The Lisbon Treaty. For or Against

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Do you support the Treaty of Lisbon?

  • Yes

    Votes: 8 50.0%
  • No

    Votes: 8 50.0%

  • Total voters
    16
  • #1
The Lisbon Treaty was introduced to replace the rejected EU Constitution.

It's critics say it is the same document repackaged and re-presented under a different name but this time without a referendum in those countries which rejected it's predecessor.

Ireland is as far as I am aware the only country which will now hold a referendum on ratification which will take place in 4 weeks time. Rejection by Ireland will (theoretically at least) mean the scrapping of the treaty.

For those Europeans who do not have a vote on whether or not they want this new treaty here is a chance to register your approval or disapproval :smile:

http://www.reformtreaty.ie/ [Broken]
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
This doesn't really apply to me since I am an American, however, if I were European I would be against that smacks of globalism. That is all the EU is.
 
  • #3
chemisttree
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It sounds like a slippery slope to me to confer powers to an international bureacracy regarding matters of agricultural and monetary policy.

The Union is also required to respect the principle of subsidiarity which means that decisions should, if possible, be taken at local, regional or national level. As already mentioned, National Parliaments are given the role of overseeing the application of this vital EU principle.

This is also the current role of National Parliaments. What defines "if possible"? Majority vote? Unanimous vote?

Very slippery slope IMO.
 
  • #4
The vote on this treaty is next week and at the moment polls show it to be neck and neck.

The gov't who are campaigning for a yes vote originally adopted a strategy of providing zero information on what the treaty actually means saying it was too complicated for people to bother with the details. Some independent groups such as Libertas whose funding sources the gov't have queried are campaigning for a no vote and have spelled out specific consequences of agreeing to the new treaty.

The problem the gov't have in selling it is there actually isn't anything good in it for Ireland. For example it halves Ireland's vote whilst doubling Germany's.

It is also another major step on the road to a US of E with the creation of a president and European foreign minister which many people are very unhappy about not least as these will be appointees rather than elected officials.

In this vein it also moves many more items such as immigration policy for example from the jurisdiction of the sovereign gov'ts of the individual countries to the largely unaccountable bureaucrats of Europe.

It will be interesting to see how the Europhiles will respond to a no vote. Because France and Holland voted no to the first draft of the new constitution they simply tacked it on as additions to existing treaties and didn't give them a vote whereas last time it happened in Ireland they simply held the referendum again until people voted the right way.

There is something very undemocratic about the way Europe as a political entity is developing.
 
  • #5
Ed Aboud
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Hey. I'm living in Dublin, but I'm not really sure what to vote yet. As it stands, I think I am going to vote yes. I feel that it will definitely strengthen Ireland's position economically.
 
  • #6
epenguin
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The problem the gov't have in selling it is there actually isn't anything good in it for Ireland. For example it halves Ireland's vote whilst doubling Germany's.

last time it happened in Ireland they simply held the referendum again until people voted the right way.

There is something very undemocratic about the way Europe as a political entity is developing.

(Germany's under-representation has had to change.)

But mainly, about Ireland, the example cited often us in order to show how scandalously undemocratic and unfair the EU is. If you want to try and show that, choose some other issue.

It is a quirk that the Irish constitution (according to the interpetation by a Consitutional Court ruling) required a referendum only in Ireland on enlargement of the EU. So if their Irish no vote had been accepted it would have meant stopping the unification of almost a continent because of a vote of a small province of it, that probably reflected local and extraneous issues as referendums often do. But insofar as it did reflect the ostensible issue what was its meaning? Ireland in the Europe of 15 was the needy poor relation which needed help. Which it received on quite a large scale. It did show itself more capable of benefitting than some others, and has by now become a relatively prosperous country, a remarkable turnaround and success story. However enlargement was to countries all poorer than Ireland and all existing member states. So the Irish were being asked to vote on the question 'Do you want lose your status as poor member deserving help, to admit still poorer ones who need it more and will absorb most of the relevant budgets, and instead of keeping your grants perhaps you contribute to finance poor member states in your turn?'

They didn't. No one respected them for it and it was quite right to tell them they had made a mistake and they had to democratically vote for what they were told.
 
  • #7
(Germany's under-representation has had to change.)

But mainly, about Ireland, the example cited often us in order to show how scandalously undemocratic and unfair the EU is. If you want to try and show that, choose some other issue.

It is a quirk that the Irish constitution (according to the interpetation by a Consitutional Court ruling) required a referendum only in Ireland on enlargement of the EU. So if their Irish no vote had been accepted it would have meant stopping the unification of almost a continent because of a vote of a small province of it, that probably reflected local and extraneous issues as referendums often do. But insofar as it did reflect the ostensible issue what was its meaning? Ireland in the Europe of 15 was the needy poor relation which needed help. Which it received on quite a large scale. It did show itself more capable of benefitting than some others, and has by now become a relatively prosperous country, a remarkable turnaround and success story. However enlargement was to countries all poorer than Ireland and all existing member states. So the Irish were being asked to vote on the question 'Do you want lose your status as poor member deserving help, to admit still poorer ones who need it more and will absorb most of the relevant budgets, and instead of keeping your grants perhaps you contribute to finance poor member states in your turn?'

They didn't. No one respected them for it and it was quite right to tell them they had made a mistake and they had to democratically vote for what they were told.
Simplistic nonsense. That is not the reason Ireland voted no. The treaty of Nice was not just about enlargement, in fact that was a minor side issue. It was cynically portrayed as being about enlargement and Ireland blocking new members so as to put pressure on Ireland to reverse their referendum result. If you are looking for where the bulk of EU funding goes then you are looking in the wrong place. Try French farmers.

The Nice treaty was really about giving new powers to Europe in areas which they previously had none (in areas such as justice and social standards) whilst extending and strengthening their powers in others and was cobbled together in a so called compromise deal worked out between France and Germany to replace the Amsterdam treaty which neither would ratify and why wouldn't they ratify the Amsterdam treaty? Oh because it reduced their voting power. Yet you think as Ireland is a small country they should just do as they are told and accept the reduction in the power of their vote. Seems to me a very good reason for voting no.

And curiously the main reason for Ireland's prosperity was it's low corporation tax rate (which by the way the EU tried to stop them from doing), the subsequent inward investment, the vast majority of which came from US companies (which the EU complained about) and practically zero from EU countries, it's highly educated workforce and the highest productivity per worker in the industrialised world.

A key reason why the first Nice referendum failed was because it followed closely on the heels of the Irish finance minister being rebuked by the EU for his budget which btw in hindsight was seen even by the EU finance ministers as showing remarkable foresight. This interference in the running of the economy woke Irish people up as to just how much power the extremely undemocratic EU bureaucracy had taken on to itself and so they voted against extending that power still further. The fact Ireland was then portrayed as voting against helping new poor members was just pure propaganda for the ignorant masses.

This latest treaty has already been rejected by both Holland and France in referendums and so was redrafted as amendments to existing treaties to avoid the inconvenience of having to allow the citizens of the member states to vote on it.
 
