Friday 27 February 2015

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Circular Economy package officially dead

Posted by on 25/02/15

The College of Commissioners today (25 February) adopted the executive’s 2015 work programme at their meeting in Brussels, signalling the end of the Circular Economy package of waste, incineration and recycling laws.

The package will be withdrawn and resubmitted later this year, despite protests from the European Parliament and EU environment ministers.

Although long-expected, the decision will spark criticism of what campaigners argue is a far too pro-business agenda being prosecuted by the Juncker Commission.

Especially as the Circular Economy package was on a “kill list” of pending legislation sent to the executive by trade association BusinessEurope (read our exclusive story from November last year).

The bill was targeted by Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, as part of the executive’s drive for ‘better regulation’.

The College adopted a formal decision to withdraw the package and another 72 laws, according to sources. The Council and European Parliament will be informed, Heard in Europe was told.

Friends of the Earth Europe director Magda Stoczkiewicz said, “It is unacceptable that despite support for the Circular Economy package from businesses, a majority of MEPs and environment ministers, the European Commission has gone ahead and axed it.

“Changes could have been made to strengthen the Circular Economy proposal without scrapping everything and starting over – this only delays the action urgently needed.”

Danish Socialist MEP Magrete Auken said, “What a sad day for Europe. The fight for a sustainable future will be much tougher now.”

You can catch up with EurActiv’s coverage of the Circular Economy debate here.

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Partij van de Arbeid.

“EU Constitution belongs to citizen” – Andrew Duff

Posted by on 25/02/15

 

Prior to the 2014 elections the EU’s leading federalist and constitution specialist, Andrew Duff, oversaw the writing and drafting of the Fundamental Law Treaty to amend the Lisbon Treaty. The aim is for the EU to form a federal government to help it function more efficiently and eliminate many of the problems the EU has been encountering. The recent crisis’s have threatened the EU edifices, which were launched to help European citizens achieve greater prosperity.

Andrew Duff, is currently helping to prompt the initiation of an intergovernmental conference, which is the first official step for a treaty revision. His latest book, “Penelope, Pandora and Polity: How to Save the European Union, details the need for a federal government for the EU to overcome its structural problems. He is currently speaking throughout the EU to educate EU citizens on his proposals.

EU architect’s like Andrew Duff aim for a Europe that is united similar to a United States of Europe. According to EU critics, men like Andrew Duff are faceless bureaucrats out of touch with the citizens of the European Union. This is not the case with Andrew Duff. He makes continuous efforts to draw close to the citizen.  In his books he invites EU citizens to his twitter account to comment on his proposals.  Andrew Duff also contributes to several blog sites and writes letters to the editor, which is unheard of from a man who is lumped in with the political elite. Andrew Duff even appeared in the comment section of an article correcting the journalist who wrote it.

In one particular interview, Andrew Duff was questioned by a youth who suffered a disability from Speak Up, an award winning charity for the disabled. According to Speak Up’s website, Andrew Duff stopped in to see them.

Andrew Duff is helping write the EU’s future and while pressing for the initiation of the Fundamental Law he makes every attempt to get as close to the people as possible.  This is reflected in his affirmation that “the Constitution belongs to the citizen.” Andrew Duff’s actions mirror his words.

While this interview provides a view into the EU’s move forward, and takes an in-depth look at the Fundamental Law, while getting a glimpse into the mind of the man who wrote it, we see Mr. Duff’s emphasis on the preeminent Member State within the EU and the role of the citizen.

Erika Grey

Europa lists seven Treaties and one act that make up the European Union, but you list many more in your book on Pandora, Penelope and Polity, How to Change the European Union.  How many actual Treaties make up the Union and how many Acts?

ANDREW DUFF

The Treaties process- the founding Treaties, which go back to the Treaty in Paris in 1951 and all those things that have happened throughout that period, comprise a corpus of constitutional law, which is the statute of the European Union.

The pile of these Treaties- when you pile them up on a table, is very tall and very heavy.  The drafting hasn’t always been very good.  In fact [it has] frequently been drafted so that the outcomes and figutes have sort of disguised the purpose of changing the Treaties- the [Member] States have clouded in ambiguity- when they drafted these things.

