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  • Differences between the United States of America and the European Union?

    24 February 2015  16:11, by RHWhite

    Although “the founding fathers” get mentioned a lot in American political debate, I will tell you the majority of people actually do not know anything about what Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin were really like and “the principles which guided them.” People make huge assumptions based on rhetoric, not facts.

  • War returns

    5 February 2015  13:28, by Ludger Wortmann

    Dear Mr Levi, thank you very much for this visionary plan for a role that a united Europe could play. I mostly agree with you, but I have to utter a little criticism. 1) The military intervention in Libya has not created a failed state. It was undertaken because the state had failed. Whether this was the appropriate measure is a difficult question, but it was not the cause for the meltdown of Libya. 2) You claimed that the planned association agreement between Ukraine and the EU as well as Ukraine’s request to join the NATO were “aggressive acts”. How was it aggressive towards Russia to find a trade agreement with Ukraine? What is the problem with trade agreements? The creation of Mercosur did not threaten the United States, the customs union of Russia and Belarus is no aggressive act towards Poland. It is just trade, and if the conflict can be solved, we can also have a trade agreement with Russia. As for Ukraine’s request to join the NATO: The NATO is a defense alliance and Ukraine has every right to request membership. That cannot be an aggressive act by NATO because it is no act by NATO at all, it is a Ukrainian idea. Moreover, the NATO expansion in itself was no aggressive act, either. NATO membership was even offered to and declined by Russia. The fact that Estonia, Poland etc. were afraid of Russia does not give Russia the right to invade a part of Ukraine. Or did Poland invade Belarus after it started to cooperate militarily with Russia? No. 3) Of course, Russia has the right to create a Eurasian Economic Union and to invite Ukraine for membership. If Ukraine declines this offer, Russia has to accept it. Ukraine cannot be part both of an association agreement with the EU and Russia’s customs union. The association agreement includes free trade, which is not possible if Ukraine is at the same time member of a trading bloc that has no free trade with the EU. Now I have written a little more than I thought at the beginning, but some points require a bit more detail. Anyway, thank you for your great article! Best regards, Ludger Wortmann

  • We need a “third way” for Europe!

    4 February 2015  00:16, by Malgosia Krakowska

    European Union reminds me one of the companies I previously worked for. The place was said to be cool, throwing amazing parties few times a year and giving presents at the end of the year to its employees. This nice and decorative package did not hide a lot of problems the company had, such as: chaos, disgusting in-your-face office politics, lack of efficient management and mobbing. Even though the upper management was implementing many reforms, it was impossible to reverse some of the changes that had negative impact on the company.This all has lead to the exodus of many talented people and gave the place a bad name. EU leadership should start looking at the Union just like at any other company or organization. Political doctrines or social contracts are fine as long as their goals and objectives are doable and ready to be implemented fast.

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    20 January 2015  01:46, by Erika Grey

    Excellent article! Well written! Enjoyed the style, what a breather and the article effectively kept my attention.

  • Europe: A Denationalization Project For the Best

    6 January 2015  11:19, by Ludger

    Dear Iwantout, you are quite right that the author’s idea would probably not find support among the European population. There is, however, no need to detect an autocratic intention here. This is Ferghane Azihari’s expression of opinion, not an attempt to force it upon others. There is no need to check for popular support before uttering an opinion. Nevertheless, your point that a splitup of European nations would probably not find support is valid for practical reasons. Even if it might be desirable to have smaller and therefore more democratic political entities in Europe, especially since the more different enteties you have, the more different solutions you can fit to a problem and the less people have to live under rules they deem wrong, I do think that nationalist ideology is so strong that you can create Europe only with it, not against it. Moreover, there can be technical reasons for not splitting countries apart. How would you divide welfare systems for example? Most people have future entitlements from them, how would you guarantee that they can keep these entitlements? Thus, I have a mixed feeling on the idea of splitting countries apart. Best regards Ludger

  • Merkel’s no to Cameron: time to settle Britain’s relationship with the EU

    31 December 2014  20:00, by giuseppe marrosu

    Iwantout has a point. Up to now we in the Eurozone have tolerated the UK’s footdragging on closer integration largely out of fear of a British disengagement. The reasons are that others might follow, that the UK is a major net contributor to the EC’s budget despite all the rebates, and that most of Eurozone governments are against the US of E either but are afraid to declare it, so they use the UK’s chronic anti-europeism as a shield. But, in my humble opinion, in this game everyone ends up losing: the UK loses its sovereignety (whatever that might mean for a US satellite that has a population 20 times smaller than China and 7 times smaller the rest of the EU and that relies on imports for most raw materials and energy) against its own people’s will (I believe) and the rest of Europe is stuck to a partner that vetoes much-needed reforms in the direction of more integration. The Eurozone should become a sovereign State to be more effective in facing today’s problem, but it should let England out (with or without Scotland, they’ve thrown away their chance at independence within the EU) if it chooses that. It’s time for the People in each country to debate and decide freely if they want to stay or not in a closer Union. Those who choose not to should be free to become friendly partners of the new Power.

