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Is it Worth it?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 01:48:34 PM EST

Jon Worth is one of the few knowledgeable UK commentators on the EU who has some idea of how politics works on the other side of the channel based, as he is, in Berlin. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a blogging conference in Rotterdam some years ago and even did a short video interview with him about his political and journalistic ambitions against the backdrop of a boat trip around Rotterdam harbour:

Naturally his critical but basically pro-EU views get him into a lot of trouble with Leavers in the UK who seem to specialize in demonizing and abusing him rather than engaging with the actual factual points he makes. Recently he fisked Andrew Marr's delusional view of Brexit which drew a lot of abuse which he referenced in a follow up blog. None of his detractors seem to have the slightest idea of the political realities of the EU and fondly imagine that the UK can have more or less what it wants out of the Brexit negotiations and that the UK will be able to negotiate far more advantageous trade deals with the rest of the world than it ever could as part of the EU.

I have tried to show him a little support and add some "balance" to the debate by highlighting how the Brexit campaign is viewed from outside the UK. Even though I was as provocative as possible, no Leavers have acknowledged never mind responded to the points I made. They appear to be operating in a parallel universe. Anyway, for what it's Worth, I copy and elaborate on my comments below:


My comment on his original piece: Fisking Andrew Marr's delusional view of Brexit

Marr's piece provides one moment of illumination: It demonstrates how little the UK political and media class understand of what the EU actually does and does not do. Many of the negative trends in the EU identified by Marr have been British led, whilst all the positive opportunities he sees in leaving are already happening in other countries within the EU. The UK influence within the EU has been almost overwhelmingly negative - from pushing the Iraq war and a military driven middle east policy to over-rapid expansion of the EU into former Soviet dominated states. It is the EU which will be liberated by Brexit from the neo-conservative and neo-liberal wet dreams of UK Conservatives, not the other way around. And if Marr thinks that Brexit will lead to a progressive direction in UK politics, he has not been paying attention. Instead the UK will degenerate into a neo-fascist nationalist nightmare without regard to the global environment, human rights, worker's rights or indeed consumer rights: A low tax haven for corporate USA and austerity for everyone else; a trade war with the EU27, and an invasion by two million elderly UK expats currently living in the EU as they lose their EU health benefits. If you think the NHS has problems now, wait until those two million join the waiting lists...

And another comment on his follow up blog.

Happy new year Jon. I think you will find debating with Brexiteers is pointless. Brexit is an article of faith with them, and facts are irrelevant - hence the frequent and early resort to abuse. But I also think you are caught in an impossible position in the middle - trying to mitigate the worst problems a hard Brexit will create. You will have few friends on either side. EU supporters elsewhere in Europe have fast come to the conclusion that Brexit is good for the EU, and the harder and quicker, the better. Hence my conclusion that we will have neither a hard nor a soft Brexit, but a train crash Brexit where there will be no substantial Brexit deal of any kind. The UK will likely just crash out of the EU with a hugely damaging trade war the result. Given that c. 40% of UK exports go to the EU whilst just 4% of EU export go to the UK, this trade war will hit the UK about 10 times harder than the EU.

As an Irishman that makes me hugely worried because even if Ireland attracts a substantial volume of City financial services business, this will not make up for the huge volume (c. 14%) of our trade with the UK which could be severely curtailed as a result of Brexit. Sterling depreciation has already caused some damage, and a hard customs border will make this many times worse. It's not even the tariffs that will be the most damaging, but the customs delays and paperwork disrupting just in time supply chains and transnational manufacturing operations.

Worse still will be the smuggling across the border with N. Ireland and the likely re-ignition of the Troubles. The Good Friday agreement was predicated on a much closer relationship between the UK and Ireland, the elimination of all border controls, and a much closer integration of the economies and societies of North and South under the auspices of the EU. Arguably Brexit is a breach of that international Treaty (registered with the UN), but in any case any attempt to re-build that border could result in violence that will not be limited to the Border region.

