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Life, Love, Death and the EU

by afew Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:07:17 AM EST

Disaffection, affection. A lack of trust. Perceived loss of relevance. A need to bring young people into the European picture. The gap between citizens and the EU (fill in institutions, leaders, "elites",  whatever). We may discuss these (and incidentally note, for instance, that there may be more "trust" than we might have thought), but I think we would probably all agree (possible, unpossible???) that, given referendum results over the last three years, and given our own experience as EU citizens (or not, in some ex-pat cases), the relationship between the individual's daily existence and the EU is sketchy at best.

What if we live as (perish the thought) Europeans? What if we live for a time in another member state, want to study there? If we settle down and live there? Or work in two or more countries during a career, acquiring different pension and other rights? What if we marry someone from another member state? Borrow money, hold property? Have children? Divorce? Retire to another member state? Lose someone and have to deal with a succession, die and leave others to deal with a succession? Or, more prosaically, get involved in litigation through Internet contacts and purchases? How easy are these things to handle, what efforts has the EU made to simplify them - what efforts, indeed, to move beyond the pre-existing bilateral arrangements or absence of arrangements between states? How well informed are we about them? What impression do we have that there is steady progress, a forward movement that actually changes our lives for the better?


A report published last week on The Citizen and Community Law (pdf, FR), says this:

Au total, le paysage est celui d'un espace de liberté encore très inégalement réalisé au niveau des individus. L'espace des citoyens en est encore au stade où en était celui de marchandises avant l'Acte unique de 1985 : les frontières sont abolies mais d'innombrables obstacles réglementaires rendent difficile une vie harmonieuse dans cet espace commun. L'Union a suscité plus de rêves que de projets, plus de projets que de lois, plus de lois que de réalités concrètes.In all, the picture is that of a space of freedom still far from properly finished at the individual level. The citizens' space is still at the same stage as that for commercial goods before the Single European Act of 1985: borders have been abolished but innumerable regulatory obstacles get in the way of a harmonious life within this common space. The Union has given rise to more dreams than projects, more projects than laws, more laws than concrete realities.

How much does this matter? As the report states, only 2% of the population of the EU live in another member state than the one they're nationals of. Only 2.3% of students are involved in the Erasmus progamme. Only 3% of European researchers work in another member state (while 7.5% work in the... US). Only 16% of marriages celebrated in the EU each year are between people of different nationalities, and by far the majority of those are contracted between Europeans and non-Europeans.

But isn't that a measure of the problem? Shouldn't the phases of European construction have been accompanied by a parallel concern to involve individual citizens in such a way that there was increasing perceived and practicable freedom - whereas currently such freedom as we have been granted is dimly perceived and barely practicable? Barely practicable because old national laws and administrative rules have not been adapted to take new principles into account, and dimly perceived because the voice of regional media (by regional I mean linguistic/cultural groupings that are generally but not exclusively national) has grown in influence over the decades, while well-meaning feebly-funded campaigns at supra-national level are hardly even noticed. For instance, the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) enshrined the principle of citizenship of the European Union, held in common by all citizens of member states. Yet a poll organized for DG Justice in January 2008 found that only two out of five EU27 citizens had heard of the expression and said they knew what it meant. Here's what the poll found, country by country, on citizens' perception of how well-informed they are:

Only 3% across the board felt they were "very well informed", and only a further 27% "well informed": less than one citizen in three. And it's not a question of "new" members against "old": look at the positions of France, the UK, Netherlands, Belgium...

The Report

Back to the report quoted above. It's by Alain Lamassoure, former French Secretary for European Affairs and longtime MEP (EPP). The report was commissioned by Sarkozy in view of the French presidence of the Council that starts today. Though Lamassoure is a member of Sarkozy's party, the UMP, he came from the UDF and can fairly be described as a pro-European centrist.

In an interview for Toute l'Europe he says:

L'intégration économique est allée jusqu'à la fusion des monnaies nationales, alors que l'union des peuples et des citoyens reste balbutiante.Economic integration has gone as far as merging national currencies, while the union of peoples and of citizens is still stammering
parfois les lois européennes existent (...) mais ce sont des lois anciennes. Parfois (...) leur contenu est faible et leur application est décevante [comme] pour tout ce qui concerne la reconnaissance des diplômes et des qualifications. Et puis parfois la loi européenne n'existe tout simplement pas. C'est tout ce qui concerne le droit familial, le droit patrimonial, le droit successoral.sometimes there is European legislation (...) but these are old laws. Sometimes (...) their content is weak and their application disappointing, [like] everything to do with recognition of degrees and qualifications. And then, sometimes, European law quite simply doesn't exist. This is in everything that concerns family law, estate law, succession law.

Out-of-date laws (health insurance legislation that goes back to 1971, for example); poor implementation of laws; absence of laws. On the second point, Lamassoure writes a good historical rundown on the transposition of European law into national law - how it may be badly done, done with no enthusiasm, side-stepped, delayed - and cites France as "the worst student in the class". And on the third, he writes a fascinating summary of the history of private international law (Conflicts of Laws) that takes the place of missing European legislation on issues concerning the personal and family life of "citizens of the EU".

Nous nous trouvons ici devant un sujet fondamental, dont l'importance est considérablement sous-estimée par les dirigeants européens. L'Union est victime de son succès et, plus généralement, des conséquences humaines de la paix : les voyages, les migrations, les rencontres favorisent les liens, les projets communs, les échanges, la vie en commun, les contrats, y compris familiaux. Or, le droit civil en général, et le droit de la famille en particulier, sont considérés comme intimement liés à l'histoire et à la culture de chaque pays. C'est donc un domaine où l'on a toujours considéré que la subsidiarité devait s'imposer de manière jalousement exclusive. (...) jugé trop sensible pour être traité entre Européens, le droit de la famille dépend, pour l'essentiel, de la compétence nationale et, pour ses éléments extra-nationaux - dans le cas où le champ du contrat dépasse un seul pays, ce que les juristes appellent « extranéité » - des conventions internationales relatives au droit international privé. Nous sommes dans un cas d'école d'anti-préférence européenne.We are faced here with a fundamental subject, the importance of which is considerably under-estimated by European leaders. The Union is a victim of its success and, more broadly, of the human consequences of peace: journeys, migrations, and meetings favour ties, common projects, exchanges, living together, contracts, including family contracts. But civil law in general, and family law in particular, are seen as closely linked to the history and culture of each country. So it's a field where it has always been considered that subsidiarity should be applied absolutely exclusively. (...) judged too sensitive to be handled between Europeans, family law lies essentially within national competence and, for its extra-national parts - in cases where the contract goes beyond a single country, what jurists call "foreign elements" - depends on international conventions concerning private international law. This is a textbook case of European anti-preference.

He goes on to describe the long, slow progress of the Hague Conference on Private International Law since 1883.