  • Europe: A Denationalization Project For the Best

    30 December 2014  10:09, by Iwantout

    The word democratic appears four time in one form or another in this piece. Yet no where do you acknowledge the right of the electorate to vote or even be consulted on your grand design to dissolve their countries. Instead you adopt an autocratic elitist stance that those in favour of your scheme know best.

    Please could you provide any evidence / link / report / essay etc. from within the last ten years which suggests for one moment that 50.1% of the population of the EU as a whole would support such a move to abolish their states and create your preferred option. (I would even settle for an example of any state showing such willingness.) Failure to provide any such evidence will allow readers to draw their own conclusions with regards to the support you actually have. I would of course remind you that in a number of countries voting in May 2014 the anti EU parties won, hardly evidence of support for your case; aside from the fact that once again an ever increasing majority failed to engage at all.

    I would suggest that this shows that in some countries majority support for the EU even as it currently exists is highly debateable.

    In your section touching on subsidiarity you recognise its importance. I would point back to you that the EUs history is of the relentless accretion of power to the centre and the failure to accept subsidiarity in any real form. Why for example in political terms is it necessary for the centre to decree what light bulbs I can buy, can I not make up my own mind ? Is this essential for the ’project’, provide me the information and let me decide.

    You finished with a quote from Monnet, let me do the same illustrating his absolute recognition of the lack of support his ideas had. “Europe’s nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation." 30th April 1952. Hardly the words of a democrat are they! I assume you still support this position ? 30/12/14

  • Merkel’s no to Cameron: time to settle Britain’s relationship with the EU

    16 December 2014  21:53, by Iwantout

    We can agree that we have come to the point when the UK must decide what relationship it has with the EU. Your assessment that the UK can go no further down the federalist path is undoubtedly accurate.

    Your comments re migration and influence over legislation are too basic.

    The simplistic welfare cost benefit discussion ignores the social costs to health, education etc. Dept of Health figures show the current annual cost to the NHS of the 611k “non-active” EU migrants (EU figs Oct 2013) to be approx. €1.8 bn (£1.5 bn); about 1% of the NHS budget. The Dept of Education estimates that an additional 155,000 primary school places will need to be provided by 2017/18 largely as a result of migration. The debate is much more complex that net welfare payments.

    We can all agree that controlled migration is beneficial to everyone, but how can any government plan effectively (housing, schools, power, transport infrastructure, etc) when very large movements of people can happen at extremely short notice ?

    With regards to the impact on employment for the low skilled, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development surveyed 1000 businesses, the results were published 30/09/14. It stated “some younger British workers were likely to have failed to find work because of the huge influx of migrants from Poland etc”. More than 25% of manufacturers and 23% of all employers said EU migration had reduced job opportunities for young Britons. Two thirds of the migrants from the 8 east European states were in low to middle skilled jobs despite 60% being graduates. So low skilled UK people cannot find work and higher qualified migrants (educated at the expense of their home countries) end up in low paid work here. Difficult to see a winner, apart from employers having to pay less for their staff.

    Legislation from the EU largely comes from the comitology process, this has representatives from all the EFTA countries (and therefore would include the UK). The UK would not have a vote but given that since the 01/11/14 the EZ can pass QMV legislation against the wishes of non-euro countries that does not seem to be much of a sacrifice.

    The final point of course is that the free movement of labour is only one of the four pillars. The remaining pillars have not been completed despite strenuous efforts by the UK since 1992, so why is the movement of labour so sacrosanct?

    The EU has red lines, but so do the UK voters. Indeed one of the most interesting aspects of this situation is the way ALL the parties have lost control of the situation because they refused to engage with the public for years on this subject. A failure by the EU to recognise the popular feeling could well result in a “Brexit” regardless of how UK politicians campaign and how would that impact on the whole EU structure? All we want is trade, but you want to create a US of E, with a major country walking away would that becomes easier or harder ? (16/12/14)

  • Fiscal Policy of Europe and the Euro: Past, Present, and Future

    28 November 2014  20:49, by Iwantout

    The Europe has most definitely not been financially united since 1992. Remember ‘Europe’, the ‘EU’ and the ‘EZ’ are entirely different things and conflating them causes confusion. The euro is not even the currency of many EU member states. At least two have permanent opt outs and are under no obligation to ever join the euro, yet (at present) they remain full members of the EU and the needs of those states must also be considered by the EU with as much care as any euro member.