So British Irish relations risk going back to the dark ages. The British Irish common travel area and trading and commercial links may slowly wither and die, and it is little consolation that Scotland could ultimately join us in the EU. A de-stabilised N. Ireland will see to that. And I am under no illusions that N. Ireland or the Irish economy will be a primary concern for EU leaders on their side of the negotiation - we will be swallowed up in the maelstrom of anti EU and anti-UK sentiment on both sides of the divide leading to a trade and economic war if not actually direct military engagement.

Cooperation in almost all spheres will perish as the UK comes to be viewed as a Trojan horse for US imperialism in Europe. NATO will not survive both Brexit and Trump and will (unfortunately) be replaced by a greater militarisation of the EU. The EU has been instrumental in providing 70 years of peace in Europe since WWII: No one in Europe will risk going back to the bad old days for the sake of preserving good relations with the UK and unfortunately Ireland North and South will suffer significant collateral damage. And those like you who try to stake out a middle ground will end up being shot at by both sides.

Perhaps I was being a little hyperbolic but I don't think the scenario I painted is all that far fetched. There appears to be no appreciation by Leavers in the UK that the primary purpose of the EU was to copper-fasten peace in Europe and that trade and political integration were only means to that end. UK Leavers take great comfort from the fact that the rise of Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, Andrzej Duda, and other hard right Euro-sceptic nationalist movements in the EU could result in the eventual disintegration of what they consider an evil empire and they see Brexit as being in the vanguard of an almost inevitable trend. There is little consideration for what happened the last time hard right nationalist movements were in the ascendency in Europe and no appreciation of what a return to competing nationalisms could destroy.

Ireland, as I indicated in my comments above, has the most to lose from Brexit in the medium term, but even here there is relatively little debate about exiting the EU. There is simply too much to lose, not least the prospect of further lasting peace and prosperity in Ireland and the EU as a whole. That is not to say that the EU cannot or should not be reformed, but that, ironically, should be easier once the UK is no longer in the forefront pushing a neo-liberal and neoconservative agenda.

So I don't know if it is really Worth it trying to knock some sense into UK Leavers. They are leaving, and much as we would have preferred things otherwise, we now have to make the best of their leaving. That means salvaging as much of our trade with the UK as possible, targeting other export markets, and grabbing as much of the City's financial services business as possible in part compensation. This will exacerbate the already overweening economic importance of Dublin relative to the rest of the country, but that is an internal political problem we will have to try and ameliorate as much as possible.

Northern Ireland, too may end up becoming part of the EU as part of a united Ireland, as even some British voices are advocating, but we must be patient and that will take time. One Unionist commentator has recently noted the similarities between the Good Friday Agreement (aka the Belfast Agreement) and the Hong Kong handover. We have a way to go yet before that can become part of the general public discourse. But if Brexit has the devastating effects on the N. Ireland economy I expect, even Unionists may soon come around to that idea.

Display:
With apologies for the cheap puns on Jon's name!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 03:37:17 PM EST
Probably want to flip this over to the dark side and replace the FB names with people's ET handles.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 03:57:34 PM EST
Thanks - deleted and edited below

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 04:13:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Redstar: I agree with nearly all of your comment, and like you, I am, and have always been, highly critical of the EU, even as I see the points you and Worth are making are highly pertinent and true.
Redstar: One point where I cannot fully agree is in the militarisation aspect of it; in the post-Brexit EU world, and in a post-Nato environment (for, on this point, I think you are also correct), it will be very important for Europe to take more responsibility for its security, to get out from the umbrella of the US-provided security blanket (and all the strings that are attached) and to make sovereign decisions, mindful of the rightful place of Russia in the future security arrangement, but also mindful of the fact that Western European security concerns, already not aligned with American ones, are equally not aligned with Russian ones.

Redstar: This is a challenge, to be sure, and you are rightfully apprehensive. But, I think, it is equally an opportunity, for leading countries (France and Italy, but also Spain and Greece) to plan for Europe's future security needs.