It is not a surprise that the public is uncertain as to their meaning. It’s very difficult. It is very hard to oblige the citizen to be interested in constitutional law. The American people think they have this great thing the constitution, but they’ve never read it. They have no idea how much its grown with amendment after amendment and how complex it is has become…this idea that it is a simple concise clear thing like the Magna Carta for instance.

Erika Grey

I have certain questions regarding the Fundamental Law. The Member States play a significant role in the EU’s political evolution and have derailed its momentum and progress at times, does this change with the Fundamental Law?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes, the Fundamental Law displays or it illustrates what a federal union would be like. The States are still there.  They still play and important part especially as the component of the second chamber of the legislature- in critical issues of global strategy for instance the Ukrainian crisis. The States and especially the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the larger States have a important part to play in such a global crisis. But, they aren’t in the federal prospectus that I’ve put forward. As it were the masters of the Treaties; the Treaties become a Constitution and the Constitution belongs to the citizen, which has popular sovereignty- to own the Treaty construct, which at present it does not. It’s not up to lawyers and diplomats. We want to bring the exercise closer to the people so that there is a sense of identity with the government of the union that at present people just don’t have.

Erika Grey

I want to ask you some questions about what I see as inconsistencies in the Fundamental Law. The Fundamental Law or “the Law of the Union.” reclassifies Member States as States and its aim is to establish full-fledged Federal Union. Yet, in several areas it reverts back to the nation state having preeminence such as in the UN.

Article 414, it states:

States which are also members of the United Nations Security Council will concert and keep the other States and the Foreign Minister fully informed. States which are members of the Security Council will in the execution of their functions, defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Once the Fundamental Law establishes the EU as a United States of Europe and it is a federal union, wouldn’t the States that hold seats in the Security Council cease to exist as sovereign nations and have to withdraw from the Security Council, such as West Germany, Czechoslovakia? The follow up question to that is, once the Fundamental Law is established and the EU achieves political union wouldn’t the federalized EU need to submit a new application to the UN and apply as a member because it will be an actual government for the people?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes, I think that one’s not to preempt or preclude from anything happening in the years to come. The problem in the present treaties is it is very prohibited to what you can’t do, what you mustn’t do.

What I want to do is to create a treaty- constitutional treaty -that is more permissive that will permit the development of a common foreign security and defense policy in its time and as circumstances permit.

If I had sought at this stage to prescribe the abolition of the permanent seats of France and the UK in the Security Council of the UN- in the absence of any larger reform of the UN, incidentally, which is a different issue but an associated one- I think that would have been considered to be rather absurd. One has to be pragmatic.  One can have aspirations.  One can have clear objectives, but I think that in the means to achieve a common international policy, one has to recognize it’s going to take time. It’s going to take process.  There is going to be a process of integration as simulation of building trust between the States of the EU in each other’s diplomacy-sharing intelligence’s-but treatment is a very sensitive issue.

Erika Grey

Yes, it’s very delicate, and to try to balance that as well.

ANDREW DUFF

So one I think can’t be too naive about this.

Erika Grey

So that was deliberate then, that was deliberate to not take that step because that would be too offensive?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes.

 

For more from Andrew Duff follow him on twitter @AndrewDuffEU, and be sure to purchase a copy of his book. Penelope, Pandora and Polity: How To Change The European Union. Also be on the lookout for the next interview in this series, which continues to take a deep look into the Fundamental Law and Europe’s move forward.

 

Journalists on the lookout for data tools

Posted by on 25/02/15

“Don’t ask what you can do for data”…

People gathering at the News Impact Summit Brussels on Tuesday (24 February) were wondering what new tools and approaches exist to innovate in today’s EU affairs media landscape.

EU Community was invited to present their approach: how can data work to our benefit, increasing our day-to-day understanding of EU policy-making?

EU Community is building applications on top of the EU’s open data sources and all kinds of other data flying around, we told the audience: “It’s combining data analytics with crowdsourcing tools and user input, to make sense of the day-to-day EU affairs process.”

A lot of people working in EU affairs – whether they’re a journalist, lobbyist, politician or citizen – still get lost in the big pile of data and information.

The EU institutions, hacktivists, transparency activists and many others have helped to open up EU data over the past years. The datasets are out there: here, here, here or here.

