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Beyond Brussels

by redstar Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:19:21 PM EST

I have to tell you, it's hard to take Brussels seriously much of the time. Out of touch meddling bureaucrats, some populists in various official languages say, telling me my sausage or my cheese shouldn't be available for public sale or my cigarettes have too much nicotine in them. Ineffectual bureaucrats who do nothing for regular Europeans, are incapable of making Europe and the EU relevant for its citizens, and whose wooden language in PR efforts fail in all member languages. And economically-challenged, parochial tinkerers who never miss an opportunity to think small.

As we face a serious economic challenge, with member states Hungary, Latvia, Spain, Ireland, Romania and the UK (beyond the perennial economic basket case Italy) facing severe economic challenges causing hardship among our fellow European citizen, it's a fair question: what the hell good does the EU do? And what the hell good does the Euro do? (And, trust me, it's not a polite topic of conversation among "educated" Europeans, but listen closely at the market square...even the Euro is being called into question by those referred to by my president as the "gens d'en bas," the "little people," who have an unfortunate tendency to vote their own interests and worldview.

The more I think about it, I have to say, not a hell of a whole lot. After all, it doesn't take a genius to observe how easy it is for 1% of Europe to scuttle pretty much anything. And you may not like Lisbon or Nice or even Marseille (though I'll sternly take issue on this last one) but think about it...1% of the EU could be condemning praise of motherhood and your right to a decent blood sausage, and next thing you know it, what is important to you have been cluster-fucked by a well financed campaign in one of those tiny little English-speaking countries, where certain rich people tend to have lucrative contracts with the US military. And we, Europeans, are supposed to be ok with this, and think those 1% of people who stupidly are taken in by this (among other things) should be considered proper partners?

I for one have had enough of this shit.

Europe can only be strong if we are together. Not some bullshit customs union whereby the bosses use the lowered level of sovereignty to drive a race to the bottom to fuck each of the rest of us, but a real country, where we are all the same, all with the same rights in each place, same privileges, same opportunities for our children, and where you have a bad Spanish accent, Antonin has a curious french one, Jerome speaks english like an American and we don't mind.

This means three things. Economic. Cohesion. Diplomatic.  

On economy, we are politically together, on matters of economic policy, of solidarity, of foreign policy. No social opt out. No exceptions. I am unemployed in France, I get those benefits in Poland and vice versa. Same general and largely progressive tax structure, same liveable minimum benefits, same educational opportunities for all, right to housing, et c.  
We either stupidly follow the American to war together, or we don't.  

On foreign policy we are on the same page. Either we all follow the Americans into their next stupid adventure, or none of us do. And if the English remain in Europe, they lose their vote on this for 50 years due to rank stupidity over the past 50 regarding their foreign policy.

Finally, on cohesion. This is where we fail miserably and where the Americans kick Europe's ass. It's not neo-liberalism that made the US strong in the post war era. It's cohesion policy. This means everyone is American, even the backwater morons who kiss their cousins in the South, and deserves investments, income transfers, infrastructure to help it grow and education to help it, via its children, out of collective illiteracy.

We now have two shining opportunities. Integration of formerly poor parts of Europe, in large part victims of our complicity in the proxy war waged by the US on the Eastern bloc. This takes investment. This requires money. These monies would be most efficiently managed by and transferred from Europe. And yet, Brussels expenditures account for less than one percent of EU GDP.

Compare with the US in times of proper investment, and laugh.

Second, we have a major economic crisis facing all of us, and yet, instead of acting together, as Europeans, making sure that the infrastructure development goes where it is most needed and therefore generates the most prosperity for all of is, we legislate so that the advantages of our initiatives fall only on our immediate neighbors and not our fellow Europeans.

This is where we most abjectly fail, and this is where the Americans have historically had the advantage.

It is for this reason, and not because I am some daily mirror reading racist as some have supposed, that I sincerely think Europe needs to get smaller. There are countries in Europe that are part of the EU but, via their political culture, of course driven by the elite (but also, of course, sanctioned over and over again by their electors), are not in the Europe I want to be a part of. This is a political preference of mine, of course, and I am not ashamed of it.

It's time to make Europe smaller, more focused, less distracted by the English-speaking countries with their special relationships across the globe which have the habit of getting the way of them being properly European. Let them have the customs unoin they thing the EU should be limited to, and let it be called the UK. And, Ireland, having rejected Europe not once, but twice, and bought in, election after election, to Anglo-American neo-liberalism, should be invited to join in.

Similarly, countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, also keen advocates of what Jerome calls anglo disease and in any event trojan horses against the Europe I want to see, should also be invited to join it...in both cases virtually no one in those countries does not speak English and small wonder since that's the world view to which they've married themselves.

And above all, spare us talks of early accession for more egregiously and chronically neo-liberal catamites like Iceland. We've had enough of letting in country after country to water down our own socialism. If you;re not ready for it, apply for membership in the US. They need the application fees, I hear.

After all, anglo is as anglo does. And in the anglo business world, when the shit hits the fans we talk of consolidation. This means closing down non-core businesses for that the rest becomes cohesive. Non-core businesses are those which don't fit with the rest of the company, which maybe have never really turned a profit or only recently have before going south quickly again thanks to crappy management.