Frank Schnittger: Ireland as a "neutral" non NATO member will be especially apprehensive of the EU taking on an enhanced security role post NATO. I suspect that aspect of it will end up being enshrined in a new EU Treaty with opt-outs for some members. The European nuclear deterrent will in any case be held at national level by France so it is only enhanced cooperation and coordination between existing conventional armed forces and anti-terrorist groups and the rationalisation of the equipment procurement etc. that we may be talking about.

Redstar: Adding, the additional government spending that EU member states would need to undertake to modernise the European security apparatus will be stimulative, as the present economic environment requires. Of course, I can think of better investments, but any investment is good in this environment. Like Keynes said, throwing gold down a mineshaft is even good in a deleveraging event.

ask: Fascinating read. Recced at ET and sent link to my daughter (currently in Brussels, but looking for work in London).

ARGeezer: This discussion needs to be echoed on ET.

Redstar: Don't remember my login, alas.

Frank Schnittger: Redstar - set up a new account - there were reports of this being problematic which Colman promised to fix, but I don't know if he ever found the time. Let us know if you have a problem setting up a new account.

Redstar: Frank Schnittger ok will do, over the weekend, I've some tidying up at work to do first. Feel free to cut and paste (this goes for Don, too) whatever I said up there if you think it is worth it!

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 04:12:55 PM EST
I'm not sure how good any military cooperation would be at the EU level, I remember trying to point out that border issues were not eliminated with the introduction of Schengen, but that Denmark and Germany now effectively bordered Turkey and Morocco and that border issues needed to be undertaken at EU level rather than foisted on those countries at the peripheries.

But Germany liked to save the money for border agents while wrecking the ability of Greece and others to pay for effective controls, with the consequences we now see being played out.

So, to ask them to now spend money not just on enhanced military equipment, but on the command and control with effective political co-ordinaation is entering a fantasy land of Whitehall proportions

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 05:04:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual political decision making in the EU will be slow, and not well adapted to a crisis situation requiring rapid response and clear decision making.

However we have the experience of NATO coordinating and integrating command and control functions and it seems to me a lot could be achieved even within existing budgets by rationalising procurement processes, standardising equipment inter-operability, joint manoeuvres and intelligence sharing etc.   Even "neutral" countries like Ireland with small budgets have a lot of experience cooperating with other nations on UN missions all over the world and anti-terrorism cooperation is improving all the time.

So I think the "Europeans could never agree on anything or run a piss-up in a Brewery" meme is a bit overblown, although we may never know until a real crisis occurs.  In the meantime the EU's glacial pace of decision making may actually be a benefit in avoiding hasty adventures in the Ukraine etc.

I can understand the Baltic states being nervous.  Would France really go Nuclear to prevent a Russian occupation?  Of course not.  But Russia and the EU have a lot of interests in common, and removing the US/UK from the equation could actually result in a significant warming of relations...  So overall I wouldn't be too fearful...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 05:24:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NATO works because political C&C is effectively done by the US. Take the US away and we're back to herding cats.

Would France go nuclear to protect the Baltic states? No. Which means that France will need to state where the border liesof the EU military protection zone lies and needs to be explicit about it. Else we're back to the Yes Minister sketch of wondering what stage of a Russian invasion would result in pressing the button. (I suspect an incursion into the Ardennes, but I'm cynical).

Military matters are all very well in peacetime. Lots of parades, politicians get to stand in front of people saluting them, which they enjoy immensely. But an effective military needs clear strategies and clear lines of command with fast responses at all times; waiting for the EU parliament to make a decision about things is not gonna owrk.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 06:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is why I stated that a new EU Treaty would be required to set up the necessary C&C centre, define decision making processes and core strategic imperatives etc., and allocate a set number of national troops to that central command at any one point in time. The effective dissolution of NATO would require the EU or whatever new structure is agreed to take on most of NATOs functions.  It's a plus that those functions will be taken from the US.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 06:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't rationalize armaments procurement. Facilitating corruption is the entire point of modern armaments procurement. Actually defending the homeland comes a distant second when it is considered at all.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 07:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I didn't know you better Jake, I'd suspect you had a cynical streak! Part of the reason I like Ireland so much is that there is almost no official military culture - the army has very little presence or influence and is engaged mainly in UN work overseas, the Navy is basically a coastguard, and the airforce consists of a few search ad rescue copters and a few trainer jets from the 1950s.  I know people argue we free ride on NATO or US military cover, but who, in their right minds, would want to invade Ireland anyway, and what difference could we make to a Russian invasion of Ukraine anyway?