La vénérable Conférence de La Haye du Droit international privé a vu le jour dès 1883. Elle s'est attaquée courageusement à une réglementation générale en matière de successions et de testaments dès sa 4ème session, en 1904, puis lors de sa 6ème, en 1928 : hélas, dans les deux cas les opérations militaires ont débordé les juristes. Mais la Conférence a survécu, jusqu'à devenir, en 1951, à l'âge guilleret de soixante-huit ans, une organisation permanente, regroupant une trentaine d'Etats. Ses travaux y ont gagné : à partir des années cinquante, sa persévérance confucéenne a fini par être récompensée avec la signature d'une demi-douzaine de Conventions dites « de La Haye » sur les conflits de lois et de juges en droit privé. Toutefois, par égard pour ses auteurs, on s'abstiendra ici de donner la liste des pays dans lesquels ces Conventions sont entrées en vigueur depuis. Mentionnons simplement que la plus importante, la Convention du 1er août 1989 sur la loi applicable aux successions, fruit de quatre-vingt-cinq ans d'efforts, n'a été signée que par la Suisse, l'Argentine, les Pays-Bas et la France...The venerable Hague Conference on Private International Law saw the light of day in 1883. It got bravely stuck into general regulation of successions and wills in its 4th session, in 1904, then in its 6th, in 1928: alas, in each case military operations outflanked the jurists. But the Conference survived, until it became, at the sprightly age of sixty-eight in 1951, a permanent organisation, grouping about thirty countries. Its work gained from this: starting from the '50s, its confucian perseverance was finally rewarded by the signature of half a dozen Conventions called "Hague" on conflicts of laws and judges in private law. However, out of respect for their authors, we shall abstain from listing here the countries in which the Conventions have been applied since then. Let's simply point out that the the most important, the Convention of the 1st August 1989 on succession law, the fruit of eighty-five years of effort, has only been signed by Switzerland, Argentina, the Netherlands and France...
Or, pendant que se déroulait cette course haletante entre tortues, escargots et bernard-l'ermite, la Communauté économique européenne se créait, s'approfondissait, s'étendait peu à peu à tout le continent, et brisait, bien au-delà du Mur, toutes les cloisons invisibles qui enfermaient les peuples. Toutes ? Non point, hélas ! Subsistent les différences des lois nationales, et spécialement en droit civil, matrimonial, patrimonial : bref, la vie, l'amour, la mort.But, while this breathless race between turtles, snails, and hermit crabs went on, the European Economic Community was coming into being, was deepening, spread little by little to the whole continent, and struck down, far beyond the Wall, all the invisible barriers that closed in the peoples. All the barriers? Certainly not, alas! Remain the differences between national laws, and specially in civil, matrimonial, estate law: in short, life, love, and death.
Il a fallu attendre les années 90 pour que l'on prenne conscience du fait que la diversité des systèmes juridiques européens, y compris en droit civil et commercial, était une source d'insécurité pour les citoyens mobiles.It was not until the 1990s that it was realized that the diversity of European legal systems, including in civil and commercial law, was a source of insecurity for mobile citizens.

Proposals

Some of Lamassoure's propositions set out in a separate pdf file (FR):

Concerning EU-level law:

  • Move ahead quickly with updates of EU-level rules concerning health insurance, health services, supplementary pensions;
  • Study the option of a "28th system" of work contracts, social and tax rights for mobile workers;
  • Strengthen cooperation on the recognition of professional qualifications;
  • Set the goal of multiplying tenfold the number of student exchanges of the Erasmus type (by opening up national grant systems);
  • Carry to its conclusion the projected regulation concerning divorce ("Rome III") and on alimony;
  • All member states to ratify a number of international conventions of importance to mobile Europeans (on protection of children and of vulnerable adults, on nationality, on multilingual birth certificates).

Concerning transposition of EU-level law into national law:

  • Have the European Council decide that every directive must contain a clause of execution obliging each member state to communicate a table showing elements of the directive and corresponding elements of national law;
  • Agree on a Charter of good practice in transposition of community law (based on work by national and European parliaments).

Concerning citizens (information, handling of individual cases):

  • Rebuild the entire structure of the information system on community law, starting from the citizens' needs and no longer the flow-chart of Brussels institutions;
  • Set up an information network bringing people together around an Internet portal and identifiable (by symbol or logo) information relay points;
  • Set up a programme of cooperation between national social security (health, pensions) administrations;
  • Create a European citizens' card bearing identity, nationality, marital and family status, situation with regard to labour laws, social situation (right to benefits etc). This would replace up to ten documents in current use, and take on a strong symbolic value.

Concerning border zones:

  • Back the creation of cross-border European territorial cooperation groups;
  • Encourage networks of municipalities engaged in cross-border cooperation.

Concerning redress and appeals:

  • Class actions of citizens against national laws that violate EU-level laws;
  • Make it easier for groups such as cross-border workers, mobile workers, students, international couples, to petition collectively;
  • A major programme of training in EU law for national judges;
  • Encourage national and European parliaments to follow up on the application of EU-level laws, and allow the President-of-Council-to-be the right to do the same.

Concerning EU governance:

  • Commission and Parliament should build European law starting from citizens' needs, using a dedicated web site and interactive radio and TV, with a Follow-up Council making sure these are properly taken notice of;
  • Encourage systematic double or multi-nationality for persons whose family, residential, or professional links go beyond a single country;
  • Find the best electoral system for bringing MEPs into closest possible contact with their voters (using Duff report).

These are just a quick pick among a large number. A laundry list? Pony wishes? Not quite, Lamassoure knows what has been done, has not been done, what can be done, what might be done. The report is well worth a look, anyway (sorry for non-French readers, it's not available in other languages).

Oh, he also suggests France gets its act together by becoming a shining example in the matter of adapting its laws and regulations to EU legislation, which is not currently the case. (Example, France should join the experimental accelerated procedure for examining citizens' complaints, which fifteen countries have signed up for but France has expressly rejected!)

Will the French presidency of the Council act on these suggestions? Hmm. Sarkozy has already announced (just after receiving the report) that anything "social" is national business in his view. And Lamassoure's fundamental attitude is pro-European in a way Sarkozy doesn't understand. So - though I think a lot of what Lamassoure says and suggests is essential - I'm not holding my breath...

[Translations and errors are all mine]

Display:
We really missed an opportunity to lead in the EU last year. It's really sad to see, there cannot be a proper functioning EU without a firmly social EU, and yet, and yet, all we get are leaders who race to the social bottom, maximize social dumping opportunities and other ways to externalize social costs outside national borders (eg. - increase TVA and decrease charges sociales) and undermine the european project.

In this way, given who commissioned the report, Lamassoure's findings might be seen as public relations, or as subversive, depending on perspective.

Quick other point:

Only 3% of European researchers work in another member state (while 7.5% work in the... US).

Maybe if post-docs in the EU were paid as much as a decent open market seller in your average french town, more would stay at home. Salaries for researchers, in particular in the vastly underfunded basic research fields, are pathetic in most places in the EU, and working conditions can be quite unrewarding as well. This is sympomatic, in a way, of the same lack of leadership described above in re: social integration, and the solution is the same - greater EU integration.

Wonder if it will happen in my lifetime.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 10:40:34 AM EST
Sure, the research problem is money.

I don't think Lamassoure is massaging on Sarko's behalf. He's very different from the biznis-biznis Sarko-type. I doubt if Sarko greatly appreciated the report.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 10:55:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kinda says it all:

From Nature, Vol. 446, p. 854 (April 2007)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 02:14:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We should gather a portfolio of evidence on how "left governments are good for you".

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 02:17:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is, to a large extent.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 02:17:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the most important reasons for this numbers are
 - phd to post-doc position in Europe vs. US
 - language problems: there e.g. rumours that fluent French is required, if one wants a position in France. If these rumours are true, nobody can complain about the absence of foreigners.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 02:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose you can get a research post in the US speaking German?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:04:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but everyone speaks some English.

And, in fact, sometimes the standard of English of foreign PhD students and postdocs in US universities is appalling. This leads to regrettably xenophobic attitudes by American undergraduates, but one has to understand their frustration at having barely intelligible teaching assistants.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is simply that it's tiresome to hear that having to speak French (or Spanish, or Swedish) is a "linguistic problem", while having to speak English isn't.

Otherwise, Martin is quite right that languages are part of the European problem, in research or in other fields. Not insuperable, however.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 04:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's because English is the lingua franca.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 05:31:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You trying to dis English, now?

... {muttering} I got your lingwa franca right here ...


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 06:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree! I wonder if the 'language problem' is not often an excuse for not changing the situation.

I live in a country that has 4 official languages.
Traditions, customs, culture and language in Switzerland

No less than four languages are spoken in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic. Swiss people working in tourism usually speak English as well.

The government websites are usually in German, French, Italian, Rumantsch and English.

There is very little discussion about the language situation, it just is.

I school we usually start out with out mother tongue, then the first foreign language is one of the official languages and the second foreign language (often one of choice) is mostly English. The only question that is discussed here is at what age a foreign language should be learned in school. However, this does not mean all Swiss are well versed in those foreign laguages. :-)

So, maybe it is time for the EU contries to integrate foreign (especially other EU languages) into their educational system.