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  • #8
I should also point out that far from trying to block new members Ireland and the UK were the only existing EU members who gave the citizens of the new member states immediate rights of entry to their countries as full EU citizens.
 
  • #9
Ed Aboud
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Well the no vote won in Ireland.
 
  • #10
vanesch
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There is something very undemocratic about the way Europe as a political entity is developing.

That's exactly what I like so much about it: European policy could be steered without having to take into account the necessity of electoral politics. It works best when it is purely technocratic.

But now, Europe is totally broken. Maybe the EU model has burst outside of its workability with so many members, and maybe it should evolve now in a kind of onion structure: a whole set of options, which member states decide to be part of or not. It is already the case: there's the Euro, there is Shengen. I am affraid that the time is over where one can hope for a totally united Europe, as visibly individual national preferences have diverged so much over different issues that no reasonable and effective compromise can be found. Where the French voted no because they thought that the previous constitution was too liberal (in the sense of too much free market oriented) and didn't have enough socialism in it, the Dutch voted no for exactly the opposite reasons. There where the French found that not enough social security was enforced by the European constitution and where corporations were not enough taxed, it seems that the Irish take the opposite stance.

So maybe one should now stop trying to have a common Europe which is the same for everybody, and just think of totally different agreements, which member states can join or not. You could have a "union of social security-rich European states", and then a "union of low tax European states", you could have one (or even different) "unions of European states with common foreign policy" (interventionist ones, peace-loving ones, military driven ones...), and each state could then pick what options it wanted for its Europe. And then you would have of course to negotiate how, for instance, trades and border taxes between these different zones should adjust for the different systems adopted in each.

In the end you would find out that each state would have its own little zone in which it just resides with exactly its preferred mix of options... with nobody else in it. The trade and other agreements between different zones would then just be specific agreements with other states. And that's then the end of it.
 
  • #11
That's exactly what I like so much about it: European policy could be steered without having to take into account the necessity of electoral politics. It works best when it is purely technocratic.

The problem, of course, is that technocracy is not the only, or even most likely, alternative to democracy.

So maybe one should now stop trying to have a common Europe which is the same for everybody, and just think of totally different agreements, which member states can join or not. You could have a "union of social security-rich European states", and then a "union of low tax European states", you could have one (or even different) "unions of European states with common foreign policy" (interventionist ones, peace-loving ones, military driven ones...), and each state could then pick what options it wanted for its Europe. And then you would have of course to negotiate how, for instance, trades and border taxes between these different zones should adjust for the different systems adopted in each.

In the end you would find out that each state would have its own little zone in which it just resides with exactly its preferred mix of options... with nobody else in it. The trade and other agreements between different zones would then just be specific agreements with other states. And that's then the end of it.

How would that be different from simply abolishing the EU entirely and relying on regular old national politics? Or was that your point?
 
  • #12
That's exactly what I like so much about it: European policy could be steered without having to take into account the necessity of electoral politics. It works best when it is purely technocratic.
I am not sure why you would find even a benevolent dictatorship preferable to a democracy :confused: What may be benevolent today might not be so benevolent tomorrow but once you've abdicated your powers to them there is nothing you can do about it.

The way the EU currently works is unelected civil service appointees write up legislation which is then submitted to the elected European Parliament for their input. The elected part of the EU monolith gets to make suggested amendments to the bills which the unelected civil service then decide whether or not to take on board. The Lisbon Treaty would have given even more power to this completely unelected body at the expense of democratic processes.

But now, Europe is totally broken. Maybe the EU model has burst outside of its workability with so many members, and maybe it should evolve now in a kind of onion structure: a whole set of options, which member states decide to be part of or not. It is already the case: there's the Euro, there is Shengen. I am affraid that the time is over where one can hope for a totally united Europe, as visibly individual national preferences have diverged so much over different issues that no reasonable and effective compromise can be found. Where the French voted no because they thought that the previous constitution was too liberal (in the sense of too much free market oriented) and didn't have enough socialism in it, the Dutch voted no for exactly the opposite reasons. There where the French found that not enough social security was enforced by the European constitution and where corporations were not enough taxed, it seems that the Irish take the opposite stance.

So maybe one should now stop trying to have a common Europe which is the same for everybody, and just think of totally different agreements, which member states can join or not. You could have a "union of social security-rich European states", and then a "union of low tax European states", you could have one (or even different) "unions of European states with common foreign policy" (interventionist ones, peace-loving ones, military driven ones...), and each state could then pick what options it wanted for its Europe. And then you would have of course to negotiate how, for instance, trades and border taxes between these different zones should adjust for the different systems adopted in each.

In the end you would find out that each state would have its own little zone in which it just resides with exactly its preferred mix of options... with nobody else in it. The trade and other agreements between different zones would then just be specific agreements with other states. And that's then the end of it.
How is the EU broken? It's the same as it was yesterday. This no vote simply means it will be a lot harder for the likes of Giscard d'Estaing the unelected author of the original constitution, already rejected by the citizens of France and Holland, to achieve their aim of a US of E dominated by France and Germany.

The treaty was masked as merely a tidy up of various pieces of existing legislation to enable the EU market to operate more efficiently but in reality some of the key pieces were the creation of a non-elected president and foreign minister with the power to agree worldwide treaties. It also allowed for the creation of a European army (renamed rapid defense force because of the disquiet over the initial proposal) presumably so Europe could if it wished go to war with somebody under the authority of these unelected unaccountable officials. So much for Ireland's neutrality in this new Europe :rolleyes:

None of this is fantasy the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso himself has declared the document will usher in "the world's first nonimperial empire".

The proposed treaty on how Europe will be run is essentially the same as the rejected EU Constitution, an architect of the original document said yesterday.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, admitted the changes made were "few and far between...and more cosmetic than real".

Mr d'Estaing, who has compared his role in drawing up the blueprint to that of America's founding fathers, said the term 'constitution' had been dropped simply to "make a few people happy"

EU leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel have lined up to boast that the new 'amending treaty' is the old constitution in a new form.

"The substance of the constitution is preserved," Mrs Merkel told MEPs last month. "That is a fact."
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/art...ion-reborn-says-creator-Giscard-dEstaing.html
 
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  • #13
vanesch
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I am not sure why you would find even a benevolent dictatorship preferable to a democracy :confused: What may be benevolent today might not be so benevolent tomorrow but once you've abdicated your powers to them there is nothing you can do about it.

The way the EU currently works is unelected civil service appointees write up legislation which is then submitted to the elected European Parliament for their input. The elected part of the EU monolith gets to make suggested amendments to the bills which the unelected civil service then decide whether or not to take on board. The Lisbon Treaty would have given even more power to this completely unelected body at the expense of democratic processes.