The result is I have no exposure to large scale military corruption or the damage militarism can do to politics and civil society.  The EU's lack of a strong military dimension is also one of its attraction for me.  The threat of terrorism may change that, unfortunately, but rationally there is no reason for European peoples to go to war against one another.

Historically wars have been started because elites needed to create external enemies to maintain their hold on their own societies.  By binding national elites together, the EU has largely removed or reduced that force generating inter-national tensions.  Instead it is refugees or Roma or some other vulnerable minority that become the scapegoat deflecting class tensions from the elite, but at least international wars don't result.

Part of my anger at Brexit is that it threatens a return to the bad old days of internal tensions resulting in external wars. Let's hope it doesn't work for the British elite this time around.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 08:10:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I might be a little bit bitter at having just seen what is generally considered "my" government (maybe "government" should have scare quotes here too) buy a whole fleet of Joint Strike Fighters, when they could have gotten something that can actually fly for less than half the price.

What was most frustrating is that the opposition, such as it is, wandered off on a tangent about whether or not we should even have an air force, instead of attacking this transparently obvious corruption scandal.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 01:17:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I had to describe how the EU got where it is today then I would go with: The central countries demanding rules that can not work and would be highly immoral if followed and the peripherals signing on with their fingers crossed behind their backs. With changing lists of centrals and peripherals.
Having said that I don't believe that this is would be one of those cases. For one the amount of loot possible in armament procurement is of a scale that there would be considerable pressure to get it going. Most importantly it doesn't really need to "work" to work. If you scrap most of the NATO functions and just go with defence against military attack on EU territory than everything becomes much simpler. Despite all the whining about Europe not pulling its weight you really don't need 2% GDP unless you want to play imperialist games with the US or China. Russia just doesn't have the economy to pose a credible conventional threat and the EU as is far outspends the Russian federation. Even if you look at other indicators like steel production the EU comes out ahead by a factor 3. You don't have to have perfect coordination if your not trying to do anything fancy have numerical superiority and fight on your home turf. Send a few German and French companies in the Baltics as human shields and call it a day. On the other hand I wouldn't object if most European countries would switch priorities back to classical cold war tank battles. Less chance for mischief making that way.
Finally most of the angst about Europe not pulling its weight is about humanitarian interventions. Apparently it is of vital importance that slightly different atrocities are committed by slightly different people. And that is the most charitable I get about "humanitarian" interventions.
by generic on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 04:52:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Preparing for the non-nuclear third world war with Russia is what our armaments procurement is already all about.

Unfortunately that does not prevent mischief in the colonies, because all you really need to start mischief in the colonies is the logistics to get there. To win a colonial war you need willingness to take casualties and a sufficiently compliant media landscape that you can hush up the occasional genocide (or a bloodthirsty enough polity that genocide can be your official policy), and we have neither of those. But that doesn't prevent people from starting them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jan 1st, 2017 at 12:16:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we ever get some kind of EU military collaboration I want a rule against sending troop outside EU without approval in the EP.

At least then there would be one more check against mischief. And since we apparently all have to come to the aid of a member state (France) that gets bombed (Paris) by a state-like entity (ISIS) that they've (France) already bombed, it would be only fair to ask the collective for approval before starting said bombing.

by fjallstrom on Sun Jan 1st, 2017 at 12:48:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I wrote tanks. Can't very well drive them through the Mediterranean.
by generic on Sun Jan 1st, 2017 at 01:13:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said in my first response to Worth's diary, Marr's piece said a lot about Westminster's delusions and fantasies but, ultimately, very little about what is likely to happen when negotiations begin.

At the moment the UK government is simply responding tactically to preserve the Conservative party as a coalition, appeasing each wing whenver they appear to be getting a little twitchy.

