2003 was a vintage year for the Cassandras of Brussels: Eurostat, Stability Pact, Alsthom, New Europe and Old Europe, Swedish Referendum, Constitution and finally the threat to cut the budget from the rich nations. None of these issues have been resolved, and few predict that next year will get any easier.
One of the delegates to the European Constitutional Convention famously described its attempt to involve society at large through its Futurum and Forum aspects as “Brussels talking to Brussels”. By this he was pointing out that the vast majority of ‘civil society actors’ that were involved in the process were organisations which received much of their primary funding from the EU itself. This closed circle of influence in the decision making processes in the EU threatens the project far more than any external pressure.
The next year has the prospect of leaving the peoples of Europe even further behind as Brussels goes through the disturbances and ructions of a new Commission, a parliamentary election, a new boss at the central bank, enlargement with the associated asymmetric shocks and not least the ongoing farce of the new Constitution itself. In each of these we already know about major difficulties, but politics being politics there may well be more to come. All this will leave Brussels itself and its parasitical press corps again concentrating more and more upon the bubble, divining the runes, rather than on connecting with the peoples of Europe their hopes, fears and desires .
But the people deserve better, they deserve to have the machinations explained to them. They deserve to be told precisely how much enlargement is expected to cost and what its benefits are. Not in merely grandiose sound bites, but practically, in their pockets. The enlargement countries themselves need to be able to tell their own people what the benefits of their new membership are. Rather than relying on the word of European leaders who seem to change the rules whenever it suits them. The smaller countries need to know whether the Stability Pact is to be overthrown, rather than being differentially applied depending on economic weight. America needs to know if Europe is committed to ridding the world of the threats of international terrorism or would prefer to sell arms to dictators.
As a project the European Union is in danger of losing what trust it has from the people of Europe. The figures in the Commission’s own December Eurobarometer survey tell their own story, a story that must be listened to by our political leaders. The jury is out, the battle has not been won and the heresy of Euro-apathy or worse Euro-Sceptisism stalks the land. Brussels is seen as aloof, distant, incorrigibly corrupt and self –serving. If it wants to retain any affection from the populous it must go back to first principles and talk to them.
Strange rumblings from the Convention collapse. The media has swallowed the line almost entire that the collapse of talks was all down to the perfidious Poles and their temporarily crippled Prime Minister Lezek Miller in the role of a stage villain. However as the hangover fades after Berlusconi’s farewell party (complete with the sort of bad jokes that your father might tell following half a bottle of port) the real culprit remains in the shadows. Enter Mr Chirac.
According to authoritative diplomatic reports Poland, Spain and Germany, were ready to talk about a deal but France refused to take part in the negotiations. The French have long been the most openly sceptical of Enlargement with surveys showing a significant majority against, here it seems was its chance. Evidence now suggests that France, supported by Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg were interested in a Euro-core that could drive integration forward. By the Saturday morning of the conference Chirac had gathered Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Greece. Though his statement suggesting this core was later pooh-poohed by others The Sprout would like to point out the normal Brussels process. It is not going to happen. It is not a serious idea. That is not what we mean. It was passed in Council two years ago and it is too late to complain now.
Christmas thoughts 1 Ok so it was a bit late in the afternoon, and I had been slaving over a hot stove and I had already done the washing up, and it was my child’s first Christmas and her first cold. But as I finished washing the roasting tin I turned on the radio and listen to the Queen’s Christmas message, and I swear my eyes pricked.
Without flannel and without verbal pyrotechnics she spoke of duty and honour. She extolled the fine men and women in our forces in a way that will remind them that despite the actions of our government who she them as a means to extend global influence but a real nuisance when it comes to the Treasury round. She spoke of the other eternal truth, the one in which they are thought of and honoured by a people who sleep soundly knowing that there are those who will defend us, if necessary unto death.
“This year I am speaking to you from the Household Cavalry Barracks in Windsor because I want to draw attention to the many Servicemen and women who are stationed far from home this Christmas. I am thinking about their wives and children, and about their parents and friends. Separation at this time is especially hard to bear.
It is not just a matter of separation. The men and women of the Services continue to face serious risks and dangers as they carry out their duties. They have done this brilliantly. I think we all have very good reasons for feeling proud of their achievements - both in war, and as they help to build a lasting peace in trouble spots across the globe.
None of this can be achieved without paying a price. I know that all our thoughts at this time are with the families who are suffering the pain of bereavement. All those who have recently lost a close relative or friend will know how difficult Christmas can be.
These individual Servicemen and women are our neighbours and come from our own towns and villages; from every part of the country and from every background. The process of training within the Navy, the Army and the Air Force has moulded them together into disciplined teams. They have learnt to take responsibility and to exercise judgement and restraint in situations of acute stress and danger. They have brought great credit to themselves and to our country as a whole”.