As I said, that's what I think is so brilliant about it: that the real work is done by unelected civil servants, which do not suffer from "pressures from the democratic process", but can work out entirely coherent schemes that way. In order for this not to drift away, what is necessary, is a democratic *control mechanism*. It's the only thing why a democracy is superior to a dictatorship: if you really see that it doesn't work, you can stop it. But this safeguard of democracy very often turns into a direct or indirect rule "by opinion of the people" - directly if it is by referendum, indirect if those making the decisions have to please their electorate to be re-elected. As such, most of the time, not the "right" decisions are taken, but only the "popular" decisions, that means, the rules are written by "average Joe", and each rule is written by a different "average Joe" which doesn't have to take into account whatever he decided before or will decide afterwards: it is a memory-less, responsibility-less decider. The only thing "average Joe" really can see, is whether those making the rules are really making a mess of it. That's the real power of democracy. And there should indeed be a tool, based upon that, to stop those making the rules in that case.
But "average Joe" should not be part of setting up the rules, or even each rule individually. That's BTW, the whole idea of representative democracy: you use your vote to select a set of "wise men/women" who are supposed to be more responsible and more coherent, and more intelligent than the voters themselves. However, this game has been pushed into perverted perfection because now, the voted representatives don't work out a coherent plan with the confidence of their electorate, they try to match the public opinion of the moment of their electorate, using opinion polls and other such tools. In other words, the perfect politician is now just a sounding board for the opinion of its electorate - a sounding board for average Joe.

Unfortunately, the questions that have to be answered by politicians became more and more technically involved. Real material knowledge is the only thing that can lead a decider to a right decision, and to a working coherent system. Average Joe is by far not intelligent enough to know how to reach his goals by telling what are the rules he should abide by. And this is the point where a technocracy becomes better than a democracy. We should keep the good part of democracy: the safeguard. But democracy is not the best decision-making system. A group of anonymous technically literate people are much better at that.

How is the EU broken? It's the same as it was yesterday. This no vote simply means it will be a lot harder for the likes of Giscard d'Estaing the unelected author of the original constitution, already rejected by the citizens of France and Holland, to achieve their aim of a US of E dominated by France and Germany.

It should indeed not be dominated by some countries, but simply by an anonymous crowd of people who don't think in terms of interests for specific nation-states, but rather in terms of a better overall system.

The treaty was masked as merely a tidy up of various pieces of existing legislation to enable the EU market to operate more efficiently but in reality some of the key pieces were the creation of a non-elected president and foreign minister with the power to agree worldwide treaties. It also allowed for the creation of a European army (renamed rapid defense force because of the disquiet over the initial proposal) presumably so Europe could if it wished go to war with somebody under the authority of these unelected unaccountable officials. So much for Ireland's neutrality in this new Europe :rolleyes:

Whether you like it or not, part of world-wide power comes with military power, and Europe is pretty bleak on that account. Although I find a foreign minister a good thing, I find a president a bad thing. One shouldn't put a person - with all which goes with it: personality cult, desire for success, ... in charge. It should really remain an anonymous crowd.

None of this is fantasy the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso himself has declared the document will usher in "the world's first nonimperial empire".

That's personally exactly what I desire, and what I think would work best: an empire, but without an emperor (a person), but just with an anonymous technocratic machine that steers it, and with an ultimate democratic safeguard that can intervene when things turn too badly, in which nation states get slowly dissolved.

You can be shocked by my "anti-democratic" attitude, but it isn't anti-democratic. Look at how science is "set up". Science is not done by democratic election. But it is also not done by a few dictators who "came to power". Science is done by an anonymous, knowledgeable crowd. Of course, sometimes some scientists have to be whistled back because they propose clearly nutty and dangerous things (that's the "democratic control"), but in the average working of science, one doesn't ask "average Joe" what should be done. And in those cases where one does, one obtains silly monster science, with wasted means, and no genuine science.

There shouldn't be a "popularity contest" of by what rules Europe should function: one should devise a set of rules that achieves its goals best. And to know what must be those rules, it is not average Joe who is going to be able to judge whether that's a good set of rules or not. The goals for Europe are: keeping peace on the European continent, providing prosperity for its citizens, and achieve a certain status of world power - not necessarily a superpower, but a voice on the world theater with which the other players need to count, in order to defend its interests. That's what Europe is for. And exactly *how* that is best achieved, is a technocratic question. What set of rules one should adopt to achieve these goals is not an easy thing to find out. And honestly, how much this or that nation has to say on this or that subject is, in this frame, a totally moot point.
 
  • #14
vanesch
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How would that be different from simply abolishing the EU entirely and relying on regular old national politics? Or was that your point?

Yes indeed. If we do "Europe a la carte", then we will end up with 27 different "cartes".
 
  • #15
Vanesch we obviously have totally different philosophical views on the role of Europe and it's administrative construction. I, it seems, have a lot more confidence in the opinion of Joe Average than you do.

One flaw in your argument comparing political/administrative structures to science is that in science there actually is always a 'right' answer whereas in politics there is not. Politics is based on opinion not fact.

As you yourself pointed out in an earlier post different people have very different aspirations and thus different goals. The role of democratic politics is to seek compromise whereby the average level of contentment is at it's highest. If they fail in this they are kicked out by their electorate. Unelected eurocrats are not subject to the same controls and thus are dangerous.

France in particular (and Germany more quietly so) is especially peeved at the USA's global dominance at this time and so they are steering the union towards a point where they can challenge the USA's hegemony not only economically but militarily and has put forward proposals to greatly increase the military spend of the EU members to further their ambitions. Perhaps this is good for some French elites pride but I certainly do not see it as good for the vast majority of the citizens of the EU. What on Earth is the point off kicking off an arm's race with the USA which Europe would surely lose anyway ?

Most countries in Europe particularly Britain and Ireland have very good relations with the US and although under Bush the US has lurched to the right this is only a temporary abberation which will be rectified by the American people themselves at the next general election.

Stripping away all the gloss it all boils down to school yard stuff. France has been upset by US criticisms of her and being aware that alone she can do nothing about it she is trying to persuade/coerce the rest of Europe to join what is a thinly disguised anti-US alliance.

Germany's motivation is even simpler. They have always wanted to dominate Europe so their stance is simply a continuation of their previous policy goals but again they realize they are not strong enough to do it alone and so have taken on partners.

The EU should get back to it's roots. Free trade, common standards and mutual cooperation where applicable.
 
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  • #16
Art, I think it's a mistake to interpret increased military spending as inimicable to America. Indeed, the US has been urging Europe to boost defence spending for as long as anyone can remember (and thereby reduce the costs that the US currently bears for European defence). What causes trouble is not the increase in the size of the military budgets, but the proposals to create a military structure separate from NATO, and so disconnected from the US. Another aspect to consider is that the smaller countries aren't particularly interested in being dominated by France/Germany; this is a key reason why both countries are so keen to improve relations with America. I.e., when the two big continental countries have poor relations with the US, the US can use its clout peel off the smaller countries from the agenda of France/Germany, and so throw the EU into political disarray (this is exactly what happened in the Iraq war, for example). This is a big reason for certain features of the EU constitution/Lisbon treaty seeking to limit veto powers and consolodate certain policy prerogatives. Unless and until such changes are implemented (and even then), good relations with the US will be required for France and Germany to advance their continental agenda and position.

