It would seem the French President Hollande spotted a hole and calling for a spade, jumped right in.
He did have a decent chance this time, to present a budget for 2015 including some of the sorely needed structural reforms he has talked about for so long.
It would probably not have been very popular in France but then he is already the most unpopular President that France has had in modern times.
He may as well do unpopular things in the 2015 budget.
Already in 2016 it will be too late, seen as he has Presidential elections coming up in 2017.
But President Hollande didn´t take this opportunity. Instead his government presented a budget that reforms very little, that cuts very little spending and that ends up being the 41th French budget in a row with a deficit (of 4.3% as it happens, if the French predictions for 2015 hold water which they usually don´t.)
The French parliament got to look it over on Tuesday, “exercising their sovereignty” as Finance Minister Michel Sapin puts it.
Except of course, that it isn´t a French sovereign right anymore to adopt budget with a large deficit. France signed away that right already when they joined the euro 14 years go.
And President Hollande confirmed this state of affairs, ratifying the Treaty of Growth and Stability in 2012.
This is why soon-to-be Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, if he looks to the right will see a rock and if he turns left, will find a hard place.
The European Commission must turn the French 2015 budget down and send it right back to Paris.
The rules stipulate that there should be fines to pay, if the French do not comply (on a tangent note here, how will that play out for a country already in economic difficulties?, I would really like to know).
Or the Commission could grant Paris extra time (again!) to adapt its affairs. By 2019, according to the French calculations, will the house be in order.
But Juncker would then of course severely dent the credibility of the whole euro area, a credibility it is trying so hard to regain after the global financial crisis.
He would be doing so at a time when many experts claim there´s a new crisis brewing.
He´ll of course ruin his own credibility at the same time, and that of the new Commission.
If Berlin and the German government were firmly on the side of the rules here, this could be a no-brainer. Chancellor Angela Merkel called for everybody sticking to the rules only yesterday, in a speech before the Bundestag.
The French government however, seems to believe that they have Berlin on their side.
They sent Prime Minister Manuel Valls over to charm Mrs Merkel in September. He caught the German interest enough to set up a German-French inquiry of what reforms would be good (presumably French) and what investments (presumably German) could be useful.
Also, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel have booked a meeting with French Finance Minister Michel Sapin on the 20th October to discuss the same topics.
Schäuble is being asked even from within Germany to hold back on the austerity and start spending a bit since the German economy is also showing signs of slowing down.
Paris seems to believe that Juncker would be up against Berlin as well as Paris if he decides to stick to the rules.
Right or wrong (I kind of think….wrong), Jean-Claude Juncker is put to the test in the hardest way possible.
And he doesn´t even get the politicians customary 100 days of benefit-of-the-doubt.
Are the hearings in the European Parliament an excellent exercise in democracy as many have been saying last week? Maybe.
But they are boring.
After following so far 21 hearings, each consisting of three hours listening to a would-be commissioner I´m tempted to say that they are reeeeally boring…
You see, these Commissioners-To-Be are mostly experienced politicians that know better than to slip up or give anything away.
Also, they´ve been prepped by Team Juncker on what they can promise or not promise.
They can promise: Transparency, Cooperation and to be Happy-To-Look-In-To-It.
This, they do promise. Over and over, as an answer to most questions.
They cannot promise: Anything else.
Which makes it all rather boring to listen to.
All the same. After having heard the former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici being asked for the umptenth time why we should trust him in his new job to go after EU countries which don´t try to fulfill the economic criteria that the EU has agreed upon, when he didn´t seem to try very hard himself, in his last job, I have picked up on something.
I´ve picked up on the fact that he doesn´t have an answer to this, no matter how fluently, elegantly and patiently Mr Moscovici responds every time.
Watching Phil Hogan take a question on whether he has used his position to bully people into silence, I can see for myself that he most likely is a bully.
Following the questioning of EU rookie Margrethe Vestager, I feel quite confident that she is going to be a no nonsense competition commissioner and not be swayed by arguments as to why this particular case, and that particular case is different and merits an exception to the rules.
Hearing Elzbieta Bienkowska declare that she is “lobbyist fool proof”, I´m happy that Juncker has promised that all his Commissioners will have go public about who they meet in the context of the legislative process.
