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Interview with Dick Roche: Irish Minister for European Affairs

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 03:31:51 AM EST

Wow - so many good diaries to read and so little time.  I'm off to Lanzarote for a week in the morning for a bit of sunshine (hopefully) just as the Irish winter gets to be at its most dreary and depressing.  Please excuse this somewhat rushed diary.  Owing to conflicting diary commitments my meeting with Dick Roche hasn't happened yet, but I did have a one hour phone conversation with him today which yielded some interesting nuggets of information.

Also the Greens, at their national conference today, failed to give the EU Reform treaty the two thirds majority it needed for it to become official party policy.  However the 63% vote in favour does give Green Party Ministers a mandate to remain in office and campaign for the treaty, whilst allowing party members  to campaign against the Treaty if they so wish.  Former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna can be expected to lead their NO campaign.

Promoted by DoDo


The discussion with Dick Roche covered the following points:

  1. The Referendum will probably take place in May/June but some are pushing for a later date.  The Cabinet will have to make a decision soon.

  2. It will be held separately from the proposed referendum on children's rights because of the complexity of both issues.  Turnout will be a major issue as a 20% anti-Government vote on any issue is almost assured.

  3. The Government will not be able to use public funds to campaign for the Treaty because a Supreme Court ruling forbids the use of public funds for campaigning purposes.

  4. The Government will be issuing purely factual leaflets to all members of the electorate explaining the content of the Treaty.  Dick Roche especially commended a 7 page summary prepared by Andrew Duff, British Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England. (Hat tip, Migeru)

  5. There has been a huge level of factual disinformation about the Treaty already.  The No campaign will undoubtedly try to tap into the huge level of public opposition to the Extraordinary Rendition flights through Shannon and portray the occurrence of such flights as somehow being due to Ireland having lost its independence and neutrality to the EU.  Little matter that the EU Parliament opposed such flights more effectively than Dail Eireann, and that the Reform Treaty is largely intended to enable the EU to develop a more effective, coherent and independent foreign policy.

  6. (As an aside, Dick proposed, with Joschka Fischer, that the original European "Constitution" should have been called called "The People's Treaty",  should not have contained the elements of statehood - such as the flag and anthem - and should have been signed, in sequence, in each Capital in Europe, rather like an Olympic Torch being passed around.  Bitter personal rivalry between Chirac and Berlusconi prevented a less formal and "constitutional" approach being taken to its form and content).

  7. Dick Roche expects Le Pen, the UKIP, the Greek Ultra Left, PANA and a wide variety of fringe British and European anti-EU groups to come to Ireland to campaign against the Treaty.

  8. Opposition from within Ireland will come from Sinn Fein, The Socialist Party of former member of Parliament Joe Higgins, old style Nationalists like Anthony Coughlan (a former lecturer of mine) who has been painting apocalyptic visions of doom and gloom concerning Ireland's entry into the EU and every Treaty since, and shadowy "Think Tanks" like Libertas.

  9. Libertas is a very strange organisation  with a well design website with almost no content but which appears to suggest that they are major players in the EU Energy Policy development space - including having acted as "advisors" to several Governments.  It is run by three people, the principle one being Libertas President Declan Ganley who apparently has about 40 websites and a large number of companies and business interests in Russia, Albania, and Eastern Europe. He apparently set up the first emergency mobile phone mast in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck - thus making a significant contribution to the relief effort.  David Cochrane, of Politics.ie is also said to be involved.  

My attempts to contact Libertas staff have so far failed.  However I am amazed at how such an apparently small group can achieve "Think Tank" status in the Irish media.  I am thinking of setting up a Think Tank myself as it seems to be the best way of garnering quite a lot of free MSM publicity.


Libertas.org - Home

Libertas to fund information leaflet on treaty for every household
Thursday, 10 January 2008

 

Naoise Nunn Executive Director, holds a bin as Libertas President Declan Ganley disposes of the Green Party`s 2007 manifesto calling it a sham,while holding a Libertas leaflet,which will be printed for every home in the country and will outline arguments in favour of the treaty,with a point-by-point rebuttal to each of them.At the Photocall Mr Ganley said Libertas had taken the decision in reponse to Environment Minister John Gormley`s decision to limit the role of the referendum commission on the Lisbon Treaty - Photo:Leon Farrell Photocall Ireland

Libertas President Declan Ganley will this morning announce that the organisation will fund an information leaflet for every home in the country to replace the leaflet that would ordinarily have been circulated by the state-funded referendum commission.