But that can only work until March, at which point somebody is going to have to reveal something a little more like a strategic view of how the UK is going to relate to the EU in, say, 2030 and then advance a plan of how we might position ourselves in negotiations to achieve this. Or at least, that would be the hope. Cos without it we are, to use your phrase, heading for car crash brexit.

And sadly, right now I don't see any sign that anybody in Westminster, not the Tories, not Labour, nor Whitehall, have any clue about what they are doing. They simply wouldn't talk as they do if they did. Which means that Government policy with regard to the EU is simple vandalism, done with no regard for the future or, indeed, anything beyond the visceral pelasures of the next 5 minutes.

We are FKD. Up shit creek without a paddle and only the shining blond orb of Boris's self-regard to guide us

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 04:53:40 PM EST
Thank you Frank for sharing your thoughts. Do you see it possible for NI to remain both in the UK and the EU? In a Danish like arrangement?

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 11:35:03 AM EST
The short answer is yes, because there may be all sorts of ambiguous relationships possible, at least for a transitional period.  One possibility is that instead of trying to enforce a hard customs border at the N. Ireland/Republic border - a 500km stretch even thousands of British troops couldn't seal off - there would be an agreement between Ireland and UK to enforce a border at air and sea ports for goods/people arriving/departing from Britain.  Effectively this would move the EU/UK border into the Irish sea without directly impacting on the constitutional status of N. Ireland which would, effectively, remain within the EU customs Union even if not participating in/benefiting from EU institutions and programmes such as the CAP.

Goods produced within N. Ireland would then not be subject to EU customs controls but would have to be able to demonstrate compliance with EU regulations etc. and perhaps be subject to random checks. The EU might also seek to charge the Northern Ireland executive some tax for this privileged status, but generally the N. Ireland economy is not big enough to matter in the grand scheme of things and any anomalies created could be ignored a bit like Liechtenstein or Gibraltar.

Apparently there is some precedent for this during the Anglo-Irish economic war of the 1930's. The EU might want some EU or Irish officials involved in the customs controls to be assured that rules and tariffs etc. are being applied correctly, which could be controversial as they would be operating within UK territory.  However anything is preferable to an attempt to rebuild a hard border along the N. Ireland/Republic border and the communal tensions this would bring, so a pragmatic solution like that might be agreed. It could be a minimal red line requirement for any Irish Government signing up to a Brexit agreement as any Irish Government which agrees to a re-construction of land border controls would be wide open to being defeated by Sinn Fein at the next election.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 02:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One point that I have not seen discussed anywhere is the general presumption that WTO rules will apply if no EU/UK trade agreement is negotiated. However the UK is currently only a member of the WTO by virtue of the EU membership and so would have to re-apply for membership in its own right. My understanding is that any current WTO member could veto any such application, so the UK could, quite literally, be out in the cold with no established legal framework for trading with anyone if another WTO member with a grudge chose to veto. I would be interested in any one else's understanding of the legal position.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 02:13:21 PM EST
Well, the UK is gonna find out what it's like in 27 months unlesss they pull an interim deal with the EU out of the bag.

Who knows how likely that is going to be? We aren't exactly going out of our way to make friends and build alliances at the moment, so any favours we get will be at the level of charity.

Given what I hear from the Tory press, the plan seems to be to become some cheap labour tax haven for the world's billionaires. With the NHS sold off to the US health nsurance industry and no welfare for anybody below plutocrat level, health and housing will probably be given to some sort of citizen-militia who will be employed to keep the unco-operative proles in cowed silence.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 31st, 2016 at 04:06:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh well, happy new year to you too!

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Jan 1st, 2017 at 09:14:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the UK is going to let us win the revolution yet again?
by rifek on Thu Jan 5th, 2017 at 06:26:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guglielmo Meardi says:   
03.01.2017 at 12:09

Two critiques of Marr's piece had a couple of unnecessary polemical low points, and some slips (most importantly: UK fisheries will have to benefit from restricting competition in UK water; and German manufacturing survives relatively well - but declining fast too! - because Germany has such a power in determining EU industrial policies in its own, and certainly now Southern Europe's, interests).

