Wednesday 26 November 2014

Currently browsing 'Future EU'

The EU is governed by seven institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union (the Council); the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors.

 

What tech can do for policy

Posted by on 23/11/14
ICT is coming to the aid of policy makers, with a number of EU projects using into tech and computation tools to figure out what's happening in policy making. EU Community, too, is on the cutting edge of this development.

Join Us at the One Europe Convention in Verona

Posted by on 18/11/14

In my first post here on BlogActiv, I am very pleased to welcome you to our annual One Europe Convention with attendants from 70 countries. The convention will take place in Verona on November 21-23, 2014. For 10 years running, the annual European convention, hosted by Kabbalah.info, a non-profit organization, has established itself as one of the world’s most culturally diverse gatherings for spiritual growth—a 3-day celebration of human unity and deeply transforming personal experiences.

At this historic event where participants will come from 70 different countries, all the lessons and activities throughout the event such as workshops, meals, and cultural evenings, will focus on the central theme of achieving harmony and sustainability throughout Europe. The purpose of these gatherings is to create exceptional human bonding experiences that leverage the collective powers of any group of people. The force of this connection increases awareness of the importance of benefiting others and creating sustainable environments that allow us to accomplish more collectively.

A new, global world is taking shape before our eyes, a reality in which humanity and nature are all interdependent. We need to study the global laws of our world in order to find our way in it. Kabbalah is a 4,000 year old wisdom with the sole purpose of teaching humanity how to achieve balance and complete harmony amongst ourselves and all of nature in a global world. Come join us to set the path for a better future for Europe and for the entire world. People from around the globe are invited to embark on this groundbreaking journey as we strive to build a European spiritual union, based on love and friendship – a model for the entire world to follow.

The convention is open to anyone with a desire to change him or herself and the world we live in. Students currently studying with Kabbalah.info, or anyone who wants to take a proactive approach to uniting Europe is welcome to register.

I will be giving six lessons throughout the congress. The lessons will be given in Russian, with simultaneous interpretation into English, German, Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Italian.

To register for the event please visit http://eurocongress.info

 

 

25 years later

Posted by on 11/11/14
The photo of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate is incredible. But how will it be viewed in 25 more years? Chancellor Helmut Kohl in front of the Brandenburg Gate, 25 years after the launch a process that led to the reunification of much more than Germany (@bild). Of course it’s supposed [...]

EU Community: What is coming up?

Posted by on 05/11/14
By Laurens Cerulus The challenge for EU policy makers is not so much finding information to support certain policies, but finding the right information to shape better policies. We're close to launching a first tool that will help out: EurActory.

What does it mean, a European Commission “with a very political nature”?

Posted by on 05/11/14
Experts noted the message of President Juncker that it is his desire that the “European Commission will have a very political nature”. Member countries have reacted to this message offering mostly politicians as Commissioners, albeit some less experienced in the mysteries of EU policies. As a result, the current team of Commissioners is more connected [...]

L’Europe germano-allemande

Posted by on 04/11/14
By Georgi Gotev For several decades we were used to the French-German tandem. Now we have Germany all over the place.

A European narrative: Propaganda or debate?

Posted by on 23/10/14

Kathleen Garnett

Last week the Committee of the Regions organised its fifth EuroPCom conference at the Committee of the Regions on how to communicate Europe to a wider public. With the rise of vocal, populist right-wing parties that tap into people’s fears, never has the need for Brussels to present it’s case been more important. It is estimated the EU has approximately five years, before the next Parliamentary elections, to do so. If it fails there is the risk that the EU’s very legitimacy will begin to crumble and give way to forces that promote fragmentation rather than union, rupture rather than settlement, chasm rather than understanding.

Many within the EU are trying. God knows they are trying. From catchy You Tube style videos, to social media tricks, from glossy brochure, to children’s comic-strip info-pack, from out-reach programmes to all-singing, all-dancing local youth events. Every single aspect of communicating the EU to a wider European audience has been and was analysed. All interesting. All very expensive. All pretty useless. Those tools can best be described as the props. They are not exactly defining the plot. Nor can they act as the foundation on which to build an effective, accurate communications strategy.

The only tool capable of reaching out to a wider European audience is a pan-European press that presents the European, as opposed to the national, perspective.

For the moment, however, the European narrative is being written elsewhere far away from Brussels by largely hostile script-writers and no amount of social media, You Tube videos, glossy brochures, awards and out-reach programmes alone will be capable of communicating Europe to the wider European public audience.

Never underestimate the vital role that an independent and varied press plays in communicating local, regional and global affairs to a wider public. At the moment most Europeans read, listen and watch the news as presented to them by their national media and they have proven time and again that EU affairs are not their priority.

Worse than blanking out or ignoring EU policies is the continual drip, drip of negative and blatantly exaggerated coverage of the EU by writers who are more than happy to write a hostile narrative. Those controlling the plot portray the EU as the villain – either an egocentric, power-hungry, corrupter of national sovereignty; a bureaucratic tormentor intent on destroying national values or as a petty autocrat imposing tangled diktats on hard-working member sates.

As long as the good times roll such a narrative is largely ignored and put down to the ranting’s of the loonies that are known to inhabit the shadowy swamps of the periphery. By and large the EU is viewed, as an engine for growth, prosperity and peace. Although little understood most Europeans view the EU positively at best, with indifference at worst. Yet years of unchecked snipping from the side-lines by bored journalists, ignorant of EU affairs have slowly but surely begun to tilt the balance. It is their narrative that is creating an opening for the loonies to migrate out of the shadows and colonise the mainstream.