Vanesch, I think you're missing another key aspect of democratic processes, which is the legitimacy that they add to the resultant system of rules and laws. It's not simply a matter of preventing bad outcomes by throwing out bad officials (although this is the cornerstone); unless Average Joe feels that he has a real stake in the system, he is likely to view the rules and laws as unwanted impositions, rather than expressions of his own political will. To boil it down: a system of really great laws that nobody respects is not preferable to a flawed system that everyone does respect. I think this is a big part of the dynamic at work in rejecting the Lisbon treaty in Ireland, for example. At some point, it doesn't really matter how good an idea it may be, or how much it might work to Ireland's advantage, if they don't feel that their self-determination is respected.
 
  • #17
vanesch
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Vanesch, I think you're missing another key aspect of democratic processes, which is the legitimacy that they add to the resultant system of rules and laws. It's not simply a matter of preventing bad outcomes by throwing out bad officials (although this is the cornerstone); unless Average Joe feels that he has a real stake in the system, he is likely to view the rules and laws as unwanted impositions, rather than expressions of his own political will. To boil it down: a system of really great laws that nobody respects is not preferable to a flawed system that everyone does respect. I think this is a big part of the dynamic at work in rejecting the Lisbon treaty in Ireland, for example. At some point, it doesn't really matter how good an idea it may be, or how much it might work to Ireland's advantage, if they don't feel that their self-determination is respected.

This is, unfortunately I'd say, a very valid point. One has to give a citizen the *feeling* that he had to say something about his destiny - while in practice, of course, he hasn't, as even in a popular democracy system, it is not *his* desire, but "the majority's" expression - not even desire, which imposes its views on him, and that majority's expression is of course mainly the result of propaganda by some media and some groups who know better than others how to manipulate the populace into believing/desiring something.

But unfortunately, people now think they ought to have their saying on every subject, even though they will grossly admit that they don't have the technical knowledge required for dealing with it. As such, the opinion of the most basic idiot counts as much as the person who has studied and reflected on a certain question for years, and of course there are many more of the former than of the latter for every question that is required an answer in a society. It is funny that concerning macro-economic and social questions, everybody - especially those who haven't gotten the slightest form of formal education in it - has strong opinions on what ought to be done, while for, say, medical purposes, they don't. If their doctor (or their witchdoctor !) tells them to take this or that medicine, they'll do so without any "desire of decision taking". They just take for granted that their doctor is using his/her knowledge - knowledge that is recognized by the patient not to be possessed by him - to make his (medical) life better to the best of his ability.

Of course, as Art pointed out, the *goals* are of course political decisions which are open to discussion. But the means to get there are usually technical matters. The only real problem, the most important one, which sets the rule makers apart from the doctor, is: to what goals is that rule maker really using his knowledge ? Is it, as he is supposed to, for to achieve the democratically set forth agenda, or his own agenda ? And that's indeed where democratic control is absolutely necessary: to verify whether the workings of the rule makers really do comply to the democratically set out goals, and not just to serve his/her own agenda/interests/friends/whatever. And I have to admit that examples are abound of rulemakers serving their own agenda so easily that it is probably justified to be extremely suspicious, by definition, of any rulemaker. But then, just as much so for a democratically appointed one as an anonymous civil servant imo. The difference is that the democratically appointed one will need to go through the "manipulate-and-be-popular" phase: he will have to have shown that he's a good liar and knows how to manipulate crowds into liking him, especially the less intelligent ones. He will have had to demonstrate his ability to "talk to the masses" (in other words, to use simplistic and populist language and arguments to get any point across), while an anonymous civil servant doesn't have to do so, and could just as well be selected for his technical skill. I would say that someone who wins any democratic election is almost by definition unsuited to the job, because he has shown exactly those dangerous characteristics you wouldn't want him to have. Now, of course, in doing so, you have a chance to eliminate also the totally bezerk maniac. That's true. But in a given population, I would say that the set of people that have the right qualities to be elected, and the set of people that are intellectually able to think up good sets of rules, is almost disjoint. Ok, there are some people in the intersection. These are the rare pearls, which can go into history as great statesmen. But they are more the exception than the rule.

In other words, the democratically elected rulemaker is very often the charming charlatan, the civil servant is the maybe somewhat shy medical student.

Now, the more local the rule makers are, the simpler and "closer to the people" the questions are they have to settle, the more involved the electorate is, and hence the better the democratic model works. The mayor of a small town is indeed probably best democratically elected. European countries are democracies, so their governments are also elected. But on the EU level, things get really pretty abstract, and the rules on that level are really very remote from people's daily occupations. The relationship between the contents of these rules, and the actual overall impact of them on the wellbeing of citizens is a pretty technical matter. For instance, although it pisses off several countries, the obligation of having a rather balanced state budget is a very good thing on the long term. If you let this go under democratic pressure, this rule would be eliminated quickly, because it stops governments from handing out sugar for the people. The fact that the Bank of Europe is totally independent from any political and democratic pressures is a very good thing. The verification of fair competition is a very good thing. There are very many unpopular but very good rules within Europe. They would suffer under democratic pressure, because they are not always popular. It is only because they are set up and executed by anonymous bureaucrats that they can be instored that way. It is exactly *this* kind of "automated" functioning which is the great plus of the EU, and which would be destroyed by democratic inference.
 
  • #18
vanesch
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Vanesch we obviously have totally different philosophical views on the role of Europe and it's administrative construction. I, it seems, have a lot more confidence in the opinion of Joe Average than you do.

I have no confidence at all in Joe Average's opinion, except in the sole opinion that is the entire justification for democracy: to notice that he's being screwed largely by the people in power. It's the only discriminatory capacity I grant Joe Average: to know when he's really being screwed badly.

One flaw in your argument comparing political/administrative structures to science is that in science there actually is always a 'right' answer whereas in politics there is not. Politics is based on opinion not fact.

Well, that's like going to the doctor's: you could say that your "medical goal" can be different: be healthy, live a great delirium, reach nirvana, ...
However, once the goal has been settled, like "be healthy", the *technical skill* needed to find out how to get there, is not a matter of opinion. It's a technical matter. People who have studied the question know more about it than others. Now the doctor assumes that the goal why you came to see him is settled: you want to be more healthy. From that assumption onward, he's going to try to find a technical way to get there. Even if he needs his judgment, even if things are not certain, he will decide what medicine he will prescribe.


As you yourself pointed out in an earlier post different people have very different aspirations and thus different goals. The role of democratic politics is to seek compromise whereby the average level of contentment is at it's highest. If they fail in this they are kicked out by their electorate. Unelected eurocrats are not subject to the same controls and thus are dangerous.

There will always be enough democratic check on Eurocrats for this not to be a risk, and as I said, there should be a democratic safeguard. They are now on many levels: there's of course the European parliament and so on, but you seem to forget that there are still the governments of the different countries involved, which can, if they decide that together, revoke any Eurocrat or his/her decisions. So it is absolutely not true that this is a machine running on itself without any democratic checking. And, as I said, this should remain: if there's one quality I grant Joe Average, it is the ability to find out whether he's being screwed.

France in particular (and Germany more quietly so) is especially peeved at the USA's global dominance at this time and so they are steering the union towards a point where they can challenge the USA's hegemony not only economically but militarily and has put forward proposals to greatly increase the military spend of the EU members to further their ambitions. Perhaps this is good for some French elites pride but I certainly do not see it as good for the vast majority of the citizens of the EU. What on Earth is the point off kicking off an arm's race with the USA which Europe would surely lose anyway ?

