanced cooperation must also further the Treaty objectives and respect the whole of the acquis communautaire and the powers of the various parties. It may not apply to an area that falls within the exclusive competence of the Community.

In addition to the general regime, special arrangements may be made or added by individual Treaties, as in the case of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty, Articles 11 and 11 A). Under the EC Treaty, for example, the initiative for enhanced cooperation is taken by the Commission at the request of the Member States concerned, whereas under the EU Treaty the initiative comes from the Member States. In either case, institution of enhanced cooperation is subject to a decision of the Council, acting by a qualified majority. Enhanced cooperation may also be pursued in relation to the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), except for military or defence matters.

See Title VII of The Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community as in force from 1 February 2003 (Nice consolidated versions) [pdf 578Kb] from the EU's Treaties page.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 11:48:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I don't think you're right on that.

I would have thought your extensive quotations supported the point I was making - there is nothing to stop enhanced cooperation between those members who want to do so, but equally such cooperation has to be within the framework of the EU as a whole and be consistent with existing treaties ratified by all.

In practice "enhanced cooperation" has been happening anyway and may indeed become the principle means of moving the EU forward - with different members moving at different speeds.  Technically, legally, the ratification of Reform Treaty does not change this reality, although its rejection would undoubtedly give renewed impetus to the enhanced cooperation mechanism as the primary means of moving the EU forward.

No matter which way you cut it - Jerome's dream of the UK being expelled from the EU is most unlikely to happen, and he is going to have to learn to deal with the Eurosceptic's (v. occasionally partially valid) critique of the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:12:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I want them to be in or out, and not be in just to try and undermine the EU.

As I have personally written many times, the EU will be stronger if the UK and France behave as France and Germany have: ie that they force themselves to find compromises even though they disagree fundamentally on stuff. France and Germany made things move not because they agreed on anything, but precisely because they disagreed but forced themselves to find compromises. Now that they are closer on many thing,s that dynamic works less well (and their joint agreements do not reflect the whole range of Euroepa opinions). with the UK in, that dynamic would start anew.

But that requires the UK making the strategic decision that it will force itself to find compromises with other Europeans to arrive to a EU position.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:19:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not British, but I think I can reassure you on this point Jerome.  The British are part of the EU, and that is not going to change any time soon.  If anything they are one of the drivers of the EU at the present time - much to the chagrin of some French who take a different view on many matters of economic policy.

But the Brits are not members of the "Essentially French" EU as you envisage it.  They have a different take on many policy issues - which is no less than one would expect of a major power.  They may indeed be trying to create an EU more in an "Anglo-Saxon" mold, and are having some success in doing so.  

But the reality now is that the EU is now neither, French, German, nor British, it is European, and what it means to be European is changing all the time.  Even tiny countries like Ireland have had some small influence, and I have no doubt that the accession states will become more influential as time goes on.

Your irritation at the Brits is as much based on their different economic policies as it is on anything else.  believe me, the French can be just as irritating, particularly when they think their ideas are universally true.  

Europe is changing, and France may become just as recalcitrant as the Brits have often seemed to be.  You are the victim of your own propaganda.  The Brits are in the EU to stay and they will have a profound influence on its future direction - the BNP and the Colonel Blinks in the Tory party notwithstanding.

At least they don't have a Le Pen...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:52:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The really stark divide is between those that see the EU as a political entity, and those that see it as mainly an economic regulator/freetrade enforcer.

And it's clear that the UK is not in the first category. As long as that fundamental difference exists, the UK will be playing a different game from almosty everybody else.

Then, within those committed to the EU as a political entity, you have various opinions about the respective roles of the EU Commission, the EUropean Parliament and the national governments, as well as different expectations of procedures, accountability and transparency. But these are debates about how, not about what.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 10:54:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for your contributions to this debate Jerome.  TBH I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't gotten any more questions arising from this ET discussion to put to Dick Roche as the Key Government minister charged with driving the ratification process forward.