This data has the potential to change the public debate on the European Union, making it more evidence-based, accurate, relevant and efficient. It can contain answers to the questions policy-makers are asking themselves, EU professionals are putting on the table and European society as a whole is looking to solve.

EU Community is working to pioneer this field. We aim to develop the tools that will allow EU experts to connect the dots.

Perhaps it can inspire answers – and new questions - for the next News Impact Summit?

~

You can have a look at the Twitter conversation that happened during the event, here.

The event’s agenda is to be found here.

We’ll follow up soon with more information and links to the conference’s presentations and ideas.

The United States of America Questions the Credibility of the European Union

Posted by on 25/02/15
By Andrew Duff If you are American you do not have to be Senator John McCain, who wants to arm the Ukrainians, to question the validity of Europe’s fond belief that reliance on soft power fits the bill for the 21st century.

#Media4EU: Who on High Level Group on healthy EU Media sector?

Posted by on 24/02/15
Last month, Fondation EurActiv released its ‘Yellow Overview’ with 6 recommendations for independent and sustainable media in Europe at an event gathering 120+ policy-makers, stakeholders and media representatives in the European Parliament. (You can read more on this here and here, and in my previous #Media4EU blog posts.) Call for a High Level Group for a [...]

Betting on Brexit

Posted by on 24/02/15

Think the UK is leaving the EU? Wanna bet? Well, from Thursday, you can.

Ladbrokes will start taking bets on the UK leaving the EU, giving Eurosceptics and Europhiles alike the chance to put their money where their mouth is. The company is already taking bets on the date of the referendum.

The current favourite, with odds of 4/6 is no referendum before 2018.

David Cameron’s preferred choice, 2017 gives you odds of 7/4.

But, if you fancy real bang for your buck a 2015 referendum is 25/1.

Open Europe and Ladbrokes will be hosting a launch party for the new market in London this week, if you fancy a flutter.

 

Photograph courtesy of Mikey. Published under a Creative Commons license.

 

Colloque sur la pratique de la subsidiarité et l’économie circulaire

Posted by on 24/02/15
La Maison de l’Europe de Brest – Centre d’information Europe Direct Bretagne Ouest organise à Brest Business School, à Brest, le jeudi 26 février 2015 de 8h30 à 12h30, un colloque ayant pour intitulé :”L’Europe des territoires : la subsidiarité au service du développement local.
L’économie circulaire, un levier du dynamisme économique territorial.”

Cet événement est placé sous la présidence de Monsieur Henri Malosse, Président du Comité Économique et Social Européen, et sous le haut patronage de Monsieur Harlem Désir, Secrétaire d’État chargé des Affaires européennes.

Au cours de deux tables rondes, les axes de réflexion suivants seront développés :

Table ronde n°1 – La stratégie Europe 2020, facteur de développement pour les territoires.

Table ronde n° 2 – L’économie circulaire, un levier du dynamisme économique des territoires.

Pour aller plus loin :

La  subsidiarité peut être entendue comme la résolution des problèmes au niveau le plus proche des personnes concernées (citoyens, salariés, élus locaux,…). Cela vaut pour la gouvernance politique (décentralisation) comme pour celle de l’entreprise et des organisations en général.

L’adaptation au contexte et à l’environnement est, pour les acteurs de terrain dans le monde globalisé et européanisé, nécessaire comme l’est la prise en compte de particularismes locaux.

Dans cette double perspective, la stratégie Europe 2020 pose le cadre d’une économie et d’une croissance intelligente (enseignement, formation, utilisation informatique et numérique), inclusive (visant à ramener vers le monde du travail des personnes éloignées par la formation et l’inclusion sociale) et durable (environnement, biodiversité, développement durable) réalisée par les échelons de la subsidiarité : l’État, la région, les métropoles et les communautés locales.

Dans la perspective de la stratégie Europe 2020, l’économie circulaire constitue une source d’innovation, un formidable potentiel de croissance durable et de développement. Elle vise quant à elle à introduire de nouvelles pratiques économiques mobilisant un grand nombre d’acteurs.

L’Union européenne, comme les territoires, est concernée à un haut niveau par ces questions. L’objet de ce colloque consiste à permettre un ensemble d’échanges sur ces thèmes qui peuvent paraître très théoriques mais qui sont en réalité très concrets. Une occasion également de présenter des expériences régionales ainsi que les financements européens s’y afférant.