One need look no further than the announcement yesterday by UKIP that it is forming an alliance with a party that denies the holocaust and promotes wife bashing to realise how mainstream the loony views of UKIP have become. The sad reality is that far too many in the UK have become so brain-washed by the constant stream of negative coverage they are now more prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to a Polish holocaust denier than they are the EU. Something is very flawed indeed when UKIP can ally itself with such extreme views and still hope to win thirty seats in Westminster.

For too long the EU has allowed the narrative to be written by editors who have stated, in public, they oppose the EU. Unless a pan-European media is developed to act as a counter-balance to such hostile positions it will be the national media that will shape how Europeans perceive the EU not those in the driving seat. This is problematic. It is the script-writer who has the power to decide the fate of the protagonists. Does the EU really want its fate to be written by an openly antagonistic media?

Yet, the development of a thriving, well written, newsworthy, independent pan-European press to counter-balance the views of the national media was barely touched upon at the conference. When it was, it was dismissed as too expensive, unprofitable, impossible to realise and too politically sensitive to organise. Past failures were cited as evidence that a pan-European media is economically unviable.

Over and again it was said that the promotion of a pan-European media could be construed as EU propaganda. To which euperspectives replies why such timidity? Has Brussels become so brow-beaten and bullied by the snarlings of the euro sceptics that they actually believe there is any merit to such an argument?

In the free world it is vital that news is presented from a variety of sources capable of expressing their own interpretations of world events. In the UK, The Guardian is a left-leaning paper whilst The Times leans to the right. The Mirror panders to Labour voters. The Daily Mail to UKIP. Few question the legitimacy of this approach. As far as the EU is concerned the only voice being heard is that of the national perspective, which is why there is such an imbalance in the reporting of EU affairs.

The EU has but a few years in which to rethink its communication policy. Now is the time for it to seize the initiative and develop a fully functioning, well respected media staffed by experienced journalists and commentators, capable of presenting broad stories that touch a cord with all Europeans. Only in such a way can Europe regain the initiative, write its own narrative from a European perspective and let Europeans decide whether the EU is worth investing in or not based on accurate, informed stories not on half-truths and deception.

Such a project is not only viable, it is the only way to communicate European objectives to a wider audience. Call it propaganda if you will but it you do the EU would only be doing what the national press are already culpable of – no more, no less.

 

Le Danemark va-t-il renoncer à ses opt-outs et rejoindre la classe des bons élèves de l’UE ?

Posted by on 19/10/14

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Première ministre du Danemark (issue du parti social-démocrate danois), a annoncé mardi 7 octobre qu’un référendum serait organisé sur une plus grande intégration du pays à l’Union européenne. Il s’agirait en fait d’un référendum sur l’un des opt-outs du pays en matière de justice et affaires intérieures. « Le concept d’opting-out correspond à une dérogation, accordée à un pays ne souhaitant pas se rallier aux autres États membres dans un domaine particulier de la coopération communautaire, afin d’empêcher un blocage général » (extrait du site Europa).

Des dérogations en vigueur depuis le traité de Maastricht

Rappelons l’origine de ces opt-outs danois. Le pays intègre les Communautés européennes en 1973 mais c’est au moment du traité de Maastricht que ces opt-outs apparaissent. En effet, ce dernier est soumis au référendum le 2 juin 1992 au Danemark et il est rejeté à 50,7% des voix. Mais, pour entrer en vigueur, un traité doit être ratifié par tous les Etats membres. Il a donc fallu trouver une solution, et ce fut le cas au Conseil européen d’Edimbourg en 1992. Sur la base d’un compromis entre le gouvernement danois et les autres chefs d’Etat ou de gouvernement, quatre politiques de l’Union ont fait l’objet d’un opt-out du Danemark : la politique de défense, la troisième phase de l’Union économique et monétaire (qui devait conduire à l’adoption de l’Euro), la citoyenneté de l’Union et la justice et les affaires intérieures. Une nouvelle version du traité de Maastricht prévoyant ces opt-outs pour le Danemark a fait l’objet d’un référendum le 18 mai 1993 et, cette fois, les citoyens danois ont voté « oui » à 56,8%.

Où en sont ces différents opt-outs aujourd’hui ? Celui sur la citoyenneté prévoyait que la citoyenneté européenne (instituée par le traité de Maastricht) ne remplaçait pas la citoyenneté nationale. Le traité d’Amsterdam reprend exactement la même règle pour tous les pays de l’Union : « Il est institué une citoyenneté de l’Union. Est citoyen de l’Union toute personne ayant la nationalité d’un État membre. La citoyenneté de l’Union complète la citoyenneté nationale et ne la remplace pas ». Par conséquent, l’opt-out danois sur la citoyenneté européenne n’a plus d’intérêt. En matière de citoyenneté européenne peu de progrès ont été réalisés en matière de citoyenneté européenne depuis le Traité de Maastricht, notons cependant que le traité de Lisbonne prévoit la possibilité d’Inititives citoyennes européennes (ICE).

L’opt-out relatif à la troisième phase de l’UEM pose en fait la question de l’entrée ou non du Danemark dans la zone euro. A l’heure actuelle le Danemark n’est pas membre de la zone euro puisque cet opt-out est toujours en vigueur. Signalons tout de même qu’Helle Thorning-Schmidt s’était prononcé pour que son pays intègre la zone euro. Il n’y a cependant pas encore de référendum prévu sur ce sujet, qui avait déjà été soumis une première fois à la consultation populaire, en 2000, pour une victoire du « non » (à 53%).