Funding is clearly not a problem for Libertas.  Quite why an organisation which claims to have acted as an adviser to European Governments should oppose the EU Reform Treaty is less than clear.  Hopefully I will be able to find out more on my return.  Perhaps other readers here may be able to contribute other pieces to this mysterious jig-saw.

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Disclaimer in advance: If I am suitably bored and can find an internet cafe in my resort in Lanzarote, I will try and join in in any conversation here between glasses of their local Red, which I am told is quite palatable...  Bye!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 05:15:01 AM EST
CNBC European Business » THE GREAT CONTRIVER
HE'S NOT A BILLIONAIRE, BUT THEN MONEY'S NOT HIS only concern, and that partly explains his success as an entrepreneur. As well as pungent views on Europe, Declan Ganley has a plan to rescue the world from its dependency on oil and wishes he had more lives in which to transform whole industries. He's never had fewer than two businesses on the go, and if he sold up tomorrow his net worth would be in the region of €300m - not bad for a 37-year-old whose biggest enterprises are yet to come, and who just a couple of decades ago was serving beer in a London pub, recently off the boat from Ireland.

...a letter ... dated August 2005, signed by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.

 She requested Ganley's help in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ganley duly obliged, deploying a specialised disaster communications network developed by his latest company, Rivada Networks...

Ganley's wife Delia is a first-generation Italian/Polish immigrant from Staten Island, just off the southern tip of Manhattan, and her brother-in-law was one of just two firefighters who survived from a crew of 14 on that fateful day in September, 2001...

How was it, Ganley later asked himself, that a commercially driven TV broadcaster and a fistful of cell phones had beaten the emergency services to the chase?

Maybe it was because Giuliani thought to make his rich friends richer by installing his emergency centre in WTC 7?

Rivada, which stands for "radio interoperable voice and data applications", was the result. Put simply, he has turned the old walkie-talkie into a sophisticated communications device suitable for rapid field deployment following disasters as well as everyday use.

Late in 2001, Ganley drew together a management team from his previous telco ventures, and two years later Rivada had a sophisticated product and a ream of patents protecting the intellectual property...

The intellectual property consists of what Ganley calls "the membrane around an amalgam of existing elements", the whole as opposed to the parts, which employed numerous experts and took some serious investment by Ganley, who owns 80% of the equity, the rest reserved for senior management.

Membrane around an amalgam of existing elements? Like a robber's bag?

Getting multiple public agencies to agree to a new generation of technology while tapping Federal funds? Impossible without 9/11, and almost impossible after it...

...The Rivada case study can be summarised in two lessons for would-be entrepreneurs: first, that to get the really big guys to sit up and take notice, by which we mean President Bush and his security advisers, make yourself utterly relevant to the biggest question of the day. Just as Ganley turned to metal importing as the Soviet Union cracked up, this time he turned to security in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

The second lesson is the "how to" of "making yourself utterly relevant", which in this case meant getting giant people on your board. Think John Kelly, recently retired President of Bell Textron, the global defence powerhouse, and Admiral James Loy, former head of the US Coast Guard and Acting Secretary for Homeland Security, plus three-star Marine General Dennis McCarthy, Former Head of all US Marine Forces in the continental US.

No comment.

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 04:59:44 AM EST
Article continues:

BASHING BRUSSELS

Europe today is run by "an unaccountable Brussels elite" who no longer pay attention to their true constituency, the people. This does not mean that Ganley is a Eurosceptic in favour of a return to narrow nationalism. Rather, he supports a far more radical notion of Europe "coming together in the face of history or facing a dismal future". By this he means that Europe must quickly move beyond national politics into a genuinely pan-European entity with pan-European political representation and an elected president.

He sees national political party infrastructure as the ultimate "legacy system" and has already begun to quietly rally like-minded Europeans around a low-key, pan-European organisation called Libertas "that might morph into a powerfully funded pro-business, pro-free trade, pro-accountability, anti-corruption European political party". If you google Libertas, however, you get a high-class lesbian shopping site.

I argued earlier that neoliberals aren't really Eurosceptics, and are scary people, this is a prime example. Look how he argues further, where the scary stuff and the positive integrationist stuff is interwinded:

His message to the business community is to pay far greater attention to Brussels and to politically engage rather than merely moaning from the sidelines: "It's a little bit like someone who goes to watch a hurling match, brings his blanket and picnic basket and all of a sudden realises he is sitting in the middle of the pitch. You either get up and play or you get clobbered." (Business and Finance, 6 May, 2004)

..."All of these goings on [how the President of the European Council is selected rather than elected] in Europe point to a current flaw in our European system of democracy whose structures are failing us through a combination of self interest, incompatibility with the modern world and inability to adapt. These failing structures are the embodiment of `old Europe'.

