Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
<< Previous 20 Next 20 >>

Breaking the Law: is this the Brexit end game?

by Luis de Sousa Sun Sep 13th, 2020 at 05:16:58 PM EST

Another extraordinary week in the Brexit saga has come to pass. This time around a complete surprise, as another showdown was only expected in October, when time runs out for a timely approval of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the UK, ahead of the end of the transition period on the 31st of December.

The UK government has dropped a legal bombshell on the Brexit process, sending shrapnel in all directions. Time to pick up the pieces and make some sense out of it.


Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (33 comments, 1510 words in story)

UK to break international law

by Frank Schnittger Tue Sep 8th, 2020 at 03:10:05 PM EST

The UK is to unveil internal market legislation tomorrow (9/9/20) which will break international law albeit in what they describe as a limited way. Specifically it will abrogate sections of the Withdrawal Agreement which require the UK to implement customs controls at the N. Ireland Great Britain sea border thus providing back-door access to the Single Market for British goods - whatever any trade agreement might say.

Read more... (82 comments, 559 words in story)

The US Election as of Labor Day

by ARGeezer Mon Sep 7th, 2020 at 02:45:44 AM EST

As of Sept. 7, Sunday of the Labor Day Weekend some things have clarified a bit. The Trump campaign has pulled its TV adverts in Arizona and Biden is up on Trump there by 9 points. Three solid polls in Wisconsin show Biden up by 7+ points. Minnesota seems likely to hold for the Democrats. Pennsylvania is  the biggest weakness for Biden in the 'Blue Wall', with Michigan next. Democrats hold the west coast, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado and Hawaii by reasonable margins. And Democrats hold the east coast north of Virginia up to Maine.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (96 comments, 411 words in story)

Mairead McGuinness to be next Commissioner

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 4th, 2020 at 03:48:42 PM EST

Andrew McDowell and Mairead McGuinness candidates for European Commission role

The Cabinet has proposed Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell as candidates to replace Phil Hogan at the European Commission.


Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will not be one of the Government's nominees for the role of European Commissioner.

Andrew McDowell is a former Fine Gael advisor and until recently vice-president of the European Investment Bank .


Andrew McDowell is a former backroom Fine Gael Economic advisor and a political non-entity. No one seriously believes he will get the job. But Commission President Ursula Van Der Leyen had made it clear she wanted "both a women and a man, not a man and a women nominees," in the words of Leo Varadkar. Basically no man need apply, and in the end no one of substance did. Why put your present job at risk by applying for another, when you know you won't get the job?

Read more... (18 comments, 355 words in story)

Who will replace Commissioner Hogan?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 30th, 2020 at 09:36:51 PM EST

Commission President, Ursula Van Der Leyen has asked the Irish government to submit both male and female candidates to replace Phil Hogan as European Commissioner while EU sources are stating that any replacement is unlikely to retain the important Trade portfolio.

This creates a number of problems for the Irish Government. Firstly, it could be argued that asking the government to submit a shortlist from which she will make the final selection is an impertinence, as it is for the Irish government, and the Irish government alone, to determine who the next Commissioner from Ireland should be (subject to EU Council and Parliament approval).

Read more... (14 comments, 1374 words in story)

EU Trade Commissioner Hogan resigns following 'Golfgate'

by Bernard Thu Aug 27th, 2020 at 07:03:14 PM EST

Phil Hogan, in charge of the Trade portfolio in the EU Commission, announced his resignation yesterday night (August 26), following a week long political storm dubbed 'Golfgate'.
Hogan traveled to his native Ireland a couple of weeks ago for a short summer break, but he also attended a dinner in a golfing resort near Galway, on the western coast of Ireland, on Wednesday 19, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parliamentary golf society, along with 80 other Irish politicians. The problem? Ireland's coronavirus safety rules were just being strengthened to limit all gathering to just six people.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (5 comments, 600 words in story)