En matière de défense: le Danemark ne participe pas à l’élaboration et à la mise en oeuvre d’actions de l’Union qui ont des implications en matière de défense. Il y a un an, le leader de l’opposition danoise, Lars Lokke Rasmussen proposait l’organisation d’un référendum sur l’abandon des clauses d’exemption dans le domaine de la défense et de la justice en même temps que les élections européennes de mai 2014. Cela n’a pas été le cas et il n’y a pas encore de projet de référendum sur l’abandon des clauses d’exemption en matière de défense. Avant que n’éclate la crise de 2008, Helle Thorning-Schmid avait fait plusieurs déclarations engageantes, que la crise a reléguées aux oubliettes. Le moment est-il venu de les renouveler ?

L’intérêt du référendum : maintenir le Danemark au sein d’Europol

En ce qui concerne la justice et les affaires intérieures, domaine dans lequel Mme Thorning-Schmidt a annoncé le référendum, le Danemark est exempt de certains domaines. Depuis la signature du traité de Lisbonne, le Danemark (ainsi que le Royaume-Uni et l’Irlande qui sont les deux autres pays bénéficiant d’opt-outs en matière de justice et affaires intérieures) a la possibilité de passer d’une option de retrait complète à des opt-in au cas par cas (c’est-à-dire de participer uniquement à certaines politiques de l’ensemble justice et affaires intérieures par exemple) dès qu’ils le souhaitent.

Et c’est de cela qu’il s’agit. Alors que la tendance est au renforcement de la coopération policière au sein de l’UE, le Danemark ne veut pas se retrouver isolé dans la lutte contre la criminalité, voire la lutte contre le terrorisme dont l’importance saute aux yeux de tout le monde, avec évidence . Or, Mme Thorning-Schmidt craint que le pays ne soit obligé de se retirer d’Europol (dont il est membre depuis seize ans) s’il ne revient pas sur la clause d’exemption concernant la justice et les affaires intérieures dont il bénéficie. Cela serait, à ses yeux, négatif pour le Danemark en terme de sécurité. « [Europol] nous a permis d’arrêter des trafiquants de drogue et d’êtres humains, ainsi que de découvrir des réseaux d’abus d’enfants. Il semble que nous allons devoir quitter Europol à cause de cette clause d’exemption justement. Et cela dès le printemps prochain, peut-être. Ça poserait un sérieux problème pour la sécurité des Danois ». D’où sa volonté d’un référendum avec les modalités suivantes : « Le gouvernement est prêt à organiser un référendum après les prochaines élections. Nous pourrons alors choisir les volets de la JAI auxquels nous voulons adhérer et ceux qui ne nous conviennent pas. Je voudrais que le Danemark continue de faire partie de la coopération policière, sans pour autant adopter les mesures concernant les migrants », a-t-elle expliqué. En août dernier, par l’intermédiaire de son porte-parole, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, le principal parti de l’opposition (Venstre) avait apporté son soutien à la tenue d’un tel référendum.

Une avancée hésitante vers plus d’intégration

D’une manière générale, la chef du gouvernement danois (qui a été député européenne de 1999 à 2004) est favorable à une plus grande intégration de son pays au sein de l’Union mais c’est un sujet qui fait l’objet d’une certaine confusion dans son action. En effet, alors qu’elle avait d’abord annoncé la tenue de ce référendum avant la fin de son mandat actuel (qui est son premier mandat, commencé le 2 octobre 2011), puis dans son mandat mais après la présidence danoise du Conseil de 2012, Mme Thorning-Shmidt, s’est prononcée pour l’organisation dudit référendum si la coalition en place remporte les prochaines élections législatives, qui interviendront entre le printemps et la fin septembre 2015 (une législature dure au maximum quatre ans selon la constitution danoise). Autrement dit le référendum aura donc finalement lieu durant son deuxième mandat et à la condition que son parti remporte les élections (pour lesquelles les sondages placent le gouvernement actuel en mauvaise posture).

Elle s’était aussi engagée à tenir un référendum sur un autre opt-out danois au cours de son mandat, en matière de coopération en matière de défense cette fois, et ce ne sera vraisemblablement pas le cas.

Traditionnellement, le Danemark était assez réticent à pousser l’intégration européenne, mais, alors que ce gouvernement souhaite rapprocher le pays de l’Union, il y a assez peu d’avancées sur ce sujet du fait de l’euroscepticisme croissant au sein de l’opinion publique (à titre d’illustration, c’est le Parti conservateur danois qui a remporté les élections européennes dans le pays, parti affilié au groupe ECR, et le vote populiste a fait la une des commentateurs) et du caractère incertain des référendums lié à l’Europe qui en découle. On peut tout de même signaler que le 25 mai 2014, en même temps que les élections européennes, les danois se sont prononcés par référendum pour intégrer la juridiction du Tribunal unifié des brevets (33,7% pour, 20% contre, 44,2% d’abstention).