    It is almost impossible to even argue that the EZ states themselves are financially united. There is no banking union, no transfer union, no direct tax raising powers etc. I accept entirely that many federalists want these powers, but as of today they do not exist yet are symptomatic of a united financial state. Indeed currency controls are in existence within the EZ itself, I point to Cyprus. An entirely impossible position in a financially united state, imagine not being able to move your money between Yorkshire and Lancashire to see the point. I could also point out that some national euro coins (the commemorative ones) are not even legal tender across the whole EZ.

    When the euro was launched there were five qualifying conditions. Only one state ever met them all at the time of entry (Luxembourg), this is the foundation for the ongoing crisis that the EZ finds itself in.

    The Growth and Stability Pact has been routinely ignored by the larger states since its inception, long before the 2008 crisis. By 2011 it had been broken 60+ times yet absolutely no action whatsoever was taken by the EU. And this is the “preventative arm” that you ask readers to believe in ? Even today Germany, the strongest economy in the EZ has a debt ratio of 76.9% of GDP (and has been over 60% since before the founding of the euro and therefore constantly in breach of the GSP). Mind you when Greece is at 175%, Italy at 133% and the EZ as an average of 90.9% you begin to see exactly how meaningful the GSP is.

    In terms of the bails outs, these were of course entirely illegal and reference to Article 123 TFEU and Article 21.1 of the Statute for the ESCB show this to be the case. But laws in the EU can be ignored if political circumstances make it preferable.

    Given these realities why should any person seriously believe the GSP or indeed any of the other financial mechanisms within the EZ are credible or indeed will be followed as per the written word ? 28/11/14

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    12 November 2014  14:34, by Iwantout

    “He also courted controversy when he defended banking secrecy and the Grand Duchy’s tax and economic privileges as a tax haven.” Well since the report of the International Consortium of Investigatory Journalists (05/11/14) we now know exactly what this sentence means and the industrial scale of the tax avoidance he oversaw.

    Mr Juncker spent time criticising those he accused of aggressive tax avoidance, and of national leaders who he declared were defending national interests over the needs of the EU. At the same time it is now clear he was doing exactly that which he was so publicly condemning in others.

    Today we have a situation where a commissioner directly under the control of President Juncker is investigating the actions of Prime Minister Juncker to see precisely what offences are disclosed and we the electorate are supposed to be content. At the same time as of today (12/11/14) Mr Juncker has declined to present himself to the Parliament to answer questions on the issue.

    Reports in Der Spiegel suggest there are at “least two cases of impermissible state aid” in the Luxembourg tax affairs which would of course be illegal.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/juncker-faces-uncertain-future-amid-tax-loophole-investigations-a-1002062.html#js-article-comments-box-pager

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/editorial-on-tax-problems-of-eu-commission-president-juncker-a-1002075.html

    (These articles are worth reading if only to see a German journal berating European journalists for failing to investigate and challenge the EU leaders and structures to uncover just this sort of hypocrisy, and the way Luxembourg helped FIAT arrange a tax rate of 0.03% on 2.3bn euros.)

    In the final analysis Mr Juncker has a straight forward conflict of interest and at the very least should hand over control of the Commission and temporarily absent himself from all EU activities until the matter is fully investigated. Resignation is also a matter he should be considering.

  • Europa and the bull: The significance of the myth in modern Europe

    26 October 2014  23:32, by Ronald Griffin

    I would like to say, that I am fascinated by all of the enlightening and intellectual comments, I agree with them all thank you!!

  • Open letter to Jean-Claude JUNCKER regarding the designation of Mr. Tibor Navracsics as Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Citizenship

    2 October 2014  06:50, by Hans L. Schmid

    Citizens all over Europe may express their opinion on the future of Europe directly on www.our-new-europe.eu.

  • Two European institutions, One president, and the Lisbon Treaty

    22 September 2014  08:04, by Emmanuel

    to the Editor: you write “There is also the Council of Europe, an international organisation currently comprised of representatives of 47 European, Asian, and North American countries.”

    I don’t know where you get that from. The US and Canada are only observers. As for northern Asia, that means Azerbaidjan, Armenia, Georgia, but this is still “Europe”, in the “from the Atlantic to the Ural” acception.

    More info on coe.int.

  • Yes or No? We are all Scottish

    11 September 2014  11:03, by Alexandre Marin

    If I were a scottish citizen, I wouldn’t vote independence for the following reasons :

    First, Scotland has a large autonomy. The real matters in which Scotland has no sovereignty are the foreign affairs. If Scotland decides to become independant, it will have such sovereignty only in a theorical constitutionnal reality. Scotland is not powerful enough to have a real independant foreign policy and to have an influence on the international relations (neither is United Kingdom, only a European diplomatic federation is able to carry such power).

