European Union

Hi Grit

I will try and shed some light on the events happening in the European Union. First of all I should point out that England as an individual country does not have independent membership. It is the United Kingdom that is a member state. The United Kingdom comprises of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It should be said here that there have been rumblings in Scotland about having independent membership for some time. At the moment we are in the globally unique position of being a union within a union.

EURO CURRENCY

Prior to the new states joining the EU at the beginning of 2007, of whom most are planning to Join the Euro currency within the next three years, UK and Sweden were the only countries that have not yet joined, basically because the public don’t want it. At present the UK pound is worth about €1.48. Although the government are saying publically that they are in favour, most people in the UK see the currency change as giving away our another part of our sovereignty.

UK Veto

The UK has the ability to Veto the affect of a number of actions that could be taken by the EU. This includes such areas as tax, defence, foreign policy. It has been used several times during the course of our membership, sometimes quite effectively. However, at the same time, particularly in cases of tax, the government has given up certain elements of our veto where they consider it to be “in the nations interest.” At no time have these relinquishing of veto elements been put to the public vote. It is like everything that you give up of course, it is then impossible to get it back. These actions have been harshly criticised in Parliament, as you can see from the response to the European Tax Harmonisation (Veto) Bill [H.L.] back in 1999.

The UK veto, which is more extensive than any other member state, does not of course add to our popularity with the French and Germans. 

EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION DRAFT

Back in 2003, the EU drew up a draft constitution. If you have the patience to read a 265 page document, it can be found here. This is the proposal that has caused so much controversy, and which France, although it was their idea in the first place, the Dutch, UK and others have rejected so far. The basic intention of the constitution was, in effect, to create a single country, similar to the USA. The result would be that the EU would become a legal entity in its own right. Had it been achieved, international representation would have been at EU level, therefore countries such as the UK, France, Germany etc would cease to have an individual voice in organisations such as the UN. In addition, items such as trade agreement, defence and security would also be controlled by the EU centrally.

I guess the intention of all of this was to create a second “super-power” on the scale of the US. However, there are several significant problems to this in my view.

1) The cultural differences between the member states. There is no common thread in this respect.

2) Language barriers. How can you have a regional union of this nature when there are in excess of twenty different languages being spoken. I know that some would argue that this is what the UN is, but look at the arguments and problems that is caused in this organisation.

3) Sovereignty. Historically, countries like the UK and Germany are very jealous of their own sovereignty. The difficulty with a United Europe is that these, and other countries, would be constantly fighting for supremacy, which would influence its effectiveness globally. Can you see the UK wanting to be ruled by a German dominated EU or visa versa?

4) Baltic States. The recent admission to membership of the baltic states creates similar problems to 3) above. Over the last two or three decades, these countries have fought to free themselves from the dominance of one state in a union, namely the USSR. Does the EU think that they are going to allow themselves to be dragged back into a similar position?

5) Rotation. At present, the EU is governed on a rotational basis by one of its member states. I am not sure whether the proposed constitution provides for this to continue, but it might. The difficulty with this is that you could end up with a situation where every six or twelve months, the emphasis on issues would see a change of position. For example, first you would get the French influence, next would come the Polish influence, then the UK and so on. This does not provide for stability.

In my view, whilst there is some merit to the EU, in terms of creating favourable trading and, in limited cases, legal conditions, to transform it into one Political, Legal, Global entity would a) be impossible to maintain and b) be inherently dangerous for the region and internationally.

In addition, the UK is having enough problems keeping its own union together, and that is only four countries, how the heck is Europe hoping to maintain control of twenty-five?

the Brit

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6 Responses to “European Union”

  1. JO Says:

    An excellent overview of the subject.
    However, you leave out one very important aspect: The democratic deficit in the EU construct itself. The EU was created to be UN-democratic. It cannot be reformed because its very structures do not allow for it.
    The only elected institution is the European Parliament, made up of MEP’s. But this parliament has very little power. Mostly it is just a rubber- stamping shop for laws proposed by the unelected Commission.
    Neither does the EU parliament have “an official opposition” like other parliaments in western Liberal Democracies. MEP’s may belong to national political parties, but they are all committed to the concept of transnational government and the creation of full political union. Whatever the debate.. you still get the EU at the end of it.

  2. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Jo

    Thank you for your input and for bringing up a very important aspect of the problem with the EU. I hope all will review your comment in addition to what I have posted.

    Regards

    the Brit

  3. kosmopolit Says:

    Nice post but unfortunately very superficial. Since I don’t want to write a huge essay just a few comments:

    “… new states joining the EU at the beginning of 2007, of whom most are planning to Join the Euro currency within the next three years”.

    This is wrong: Legally, all new member states will adopt the Euro as a currency since it is part of their EU accession treaty. But even though it is rumoured that this will be the case in 2009 nothing has been official so far because the convergence criteria have to be met first!

    “The basic intention of the constitution was, in effect, to create a single country, similar to the USA.” (…) In addition, items such as trade agreement, defence and security would also be controlled by the EU centrally.”

    Quite wrong….obviously you did not read the constitutional treaty at all. The aim was to consolidate, simplify and replace the existing set of overlapping treaties. The EU will never become a country but is more seen as a sui generis governance.
    The European Common Commercial Policy was already included in EC Treaty Article 133 …quite a while ago. Defence and security would have not been controlled centrally (by the commission) but all decisions in this area would have been the responsibility of a anonymous decision by the council.

    Regarding your 5 bullet points:

    1) cultural differences? Cultural diversity is at the heart of the EU and I cannot see that this causes negative effects. Everyone that has lived in another EU country for a while would probably agree that cultural diversity is enriching. Anyway, Europe has a common history and so called nations do not differ so much from each other….have you ever been to Asia or Africa?