"Like the creaking analogue telephone systems of earlier decades, Europe's system of nationally structured political parties has now become a legacy system. You can tweak and push the system harder, you can give it a fresh coat of paint and add new parts, but what lies underneath is no longer capable of delivering the high performance that a new generation of Europeans need in this new century and millennium. The overhaul required may be considered by some to be radical. The old `analogue' system must be left behind to wither away over time. European politics needs to go `digital'." (Draft for a letter, undated)

I failed to decode what flowery telcoms image means.

Ganley says the "Brussels elite" fails entrepreneurs: "They are not risk-takers; they don't know what it is to take risks. Why as entrepreneurs would we ever expect them to do anything for us, why do they listen to people when they come in and say: `What we need is national champions,' and they say: `That's an interesting idea.' I mean, Christ! Europe is made up of grey men, three-pension people." (Interview with CNBCEB, November 2005)

LOL, the current Brussels elite as pro-national-champions...

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:07:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The neo-liberals have never been sceptical of the European Project if by that you mean a huge unregulated free-trade area that bans trade unions and consumer protections of any sort. If you mean a political entity that tries to balance the interests of  all its citizens it's a rather different matter ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:26:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Between free trade area and an citizen-interest-balancing political entity, there is a whole spectrum. I argue that most neolibs do want a political entity, even if an evil one.

In the above, it is noteworthy that Ganley seems to advocate Europe-wide parties (if I read his flowery language right).

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 08:15:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and I'd like Jérôme's opinion on this:

CNBC European Business » VIEWPOINT

The Libertas Institute proposes such a new departure in the establishment of a European Energy Innovation Fund which will award licenses and matching funding to a limited number of new, carbon-neutral entrants to the energy market with the best proposals for the production of electricity, transport fuels and heating judged on criteria including technological innovation, cost to consumers and fastest and most efficient rollout. The fund could be endowed with a portion of the proceeds of the European member state auctions of CO2 emissions allowances, through a supply-side tariff on consumption of oil and gas or a combination of both...

An independent panel would assess the submissions for funding from new entrants to the energy market, which would attract matching funding from private equity and debt sources. Conditional, time-limited licenses to produce different forms of energy, together with funding, would be awarded to successful entrants.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's not as if existing renewable technologies haven't already filled the bill.  More new technologies would seem to muddy the water, as is happening with bio-fuels.  Metaphorically, it's like the bio-fuels financier told me at a meeting last year:  "We don't need any new technologies, we need more trucks and raw material infrastructure, that's all."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaďs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:33:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm -- well, even if the biofuels guys are just bad and neither wind nor silocon solar are in need of big R&D support mechanisms, I do support public spending on research of dry-rock geothermal, wave, tidal, non-silicon solar, and various forms of energy storage.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 08:18:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Governments have no job picking winners, but a privately funded entity should?

Renewables are adequately financeable with existing support mechanisms. What might be needed is a streamlining of the various public entities that have to give their opinion on any given project (ie coordination of the permitting process), and promises not to tinker with support mechanism for long enough that investors can trust the framework in place and base their decisions on it.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:56:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was curious what you think this proposal means, how it would work, and if there is something tricky in it.

To me, this seems like a call for corporate welfare in the crudest sense: the nurturing of some start-ups into future big private companies on public money based on green criteria.

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 08:23:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Guys!  Many thanks for keeping this thread going in my absence.  Saharan sandstorm yesterday, cloudy today, so here I am!

I have just recieved the following email from Libertas:


Dear Frank,

I just read your article on your Blog regarding the Lisbon Treaty and associated issues.  

I'd be delighted to answer any questions you have about Libertas and our opposition to the Lisbon Treaty and clear up some inaccuracies in your piece.  I got the message that you called the office on Friday but didn't manage to return the call successfully.  I think it's unfair to catagorise us as a "shadowy" organization on this basis.

Feel free to call or email any time and enjoy Lanzarote in the meantime!

Kind regards,

Naoise.

I have replied as follows:


Dear Naoise,

I will obviously be happy to clear up any factual inaccuracies in my piece if you would like too point them out.  I used the term "shadowy" because I could find none of the usual attributes of a "Think Tank" on your site - e.g. a list of distinguished scholars, lists of publications in peer reviewed scholarly journals, lists of scholarships endowed etc.