Le Comité Économique et Social Européen (CESE) apporte son expertise sur ces éléments.

 

 

MyN Project Meeting in Aalborg

Posted by on 24/02/15

The 8th MyN Project Meeting is taking place today and tomorrow in Aalborg, Denmark.

The pilots are now presenting their activities.

Technology: boosting the impact of news

Posted by on 22/02/15
Guest blogpost by Wilfried Ruetten, director of the European Journalism Centre, ahead of the News Impact Summit Brussels discussing new tools and approaches to cover the European Union. It is the business of journalism to generate and distribute relevant information, and its future depends on how well we manage to launch new journalistic products and [...]

Why Germany’s identity will define the future of Europe

Posted by on 22/02/15
By Rebecca Harding, CEO of Delta Economics Germany holds the answer to Kissinger’s question: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?” It needs - metaphorically - to pick up the phone.

#Greece: What has not been said so far during latest Eurogroups

Posted by on 22/02/15

One step before reaching an agreement (?) on Greece’s bailout program, the government dispatched today the revised proposal including the extension of the current loan agreement for the next six (6) months, while introducing a moratorium in the implementation of new austerity measures suggested by troika last November. Meanwhile, the ECB decided yesterday to extend liquidity from ELA to the Greek banks, thus securing the proper function of the banking system. The Greek government and PM Tsipras want time to shift negative prospects of the economy and come back at the end of summer 2015 with entirely new facts regarding public finance performance and negotiate over a broader plan with the creditors. So far, there has been some key macroeconomic data released by IMF and OECD that confute a number of myths with regards to the Greek economy and policy-making these last years.

Figure No. 1: General Government Revenue

Since 2013, the IMF has been officially eloquent in the “wrongdoings” over the Greek bailout programs. In this respect, a number of key facts unveil such anomalies of domestic economy in comparison with the previous years on a 4-year round basis. In this respect,  the above figure shows that the general government revenue has not changed dramatically between 1992-2009, before the Greek government resorted to the IMF and sought for the first bailout program few months later.

Certainly, the consecutive austerity measures have increased public income since 2010, therefore it is at least incomprehensible the fact that previous governments were arguing on income gaps in budget plans until 2013, when primary surplus was achieved. Between 2010-13, budget gaps were persistent, whereas in 2014 the government unveiled a primary surplus that has been deconstructed in practice, meaning that it had no impact on real economic performance. Overall, between 2010-14, the governments did achieve to increase public income, but did not achieve to address tax evasion. In the meantime, this increase stemmed from lower and medium incomes, and not from highest incomes that could re-balance the relation between income – tax (i.e. lowest incomes pay lower taxes – highest incomes pay highest taxes).

Fact: Greece had not had major income burdens that could justify a huge public deficit, and thus a bailout program. Budget loopholes were manageable, and if they were not, it was a matter of political decisiveness and commitment to combat tax evasion and increase public income without imposition of austerity measures.

 

Figure No. 2: Average Reforms Pay-Off

Greece has performed better than any other Eurozone member-state between 2007-14. In other words,  and given the special circumstances of the Greek economy, the average reforms pay-off in Greece is extremely positive comparing to other Eurozone and OECD members-states. Nonetheless, these reforms did not bring neither a more productive and efficient bureaucracy, nor economic recovery and gradual development. Trust in domestic market was extremely weak, thus impeding investments.

Fact: Impeccable reforms pay-off  was never translated into structural economic developments that could turn domestic market and public finances viable and competitive. It was, again, a matter of political decisiveness and commitment to secure domestic markets against turmoils and capitalize reform packages.


Figure No. 3: Ease for Massive Layoffs

 

The above figure of OECD proves that since 2010, requirements of bailout programs and austerity prerequisites have turned labor market completely distorted. This was actually the major consequence of austerity, proving also the ease of the previous governments to resort to massive layoffs in order to lower public spending rather than build on combating against broad tax evasion and equalize public income in a more just, fair and democratic manner. Here lies the so-called political cost that previous governments assumed, but without achieving to turn it into their benefit due to the lack of concrete growth policies.

Fact: Layoffs increased immensely and ended up to the creation of sky-rocketed unemployment.

