Saturday 23 August 2014

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UK in Europe


British officials in Brussels and the UK’s policy leverage

Posted by on 29/07/14
By Gergely Polner The UK still holds a high number of senior civil servants in the EU, but their number is in decline. The foreign office should encourage young civil servants and graduates to work in Brussels.

30 July 1966, England beat Germany 4:2. It won’t happen again

Posted by on 27/07/14

The UK Government should be proactive in seeking reform of football if the national team is to have any real prospect of future success, argues Whitehouse Consultancy Chairman, Chris Whitehouse.

The United Kingdom’s Minister for Sport, Helen Grant, has come in for strong criticism on a leading UK political blog site for her “silence” on the crisis in English football.

Writing on Conservative Home, owned by former Tory donor, Lord Ashcroft, and edited by former Conservative MP, Paul Goodman, one of the site’s regular correspondents, Chris Whitehouse, criticises Conservative Minister, Helen Grant, for not speaking out more loudly on the need to ensure that there is a sufficiently large pool of talent from which to select the English team. He accuses the Minister of “tokenism” for focusing instead on the issue of women’s representation in the board rooms of the sport.

Whitehouse, who is a Conservative councillor (Newport West, Isle of Wight) and Chairman of leading lobbying agency, The Whitehouse Consultancy, writes ahead of the 30th July anniversary of England’s historic World Cup win against Germany in 1966 and says: “I want to see our Minister for Sports asking how soccer is going to reform its structures and systems to make success a possibility in future rather than just an increasingly distant memory from the past. Helen Grant must cease threatening to remove public grassroots funding for soccer if it doesn’t meet her tokenism targets and instead use her influence to secure grassroots investment and changes in the game’s approach.”

Reviewing the recent proposals from English Football’s Chairman, Greg Dyke, for reform in the sport, Cllr Whitehouse goes on to say: “A Minister who spoke up for the lower league fans and positively championed their issues whilst ensuring that the big problems are addressed, rather than just turning out for the occasional photo-shoot, could be popular. Many of these clubs are in smaller towns and on the fringes of larger cities in the Midlands and the North – just where we [the Conservative Party] need to win marginal seats if we are to have a chance of a Parliamentary victory next May. It’s time to speak up for the consumer, not the powerful clubs.”

“Greg Dyke sought to kick off an important debate” observes Whitehouse “Ministers should now run with the ball. If they do, then maybe the dismal memories of Brazil 2014 can be the precursor to a match in which our national game is the winner and our Party is seen to be interested in an area of national life which matters greatly to a huge, growing and passionate section of the population. In Government, we have possession of the ball, and such is a prerequisite to scoring. Are we to do nothing with it until after the final whistle of the General Election is blown?”

The full text of the article can be found here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of London’s leading public affairs agencies playing a key role in bringing the Olympic Games to London in 2012. Case study and testimonial from BOA.

Getting rid of ECHR: Good for Cameron, bad for the rest of Europe

Posted by on 20/07/14

As it is well known, David Cameron is ready to do everything in order to stay in Downing Street after next year’s general election. With his latest proposition, however, he sets new standards in terms of unreason and is directly threating Europe as value-based community at its very core.

Mr Cameron and his party intend to sideline the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by enabling the House of Commons to veto its verdicts. In this way the United Kingdom is basically riding itself from the judical surpremacy of the Strasbourg court, since such a mechanism is barly compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.

Inducing the Tories to such an unprecented move are the general backlashes of the court’s verdict onto British legislation. More immediately, however, the British government seeks to be able to expel convicted foreigners from its country.

Mr Cameron’s plan is widely criticised – even within his own party. Last week, two major opponents in his ranks, the liberal-minded Attorney General Dominic Grieve and fromer Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, lost their jobs in the Cabinet due to a comprehensive reshuffle by the Prime Minister. Although Downing Street is neglecting any link between their replacements and its ECHR plans, it can hardly be sold as an unhappy coincidence that his strongest and vocal opponents ,of all people, suddenly find themselves out of their jobs. According to reports, the party’s convention in October should clear the tracks for the endeavor.

It is the latest display of unreason that Mr Cameron hopes would help secure his re-election. And it, again, comes at a very high price.

The European Court of Human Rights has been established in the early 1950s as a supranational court, that monitors the compliance of the European Convention of Human Rights and imposes sanctions in case of violations. It was founded on the idea that the reading of human rights should not be subjected to the political arbitrariness in every single European country, but should follow common standards and subjected to the jurisdiction of an independent supranational body.