Ireland, as a whole, is an interesting halfway house between the "anglo-saxon" free market and European Social market or dirigiste philosophies, utterly pragmatic for the most part, but certainly very pro strengthening European institutions as a means of overcoming our very small footprint in the world as a whole.

I think the "how" is critical to being able to deliver more "what" in the future.  There is a lot of slightly childish anti-Brussels xenophobia in England, but then there is growing anti English xenophobia in Scotland, and anti-London xenophobia in the North of England.  It is always easier to blame "the other" the more remote the other can be made to seem.

Lacking a written constitution, a lack of a tradition of plebiscites, and asymmetric parliamentary representation (the Scots, N. Irish, and Welsh are represented both in their home territories and in Westminster) and the possible break up of the "United Kingdom" in due course, the Brits may  have more need of the "larger unity" provided by the EU than they currently realise.  

However the biggest factor governing their currently "different game" is the central importance of their financial services industry to their economy.  Should Frankfort/the Euro threaten to supplant London/Sterling as the key European financial services hub you will see a very rapid change of heart towards the EU/Euro by the British elite.

The "how" remains very important in determining "what" can be achieved, and hopefully the EU reform treaty will make a significant contribution towards expanding that ambition.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 11:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
TBH I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't gotten any more questions arising from this ET discussion to put to Dick Roche as the Key Government minister charged with driving the ratification process forward.

Give us a chance! You posted on Christmas Day!!

What capacity are you meeting him in? As part of a group?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 11:51:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Give us a chance! You posted on Christmas Day!!

What capacity are you meeting him in? As part of a group?


Ok, Ok.  Perhaps a bit hasty, but I was assuming the conversation had died now that the topic has disappeared from the Diary page.

The invitation is personal, but I have to contact his office after the Xmas holidays to agree the meeting and will know more then about the format.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 12:06:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
which you may not be aware of is that topic has already be hacked to death various times by several of us on ET over the past 2+ years, and there probably is an element of battle fatigue amongst the participants. You'll be happy to note that there certainly is no unified position on the topic amongst the regular ETers, and that my "line" regularly gets criticized in smart ways, including with arguments similar to yours.

Maybe if you have a more precise date for your meeting, send me an email and we can front page this, underlining the specific goal and deadline.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 12:29:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks.  Must be annoying when a new boy comes along and re-invents the wheel.  I'll have to look up the archives to see if there are any angles I am not aware of.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 03:48:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My position is ferociously against the "non" in the French referendum on the European Constitution, and generally strongly pro-EU, as well as favorable to technocrats, the European Parliament, and federalism. I'm also pro-Turkish adhesion.

The traditional French view of Europe - the French way is best, including for others - but with a more federalist view...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 04:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's ok too, Jerome, no need to apologise!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 04:34:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Jérôme in the parallel comment is not trying to apologise, just make clear 'to the new boy' where he stands. For the record,

I am in Hungary, but my views may be more informed by (West) German pro-EU views. I am strongly federalist, see the EU's primary benefit in voiding earlier historical inter-region conflicts and preventing (or more precisely: channeling) new ones, see the Franco-German engine as important, and wish more EU especially on environmental and infrastructure issues. But I am also strongly against the neoliberal line pursued by far not only by the British governments (but -- in the EU -- loudest by them), the connected pursuit of basic infrastructure and services privatisation/ liberalisation/ deregulation, and Atlanticism.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 07:58:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot: on the Non votes, I was and am in the undecided camp: I am convinced neither by the arguments about the negative effect of the No vote, nor by the arguments from my own political side (hard-left) of the Constitution as a special enabler of neolib reformism, nor by the issues of treaty-named-constitution and elitist and uninformative Oui campaigning being important enough to necessitate a Non vote.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:09:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
I think Jérôme in the parallel comment is not trying to apologise, just make clear 'to the new boy' where he stands. For the record,

I was being slightly facetious!  I have had a few arguments with Jerome in my short time here and did not want to be misunderstood as someone who always thinks they are right on everything.  

