From top: European leaders assemble yesterday in Rome, Italy; Shane Heneghan
Cheap phone calls on holiday are of cold comfort to the jobless youth in the South.
Europe needs more.
Shane Heneghan writes:
This weekend EU leaders (what’s left of them) gathered in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome which began the process of European integration as we know it.
In an atmosphere of much mutual backslapping, the story of the European Union was celebrated and a brief declaration on the future of Europe was signed.
Yes, this anniversary comes at a time when the second biggest donor in the club is about to leave, but the declaration signed at Rome tries to make this look as much as possible as an opportunity as well as a difficulty.
The declaration and the celebration itself were, of course, peppered liberally with certain myths. The underlying narrative that European integration has been plain sailing since the late 50s is the easiest one to debunk.
If you go back into the newspaper archives of the 50th, 40th, and 30th anniversaries you will find the Union in various different midlife crises each time. In 2007, for example, the club was desperately trying to salvage something from the failed constitution project- which eventually became the Lisbon treaty.
Even the signing of the Treaty itself was done in a general atmosphere of malaise in the wake of the French Parliament rejecting the proposed European Defence Union a few years previously.
Perhaps this should serve as a warning to those so eager to see the EU gain a defence policy as a reaction to the Trump White House.
The declaration contains an admission that some states may wish to move forward at varying different speeds of integration – like this is something new – that this was even written down is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has had half an eye on what has been going on in the past 60 years.
We have a multispeed Europe perhaps since day one – or at the very least since the signing of the Schengen agreement on free movement in the 1980s.
But of course, the most interesting thing about informal declarations like this is what is not mentioned.
Earlier this week, Greenpeace and other environmental actors lamented the fact that the text has no mention of climate change. This is missing an open goal. Even eurosceptics can sometimes be convinced that environmental issues like this need to be tackled at an international level.
Here Europe has a chance to make itself more cohesive and also, ya know, save the world. As a former Finnish Prime Minister once put it, the EU is like a shark- it must keep moving or it will sink. It needs a big idea.
Well meaning defenders of the project point to successes such as the abolition of roaming charges as justification. Cheap phone calls on holiday are of cold comfort to the jobless youth in the South.
Europe has a single currency now – it’s in our pockets. This is the big leagues. It’s insulting to the citizens to serve up low level issues like this and present it as progress.
We need a common treasury and we should look at increasing the amount of money the EU spends on infrastructure.
The structural funds are arguably one of the best examples of well managed public spending you are likely to find. If this was to be scaled up, even modestly, could have a very strong effect economically.
Speaking as an unrepentant Federalist (I knew I’d work the f bomb into this somehow) I’m so tired of PR exercises like what we saw in Rome. We need more.
From top: Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday; Economist David McWilliams and his tweet this morning
This morning, economist David McWilliams spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One.
They discussed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to Berlin, to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and their talks on the implications of Brexit on the Common Travel Area (CTA) between Ireland and the UK.
Mr Williams explained that while other EU countries should have an interest in Ireland and Britain’s CTA arrangements, they should not have a ‘commanding or a deterministic position on it’ and that Ireland should confidently assert this position.
To make his point he recalled the Dublin Regulation, which was signed in Dublin Castle in 1990, and essentially meant any asylum seeker who arrived from outside the EU had to apply for asylum in the first EU country they reached – placing the biggest burden on Italy and Greece.
Mr Williams suggested that this regulation, in a way, allowed the EU to avoid collective responsibility when it comes to responding to asylum seekers.
The interview opened with Mr O’Rourke asking Mr McWilliams about the tweet he posted this morning (above) concerning Mr Kenny’s meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Seán O’Rourke: “What prompted you to ask that question?”
David McWilliams: “Well because it struck me, it has struck me over the last six or seven years, Seán that, you know, the whole deal with the European Union that there will be a more European Germany, that’s the essence of the EU, going back to 1957. That Germany would be disciplined and would become a more European country. And, since the crisis of six or seven years ago, what we’re seeing really is what could be described as a German Europe, rather than a European Germany.
And it strikes me as kind of unusual, and a little bit undemocratic that a border between Ireland and Britain, we would have to go over to Germany to seek permission really, in a way as to which way we are going to negotiate. Now I know, the facts on the ground Seán, and we have signed Treaties and this is the implication of that. But it does seem to me a little bit odd that our leader has to go to Germany to seek permission, it seems, or to be given the green light, to have a discussion with Britain on a border between Ireland and Britain in a free labour movement area that has been free, not since 1920 Seán, since about 1420.”
Talk over each other
McWilliams: “I remember, even as a kid in the 1980s, at the height of the Troubles, going to the UK and yes, we had to show passports at Hollyhead but there was always a sense that Irish people could vote in Britain, if we lived there for a while, and this sense that somebody else is going to come in and, in a way, set the terms or conditions, particularly somebody who’s voted by a different electorate seems to me a little bit…”
Sean O’Rourke: “Yeah but here’s the point, David. I mean maybe you’re not being entirely fair to the Taoiseach. Because it’s not about looking for permission, it’s looking to build alliances. I mean he has President Hollande coming here next week and, you know perfectly well that under EU rules, we’re not in a position to now to do separate trade deals with the UK, it has to be done by the European Union, of which we are a part. And surely it makes sense, as you would in any political situation, to try to get people on your side?”
McWilliams: “Of course it makes sense to get people on your side but it would seem to me rather illogical and rather apolitical with a capital P, to have a situation where the border between two parts of Ireland needs to be mediated by people in France? I really don’t think this is actually a particularly logical way to go. And nor is it good for the people either on the south side of the border, or the north side of the border.”
“So, again, I suppose what this is exposing are these deep fissures in, these kind of chasms within the EU, where the pooling of sovereignty Seán, which is probably a good idea, OK, leads to complications and incompatibilities when specific issues come up which absolutely pertain to certain countries, over and above.”