Trump's re-election prospects

by Frank Schnittger Mon Aug 17th, 2020 at 12:35:54 PM EST

Irish Times Columnist Jennifer O'Connell has an article up basically saying that Trump, like all bullies, is afraid of all those who are not afraid of him, and seeks to patronise strong women because he is afraid of them. He is afraid of Kamala Harris because he knows she can beat him. This has provoked two letters to the editor in response from Jim O'Sullivan and myself:

Read more... (28 comments, 1305 words in story)

The political effects of electoral voting systems

by Frank Schnittger Thu Aug 13th, 2020 at 05:18:05 PM EST

Electoral system has served us well

Sir, – Brendan O’Donnell writes that an electoral commission should consider replacing our single transferable vote, multi-seat, proportional representation system on the grounds that it produces vagarious results, is a legacy of colonialism, and is shared only with Malta (Letters, August 12th).

On the contrary, I would argue it produces results broadly in line with the electorate’s preferences, in sharp contrast to the winner takes all system of first past the post operated in the UK which makes voting pointless in many “safe” constituencies and can award an overall majority to a party gaining less than 40 per cent of the vote.

It is also preferable to the archaic US “electoral college” system which has twice, in recent times, awarded the presidency to the candidate who lost the popular vote.

In addition, the US and UK systems generate an adversarial two-party system and political culture which fails to reflect the diversity of the electorate and which polarises debate between these two parties. As a consequence, they promote conflict rather than cooperation, and division rather than consensus building.

A case could perhaps be made for a European-style party list system which prioritises internal party back-room wheeling and dealing, but I think it preferable that the electorate can directly choose whom they wish to represent them.

If the diversity facilitated by our system, very occasionally, results in a delay in forming a government, that only reflects the diversity of views within the electorate, which can be slow to come to a consensus on some issues.

Ireland has, almost uniquely, avoided the extreme political polarisation seen in our neighbouring states, and our electoral system and the culture of collaboration and compromise it encourages must take some of the credit for that.

To be successful in Irish politics, you have to be able to attract not only first preferences, but lower preferences from other parties and candidates, and that puts a premium on being able to work with others rather than antagonising them. Divisive and polarising demagogues tend to do less well in such a system.

For all its complexities and faults , which includes a tendency towards clientelism and producing TDs better at articulating grievances than implementing solutions, I think our electoral system has served us well.

We tinker with it at our peril! – Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Read more... (6 comments, 1390 words in story)

France Municipal Elections: The Aftermath - Part 2

by Bernard Sat Aug 8th, 2020 at 06:53:44 PM EST

Recap from Part 1 and eurogreen's diary: Municipal elections were held in France last spring to elect the municipal council (and the mayor) in the 35,000-odd municipalities throughout the country, ranging from small villages with 10 inhabitants to major cities like Lyon, Marseille or Paris, and as far away as Papetee, French Polynesia.

In about 30,000 cities, the municipal council was elected after the first round held on March 15, by getting over 50% of the vote. For the remaining 4,600 cities, including most big cities, the second round, initially due for March 22, eventually took place on June 28, after the country-wide lockdown from March 18 to May 11.

These were local elections and not necessarily an indication of national political trends for the next presidential elections in 2022, when E.Macron is expected to run for re-election.

Still, do these unusual elections give us any indication as to the mood of the French electorate? Are they showing any significant evolution? Do we see similar trends in other European countries?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (8 comments, 1503 words in story)

A Peacemaker Remembered

by Oui Mon Aug 3rd, 2020 at 01:18:39 PM EST

John Hume: Origin of a Derry Icon 1960-1974

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

More below the fold ...

Read more... (1 comment, 309 words in story)

The Set Up?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 24th, 2020 at 09:46:56 AM EST

In Ireland we are used to insulting, malevolent, and utterly ignorant commentaries on our affairs in the British tabloids in particular, but also in "respectable" broadsheets like the Telegraph, and supposedly sophisticated magazines like the Spectator.

"Lttle Leo" was portrayed as the EU's Lapdog doing their bidding at the behest of Macron or whoever was the EU bully-du-jour. He was running scared of Sinn Féin and adopting their policies. He was regularly told to shut up and stop interfering as Great Britain went about its Great Brexit business.