And that is exactly what the court has done ever since. In this month alone, the ECHR has passed its judgement on the controversial imprisonment of reporters in Turkey, on keeping defendants in cages during court proceedings in Russia and on the marriage ban for transsexuals in Finland.

47 European states have ratified the respective convention and thus subjected themselves to the jurisdiction of the ECHR. If the United Kingdom were to leave, as the Prime Minister obviously intends, it would join an exquisit club with Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship. Furthermore, observers on both sides of the Channel consider the recognition of the ECHR a requirement for EU membership. Britain’s sidelining could thus lead to its exit from the European Union which notoriously is not a frightening scenario among the Conservatives.

If Europe today is legitimatised to present itself as a champion of human rights, it is solely due to the European Convention of Human Rights and the Strasbourg court that guarantees for its compliance.

The European Union, on the other hand, is almost powerless with regard to the adherence of human rights. Yes, there is the Charter for Fundamental Rights that proclaims the values and freedoms of the Union and its citizens. But neither is the Charter legally binding for national legislation nor has each member state sign up to it. Poland and the UK have opted out. For countries like Hungary or Romania, it is does not make for a proper instrument to curb undemocratic developments.

For years, European politicians and jurists have been discussing legislation to create a legally binding instrument out of the Charte. Until now, they have not been able to come up with a tangible and feasible way to do so. Jean-Claude Juncker, President-elect of the European Commission, announced in his speech before the European Parliament that he intends to appoint a Commissioner of Fundamental Rights in his Commission. How such a Commissioner could do anything to improve the situation, has yet to be seen.

Today, the ECHR remains the sole guarantor for human rights in Europe. If the European Union by itself is not able to contribute to that task, it should at least support the ECHR at the very utmost. Consequently, there must be an unambiguous response to David Cameron’s intentions – if not for the sake of Britian’s future in Europe, then at least in order to avoid such intentions from catching on in other member states. Otherwise there is serious concern for human rights in Europe get subjected to political arbitrariness of single countries and for the idea of Europe as a community based on humanitarian values to remain nothing but a rhetoricial figure.

This peace first appeared on on July 19th (in German). Follow me on Twitter @brnshnwd

Halte aux idées reçues en matière d’immigration

Posted by on 17/07/14

Dans un rapport intitulé « Is what we hear about migration really true ? » édité par le sociologue et démographe Philippe Fargues, le Centre d’études des politiques migratoires de l’Institut universitaire européen de Florence revient sur huit stéréotypes faux qu’il importe de démonter préalablement à tout débat éclairé sur la question. Les politiciens qui exploitent ces préjugés à des fins électoralistes ou pour prôner une hypothétique fermeture totale des frontières seraient avisés de s’y référer.

 Huit stéréotypes à démonter pour établir un débat débarrassé de préjugés trompeurs

« Nous n’avons pas besoin des migrants ». Cette assertion est fausse, voire dangereuse, lorsque l’on considère le déclin démographique européen. En 2050, sans immigration supplémentaire, la population européenne aura décrue de 58 millions ! Or, comment avoir voix au chapitre des grandes puissances si la population est en déclin ? La population est également vieillissante, rendant les systèmes de retraite et l’Etat providence insoutenables à brève échéance (2030). L’immigration est donc une solution rapide et incontournable pour le maintien des systèmes sociaux et le développement économique.

« Les migrants volent nos emplois ». C’est une idée partagée par près de la moitié des citoyens de l’UE. Ce faux « bon sens » s’oppose à la rationalité du comportement des migrants : ceux-ci évitent généralement les pays avec un fort taux de chômage pour s’installer. On observe par conséquent une corrélation majoritairement négative entre l’immigration et le chômage après la crise de 2008. Un chômage élevé ne saurait donc être imputé à l’immigration sans tordre la réalité.

« Nous n’avons pas besoin d’immigrants peu qualifiés dans l’UE ». Si les Etats membres ont progressivement orienté leur politique migratoire vers les migrants qualifiés, il n’en demeure pas moins que l’économie européenne a besoin de migrants peu qualifiés, ne serait-ce que pour occuper des emplois peu prisés par les natifs. La réalité des Etats membres est toutefois hétérogène, selon la structure de l’économie et la main d’oeuvre recherchée pour y répondre.