“And I’ve always said that it would be illogical for the negotiations between Ireland and Britain, which they will be, to be dictated by the concerns of Poland or Lithuania or Latvia or other countries. And I suppose that goes to the essence of the problems of the EU now. Because, as you get bigger, Seán, you cannot mask over the cracks in a way in which you hope to do so. So, as you get bigger you’re always going to have these regional differences so therefore, for example, the relationship between Russia and Lithuania, which is existential to Lithuanians, is probably of no real consequence to us.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah but, again coming back to our border issue. Yes, it is the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but it’s also the border between the EU, or will be, and a non-EU country. Now that’s why the Lithuanians and the Poles and the French have an interest in the…”
McWilliams: “They have an interest, no doubt, but they should not have a commanding or a deterministic position on it. And you and I must agree on that, Seán?”
O’Rourke: “Yes, but I suppose it’s part of a wider, it’s part of a wider EU context in which trade arrangements are made and also regulations about the movement of people. And nobody has yet, maybe you’ve come across it, or maybe you’ve got your own idea, come up with post-Brexit, the solution to the problems?”
McWilliams:“If you look at the Dublin Treaty. The Dublin Treaty was manufactured in Dublin Castle which is a way of stopping…”
O’Rourke: “This is immigrants now?”
McWilliams: “Precisely. But what it was a way of saying was, geographical certainties and geographical facts are as they are and, therefore, one of the ways in which you deal with immigrants is you’ll actually deal with the place where immigrants first arrive. Ok?”
“So that is a great way of the EU fudging collective responsibility for immigrants, putting it on the shoulders of those who have borders. So there’s a very clear precedent, Seán, you and I know this, for arrangements, consensual arrangements, and ideas that actually take into consideration the facts on the ground which are geographically, we have a border with Northern Ireland which happens, very soon, to be a non-EU country.”
“So, this notion that we are in some way handless going into negotiations and there is no precedents or flexibility and you might call them fudges, I might call them flexibilities are what I would say, logical arrangements, seem to me to be a little bit a) ideological for Eurocratic fanatics and b) illogical for people who deal in the real world of politics. ”
O’Rourke: “So is the answer then to, if you like, dilute the influence and the role of the European Union. I mean like..”
McWilliams: “Well absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. The influence and the role of the European Union is going to be so ludicrous as to demand border posts with the UK when both Ireland and the UK suggest not to do so. Well then clearly it must be diluted.”
European Central bank president Mario Draghi at Dublin Castle, June 2013
The far right are leaving.
And the left should join them.
Nigel Wilmott, letters editor of The Guardian, writes:
Tomorrow despite a wobble over the horrible killing of Jo Cox and Ukip’s appalling poster, I shall be voting to leave the EU – the same way I voted in the 1975 referendum.
However, there is no straight line from one to the other. I have been for many years a strong supporter of the EU and am slightly surprised to be making this choice.
But an EU that is now based on mass unemployment and mass migration is not one worth supporting.
Of course Ukip plays the race card. But I’m still voting for Brexit
Official unemployment is 9% across the union and over 10% in the euro area. And those figures are flattered by unemployment rates of just over 4% in the EU’s biggest country, Germany, and the UK’s rather dubious 5%, which excludes the millions on zero-hours, part-time and temporary contracts.
In Greece, 24% are unemployed and 20% in Spain.
Youth unemployment (under-25s) is 51% in Greece, 45% in Spain, around 40% in Croatia and Italy, and over 30% in Portugal, with an average of 19% across the EU.
The only response in an austerity-bound EU is migration. It was somewhat odd to hear Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the party of which I am a member, explaining this matter-of-factly and with obvious approval, given the overtones of Norman Tebbit’s “on yer bike”.
And it needs to be remembered that this is not a temporary phenomenon at the bottom of an economic cycle.
This has been the situation more or less since the financial crash in 2008. If anything, we are probably near the top of a cycle with a downturn more likely than a new burst of economic growth.
Apart from the obvious impacts of unemployment on those immediately affected – poverty, lack of status and sense of worth – it keeps down wages generally for those sectors of the labour market affected.
It is this widespread sense of insecurity and fear that drives the growing rightwing populism across the continent, just as it did in the 1930s…
From top: A Kurdistan family of six who have been living in a tent in Piraeus port, Athens in Greece for more than 40 days; European Council president Donald Tusk
Ahead of his and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to a refugee camp in Gaziantep, Turkey tomorrow, the president of the European Council, in today’s Guardian, writes:
Only strong states are capable of supporting those in need on a large scale, without the risk of self-destruction.
Tough policies do not rule out humanitarian goals – quite the opposite: only determined policies enable their implementation. If we want Europe to remain open and tolerant, we can no longer allow ourselves to be helpless.
We need the solidarity and determination of all member states in every aspect of migration policy: relocation, humanitarian aid, external actions, and most crucially protecting our external borders.
What is at stake is not only the future of Schengen, but the future of our community.
Recent experience with Turkey shows that Europe must set clear limits to its concessions. We can negotiate money but never our values.
We cannot impose our standards on the rest of the world. Equally, others cannot impose their standards on us.
Our freedoms, including freedom of expression, will not be part of political bargaining with any partner. The Turkish president must heed this message.
Screen shots from a report on organic food by the European Parliamentary Research Service
The European Parliamentary Research Service writes:
“Globally, 43.1 million hectares of agricultural land was under organic production in 2013, six million more than the year before. With 10.2 million hectares, the European Union (EU) accounts for 24% of the world’s organic land. There are almost 2 million organic producers in the world, mostly in Asia (36%), Africa (29%) and Latin America (16%). The EU represents 13% of this total.”