Time for consolidation. The english, the irish, the italians, the dutch, the danes may not like it, but if we are going to make a go of this, we can't be wasting our time on branches that aren't part of the programme.

Two speed europe? Either that, or no speeds.      


Display:
Don't beat about the bush, redstar...tell it like it is...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:30:13 PM EST
I was thinking - there's Europe, and what Europe might be.

And then there's the EU, which should be driving Europe, but is really - in its most effective parts - just a neoliberal outpost of the US.

I think you're wrong in blaming the problem exclusively on the Anglo countries and the former easterners. Europe will not become any less neoliberal if the Atlanticist bloc leaves - it will just become more overtly fascist, in the same way that the Atlanticist countries are already becoming more overtly fascist.

The problem is that working populations are just too damn easy to manipulate and jingo-ise without a countervoice.

The Italians voted in Berlusconi and the French preferred Sarkozy to a socialist. European socialism doesn't exist to any great extent, except possibly as a historical legacy which has put the brakes on certain kinds of neoliberal politics. But it's been a rearguard action across all of Europe.

Throwing things in streets won't get anyone a better health service - there needs to be a fine balance between the active threat of popular outrage and parliamentary action before anything much changes. And both are very limited in Europe.

So - bottom up organisation. Not in the radical single-issue sense - because that's too easily forgotten after the shouting stops and the clean-up crews have gone home - but as a strong lobby group which can influence policy via a combination of local community organisation and national and international media.

I don't think that anything else will have the momentum to do the job. It needs constant pressure from inside each country's political system, constant pressure in the EP and against the Commission, and constant pressure on those elements of the financial industry which consider every other part of the economy their personal fiefdom.

There's a lot that could be done, but a crippled Europe is as much the result of the EU itself as the Anglo countries.

With a more appealing proposition and much better PR and participation, there might even be some interest among the Atlanticists in pushing Europe as a popular project.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 05:51:27 PM EST
I'm not sure. You could be right, but I think the crisis we're heading into may change attitudes away from the direction we've been heading. And, at least here, we do have bottom-up organizing, ATTAC and LCR, and I think our side will have a better position in the outcome of the crisis, if we play our cards right.

On the media, one good thing about the crisis is that slowly but surely legacy media in television, print, were already losing eyeball share. And the crisis will hit them harder than most sectors, as media and advertising are among the most recession prone sectors there are. Not for nothing Sarkozy is now proposing to subsidise newspaper subscriptions for youth. And, it won't work. We get upset when the media bias is so blatant, but we have to remember, the audience is more and more not representative of the public at large, it is older, much more conservative in many ways, but it is not one very important thing: by virtue of the fact they are older, they are not the future.

I strongly suspect new media and indepedent media (don't work in media anymore so no recent studies to back this up, but it was already true 5 years ago) have audiences which skew heavily young. This trend will continue; therefore, old Capital's access to eyeballs will be more and more limited, the ability to manipulate public opinion against its own interests more and more limited.

I personally am far more hopeful today than I was five years ago.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what the situation is like in France, but in the UK the proto-fascist Daily Mail types skew heavily towards the 50+ demographic. When I was in Spain I had a conversation with an ex-pat British cabby/estate agent, and he said that most of the bigotry against 'foreigners' - always amusing when you're living in someone else's country - came from the older retirees. The younger generation in the UK seems more flexible and less bigoted about race and nationality, and not quite as attached to imperial ideas about British sovereignty.

The crazy oldies are much louder in the media than any progressive voices, and it would be wrong to pretend there's no sympathy among younger demographics. But they're certainly a solid foundation for the neolibs, and once they start dying off there could - possibly - be room for some new ideas.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:41:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect the United States would be a lot more progressive without the states that were once part of the confederacy, but I guess the states are united for some reason. So, maybe the lesson should be — if member states want to leave, let them go.
by Magnifico on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:03:29 PM EST
As my joke goes, the Brussels bureaucracy is a French bureaucracy mainly pushing through German regulation.

Now, you may not be a racist, but your personalisation of countries is a strong form of nationalism. It is also a category error.

It's much better to look at a country's interests. You'll see that the Netherlands and Denmark are both trading countries and thus they are prone to be a bit more atlanticist and concerned about protectionism. You may want to get rid of that influence, but, well, Europe has had its attempts at autarky. I don't think it will work out.

To get one back, I'll also note that historically speaking the French government has obstructed the process of European unification far more often and with much greater impact than the Dutch...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:48:43 PM EST
I think the problem is that the EU used to be just an extension of French foreign policy, with a docile Germany and an occasionally recalcitrant Britain which nevertheless actually implemented the EU regulations it agreed to whereas in France, actual implementation was, shall we say, more selective.

Now France doesn't "own" the EU any longer and wants it's toys back.  Why is the Irish rejection of Lisbon so much more a crisis for Europe than the French rejection? The answer is some in France still thinks France IS Europe, and can do with it as it wants, whereas smaller countries like Ireland (and the 12 Eastern entrants) are expected to know their place and do what they are told.  (Ref. Chric's comments to that effect).