But the Fisk was an attempt at factual, evidence-based debate and the Brexiteers' reaction is frightening for the future of, exactly, democratic control: asking questions seems to be disallowed, especially from experts.

Anyway, the two main points of the blogs are perfectly valid, destroy the whole logic of Marr's piece, and can be put very simply:

  1. on supposed increased `democratic control': as the EU sets only minimum standards on environment and social rights, the new freedom is only to do more rightwing things, not more leftwing things - it is clear what Liam Fox can gain, not clear what anybody on the Left would
  2. on trade, deregulation and globalisation: the EU has a lot of limits, yes, but the proposed deals with US or China are likely to be much worse, given the orientation of those countries on social and environmental issues, and their huge advantageous negotiation power facing a small country like the UK which is in a hurry to sign deals in 2 years when usual negotiations require 7 or more (the only way to sign a deal quickly is to accept the other side's offer)


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2017 at 12:24:12 PM EST
Thanks for yet another fine diary, Frank.
Thanks also for all the input you've put in to make ET vibrant again this last year or more.
Kudos also to the commenters who keep it interesting too!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 11th, 2017 at 11:30:21 AM EST
Thanks Melo. Much appreciated. Given our declining user base I sometimes wonder whether it is worth trying to keep ET alive especially with a lack of active tech support and a wider range of contributors. However I will keep it going for as long as I can.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 11th, 2017 at 05:36:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I certainly appreciate it. I'd certainly miss the place and regulars if it ever closes down. Might even be enough to get me on facbook.

I fear in a lot of ways our decline in activity and user base was inevitable. Not only because of the rise of social networks though I'm sure that contributed.
Thinking back what were our great unifying principles? I'd say support for European unification, leftish economic critique and concern with Peak Oil. With the Economic crisis the first two increasingly came into conflict. To the extent the sheer nonsensical mendacity of neoliberal orthodoxy became clearer to us the EU turned it from guidelines often honored more in the breach into the ironclad and ruthlessly if selectively enforced foundations of its existence.

On a personal note I still think that there is little to be gained by going back to nation states but neither do I still really believe that the EU can be reformed. I suppose if any glimmer of hope appears I might jump at it again just as I did with Greece. But overall I've been in mourning over the European project for some time.

Peak Oil seems almost quaint now. I don't usually read or agree with the ArchDruidreport but there is a very good argument made in the linked piece. The Peak Oil movement was ready with a plan once physical reality forced everyone to acknowledge the danger. Turns out a lot of other things like the economy and climate failed and are failing first and the point of undeniability never arrived.
I've come to look at contributions to calls for participation by EU institutions in a similar light. You can, and we did write up perfectly well reasoned and detail policy documents. Turns out when the Eurogroup meets to decide our fate notes aren't allowed.

by generic on Wed Jan 11th, 2017 at 10:20:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Deep Universe is not publicly interested in Peak Oil or Climate Change - not yet. Wait for a Financial++ Armageddon to decimate planet's population decently, and a New World Order will be a fairy tale of protecting environment and resources.

The Archdruid likes to troll liberal activists. So in the latest entry he hangs on liberalism all the progressiveness of the 1930s (including what fascists liked) and even the Prohibition, and then ironically accuses liberals of... Chronocentrism!

by das monde on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 03:43:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I fear in a lot of ways our decline in activity and user base was inevitable. Not only because of the rise of social networks though I'm sure that contributed.
Thinking back what were our great unifying principles?

The Trump rise is an opportunity for ET as for anyone else. But someone has to invest in the direction - the purpose, the new expected audience, the intended impact, and perhaps the software upgrade. Going with the flow will not lead to any Gettysburg.

by das monde on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 06:16:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that one factor in our precipitous decline is much more an issue of personalities, or the lack thereof, than anything else.