« Les immigrés minent notre système social ». Les migrants sont accusés de profiter des allocations chômages, logement ou familiales. Ces dépenses sont néanmoins faibles pour les Etats, eu égard aux dépenses de santé ou de retraites. Or, les migrants sont souvent jeunes, actifs. Il en résulte que les immigrés sont des contributeurs nets aux comptes sociaux.

« Les immigrés entravent notre capacité d’innovation ». Empiriquement, il apparaît que les pays avec des politiques migratoires ouvertes à destination des immigrés qualifié ont de meilleures performances en matière d’innovation.

« Les côtes Méditerranéennes sont noyées sous le flot de demandeurs d’asile ». Contrairement à l’image médiatique, les réfugiés ne « débarquent » pas massivement sur les plages européennes. La majorité des flux est entre les pays du Sud. L’idée que l’Europe prenne une part aux conséquences des désastres et des guerres du monde est une obligation résultant de la Convention de Genève.

« Ceux qui immigrent pour des raisons économiques essaient de tromper notre système d’asile ». Cette idée est également fausse. Hormis des chiffres plus erratiques ces dernières années (pics en 2011 et 2013, creux prononcés en 2010 et 2012) liés à la conjoncture internationale, aucune arrivée massive n’est relevée. L’augmentation des risques de périr au cours du voyage (évalués à 3%) témoigne que ceux qui fuient leur pays cherchent davantage à fuir des persécutions qu’à gagner l’Europe uniquement pour des raisons économiques. Les migrants érythréens, nigérians, somalis, syriens ou afghans constituent désormais part conséquente des demandes d’asile, ce qui reflète les crises internationales davantage que les problèmes économiques dans ces pays.

« Nos enfants subissent la présence d’immigrés dans leur classe ». Là encore, le faux bon sens ne tient pas face à la réalité : ce n’est pas l’origine qui détermine le niveau scolaire, mais le niveau de ressources disponibles. Les moindres résultats scolaires constatés chez les enfants immigrés s’explique donc davantage par la situation socio-économique de leurs parents que par leur origine culturelle.

 Un document à mettre entre toutes les mains pour lutter contre des mythes de plus en plus diffusés

Si le document n’a pas toute la rigueur et la précision d’une étude scientifique approfondie, il permet de dissiper quelques malentendus par des données empiriques. Pour éviter que le climat délétère de racisme et de xénophobie ne se propage davantage, il est nécessaire d’agir sur notre perception de la réalité. En matière d’immigration particulièrement, il est impératif que chacun face le devoir citoyen de s’informer et de s’ouvrir plutôt que de se fier à un soit disant « bon sens ».

Emmanuel Buttin

Pour en savoir plus :

-       Page de présentation du rapport : [EN]

-       Le rapport : [EN]

Classé dans:IMMIGRATION, Politique d'intégration

What now for the UK and Europe?

Posted by on 13/07/14
by Vicky Pryce, chief Economic Advisor at the Centre for Economics and Business Research and former Joint Head of the Government’s Economic Service. /// Cameron’s decision to oppose Jean-Claude Juncker’s nomination to be the new head of the European Commission has been viewed with bemusement in some quarters and with disbelief in others. With bemusement [...]

Free press is essential to democracy

Posted by on 10/07/14

Whitehouse Consultancy Chairman, Chris Whitehouse, discusses the the implications for the United Kingdom’s media industry of the conviction for phone hacking of Andy Coulson, former media advisor to British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his latest article for The Universe magazine. He argues strongly in defence of a free press, but criticises state broadcaster the BBC for bias,

To read Chris’s article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

Anti-union & pro-union in Scotland: total confusion

Posted by on 06/07/14
By Kathleen Garnett With the Scottish vote for independence just a few short months away EU Perspectives examines the role-reversal effect this is having on some Conservative and UKIP politicians. A phenomena resembling a pantomime farce but which to all intents and purposes is masquerading as serious politics.

British Referendum on EU in 2017 could break the mould of UK politics

Posted by on 06/07/14
By Chris Whitehouse British citizens may well vote “no” to continued EU membership when offered a referendum. This would set in stone the great schism in the Conservative Party, leaving David Cameron - who will support membership in the end - and the pro-EU faction redundant and cast out into the political wilderness. That outcome smashes the mould of British politics for generations to come.