 

Concluding Remarks

The Greek government is going to use these facts in the coming Eurogroup (or European Council Summit) in order to prove that Greece is in that appalling state of humanitarian crisis because the political decisions of the previous years, coupled with excessive austerity measures, have created a toxic mixture of economic incapacity. The 6-month extension proposal of the current bailout program that would guarantee liquidity along with ECB’s ELA, but without the implementation of new austerity measures, could give time to PM Tsipras to prove that the Greek economy can move again in equal terms with social, human, and labor development. In this respect, and as Germany’s Minister of Finance Schäuble stated yesterday, the problem is not soaring Greek economy, but how Greek economy can stand alone on its feet.

Therefore, Greece’s gradual economic revival is a political issue, not an economic or technical one.

 

To contact the author Dimitris Rapidis

Email:  d.rapidis at bridgingeurope.net

Twitter: @rapidis

 

 

An EU Federalist Out of the Closet- Interview with Andrew Duff

Posted by on 22/02/15

Federalism has become such a dirty word in EU politics, and federalists are accused of so many evils that some EU’s federalists are now hiding in the closet and will not freely admit their affiliation. The nationalists view the Federalists as the bad boys of EU politics who are trying to turn the EU into a United States of Europe while the federalists view the nationalists as a hindrance to the European project.

Federalists believe that deepening European integration is the direction to build the EU, which best benefits the citizens of Europe and gives Europe as a whole a strong voice on the world stage.  The federalists are the builders of a federal united Europe and the nationalists want to tear the building down to a loose confederation. Nationalists want economic union but no coordination of any other policies.

Federalists are the mud of choice for certain experts who accuse them of being sinister, dark, faceless bureaucrats who are attempting to build a United States of Europe in violation of the citizen, democracy and the sovereignty of the nation state. They have even become fodder for conspiracy theorists.   Federalists do want to build a United States of Europe because they believe that only in unity will Europe have prosperity and protection from the world’s ills. Contrary to being accused of being non-democratic, federalists want to ensure their union is democratic and for the citizen.  Part of the problem is that many have failed to recognize that “democratic” just like “federalism” has come to encompass a varied interpretation in the political vernacular.

While the nationalists have their national pride, and proudly defend their nation, federalists as Andrew Duff alluded hide in the closet. Federalism is such a negative word in EU politics that leading federalists deny being federalists.

Since Federalism is both misunderstood and reviled I thought it a good idea to question the EU’s leading federalist Andrew Duff, who has come out of the closet and agreed to discuss some of these issues.  Andrew Duff was director of the Federal Trust, the EU’s leading think-tank and he was president of the Union of European Federalists.  If that is all not federalist enough, he helped found the Spinelli group to help ensure that the EU progress along federal lines.  Hold on to your seats for what is coming next because it gets even better. Andrew Duff is the EU’s constitution specialist who helped draft several EU treaties and oversaw the drafting of the Fundamental Law to revise the Lisbon treaty.  He is the EU’s James Madison and one of the chief architects of a United States of Europe. Andrew Duff is not only a federalist out of the closet, he is leader of the pack.

Erika Grey

European federalism is misunderstood in Europe, virtually unheard of in the United States and yet federalism is the ideology that drives the European Union and many EU federalists have held and hold leading positions in the EU institutions. Why do you think that with such a sophisticated and educated group of adherents to the ideology, which includes journalists, is European federalism misunderstood within the EU nations and virtually unheard of around the world?

ANDREW DUFF

It’s an extremely good question and I ask myself that a lot. I think that it’s not quite fair to say that federalism has disappeared. It is there inside the atmosphere still and the British even who seem to be especially opposed to the federal idea in the EU context are responsible for promoting it in the empire: in the British Empire. After all, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Italy, India, Nigeria, are all federations and all of these bases were a gifted federalism at the end of empire, but the Brits have not ever embraced it- either internally in the UK- and as a result of that the UK is experiencing huge tensions between the component nations. [This is] despite the fact that the Brits and the Americans were responsible for imposing a federal constitution on Germany after the war.

The Brits have not ever thought of themselves as European federalists, that’s a pity. But, I still think that the logic of the EU, if you go right back to the end of the war, is as you say federalist and what we have to do is to return to the spirit and the logic of the founding fathers of the EU. I think that can be done, but it needs clear thinking and courageous leadership and unfortunately we haven’t an awful lot of all of those things.