 

Clément François

 

Pour en savoir plus :

- Article EurActiv : La Première ministre danoise remet aux calendes grecques le référendum sur Europol :                                                                       http://www.euractiv.fr/sections/elections/la-premiere-ministre-danoise-remet-aux-calendes-grecques-le-referendum-sur (FR)                 http://www.euractiv.com/sections/elections/danish-pm-postpones-eu-referendum-309001 (EN)

- Article EurActiv : Le Danemark pourrait organiser un référendum sur son statut dans l’UE http://www.euractiv.fr/priorites/le-danemark-pourrait-organiser-u-news-529967 (FR) http://www.euractiv.com/elections/danes-move-closer-eu-opt-outs-re-news-529956 (EN)

- Article EULogos : Le Danemark réintègre l’UE, sa politique de défense et la politique de justice et des affaires intérieures (janvier 2012) :                                                        http://www.eu-logos.org/eu-logos_nea-say.php?idr=4&idnl=2353&nea=117&lang=fra&lst=0 (FR)

- Article EULogos : Danemark: un référendum sur les opt-outs peut en cacher un autre ! le dirigeant de l’opposition danoise, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, fait monter la pression sur la première ministre, Helle Thorning-¬Schmidt (septembre 2013) :                           http://www.eu-logos.org/eu-logos_nea-say.php?idr=4&idnl=2914&nea=136&lang=fra&lst=0 (FR)

- sur la juridiction unifiée des brevets : http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/indprop/patent/index_fr.htm (FR) http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/indprop/patent/index_en.htm (EN)


Classé dans:CITOYENNETE EUROPEENNE, Questions institutionnelles

Did Hahn hint a change in EU’s policy towards Bosnia?

Posted by on 30/09/14

It almost went unnoticed in today”s hearing of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, in front of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs commitee. But a little sentence will surely make for further discussion.

In the fade out of one of his many statements on the challenges in Bosnia, Mr Hahn said, that the country must move “from the Dayton logic to a Brussels logic”. MEPs in the commitee did not follow up on the line and Mr Hahn did not provide any explanation. Also, being explicitly asked about it in the press conference following the hearing, Mr Hahn did not further illustrate what he meant exactly by this statement.

The fact, though, that his press team (supposedly) retweeted the following tweet during the hearing, adds to the suspicion that the new Commission might actually rethink the EU’s policy towards Bosnia.

But moving away from the “Dayton logic” would mean no less than fundamental constitutional changes.  Today’s system builds on the agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio in 1995 to secure peace in Bosnia after three years of bloodshed and a brutal and genocidal war. According to the agreement, the multi-ethnic country was seperated into two political entities: one republic – Republika Srpska, dominated by Bosnian Serbs – and one federation – of muslim Bosniaks and Croats.

On the one hand, the Dayton Agreement secured peace in Bosnia in 1995. On the other hand, it has kept the country in political stalemate ever since. Today, in the eyes of most observers, Dayton is the biggest obstacle of a positive political and economical development of Bosnia, which faces unemployment over 40 per cent and whose economy has basically not grown since 2008.

Since Bosnia to this day is supervised by the international community, a change in EU policy could in fact be the overdue game changer for the country. A change that at this point in time is more needed than ever before.

2014 saw a number of big events that even worsened the dire situation in Bosnia. Failed wage bargains in the industrial town of Tuzla in February led to violent protests all over the country. Buildings had been set on fire, people had been injured. Following the protest, people started to organize themselves in plenums in order to get in control of their own destiny and no longer depent on inactive and corrupt politicians for their prospering. But the people’s plenum only lasted for a few weeks, until large parts of the country have been severely hit by the biggest floods in a century.

Whether the Juncker Commission is really up for the change has yet to be seen. On October 12th, people in all parts of Bosnia will head to the polls to elect a new leadership for their country, including the three presidents, the House of Representative and the leaders of the entities.

Perhaps key foreign policy figures in the new Commission wait for the outcome of the elections, to go ahead with these plans, announce them and eventually start putting them in place once they will enter office on November 1st. Or, perhaps Mr Hahn’s little side remark, is nothing to be further concerned with - which, of course, would not change anything - fewest of all the troubling situation for the people in Bosnia.

If there is one cause for optimism that came from 2014, it’s the fact that the unrests and the needs caused by the floods did not trigger any ethnical conflicts. That might be yet another signal that the country, almost 20 years after the end of the war, is ready to move on. The EU, for its part, should not hesitate to assist in this endeavour.

Full disclosure: My attendance at the ongoing #EPhearings2014 has been made possible upon invitiation by Michel Reimon, Austrian MEP and member of Greens/ALE, and funding by the European Parliament.

Launch of Next Europe

Posted by on 30/09/14

My new book Next Europe is now officially launched. Of course this comes with a modest campaign to create attention for the book.

I published several opinion articles, on news sites as well as in the Dutch paper Het Parool. You can read the ‘launch article’ at EurActiv (English) and on Opiniestukken.nl (Dutch).

The presentation took place on September 22 at the Press Club in Brussels. More than 100 people attended the event. First I gave a short summary (link to Prezi) of Next Europe to the audience, followed by the handover to Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, chief of cabinet of Commissioner Kroes. A panel of experts – Shada Islam of Friends of Europe, Claude Grunitzky of TRUE, and Marietje Schaake of the European Parliament – gave their first responses.

Shada Islam: ‘This is an insightful study of Europe by a young, thoughtful EU Watcher.’

Dutch public radio 1 made a report on the launch event, you can listen to it here.