Demandeurs d’asile: hausse d’un tiers du nombre de réfugiés

Posted by on 01/07/14

À la veille du 20 juin, journée Mondiale des réfugiés, Eurostat a publié ses statistiques annuelles sur les demandes d’asile dans l’UE. En raison de la multiplication des guerres intra-étatiques et de crises davantage protéiformes (réchauffement climatique, crises sociales…), une nette hausse est constatée depuis 2010. Ainsi, le nombre de demande s’accroît encore de 100 000 en 2013 pour atteindre 435 000 (+ 30%). Ces demandes s’adressent principalement à l’Allemagne (127 000, soit plus que celles adressées aux États-Unis), la France (65 000), la Suède (54 000), le Royaume-Uni (54 000) et l’Italie (28 000).

 Dans ce cadre, les Etats membres ont accordé une protection à 135 700 demandeurs d’asile en 2013, en hausse de 17% par rapport à 2012 (116 200). 47% des personnes ont obtenu le statut de réfugié (correspondant à une personne craignant d’être persécutée du fait de sa race, de sa nationalité, de sa religion ou de ses opinions politiques, sans pouvoir se prévaloir de la protection de son pays), 37% une protection subsidiaire (personnes pour lesquelles il y a un motif sérieux et avéré de croire que, renvoyée dans son pays, elle subira des atteintes graves) et 15% une autorisation de séjour pour des raisons humanitaires (par exemple pour les mineurs non accompagnés ou les personnes ne pouvant être éloignées pour raison de santé).

 Le taux de reconnaissance (qui correspond à la part des décisions positives dans le nombre total de décisions) est donc d’environ un tiers en 2013, comme en 2012. La Suède, l’Allemagne, la France, l’Italie et le Royaume-Uni ont accueilli des 70% réfugiés en 2013 (avec respectivement 26 400, 26 100, 16 200, 14 500 et 13 400). Le taux de reconnaissance en première instance varie toutefois radicalement entre les Etats membres. Ainsi, si les Pays-Bas octroient une protection dans 61% des cas, ce taux tombe à 17% en France et même 4% en Grèce, donnant l’impression d’une « loterie » de l’asile, en fonction de l’Etat d’arrivée.

 Comme en 2012, les syriens constituent le principal contingent de réfugiés dans l’UE (26% des demandeurs). Ils se sont tournés à 60% vers la Suède et l’Allemagne. Il faut noter que l’Europe n’apparaît pas spécialement ouverte : parmi les 2,8 millions de réfugiés syriens, l’UE n’en a accueilli que 18 500 en 2013. Les afghans représentent le second groupe (16 400, 12% des réfugiés) ; ils se sont notamment tournés vers l’Allemagne, l’Autriche et la Suède. Enfin, les somaliens sont troisièmes (9 700, 7%). La provenance des demandeurs diffèrent entre les Etats membres : si la Belgique ou l’Allemagne s’inscrivent dans cette moyenne, la France ou le Royaume-Uni diffèrent fondamentalement en plaçant respectivement la Russie et l’Iran en tête.

 Pour garantir le respect des droits de ces réfugiés face à ces données exponentielles mais divergentes entre Etats membres, le Parlement européen a adopté en 2013 un nouveau régime d’asile européen commun (Paquet Asile). Centré sur les conditions d’accueil et de vie des demandeurs d’asile, ce régime tend à mettre en oeuvre des délais communs pour le traitement des demandes d’asile, à interdire le transfert vers d’autres Etats membres incapables de garantir les conditions de vie (conformément à la jurisprudence Cour EDH, 21 janvier 2011, M.S.S. c. Belgique et Grèce), à fixer des normes de formation des personnels, à harmoniser les règles en matière de logement, d’allocation de subsistance et de santé et à mieux protéger les mineurs (présomption de minorité en cas de doutes sur l’âge ; représentant légal désigné pour les accompagner).

 Si ces chiffres paraissent modestes au regard des 40 millions de réfugiés recensés en 2013, il faut toutefois noter que l’Union intervient de plus en plus en soutien direct aux pays d’accueil. Dans le cas de la crise syrienne par exemple, cette aide s’est matérialisée au Liban par un soutien concret et massif (2,8Mds€) aux zones touchées par l’afflux de réfugiés (infrastructures, amélioration des moyens de subsistance, enseignement scolaire, santé).