I think that if you think that way, then you should rather integrate the USA power block than the EU power block. Why not then become a 53rd state of the USA, instead of the EU ?

Indeed, I would say that one of the main goals of the EU is to become an independent (but of course not necessarily hostile) power block, shaking loose from the USA, and not a kind of annex of the USA in Europe. And military power is, as I said before, part of being a world power. Not military power to threaten the USA of course! But an independent military power which can intervene independently somewhere in order to enforce its foreign policy, without being dependent on the help and approval of the USA. So there's no danger of an arms race with the USA - I don't think Europe will ever be a military theat (or even have the desire to be such a threat) to the USA. But it should get rid of its dependence on the US.

For instance - although I'm all against it in this particular case, it is just an example - it should have to be possible for Europe, all by itself, to intervene in say, Iran, if it decided to do so. It should give itself these means. Again, I'm not saying that it is a good idea, but the only foreign policy option of Europe should NOT be: to join or not to join whenever the USA decides to do something. The fact that Europe needed the US and the NATO to clean up its backyard in Yougoslavia is telling. Given the economic strength of Europe, we are crippling ourselves by not having the military or foreign policy wing that should go with it. As quadra said, even the US would welcome such a thing. It is not a matter of "French pride" - although this was indeed the course that the French always had - though they are too small by themselves to continue to do so individually.


Most countries in Europe particularly Britain and Ireland have very good relations with the US and although under Bush the US has lurched to the right this is only a temporary abberation which will be rectified by the American people themselves at the next general election.

As I said, then you should really see whether you shouldn't leave the EU, and join the USA...

Stripping away all the gloss it all boils down to school yard stuff. France has been upset by US criticisms of her and being aware that alone she can do nothing about it she is trying to persuade/coerce the rest of Europe to join what is a thinly disguised anti-US alliance.

It is not "anti-US", but rather "independent of the US". Yes, I think that is a good thing to do. After all, given that European citizens are not involved at all in determining US foreign policy - or even having any check on it, you who like so much democratic decision making, why should European citizens be condemned to follow whatever the US's foreign policy decides, on the military side ?

Germany's motivation is even simpler. They have always wanted to dominate Europe so their stance is simply a continuation of their previous policy goals but again they realize they are not strong enough to do it alone and so have taken on partners.

I think you still think too much in terms of individual nation states. You don't seem to think in terms of a global EU entity - it just seems to be some loose conglomerate of cooperating states to you. I always thought that the long-term ambition of the European Union was to become a genuine entity, which behaves as one single entity to the outside world, but in which the (remnants of the) individual nation states still have some of their particularities on the inside. As such, there wouldn't be a "French agenda" or a "German agenda", but only a European agenda, eventually with different appreciations in different regions of Europe, in a similar way as one can't say that there is a Floridian agenda in Washington, or a Californian agenda. This is why it is a bad idea to do any ratification individually, by nation-state. In as much as there needs to be a popular vote over it, it should have been organized Europe-wide. A single vote. After all, in the USA, even if there is a change in the constitution, one doesn't ask every state individually to vote over it and ratify it, doesn't one ?

The EU should get back to it's roots. Free trade, common standards and mutual cooperation where applicable.

That's the bare minimum. It was the starting point. I hope we can get a bit further than that, but it is true that the recent large expansion has probably blown us back a few decades again on the way to a more integrated Europe.
 
  • #19
After all, given that European citizens are not involved at all in determining US foreign policy - or even having any check on it, you who like so much democratic decision making, why should European citizens be condemned to follow whatever the US's foreign policy decides, on the military side ?

The rub here is that, unless you're a citizen of France, Germany or the UK, you don't stand to have much influence in determining the (hypothetical) unified foreign policy of Europe, either. So, smaller countries might well prefer the current individualized foreign policies, as it actually gives them more options, and so power and influence. I.e., in cases where there is disagreement between the US and the big EU states, the smaller states can opt for whichever side they like, and thereby become key "swing states" in determining the overall posture of the West. In a unified, institutionalized EU foreign policy, they're simply taken for granted.

I think you still think too much in terms of individual nation states. You don't seem to think in terms of a global EU entity - it just seems to be some loose conglomerate of cooperating states to you.

Well, isn't that exactly what the EU is, as of today?

I always thought that the long-term ambition of the European Union was to become a genuine entity,

Well, that's presumably the ambition of the EU beaurocrats themselves, and certain of the big EU states that stand to dominate the policies of EU institutions. But it's not at all clear to me that the smaller, newer members have ever been interested in the EU as anything beyond a source of development assistance and support for democratic, stable governance. I don't see the idea of an EU superstate as representing anything close to a workable consensus in Europe. Maybe that will change over time.

in a similar way as one can't say that there is a Floridian agenda in Washington, or a Californian agenda.

You can't? Perhaps you haven't been paying close enough attention to US domestic politics.

This is why it is a bad idea to do any ratification individually, by nation-state. In as much as there needs to be a popular vote over it, it should have been organized Europe-wide. A single vote.

Probably a good idea, actually. You'd either get a consensus to move forward, or a consensus to change direction. Either way, a better outcome than the current approach, where you have to stop and scratch your head about the meaning of a vote in a particular country.

After all, in the USA, even if there is a change in the constitution, one doesn't ask every state individually to vote over it and ratify it, doesn't one ?

Actually, yes, that's exactly what is done. Although you only need 3/4 of the states to ratify and Amendment. It's crucial that Amendments require ratification, otherwise the initial ratification of the Constitution amounts to a complete cessation of all state sovereignty to the federation, which could simply amend the Constitution to take whatever powers it wants from the states.
 
  • #20
Like many citizens living in Europe I have no interest in being part of the US of anywhere. I see no compelling reason why nations should be subsumed into a European superstate. Ireland has had experience of being a very junior member of a large empire and it wasn't pleasant. To expect the Irish to voluntarily jump back into a similar arrangement is a little like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

If I was to guess what will happen next I'd say the other EU members will push on with ratification and implement the Lisbon treaty in all but name under 'enhanced cooperation'. Ireland will be left alone until Croatia are due to join in two years at which time a new treaty and a new referendum will be required. This new treaty will include all the provisions of Lisbon and like with Nice it will be portrayed as if Ireland vote no they are selfishly blocking poorer countries from joining the EU.
 
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  • #21
This article epitomises my concerns over the direction Europe is heading
Call for EU to build its own army
By Mark Mardell
Europe Editor, BBC News

An influential Polish member of the European parliament has called for the EU to develop "hard power" and spend more money to build a European army.

Foreign affairs committee chairman Jacek Saryusz-Wolski also wants the European parliament to have the final say on deployments under the EU flag.

The French have said beefing up the EU's military capability will be a key part of their six-month presidency.

The BBC has been told their plans also include a new EU military headquarters.

Other items on the French list of proposals involve calling upon all EU countries to increase spending on defence to meet a new target of perhaps 6% of Gross Domestic Product.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7439104.stm
 
  • #22
It seems the Czechs too may not ratify the treaty

BBC NEWS
Czech threat looms for EU treaty

EU leaders have admitted that the Czech Republic may not be able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, which has already been rejected by the Irish.