But the EU now - for all its inadequacies - and I agree with many of the criticisms here - is nevertheless a much bigger project than France or any one major member.  The EU will go its own way at its own pace, and seeking to divide it up in some way would simply kill the whole project off.  

I agree enlargement should never have happened before the Constitution was agreed, but it's too late to change that now.  Comparing the EU to the US is an interesting academic exercise, but not even the original 6 members agreed to a Federal Europe.  Greater cohesion and integration of industrial, social, healthcare and financial systems will happen by a slow and painful political process of negotiation in response to a realisation that a Globalising economy requires a globalising polity to regulate and manage it.  The peoples of Europe will gradually demand it and elect more socialist deputies to the EU Parliament if they really want it.

But any attempt to return to a "France knows best" imperialism will simply fan the flames of nationalism it other EU Member states as well, and we will be doing well to hold on the the EU we now have rather than being in a position to dream of a much better one.  It may be frustrating (to the French) that France no longer calls most of the shots, but that is nothing to the political meltdown the EU would experience if a single member ever succeeded in dominating the EU again.

It is actually a tribute to the importance the EU has achieved that the ratification of Lisbon has been so hotly contested.  If the EU didn't matter much, nobody would have cared much either way.  The problem is not that the debate has been divisive in some states - that's what happens when important issues are debated in a polity - the problem is that in many states there was little debate at all, and thus little public engagement or understanding of the issues.

The EU has probably gone as far as it can as an elite project - the tide of the consequences of WW2 and the vision of the EU's founding fathers has now ebbed away from the younger public's political consciousness.  The engine of future development has got to come from the democratic process itself, from a much greater engagement of the populace, and from controversies like the Lisbon Treaty ratification.  If the initial Irish no vote leads to a greater determination to pursue future EU development through more democratic means, then the initial Irish No may indeed have been of some great service - and a much greater service to the EU that the French conspiracy to prevent popular ratification of the Treaty the second time around.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 07:53:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The French rejection was qualitatively different from the Dutch or the Irish for that matter, and this difference is what for me makes it credible.

In France we rejected because the Giscard constitution was a step backward for us. Too much emphasis on neo-liberal, free market reforms in the countries where Capital wanted those reforms to make more money for shareholders and squeeze the rest of our wages, and almost zero emphasis on social reforms in countries that chronically engage in social dumping and thereby undermine solidarity mechanisms in those countries which actually take them seriously. This is why on the left, we voted overwhelmingly against, while on the "respectable" right (UMP, not FN) they voted overwhelmingly for it.

In the Netherlands, of course, voters rejected it because the rest of us stepping backwards is in their immediate national advantage, as Nanne observes here re: their attitudes on trade. (In Ireland, I'm not sure ultimately what the problem is, but I'd prefer not to get into that here.)

Totally different rejections, in terms of political content of the rejection.

Now, and again this is a political statement of preference of mine, but it is precisely because of the content of the rejection in France which makes it credible. Not that it was France that rejected it, but why France rejected it.

 

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 05:42:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clarifying, the Dutch rejection was due to the constitution being insufficiently neo-liberal, or at least, via reducing Dutch influence in Europe, would make continued trade liberalisation, beneficial to NL, harder to defence, as opposed to because it was overly neo-liberal.

The usual reponses to the no in NL were that it reduced NL power in the union, followed by expression of dissatisfaction in the government coalition of the time. And, the "respectable" left parties there were for it, though shortly thereafter, one of the properly left parties, which had been against on grounds similar to those of us in France, had some serious electoral successes, so maybe there's hope after all.

In France, the fact it reduced actually exisiting rights and protections, played a predominant role in the referendum defeat. The PS was split in two on the wubject, most of the PS votes voted against, and all other parties on the left were against.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:01:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're really selling the Dutch SP short here. There was a left side to the 'no' in the Netherlands as well.

As for attitudes, in my memory the right-wing side of the Dutch 'no' was due to a backlash against the euro, which was blamed for inflation and there were fears about the membership of the southern states, and there was a backlash against the opening of negotiations with Turkey.

Neoliberalism had little to do with it.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:25:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, that's what I meant by hope, but I thought the SP electoral breakthrough came after that. Perhaps because of it, and I'm perhaps over-impressionistic here, but when the rejections were explained in the french press, you know, we rejected it because of Bolkestein, that and the Polish plumber were the symbols of the no vote, both symbols against neo-liberalism. And, Bolkestein was of course Dutch, a neo-liberal as hard right as they come. Left opposition scuttled it here, it was very clear. And while no doubt there was left opposition to it in NL (as in IRL too notably via Sinn Fein) I didn't get the impression that that drove the No vote, it was moer from the right.

But I think it is outstanding that there is again a viable left party in NL. This is good news for all of us.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:47:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There has been great interest in spinning the no. As you know, the French far-right also played a role within France. And the role of Libertas in Ireland has been hyped up to no extent in the UK / European press while the role of Sinn Fein has been completely ignored.

The SP indeed became a larger party only after the referendum. But its base had already expanded at that time.