On October 14, Next Europe will be presented in Amsterdam, followed by a debate with Paul Scheffer and Adriaan Schout. Programme and registration on the site of Pakhuis de Zwijger

Photos of the Brussels launch, September 22 at the Press Club

 

 

Scotland, the rise of nationalism and European decline

Posted by on 28/09/14

Freedom of choice is one of democracy‘s greatest gifts. When free people give their assent to Community structures, it is because they trust them. Trust grows as a product of positive moral and ethical experience of the Community Model, its Method and the leadership within it. Yet politicians are tempted to return to their old, dishonest techniques. Many still think that they can only defend their positions by manipulation of history, dishonest discourse and corrupt practice. Take the example of the present crisis of Europe caused by nationalist fervour across Europe’s ancient States. It is now straining the constitutions of the United Kingdom and Spain with bust-up.

An unprecedented number of Scots and other residents of Scotland turned out for the referendum vote on Scottish independence on 18 September 2014. The 85 percent turn-out was the nation’s highest since 1951. What was the cause of this high passion and consummate interest in the unity of the United Kingdom? After all, Scotland has been tied to England for 300 years. Why does it now want separation?

Has it anything to do with the European Union and the poor way it is being run?

The evidence says Yes.

The result is clear. Residents of Scotland rejected the call for Independence by 55 to 45 percent.There will be no independent Scotland. But internally the result is even more seismic for the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than Scotland is now involved. The whole British constitutional arrangement will have to be re-cast.

Following some late opinion polls when it seemed to the result could go either way, Westminster politicians made financial and political promises to get a No vote. Westminster government will ‘give’ the Scottish parliament Devo-Max, maximum decentralized powers. How generous of the Westminster representatives, the so-called servants of the public!

Politicians made the case that if Scots voted No, then the central government in London would be provide even more money from British taxes. They would reinforce the Barnett Formula, named after its author. It dates back to the 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution. However then the Treasury minister Joel Barnett  doled out extra money only on a temporary basis. It has no legal or democratic basis. Barnett himself described the formula as ‘a terrible mistake.’ It does not relate to votes or real facts on the ground. Now Westminster politicians want to give away more money that does not belong to them! They have promised a bigger ‘donation’ from unwilling English taxpayers. The Welsh who do not receive such amounts are also upset.

How did this politics of bribes and illegalities all come about? The political origin dates to the mid-1970s when James Callaghan’s Labour government lost its majority in the Westminster Parliament. To retain power it relied on the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru). In exchange for support, they demanded that their populations be treated more fairly by central government. They wanted their own parliaments. They wanted to preserve perhaps the oldest language in Europe and the 3000-year old source of many democratic principles of Common Law that Britons still treasure today.

Before the illicit Lisbon Treaties — forced through against vocal and explicit public opinion — politicians had not tried such a power-grab that they could attain by distorting the European institutions to control every aspect of life with so little accountability.  Public trust did not matter when the treaties were agreed by party majorities — even though the parliamentarians had not even received a copy of the treaty. Even the European Parliament refused to publish the treaty before it had voted on it! The Lisbon process followed a decade of discontent with European politics.

In comparison aspects of National and Regional misgovernance had not roused opinion to the levels of today. The Scots who voted in favour in the 1979 referendum failed to get their parliament then because the turnout was less than the 40 percent required. The Welsh failed to reach a majority. They had to wait for a second referendum in 1997. It led to a successful implementation of a Scottish and Welsh Parliament in 1999.

In this period European politicians took on more powers but without proper accountability. Declining trust of decision-takers was also the very issue at the heart of British internal problems.

Nationalist movements like the Scots are now becoming more vocal across the European Union. Why?

The answer lies in another unprecedented event of 2014. That is the lowest electoral turnout in any European elections. Politicians have created a them-versus-us situation. The ‘us‘ is ‘We want none of the above mainstream parties on the voting paper.‘ A majority refused to vote at all. Despite some countries having compulsory voting the overall turnout was 42.5 percent. That is the lowest since voting was allowed on a restrictive basis in 1979. Then it was about two-thirds. It declined consistently every election to the present.

1979  1984    1989   1994    1999     2004   2009   2014

62      59        58     57      49       45       43      42.5 percent turnout

In contrast when Member States have held referendums on EU matters the turnout has been much more impressive. It is nearly always above half the electorate. When the United Kingdom had a referendum on membership of the European Communities, 67 percent of the voters gave their assent with a turnout of 64 percent.

When the politicians tried to monkey with the Community idea, the turnout remained high with the electorate roundly condemning malpractice. The referendum results were treated with contempt by politicians, who thought they had sewn up a new system called rule by the European Council in secret.

For example when Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty it did so with a turnout of 83 percent. Politicians told them to vote again! When in 2005 France rejected the present Lisbon Treaty (then called the Constitutional Treaty) by 55 percent, it did so with a turnout of 69 percent. The Netherlands rejected this treaty by 62 percent with a turnout of 63 percent. The Nice Treaty was also considered a bad treaty when the Irish rejected it with a 54 percent majority but only 34 percent turnout. They were told to vote again and turn out in higher numbers or they would be kicked about by their biggers and betters.

Thus the conclusion we can draw is that the public remains responsive and favourable to European unity but requires ethical and moral politics. Not tricks and fraud. The public refuse to ‘own’ something from the politicians that it knows is a lie. Nor can they. It does not depend on some false ‘social contract’ that in Europe’s history has led to autocracy and dictatorship. As Robert Schuman put it:

The new Community politics is based on solidarity and the progress of trust. It constitutes an act of faith, not like that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in the goodness of humanity which has been so cruelly disproved over the centuries, but an act of faith in the good sense of the peoples who at last persuaded that their salvation resides in an agreement and cooperation so solidly organized between them that no government will be able to evade it. (Pour l’Europe, p46)

The logic is also inescapable. Europe’s politicians are doing things wrongly and possibly fraudulently. The public is telling them to make their crooked practice straight — or else.