The declaration, to be agreed at an EU summit in Brussels, will note that the Czechs cannot complete ratification for the moment, officials said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said leaders agreed Lisbon should survive.

But a senior UK judge warned that the UK's ratification should be suspended until he rules on a challenge to it.

The treaty passed through British parliament this week, but has still to complete formal ratification.

A Euro-sceptic businessman has launched a High Court challenge to the British government's decision to ratify the treaty without a referendum.

Lord Justice Richards said: "The court is very surprised that the government apparently proposes to ratify while the claimant's challenge... is before the court."

And the moral blackmail is starting already, just like with the Nice treaty
Mr Sarkozy said the European Union would not be able to expand further without ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, in what correspondents said appeared to be an attempt to lean on the Czechs.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/7465448.stm
 
  • #23
6% of GDP? That's more than the US spends, even including Iraq and Afghanistan. What does the EU need to spend $800 Billion a year on?
 
  • #24
mgb_phys
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6% of GDP? What does the EU need to spend $800 Billion a year on?
It doesn't matter as long as it is built by Aerospatial!

Sorry to post such along quote - if you haven't seen "Yes Minister", Jim Hacker is the president character and Sir humphrey is a senior advisor.

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now when it's worked so well?
Jim Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased, it's just like old times.
Jim Hacker: But if that's true, why is the foreign office pushing for higher membership?
Sir Humphrey: I'd have thought that was obvious. The more members an organization has, the more arguments it can stir up. The more futile and impotent it becomes.
Jim Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
Sir Humphrey: We call it diplomacy, Minister.
Jim Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.
Jim Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let's look at this objectively. It's a game played for national interests, it always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?
Jim Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of Free Western nations.
Sir Humphrey: Oh really. We went into screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.
Jim Hacker: So why did the French go into it then?
Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.
Jim Hacker: That certainly doesn't apply to the Germans.
Sir Humphrey: No no, they went into cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.
Jim Hacker: I never heard such appalling cynicism. At least the small nations didn't go into it for selfish reasons.
Sir Humphrey: Oh really? Luxembourg is in it for the perks; the capital of the EEC, all that foreign money pouring in.
 
  • #25
6% of GDP? That's more than the US spends, even including Iraq and Afghanistan. What does the EU need to spend $800 Billion a year on?
That's my point. The French were deeply offended by US criticism and distain during the run-up to the Iraq war and frustrated by their lack of ability to 'force' their point of view.

Their aim now is to guide Europe along a rearmament path. The first objective would be to develop the capability to defend themselves against the East without US assistance so they can tell the US to forget about NATO and their next goal would be to develop a military presence on a scale to challenge the US globally on a military footing.

They will probably get backing from the new members who were formally eastern bloc countries as they are still nervous about their neighbour Russia but supporting a new French / German empire isn't what most European countries signed up for and 6% of GDP seems a high price for Europeans to pay to salvage French pride.

Too often the French in their irritatingly arrogant way come out to ostensibly speak on behalf of the EU. They treat it as if it were their club and as if they have the final say in how it is run which is why they are apoplectic with rage that the Irish have dared to defy their will. This situation is a prime example of the importance of national vetoes in EU affairs and why nations would be fools to give them up.
 
  • #26
Well, I'm impressed if they're actually thinking that big, although such a pipe-dream is pretty ridiculous. For starters, I don't see how they'd continue to fund their welfare states if they started spending 6% of GDP on defence; they're already headed for insolvency as it is due to the aging populations (which also make it difficult to come up with lots of recruits for the army). Second, the UK is going to have more incentive than ever to hold on to their US "trump card" and so torpedo the process. Third, I can't see the Franco-German entente that underpins all of this holding up in the long run. And fourth, of course, is the immediate problem that none of the small states are at all excited about such a proposition, and so are unlikely to go along with it.

Also, my impression is that France had sort of moved on from the dream of leveraging the EU and the relationship with Germany into a leading role in the wake of the Iraq debacle and Chirac's departure. The people in the know these days are telling me that France is pursuing better relations with the US in support of a more independent stance founded in a stronger Mediterranean presence. Although there seems to be some tension with other Eu states over this, and it doesn't appear that France has made its ultimate intentions at all clear to the rest of Europe.
 
  • #27
vanesch
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6% of GDP? That's more than the US spends, even including Iraq and Afghanistan. What does the EU need to spend $800 Billion a year on?

That's of course BS. If you look at http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL32209.pdf you see that French as well as UK spending on defense is around 2.5%, and actually Sarkozy is, right now, diminishing French defense spendings.
 
  • #28
vanesch
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The rub here is that, unless you're a citizen of France, Germany or the UK, you don't stand to have much influence in determining the (hypothetical) unified foreign policy of Europe, either. So, smaller countries might well prefer the current individualized foreign policies, as it actually gives them more options, and so power and influence. I.e., in cases where there is disagreement between the US and the big EU states, the smaller states can opt for whichever side they like, and thereby become key "swing states" in determining the overall posture of the West. In a unified, institutionalized EU foreign policy, they're simply taken for granted.

The problem is that nobody gives a damn to whatever Luxembourg or Belgium is going to say, all by themselves, on the international theater. The problem is again that you seem to say that people are first and foremost citizens of their nation, and only after that, European citizens. The idea should be to invert this: that they feel foremost Europeans, and only afterwards, as a kind of folklore (I push it a bit, I know), a member of a nation-state. The decisions shouldn't go through the national politics, but directly to the European institutions.

Now, on the other hand, the argument is even wrong, in that if for instance, small states are given "one vote" and large states are given two, or even three votes, then still a vote of a citizen of a small country has more weight than the vote of the citizen of a large country.

Well, isn't that exactly what the EU is, as of today?

Yes, that's why it has to change !

Well, that's presumably the ambition of the EU beaurocrats themselves, and certain of the big EU states that stand to dominate the policies of EU institutions. But it's not at all clear to me that the smaller, newer members have ever been interested in the EU as anything beyond a source of development assistance and support for democratic, stable governance. I don't see the idea of an EU superstate as representing anything close to a workable consensus in Europe. Maybe that will change over time.

It will take a lot of time. In fact, the original Europe of 6 would by now be pretty much integrated, I'd say. There was the problem of the expansion. I think all founder states were federalists ; it is with the integration of the UK that that idea has been put on a longer road (as the UK has never had the idea to ever integrate anything more than a confederation), and I think the death blow to a federal Europe came with the integration of Eastern Europe.

Maybe both should be considered: a federal kernel, and then a confederation around it. I agree with you that Europe, as it is now, is not going to be unified any more than it already has. So maybe it is time to start EU-2, the new European Union. Those members of EU-1 who want to join, can, those who don't, don't. And one could build an even looser belt around it, a kind of preferred economic cooperation, including Northern Africa and Turkey.

Probably a good idea, actually. You'd either get a consensus to move forward, or a consensus to change direction. Either way, a better outcome than the current approach, where you have to stop and scratch your head about the meaning of a vote in a particular country.