T

by Fran on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:17:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In recent years, there were efforts made in Germany to start foreign languages earlier than previously. This may help, that more people learn more than one foreign language quite good, although this induces other problems - for example further discrimination of people who either are simply untalented or have problems with the way languages are teached at school.

However in the meantime we have to live with people who can speak only one foreign language well (and maybe Latin, what usually doesn't help too much). And the way to do this is using English. I don't like that, I think English is a very ugly language. But even here on ET, you probably will exclude a majority by using any other language.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 07:53:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In France too, there's an effort to start English several years earlier. But there's no serious effort to train teachers or recruit native speakers, so the effect is likely to be mitigated.

We have had battles on ET over language. One idea was to create a multi-lingual site, or a cluster of blogs in different languages, but these schemes come up against major software problems (not feasible with Scoop) and would also create extra workload in terms of admin and translation. Yet using only English probably excludes a majority of Europeans, even though it's the most common second language...

PS: Don't say Latin's no use, or PerClupi will deal with you ;-)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:43:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Clearly German should be next:

(source: Eurobarometer 243: Europeans and Their Languages - last debated here)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:54:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Saarland and the border region of BW, the goal is even to start with French, however, lack of well trained teachers is here a problem, too.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 09:46:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, glad you mentioned this because it immediately came to mind.  Even when I was in school oh so many years ago, quite a few profs were non-native English speakers. Mostly Asians visitors taught at that time (as now), especially in the hard sciences and mathematics.  I lived in an experimental dorm that was comprised of half science and engineering and half social science majors with some seeking advanced degrees.  I recall vividly the dorm conversations about how difficult it was to understand some of the profs.  Not so much xenophobia at that time but just that it made learning that much more difficult as in "I can't understand a word he says."  I suspect the numbers of "guest" assistant professors and teaching assistants is much greater now given the fewer numbers of American degree seekers in certain fields.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 10:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not necessarily xenophobic. I remember an organic chemistry class as an undergrad with three TA's, all foreigners. One was Panamanian Chinese - excellent English, one was Chinese Chinese with decent English (strong accent, mistakes, but perfectly functional), and a third Chinese guy with basically no English. The only way of communicating with him was to rely on translators - either Chinese-American students who spoke Mandarin or the other Chinese TA (The Panamanian guy didn't speak any Chinese) We were fine with the first two, but complained amongst our selves constantly about the third - it really isn't too much to ask that ones teachers be able to speak with you.
by MarekNYC on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 10:26:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, not necessarily, but there was a xenophobic cartoon published in an undergraduate magazine when I was doing my PhD, motivated by this issue.

The real issue is that being a graduate teaching assistant in the US is a form of cheap immigrant labour. Now that the post-9/11 security situation has all but ground the "brain drain" to a halt, and even reversed it, the situation might be different.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, but as you can't get a research post in Germany without speaking English (but without speaking German, at least in science), and the US is perfectly happy when people speak even only English, that's not a problem.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:07:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny story about that. Friend of mine went to interview at a lab outside of Paris, advertissement for the appointment stated "working language is English" and was surprised to learn that, in fact, very few potential future colleagues actually speak it well enouh to work in it.

I wonder if this is because in the old days, for those of us 35 years and above, typically the 1st language serious people would take is German, and then maybe English but also quite possibly Latin. So maybe generational.

The sad thing is, one of the first things Sarkozy did, which many researchers I know here who are left of various stripes still seem to say good things about viz their professions, was getting through a law reforming the university system. Even left professors and espeically researchers like the new law as now restrictions on funding sources are lifted, and fundraising, american-style, from private sources, in order to fund research and other university undertakings, is now permitted (and actually pretty much encouraged given other parts of that reform bill). This should over time make it possible to put more meritocracy in who gets research moneys and also salary and funding for equipment, travel and so forth, and these are of course good things.

But I can't help but note that now they get to put the hat out to the private sector for research in basic science, and give credit to a neo-liberal government doing a neo-liberal reform which only was needed because the conservatives in france have underfunded research for decades. Typical bait and switch, and evidence that even the biggest minds still are somewhat clueless at certain levels.

I'd also point out that grant-writing as well as management and administration of the sorts of institutes now being created are quite time consuming and not typically part of the average researcher's skill set. We shall see how things go.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Typical bait and switch

And how. Someone else called it "drowning government in a bathtub".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 04:12:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
language problems:

It would be interesting to know how many of the 3% are in a country with another language (i.e., exclude Austrians in Germany, Belgians in France and Holland etc.).

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:07:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The fluent language requirement is definitely not true as a generalization for France. For example, I know that CEA offers positions for non-french speaking doctoral students. They even have a recruitment page with listings in English.

Cea INSTN

Every year, CEA grants thesis allowances for high level students that prepare their research work in its laboratories. In 2007, over 230 thesis contracts (3 years) have been granted that cover the full salary (gross montly wage : € 1990.25 during the first two years, € 2049.75 the third year).
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:53:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really an intra EU thing but the rumor mill among history types in the US says that you just can't get an academic job in the EU. This isn't about language since all historians know the language of their country well. American history departments on the other hand are littered with Europeans (and others).

A side issue is the lack of people studying the history of other EU countries. For any given EU country there are far more posts in the US than there are in all the EU put together outside the country in question.

by MarekNYC on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 10:35:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
May well be. Indeed our humanities are sometimes critizised for not being international, but as a physicist at a technical university my knowledge about the academic situation is mostly limited to science.

If I'm evil minded, I could suggest, that the lack of willingness to accept foreign historicians is the fear they may express opinions differing from the dominating view...

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:22:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard of a Czech woman with a PhD in Slavic studies and history from Charles University who couldn't get faculty positions in the US because they wouldn't recognise her PhD... So it cuts both ways. I also heard of an American professor of European History who successfully moved his job from Arkansas to Austria.

As they say, the plural of anecdote is not data but bullshit.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a Wiki article on the Bologna Process.

The purpose of the Bologna process (or Bologna accords) is to create the European higher education area by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe

This is supposed to improve mobility of students across Europe by harmonising the degree and qualifications frameworks, but if other aspects of civil life are hindered, a European Higher Education Area by itself won't make a great deal of difference.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:58:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They've been trying to harmonize degrees for decades, and it's still not done. Again, Lamassoure paints a nice historical picture.

Translating on the fly:

The very first directives on the subject, dating back to the 1970s, set the goal of harmonising degrees throughout the Union. <...>

...the original ambitions have been considerably downscaled. They collided with the principle of competence of member states concerning education, and with the even older principle of the independence of universities: universities were born in Europe, they were born free, and they mean to remain so. In a second phase, the harmonisation goal was dropped and replaced by that of correspondence between degrees: the idea was to put together a big table making automatic mutual recognition easier. Fresh failure. New downscaling. If general recognition isn't possible, let's at least try to ensure transparency, which will facilitate direct agreements between fully autonomous universities.

But here too, Lamassoure notes, the results are not up to expectations. He cites the example of French universities that will accept work done at a foreign university under Erasmus as course credits, but may not recognize the degree obtained by the same Erasmus student in that foreign university.

On the Bologna Process, Lamassoure says it was ambitious and a solemn political commitment, followed by a common organisation of university degrees on the Bachelor-Master-Doctor plan, but that it still hasn't solved the problem of mutual recognition of degrees, and the complications and administrative constraints are still considerable.

 

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 08:11:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem there lay in the fact that continental Europe was expected to change their system/s to align more closely with the UK set up.  There are more commonalities between continental European countries than there are between any of them and the UK. It's vastly different in some countries.

That in itself makes mobility of students and transferability of qualifications problematic.  Trying to force such huge change to me seems unfeasible.  Attempting to create transparency so that comparisons can be made, seems more likely to be achieved imo.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 09:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's worth noting that this wasn't just some UK plot to disrupt European education, the reasoning was that the changes envisioned would also make the new European standard more in line with some other parts of the world (which, in some respects, look more similar to the UK system than some other European ones.)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 12:05:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
some other parts of the world

Um, English-speaking parts?