An unacceptably low turnout is now the present normal. It may be headed lower for the next European elections. The politicians tried to jazz up the vote by trying another illegal procedure — creating ‘Lead candidates’ or SpitzenKandidaten‘. This supposed pizzazz was to hide European undemocracy. It was the theme of Commission President Barroso’s speech at Berlin’s Humboldt University in May. It talks of three successive improved ‘versions’ of Europe as if every change in Europe, made by politicians, was like updating computer software!

Too many politicians suffer from the character defect that without them the world would stop. They are confused by egocentric ambition and less by the humility that characterized people like Schuman who said it was always wrong to tell a lie, even in politics. Inevitably lies lead to confusion and error.

The creation of the European Community in 1952 was based on solid moral and ethical principles. It was not ‘Europe 1.0′ subject to political change of morals and ethics in their own versions. Later autocrats like de Gaulle or even parliamentary democrats milked billions from European tax-payers to stump up for bribes and votes. This corruption led to Beef Mountains, Wine Lakes and useless regional infrastructure projects. These politicians did not make their Europe 2.0 of ‘Open markets and an open society’. They were already in the framework of the Community Method. The first open market came on 10 February 1953. The ‘open society’ preceded it. It was formalized in the Council of Europe’s Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of November 1950. It recognized citizens’ ancient rights to free speech to criticize any politician, any religion, any association and any State.

These original elements of the Community provided the ‘miracle of our times’ — the means to stop war among European States and create the bases for joint prosperity. The politicians’ concept of adding to this miracle by ‘reforming’ (corrupting) its fundamental Community form is ridiculous. It is as effective as trying to make a high speed train go faster by hitching some old, lame political camels to the front. The Community made a qualitative change that showed the politics of the past, the ‘stuff of politics‘ as usual is actually ‘stuff and nonsense‘. Party political cartels have always in the past led to war. Political nepotism as a governance system is only fit for the rubbish heap.

Mr Barroso’s third phase, Europe 3.0, dealing with the ‘fallout of the economic and financial crisis’ and gaining ‘power and influence to sustain Europe’s future’ shows that politicians have really lost the plot. Not all the past so-called ‘reforms’ to the Community method are positive. Some are outright errors, deceptions and foolishness. Politicians have yet to denounce these mistakes, made by politicians, for politicians, to the detriment of the general public and common well being. The flagrant abuse contained in the Lisbon Treaty is a case in point.

For more than sixty years have refused to follow the treaties they signed up to. Politicians aimed to:

Mr Barroso’s main plea was for the introduction of a measure that is completely illegal according to even the Lisbon Treaties. That is the idea of SpitzenKandidaten and with it the total exclusion of normal citizens from any post of importance inside the Commission and every other institution. Political control by main parties to the exclusion of others and every normal non-party political citizen curtails free speech and democracy, fairness and justice. It cannot succeed.

How can we be sure that the politicization of all Community institutions is totally contrary to real Community principles? Does President Barroso’s ‘emotion of being at the university of ‘Hegel, of Max Planck, of Albert Einstein‘ constitute any real political analysis of their contributions. Hegelian analysis contributed to both Marxism and Fascism, while the eminent physicist of the Quantum, Max Planck (who resigned his post in 1937 as a protest against Nazism) showed moral fortitude and a defence of supranational principles in science and in  public life. He resisted Nazi attempts to expel Jewish scientists and opposed the Nazi ideology that there was such a thing as Jewish science. There is only one science and it represents, like absolute Justice, supranational values.

As for Robert Schuman’s work at Berlin and his attendance at Humboldt University in 1905-6, not a word! Not a word of his work for Germany to prevent World War One. In 1912 he was deputy head of the German delegation at a conference supported by Nobel laureates on international law according to Christian principles. Not a word about the concept of supranationality which is the foundational principle of the Community, nor about the Great Charter of the Community defining this that the Commission and the Council has refused to re-publish for more than SIXTY years.

In this centenary year of the outbreak of World War One, the European public would have hoped Mr Barroso would have spoken of the contribution of Einstein throughout his life to build a supranational Europe. Together with Otto Buek and Berlin physiology professor Georg-Friedrich Nicolai and astronomy professor Wilhelm Julius Foerster, Einstein launched a ‘Call Up to Europeans‘ in October 1914 (Aufruf an die Europäer). It drew support from intellectuals and the public from around Europe. It called for supranational principles to be the core for treating the very sinews of war: the cartel control of the coal, iron and steel industries and the international armaments cartels that fed the pre-WW1 arms race.

The supranational Community solution provides all the elements to resolve the interrelation between regional, national and European interests. Unfortunately the politicians of today are more interested in dismantling what has been achieved since the Schuman Declaration of May 1950, the Great Charter of 18 April 1951 guaranteeing freedom of choice and public assent to European integration. They are thus aiming to destroy the very European democracy on which they depend for a livelihood.

 

 

 

Better security through knowledge

Posted by on 25/09/14

Security was the leading theme of a closed expert debate organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs and its Turkish counterpart – the Centre for Strategic Research of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey (SAM – http://sam.gov.tr/about-sam/). Inspired by the discussion, and the more unofficial opinions voiced behind the curtain, I have decided to re-visit the issue of energy security, this time from a slightly different perspective.