Erika Grey

Can you provide a one sentence definition of European Federalism?

ANDREW DUFF

It is about coordinate government at different levels addressing the issues of different scales of complexity, but coordinate with each other so that the center is not supreme. It’s not going to impose itself upon the provincial state levels.

I think that is misunderstood, and I thinks it’s misunderstood even in Brussels at present because at present we’re in a semi-federal pre-federal construct. The Commission is obliged to try to coordinate national policy to centralize the coordination of national policies. But, I do not think that is federal. That’s not a truly federal solution. In order for there to be one, one has to have something that approximates to a federal government. It is that we haven’t got.

Historically I think we are in a limbo, trapped in a limbo between a confederal system of governance, which we know isn’t working very well on the one hand, and a federal union between prefigured, we’ve sort of kind of seen it through the cloud, but we haven’t got the courage to progress towards it.

Erika Grey

While others shy away and have retreated from being labeled a federalist you are smiling in a photo with a sign above you that reads, “I am a federalist,” and you look rather content in the photo. If you were in Juncker’s and Guys Verhofstadt’s shoes at the time of the elections, and running for the Commission presidency would you too have avoided being labeled a federalist or denied being one?

ANDREW DUFF

No, absolutely not I’ve always been prepared to come out of the closet, and indeed of course as you know I lost my seat in the last elections, and part of the reason that I lost is because I’m an outed federalist.

Erika Grey

The nationalist and populist parties that gained in the EU elections have noted the “arch federalists” and speak of federalists as the villains in EU politics.  The Bruges group alleges that Federalists are sinister as they build the EU federation into a United States of Europe. How does it feel to be cast as a sinister political villain, and see your peers avoid being labeled as federalist and deny their affiliation?

ANDREW DUFF

Well I think it would be sinister if there were a plot, a conspiracy to do this. But, I don’t see that, or at least if there is a conspiracy to create a federal super state in Europe then I would probably be a part of it. I would probably been told, but there isn’t. It is important that we are transparent in what we do, that we’re very democratic, that we are prepared to face up to comment, criticism, and to take on the nationalists. I think if you counter poise the nationalists and the federalists you can see more clearly the political dynamics, which move the EU, than if you only have a look into terms of left and right or poor and rich or south and north or east and west. There is lots of other ways to looking at the EU in order of its complexity. But, a key dynamic is federalist and nationalist and I’m quite happy to argue that case.

Erika Grey

You became director of the Federal Trust in 1993, when you were about 43 years old. At the age of 32 in 1982 you were elected to the City Council in Cambridge and at the age of 34 you made your first attempt to get elected to the EU Parliament, which at the time was only a forum for debate and a consultative body. In that year Alterio Spinelli was still serving as an MEP and the Single European Act had not yet been decided. Gaston Thorn was Commission President and the single market white paper of 1985 had also not been launched. The European Community comprised of only 10 members and was still in its infancy. What started your interest in European federalism and in the European Community in those early years?

ANDREW DUFF

Well it’s a long time ago, but I think I started to – in fact I’m certain that I started to- be interested even before then. I think I was anxious to be a member of the European Parliament even before it had been created.

My experience as a student in 1968, I was 17 in 1968, and was just on the way from school to Cambridge.  But, I spent a lot of it time in Paris at that time as well and so I had first-hand experience of the sense that things were changing fast and that politics of the post war generation were under pressure and that the dynamics were moving. It was a very turbulent time.  It was a very exciting time and clearly the experience of the students in Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Amsterdam, I remember was a very post national experience. We were sharing each other’s demonstrations, manifestos, the discourse between students was very European, and I found that experience very enriching…if it could be continued, built on, that was a good thing to try to do. It wasn’t far from that to start the federal experiment or to join in the federal campaign that had always been there. I met Monet and Spinelli and that was also a great inspiration.

Erika Grey

I read where you previously stated, “I have always wanted to be in the European Parliament, I think even before the Parliament was first thought of.” …Can we expect to see you running in the next MEP election?

