17:01, Posted by EUDemocrats, No Comment
Estonia is switching to the euro during the worst crisis in the history of the common currency. And by joining the euro without a referendum, the Estonian government is not only gambling with the Baltic nation's economy and welfare but also with its democracy and its right to self-determination.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Estonians are not only against the euro but also want a referendum on the issue.
In October 2010, 1,524 people were surveyed by Estonia's leading social and market research provider Saar Poll. In an answer to the question, "Do you support the transition from the Estonian kroon to euro?" 53 percent of the respondents said No to the euro, only 34 percent said Yes, and 13 percent did not have an opinion.
Two months later, the support shrunk even further. A poll from 29 December 2010 by the Estonian Institute of Economic Research showed that only 25 percent of Estonians supported their country's adoption of the euro. The Estonian Institute of Economic Research is owned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country's largest business association.
However, Estonia's government has chosen not to follow the democratic example of its Nordic neighbours Denmark and Sweden, who allowed their citizens to have a free and open vote and the final say on whether or not to join the euro.
Instead, the Estonian government is following the example of those less democratic states in Europe that neglect the political will of the people and refuse to let them have a say on their own future destiny. The tragedy is that the Estonian government is allowing itself to be used as a propaganda stunt to give credibility to the euro.
Eager to show that they fulfil the EU Monetary Union (EMU) demands, Tallinn announced it has managed to achieve the lowest level of public debt in the EU. This may sound like a fine result, but the consequences for the Estonian population are severe: The unemployment rate is over 16 percent, the welfare system is very limited and now Estonia has to support richer euro-countries with a higher debt even if they have lower unemployment than Estonia.
One cannot blame the EMU for the Estonian government's policy, but neither is the eurozone focusing on employment and welfare. Seen from a Scandinavian point of view, this seems like a narrow-minded understanding of how the economy and society work. People who are without a job for a long time lose self-confidence and it will be a big challenge to get them back into the labour market later. In low welfare societies, people are also afraid of taking chances and going after the job that motivates them. Instead, they may prefer to stay in jobs they do not like because they are afraid of becoming unemployed.
The euro seems to be a poverty trap where countries with big economic differences are getting together and where the only way to make it work economically is if there is to be more central control and the establishment of a common fiscal policy. A common fiscal policy will mean that EU is becoming almost like a super-state and that is something very few Europeans dream about.
Ordinary citizens who might have thought that the euro was about avoiding the need to change money when travelling abroad will suddenly be faced with questions about common taxes, common economic priorities and the establishment of a de facto United States of Europe.
The worst problem in all this is that the EMU is not built on the democratic support of the people.
Only two EU countries have had specific referendums on the euro - Denmark and Sweden – and in both countries people rejected the euro in polls with high voter turnouts and after intensive debates.
The voice of the people is a fundamental element of true democracy. In Estonia and other euro countries the voice of the people was not heard. In the long run this might turn out to be a much bigger problem than the current economic crisis.
Lave K. Broch is a campaign co-ordinator for the People's Movement against the EU in Denmark and a board member in the umbrella organisations TEAM and the EU-democrats
17:37, Posted by EUD, No Comment
By Jens-Peter Bonde
12 December 2008
The EU Summit in Brussels finished on time. The Irish government formally betrayed its people by accepting to have a new referendum on exactly the same text which was rejected 12 June by 53,4 % of the Irish voters.
They also accepted a decision to bring the Lisbon treaty into force from 1 January 2010 even if it has been rejected. Thereby they have already concluded that a second referendum will be a “yes”.
The Irish voters can chose between “Yes” and “Yes please” - the Lisbon Treaty will be put in force no matter their preference.
The government has obtained only one real concession. There must be a commissioner from each Member State. But it will be up to the majority of EU leaders to decide who shall be representing each Member State.
There will be nothing changed in the Treaty concerning this matter.
There is also talk of so-called ‘legal guarantees’ for sensitive issues from the Irish debate. But legal guarantees have to be ratified to become truly “legal” by the other Member States. There is however no further discussion on a re-vote on the Lisbon Treaty by other countries.
Then they have aired a possibility for making such guarantees legally binding in the next treaty. Well, this is only possible if they insert these promises in the existing treaties.
The reality is that the Irish government simply plans to make declarations against some possible interpretations of the Treaty. They could state, for example, that nothing in the Lisbon Treaty will include provisions for conscription to an European army.
I heard this argument only one time during my many meetings in Ireland. It was the foreign minister who brought it on television as a “No” argument! I never heard it from “No” persons.
Such declarations will in fact change nothing. The Irish voters will therefore be asked to vote on the same treaty twice while voters in other countries are not allowed to vote for it once.