They are still sort of boring, the hearings. But useful.
As it happens, at this very moment a new government is taking shape in my own country. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has presented us with his team of 24 ministers.
Most of them, I don´t know much about, it´s been eight years since we´ve had a Socialist government so most of the familiar faces are gone. And we´ve never had any Greens in government before.
At least eight of the new ministers, I´ve never even heard of.
I won´t have the advantage of following any ministerial hearings to get to know these ministers. I have to fall back on the media to find out who they are.
This part of installing a new government – you know the part where the media outs all skeletons in their cupboard – has become so standard that unbidden, the Prime Minister and his new Ministers trot out their misdemeanors (“I have two speeding tickets”, “I did not pay taxes for my nanny in the 70s”, “I have smoked marijuana. Once.”)
Obviously, the press won´t give up that easy. They dig deeper.
So I learn that the new Minister of Culture is “a Disney Princess” and that the Housing Minister, it would seem, is all about defending young Muslims fighting in Syria.
That´s all very well but still not enough. I do not get to see for myself if our new Culture minister has matured over the 25 years that have passed since she was a TV presenter for children’s programs.
I can´t judge if the remark of the Housing minister that an unnamed blogger has picked up on, is characteristic of the minister or if it´s taken out of context.
I think I would have liked hearings of the new ministers. Three hours of relentless questioning from (political) friends and foes makes for a pretty clear picture of what sort of politician and person we have in front of us.
Are they convincing? (As was Kristalina Georgieva)
Are they maybe too smooth? (Dimitris Mavropoulos said all the right things and yet…)
Do they crack under pressure? (Cecilia Malmström got surprisingly angry when questioned about the weird American e-mail)
Do they know their stuff at all? (Gunther Oettinger for one, did not)
A bit boring, I grant you, if you need to sit through it all in one go but most people don´t have to, they can pick and choose, thanks to the Internet.
No, the hearings really are democracy in motion.
The second week of parliamentary hearings is coming up. Bring it on!
Wasn´t this a clever way to go about things, dragging the fiercest critics of EU inside the tent to have them pissing out, instead of vice versa!
Good choice to put Camerons´ buddy, British Mr Jonathan Hill, in charge of regulating the financial markets and the City.
Who better to send back to London to explain why this needs to be done and counter the the British argument?
And French Finance minister Pierre Moscovici will no longer be coming to Brussels to argue why the French must be allowed yet another – the third one, I believe? – exception to EU budget rules.
Instead, he will be travelling to Paris explaining why the French need to follow the rules, like everybody else.
Well, that takes care of, as we all can see, the tiresome arguments of the French and the British government that “Brussels” doesn´t understand their special circumstances.
Poor Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande thought they were getting a gift from Juncker…which just goes to show how new they still are at the game of politics.
Also, on the theme of the tent and pissing out or in – there´s putting Mr Frans Timmermans in charge of the EU always regulating in an efficient and less burdensome way.
One of the loudest critics of “Brussels doing too much”, who would be better to handle the task of explaining why this and that actually needs to be done at the EU level?
Juncker sure knows what he´s doing.
Some people worry (and some hope) that the austerity-averse Mr Moscovici and regulation-averse Mr Hill will profit of their new won positions to bend EU policies their way.
Mr Juncker has them under his thumb in the shape of a couple of Vice Presidents with the right to stop any initiative taken by Commissioners that they supervise.
Mr Hill will accordingly be supervised by Mr Dombromskis (Not heard of him? He took over as Prime Minister of Latvia when the country was broke in 2009, turned the economy around and soon had it joining the Euro).
Not one but two austerity hawks will be looked after Mr Moscovici, that is Mr Katainen of Finland, a stickler for EU rules, and again, Mr Dombromskis.
Giving the Vice Presidents a veto over Commissioners within their area also comes in handy when solving a solve a different issue.
Mr Juncker did not get enough women candidates from the EU governments, he ended up with 9 out of 28 altogether which is of course pitiful. But he has managed to turn that situation around a lot better than could be expected.
Not only has he given women some of the most powerful portfolios; Swedish Mrs Malmstrom got trade, Danish Mrs Vestager got competition, Polish Mrs Bieńkowska got the single market, etc…
He also gave three out of seven Vice President posts to women.