But in fact the B-M-D structure has been largely adopted. The problem seems to be that there's no guarantee that my university will recognize that your university's Master's is equivalent to mine, and vice versa.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 12:35:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone wrote:
[T]he reasoning was that the changes envisioned would also make the new European standard more in line with some other parts of the world

Oh, boy! I doubt that there has been any «reasoning» at all, at least on the German side. And if there has been a model, it was the American. Surely a ridiculous endeavour, as the European and the American school systems are very different, but who cares?
Generally, the political profession is interested in the ado, and nothing else. And, of course, Europe still sells in the editorials. That is sometimes (inexactly) called input orientation.
There is a parallel here to Jérôme's recent characterisation of financialization, where future earnings are made into a financial instrument; in a similar way politics is about «programs». In both cases, as soon as it is sold, it is forgotten.
The rest is kicking around the recalcitrant populace, administration etc.
by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 04:23:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary on important topics.

I've lived and worked and paid taxes and pension contributions etc. in 2 EU countries apart from the UK.

As far as I can tell:

a) In terms of "qualifying contributions" that might be eligible for social insurance and also pension contributions this money appears to be just well, lost into the black hole. Or if it is recoverable, the expense of doing so makes it a very questionable activity.

b) At least 2 of the countries (UK and one other) lost paperwork filed about my working status and this lead to the tax offices in the respective countries harassing me and treating me like a criminal.

I shudder to think how things might be if I had cross-EU family issues as well.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 02:40:24 PM EST
I've had double taxation problems too. Lamassoure doesn't make a big deal of it, but this too depends on old bilateral agreements. There's one between the UK and France (and even then, the mechanism is creaky), but apparently there are countries between which there isn't an agreement.

Family problems, oh dear. Disagreement about custody of the children? There is every chance that will finish in a real horror show.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:02:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Proposals to harmonize civil and administrative law always run up against petty sovereigntists. A couple percent of the population are not enough to sway the politicians, I'm afraid.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 03:04:40 PM EST
Lamassoure p 46:

Dans toute l'histoire des Eurobaromètres, il n'y a pas de cas où l'on ait enregistré une majorité aussi écrasante parmi les citoyens interrogés : plus de 9 sur 10 réclament une coopération judiciaire en matière civile, et notamment familiale.In the entire history of Eurobarometers, there's never been such a crushing majority among the citizens questioned: more than 9 out of 10 call for legal cooperation in civil, and notably family, matters.

He seems to be referring to this Eurobarometer poll on Civil Justice in the EU, carried out in November-December 2007 and published this April. (Though I can't find the exact question that gives this response). However, that larger numbers of people are concerned by these problems than 2% seems clear.

And one can argue, of course, that if things were better organized, there'd be a lot more than 2% of citizens moving around and settling in other countries.

One can also argue that, if we're going to give in to the sovereignists on everything, why then they win, and we all go back to our little national boundaries and see how long it takes us to start up a good war.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 04:30:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, why do we keep electing petty sovereigntists to the European Council?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 2nd, 2008 at 06:38:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sovereign(t)ism, nationalism, xenophobia, are facets of cultural conservatism that are instrumentalized by the proponents of the EU as a single market within which "economies" compete with each other (which, coincidentally or not, is a view that aligns with US interests in keeping Europe politically weak). That is, they (sov-nat-xen) are encouraged (even exacerbated, see UK press) so they can act as barriers to political construction, civic cooperation, the replacement of bilateralism with multilateralism, and the emergence of a feeling of identification with a European citizenship. Europe will have no political cogency until the latter happens, a fact that (possibly among others) has been illustrated in referendum results since 2005.

Yet, though instrumentalized, (sov-nat-xen) remain marginal. Were these elements to take over, it would be national preference, protectionism, goodbye single market, and that is not in the interests of transnational corporates. (I don't know if it's a valid analogy, but the GOP has greatly benefited from working wedge issues in the culture wars, while it would certainly not wish to be taken over by the Christian Right: use them but sideline them is the strategy). So, in fact, we don't see the nationalist right winning elections in the majority of cases. It's not true that the heads of government that form the European Council are all "petty sovereigntists".

At the same time, it may well be that there is a considerable constituency (well beyond 2%, as supported by the poll, and by the fact that far more than 2% have had at some time some experience of cross-border exchanges and understand the need for better regulation) in favour of a more useful role for the EU in facilitating individual citizens' lives in nitty-gritty, vital aspects. Giving real content to European citizenship is an excellent way of combating the sovereignists because it is highly likely to be popular. And I'm not sure they have the clout to prevent measures of the kind Lamassoure suggests from being passed - if Council and Parliament decide, under the pressure of negative voting in referendums, that they really must do something to bring citizens into the game.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 05:06:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at the graph, it seems one of the biggest weaknesses of the EU is also communication. If one is not actively interested in the topic it is hard to get information on the EU.

Just look at the UK press - the EU is almost non-existent, at least the German sites seem to be better. I don't know how the press is in other countries. So I think until the EU citizens are better informed, there will always be no votes, even if the EU brings through good laws, etc.

I do not think websites (only) are the answer, to many people are not yet into the internet, and depend on tv. At least if I look at the people I know. There are still many people without computer (amazing) and not interested in getting one. So, the communication of the EU with the 'old' MSM needs to be improved too.

by Fran on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 02:23:36 AM EST
Renowned Irish writer John Banville said, last June 12, in the daily EL PAÍS on the "NO" that "Rather than Eurosceptics, we are Euroignorant." This would apply to almost all Countries of European Union. Common policies, which we Europeans feel like everyday, they are missing, and there is the problem of a common language. But on the language, there will be many problems. Even within each Country, certain areas, which have their own language, they require their use. A common policy, which widespread knowledge at least trilingual, it would be very necessary. In Spain, at least, there is an endemic weakness in foreign languages.
by PerCLupi on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 02:54:58 AM EST
But the language problem is not academic only: work and daily life require common language or languages, and this is very important for the European cohesion among people. And for people feeling involved.
by PerCLupi on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:37:55 AM EST
The UK is surely one of the worst places for this?  There is no culture of learning languages, it's expected that everyone who comes here should speak good English and wherever we may want to go, they should speak good English there too.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:43:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All large European nations have a problem with this - foreign language fluency is relatively low in all five of the larger EU15 countries. An important factor in this is that it is cost-effective to dub films and TV programs rather than subtitle them. The threshold seems to be somewhere around 10 million speakers.

The UK in fact gets out of its way to provide translated material and even translators and interpreters for immigrants in many languages, something Spain doesn't do. So its "not expected that everyone who comes here should speak good English". Definitely not to the extent French or German are "expected" in France or Germany, I don't think.

The fact that English speakers have come to expect foreigners to speak English wherever they go is a different story - may have to do with the British Empire, may have to do with English being lingua franca.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 06:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant in a general public sense.  Authorities are decent enough at making provision for interpreters etc but in terms of tourists, the feeling is that many Brits would expect them to learn enough English to get by on without us needing to learn any of their languages.  I worked in a popular tourist hotel near Stratford on Avon and none of the staff spoke another language (unless they were from another country and being horribly exploited by the hotel.)  

If there were communication difficulties, rather than acknowledging it as a two way thing, the blame was put entirely on the tourists which I always thought was a little unfair.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 09:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also a side effect of having lingua franca status.

To avoid resentment when travelling in Europe, I'd have to learn upwards of five languages.

There's a case for French and German, perhaps for Spanish, but if you try to include all possible languages in the school timetable they could eat it alive.

A more interesting plan might be to start a Euro-literacy project for the UK, with subsidised holidays and visits, evening classes, and family exchanges.