This is very bad for the feeling of belonging to a democracy. The EUDemocrats will urge the governments to bring the Lisbon Treaty to a referendum in all Member States instead of asking the Irish to vote twice on the same issue. And, why not, have it all together with the European Parliament Elections between 4-7 June next year.
Or even better: let us establish a short and readable treaty which can be read by prime ministers before they sign it. The Lisbon Treaty has not been read by any of the Prime Ministers when they signed it and we don’t think it likely that they have looked upon it since.
16:17, Posted by EUD, No Comment
by Hanne Dahl
The day begun with a meeting with the Dalai Lama. He was invited to speak in the plenary and prior to that he was to meet with the presidents of Parliaments groups, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to meet such a celebrity.
Everyone had the possibility to ask him a question or make a short remark on the situation between China and Tibet. I left my group's speaking time to my co-president, who specifically wanted to hear how the Dalai Lama viewed the changes in the UK's policy regarding Tibet.
The Dalai Lama was surprisingly un-political. He spoke of inner peace and the need for more women in politics. Because, according to him, women think more holistic and are more caring.
He is very charismatic, in a sort of non-invasive way.
He had two political points that were both very interesting and very much to the point: One was that he did not want an independent Tibet. He recognized being part of a Chinese republic, but want minority rights for the Tibetan people. Next he said that a solution of the Tibetan problem would also mean the solution for a 100 other problems in China. Very smart and very diplomatically put. He also gave voice to the unshakeable belief that a solution could only be achieved through peaceful means.
At the end he thanked the group of sympathisers who to show him respect had been fasting for a day prior to his arrival. But he also admitted that his own fasting had only begun this morning after breakfast – since it was a meal he could hardly be without. An exemplary pragmatic approach to religious asceticism.
After having heard the Dalai Lama speak in the plenary I left for Prague. It was an official visit with the other group presidents and the occasion was the Czechs taking over the EU-presidency at the turn of the year
The change of scenery was noticeable to say the least; from pragmatic asceticism to pomp and circumstances. We flew with a specially chartered plane and therefore landed in a special part of the airport. We were received with full military salute, a red carpet and an escort that followed us during the entire visit. After having checked in at the hotel, the next point on the agenda was a meeting with the Czech government, followed by an official dinner.
During such meetings there is a standard procedure. Participants are typically benched on two sides of the table. On the one side the Czech government, on the other the Group Presidents for from Parliament. In the middle the most important persons are seated and on the sides you are distributed according to portfolio and group size. So Prime Minister Topolanek was seated in the centre, right across the table from Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament. Each side then gives the floor to members of their delegation in turn.
On this part of the visit there is not much more to tell, other than the fact that Pöttering felt called to make a comment on what I said – where as all other remarks were left uncommented. I expressed great sympathy with the Czech President Klaus, who by the way was not present but shared party-membership with the Prime Minister, and who until now has been fighting with the Prime Minister over the party's opinion regarding the Treaty of Lisbon. I also said that I had followed the Czech debate on the treaty with great interest and found it exemplary.
The Czech debate has been about Democracy. About what happens when you leave the competences of more policy areas to an EU where parliamentary control is lacking. An all the way through descent and healthy debate on the future of the EU. A debate that should have been taken in each member country and not just in the Czech Republic. Of course it was provocative to give praise to President Klaus, when I knew that he and Topolanek are opponents, but that it should make Pöttering distance himself from me, and oblige him to state that I did not express the opinion of the majority, that was out of proportions. As a Conservative he did not distance himself form neither the Communist, the Socialist nor the Social Democrat who all spoke prior to me.
But never mind. I had learned my lesson and from the on began every speech of the visit by saying: I would like to remark that I belong to the part of the opposition of the EU, who believes in a committed European cooperation, but who simply does not find that the Treaty of Lisbon is good enough. Then Pöttering didn't have to distance himself every time I spoke.
The next day offered a veritable drama: After a tour of the church in the Castle area we were invited to join the President. There are many amazing mansions and palaces in Prague – but this was at the castle! The castle majestically located above both city and river. The castle that is beautiful but who to me also contains an element of something frightening, since I have always associated it with the castle of Kafka
But this day there was nothing frightening about it. The weather was clear and the view from the halls where the President receives official guests was fantastic. After a brief photo-session we were once again invited to sit according to rank and to speak in turn.
Vaclav Klaus who is a known opponent of the Lisbon Treaty began by saying that no matter what his views on this topic might be, he would do his utmost to make the Czech EU-presidency run smoothly. A full transcript of the meeting is circulating in the press, so I hardly need to include long quotes here.