ANDREW DUFF

I would like Parliament to carry on in the place that I left off, was forced to leave off, to try to create for a certain number of MEP’s a pan European constituency, which would elect some of them from transnational political party lists. The idea of this was approved in the Parliament in a fairly ambiguous way, but I think it’s the key to growing strong federal parties to compete with national political parties, which in the past have had sort of a monopoly on the campaigns: a grip on the election campaigns of the European Parliament.  It means that those campaigns have been very national and completely isolated from one another.

I would like to think that my idea of trans-national lists for a pan European seat will in the end win through. If that happens I will certainly seek to put up for the European Parliament again, but for a national political party, no I think I’ve tried that.

Erika Grey

You have spoken of your mission, you are obviously a man with a life mission, can you in your own words tell us your mission and why it is so important to you?

ANDREW DUFF

We need to create a Europe, which can punch its weight in global affairs in the interests of our values and principles that we want to project elsewhere. I would like a Europe that will be able to square up to the great challenges that we now face in climate, security, prosperity; things whose scale and complexity have transcended the scale of the nation state.

We have out grown the old classical state. We need to create an intergraded regional community that can improve upon the performance of the nation state and will provide the public with goods that it deserves and hear and respond to the anxieties and the aspirations of the citizen in a way that the old states cannot anymore.

If we’re going to do this it’s critical that the form of a government that we create at this level is federal.  If it is not it will be centralized, it will be prone to presidencies– Germany becoming in charge of the EU. It has to be fundamentally and profoundly very democratic and the only way it could be that is if it’s federal.

 

This is the first interview in a series.  The next titled, “The [EU] Constitution Belongs To The People: Interview With Andrew Duff, will deal with The Fundamental Law treaty itself and reveal glimpse of what the EU will look like moving forward as well as take you inside the mind of the man who orchestrated the writing of it.

 

Against Oligarchy: SYRIZA or Barbarism

Posted by on 22/02/15

The talented French writer, dedicated revolutionary and wise politician André Malraux wrote in his memoires that Charles de Gaulle was France’s “alibi for courage”. According to Malraux, De Gaulle’s actions saved France not once, but twice. The first time, by organizing the resistance against the Nazis during the WWII and, the second time, by defusing the dangers of civil war during the Algerian crisis. In both cases, de Gaulle unflinchingly stood up against the conformist, corrupt French oligarchy which had surrendered to the foreign centers of power and, for this, he received the undying support of the French citizens. In fact, it was precisely de Gaulle’s dedication to the interests of the French people and the confrontation with the oligarchy that constituted the two key aspects of his political success.

I am convinced that Europe today also has its “alibi for courage”. It even seems that there are several potential candidates. Still, the one on whose success today depends not only the future of his state and the people he represents, but also the future of the whole Europe, is Alexis Tsipras.

Tsipras’ political and economic program is the last chance for the institutions of the European Union to be transformed in an evolutionary and predictable manner in order to adapt to the demands and needs of the EU citizens while being freed from the nontransparent and corruptive influences of the financial, military, and intelligence circles. This program represents the reality of strivings not only of the Greek citizens, but also of the tens of millions of people within the EU and beyond its borders whose living standard has been destroyed and the future made uncertain by the decade-long neoliberal policies of brutal privatization and debt enslavement. Tsipras offers the Brussels oligarchs a just deal, a deal which privileges the ordinary citizen above the banker and common sense above the dogma. However, there is a great deal of probability that his extended hand will be rejected.

The attempts to discredit Tsipras and the members of his government in the so-called independent Western media (in truth, owned by several oligarchic monopolies) began already during the election night. The supposedly well-informed “bloggers” wrote about the alleged links between Tsipras’ associates and the radical conservatives in Russia as well as his associates’ cooperation with the US Marxists. Many also reported on Tsipras’ last year visit to Moscow in an ominous tone, while the others raised panic about the government members who were ex-Communists. At the same time, these news sources kept silent about the fact that Tsipras also visited Washington DC, that he met with George Soros, and that he is committed to resolving the “explosive” issues of the divided Cyprus and the official name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the spirit of compromise and good relations with Greece’s neighbors. The assignment was to defame and destroy, not to respect and give a chance. It is tragic that the media demonization campaign against Tsipras and his government is still ongoing with full speed.