Emmanuel Buttin


Pour en savoir plus :

       -. Communiqué de presse d’Eurostat :

      -. Document de la Commission sur le régime commun d’asile :

      -. Notre article en 2013 :

      -. La réponse de l’UE à la crise Syrienne au Liban :


Classé dans:conditions d'accueil des réfugié_s, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX

UNBELIEVABLE INCOMPETENCE EUROPEAN SCHOOLS HAVE MESSED UP BAC 2014, same exam, same inspector, same subject, different year

Posted by on 01/07/14

eeb1.com_fichiers_news_fichiers1_1679_2014-06-LD-34 BACC 2014 CHEMISTRY

VP Sefcovic made some commitments to the European Parliament. He said in 2013 ”Concerning European Baccalaureate 2012 exams, the Commission regrets the problems encountered at the mathematics and chemistry exams. The Commission requested a detailed report from the Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools which was prepared by independent external experts. A number of recommendations were made that will be followed-up closely in order to avoid similar problems in the future.”

Mr Kivinen the Secretary General should be querying his position now 

I have previously told you that for Chemistry no such independent external expert report was prepared, the report is here RIES report i queried whether the Commission had mislead Parliament.

What were the recommendations he refers to?

what was the close follow-up and by whom?

in the light of this how did it happen again?

I expect MEPs will want to here from the Commission yet again.

the latest disastrous news from the school is at the top of this post.

Will the EURSC now admit its fundamental problems

Will the Member States and the Commission now recognise the harm being done to pupils?

Will the Member States and the Commission now redress the lack of any appeal rights or legal accountability of the EURSC

Will EURSC become subject to EU law, instead of being anarchic?


in shock at latest snafu?

oops they did it again!


Interesse der EU

Posted by on 30/06/14

Es ist ganz einfach im Interesse der EU, dass Großbritannien nicht isoliert wird, denn die Briten könnten sonst aus innenpolitischen Gründen fast gezwungen sein, den Weg aus der EU zu nehmen. Genau das droht ja jetzt, wenn sie spätestens 2017 – so hat Cameron angekündigt – ein Referendum über Verbleib oder Austritt aus der EU haben werden. Und wenn Cameron bis dahin nicht vermitteln kann in Großbritannien, dass es von Vorteil ist für das Land, in der EU zu verbleiben, dann werden sie wohl gehen. Und eine EU ohne Großbritannien ist schlechterdings schwer vorstellbar…

Es gibt diese Stimmen (in Europa, die sagen: Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende), und es gibt sie auch in den letzten Jahren immer mehr. Und es wird dann da hinzugefügt: Im Grunde braucht die EU Großbritannien weniger als umgekehrt. Aber andererseits: Es ist ein gewichtiges Mitglied, wenn auch nicht Gründungsmitglied, aber man möchte es nicht verlieren – ein Land mit diesem außen- und verteidigungspolitischen Schwergewicht, letztendlich auch mit besten Beziehungen, speziellen Beziehungen zu den USA. Und dann kommt ja hinzu: Den Finanzplatz London außerhalb der EU dann zu haben, auch außerhalb der Regulierungsversuche der EU – Stichwort zum Beispiel: Begrenzung der Boni, die über die EU gelaufen sind – das ist nichts, was unbedingt positiv sein kann.

Juncker’s nomination marks a new era: Thank you, David Cameron!

Posted by on 29/06/14

With Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union got its first elected major offical. Voter’s will has eventually prevailed over backroom-ism in Brussel, ushering a new era in the unification of Europe. The debate on his nomination in previous weeks turned into an unprecendented common display of democratic will, that might have ultimately sealed this turning point. That expression could quite easily not have taken place, if it wasn’t for one man: Prime Minister David Cameron.

Maybe there has been such a broad discussion on the state of the European democracy in the past. Maybe there has also been a Greek left-wing populist and horror of all conservatives that unyieldingly stood up for Luxembourger christian democrat. Maybe. Anyhow, I (aged 28) have not experienced anything like that before.

The debate with Mr Juncker’s nomination at last would not have been that long, that popular and that intense, if it wasn’t for the constant attacks by the British Prime minister, that turned the debate from “Pro-Juncker vs. Contra-Juncker” quickly into “Juncker vs. Cameron” – a referendum that in contitental Europe is easy to win, even for people less sympathetic than Jean-Claude Juncker.

Furthermore, Mr Cameron unvolontarily helped his opponent to avoid hard efforts at persuasion in the European Parliament with potentially major concessions to other parties that would have hiddered his work as President of the Commission. Without the verbal attacks from London, Mr Juncker would have had way more difficulties to get a majority for his presidency in the EP.