The big drama of the day began when the president of the Green group (EFA), Cohn-Bendit, was given the floor. He started in an insulting tone by handing Klaus an EU-flag as a comment to Klaus not wanting the EU-flag to fly from the top of the presidential palace. Next he attacked Klaus for his critical views on the Lisbon Treaty. He wanted to know his connections to Declan Ganley, who was one of the key players on the Irish no-side. Now the neo-liberal Libertas does not appeal to me either, I do not like the idea of the wealthy buying their way in to politics in this way, without accounting for where the money comes from. But President Klaus has the right to meet with whom he desires when visiting Ireland. And he definitely does not need to be held accountable for his desire to meet with the opposition in a country he is visiting. On the contrary it showed him to be a true democrat who wants to know both sides of the story.
The tone in which Cohn-Bendit spoke was rude and Klaus asked Pöttering to call him to order. He refused to do so. According to him a member of his delegation had the right to say what he wanted, without him interfering. Not quite what it was like the night before when I spoke. But why let that stop him!
The conservation evolved into an outright quarrel. Brian Crowley from Ireland joined in and said he thought that Klaus' meeting with the opposition was an insult to the Irish people. To which Klaus wisely replied, that to him the only insult against the Irish people was to not respect their "No" to the treaty.
Furthermore Klaus stated that he had never been insulted in such a way in his own house. The tone of the debate brought memories from a pre-democratic time. And he also felt called to remind us, that it was him who had been in the forefront of the Czech Republic joining the EU. He was in no way an opponent of the EU he just did not think that the Treaty of Lisbon was good enough. It would reduce democracy in the EU, not strengthen it.
It is probably not a surprise to anyone that I was the only one who supported Klaus. I praised him for his political courage and said once again, that the Czech debate on the treaty was being was a debate that should have been taken in all European countries.
The meeting ended in a very tense atmosphere and would turn out to have an epilogue. It seems that Cohn-Bendit had prepared to promote himself in the press following the delegation. He represented the discussion in a way that was not wholly in accordance with the truth. As a consequence Klaus published the full transcript of the meeting to the press, something normally unheard of with that kind of meetings. But this has created a furore in not only the Czech press, but also in the French, Polish and German press. At least as far as I can judge from the amount of sympathy-mails I have received from those countries following the incident.
Now what can be learned from all of this? Well one thing is that you can allow yourself to disagree on anything in the EU except treaties. You are allowed to discuss nuclear power, the labour market, environment and health. You can be pro or contra liberal market economics but you can not have different opinions of how the future of the EU shall be. This insight into how power is managed should turn out to be what would make my blood turn in to ice at the castle in Prague. It was not the sunlit halls of President Klaus, but the icing atmosphere of pride and the arrogance of power. That was where the true connection to the castle of Kafka was to be found.
Read the original Danish-language blog-entry here:
13:52, Posted by EUD, No Comment
by David Heathcoat-Amory, MP, Conservative Party, UK
In 2001, the EU heads of government issued the Laeken Declaration, calling for a reformed Europe, ‘closer to its citizens’. That reform has never been carried out. Look at the EU budget – now rejected by the auditors for the 14th year.
Instead, the European Constitution gave more powers to the EU institutions at the centre. It transferred more decisions from national parliaments to Brussels. That Constitution was rejected by the voters of France and Holland.
So they repackaged the Constitution as the Treaty of Lisbon, with the same content. And the same result – this time rejected by Ireland. Now they are trying to bully the Irish into having another referendum, to give the right result.
It is very dangerous to constantly defy the public in this way. We must listen to them and carry out a genuine reform of Europe. Most people’s first loyalty is to their country; that is where democracy works best, and it is damaged if decisions and powers are transferred upwards to a remote technocratic government in Brussels.
So we must build a new Europe on the principle of national self-government. We can then cooperate together to tackle common problems. It means saying no to the Treaty of Lisbon which is part of the failed past. It means respecting the Laeken Declaration and its call for a “peoples’ Europe” instead of the present “politicians’ Europe”.
David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, has promised a national referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if he takes office before it is fully ratified. Then we can all get to work to build a better and more democratic Europe. I hope the Czech Republic will be with us in that task.
10:47, Posted by EUD, No Comment
The past week offered something resembling a diplomatic crisis as well as a major parliamentary victory.
Last week I was part of a delegation from the European Parliament's Constitutional Committee (called AFCO). The delegation went to Prague, with the purpose of paying an official visit to the country that is taking over the EU presidency. Naively I though that it would be a courtesy visit. But no! I was really mistaken. The underlying agenda of my co-travellers turned out to be to try to threaten/scare/demean the Czech Republic into ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, before taking over the presidency.
Now I also thought that one would follow certain rules for polite behaviour, while travelling as a representative of the EU. I was convinced that people would see themselves as some sort of diplomatic envoys, and thereby constrain themselves somewhat.
I assumed so much, but I got wiser.