In fact I celebrate difference, admire consistently argued positions different from my own, and have no wish to convert others to my point of view.  On many occasions, on other blogs, I have argued positions similar to Jerome, and am only trying to learn how to do it better!

I share your concerns about hard right atlanticism, deregulation, privatisation etc. but as a former senior manager in a very large global company I am also concerned with the difficulty of managing very large organisations (e.g. National Health Services) effectively and efficiently in the absence of competition and market disciplines.

Too often the technocratic excellence extolled by Jerome is marked by its absence - particularly in Ireland - where we have an (often incompetent) bureaucratic elite who are beyond all market or democratic control mechanisms.  

Much of the drive behind "neo liberal reforms" has nothing to do with traditional conservative ideology and much to do with the appalling inefficiency, lack of customer responsiveness, resistance to change, and self serving nature of some bureaucracies.

If we could achieve "managerial excellence" (which is much more than just technocratic excellence) in the public sector, much of the impetus behind the neo- liberal agenda would disappear.

You will sometimes see me appear to flip-flop left/right positions on particular topics because that is not really my paradigm.  The issue for me is the effective involvement, participation and ownership of change processes by the people they are meant to benefit and the efficient delivery of services in that context.  

Remarkably, some global companies can do that better than theoretically more democratic and accountable public service organisations. Sometimes we have to look beneath the political brand labels to see what is really going on underneath!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 10:48:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd bite, I have my opinion both about the "bureaucratic incompetence" and the "managerial excellence", but not in such a low-level (shifted to the right edge) comment.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:36:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 01:34:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Feel free to start a new thread below - or a new diary - I will be happy to contribute.  

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 01:45:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you look at things.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:46:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I take the view that it is up to each member State to decide how it wants to effect Constitutional changes, and many do not seem to require popular referendums to do so.  So be it.  

However I approve of the fact that the Irish Constitution does require a popular referendum as that guarantees a lot more popular involvement in the process of decision making - even if that decision is one of which I occasionally disapprove.

The lack of popular engagement with the EU Governing processes is one of the key issues which (in my view) any constitutional review should address.  To a certain extent that popular debate is now going to happen only in Ireland acting as a popular proxy for the rest of Europe.

Irish voters do care about what other Europeans think and will be influenced by widespread popular support or opposition to the Treaty elsewhere in Europe.  Hence my attempt to encourage debate here so that the Irish debate is as well informed as possible.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:42:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I take the view that it is up to each member State to decide how it wants to effect Constitutional changes, and many do not seem to require popular referendums to do so.  So be it.  

That's a more confederationist view. In my more federationist view, the EU should be a super-state, the same way Britain is a super-state for Scotland or England for the Greater London Region, and have pan-European approval mechanisms. (Thus despite no room for referendums in classic West German federalism, I am very much in favour of pan-European referendums.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:02:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Spain, a federal state in all but name, Autonomy Statutes for regions are drafted by the regional parliament, passed by the National parliament and approved in referendum in the region.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:35:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
That's a more confederationist view.

Its more a case of accepting that that is the status quo we have to work with.  I am in fact disappointed that the Reform Treaty does not make much greater provision for an EU Government accountable to the EU Parliament - with issues such as infrastructure, environment, energy, health etc. being largely controlled at EU level in much the same way as Agriculture is currently.

Ideally there would also be a Directly elected EU President who would be a visible embodiment of the EU representing  the EU at foreign summits etc. and able to mobilise support for EU initiatives directly within all the member states.  We are a very long way away from this at the moment but my disappointment is tat the EU Reform treaty doesn't make more progress in that direction.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 10:58:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be vary of directly elected Presidents. No problem maybe for 50 years, but if created, sooner or later they would gain too much power (over Parliament, that is also over a more diverse representation of public view).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:40:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the French and Dutch voters who rejected the treaty. The Danish voters never got to vote.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 09:58:32 AM EST
Apologies - I always seem to get that one wrong!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:30:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I wish you could find the time to write a diary on Rasmussen's recent Euro referendum plans!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 08:03:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Today's front page lead in the Irish Times:

ireland.com - The Irish Times - Thu, Dec 27, 2007 - Kenny warns on timing of EU treaty referendum

The Government should not hold the European Union reform treaty referendum on the same day as a wide-ranging children's referendum, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said.