Mr Juncker on the other hand acted very clever in all this, doing the single best thing to do in such circumstances: basically nothing. He barely appeared in public or raised his voice, sticking with the old wisdom that if you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.

All he had to do was to lean back and watch a solid majority forming behind him in the face of Mr Cameron’s uncompromising attitude accompanied by numerous insipidnesses by the Britsh Yellow Press. As of today, he can at least count on the support by his own party, the Socialists and Liberals – a sufficient majority that easily secures his election in the Parliament on July 16th.

But what was it that made David Cameron following this counterproductive strategy? Ever since the election on May 25th, the Prime Minister basically had only one ally in this fight, namely his Hungarian equivalent, Viktor Orban. Other sceptics in the European Council like Sweden’s Frederik Reinfeldt and the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte were not such in doubt of Mr Juncker or his credentials as President of the Commission as they were about the new process and the associated power shift among European institutions. But even including these supposed allies it must have been obvious to everybody in Downing Street that they are engaging in a fight, they can barely win.

If, in the face of his inevitable defeat, David Cameron had approached Mr Juncker and his fellowship, he could have gained major concessions for waiving his resistance, namely for his reform efforts or even an influential post in the new Commission.

The fact that he refused to do exactly that and headed for confrontation until the very last minute, even threatening with Brexit and contemplating legal measures, makes plainfully obvious that Mr Cameron in this fight had other things in mind than the future of the European Union or Britian’s role in it.

Mr Cameron lifted his political infights on the domestic front, in his country as well as in his party, up to the European level. He will b up for re-election in 2015 and his vision of Britian’s future in the EU will play a major role in that effort. By fundamentally opposing Mr Juncker, David Cameron hopes for a boost of his popularity and credibility.

If he is able to succeed in these matters, has yet to be seen. The price for all that, however, is extremely high: Today, his country is probably more isolated in the European Union than hardly ever before. He has lost his main partner for EU reform, the German Chancellor. Jean-Claude Juncker, a federalist, becomes President of the Commission. But most of all, Europe has grown to like the sweet taste of a common democracy. It will come to thank David Cameron for his contributions at some point.

This piece first appeared on on June 28th (in German). Follow me on Twitter @brnshnwd

The Conservative Party’s trouble with a new reality

Posted by on 26/06/14
By Kathleen Garnett David Cameron has made it his personal mission to ensure that Jean-Claude Juncker will not become the next Commission President. Yet, if Cameron’s aim was to ensure Juncker never sets foot in the Commission President’s office he has gone about it in the worst way possible. EU Perspectives has already described Cameron as deluded. To that list must now be added inept and incompetent.

New Crisis at European Schools? Rumours are that the Baccalaureate exam mess of 2012 has been repeated.

Posted by on 26/06/14

The European Schools (EURSC) administration appear to surpass themselves yet again.

Having botched the Baccalaureate in 2012, and since then having seen all sorts of commitments to put things right one might expect that things can only get better.

Rumour has it that the 2014 BAC has suffered a fate even worse than that in 2012.

Most likely this is a direct result of the EURSC being an anarchic body, not subject to any normal legal oversight. Amazing though it might be it is not subject to the TFEU or European Law

Watch this space.

Much ado about nothing

Posted by on 03/06/14

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so the old saying goes. Yet, judging by much of the hysteria since the Parliamentary elections last week many would have us believe that the EU is in urgent need of fixing. EU Perspectives is going to stick its neck out and propose that, contrary to what every analyst the length and breadth of the European continent is proposing, the EU is not broken and it does not need fixing. What the EU does urgently require in the coming weeks, months and years ahead are cool heads on strong soldiers, the debunking of the Farage, Le Pen myth and much, much better national reporting of EU affairs.

Kathleen Garnett

Since the results of the Parliamentary elections were announced last week everyone from Francois Hollande to David Cameron, from Tony Bair to Jean-Claud Juncker, from The Economist to The Guardian – you name the man or the rag – is repeating the same mantra over and over again: the EU needs to be reformed. Like the sheep on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” who bleat Napoleon the Pig’s prescribed refrain “four legs good, two legs bad”, every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be of the opinion that the EU is in urgent need of reform. Reform or die. Reform of face melt down. Reform or see the EU collapse. Reform and the EU may just be able to live to see another day.

Yet how to fix the EU seems to beyond the wit and wherewithal of most who shout the loudest for change. That is because were they to stop and think about it there is nothing much that requires urgent action. The calls for reform are more of a knee-jerk reaction to anti-establishment fringe parties than because there is a rational need to unravel the existing structure and start all over again.