This site was founded by Jerome not long after one of the first big schisms over at Kos, and he brought over a fair number of readers from there. Yes, it's an American site, but it still had eyeballs and people interested in Euro politics and the particular strengths of this blog. His Countdown to Peak Oil diaries continued to be popular over there, and drove viewers here. At least a few of those stayed. And, it wasn't just him. There were a few other old-time Kos celebrities that would read and post here as well, stuff that wasn't being posted over there, and engaged in discussions that couldn't happen over there. So, readers showed up.

The quality of diaries here has not declined by one bit since the old days, but we all sort of know that we're just talking to the same 10 to 20 people nowadays, and there is no big draw to bring in potential new participants. Frank occasionally posts his stuff over there, as do a few others, but the key word is occasionally, and, well, he's just not the celebrity that Jerome used to be.

This stuff is sort of minor and petty, but it does really matter.

by Zwackus on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 10:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we are on a loser if our major strategy is to try to attract more US bloggers by posting on Booman and DKos.  They have far too many of their own problems over there to get too focused on yurp.  I stopped posting on KOS because the level of ignorance there means you spend a lot of time in comments challenging basic misconceptions, not changing the discourse.  My posts on Booman often get more recommendations there than they do here - if that is any guide to readership and interest - and I do enjoy the sometimes quite informed commentary there.  But that still doesn't give Booman readers much incentive to come over here unless they have a strong interest in European affairs.

Yes, being critical but basically pro-EU is becoming an unfashionable minority sport almost everywhere but I don't think we ever aimed at a mass audience anyway.  There is no reason why we couldn't have hundreds of active participants and thousands of readers in such a vast population overall, even with social media and even if not all are proficient in English. A major weakness is that we never managed to develop a multi-lingual platform.

But there seem to be technical problems for new users signing up and a lot of more minor technical issues that need fixing.  I have limited my ambition to trying to keep the front page ticking over and ensuring major topical issues get at least some coverage.  Nothing damages our "brand" more than when casual users see that nothing new has been posted on the front page for a week and when major European issues aren't covered at all.  But there is only so much you can do when there is a lack of diaries on major or topical European issues to promote to the front page.

As for not having any celebrities or controversial figures to attract eyeballs, I'm not sure that's what ET is all about. Most "Celebrities" either have their own blogs or engage in a lot of trolling to gain attention.  A lot of contributors were put off ET by the abuse they got when they posted ideologically incorrect or less informed diaries or comments and I always felt we had a choice to make: either tolerate a much wider range of views or become a small circle of largely like-minded individuals comfortable with each other.  It's fine for general users to have a go at each other, but editors have to keep a little above the fray and encourage wider participation.  This we failed to do.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 01:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I doubt that multilingual capabilities would help much. Most people I interact with in the German political/economic internet are comfortable with English. Of course that's just anecdotal but I don't think that the language barrier is keeping away a lot of people who'd want to contribute.
by generic on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 05:35:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose my original vision was much more ambitious - with ET acting as a coordinating structure for otherwise only slightly intersecting communities - English speaking and otherwise - covering diverse areas like politics, economics, sociology, environment, science, arts, cinema, poetry, music etc. I had thought we might even be able to get some EU funding for redeveloping the site on a multi-linguistic and multi-community basis as a means of developing a European demos. But it wasn't a view widely shared and we didn't really have a management or technical structure capable of delivering such a project.  So survival is the name of the game now.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 07:52:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think new users can sign up again now. Something weird with captchas.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 06:30:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great!  - I'll search my emails for a couple of people who had issues and let them know

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 12th, 2017 at 07:40:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not saying that it was a winning strategy in the long term, or anything repeatable, and I am not saying that relying on celebrity power is a good thing. I just think those had something to do with the initial burst of momentum that got the site started, and helped keep it going for a while, and as those have waned -- and as events have overtaken us all -- the site has been waning.

I do agree with what you were saying the last paragraph - I remember a few years ago when there were a fair number of really heated arguments over a variety of issues. Those discussions were fascinating and informative to read ... but also were perhaps not the best community building exercises.

by Zwackus on Fri Jan 13th, 2017 at 01:09:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by das monde on Fri Jan 13th, 2017 at 07:14:17 AM EST


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