At the same time, many mechanisms of the global oligarchic capitalism have been mobilized to make it difficult, if not impossible, for Tsipras to direct the recovery of the Greek economy. The foremost credit rating agencies, for instance, all downgraded the credit ratings of Greece, while the World Bank and the IMF stated that all the austerity agreements have to be respected and fulfilled. The threats that Greece would be thrown out of the eurozone intensified, while the Turkish air force suddenly began infringing on the disputed airspace.

Taking into consideration the instigators and protagonists of the 1967 military coup, it is not possible to discount completely the possibility of the military overthrow of the legitimately elected government, assisted (as in 1967) by the NATO’s secret networks and the CIA. Still, reflecting on the most recent subversive methods utilized by the US intelligence community, one would rather expect some kind of a “color revolution” which would, through protests and street disturbances, demand the new elections under the pretext that Tsipras did not fulfill his electoral promises. The all-around chaos that would ensue on the streets of Athens would make the return to power of the old corrupt oligarchy increasingly likely.

This turn of events in Athens, together with the devastating war in Ukraine, would lead to the spread of instability across the European Union. The economic and social despair would give rise to the strengthening of the openly racist/fascist political forces whose explosive power would be skillfully directed by the oligarchy toward all existing minorities, especially the religious ones. This could also lead to the open declaration of war to Russia, but it could also instigate a series of internal mini-wars against the immigrants of the Middle Eastern and African origin. The public would then be inundated by the rumors of another kind of “Islamic state” (this time in Europe), while the eventual intervention of the US military would make parts of Europe look like the present-day Libya, Iraq or Syria. The European civilization, ambivalent from its inception, the cradle of both the good and the evil, could in the last instance be wiped out in some nuclear holocaust.

Of course, this is the worst possible nightmarish scenario, and, thankfully, it is far from inevitable. Still, the first important step in its prevention is the long-term survival of the Tsipras government. For this, the strong support of the like-minded political parties and movements is very much needed. As Ho Chi Mihn replied to the question of the delegation of the European communists as to what they could do to help Vietnam that it was best if they led revolutions in their own countries, so the best support to Tsipras from the rest of the world is that we in our communities, using the similar political program, radically confront our own oligarchies and their political and economic repression. The common and courageous struggle for human dignity and social justice is the only political alternative to the oligarchic warmongers.

Translated by the author. Originally published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti on February 12, 2015.

Barosso and Oettinger messed up South Stream

Posted by on 22/02/15

Soon after he was appointed Commission Vice President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič started lobbying Russia to return to the South Stream gas pipeline project. The same project was frozen by direct orders of former Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

First episode: Barroso stops South Stream by telling the former Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski that the commission will slam his country with infringements it cannot afford.
This happened against the background of the Ukraine crisis. The message was clear: the Commission doesn’t want to open its doors for a project detrimental to Ukraine.
Six months have elapsed. Barroso has been replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker, Oresharski has been replaced by Boyko Borissov. And the Ukraine crisis is at the brink of becoming an outright war.
So Borissov comes to Brussels and warns Šefčovič of an “energy catastrophe” for his country following the freezing of South Stream.’ Exactly one month before Putin said in Turkey that Russia is fed up with Bulgaria’s blocking the project, and that the Russian gas will arrive on European territory, but in Turkey instead. And the project is no longer called “South Stream, but Turkish Stream”.
The next day after his meeting with Borissov Šefčovič goes to Russia and asks Gazprom to revert to the old South Stream project. He was not successful, but what happened to the previous warnings to Bulgaria about infringements?
Russia obviously takes the message seriously, because Putin took in Budapest yesterday (17 February) a U-turn, announcing that Russia has not given up South Stream, which he had himself declared dead in December.
Now the Commission is having second thoughts about the project and has asked the Russian side to reconsider Bulgaria for implementing it, Putin said.
But I don’t think it was only Putin who made a U-turn. What made the Juncker Commission make a U-turn with respect to the Barroso commission? Isn’t this the recognition of a major mistake? Thanks to Barroso, and to the then energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, the new South Stream would be dependent, apart from Russia, from Turkey.

The UK’s GDS meltdown couldn’t happen in Brussels, right?

Posted by on 22/02/15
I freely admit: I’ve been a fanboy of the UK’s Government Delivery Service (GDS) since studying their design principles. Those principles are still good. Everything else, it turns out, was not. I was not the only information architect in Brussels dazzled a few years ago by GDS’ approach which, according to internal reports seen by [...]

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