THIS is what I mean with "being a European citizen first". Now, don't misunderstand me, there's a lot of stuff that will for ever belong to the nation states. In fact, everything which touches only upon citizens of a nation, Europe has no business with. That's the principle of subsidiarity: every element of society must be decided on the lowest level which has all the pertinent elements in its hands. Europe, no matter how integrated, will ONLY say things about stuff that matters to more than one nation state. This is why it will always remain an abstract business, and why it will never mix into the daily lives of people. Hence my "anti-democratic" stance I sometimes have on these matters: what Europe will decide over, is never going to be a local or regional issue. It can affect local affairs, but then only because it is a compromise with other local affairs in another nation. Like, say, fishing quota. The overall fishing quota should be decided upon by some scientifically inspired rule, which wants to avoid over-fishing but which wants also to optimize production. If that means that French or Spanish fishermen have problems, that's not "Europe's fault", it is "nature's fault", and Europe is just there to stop national politicians giving into short-term desires from their electorate. So, yes, it is annoying, but it is for the common good. Most of European stuff is like that.

But if you make part of your citizenship *purely European*, that means, you, as a citizen, interact DIRECTLY with the European institutions, and not THROUGH any national channel, issues like French pride, or German agenda, and so on would play a much smaller role.

Actually, yes, that's exactly what is done. Although you only need 3/4 of the states to ratify and Amendment. It's crucial that Amendments require ratification, otherwise the initial ratification of the Constitution amounts to a complete cessation of all state sovereignty to the federation, which could simply amend the Constitution to take whatever powers it wants from the states.

Ok, but 3/4 is not the same as requiring unanimity. So that means that 1/4 of the states can see them being imposed a part of the Constitution they voted against. We should also obtain something similar in Europe. Unanimity was no problem with 6, it became delicate with 12, and it is impossible with 27. Especially, because small states sometimes use that as a blackmail procedure to obtain something else: they threaten to veto something they have nothing against, if they don't obtain their little desire.

What blocks Europe is the requirement of unanimity. That's the essential point all these failed agreements try to establish.
 
  • #29
The problem is that nobody gives a damn to whatever Luxembourg or Belgium is going to say, all by themselves, on the international theater.

Sure, but Belgium and Luxembourg are small states that don't expect to be global agenda-setters. Their considerations have historically been more focused on the three large surrounding states that DO expect to be agenda-setters. For small states in the neighborhood of large states, a security relationship with a much larger, outside power with a vested interest in keeping everything quiet may well preferable to veto-less voices in a system dominated by larger neighbors.

The problem is again that you seem to say that people are first and foremost citizens of their nation, and only after that, European citizens.

Well, aren't they?

The idea should be to invert this: that they feel foremost Europeans, and only afterwards, as a kind of folklore (I push it a bit, I know), a member of a nation-state. The decisions shouldn't go through the national politics, but directly to the European institutions.

Well, I'm not going to sign up for any prescriptions about what national identity people ought to have, but wouldn't such an arrangement involve more direct voting rather than less?

Now, on the other hand, the argument is even wrong, in that if for instance, small states are given "one vote" and large states are given two, or even three votes, then still a vote of a citizen of a small country has more weight than the vote of the citizen of a large country.

Sure, but the question is exactly how many votes each state is going to get, and what the requirements for passage of laws are, and what powers are delegated to the executive. I have yet to see this articulated clearly... if you want people to sign away their sovereignty, there needs to be a clear deal on how everyone is going to get what they want.

THIS is what I mean with "being a European citizen first". Now, don't misunderstand me, there's a lot of stuff that will for ever belong to the nation states. In fact, everything which touches only upon citizens of a nation, Europe has no business with.

But didn't you just say that people should be replacing their national identities with a European identity?

Ok, but 3/4 is not the same as requiring unanimity.

The initial adoption of the Constitution required unanymity, by definition. You can't be a member of a Union if you don't elect to join the Union. The 3/4 requirement is only for subsequent amendments. The key thing here being that everybody signed up knowing about the 3/4 rule on Amendments.

So that means that 1/4 of the states can see them being imposed a part of the Constitution they voted against.

Things like the abolition of slavery, for example?
 
  • #30
vanesch
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Sure, but the question is exactly how many votes each state is going to get, and what the requirements for passage of laws are, and what powers are delegated to the executive. I have yet to see this articulated clearly... if you want people to sign away their sovereignty, there needs to be a clear deal on how everyone is going to get what they want.

This is the essential point: people are not "signing away their sovereignty" ; they are putting it elsewhere. *nations* are loosing some sovereignty - not people. So it shouldn't be: what's the weight an Irishman is getting as compared to a German ? But rather, what's the weight a European citizen is going to get as compared to a national citizen. It is the citizen (the one and same person) who takes away sovereignty from his nation state to give it to Europe.

Now, I understand that I'm mixing two different ideas here. One is: there should be a direct relationship of sovereignty between citizens and the European institutions, and not an indirect one through their nation-states. That is, whenever there has to be a link between citizens and Europe, it shouldn't be through their national channels: votes should be European-wide for instance.

The other point, which is in fact different, is that it is my personal opinion that on matters related to Europe (which means they only involve issues that matter to several nations), I think the issues are too abstract for them to be purely democratically *decided* - that's why I prefer on that level, a larger weight of an anonymous technocracy rather than a very visible democratic leadership. However, as I said before, I think it is extremely important that there is a strong democratic control over that technocracy.

In other words, I think that the rules of the game should be written by people who are knowledgeable and not under popular pressure, nor under (national or corporate) lobby pressure. But there should be a democratic referee, which verifies whether that system does its job correctly. The reason is that I think that the issues are simply too technically involved and abstract for Joe Average to grasp what equilibrium exercise has to be done. But one should of course have a democratic check on the system, that verifies whether or not those Eurocrats are not just playing hidden powergames amongst themselves.

But that point is different from the first one. The first one is that whenever there should be a democratic interaction, it should be directly between European citizens and the European institutions, and not THROUGH nation-states.

That said, there should also be a place in Europe where nation states have their say. You could think of a 2 chamber system, like Congress and Senate, one directly related to the citizens, and the other the representative of the nation states. In the second, there should be openly the power games between the nations, and in the first, there should be only a European voice. Then, one should decide which powers go to which part.

But didn't you just say that people should be replacing their national identities with a European identity?

I should have written: "In fact, everything which touches only upon citizens of a SINGLE nation, Europe has no business with."

The initial adoption of the Constitution required unanymity, by definition. You can't be a member of a Union if you don't elect to join the Union. The 3/4 requirement is only for subsequent amendments. The key thing here being that everybody signed up knowing about the 3/4 rule on Amendments.

Well, that's where Europe is stuck now. That's already 2 times that one tries to go from unanimity to a kind of 3/4 rule, and that's two times that it doesn't get unanimity and hence fails.

Things like the abolition of slavery, for example?

I didn't say it was bad ! I'm saying that now, in Europe, that's not possible, and that's what blocks the system totally.
 