The EU’s core policies – be it agriculture, finance, competition, fisheries or the internal market are constantly being reformed anyway.  What many fail to conceptualise  is that the EU is not a static organisation that stopped for tea at three o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, 25th March, 1957. It’s policies – be they agriculture, immigration, customs, trade or infrastructure are in a constant state of flux. There are in-built mechanisms which ensure that the EU’s core policies are reformed, altered, streamlined or repealed to take account of changing circumstances. Today’s Common Agricultural Policy is by no means the same beast it was in the 1950’s. European digitisation has only been able to keep pace because regulations are in place to try and keep up with technological changes. The common fisheries policy is a creature of Europe’s concerns regarding fishermen’s livelihoods and sustainable fish-stocks, not the policies of the 1970’s where everyone could happily fish the seas to oblivion. Legislation on air pollution, waste management, polluted rivers are regularly updated to take account of changing circumstances.

So if not the polices then what? The Treaties? A far trickier issue altogether. To recall, the current Treaties were negotiated not so long ago. It took years of hard bargaining, negotiations and late-night deals to flesh out the existing Treaties. Do the Heads of States really have the stomach to start that all over again just to please a doomed British Prime Minister or French President? Hardly. As Angela Merkel, quite clearly spelt out, in Westminster no less, those who are looking to the German Head of State to help redesign the European architecture are, “… in for a disappointment.”

Germany has no interest what so ever in renegotiating the Treaties. A few concessions may be tossed here and there to placate the uppity toddlers but there really is nothing left to bargain for other than perhaps the complete withdrawal of the UK from the EU. There is no middle ground for Cameron to cling onto no matter how much he tries to convince himself there is.

Which brings us to the central point of this piece which is that, all things considered, the EU is doing as good a job as can be expected given the economic crisis it has been shackled with. Once the clouds of economic doom finally begin to lift the EU is actually pretty well placed to forge ahead and create a sustainable economy for the benefit of all and not an economy of the elites.

Consider the following points by way of example. Regardless of what national doomsayers would have had us believe in the past few years the Euro has not disintegrated. It has not collapsed. It is not dead in the dust. In fact, having survived the Greek crisis, it is possibly stronger than ever before. Greece has not left the EU in spite of the austerity measures imposed upon it. Nor has Spain, Portugal, Ireland or Cyprus for that matter precisely because they know better than Farage, Marine Le Pen or Grillo they are much better in than out.

A much needed Banking Union to help prevent the mistakes of the past is close to completion. Regulations on banker’s bonuses are being negotiated. The much despised and detested data roaming charges are about to be abolished, British pensioners can retire to the sun in either France or Italy and French and Italian Chefs can work or find fame in London. In short the EU has dared to tackle all the issues that aggrieve and irritate voters. Politicians such as David Cameron and Nick Clegg, on the other hand, have singularly failed to address any of these matters during their time in office.

The EU is ticking along and doing exactly what it has been designed to do – encourage cross-border trade, regulate cross-border malpractices and support the rule of law. The EU does not need reform. It is failing politicians who need the EU to reform to save their necks.

As argued elsewhere on EU Perspectives the EU is an organic constitution with it’s roots deeply embedded in the soil. Farage and Le Pen will soon discover that the EU is much harder to uproot than they think. Right-minded politicians, rather than showing fear of the loud-mouth bullies whose only agenda is to block rather than propose positive change, need to stare them down and point out their flawed arguments.

Angela Merkel’s party won a decisive victory in no small part for her handling of the financial crisis and the many challenges the EU has faced in recent years. She is the archetypal cool head on strong soldiers that the EU is lucky to have at this moment in time. For exactly the same reason Christine Lagarde would be an excellent Commission President. She has no political affiliations, is doing an excellent job at calming ruffled feathers in the IMF after the Dominique Straus Kahn debacle and looks like an expert at pointing out Farage’s defective logic.

The other critical change the EU must somehow try and correct is the biased reporting of EU affairs in the national media. So long as the national media present a skewered view of what is happening in Brussels it will be game, set and match to the eurosceptics who are adept at flagging half-truths and fears.

How to persuade editors of national rags to do just that when it is so much easier to lambast the EU rather than offer balanced impartial reporting of good stories alongside the bad is anyone’s guess. Answers on a postcard.