In the past week two articles in the British media have offered a startlingly different perspective. The Editorial in the Guardian "an enviable beauty is born", was the less surprising. The Guardian is often more sympathetic to Irish (and Remainer) views, and even features Irish Times columnist, Fintan O'Toole, on occasion to offer an Irish perspective.

But if anything, it was the Economist which was the more gushing this week:

Read more... (7 comments, 1485 words in story)

Poor Spectator Sports

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 at 08:27:55 AM EST

For a prestigious UK magazine, the Spectator does print some rubbishy articles, easily debunked. Unfortunately this one by Matthew Lynn, Europe's coronavirus rescue fund is dead on arrival," has now disappeared behind a paywall on the Spectator's main site but is still available in their US Edition (linked to above).

This is my riposte published in the Irish Times (second letter down). It begins by praising an Irish Times article, as this is the best way to get a letter published!

Read more... (17 comments, 965 words in story)

Dutch PM Rutte an Advocate of Thatcherism

by Oui Sun Jul 19th, 2020 at 12:06:53 PM EST

After Brexit and the election of Boris Johnson, it's Conservative Dutch Prime Minister to do Donald Trump a favor ...

'Frugal four' seek smaller aid package

The size of the recovery package has been the biggest bone of contention as the Netherlands, along with Austria, Denmark, Sweden — the so-called "Frugal Four" — as well as Finland have put their weight behind a smaller fund and smaller portion of grants.

They demanded that any loans or grants should be accompanied by strict conditions to ensure the countries that are under heavy debt carry out labor market reform.

Germany and France have been pushing for an ambitious package of loans and subsidies to member states, and have repeatedly appealed for a compromise.

Hungary's Orban: 'The Dutchman' Is Responsible for EU Summit Disarray

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Sunday that Dutch leader Mark Rutte was responsible for the deadlock at a European Union summit, where leaders were set to haggle for a third day over a vast stimulus plan for their coronavirus-hit economies.

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (27 comments, 608 words in story)

The new demographics

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 18th, 2020 at 12:46:55 PM EST

The new demographics

Sir, - The finding of a study published in the Lancet medical journal that shows that the world's population is likely to peak in 2064 at about 9.7 billion, and then decline to about 8.8 billion by 2100 - two billion lower than some previous estimates - is to be welcomed. (World, July 15th).

It challenges the Malthusian view that human populations will always grow to consume the resources available and decline only through war, poverty, and plagues, arguing that improved education and access to contraceptives for women are the main cause of the reduction.

However, continued population and economic growth in a planet of finite and depleting resources is at the core of many of our problems - causing urban congestion, deforestation, pollution, environmental degradation, mass species extinction, pandemics, famines, droughts, storms, wars, forced migration and climate change.

Sharing the available wealth between fewer people will enable a better quality of life and standard of living for all, always assuming there is no further increase in inequality.

Concerns that a rising elderly population combined with a reduced working age population will place an unbearable strain on the young are overdone. Improved healthcare will improve not only life expectancies but the ability to work until a greater age.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, the knowledge economy, and other technological changes will continue to improve productivity and make wealth creation less dependent on workforce size.

Critical to achieving these desirable outcomes will be continued improvements in women's rights to determine their family size, availability of contraception, and the improvement of health and social care systems for the elderly, so that families are not over-sized to ensure that high child mortality rates do not result in their being insufficient children to look after their parents in old age.

The greatest danger is that demagogues and nationalist leaders will see any decline in their nation's population as a threat to their power and will seek to promote greater indigenous population growth to maintain ethnic "purity" and cultural dominance.

Small can be beautiful and less can be more.

Let us ensure a sustainable and safe future by keeping our overall population under control. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Population control can be a controversial topic. It's not that long ago when even contraception was a controversial subject in Ireland. Others argue that the problem is gross and growing inequality, and that there is no reason the Earth can't sustain a greater population if we all curtail our resource consumption.

Read more... (4 comments, 617 words in story)

France Municipal Elections: The Aftermath - Part 1

by Bernard Wed Jul 15th, 2020 at 08:40:31 PM EST

As the French farmers say: It's only once the cattle fair is over that you can count the cow pies.