    2) Language barriers? Actually the EU works quite well with the 23 official and 3 working languages. The UN cannot serve as a comparison because it has a totally different structure.

    3) Sovereignity? It is an outdated concept from the last century. Europe faces common problems (e.g. energy, environment, globalisation) so we should also act together.

    4) Baltic States: There is a difference between forced and free membership.

    5) Rotation creates some problems at the moment. That is why the constitution would have introduced a 2.5 years presidency.

  4. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Kosmopolit

    Thank you for your comments which I read with interest. A couple of points. Firstly, I did not say that anything was official on the Euro question with new members, just that most are planning. I agree that there is a criteria. Secondly, I do not agree entirely with your comments regarding central control. Agreed, I have not read the proposed treaty in depth although I have spent some time looking at it, but from other research I have undertaken, the direction seems to be in the manner described. I would also point out that the sort of governance as you describe is, in the view of many UK people, a step towards the position I described.

    I do not deny that cultural diversity is beneficial, and have lived in Spain for two years, so I do have some experience of the differences. All I can recount from the UK viewpoint and the point I put is a feeling that is held by a number of people in the UK, as does your point 2. However, I would accept that possibly part of the UK response to your point 2 may be the UK apparent difficulty in being comfortable with multi-lingual situations.

    With regard to your point 3, I respect your opinion, but it is not one that I nor many others in the UK would agree with. Point 4 I stand by my comment and whether entry is forced or free, I do not think that this changes that point.

    Having said all that I really appreciate and respect your putting your viewpoint here.

    Regards

    the Brit

  5. JO Says:

    kosmopolit wrote

    “Quite wrong….obviously you did not read the constitutional treaty at all.”

    As with all things EU, its what’s BETWEEN the lines, that really counts.

    You wrote
    ” The EU will never become a country but is more seen as a sui generis governance.”

    The EU has its own parliament, civil service, flag, anthem, currency, court, police force, army and foreign “embassies” etc etc. When something’s sounds like a duck, waddles like a duck, and lays ducks eggs.. I reckon its a duck, don’t you?

    (You’ll be telling us next that ” the EU Commission – is tiny, with fewer employees than Leeds City Council.” !!

    And the Superstate agenda isn’t a myth dreamed up by hysterical jingoists. Its supported by copious quotes from its elite prime movers.

    “The European Union is a state under construction”
    Speech in Washington DC, 10th November 1999
    Elmar Brok MEP
    Chairman of the European Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs

    “..we must put in place the last brick in the building of European integration, namely political integration…There must be a translation from a union of states into a Federation”.
    Joschka Fischer – German Foreign Minister
    The Daily Telegraph, 13th May 2000

    “Transforming the European Union into a single state, with one army, one constitution and one foreign policy is the crucial challenge of the age”.
    Fischer – 7th April 1999

    “The top priority (is) to turn the EU into a single political state” The Times Fischer – 26th November 1998

    Jean Monnet
    One of the ‘founding fathers’ of the European Union and founder of the European Movement
    “The fusion of economic functions would compel nations to fuse their sovereignty into that of a single European state”.
    3rd April, 1952

    “Step by step…the European Commission takes a political decision and behaves like a growing government.”
    Romana Prodi. Interview in The Independent, 4th February 2000 President of the EU Commission

    “The project of the founding fathers is complete: the economic Union is becoming a political Union…”
    Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the French UMP party & Presidential hopeful – Le Figaro, 14th April 2005

    “The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State.”
    Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister – Financial Times, 21st June 2004
    “The EU Constitution is the birth certificate of the United States of Europe.”
    Hans Martin Bury, German Minister for Europe – Die Welt, 25th February 2005

    There are hundreds more….

    You wrote “Cultural diversity is at the heart of the EU and I cannot see that this causes negative effects”.

    ” Sovereignty? It is an outdated concept from the last century. ”

    There’s nothing negative about diversity. But we’re not talking about “diversity”, we’re talking about effective governmental democracy.( I am assuming you ARE an advocate of proper democracy?) For democracy to flourish, it needs a demos. Though EU does indeed contain much “diversity” (and long may this continue), there never has been and never will be a European demos. A demos needs a common language, common heritage and common loyalties.
    Democracy can only exist and flourish effectively if the loyalties shared by government, opposition and the electorate as a whole, are rooted firmly within the nation state which they all share.

    National loyalty is what binds us all to each other. It is what gives us a stake in our nation’s territory, and what makes us accept the rights AND the responsibilities which stem from our citizenship.
    It means we accept the laws made in our name and embrace them as ours – even if we don’t like them.
    The nation state is the only form of social body which has ever shown itself able to sustain true effective democracy, because it is the best body to sustain its people in return. The EU cannot – and it will eventually collapse, inevitably dragging our freedoms and rights down with it. God knows what totalitarian regimes will emerge in its place to repair the damage!
    You can have Democracy or you can have the European Union.. you can’t have both.

    You wrote
    “Europe faces common problems (e.g. energy, environment, globalisation) so we should also act together. ”

    There are some issues which it would be wise to co-operate as independent sovereign states, but in today’s fast-moving global economy, Britain should be free to “think on its feet”. To shackle ourselves to an out-dated, over-regulated bureaucratic and crumbling monolith like the EU is economic suicide.
    JO

  6. britandgrit Says:

    Hi Jo

    Thank you for your very infomative and explanatory comment. We really appreciate the effort you have put in and I personally agree with your argument.

    the Brit

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