So you will have Slovenian Mrs Bratušek supervising a number of men with responsibilities that fall within the Energy Union. You will have Mrs Georgieva overseeing the EU budget and staff. And of course Italian Mrs Mogherini will supervise anything and anyone to do with Foreign affairs.
By the way, Mr Juncker was not joking, was he?, when he said this will be a more political Commission ( by which I take he means trying to influence things a lot more), he´s made Mrs Mogherini move across the street and have her set up office next to his.
And just look what he´s accomplished at the same time, in way of drawing in Central and Eastern European member representatives to where the real power lays.
On top of it all, Mr Juncker has managed to put the three biggest and most vociferous EU countries firmly in their place – the German, The French and the British Commissioner are all to be supervised by a Commissioner (or two) from the smaller countries.
He may not get away with every nomination in the European Parliament, but I expect he knows exactly where his weakest cards are and probably already have a backup plan.
Well played, Mr Juncker!
They´ve been travelling down the same road for over a decade now, the Saudi businessman Yassin al Quadi and the Kurdish organisation PKK.
They´ve spent a lot of time and efforts arguing in the EU court that they are NOT terrorists and therefore should be taken off the EU terrorist list (since being on the list, makes it impossible for you to travel or do any business in Europe).
Them being on the list – in fact, the list´s whole existence, is a heritage from 9/11 and, I think, a mixture of EU governments´ fear of terrorists and a desire to make a strong gesture towards the USA.
Mr al Quadi claimed from the start that he has never financed the al Quaida, supposedly the reason he came under suspicion.
The US authorities claimed otherwise and put him on the US terrorist list and then had him put on the international UN list, which led to the Europeans putting him on the EU terrorist list.
The PKK claim to be a freedom movement, not terrorists.
The PKK and Mr al Quadi have had their up´s and down´s since they were put on the EU black list in 2002. A definite “up” for the PKK for instance, was when the EU court in Luxembourg in 2008 ordered the EU to take them off the terrorist list, since no EU government had bothered to present the PKK with the reason they had been labelled terrorists in the first place, so had not given them a fair chance to defend themselves.
A downer was that the EU governments took them off the list only to immediately put them back on again, after having mailed over a number of reasons why they can be considered terrorists.
Mr al Quadi has been there too, winning his case in 2008 for basically identical reasons, only to be robbed of the sweet victory in much the same way as the PKK.
Currently however, Mr al Quadi is definitely ahead of the PKK as court cases go. In the summer of 2013 the EU court told the EU governments – for the third time – that as long as no one could come up with any actual proof that Mr al Quadi had financed terrorists, they had to take him off their black list.
And no, showing that Mr al Quadi could have financed terrorists, had he wanted to, was not good enough.
The victory of Mr al Quadi gave the PKK renewed hope. In May this year, their legal team announced that they would give the EU court another go.
The PKK feel they can now show that they are non-violent; they have a peace agreement signed with the Turkish government.
They have called off all violence in Turkey and their leader, Mr Abdullah Öcalan, from his prison cell where he is serving a life time sentence, is publicly advocating peaceful means to fight for Kurdish civil rights.
But then, an ironic twist of fate has the PKK no longer arguing how very non-violent they are.
Quite the opposite actually.
Now they need to show the world what strong and dangerous fighters they are.
This no longer makes them terrorists – this makes them heroes.
For they are now fighting the horrible IS, the Islamic State.
List or no list, several EU governments and the US have decided to provide the PKK with arms as a help in fighting the IS.
Trying to keep up some illusion of law, the arms are directed towards the Kurdish peshmerga… who are fighting, as everybody knows, alongside the PKK.
Who by the way, are said to be much the stronger fighters.
The PKK may remain on the EU list.
But who cares about the list anyway. Not our politicians, obviously.
If people and organisations can be put on the terrorist list for any reason, they can be taken off simply because the politicians feel it´s right to take them off.
Like the great Roman general Pompei said: “Stop quoting laws, we carry weapons!”
Well, isn´t this a proper mess!
The EU Court ordered Google in a ruling in May to remove links to information on the Internet if the person concerned finds it “outdated, irrelevant or no longer relevant.”