After three years of Macron presidency, the municipal elections were seen as a sign of where the French people stand vis a vis the main political parties, and, of course, would these local elections point to any trend for the future presidential and legislative elections scheduled the spring of 2022. Especially after a long story of protests against the Macon-led neo-lib agenda: first, the "gilets jaunes" Winter of Discontent, then the 2019 protests and strikes against the retirement reforms; finally, in the wake of the global movement spurred by the killing of George Floyd, a general protest against police brutality and an endemic everyday racism.

Frontpaged with minor edit - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (5 comments, 1135 words in story)

Winning Diplomacy

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 10th, 2020 at 09:00:11 AM EST


Ireland has scored a few significant diplomatic victories in recent times in getting the EU, and ultimately Boris Johnson, to accept its position on the N. Ireland border and winning a seat on the UN Security Council against strong opposition from Canada.

Paschal Donohoe's election as President of the Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers yesterday may not seem like much of a coup to casual observers, but it was gained against strong opposition from Spain's Finance Minster Nadia Calvino, who had been favoured by France, Germany and some Mediterranean countries as an economist with experience working within the EU institutions who would make the argument for a generous response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Read more... (22 comments, 1102 words in story)

Covid-19 and foreign holidays

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 8th, 2020 at 07:30:58 AM EST

The Irish Times has published an edited version of my letter on Covid-19 and travelling on foreign holidays. The context of the letter is an increasingly polarised debate on-line about the merits of doing so. For the past couple of weeks Ireland, north and south, has been on the cusp of eliminating the virus completely, with only a handful of deaths and between 4 and 24 new cases per day. Some days have seen no deaths at all, and an increasing proportion of new cases have been related to foreign travel.

Read more... (24 comments, 1290 words in story)

Too pessimistic? (Edited)

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 12:55:45 PM EST


Some things will never be the same again and to imagine it will soon be 'business as usual' may well be wishful thinking. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

The Irish Independent (and Irish Examiner) have published my letter on the possible end of a golden age for European politics. Apparently some browsers aren't rendering the screen grab of the letter properly, so I reproduce below the fold the image, text and link.

Read more... (28 comments, 447 words in story)

Municipal elections in France

by eurogreen Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 01:26:04 PM EST

I am a citizen assessor today at my local polling place in Lyon: looking up names, and verifying the integrity of the process.

The first round should have been cancelled, as it was held just a few days before confinement. Turnout was, logically, very low, and in particular, elderly electors mostly stayed away, wisely. The government then toyed with the idea of annulling the results of the first round, and holding both rounds of the elections after the confinement; this was unthinkable, particularly in the context, because the lists of Macron's La République en Marche party performed horribly, with no chance of winning a major city in the second round.

The first round was dominated by a "green wave" almost everywhere, with combined green-left lists set to make major gains in many places.

Frontpaged - Bernard

Read more... (24 comments, 462 words in story)

Green centre right government formed

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 27th, 2020 at 02:39:09 PM EST

One of the elemental proprieties of democracy has been enacted  in Ireland today with the handing over of the office of Taoiseach from Leo Varadker, leader of Fine Gael, to Michael Martin, Leader of Fine Fail. The two civil war parties of Ireland are coalescing for the first time in tandem with the Greens.

Bitter personal rivalries and some policy differences have been set aside after the three parties agreed to coalesce on the basis of a 129 page programme for government endorsed by large majorities of their party memberships in the case of Fianna Fail, and the Greens, and an electoral college within Fine Gael.

The formation of the Government brings to an end an unprecedented 15 week hiatus since the General Election last February when no government could be formed for lack of an agreement between parties representing a majority in the Dail. Failure to agree would, most probably, have resulted in a second general election to resolve the impasse.

Read more... (1 comment, 781 words in story)
<< Previous 20 Next 20 >>

News and Views

 November 2020

by Bernard - Nov 1, 214 comments

Your take on this month's news

 October Surprises 2020 Edition

by Bernard - Oct 2, 11 comments

I read the news today, oh boy ...

Occasional Series
Click for full list