• EU New Strategy of Development

    Last Wednesday, by Brian Sayler

    The European Commission dedicates 2015 as the European Year for Development Aid. We come back here on the new Development Aid program for 2014-2020. After two and a half years of debate and negotiation, a new generation of EU spending programs went into effect on January 1st, 2014 as part of the 2014-2020 multi-annual (...)

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  • Brexit: a danger for both EU and the UK

    7 April 2015  00:23, by Iwantout

    Giuseppe Marrosu I can understand your view that the UK is engaged in blackmail and your comments regarding the stance the EU should take are entirely rational from that position. However I would say that actually what is happening, is finally the recognition by UK politicians that what the UK voters desire out of membership of the EU is a long way from the closer integration that some on the mainland continent want. Cameron is being forced into this position by public pressure not his own desires, democracy in action if you like.

    I would argue that a simple trade arrangement is all the UK has ever wanted and the political ambitions of the EU are entirely unacceptable to the vast majority of our people. Given this, Cameron and others have to press for the general reduction in the power the EU exercises over UK life in order to maintain a clear majority in favour of EU membership. In a very real sense this is purely an internal UK political issue. The EU is actually being faced by the demands of the British public (through Cameron) and it will have to decide whether continued UK membership warrants accepting the demands of the British public with the knowledge that the UK is unlikely to ever further integrate. Most problematically of course any agreement with the UK is likely to have to involve some recognition of the need to control migration which has (rightly or wrongly) become the most toxic element of the debate on EU membership here. This one issue alone could potentially decide the entire question.

    I absolutely agree that you should be allowed to choose your own future without the UK or anyone else impeding your wishes, although I have yet to see any evidence at all that any electorate in the EU would vote to submerge their national identity in a US of E which is the logical conclusion of your deeper integration. And I genuinely wish you good luck and success if you can obtain a democratic mandate from your people.

    Finally for your information on the 31st October 2014 the UK Treasury and the Office for National Statistics disclosed that the UK net contribution to the EU in 2013 were in fact £11.27bn. This figures does not include the £1.7bn additional demand which was made public on the 24th October 2014. That is a grand total of approximately 17.67bn euro at today’s rates. 06/04/15

  • Brexit: a danger for both EU and the UK

    6 April 2015  23:26, by Iwantout

    Cameron is having a referendum due to public demand. He wants a deal he can sell to the British public and reduce the pressure to leave. Cameron is Pro EU

    Your article makes a number of misleading claims

    EU rules are made by the comitology process. A UK as part of EEA / EFTA would be engaged in this process, like Norway, so it would have as much influence on the rules as it does now. It would not have a vote, but since 01/11/14 the EZ can enforce rules by QMV regardless of the views of non euro countries, so that seems no loss. Additionally it would only be rules applicable to the single market that would apply to the UK, again as for Norway. So for 2000 and 2013 Norway had to adopt 4,724 EU rules, (almost all minor technical matters) at the same time the UK was had to accept 52,183 directives and regulations. (90.9% of EU legislation does not apply to Norway.) Of course no EU legislation applies to goods the UK sells outside the EU (most of our exports)

    The EU is not popular in Scotland or Wales. Results go up and down, but here are some points to consider. In 2013 59% of Scots wanted to leave / reduce power of the EU against 25% who wanted to keep the status quo and 11% who wanted more integration. (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2014/03/29/25009/ ) Similarly in 2012 Wales was the most Eurosceptic part of the UK (http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2012/07/23/euroscepticism-survey/)

    Open Europe (a pro EU group) did indeed say under some conditions UK GDP could drop by a maximum of 2.23%, they also said GDP could rise by 1.55%. But they suggest that a more realistic range was between -0.8% and +0.6% (http://www.cityam.com/212262/beware-headline-costs-brexit-we-ll-thrive-if-we-re-open-world )

    A Civitas report (05/14) showed EU membership had not improved FTAs the UK had gained access to. (http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/insideradvantage.pdf ) It says “There is no evidence to suggest that the ’heft’ or ’clout’ of the EU has helped secure more FTAs than those that might have been secured by independent negotiations” It goes on “There were 25 EU FTAs in force in 2012 while the Swiss had independently negotiated 26, 13 of which came into force before those of the EU and three in the same year.” It adds that there is no evidence that the quality of the EU’s trade agreements is any higher.

    The UK is one of only 2 military powers in the EU. If we leave we will still have the same sized armed forces and still be members of NATO. The EU meanwhile will have only one military power left.

    The UK could manage perfectly well outside the EU. How the EU would respond to a large economic power leaving is open to debate.

    Finally I would say Baroness Thatcher was increasingly anti EU. In 1995 she publicly stated the UK might have to leave the EU, and by 2002 described her decision to sign the Single European Act “as a terrible error” and was calling for a “fundamental re-negotiation” of Britain’s links with the EU. 06/04/15

  • Brexit: a danger for both EU and the UK

    4 April 2015  17:07, by giuseppe marrosu

    I am not in favour of the UK staying in the EU at its own conditions, only for its own sake, and against its own people’s will. I don’t understand why the Brexit would “establish a culture of blackmail”. Quite the opposite, I believe that blackmailing is what we are seeing now: Cameron hopes to convince its partners to concede to all his requests in order to keep the UK in the EU . If the EU does bow to this, then the culture of blackmail will only strengthen. But if the EU resists, then the UK will have to decide whether to accept to be just another member without special privileges (as it should be) or “leave the ship” and sail alone. Then the EU will show to everybody that such blackmail strategies do not pay. UK’s net contribution to the EU was 8,641 milllion euro in 2013 according to the EU’s website (not 14 billions); that’s what the rest of the EU would lose if the UK left. That’s a lot of money, that’s true, but they say freedom is not free. Last but not least: we need to reduce the EU’s democracy deficit. It is unjustifyable from a democratic point of view to keep the UK in the EU if most of the British want out. And if they do not want out there is no reason to fear a referendum on the subject. That is obviously true for any other EU Member State. The rest of us have an interest in staying in the (possibly smaller) EU and developping a deeper integration within it; and I believe that we should be able to decide on our own future democratically, without the UK or other out-opters, anti-europeists and foot-draggers interfering. For all this reasons we should wish the UK all the best and give them a big goodbye kiss, unless they accept to go back in the ranks. Off course we should allow them to apply back for membership if and when they think they’re ready. And off course that would mean they accept to adopt the Euro. Just like any other new member.

  • Europe vs. USA: Whose Economy Wins?

    15 March 2015  00:58, by Danny

    EU’s economy is larger than US, almost as large as US+China together. That’s insane...

    US GDP : 17T usd China GDP: 10T usd EU 16.6T USD

    Combined for what ?

  • 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!!