The case in question was about a Spanish lawyer who didn´t want info popping up on the Internet on his house having been repossessed a few years earlier when his finances were in rather a bad way.
He felt it harmed him in his new career.
Google was confused.
Do people actually have this “right to be forgotten” that the EU legislators have been going on about but never managed to properly set down in a law?
Google swiftly removed the links as well as a few others upon request, for example to a couple of articles in the Guardian. Protests from the media then had Google put them up again.
“The ‘right to be forgotten’ will be abused to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest,” Robert Peston of the BBC wrote in a blogpost.
´The court has gone too far´, says Eric Schmidt, head of Google, ´it has struck the balance between the right to know and the right to be forgotten, wrong.´
What this makes for, concludes an editorial of the Financial Times, is a flawed privacy ruling.
No, it does not, FT (and the rest of you).
What this makes for, is a flawed privacy legislation.
The court cannot give exact directions as to what links to remove and which one to let stand.
That´s not its´place.
What the court can do on the other hand, and has done, is to point out that EU citizens have a right to privacy.
Since it seemed everybody had forgotten that.
Google for one, wasn´t bothered about that right before the ruling. After the ruling, they have to be.
The current rules in the matter date from 1995 – the Stone Age as far as the Internet is concerned.
The European Commission made a proposal for updated rules in January 2012.
Lobbying against the EU legislating on details of this “right to be forgotten” has been unprecedented in its intensity and its aggressivity, not least from the US government.
And from Google.
So much in fact, that the proposal was watered down before it was even presented to the European legislators.
The European Parliament concluded their position on the proposal in October last year, needless to say, also under heavy lobbying.
We´re still waiting for the EU governments to do their part of the work.
It´s no secret why the governments have let this one slide.
The European Parliament has been up in arms over protecting peoples´ privacy. The revelations of Edward Snowden on how the US and their global companies spy on all of us, really got the EP going.
They wanted to put an end to it, or at least put some obstacles in their way.
The EU governments on the other hand, weren´t too bothered. Many of them, it turned out, was more or less aware of the spying (but probably not the magnitude of it…surely, not?)
Some governments were even helping out (the Swedish government and the British government among others).
The calculation in the Council of Ministers seems to have been:
If we drag this thing out, a new Parliament will be elected and with some luck (and with time passing which always helps) the new MEPs won´t be so obstinate in defending that o-so-holy privacy.
Of course, the European Court has now thwarted that bit of scheming, reminding everyone that citizens do have rights.
Not a flawed ruling, at all.
Quite the opposite.
It forces the hand of the EU governments as well as the new Parliament. Legislate properly or leave Google and Co in a real mess.
“Vous avez raté une bonne occasion de vous taire”, French President Jacques Chirac famously told some of the Eastern European candidate countries.
Missing the moment to shut up seems to be epidemic, these days.
Here´s somebody who is really off the mark: The US embassador in Berlin.
Registering the strong suspicions in Europe of the future Free trade Agreement with the US (the TTIP),
he tweets: “You are pro the TTIP and irritated over the negative coverage it gets?
Send us your ideas and we will subsidize you.”
What reception did he expect to this creative idea of conducting a democratic debate?…that is, the US paying people to present the American arguments.
He gets, of course, the response he deserves:
“@U.S. Embassy: Your TTIP PR will not save this project no matter how much money you paid.”
“@U.S. Embassy here is my proposal: Democracy has never been so cheap: On sale at only €545 per year per household!”
“@U.S. Embassy: Some detailed information from the negotiators would help the debate. Lack of transparency…”
Here are some other people else who would have done well to follow the suggestion of President Chirac;
The US President Obama, Hilary Clinton and the Chinese Premier Li…
They all have in common that they felt they should advice the Scots on how to vote on the question of Scottish independency.
Turns out the Scots, if their Twitter remarks are anything to go by, would prefer to vote independently…
“Obama, Clinton, the Pope all have a ‘view’ on #indyref
Seriously, guys, don’t you know we’re poor, wee and stupid and hence beneath notice? ”
“So Cameron begged Obama,Putin&Queen to attack right Sovereign Scottish people to decide own future #Coward
If Clinton, Obama et al REALLY want to leave #indyref to Scots, they’re welcome not to express an opinion on how they should vote #VoteYes”
“Hillary Clinton has said she’d “hate” to see Britain “lose” Scotland http://fw.to/yBcdEBUDear Mrs Clinton, Scotland is not a possession.”