The delegation was to meet with the Czech Parliament, Senate and Minister of Foreign Affairs, in said order. The day was to be finished with public debate at the University.
During the meeting with representatives from the Czech Parliament a Liberal British MEP started out by saying that he did not think that the Czech Republic could take over the presidency, if they had not ratified the Treaty.
However the situation is that a case has been brought before the Czech Constitutional Court, because some in the Czech Republic are concerned that the Lisbon Treaty is in conflict with the Czech constitution. And of course neither Parliament nor the senate can ratify the treaty as long as the result of the case is still pending.
Where as everything is: It thought it was quite rude that an MEP seemed to consider himself qualified to criticize a legitimate democratic process as a problem, and at the same time challenge the fundamental principle that all EU countries are equal. Who does he think that he is?
Not only does he in my book break all rules for visitors hospitality he also did not shy away from noting that he thought their President Klaus was almost an imbecile, because he supported the court case and has declared himself and opponent of the Czech Republic handing over the sovereignty that the Lisbon Treaty requires.
During a break I asked another member of our committee if he really thought that the delegation had a mandate to speak in such a way? And I said that I as the opposition considered my self more well behaved and really thought through what I was going to say when representing the EU. He agreed with me, and that was the end of that discussion.
The next place on our list was the Czech senate. The Senate has traditionally been the most critical chamber, when it comes to the Treaty.
Now picture this scenario: We are sitting at an official lunch in the Great Hall and everything begins with courteous words and the exchanging of gifts. And then the untimely "massaging" of the EU-delegation begins. The Czechs however did not give in so easy and the hosts, the president of the Senate's European Affairs Committee and the president of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, bravely defended themselves.
I was given the floor and held a long speech where I commented on the six points that the Czech Lisbon-court case is centred around, paying special attention to the points that should be debated everywhere:
Where does the balance relating to democratic deficit end? The Parliament gains greater influence in the EU, but at the same time more power is transferred to the EU from the national Parliaments.
What will happen with the whole area of judicial policy, when we allow the EU to legislate there as well?
What will the consequences be for the interpretation of the EU-citizenship that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will gain legal validity with the Treaty?
I said that these were indeed very valid questions to ask and that the Czechs should not let themselves be bullied over them, but that I instead thought that they should be proud to have such self-conscious a democracy.
This triggered a rage from the German conservative (EPP-ED) Elmar Brok. Not only could he not constrain himself from coming with outbursts during my speech – he also followed me around shouting terms of abuse at me, while we were supposed to have a tour of the castle. I politely but firmly said that he had by far crossed the line and ought to constrain himself.
And while all of this happened I had reporter on the phone, who wanted to speak to me about this week's huge victory in the protection of groundwater.
Try to picture this: A snorting, sweating and shouting German following a very pregnant woman around the Senate in Prague during an official visit. It was so embarrassing! Well not to me, but for the EU that thought that it had to lecture the Czech Republic on them not having the strength or the dignity to take over the presidency. Yes some even said that it would be best if they would just leave the presidency to the French for another term. They even threatened that it was just this kind of problems from a small country that could lead to the abolishing of the rotating presidency and the introduction of a permanent presidency, consisting of the six largest countries. I think it was a German who said it.
Now one thing is the embarrassing moment, who also forces you to laugh a bit. At the end I entered a room and insisted that Brok did not follow me anymore and then he finally stopped.
But a whole other thing is the political seriousness of the situation. We are about to approve a Treaty that through the concept of double majority in the Council transfers more power to the largest countries in the EU. We are in the process of introducing a treaty that strips all countries of the right to have a Commissioner. When one of the smaller countries dares to worry about this, they are told not to. We are told that the EU is built on the principle that all are equal and that it will be a fair and rotating cooperation we will get.
But at the same time the EU so clearly demonstrates it's more shadowy side: A small country can be bullied, threatened and insulted without any problems. I wonder if our Prime Minister and Minister of foreign Affairs was really just sitting like a couple of stupid sheep, when they years ago had to tell the rest of the countries that Denmark unfortunately could not ratify the Maastricht Treaty, because to many Danes had voted No. I wonder if there is a textbook for upper-level ministers called: For Gods sake do not think you are anything when it comes to the EU! It will only get embarrassing when they tell you that" you and your pathetic people might have had a democratic referendum – but we don't care! Because we are the EU!"
Well, I'll just end this entry with the victory, just so it won't get too sad. This week we passed two-thirds of an amendment to the Pesticide-directive. It is hard and skill full work by Jens-Peter Bonde and Bent Hindrup Andersen that I have tried to continue, and it allows us to protect the Danish groundwater for the future. Three small lines in a law turn out to make all the difference. So from the large treaty to the small law, from crisis to victory, and from abstract discussions on democracy to very concrete political work.