To cherry pick on my side a bit, here's a short quote from this evaluation (pdf) of the Dutch referendum:

Looking at results per municipality, it shows that a majority voted no in 9 out of 10 municipalities. The municipalities which voted yes in majority are the richest municipalities of the country: Rozendaal (Gld.), Laren, Bloemendaal, Heemstede, Wassenaar, and the rich communities in Eindhoven. Municipalities which had a high percentage of no-voters were the fiercely Protestant localities, the leftwing Socialist localities and those that also voted in high numbers for Pim Fortuyn (`protest localities').
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:47:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
Now, and again this is a political statement of preference of mine, but it is precisely because of the content of the rejection in France which makes it credible. Not that it was France that rejected it, but why France rejected it.

A masterpiece of Jesuitical sophistry! The reasons for any no vote are always arguable and will change depending on who you talk to.  The hard left in Ireland also voted against Lisbon because it appeared to them to endorse the neo-liberal policies of global capitalism.  The hard right in both France and Ireland voted against Lisbon because of their social conservatism and Nationalist proclivities.  

Probably the biggest block of NO voters in Ireland voted NO because the Treaty had been rendered deliberately unintelligible by elite conspiracy to make it appear different from the Constitution.  This was a contemptuous way to treat any electorate and I have a lot of sympathy for that particular argument.  It was a "solution" created to solve a French problem (NO to Constitution) and ended up causing an even bigger problem for a more democratically inclined Irish polity. Hopefully no European electorate will be treated with similar contempt again.

But at the end of the day what matters is not the multitude of reasons why people voted NO: Whether a left-winger approves of a left wing rejection of neo-liberalism, or a right-winger approves of a right-wing rejection of a further erosion of national Sovereignty is neither here nor there - neither type of vote is more "credible" or more "creditable" than the other.  Their effect is precisely the same - to prevent the further development of a more European polity - whatever way you try to dress it up.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:20:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably the biggest block of NO voters in Ireland voted NO because the Treaty had been rendered deliberately unintelligible by elite conspiracy to make it appear different from the Constitution.  This was a contemptuous way to treat any electorate and I have a lot of sympathy for that particular argument.  It was a "solution" created to solve a French problem (NO to Constitution) and ended up causing an even bigger problem for a more democratically inclined Irish polity. Hopefully no European electorate will be treated with similar contempt again.

I agree on that, and had I been able to vote in Spain (I was moving and changing voter registration so I missed it) I would probably have voted no on those grounds alone. Not that it would have made a difference in the result (a "safe" no vote) but at least it would have brought the participation rate closer to 50% :-)

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:26:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, there are Jesuits in my family, two cousins in fact, but it certainly doesn't go like that for me, I'm not that smart.

On the Irish voters being obligated here to vote on a crappy (and here I don't disagree on the substance, it's the form I find objectionable) treaty revision, I don't think anyone in the EU forces Ireland to hold referenda. My understanding is, unlike every other EU member state, Ireland is constitutionally obligated to hold such referenda for modifications to the constitution large and small.

Here in France, I think Chirac was obligated by popular demand to put it to a refendendum, like Mitterand did with Maastricht. But he was not constitutionally obligated to do so. It was a political decision. I think the same goes for Netherlands too.

But Ireland is a special case.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I think the problem is that the EU used to be just an extension of French foreign policy, with a docile Germany and an occasionally recalcitrant Britain which nevertheless actually implemented the EU regulations it agreed to whereas in France, actual implementation was, shall we say, more selective.

That's an unnuanced view. France has mostly just been able to push its positions through when it has gotten Germany to go along. And Germany has not been docile when it comes to the EU. Just a bit less conspicuous. The joke I made is not entirely a joke. The EU bureaucracy is built on the French model, but the EU acquis is mainly inspired by German regulation. So in that sense it's odd for a Frenchman who would want to kick the periphery out to rail against the EU bureaucracy, which is a French-German marriage.

Foreign policy has remained outside the remit of the EU and the EU has mainly let France do what it wants in Africa. With regard to most other areas NATO has dominated the agenda and France had put itself a bit out of play by exiting the command structure under De Gaulle (it will re-enter in April).

As for implementation, French implementation is mainly slower than British implementation. Where French compliance has been a problem this has mainly been due to corruption rather than calculation by the political leadership.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:09:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne:
That's an unnuanced view.

I am being polemical because I find it ironic that an appartent CP supporter should appear to endorse imperialistic notions of French Grandeur and Noblesse Oblige in France's relations with its smaller neighbours.  This harks back to an earlier conversation where quite racist, supremacist, and imperialist attitudes were expressed towards Ireland and all things Irish. (The type of attitudes, which if promulgated more prominently as representative wider "European" attitudes, would guarantee a much higher No vote the next time around).