“Keep them coming, our polling just went up after Obama’s intervention. #indyref”
Why, even the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt felt he had to chip in and explain to he Scots the issues at stake about (you people are going to cause the “Balkanisation of the British Isles”).
Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond swiftly came out, calling his remarks “insulting” to the Scots as well as to the people in the Balkan and also “foolish”.
Carl Bildt is of course notorious for shooting his mouth off, as opposed to the British who have a reputation for running a very clever diplomatic corps.
Clearly not picking up on when “trop, c´est trop!, no less than the “most senior of British diplomats”, Mr Ivan Rogers, heading the UK representation in Brussels, takes it upon himself at a dinner party to warn his European peers that that if they accepted Mr Juncker as Commission President against the will of the British Prime Minister, this was “political dynamite that could push the British towards the exit door”.
You can almost hear some of his dinner guests sighing:
That´s how you lose a battle.
Funny how in politics things can twist and turn and make everything come out topsy turvy.
The European Parliament was all set to DEMAND that the heads of state “listen to the people” and pick the front runner from the biggest parliamentary group as the next President of Commission.
They made a decent case for their cause –no one could accuse them of simply aiming for more power – since the Lisbon treaty does say that; `Taking into account the European elections…the European Council shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission`. (Art 17.7)
The European Parliament soooo had the moral high ground…yesterday.
Then the people seem of Europe to have come out and said pretty loud and clear, that they are deeply sceptic towards the whole EU project at the moment.
Picking the old hand and EU veteran Jean-Claude Juncker for Commission President no longer appears to be the most logical choice in the face of the election result.
On top of it all, even if the EPP group did end up bigger than all other groups in the elections, they still lost some 20% of their votes compared to 2009.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is fighting for his political life and can absolutely not face his voters having accepted any of the federalists that the EP brings forward; Jean-Claude Juncker or Martin Schulz.
Normally, nobody would care two ticks about the career of David Cameron but as the political game unfolds, in this very case, hiding behind him cleverly covers up the fact that the heads of state really would like to refuse both names for the sole reason of the power game, for wanting not to lose their prerogative to pick whomever they chose.
(Take Chancellor Merkel, for example. She has been decidedly lukewarm all along to the prospect of having Juncker as a Commission President but facing harsh critisism at home over the fact, she can afford to ´endorse him after all` and trust Cameron to veto him, a political win-win.)
Now, already in a good position to turn the Parliament down, the heads of state need in order to close the deal new names to put forward.
What better and more politically correct way can there possibly be than to go forward and propose a woman for the job?
Could the European Parliament even consider going against such a proposal?, when facing the argument that the EU leadership otherwise will be all male (because, obviously, no one thinks for a minute that Baroness Ashton is going to be invited to carry on) and therefore badly in need of a woman on a central post.
I think not.
Watch out for Danish Helle Thorning Smith and French Christine Lagarde.
`The UK is Europe’s “special” case, and EU leaders should find ways to accommodate its “specificity”`, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said, seemingly opening up for the British to renegotiate their membership.
But take just a moment, beforehand, to ponder the equation that Spanish professor Carlos Closa serves up in a recent paper (“Between a rock and a hard place: The future of EU treaty revisions”).
We all know that to change the EU treaty it takes a YES from all 28 member states governments.
That´s a lot.
Here comes more:
25 of those are coalition governments. I make it a total of 86 different political parties that will need to agree on a YES.
Then every national parliament in 28 countries will have their say. Several of those have more than one chamber and each one must agree, so we need a YES from no less than 52 chambers.
Now, with all these wobbly political majorities, you know how you in some places get these small – often on the extreme side of politics – parties that have just enough votes to tip the balance and change the outcome?
Well, they all need to be convinced as well.
To top it all, referendums.
In Ireland it is mandatory, in Denmark almost (or else five-sixths of Parliament in favour) and in several countries it will be unavoidable for political reasons: The Netherlands for one, Germany seems like a strong candidate this time around, France once again…
We must add to our list 50 % of an unknown number of million voters that must deliver a YES to changing the EU treaty.