This assumes that the government would be pro-EU, which clearly it isn't. But I think for many adults school - especially not school in the UK - is not the best way to teach anyone about being an EU citizen.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 11:00:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To avoid resentment when travelling in Europe, I'd have to learn upwards of five languages.

No, the resentment doesn't come from not speaking the host language but from expecting the hosts to speak yours.

Except that, apparently, Britons do resent tourists who don't speak English, from what In Wales says.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 11:05:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know. I remember that someone has spoken of the "island spirit" and of the feeling that English is the language widespread. But the point is the cohesion of the largest number of European people. At least, we all could know English and our own mother tongue, most other languages, if not in UK, yes in other Countries. Cohesion and sense of belonging. Merely accepting that all future Europeans know, for example, English, French and German, and we forget our own language in this regard, it would be a big step towards the awareness of supranational community.
:-D
by PerCLupi on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 07:25:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the distance between the EU, the idea of Europe and living, breathing actual Europeans is greater than suggested here.

The three things, EU, Europe and Europeans, are not the same thing at all. In fact, Europe and Europeans are often defined, in my mind, in opposition to the EU.

First, the EU's political development has coincided with the decline of the democratic politics of left and right across Europe over the last 25 years or so. The rise of EU has been part of a truly historic convergence that has tended towards the diminution of the political in favour of the technical.  

Secondly, the European idea, or rather ideas, predates the EU and, arguably, had its source in concepts the Union is now fairly hostile to. One key issue is that of liberty.

The EU and the political establishments it serves across Europe is no friend of liberty - the growing area of justice and policing cooperation provide ample evidence. Alain Lamassoure's idea for a universal ID card already fits the trend. All Europeans by the end of decade will have beneath their national passport covers EU biometics (requiring fingerprinting), part of a much wider security infrastructure.

In fact in the era of "interoperable" databases, a dominant trend to increased surveillance, the rise of the securocrat and a frankly dismissive approach to civil liberties, Lamassoure's idea would make things worse by extending their reach into more areas of our life.

Such a development would definitely "take on a strong symbolic value". But it would be probably be an unintended one. The move to restrict liberties in the name of security is premised on the organised mistrust of free interaction (travel for example) between Europeans.

ID cards are a more or less explicit declaration of hostilities between the state and individuals - people who are actually existing Europeans. It is one thing to frighten people with scares over terrorism or security but another to make them love the officialdom and interference such risk consciousness spawns.

One of the insights that we can take from the referendums (in France, the Netherlands and Ireland) is that there is a profound disjuncture between the EU's elites and Europe's peoples. In all three referendums a unified political establishment support for the Treaty was unable to carry the day. In fact, voter turnout to OPPOSE the outlook of the political establishment rose in all cases. This division could, in embryo, be a basis for a new politics - a European politics.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 01:47:22 PM EST
Secondly, the European idea, or rather ideas, predates the EU and, arguably, had its source in concepts the Union is now fairly hostile to. One key issue is that of liberty.

So liberty it is. I actually suspect that liberty has no real meaning for you beyond cutting taxes, regulations consumer protections etc. So it is obvious why you dislike the EU.

Alain Lamassoure's idea for a universal ID card already fits the trend.

The British dislike of ID cards is well know but in my opinion completely irrational.


It is one thing to frighten people with scares over terrorism or security but another to make them love the officialdom and interference such risk consciousness spawns.

And that is coming from a guy who works for the xenophobic Telegraph. Who is actually scaring people with scares over terrorism. Has the Telegraph ever written a critical report about the War on Terror of your American pals?


In fact, voter turnout to OPPOSE the outlook of the political establishment rose in all cases. This division could, in embryo, be a basis for a new politics - a European politics.

Well, that is in fact a pretty good idea, but at least in France and Ireland many voters rose to protest neoliberal policies you most likely support.

If you really support any type of institutional order in Europe then you might want to show that on your blog or in your articles by making constructive suggestions. So far you have mostly behaved like your fellow Europhobe Daniel Hannan, who can not decide if the EU is the rebirth of Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union (or maybe both?).

by rz on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 02:45:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, lets talk a bit more about liberty.

Found on A Fistfull of Euros. The French recently had a really bad idea:


The so-called "3 strikes" law foresaw that ISPs would be required to cut off service to anyone who was found downloading or distributing copyrighted material three times - which of course implied that the ISPs would be expected to filter all traffic by content, a wildly grandiose, authoritarian, and insecure idea.

Oh, those evil pro-Europe anti-Liberty French. Fortunately the idea failed. But what is this:


But the legislation failed in France; so here it is, coming straight back via the European Parliament. The odd bit, though, seeing as it's a French idea chiefly backed by the EPP (=European Conservative group), is that it's being pushed by the British Tories in Brussels - half of whom don't believe there even should be a European Parliament.

Will we here something about this in the Telegraph? I doubt it.

by rz on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 03:17:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rz:
which of course implied that the ISPs would be expected to filter all traffic by content, a wildly grandiose, authoritarian, and insecure idea.

In actual fact I don't see quite how its implied that  ISPs are going to have to do the filtering mentioned.  I think that's a possibility once the precedent that ISPs will store then necessary logs for the time period has been set, that at some point in the future the content providers will attempt to palm off the investigation role to the ISPs. However the ISPs will resist that mightily, as it  will push their costs in hardware and staff up considerably and why should they pay for the content providers problem? plus that assumes that someone wont come up with a technological/philosophical bypass to the scanning methodology that is currently in use.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:25:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the distance between the EU, the idea of Europe and living, breathing actual Europeans is greater than suggested here.

When you talk of actual "Europeans," are you not more refering to citizens of the UK?

There is a huge difference, you know.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 02:58:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The answer is no - although it may surprise you to learn that British people are Europeans too.

I know some people, you meet them from time to time here in Brussels, would rather Europe was a more cosy club. It ain't

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:04:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the attitudes of people like you, I do in fact find that surprising.

51st state anytime soon?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:30:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome, Bruno Waterfield, thanks for joining us. Certainly, if you want to point out that the issues of civil law and governance regarding the content of citizenship that Lamassoure discusses and I cite (let me make it clear that my citing his propositions doesn't imply that I support each one, totally or partly), are not the only causes of what you call "disjuncture" between citizens and the EU, then we might well agree. Where it seems we would not see eye to eye would be on the nature of those causes.

Reading you, one might have the impression that you had anarchist leanings. You see the individual as opposed to the repressive force of the EU, on which you heap the blame for, at least, "the decline of the democratic politics of left and right across Europe over the last 25 years or so". But how do you show in what way the EU is responsible for this decline? How do you show that such a decline hasn't happened concomitantly elsewhere? What role do you see for national governments? Have Thatcher and Blair, for instance, had nothing to do with it in Britain? And, when you speak of the "diminution of the political in favour of the technical", how prepared would you be to admit that, beyond the technical, it's the reign of the economic that has debilitated democracy over the past three decades? Isn't it the rise of globalising financial capitalism that has deprived the nation state of many of its levers of power, reducing citizens' belief in the capacity of political figures and parties to influence essential outcomes? Isn't it the notion that it's the economy that decides, and it's economics and economists that hold the keys, responsible for the fall in prestige of political ideas, movements, and institutions?

But your main beef seems to be with a card proposed by Lamassoure, that you quite unfairly line up with a "security" concern. Whether the proposal is a good one or not (I'm not necessarily 100% behind it), Lamassoure is simply suggesting a card that would be some damn use to people, unlike the others. It's a civil and social card he's proposing, not an ID card. You oppose encroachment on personal freedom by means of biometric ID linked to databases, and I don't think we'll hear many voices here on ET to disagree. Where you take shortcuts is by assuming 1) Lamassoure's proposal is a security card, a "declaration of hostility" against citizens, a "move to restrict liberties", when it is nothing of the kind; 2) that the EU is to be identified with this type of measure, when in fact it's a general tendency that sprang from 9/11 in the US and finds an extremely willing pupil in the UK. The big move to ultra-security anti-liberty measures has a US-UK axis first and foremost. And please remember that it is national governments, in every case, that issue passports and ID cards: the "European Union" on our passports is pretty hollow in terms of real citizenship, which is precisely what Lamassoure is saying.