I would have hoped that the French Left would be more internationalist, multi-lateral and respectful in its tone to fellow members - building alliances rather than whipping up nationalist antagonisms.  France does not have a monopoly on progressive tendencies in Europe and portraying other polities as overwhelmingly composed of dimwitted peasant dupes of Global capital is not generally a good strategy for building a united progressive movement throughout Europe.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:45:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
De Gaulle may have wanted (and succeeded) to own "Europe" when it was just France + the (really smaller) Benelux + Italy and Germany (both still in the inferior position of vanquished WWII countries). At the time, it was his tool of counterweight against the US (and the US annexion of the UK, from a geostrategic POV, after the UK ditched its independent nuclear capabilities)

But EU has clearly escaped french control since at least 20 yrs. During the 90's, the EU was entirely perverted at the service of the german reunification and the monetary consequences of Kohl's populist move of 1 east mark = 1 west mark. It caused a deeper, longer recesssion everywhere in Europe, clearly in France, and caused the UK to drop out of the SME.

Nowadays, monetary power in the EMU is entirely undercontrol of the germans, and regulatory power in the EU is entirely under control of the (internationalist) neo-lib mafia.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 08:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
De Gaulle only succeeded in sidelining France, and Europe, on the geostrategic stage. He completely failed in turning Europe into a tool for French geostratic ambitions, pace remaining French influence in its former African colonies.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:20:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, by a lot of metrics, being sidelined is a great achievement... e.g. keeping out of the cold war arms race, keeping out of the israel/arab world dispute, etc

Pierre
by Pierre on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 05:08:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
De Gaulle also  succeeded in blunting attempts at giving the EU Commission more of the trappings of a federal government and entrenched the power of the Council and the solidified the intergovernmental character of the EU, with its horse-trading, its lack of transparency and its institutional gridlock (as evidenced by the inability to produce a decent reform treaty or have it pass since the Nice treaty - another French EU Presidency fiasco).

See Wikipedia: Empty Chair Crisis

President Charles de Gaulle of France favoured a protected market for France's agricultural products. In 1965 the European Commission's president, Walter Hallstein, suggested an extension of the Commission's powers and a general increase in the supranational nature of the Community. He also proposed an increase in the use of qualified majority voting in commercial matters dealt with by the Commission.

De Gaulle opposed Hallstein's proposals. De Gaulle also strongly sought a financing agreement for the Common Agricultural Policy ("CAP"). The deadline for this was approaching in 1965.

Hallstein made the political judgment that De Gaulle would not risk losing the CAP agreement and upsetting French farmers before a December 1965 presidential election. Hallstein calculated that to secure the CAP De Gaulle would compromise on the institutional questions. The other five countries refused to compromise the agenda of the meeting and wanted de Gaulle to accept the whole package.
After a tense meeting on June 28-30, 1965, De Gaulle's response was to withdraw France's representative in Brussels and to boycott discussions of institutional change. This strategy led to what was called the "empty chair crisis".

...

The incident leading to the Luxembourg compromise had deep repercussions for the EC, leading to a slowing down of integration, and move toward the "confederalist" approach favoured by de Gaulle, rather than a more federalist approach favoured by Hallstein.

So, de Gaulle had his nationalist obstructionist way, and here we are.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 16th, 2009 at 03:11:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How nice would it be if France still believed in "we're all in this together". Apparently right now, for a EU citizen to get the RMI (minimum income) in France, he has to have an autorisation de séjour. It's the only formality that actually requires it ; there's no need for one if you work in France. But, to get an autorisation de séjour, you must be able to prove you have a regular source of income - pretty hard to do when you are jobless and thus applying for the RMI.

So, no RMI for EU citizens in France...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Feb 3rd, 2009 at 06:59:05 PM EST
even the Euro is being called into question by those referred to by my president as the "gens d'en bas,"
"Gens d'en bas"?

Ce mec Sarkozy est un pauvre con...

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:35:58 AM EST
It's time to make Europe smaller, more focused, less distracted by the English-speaking countries with their special relationships across the globe which have the habit of getting the way of them being properly European. Let them have the customs unoin they thing the EU should be limited to, and let it be called the UK. And, Ireland, having rejected Europe not once, but twice, and bought in, election after election, to Anglo-American neo-liberalism, should be invited to join in.

Similarly, countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, also keen advocates of what Jerome calls anglo disease and in any event trojan horses against the Europe I want to see, should also be invited to join it...in both cases virtually no one in those countries does not speak English and small wonder since that's the world view to which they've married themselves.

Once upon a time there was the European Economic Community and there was the European Free Trade Association. The UK jumped ship from the EFTA to the EU and Denmark and Ireland followed. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland didn't. Maybe we need to revisit the events of the 1960's and 70's to understand the root of today's situation.

Now there is a European Economic Area that encompasses the EU, the EFTA and Switzerland. Countries can leave the EU and remain in the EEA. Will any do so?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:43:31 AM EST
If we start talking about likely scenarios rather than Redstar's preferences for who is and isn't in his team, you should note that a multi-speed Europe is possible within the EU and if it happens, it will happen there and those on the second tier will likely remain within the EU.

The issue with a multi-speed Europe within and outside the EU (retaining the EEA) is that you still have essentially free trade with countries that have lower social standards. If you want to change that, you'll have to destroy both the EU and the EEA.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 06:56:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For some reason the multi-speed Europe has been talked about in hushed tones as if it were dangerous for many, many years. It is becoming evident that "enhanced cooperations" are the only way forward.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:03:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
It is becoming evident that "enhanced cooperations" are the only way forward.