Not long ago, while discussing the draft of the Polish Energy Policy until 2050, I underlined those aspects of energy security which go beyond physical security and access to energy resources. Energy security is a system centred around policies pursued by individual countries and international institutions. At the same time, it requires policies and a business climate that promote investment, progress and innovation to ensure that adequate supplies and infrastructure will be available in a timely way in the future. Since these two aspects, politics and investment, are interwoven, it is difficult to improve energy security without international cooperation (coordination). However, cooperation alone is not enough, because the problem of energy security resembles a prisoner’s dilemma where mutual trust is necessary to improve the situation for all parties. And trust is based on credibility. The case at hand is about the credibility of one’s economic policy, of which energy policy is an important component.

Can a policy’s credibility be evaluated? Yes, it can, as financial markets demonstrate on a daily basis. How can we do that? Let’s consider a relatively simple example – monetary policy. Using their knowledge of and information on the economy, experienced participants of the market (let’s call them analysts) create models which simulate how the economy is going to develop in the near future. Central banks do the same. In a given state of knowledge and with universal access to information, both analysts and central banks obtain largely similar projections of economic growth, job markets and inflation. Knowledge of economics also indicates how central banks should react to future changes in the inflation rate. The credibility of central banks follows from the fact that they base their decisions on solid factual information which the markets can read. If central banks make surprising decisions which they are not able to justify, risk increases and investors sell off risky assets or demand greater returns.

Despite being much more complex, energy policy may also be evaluated. Suffice to say that any policy is comprised of regulations which the government uses to achieve such results as higher capital expenditures or lower energy consumption per production unit. At the heart of each such regulation lies a cause-and-effect relationship linking the instrument (regulation) to the outcome (desired result). Even if this relationship is highly complex, it should lend itself to a factual evaluation, as the regulator must have connected the effect and cause somehow. Seeing that such a mechanism exists, we may ‘replicate’ it using our economic and social knowledge to verify whether it can deliver the expected results.

This is facilitated by appropriate tools (models), which must be prepared in advance, however – a task which requires systematic and interdisciplinary research. Research into the effects of regulations has an additional benefit in that it allows us to identify areas where our knowledge is imperfect. Discussing the risk emerging when a policy takes a leap into the unknown, Noble Prize winner Edmund Phelps says: “At the simplest level, economics can better show us the consequences of our actions. Less simple are cases in which we don’t have the knowledge to predict the full consequences. Global warming and climate change is an example. Actions that we believe will remedy a perceived problem may in fact lead to an unintended consequence… Generally speaking, global energy systems are so complex that interfering with them will almost certainly lead to unintended consequences” (First Things, Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation, October 2009).

Knowing the limits of our knowledge is necessary to evaluate whether policymakers venturing into the unknown are fully aware of the risk or whether they do so because they lack knowledge which is objectively available.

In the first case, where such actions are born of necessity, we must consider a comprehensive spectrum of possible scenarios and then evaluate their outcomes, which will help us identify what risks can materialise when the policy is implemented. This is the approach we chose three years ago when contemplating shale gas projects in Poland. We identified three possible directions in which the sector might develop depending on how current conditions encourage investment, progress and innovation, and then investigated their outcomes.

The second situation should never come to be, and to prevent it from happening in Poland we need strategic, systematic and interdisciplinary research into the energy sector, which should look into strategic aspects of energy and climate policies and into the actions taken by the government/state and companies. Security is one of such strategic matters requiring a systematic approach. Energy security is a public good and as such lies within the remit of the state, which decides how to ensure energy security today and in the distant future. However, the actual ‘delivery’ of energy security is accomplished by companies which, acting within a framework imposed by applicable regulations, ensure uninterrupted energy supplies at an acceptable price. And it is those companies that are first to evaluate the practical cost of the regulations – the cost of security. We should therefore take their opinion into account when researching the energy sector, which should allow us to reduce our ignorance in areas where its cost is the highest.

Improving energy security requires a well-designed and durable strategy, which can only be achieved with appropriate knowledge and interdisciplinary research. It is high time we began working on it.

 

Is EU now a parliamentarian system?

Posted by on 23/09/14

Was Jean-Claude Juncker elected president of the European Commission because he was the Spitzenkandidate for the winning party in the European elections? Or would be had been elected anyway?

That question is difficult – if not impossible – to answer, but there are things that indicate that it was his position as the lead candidate for his party that mattered. At least the tradition of electing a sitting prime minister was broken in the case of Juncker.

But one thing is more certain: It will be difficult next time around not accept the role of the Spitzenkandidate. Before the next European elections (in a little less than five years time) the idea that candidates must run to become the chosen of their parties will have been cemented, and even the sitting president will have to get his party’s approval if he wants a second term. This raises some issues.

Firstly, does it mean the EU has become a parliamentarian system? Yes, in the sense that the winning party decides the leader of the executive and Juncker has followed up on this by organising his Commission so that by far most of the leading Commissioners come from his own political family. And yes in the sense that the Parliament still has the final word in the appointment of Commissioners, and can give the Commission a vote of no confidence. But on day-to-day politics the European Parliament will have a lot less influence over the Commission than any national parliament will have on their government. The European Council will probably prove to become the institution that has most influence over the Commission during the next five years.