I also found it strange that you would appear to criticise the EU for a lack of accountability and transparency and yet I could find no information of your funding or membership on your site.  Indeed what is your democratic legitimacy?  It is all very well to criticise our political,parties as being "legacy organisations", but at least they do have varying degrees of a popular mandates and are therefore legitimate actors on our political stage.

On what basis does Libertas claim to have a mandate  - democratic or scholarly - from which it can it can claim to speak to the Irish People by way of a leaflet in every home claiming to debunk the considered views of most of our our Government and Opposition parties?

Are the Irish electorate not entitled to know in whose interests you are acting, in that you can hardly claim to be acting on behalf of the Irish electorate or a large part thereof.

Sincerely,

Frank




"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 11:12:46 AM EST
Excellent!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 11:14:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have just received the following reply to my email to Libertas:


Naoise Nunn (naoise@libertas.org)
Sent: 22 January 2008 17:26:47
To:  'Frank Schnittger' (frankschnittger@hotmail.com)

Dear Frank,

Libertas was established just over a year ago as a "citizens' think tank" which sought to break the mould of traditional think tanks by pursuing activity that spoke to the European public as opposed to engaging in closed academic debate and publication. Our founding members are listed as signatories to the Libertas Charter which is on the website. They include a wide range of people from across Europe including an MEP, a number of senior constitutional lawyers, academics, professionals and PAYE workers and the president of one of Ireland's foremost academic institutions, Professor Roger Downer amongst others. Late last year, having read and analyzed the Lisbon Treaty in detail and realized the manner in which it was to be brought into being across Europe, we decided that we must oppose it. At this point, we changed our focus to become a campaigning organization with a small but broad starting base of Irish citizens from which to build a campaign against the Treaty.

Our funding as a think tank was provided by its founder members, including Declan Ganley. However, as a campaigning organization and a Standards in Public Office Commission-notified third party for the purposes of the referendum campaign, we are bound by the Electoral Acts which specify that no one person or body can make a donation in excess of €6,348 to us (that includes Declan Ganley). We are therefore now funded by donations from our supporters, many of whom have made their contributions online. Our funding is subject to statutory obligations which we will honour fully. It is a shame the same cannot be said of the European Union whose own auditors have refused to sign off its accounts for the 13th year in a row.

We are campaigning for a No vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty for reasons that are well-outlined on our website and in our media appearances. We are as entitled as anyone else to become involved in the political process unless one is of the view that only "State-approved organizations" may express a political opinion. There is no hidden agenda or conspiracy and we are not a "front" for any shadowy organization. We are a group of regular Irish people with centrist political views who are broadly supportive of the concept of the European Union. We believe, however, that it requires radical reform not envisaged in this Treaty, about which we have grave reservations. We are democratically entitled to promote our arguments against the Treaty to the electorate so that they can decide for themselves.

Libertas has never claimed to advise European governments nor has it done so. The Energy Initiative, details of which are posted on our website, is an on-going project aimed at European energy self-sufficiency which involves a number of MEPs, economists, scientists and business people seeking to develop a proposal which was welcomed by EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and which we hope will be presented to the European Parliament during its discussion on the second phase of the ETS.

Your claim that the Government and Opposition have a "considered view" on the Lisbon Treaty does not stand up - I can guarantee you that 90% of our elected representatives have not even read the document and everyone is being encouraged to sleep-walk into this whole new dispensation for Europe.

Here's a key quote from Michael Connarty, the pro-Treaty chairman of the UK Select Committee on European Scrutiny from last night's Lisbon Treaty debate in the Commons:

"The role of national Parliaments will be massively diminished. In fact, as recently as December it was suggested by European parliamentarians from a number of parties at a Future of Europe conference, that our Parliaments' role will be to try to influence the European Parliament, so that it can make the appropriate amendments to what comes out of the Council"

It suits national politicians to vote for this treaty because it means less work for them. When issues like water charges arise again, they can simply shrug and say "nothing to do with me, boss - that's a matter for Brussels".

At the most fundamental level, constitutions (and there is no doubt this is one) are designed to protect citizens from the excesses of Government. Sadly, the Lisbon Treaty demonstrably protects the political elites and bureaucracies against the irritating demands of citizens for democracy.  Who's is working for who here?

Kind regards,

Naoise Nunn

Executive Director

Libertas



"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 03:20:22 PM EST


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