Finally, is this (overblown) complaint about a card all you oppose in my portrayal of Lamassoure's arguments and propositions, and in the discussion in comments here?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 04:13:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"So liberty it is. I actually suspect that liberty has no real meaning for you beyond cutting taxes, regulations consumer protections etc. So it is obvious why you dislike the EU."

"That is coming from a guy who works for the xenophobic Telegraph. Who is actually scaring people with scares over terrorism. Has the Telegraph ever written a critical report about the War on Terror of your American pals?"

All ad hominem. Do not confuse the editorial position of a newspaper with the views held by one of its journalists. Do not be stupid enough to assume that employees share the same world outlook as their bosses, that would be moronic.

I am not a Conservative or a conservative. If you want to froth at the mouth and swivel your eyes about The Daily Telegraph feel free. I am not its representative on earth.

Liberty is freedom from the state in terms controlling our lives and democratic rights. As a leftie, I support democratic control of the economy - and planning.

In terms of liberty, Britain is becoming one of the least free places in Europe and leads the way at the EU level for diminution of democratic rights.  I do not need any reminding of that from anybody else. I do not fly the Union flag. The main enemy is always at home.

Taxation is more complicated, I do not see any particular virtue in high taxation as an end itself. I do see a virtue in talking about how to make society more equal, direct taxation is a part of that, political control of the economy (raising productive forces etc)

"If you really support any type of institutional order in Europe then you might want to show that on your blog or in your articles by making constructive suggestions. So far you have mostly behaved like your fellow Europhobe Daniel Hannan, who can not decide if the EU is the rebirth of Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union (or maybe both?)."

Key words: "institutional order". I have made a number of constructive contributions on my blog, in terms of free speech, abiding by referendum Nos and arguing that secret discussions (particularly the invisible hand of Coreper) on the construction of public office should be a matter of public record.

If you ever read my blog or what I written on Spiked or elsewhere you will see that I do not subscribe to fatuous anti-historical hyperbole about the EU. You could also note that on a number of occasions I have written that "Brussels" is as British as Whitehall. I have, as a republican, linked, many times, the EU to the undemocratic constitution of the British state.

afew, Thanks for the welcome, at least. My criticism of Lamassoure, who is an interesting man, would be his emphasis on technical measures to create something more elusive: European citizens. I think in the current context of inter-governmental consensus on security - something I have blogged about - such a card would be pushed in that direction. The US is a bit of a red herring. The EU, its governments, uses what the US demands as a alibi for what it wants to do anyway. Securocrats know no frontiers.

It is very telling that while the EU can agree a very backward step such as the European Arrest Warrant (because it has led to miscarriages of justice, led to a lowering of legal norms, eg trials in absentia,  and made it too easy for the police to have someone banged up) it can not agree accompanying safeguards. That is the context. This is not simply Made in the EU but Brussels has become a nexus for security measures.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/bruno_waterfield/blog/2008/05/13/eu_passports_the_awful_truth

I do not blame the EU, or global markets, for the decline in the political. These things are political products. The idea that that impersonal cross-border forces (terrorism, the environment or capital) have made democracy redundant is an ideology, of globalisation, not a fact. Paradoxically, the ideology actually creates more state not less. More bureaucratic undemocratic state and less accountable representative state, the EU is part, just a part, of this trend.

I support the European idea, as I see it. I am not a British nationalist but an internationalist. I just do not equate the EU with the ideal - that is all.
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/bruno_waterfield/blog/2008/06/14/the_irish_speak_for_us_all

I was under the impression, probably mistakenly, that European Tribune was about these kind of debates. Whoops.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 04:42:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was under the impression, probably mistakenly, that European Tribune was about these kind of debates. Whoops.
<shrug> Some people are cranky. Welcome to the Internet.

The key problem, here, with the EU is that national politicians like to use it as a way of getting unpopular measures in through the back door. The EU is only authoritarian because national politicians make it so: they're the ones with pretty much all the positive power. The EU has also been a force for improved civil liberties and rights when the national politicans either choose or are forced to use it as such.

I still think that a key reform that is required - and to be honest I've forgotten whether it was in the Lisbon or Constitutional treaty at this stage - is that the Council needs to debate in the open and vote in the open when it's acting as a legislature. You can argue executive sessions need a certain level of confidentiality, but it would be nice to see Gordon Brown or whoever visibly voting for or against measures that they've failed to get passed in Westminster and want brought in  via the back door.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:00:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree.

But one step further: the EU is primarily inter-governmental and as much about unelected national civil servants as our dearly beloved elected leaders.

I agree on on Council acting in the open. But the need for records of the exercise of public authority need to go further.

Coreper precooks around 90 per cent, by some estimates, of legislation. There is no record of this body's deliberations and many of the documents it discusses are on no registers.

The Antici system is completely unacceptable for the EU's highest plenary body, the European Council and this modus operandi has knock on effects right down the line.

The EU can not be organised as a diplomatic club where elites talk to other elites in secret.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:17:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You will find little sympathy for the Council [of which, functionally, the CoRePer is a part] here.

But reducing the intergovernmental character of the EU would entail either voiding the EU of content or transferring sovereignty to the supranational institutions (Commission and, preferably, Parliament). Which do you prefer?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:21:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funnily enough, I have much more respect for the supra-nationalists than the inter-governmentalists. The question for both is accountability and representation.

I would happily support the creation of European federal institutions based on democratic movements. I don't think that is what the EU is.

I personally see an embryo of a potential representative European politics in the referendum Nos. A view that is not widely shared here I know

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:30:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Umm, this site doesn't have an editorial line on the referenda, let alone a site-wide consensus.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, by the way, not entirely off-topic...

Who are the "eurocrats" you speak of here?

An internal staff survey leaked to this blog finds that fonctionnaires are deeply unhappy over a French EU presidency stunt to create some good green publicity for the Parliament's Strasbourg seat.

Euro-MPs and staff are to get a special private high-speed direct rail connection when making their monthly trip from Belgium to the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament. The same service is not available to the public.

But sadly for pampered eurocrats the new service will require them to use the same station, the Gare du Midi or Brussels Zuid, that ordinary members of public also use.

As you know, this train does not even have the capacity to carry all the MEPs, let alone the thousands of people who have to do the move from Strasbourg to Brussels.

Also, many MEPs use the Eurostar into Zuid for their personal travel.

And, finally, not everyone "making the move" actually makes the move. Some MEPs and their staff would go back home from Brussels over the weekend and travel directly to Strasbourg for Monday.

So, who are these 400 Eurocrats we're talking about here?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:42:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EP tells me it is 900 people.

I was having a pop at the other worldliness of wanting police protection.

Some of the staff, interpreters and translators, do have a problem because the late air charter back on Thurs has been cancelled in favour of the train.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, 900 people. But from reports [by the way, we were unable to find any EP or Thalys press releases about this whole thing] it appeared to be a compulsory thing, and not comprehensive, so is it a VIP list? Not all the charter flights have been replaced by trains (which would have been a better option but maybe not feasible given the existing rail traffic on the lines?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:55:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is all a bit of a French EU presidency stunt. Thanys and EP will talk about it when pressed, and then rather grudgingly. I think there will be publicity on Monday when first train runs.

It is not compulsory, not VIP either - any person authorised (carte d'access etc) for Strasbourg can a get a ticket in the parli travel office. Not sure why there is only two trains (mon morning and Thurs early afternoon) the cost is quite high I think, although with the cancellation of 6 air charters there is a samll net saving, I understand.

I am just today kicking myself for being disorganised and missing the deadline to get a reservation - means I will be on the slow train next week. Duh

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot imagine any of the MEPs I met when I visited in November asking for police protection. I mean, I just recently met one of them on the street outside a tube station dragging a pilot case. Otherworldly he ain't. So, again, who are these VIP eurocrats?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:00:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Parliament officials, both high and low. The policing demand has come from the EP's staff committee.