So there´s our little equation.
An extra ordinary amount of people hold the veto card for a treaty change.
If all above agree that the UK is a special case and so should be exempt from any specific rule that the British do not like…and by consequence, accept that their own nation is NOT special and therefore must abide by all the current rules, then, well then there will be a deal.
We all love the UK but I´m not holding my breath.
Oh, what to choose, who to pick…
The political campaigning of the Commission President candidates is in full swing, they´re travelling all over the place – Mr Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP) in in his blue campaign bus, Mr Martin Schulz (s) in his shockingly pink bus. Berlin, Bucarest, Paris, Helsinki, Athens… here we come!
And they get so excited both of them, happily promising the moon and the stars too.
Mr Juncker, on a stop-over in Finland recently, got so carried away he even promised to sort out the Finnish Prime Minister Katainen with a good European job..
Mr Schulz, drowning happily in applause at a French socialist rally, mimicked the clever election slogan of French President Holland: “Moi, President!”, he stated proudly and went on to promise the end of social dumping. Yes, and he will rewrite the rules to fix the “posted workers” problem. And the 27 million unemployed can rest assured that he will find the economic growth they need to find jobs.
(No need to be superstitious and remember that Mr Hollande had to eat his words, having sworn that if “Lui President!” he would sort out the unemployment… which since has only gone up.)
By the way, that´s pretty much what Mr Juncker promises as well, growth and more of social consideration.
“Not only Socialists have a heart”, he tells us on twitter.
Things have to change, Mr Juncker adds. It is time EU high flyers became more sensitive to the concerns of the citizens. Mr Juncker – if president – will put up a fight to see no more bureaucrats at the helm of the European Commission, all Commissioners must be politicians.
(A change badly needed, I think we can agree with Mr Juncker, seen as a whopping 4 out of today´s 28 current Commissioners are not former politicians.)
Martin Schulz promises – if He President! – he will make sure that financial transactions are taxed and corruption ended.
(And he may have recently rather brusquely stopped people from bringing up a suspicion of corruption among his own entourage in the European Parliament, but that was because the timing was not right.)
Mr Juncker on Twitter hails an EP decision: “The bell has tolled for roaming charges – this is a great European achievement”, he tweets proudly.
It was indeed a strong decision to stop telecoms industry overcharging us.
Visiting Finland, however (home to the struggling telecoms giant Nokia) Mr Juncker declared his firm belief that we mustn´t hinder the telecoms industry to become profitable, so the EU commission will ( “if Lui President”) henceforth implement competition rules “in a continental spirit”.
Mr Juncker is the man!
Or is he? Martin Schulz promises to end the EU meddling in national affairs if he becomes President. But then again, so does Jean-Claude Juncker.
Oh, the things you are tempted to say when you meet the voters!
It´s the excitement of it all, I think. The carousing around, all the nice people you meet.
But of course, they both know that most of what they are promising is waffle.
Mainly, because a Commission president can not deliver on any of the above promises.
No harm done. Everybody tends to promise stuff to better their chances to get a nice job. Voters know that, they won´t be holding their breaths for Mr Juncker or Mr Schulz to deliver.
Only one little remark, however, to remind you of the European set up, that you have been important parts of for many years, both of you.
Not only is a Commission President not able to deliver of any of above promises, more importantly he/she should not be able to.
If Europe needs to be less about austerity and more about social consideration, this will happen following a political decision made by elected politicians i. e. EU governments and the European Parliament.
Not because a Commission president – blue or red – wants it.
Nations rule on taxes in the EU. Not the civil servants of the Commission.
Competition rules do not change according to the whim of a Commission president.
And if you Mr Juncker, or you Mr Schulz, as Presidents, were to introduce less meddling from the European Commission, this would basically mean trying less hard to implement the decisions made by elected politicians,
neglecting democratic decisions as well as the very task that the EU treaty confers on the Commission.
The EU treaty may well say that the next Commission President should be nominated taking into account the result of European elections.
It does not say however that the Commission President – the highest placed civil servant in the institutional set up of the EU – should all of a sudden start to implement his own personal political ideas.
But of course, all your voters are surely aware of this so what you are doing on your European Tours is just a bit of fun, a bit of harmless campaigning.