    Secondly, as European federalists, we criticize the Member-states because of their national selfishness ; they do not care about long term European interests, but only about their short-term leader’s interests. Therefore, we should avoid praising such selfishness at the regional level when we blame it at the National level.

    Then, if we consider voting independance because of the fear that the U.K could leave the EU, and doing so, force Scotland to leave the EU as well, why didn’t we decide to organize the referendum about Scottish independance after the British referendum about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU ? Scottish people could have saved the UK form such withdrawal, and if the majority of the British citizens had decided to leave the EU anyway, then Scotland would have decided to leave the UK to go back in the European Union.

    Finally, it contradicts two European values, as this articles reminds very well : first, we are stronger together, and this is why the EU has been created. The second one is the unity in the diversity, that is to say the idea that our differences are not a weakness for our unity, but a strength. If we fail to honour these two values at the National level, why would we do so at the European level ?

  • Europe vs. USA: Whose Economy Wins?

    4 September 2014  16:38, by Karl

    Interesting topic and posts. I always enjoy the condescension of Europeans. Lest our European “allies” forget, a lot of the US debt acquired consistents of shouldering 75% of the NATO budget. You know, the “alliance” that has allowed you to build your continental utopia. You can continue to believe that “Russia will never invade” nations such as Germany, France, etc. and live in your fantasy utopia. Naive at best. As history proves, bullies only understand force, and your defense forces are a joke. No wonder Putin invades Ukraine with impunity. Not in our backyard, but yours.

    For may part, as an American, I would agree that we should withdraw from Europe (as you seem to want) and let you fend for yourselves...like you did in 1914 and 1939. Oh wait. My bad. We’ve shed enough of our blood and tax money protecting you since World War II. Grow up and fend for yourselves. While you talk (and regulate) everything to death in Brussels/Strasbourg, we’ll continue to act. Empire? Probably. Decline? That’s been a topic since the 1940’s. I’ll take my chances on this side of the pond. Good luck with your utopia, comrades.

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    28 August 2014  23:51, by Iwantout

    Thank you for this piece. I had no idea that a law degree was one of the most difficult degrees in Europe, I would have thought that accolade probably belonged to one of the sciences, mathematics, engineering, or medicine etc. Although being fluent in five languages is certainly impressive.

    I did not know that Mr Juncker had only ever worked in politics, albeit for in country only the size of medium sized city. (By the way you forget mention that he was the protégé of Jacques Santer, a previous Commission President)

    Regarding Mr Juncker and the SREL scandal, the Parliamentary inquiry into the affair noted that Mr Juncker had been deficient in his control over the service and that he had failed to report all of the service’s irregularities to the enquiry commission, worrying given his famous quotes “When it becomes serious, you have to lie” and “I am for secret, dark debates.” Let us agree that despite all his supposed experience and hard work he was unable to control the SREL, an organization with 60 staff, let’s hope he does better with the 55,000 directly employed EU personnel. (Although of course Mr Santer couldn’t even control the 15 commissioners he was directly responsible for in 1999)

    We know Mr Juncker had a hand in the creation of the Euro and a central role in the Growth and Stability Pact. The 23.1% of unemployed youth must be pleased that such a central figure has been elevated to a more powerful role.

    His involvement with the Troika and the imposition of policies which have reduced the Greece from the status of developed market to emerging market (the first country in history to make this move) also speaks well of his abilities, although as he was only chairman of the euro group and thus not possibly responsible for much of the resulting policy I am sure we can accept your assertion that he was a “good cop”.

    Who chose him ? Well Mr Juncker was not on any ballot paper across the EU. He avoided campaigning in a number of countries including the UK and his EPP managed to win the grand total of 28,014 votes out of 16,454,950 cast (0.17%) and come twentieth here. Of course the vast majority of EU voters across the continent stayed at home in even greater numbers than ever before and simply refused to engage with the entire process, hardly a ringing endorsement. Finally the European Parliament breached treaty provision and demanded that Mr Juncker be nominated, just another day of EU power grabbing.

    But regardless, we can all agree with your final paragraphs in section 9. He has a clear “penchant for European federalism” which for the majority of us here in the UK is good news. Any move at all in that direction can do nothing other than push us even more decisively towards the exit door, almost certainly a good result for the UK and possibly the rest of the EU, although of course a few countries will have to increase their contributions to make up for our absence.

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    27 August 2014  00:56, by AndrewTurvey

    Excellent article - many thanks!