I agree totally, and would add that such enhanced cooperations will be "bottom up" and networked cooperations.

IMHO networked P2P financing and economic interaction - and particularly energy flows - is drivin the "once in a thousand years" transition currently under way.

The geographic frame for such economic cooperation has its roots, as we have discussed, in historic interactions within and across river and sea basins.

eg a Hanseatic League Mark II, and maybe a Mediterranean League as well.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 08:05:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We have differential social standards in different member states because there are still gross disparities in competitiveness, income and accumulated wealth between member states.  If you wish to promulgate identical social, environmental, health and employment/income standards throughout Europe, be my guest, but be aware that this would require income transfers from the richer to the poorer states on a scale completely beyond that envisaged under any current Treaty (and unlikely to be endorsed by the electorates of wealthier states).

At the moment lower social standards/tax rates are the only ways in which poorer, smaller, more peripheral members can compete even marginally with the big boys - it is not so much a matter of political choice as of economic necessity.

On the larger point I would expect increased divergence or enhanced cooperation to develop as the EU becomes bigger and more unwieldy as a whole.  The Euro/Schengen and various national derogations shows this can be compatible with the development of the EU as a whole.  The best way to promote some progressive policies is to show that they work to the advantage of those member states which have embraced them.

I have no difficulty, for instance,  with the French public healthcare system being promulgated as the standard for an emerging European model for healthcare provision - to be adopted on a member by member basis or the slow development of minimal EU standards. In fact we should be actively looking for examples of "Best practice" in  members states with a view to promoting them at an EU level.  But lets not be under any illusions about this - unless the EU competencies, budget, and wealth equalisation programmes are dramatically upscaled none of this is feasible across gross national differentials of income and wealth.

It ill-behoves the wealthy members to lecture the poorer on lower social standards if the one thing they will not agree to is the wealth transfers that would be required to make the equalisation of social standards possible...

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:23:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I have been in favor of such wealth transfers from day one, though I would characterise more as investments than as wealth transfers.

Virtually the entire programme of the New Deal in the US and what followed through the 1960's involved just such a thing, rural electrification, investments in a national transportation grid leaving no region out, schools in poor areas, public housing pretty much everywhere, energy generation grid. And those parts of the US which were far behind in wealth, particularly the south, caught up. Overall wealth also went up, as previously poor southerners could now plug into the national economy and buy goods they couldn't afford before, just like Latvians and Poles should be able to afford more German and Frnehc goods as their prosperity increases, thereby increasing our own.

The thing is, you don't get your return on investment in such a scheme when you simultaneously employ neo-liberal trade policies, because there is no guarantee that the fruits of those investments be re-invested in or consumed of one's own goods. IF the Poles prosper only to turn around and buy American goods, what's the use in that?

And, what's more, the neo-liberal extremism that we've seen in trade and capital flow agreements and proposals ever since GATT accentuate not only this fact, but also drives migrations which otherwise would not have happened, further stressing solidartiy mechanisms. And, of course, those who profit from such arrangements are the last to want to pay for the consequences, and the parties they bankroll tend to play the anti-immigrant card to great effect, one need not look further than today's UK to see the end result.

We clearly need more coordinated investments, financed by the richer countries, and yes, I think debt-financing is in order. But...we need to change other rules of the game, too. The US made out like bandits from the Marshall plan, not least because the aid was required to be spent on US capital ando ther goods. When we do the same thing, the trade rules need to be similar. Else, there's really no sense in it.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 08:24:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
great discussion, folks, thanks to all

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 09:12:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The UK jumped ship from the EFTA to the EU

To the EEC, clearly.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:15:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't imagine why you'd want to insult Jerome so.  He speaks better English that most of the Americans I know.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?
by budr on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 10:04:39 AM EST
Ah yes, but speaking English so well could be indicative of dangerous exposure to "the Anglo-disease".  It's culturally and linguistically infectious and when you combine this with his being a banker he becomes an ideological credit risk and has to be put on ideological credit rating watch by the international ideological commissariat.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 10:41:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar: Beyond Brussels
where you have a bad Spanish accent, Antonin has a curious french one, Jerome speaks english like an American and we don't mind
As one with a bad Spanish accent, I don't know why you think any of this is an insult.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 10:44:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a nice Spanish accent...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 12:04:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh.

You know, it is charming too, and so refreshing to hear perfect English, literary even, much better than most native speakers, in such an accented.

If I had it, I wouldn't want to lose it either.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:52:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I do want to lose it :-)

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 05:14:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He speaks better English that most of the Americans I know.

...thus exceeding a bar no one thought was very high to begin with. ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:00:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar:
we do have bottom-up organizing, ATTAC and LCR, and I think our side will have a better position in the outcome of the crisis, if we play our cards right.
I think you're delusional: ATTAC is a very heterogeneous organization and has been silent following its leadership crisis (thanks to authoritarian former president and communist Party member Jacques Nikonoff). It doesn't seem to be able to recover.  And LCR is not able to propose any viable project for the society further than rehashing old Leninist recipes.