The unions are, rightly, not too happy either, especially with increased travel times and inconvenience for some staff.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:09:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the need for records of the exercise of public authority need to go further.

Obviously. Got to start somewhere though.

The EU can not be organised as a diplomatic club where elites talk to other elites in secret.

Unfortunately, it is and we either get away from that by a revolution or by incremental steps. Incremental steps seem better, especially if you're not too sure where  you want to end up.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:22:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In addition, as it is currently configured, institutional reform can only take place by agreement among the diplomatic elites, because the EU is constitutionally an international treaty organization.

So, the "Constitution" is dead, and maybe Lisbon is, too, but whatever comes next will also have to be a "EU Treaty" agreed by the governments of the member states in the Council. We have also proposed a number of "mini treaties" which do not touch the existing treaties but simply set up a bottom-up constitutional process base around the European Parliament. It is hard to imagine such a treaty 1) being agreed by the Council (turkeys don't vote for christmas); 2) being accepted by the sovereigntist faction in a number of member states (which could possibly carry the day in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, even in France and the Netherlands).

So, is there a way forward for the EU as a political entity, or should we just be content with the single market?

The Yugoslav wars showed the need for a Common Foreign and Security Policy, and here we're discussing the way in which harmonization of civil law (and social contributions, for instance) makes it very hard for people to be mobile in Europe.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:30:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Top down or bottom up? I tend towards the latter, which is a much tougher proposition.

By the way, I totally agree with any measures that allow people, not just Europeans, to move freely.

Care has to be exercised with some aspects of civil law, on applicable divorce law for example, because some laws are better than others.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:40:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope I don't have to find out about divorce law, but getting married last year was hard enough ;-)

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:43:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[T]he EU is [...] an international treaty organization.

I agree that it works nowadays like the WTO and that its results are not better. But in the beginnings, it was different. What changed was, however, not the organisation, but the environment.

I could imagine a «Common Market Office» within an enlightened constitutional framework regaining the same prestige, results and popular approval as the commission of the sixties.

So, is there a way forward for the EU as a political entity, or should we just be content with the single market?

Within the current treaties we are stuck, I'm afraid, and cannot go forward nor back to the halcyon days of the common market alone. [insert some game-theoretic argument here that I read about but fail to remember anymore :)]

What counts against a (real) Constitution, but inertia?

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 06:10:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that it works nowadays like the WTO and that its results are not better. But in the beginnings, it was different. What changed was, however, not the organisation, but the environment.
I submit that is not the case
The legislation would not only increase the Commission's powers, but the Parliaments in an attempt to build a supranational structure and be rid of the power of veto. Because of this President Hallstein won support from the Parliament who had long been campaigning for more powers. Indeed Hallstein played to the Parliament by presenting his policy to the Parliament on 24 March, a week before he presented them to the Council. By this he associated himself with the Parliament's cause and demonstrated how he though the Community ought to be run, in the hopes of generating a wave of pro-Europeanism big enough to get past the objections of member states. However in this it proved that, despite its past successes, Hallstein was overconfident in his risky proposals.[2] When Hallstein put forward his proposals, the Council was already troubled[2] and then-French President, Charles de Gaulle, was sceptical of the rising supranational power of the Commission and accused Hallstein of acting as if he were a head of state. France was particularly concerned about protecting the CAP as it was only accepted by the other states after difficult negotiations and under a majority system it may be challenged by the other members.[3]

Empty chair crisis

This, and similar differences between France and the Commission, were exacerbated when France took on the Presidency,[3] thereby losing the normal system of mediation. Further more the Commission became marginalised as the debate became one between France and the other members, making the Council the centre of debate. Thus any chance of using the expertise of the Commission to come up with proposals was lost.[2] Finally on 1965-06-30 Paris recalled its representative in Brussels stating it would not take its seat in the Council until it had its way. This "empty chair crisis" was the first time that the operation of the EEC had failed because of a member state[3] and it exposed failures in the Council's workings.[2]
Paris continued its policy for six months until the impact upon its economy forced it back into negotiations. Meetings were held in Luxembourg during January 1966 where an agreement was reached. Under the "Luxembourg compromise" a member could veto a decision that it believed would affect its national interests - but it did not detail what kind of national interests or how to resolve a dispute. However since then it had been used so often it became a veto making unanimity in the Council the norm and was removed under the Single European Act.[4] After the crisis, the commission became a scapegoat for the Council, with Hallstein being the only person to lose his job over what happened when the Council refused to renew his term, despite being the most 'dynamic' leader until Jacques Delors.[2]

40 years later, here we are.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jul 5th, 2008 at 06:17:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seen through German eyes, De Gaulle did many funny things,  :-)

But what do you want to say?
That the ECE was stuck even then? But what about its accomplishments, its reputation? Do you consider it really a failure?

Regarding the veto: it is a question of homogeneity. You cannot expect a member state to put itself in a permanent minority position. Constitutions as a rule comprise regulations designed to alleviate such fears, say the famous «itio in partes» in the Holy Roman Empire.

When c.1970 the Common Market was accomplished, the union became less homogeneous, both extensionally by adding members, and intensionally by extending its competences.  So it is evident that the Council should be dominant, and the veto crucial.

That was unfortunate, because of log rolling and atypical composition of the council (e.g. all police ministers together -- the results are easy to predict). The countervailing power of the Parliament but adds to the confusion, by feigning homogeneity where there is none.

So in my opinion, the fundamental error lay in aspiring to emulate existing states and planning for a kind of superstate.  

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 07:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will point out that we are a generally left-wing to centre biased place (which by current standards of political discourse makes us a crowd of ranting pinko commies,of course) but we do try to encourage wider debate.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:05:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you are reacting to rz's comment it would help if you posted your reply as a child to rz's comment separately from your reply to afew. That makes it easier for other to follow the logic of the conversation.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:14:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1 hour after you had posted here on this blog, nobody had answered, so I thought I kick things of with an aggressive attack. The opinions you express here are clearly very different from the editorial line of the Daily Telegraph.

Key words: "institutional order". I have made a number of constructive contributions on my blog, in terms of free speech, abiding by referendum Nos and arguing that secret discussions (particularly the invisible hand of Coreper) on the construction of public office should be a matter of public record.

More transparency is clearly needed so these are some good Ideas. But let me just not that the Irish voted for Ireland, not for the rest of the Union.

But one step further: the EU is primarily inter-governmental and as much about unelected national civil servants as our dearly beloved elected leaders.

I think most people on this blog agree that this is amjor problem and we should have more of a Union build on Supranational Institutions (like the parliament). But look at the Referendum in Ireland, despite the fat that the country is mostly pro-EU, a major point of concern was the loss of veto rights in the Council.

This means that there is a great unease about giving power to supranational institutions.    

by rz on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:40:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
1 hour after you had posted here on this blog, nobody had answered, so I thought I kick things of with an aggressive attack.

Someone might call that troll-baiting.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 06:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously I am not aware of all "internet traditions", so I had to Google Troll-baiting and I must say that this is a rather unfair description of what I did. I would rather call a a "discussion stimulus".  
by rz on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 07:06:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope I am not trolling. If so let me know and I shall depart. I am very aware I am a new guest here.

I think the causes of the Irish No were more structural in character.

One of the most telling incidents in the Irish referendum was McCreevy's "no sane person" would read this, underlining a popular sense of the Treaty as someone else's (the elite's?) document. This reaction seems to be shown in the Eurobaromter poll.

Giscard, who is often right about a lot of things, picked this up as a problem years ago which is why he spent so much time drafting the Convention text (I think he even had the French checked at the Academy) before Piris and others got their hands on it.

The demographics of the No vote also seem to show that young working class people and women, who do not vote in general elections, used the Irish referendum to score a hit on the political establishment. The establishment that to a man or woman urged a Yes.