Expressing concern that the EU treaty could become embroiled in a controversy about parental rights, Mr Kenny said: "If the decision is to have the two referendums together, in my view it would be better to have a minimalist children's rights question."

If the children's referendum "is going to be more complex" - wider than authorising the Oireachtas to draft legislation to provide for a "zone of absolute protection" below which it would be automatically criminal to have sex with a child - then "it might be better to have this on its own", he told The Irish Times.

Mr Kenny also said Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's "inexplicable" explanations about his personal finances have damaged his political credibility, will hurt the effort to have the EU treaty passed and will be exploited by anti-EU campaigners.

An all-party Oireachtas committee, under former minister Mary O'Rourke, is beginning work to agree a consensus for a wording on a children's rights referendum.

So far, Mr Ahern has favoured holding the referendums on the same day, but he has put pressure on the all-party committee, which has talked about completing its work by April, to finish quicker.

A wording that would prevent adults claiming subsequently that they did not know a sexual partner was a minor would produce "no arguments", said Mr Kenny.

Such a wording, he said, would enable the Government to run "a campaign of two 'yeses': yes for [ children's rights] and yes for the treaty that could be attractive to a lot of people". Last year, Fine Gael refused to go along with the majority finding of an Oireachtas committee that the age of consent should be lowered to 16 from 17.

However, Mr Kenny said Fine Gael would play a "constructive" not "obstructive" role in the new all-party committee: "We will see what wording comes out - [ whether it is] minimalist or maximalist will be a decision for the committee," he declared.

The Government, which will put legislation ordering the EU treaty through the Oireachtas early next year, faces a tight timetable if the two referendums are to run together.

They could be held in late May, or early June, or in late September/early October, although Mr Kenny pointed out that France would by then have assumed the presidency of the EU.

"President [ Nicolas] Sarkozy is not the sort of fellow to stay quiet on a lot of issues," said Mr Kenny, who also said he had told fellow leaders in the European People's Party (EPP) - to which Fine Gael is allied - not to interfere in the upcoming EU campaign.

"They won't put their two left feet in it at all. For my part, I have told the EPP group: 'let's be very clear about this. I do not want to hear any talk about tax harmonisation'."

He said the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, had been "exceptionally clear" that the EU has "neither the intent nor the ability" to harmonise rates. "I don't want to hear any talk about expeditious reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. We have had three reforms already. We are set until 2013," he added.

He said he had told pro-EU federalists in the EPP that the Irish people have "to make a decision here" that will impact on Ireland and the EU and that they should "keep their opinions to themselves and we will make our judgment. I made the point that none of them can speak for the Irish people, that the Irish people will speak for themselves."

Mr Kenny said he was concerned that the timing of the UK's ratification of the EU treaty in the House of Commons could impact on the Irish debate if the British tabloid press launch another anti-EU campaign. "If it is played out for a very long time and is being pumped in here as a consequence, it can do its own damage," he commented.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 12:16:36 PM EST
Fine Gael is the second largest party and Enda Kenny is thus effectively the leader of the Opposition in Ireland.  You can see from his comments that he is pro-EU reform treaty but anxious to ensure that the debate doesn't get side-tracked into emotive child protection issues, tax harmonisation issues, or further reform of the Common Agricultural policy which would mobilse anti-EU sentiment amongst social conservatives, fiscal liberals, farmers or those who buy British Tabloid (anti-EU) newspapers.

The argument for holding more than one referendum on one day is that it would increase turnout and it is a bit patronising to think that voters cannot distinguish between two totally separate issues.  However voters are often registered to vote in one part of the country whilst currently living/working elsewhere, and thus require a lot of motivation to vote - especially if the outcome is seen as a foregone conclusion.

That was the complacency that led to Nice being rejected the first time around.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 28th, 2007 at 11:06:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]