In France we rejected because the Giscard constitution was a step backward for us. Too much emphasis on neo-liberal, free market reforms
Who is "we"? A big share of the "No" votes came from the far right and the sovereignists. And I would like you to name which French acquis sociaux were threatened by the constitutional treaty.

It would be interesting to compare the sums used by the US "cohesion" programs you're referring to and the European structural funds (Cohesion fund, ESF...) available for the new member states starting in 2004 (remembering that they had access to funds during the accession period). I know the amount for the 2000-2006 period was around 24 billion € (in fact they were not able to use the totality...). I know the 2007-2013 program plans for bigger sums, but I haven't been able to find the actual amounts so far. Even if we think it's not enough, there is an important effort to close the gap between the poorest and the richest states within the EU.

So, in fine, if I understand well, you want to build Europe in one country


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:00:39 PM EST
Your information about ATTAC is a couple of years old. Seems to me the Forum Social

As for acquis sociaux, that's easy and was well known at the time. Article one sets out that there should be no rules or any other impediment to undistorted markets within the Union, and of course at the time, we had Bolkestein concretely remind everyone what this meant in practise. If you do not think this would ultimately undermine not just solidarity mechanisms we have in place, but also wages themselves, you certainly were a distinct minority upon partisans on the left, of whom virtually all LCR and PCF voted against, and some exit polls had even the PS-electorate voting up to 60% against. The PS leadership was ok with it (hell, I think Hollande and Sarkozy become drinking buddies over the whole thing), not the rank and file.

On top of this, there were the military aspects of the treaty telling member states to spend more, and specific language about relationship with Nato, objectionable to many.

Other objectionable things...it specifically weakened labor by putting the right of firms to lock out employees into the constitution. It also had specific language prohibiting capital controls, and some vague language on prohibiting anything which impedes free enterprise, and I'll let you guess where that one goes.

Finally on the rights charter, it  frankly is a watering down of the rights to a job or minimum revenue, to housing, et c., none of which are specifically named as positive rights, and this is important especially when you consider all the neo-liberal wet dream language.

So, it was a bad constitution, the left voted overwhelmingly against, I did too, and the Irish are reminding us now exactly why it was important to reject it: once adopted, it is damn near impossible to modify. A sliver of a minority of one tiny country can impact the labor rights of 300 million active workforce. No thanks. Yes to Europe, but no to that one.

But I'll give you this...your red-baiting is charming.

 

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 01:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PS held an internal vote prior to the referendum:

French European Constitution referendum, 2005 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

On 1 December 2004, the opposition Socialist Party held a vote among its members to determine the stance it would take. The issue of the Constitution had caused considerable divisions within the party, with many members--although broadly in favour of European integration--opposing the Constitution for reasons including a perceived lack of democratic accountability, and the threat they considered it posed to the European social model. The "Yes" side was led by party leader François Hollande while the "No" side was led by deputy leader Laurent Fabius. Out of 127,027 members eligible to vote, 59% voted "Yes", with a turnout of 79%. Out of 102 Socialist Party regional federations, 26 voted "No".

There was a substantial split in the PS, but stating that the leaders pushed it through against the 'rank and file' discounts the process through which the PS determined its stance.

The Bolkestein (services) directive was not hard-wired into either the treaties or the Constitution. The directive was pushed because of the dominant neoliberal sentiment at the time among national governments and within the Commission (and sadly we haven't made much progress since then on those fronts...). Its neoliberal elements were ultimately defeated by a pan-European protest led by the labour movements and an effective PES rapporteur in the European Parliament.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 02:44:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see that you don't point to any precise acquis and just channel the No campaign talking points. By the way, the European Trade Unions Confederation was in favour of the Yes vote, but you probably think they are sell-outs...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 02:56:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the big French trade union members of it, starting with the CGT, were against. But, I suppose, the CGT, SFDT, SUD are, instead of being sell-outs, were rather "unrealistic" or, to employ Jerome's term, part of the "lyrical left". I can say though I trust them to protect my rights than Francois Hollande and company in the leadership of the PS of that time.

And you can say all you want that I am simply repeating the bullet points of the non campaign, because you claim I cannot say anything specific about what it's adoption would have done. In this, you present a red herring, because of course the purpose of a constitution is not to be overly specific, to provide broad guidelines, and, well, those broad guidelines, as drafted, were neo-liberal in intent and the bias it would have had on further interpretation of national statute equally would have been neo-liberal. No one argued that the constitution would expressly do away with the 35 hour week, RTT, 5 weeks vacation, right to housing, income supports, access to health care, farm subsidies or whatever via specific language in the constitution. What was argued was that this would be the logical eventual conclusion, a conclusion whose ineluctability was demonstrated by the attempt to ram the Bolkestein directive down everyone's throat at the same time.

And, you are free to dispute that interpretation but at least be frank enough to admit that, on the left, your viewpoint was quite a minoritarian one, mine very much the majority, and not just of those of us "unserious" ones.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 03:39:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2 years to the day, tomorrow...