I guess that is the issue: political establishments in many, or most, European countries are increasingly unable to mobilise or to take voters with them.

This seems to be a genuine European trend. That's why I likened it at the time to a James Larkin moment, after the rousing words by Camille Desmoulins on his monument in Dublin.

I know some Eurosceptics on the right who are secretly horrified by this development which I think is more profound than numbers of commissioners, Nice vote weighting etc.

Personally, I find it very heartening, could it be a pre-political-party stage of the beginning of the beginning of a new oppositional politics?

It is interesting that while turnout in standard elections is dropping (a probable sign of disenchantment with established politics) the referendum turnout grew (in Ireland, the Netherlands and France).

Could it be that as Europeans we have mistrust of our national governing classes, and their expression in the EU, in common? Could engaging with this be a potential representative European politics?

The question for both inter-governmentalists and supra-nationalists is, in this context, the same as for national political elites, that of accountability and representation.

I as posted a bit earlier I would very happily support the creation of European federal institutions based on democratic movements.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 09:59:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope I am not trolling. If so let me know and I shall depart. I am very aware I am a new guest here.

No, not trolling - what I meant was that borderline ad-hominem reactions to a new poster are inappropriate, and if you were a troll we might have a flame war going on, which is thankfully not the case.

The demographics of the No vote also seem to show that young working class people and women, who do not vote in general elections, used the Irish referendum to score a hit on the political establishment. The establishment that to a man or woman urged a Yes.

To a large extent the French and Dutch no votes were also a hit on the political establishment. It has been pointed out that some of the no voters may have (correctly) interpreted that there was no downside to voting no: the EU has been operating under the current (Nice) treaty for about 6 years, with 25 members for 4 years and with 27 members for two years and the sky didn't fall.

It is interesting that while turnout in standard elections is dropping (a probable sign of disenchantment with established politics) the referendum turnout grew (in Ireland, the Netherlands and France).

It is also interesting to note that the one large country which approved the "constitution" in a referendum, Spain, saw turnout under 50% for the first time since Franco died, while turnout in the last two general elections was relatively high.

But in the case of Spain, while there was as much reason to be annoyed at the way the Establishment carried the referendum campaign, we have the hungup of wanting to bee good Europeans and so the referendum passed with over 70% for.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a brief reply to this:

I hope I am not trolling.

You are certainly not trolling. In speaking to rz of "troll-baiting", Migeru meant provoking or attempting to provoke trollish behaviour - not that your behaviour was trollish.

As I said to you, you are welcome here.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:25:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the most telling incidents in the Irish referendum was McCreevy's "no sane person" would read this, underlining a popular sense of the Treaty as someone else's (the elite's?) document. This reaction seems to be shown in the Eurobaromter poll.

Not that McCreevy is "a sane person" in my opinion...

You make someone like him your Commissioner at your peril.

Though, reportedly, Cowen hadn't read the treaty either. Probably a side effect of the deliberate delay to publish a consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, so as to prevent any sane person actually reading it. The consolidated version won't win any prizes for literary merit, but it can be read.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 10:26:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just got back to this, and would like to start with the end of your comment:

I was under the impression, probably mistakenly, that European Tribune was about these kind of debates.

European Tribune is a community blog that is "about" what its members make of it, since any member (and you are a member, not a guest as you say below) can post an opinion, an article, as a "diary" - basically a blog post - using the "New Diary Entry" choice in the User Menu (centre top screen mouse-over, or upper right under your user name; see also New User Guide). If you want a discussion on a topic or an idea, posting a diary is the best way to start it. (This doesn't mean you were wrong to comment in this thread, of course).

Now it's possible to see from your comments a bit more where you're coming from, I'd say we'd agree on a number of things. (Complaints are frequent here about "security", terrism as a pretext, top-down opaque no-listening-to-citizens EU governance, to name but those.) Without picking up on the detail of the exchanges in this thread, what I'd be interested in is understanding your view of how the No votes might be the beginning of a political movement that could lead us to a bottom-up Europe. If you had time and felt it was worth your while, a diary on this would be welcome. There's no guarantee everyone would see things your way, but I'm pretty sure there'd be constructive debate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 11:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU and the political establishments it serves across Europe is no friend of liberty - the growing area of justice and policing cooperation provide ample evidence. Alain Lamassoure's idea for a universal ID card already fits the trend. All Europeans by the end of decade will have beneath their national passport covers EU biometics (requiring fingerprinting), part of a much wider security infrastructure.

All europeans have already a "European Health Insurance Card"

And a credit-card format (as opposed to paper) Driver's Licence

As you can see, the driver's licence has protection against forgery but it's not "biometric".

What would be so wrong with a European ID card, assuming it doesn't contain RFID chips like the new-format passports do?

Now, let me say that I am comfortable with ID cards because of habit (coming from Spain) but that I understand British opposition to introducing them. However, state-issued ID cards would solve the mess people have to go through to, say, open a bank account. A single, state-authenticated and forgery-proof document would suffice.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:09:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My beef with the health card is that the system does not work very well. I would agree with contributors you argue that greater portability of social or health security is a good thing.

I am not against ID documents per se. I am suspicious of the present climate surrounding and generating calls for new forms of ID document.

The ID discussion is sadly not about forgery proof documentation but is being used to redefine the realtionship between the state and individual in a negative way. That is my objection

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:25:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I'm just naive, but I feel more comfortable about the State having my personal data than about private companies (for instance, credit reporting agencies). At least the state is subject to democratic control.

Of course, the democratic control needs to be exercised and the current Labour government doesn't command enough trust for me to actually want them to have my data - and this is both on authoritarian instinct and on technical incompetence.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as  one of those UK people who has a problem with the ID cards, I don't have a problem with providing one to get services etc.  my problem is that random uniformed functionaries will be able to stop me and demand my id.  

I don't feel uncomfortable about the state having my data, in fact i feel it would be more worrying to think that the state didn't have my data. (although strangely comforting that they probably cant find it when they need it) A trely technicallly competent government would be a scary thing to behold.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:45:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should dig up the controversy in Spain when a law was passed a few years back allowing the police to stop anyone and demand their ID. Even though people are used to carrying their ID, the idea to have to identify yourself to the police or face detention until they're able to identify you wasn't popular at all.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:49:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Corporations can not lock you up and while they might exercise all sorts of unhealthy monopolies, it is the state, that legitimately or not, that has a monopoly on coercive violence.

The best control is not give the state data, such as fingerprints, as a matter of course. To limit the state's capacity to exercise its monopoly.

by Bruno Waterfield (brunowaterfield(at)gmail(dot)com) on Fri Jul 4th, 2008 at 05:47:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary and discussion.  For once, on this site, I'm really happy about being an American. With all our problems, at least we don't have yours.  Our massive immigration, as a source of division, pales in significance to the issues faced in attempting to unite peoples separated by culture and language continuously reinforced by national identity. First generation Americans speak wonderful English, often in addition to the language of their parents, and they don't want to "go back home." Sorry, couldn't resist. I do wish you well.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Jul 3rd, 2008 at 10:57:36 PM EST
Our massive immigration, as a source of division, pales in significance

If by ´massive immigration´ you are referring to the 3.7% (IIRC, 11 million from the South, into 300 million people) it sounds like an exaggeration of the word.  Spain is directly behind the US in the number of immigrants (about 10% of 44 million) and it´s the side of Colorado.  Considering immigration only a source of division really reflects the old, myopic, self-sufficient-enclosure attitude, that causes its own problem:

the issues faced in attempting to unite peoples separated by culture and language continuously reinforced by national identity.

Again it seems like the US talking in the mirror, but not seeing.

First generation Americans speak wonderful English,

or multiple generation ones, depending on the quality of their education and only if you define ´Americans´ as USians and some Canadians.

often in addition to the language of their parents, and they don't want to "go back home."

Other than Americans from the South, few enclaves maintain their parents´ language and if they are first generation USians, aren´t they "at home" already?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Sun Jul 13th, 2008 at 06:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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