Carry on!, I´ve not made my mind up yet.
Now, who to pick…?
Free trade with the US?
Sure. Free trade is a good thing and bigger markets to sell European stuff has to be a good thing, right?
Open borders? I´m in favor, the more circulation, the merrier.
And it is going to bring us tens of thousands of new jobs as well as € 120 bn in cash, I hear.
Still. How exactly will a free trade agreement with the US achieve all that since there are very few barriers in place between the EU and the US in the first place?
As the European Commission puts it: …”the economic relationships between the United States and the European Union can be considered to be among the most open in the world…”
Yep, the US is our biggest trading partner and we´ve done away with most customs and trade barriers ages ago.
The barriers we´ve bothered to keep in place are for our own protection.
For example: The US farmers feed their livestock antibiotics from birth, just in case. This we don´t allow in Europe because we know that people eating the meat off those animals will most likely become resistant to antibiotics and not respond to treatment, should they fall ill.
The US allows growth hormones for animals – the bigger, the more meat to sell! – whereas Europe has put a stop to that, not wishing to have humans stuffing themselves with hormones.
The EU has all sorts of cumbersome hygiene rules for handling chicken and other birds where the US has only one: The birds are dipped in chlorine before being shipped out to stores, so as to kill off all germs and bacteria.
The EU does not allow any chicken dipped in chlorine on its territory (thank god!)
But apart from a few of those life style choices, Europe is pretty much an open market for any American goods or services.
So I can´t think why these very same European rules and regulations keep popping up in documents on the negotiating of a future Free Trade Agreement with the US.
“…most importantly, regulatory differences for goods and services act as greater impediments to transatlantic trade and investment flows…”
Yes, they do that, act as impediments. This is how we want them to act. No chlorine chicken here, please!
“…can result in additional burdens for EU and US businesses.”
Obviously. But for a good reason. So let´s take them off the table at the outset, OK?
“The bulk of US exports enter the EU market at very low tariff rates and the EU services market is already very open. Therefore, the US is likely to aim at achieving its objectives by concentrating on the remaining tariff peaks (mainly for agricultural products) and on certain aspects of regulatory measures…”
OK, right. So the US may want to use the negotiations to make us remove these “impediments”.
But we don´t.
Remember, we have the upper hand here. The EU has had a surplus in its trade with the US for years. A surplus of €92 bn only last year, for example.
(Well, what can you do, that´s capitalism for you. We must be selling better stuff to them than they to us – the market forces rule.)
Also, did you notice that trade to the US is falling?
“Between 2000 and 2011, while EU exports of goods to the world increased at an average annual growth rate of 7.6%, EU exports to the US only grew by 1%. Meanwhile, the purchases of goods from the US represented 20.8% of the total imports of the EU in 2000 and they only accounted for 11.1% in 2011 (a reduction close to 50%).”
It´s China, you see and the Brics. We are redirecting our forces. Besides, doesn´t it come into play at all, the fact that the US is heavily indebted?
Basically, we have no reason to accept just any old demand from the US.
The US demands more of us in these negotiations than that we change our current rules?
They are asking for ……”the establishment of a bilateral process through which the US could provide input to the EU’s process for setting standards, norms, and systems in a variety of fields…”
They ask to have a say in how we legislate in the future? They´re not shy, I`ll give them that.
Well, they can forget that!
Do they not know that there´s a heated debate on in Europe precisely on how European legislation is conducted?
Have they not heard British Prime Minister David Cameron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and recently, com to think of it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel?
They all argue most vociferously that the EU is meddling too much in member countries affairs.
They demand to renationalize powers.
They will not have outside forces interfering in their countries and how they are run, so there.
So you see, there´s really no way that they would hand over the very same powers to a foreign state.
Because if they did – what´s next? China is rapidly becoming our largest trading partner and China too wants a free trade agreement.
Are we going to give China a say in the security of toys, maybe?
Shouldn´t think so!
No way the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands would give up sovereignty in this way.
Yes, I admit, it is a bit of a paradox that the very same leaders are also the most vociferous campaigners for a free trade agreement with the US – and they all despise the French for wanting to safeguard some sectors – but when it comes to the crunch, they will defend our sovereignty…I think……right?…