  • #31
This is the essential point: people are not "signing away their sovereignty" ; they are putting it elsewhere. *nations* are loosing some sovereignty - not people. So it shouldn't be: what's the weight an Irishman is getting as compared to a German ? But rather, what's the weight a European citizen is going to get as compared to a national citizen. It is the citizen (the one and same person) who takes away sovereignty from his nation state to give it to Europe.

Now, I understand that I'm mixing two different ideas here. One is: there should be a direct relationship of sovereignty between citizens and the European institutions, and not an indirect one through their nation-states. That is, whenever there has to be a link between citizens and Europe, it shouldn't be through their national channels: votes should be European-wide for instance.

The other point, which is in fact different, is that it is my personal opinion that on matters related to Europe (which means they only involve issues that matter to several nations), I think the issues are too abstract for them to be purely democratically *decided* - that's why I prefer on that level, a larger weight of an anonymous technocracy rather than a very visible democratic leadership. However, as I said before, I think it is extremely important that there is a strong democratic control over that technocracy.

In other words, I think that the rules of the game should be written by people who are knowledgeable and not under popular pressure, nor under (national or corporate) lobby pressure. But there should be a democratic referee, which verifies whether that system does its job correctly. The reason is that I think that the issues are simply too technically involved and abstract for Joe Average to grasp what equilibrium exercise has to be done. But one should of course have a democratic check on the system, that verifies whether or not those Eurocrats are not just playing hidden powergames amongst themselves.

But that point is different from the first one. The first one is that whenever there should be a democratic interaction, it should be directly between European citizens and the European institutions, and not THROUGH nation-states.
And that's precisely what happened in this referendum. The Irish gov't signed up to the Lisbon treaty but the Irish citizenry over-ruled them with their no vote. You should therefore be pleased to see the system you advocate in action whereby on European matters the people speak directly to the EU institutions. :smile:

As for the second part of your argument where is the democratic oversight you refer to? You have the commissioners like Peter Mandelson negotiating with the WTO on behalf of all of Europe. Nobody elected him and so he can not be de-elected. He was a political appointee by the British gov't given a mandate to drive through free market reforms in support of the British labour gov'ts preferred economic model irrelevant of how the rest of Europe feels.

As a consequence of the lack of political oversight by the people this system has led to widespread personal corruption amongst these commissioners. An investigation a few years back found every single commissioner with the exception of Neil Kinnock was on the take.

That said, there should also be a place in Europe where nation states have their say. You could think of a 2 chamber system, like Congress and Senate, one directly related to the citizens, and the other the representative of the nation states. In the second, there should be openly the power games between the nations, and in the first, there should be only a European voice. Then, one should decide which powers go to which part.



I should have written: "In fact, everything which touches only upon citizens of a SINGLE nation, Europe has no business with."



Well, that's where Europe is stuck now. That's already 2 times that one tries to go from unanimity to a kind of 3/4 rule, and that's two times that it doesn't get unanimity and hence fails.



I didn't say it was bad ! I'm saying that now, in Europe, that's not possible, and that's what blocks the system totally.
That's largely what already happens. Most issues are now decided by QMV. It was this latest attempt to extend the EU's powers even further that was voted down as it would be in every other European country if their people were given a vote.

This idea that a union would promote ever-lasting harmony between member states is dangerously wrong. One has only to look at the precedent of Yugoslavia. There was a federation which worked pretty much exactly in the manner you advocate for the EU and look how it ended up!

In the meanwhile the very thing the EU was originally conceived for is being forgotten, i.e. to promote a free market. For example there is still widespread market segmentation by manufacturers. The EU should concentrate on fixing the basics before even attempting to get involved in the abstract.
 
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  • #32
Vanesch - After all, in the USA, even if there is a change in the constitution, one doesn't ask every state individually to vote over it and ratify it, doesn't one ?
It is rather ironic that you should cite the US constitution. Doesn't it begin 'We the people'? Perhaps the EU constitutionalists should bear that in mind :rolleyes:
 
  • #33
vanesch
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And that's precisely what happened in this referendum. The Irish gov't signed up to the Lisbon treaty but the Irish citizenry over-ruled them with their no vote. You should therefore be pleased to see the system you advocate in action whereby on European matters the people speak directly to the EU institutions. :smile:

Well, after what I read here, it are the "Irish" that voted, and not the "Europeans", so in as much that there should be a vote by individual citizens, one shouldn't make any distinction over their belonging to a member state: all Europeans vote, or none. It also seems that the Irish voted, mainly against, say the "French" or the "German" agenda. What we have here would be, on a national level, the same as having all provinces vote individually, and something only passes when all provinces voted "yes", over a system in which one tries to find out if one's province is going to gain or lose a bit of power, and how one's province's agenda can be promoted better.

Now when you look at the summary of the Lisbon Treaty:
http://europa.eu/lisbon_treaty/glance/index_en.htm [Broken]

I really wonder what's wrong with it. Ok, there's one thing I am against: that is the election of a president of the European council. That's too much of a "big boss" figure, I don't want any elected president, with all personality cult that will result from it. I think that the current rotating presidency is much better.
The other thing I don't like is the increased influence of national parliaments. If there is to be a parliamentary action, we have a European parliament. Now, as long as the National Parliaments are only there to act as watchdogs (for subsidiarity), that's fine with me.
 
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  • #34
vanesch
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In the meanwhile the very thing the EU was originally conceived for is being forgotten, i.e. to promote a free market. For example there is still widespread market segmentation by manufacturers. The EU should concentrate on fixing the basics before even attempting to get involved in the abstract.

It all depends on how you look upon the EU. Indeed, the Brits saw it as a big market. For the founders, it was more a first step towards a federation, a first step in abolishing frontiers. First you have goods circulate, later people, money and finally, laws. At that point, there are no frontiers anymore, and what was contained by it (a nation-state) is "dissolved". That was the idea, I always thought. I know the Anglo-Saxons never saw it that way.
 
  • #35
vanesch
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As for the second part of your argument where is the democratic oversight you refer to? You have the commissioners like Peter Mandelson negotiating with the WTO on behalf of all of Europe. Nobody elected him and so he can not be de-elected. He was a political appointee by the British gov't given a mandate to drive through free market reforms in support of the British labour gov'ts preferred economic model irrelevant of how the rest of Europe feels.

As a consequence of the lack of political oversight by the people this system has led to widespread personal corruption amongst these commissioners. An investigation a few years back found every single commissioner with the exception of Neil Kinnock was on the take.

Well, that's where a European parliament with more power would have been helpful, wouldn't it ? If we keep things as it is now, corruption can only be strengthened. As I said, in as much as I don't want Joe Average to VOTE over individual measures directly (because that would lead to a silly and incoherent set of rules, directed by the winds of popularity), I DO WANT strong democratic control ; I think the European parliament is well-suited to that.

That's largely what already happens. Most issues are now decided by QMV. It was this latest attempt to extend the EU's powers even further that was voted down as it would be in every other European country if their people were given a vote.

We will never know, will we ?

This idea that a union would promote ever-lasting harmony between member states is dangerously wrong. One has only to look at the precedent of Yugoslavia. There was a federation which worked pretty much exactly in the manner you advocate for the EU and look how it ended up!

Then, the USA did work out fine, didn't it ?
 

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