Secondly, are we ready for a system where the voters have a much bigger say over who leads the Commission? I don’t think so at this point. Clearly it is much better to have an open political competition than having everything decided behind closed doors. Clearly this system is much better if we want to involve European citizens in the EU and let them have a direct influence over the European leadership. But the main problem is that so few people actually discovered what was happening this time around! Nobody really believed it would matter who ran as spitzenkandidate, and national candidates in most cases did not at all refer to their lead candidates.

This latter point raises some issues about the European party structures. A conservative, a liberal or a socialist is not the same in Scandinavia as it is in Southern Europe. So far the name and the broad overall orientation have been good enough, but would you expect a clearly non federal oriented Nordic liberal advocating Guy Verhofstadt as the lead candidate for their European party?

Another point is the quality of the candidates. When the discussion in the European Council about the Commission president was running, Juncker’s competitors were the “usual lot”, so prime ministers in various European countries. But why did they not run as spitzenkandidate then?

The problem is that we still think national in Europe, and if a national leader would declare an interest in running for the European post – with the risk of loosing first at the party nominations and later in the elections themselves – they would have to give up their national posts. Declaring an interest in fighting openly and democratically for the post as head of the Commission would mean leaving the national post on the spot with the result of being relegated to absolutely nothing after the elections.

Europeans think national first of all even when they vote in European elections, and they are not used to think nationally and European at the same time, as for example Americans are. When Americans vote, they vote for their state representative, but also clearly make federal choices – between democrats and republicans. And at the same time they allow quality people to run for federal posts, and if they loose, it does not mean that they cannot continue in their job as for example senator from Arizona.

I think there are two real issues facing EU now: We have embarked on the spitzenkandidate route, but European voters are not yet ready to play their role, and secondly we have not yet devised a system that can ensure that we will get a real competition between the best possible candidates.

We have a bit less than five years to prepare ourselves better. Let’s move this debate now and not wait until the last moment.

Secession: Scotland says NO but quest for legal framework continues

Posted by on 21/09/14
By Catherine Brölmann and Thomas Vandamme The 300-year-old union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom survived the referendum held on 18 September 2014. But while preserving the UK's union, The 'No' victory did not shed much-needed light on the legal framework for secession, however.

Scotland votes, Catalonia waits: Will there soon be another independence referendum in Europe?

Posted by on 18/09/14
FC Barcelona supporters waving Scottish flags at Camp Nou
The world is watching Scotland today, and the Catalans will watch closer than most.

Spanish news sites are featuring pictures of FC Barcelona supporters waving Scottish flags during their team's Champions League game yesterday, and it is widely reported that delegations from the Catalan (and Basque) nationalist parties have travelled to Scotland to follow the latest developments on the ground.

This is because the debate around Catalonia's independence referendum is approaching its own moment of truth:
  • Catalonia's ruling parties agreed long ago that the independence referendum (carefully described as la consulta, the consultation) would take place on 9 November. However, the Catalan government has yet to officially call such a referendum. 
  • The Spanish government maintains the referendum is unconstitutional (and as we explained here, the Spanish Constitution is actually on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's side).
  • The Catalan government will tomorrow try to get around the legal obstacles by asking the Catalan parliament to adopt a new law on 'non-referendum consultations' (consultas no referendarias). Catalan President Artur Mas is then expected to convene one of these consultations for 9 November. However, the legal status of the result of such a consultation is unclear at the moment.     
  • Reports in the Spanish press suggest the Spanish government has everything ready to launch a legal challenge against la consulta at the Spanish Constitutional Court, as soon as it is officially announced.
  • If the Spanish Constitutional Court were to strike down the referendum (which is what Rajoy expects), the 'Plan B' of Artur Mas would be to resign and call early regional elections - and then present the election results as a referendum on Catalonia's future. Recent polls suggest the strongly pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC) would come out as the largest party, albeit short of an absolute majority. For Rajoy, having to deal with ERC instead of Mas would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Are the Scottish and the Catalan cases similar?

There are similarities between Catalonia and Scotland. Both are proud regions with long histories of independence movements, and both have also been embedded in decentralised systems. Also with respect to the consequences of leaving there are similarities, not least the prospect of joining the EU and the difficulties that could potentially arise.

However, there are at least two fundamental differences:
  • The Spanish government has never considered accepting the outcome of an independence referendum in Catalonia. On the contrary, it is determined to use all the legal instruments at its disposal to stop the referendum taking place. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo has not even ruled out making use of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution - which gives the central government the power to "adopt the necessary measures" to force a regional government to comply with its constitutional obligations. In practice, despite the planned date for the referendum being less than two months away, the Catalans still don't know whether - and in what form - it will actually happen.
  • Constitutional reform and greater devolution of powers to Spanish regions as an alternative to independence has so far not been discussed properly, mainly because the Spanish and Catalan governments have never really engaged in negotiations. 
Will there be a 'contagion effect'?

Pro-independence Catalans would no doubt get a boost in case of a 'Yes' victory in the Scottish referendum, whilst, naturally, Madrid would love to see the 'No' camp win. Irrespective of the outcome in Scotland, the status quo doesn't seem to be an option anymore for Catalonia. Just think of the 500,000 to 1.8 million people, depending on the estimates, who took to the streets last week to celebrate La Diada, Catalonia's National Day.
    Sooner rather than later, the Spanish and Catalan governments will need to give up posturing and start talking to each other. At that point, reforming the Spanish Constitution to give regions greater power to set and collect taxes may well appear as a valid alternative. The Scottish episode, whichever way the referendum goes, may ultimately serve to accelerate further devolution in Spain.

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