European Tribune - Eurozone Economic Governance

There is, however, a redistributive policy in the EU through its structural funds and general budget. It is unclear to me to what extent it can stabilise asymmetric shocks (seems like it can't do it for all countries because it only favours the poor areas which are largely concentrated in the poorer countries). But it fulfils the separate but equally valid aim of reducing long term inequalities. In a study made in 2000, it was found that the EU budget has a 'remarkably redistributive effect' (pdf file here).  I'll give you a quote:

Finally, when we consider the net financial balance, we find that the EU budget has a remarkably redistributive effect on the income of its members. This result is a necessary condition to speed up the convergence process among European countries. Our results show that the EU budget redistributes the 5 percent of any difference between richer and poorer countries. Although this number is well below the estimates for the United States (federal taxes and transfers redistribute approximately a 20 percent), it is important to notice that this redistributive effect is achieved with budget resources that represent less than 1.27 percent of the European GNP. (DOMÉNECH, R., MAUDES, A. AND J. VARELA (2000): Fiscal Flows in Europe: The Redistributive Effects of the EU Budget.)

This is impressive, but again we can note that the actual redistribution (which is all that counts) in the US is 4 times greater, its trade flows are 2-3 times greater and it does have substantial stabilising mechanisms which don't exist in Europe. Also note that this data is historic and that with the expansion, the redistributive effect of the budget has probably decreased.

As I noted/snarked on the DJ Nozem blog a few weeks ago, turns out that the first shock we're having to absorb is largely symmetric. Which makes the process a bit easier, as there are less collective action issues, but the scope is still overwhelming the response...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 03:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a hard time figuring out what actual practical steps you want. A dissolution of the EU and reformation of a core? Or a two speed one? And what countries would actually have a majority supporting the kind of policies you want? France - uhhh, no - a PC/LCR type candidate would get crushed by the right. That's true of Germany as well. On foreign policy, we're either talking mushy nothingness to achieve consensus, or diversity. Nor, unfortunately, do I see a potential for the kind of strong federal social policy you envision - the practical consequences would include a sharp rise in taxation in wealthier countries like France, to compensate for the relative poverty of the new states; and voters are selfish.
by MarekNYC on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 02:58:10 PM EST
Obviously you are correct that this wouldn't fly in today's political environment.

On the other hand, I think it is worth discussing as alternatives, given the potential for a major shift in the coming years in terms of the political environment.

by redstar on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 03:42:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This means everyone is American, even the backwater morons who kiss their cousins in the South....

Even the backwater morons?  Surely by now you've gotten the memo that those are the real AmericansTM, redstar.

And, hey, there's plenty of cousin-fuckers in southern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and even Minnesota (outside the Twin Cities).  Don't blame it all on us in the South.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:10:00 PM EST
Still pushing that Washington exurbs Virginia address for all its worth, I see....;-)

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fuckin' A. ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Feb 4th, 2009 at 07:24:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, I've nothing against love of cousin, if for no other reason than avoidance of hypocrisy...
by redstar on Thu Feb 5th, 2009 at 08:33:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being a Western European working in Eastern Europe, or better said, being a fairly old UE Member State citizen working in a new UE Member State, I sometimes wonder if anyone is even interested in building one Europe... Many people is more interested in taking advange of inequalities...

"If you don't want a man unhappy politically, don't give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none." (Fahrenheit 451)
by pereulok on Thu Feb 5th, 2009 at 07:34:14 AM EST
Given the way it was structured and executed, the expansion from EU15 to EU27 has just been one big plunder operation.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 5th, 2009 at 08:48:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm a bit puzzled by your inclusion of Denmark on the list of (Anglo) Diseased countries. Netherlands, I know too little of to pass comment on. Airstrip One, I understand. Ireland too, I guess, on the principle that it's fairly deep in the British sphere of interest. Iceland is understandable, if a shade uncharitable - I don't think the rot is incurably deep there, but I guess we'll have to see how they move in the current crisis. Italy is a basket case that I frankly have trouble seeing what is doing in the Union in the first place.

But what precisely is the problem with Denmark?

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 12:06:27 PM EST
But what precisely is the problem with Denmark?

Denmark != France => Denmark << France

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 12:08:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that's shortcharging redstar. Perhaps not by as much as I could wish, but still...

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 02:11:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Call it polemic.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 02:13:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neo-liberal governments for as long as the Americans and Brits (punctuated briefly by a 3rd way Social Democrat) including Anglo-American tax and banking "reforms"; Atlanticist to a fault; Axis of the "willing"; refusal to fully integrate, like the Brits, economically into Europe.
by redstar on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 02:29:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But on the other hand, a functioning welfare state, universal access to education and labour unions that are actually worth a damn.

Which, last time I checked, is more than most of your leaner, meaner Europe can boast of.

And the reason that we have traditionally refused to integrate economically is precisely the same reason that you laud when the French do it: That the Union was a bad deal for the workers. It's only under Fogh that the European Union has turned from being an institution that undermined our welfare state to an institution that supported it - and that's only because of the depths of depravity that the Fogh government has sunk to, mind you.

Guilty as charged on the Atlanticism and collaboration, though.

- Jake

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

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Feb 6th, 2009 at 03:05:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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