Christmas thoughts 2 My landlord and his family are, as I think I’ve mentioned, Assyrians from Eastern Turkey. They live downstairs and provide a level of permanent entertainment. Normally this comes in the form of dozens of relatives of all ages cramming into the tiniest of Brussels stairwells, and providing us with regular supplies of fresh-baked flat loaves, stuffed vine leaves and most recently soup. Now the soup stuff is novel as the grandmother, a black, bearded crone of about 4ft 6 turned up at the from door a week or two ago and proffered us a large saucepan full of, well she kept say “Soup,” prod, proffer, “Soup!”
We smiled and thanked her, to complete incomprehension – our Aramaic being weak at the best of times. The soup was gluten, salted with the odd bit of oat suspended in the mix.
Well this family, who live downstairs have spent the last fortnight, almost nightly being the target of local youths – Levantine in appearance – who take pleasure in hurling fireworks at their windows. This has been getting increasingly aggressive and last night somebody from the landlords flat downstairs fired at one of them with what I assume was an airgun. Noww I expect to be be woken in the middle of the night after somebody has firebombed the building.
Christmas thoughts 3 Best present – Prince of Persia – Sands of Time. Fun and great graphics, splendid game play and hours of doing nothing
Worst present – The Assyrians downstairs have been given a Karaoke machine – I pray they break it soon.
Ivor Tiefenbrun of Linn Radios, makes his feelings towrds government loud and clear. My personal favourite out of a number of prize comments is this,
"But business is tough. It’s like pushing water up a hill. We’ve got an ever increasing cost base, the corporate tax regime is iniquitous, and the planning system has crippled us for years. Then there’s about 40,000 pieces of f***ing legislation that have come in under this government, all 40,000 of which are a pain in the f***ing a***".
Once more unto the breach.
How many hours in the day does Lord Haskins have? Lord Haskins, Labour peer and crony in chief, Non-Exec Chairman of Northern Foods, former Head of the pointless Better Regulations Taskforce, HMGs Countryside Czar and all round quango junky has got himself another government sponsored job. This time as the front man for the Yes4Yorkshire campaign. This campaign, for a elected regional government for the Yorkshire region is going to be launched in a squib of publicity in January, according to the Campaign for the English Regions.
Haskins has come under fire from all angles for his various jobs â€“ as the owner of supermarkets, he prescribed cheaper farm gate prices for farmers as a way out of their difficulties. Interestingly he auditioned for the job as the campaign supremo in his much disputed November 2003 report the Rural Delivery Review, where one of the little commentated upon recommendations was to transfer of the economic and social development functions of DEFRA's rural delivery agencies to the regional development agencies. This is all of course perfectly in line with the European policy of regionalisation... Who knows, Haskins for Commissioner?
That alone is not what gets my goat â€“ and this is just a particularly pedantic little blather on my part, the announcement on the CEPRâ€™s ebulletin (their website hasnâ€™t been updated since July- so no link) says it like this
The Campaign will be launching its Yes Campaign in the New Year with a series of press events around the region. Chris Haskins will be fronting the Yes Campaign
Bleeecchh, I hate the false chummy man of the people tone of this piece of drivel, Chris Haskins, Chris for pitys sake. Oh, donâ€™t call me sir, my man, as Tony Benn once said. The false humility is supposed to make us think that he is like you and me, balderdash
Oh that's all right then.. BBC shows its colours again
A fascinating snippet on the BBC's atitudes over Iraq is hidden in this piece by Con Coughlin in the Sunday Telegraph
"(The BBC, indeed, has told its correspondents that, given his leadership was endorsed in a referendum, they should not refer to him as a dictator.)"
That would be the infamous referendum conducted in October 2002 in which
"Just hours after the polling stations closed across Iraq, Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf confirmed that 11,780,000 registered voters had cast a ballot â€“ and not a single "no" had been counted" The BBCs minds are so broadminded their brains have dropped out.
A French official is examining whether to prosecute US Vice President Dick Cheney over alleged complicity in the abuse of corporate assets dating from the time he was head of the services company Halliburton.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me 2 bags of flour and a place in the petrol queue
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and a place in the petrol queue
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the eight day of Christmas my true love gave to me 8 maids with milk, 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 9 bricks of forex, 8 maids with milk, 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me 10 hours of electricity, 9 bricks of forex, 8 maids with milk, 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me 11 phones-a-working, 10 hours of electricity, 9 bricks of forex, 8 maids with milk, 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me 12 packs of cigarettes, 11 phones-a-working, 10 hours of electricity, 9 bricks of forex, 8 maids with milk, 7 bottles of cooking oil, 6 pounds of beef, PRIME FARM-ING LAND, 4 bags of sugar, 3 bags of Maize, 2 bags of flour and place in the petrol queue
Thabo Mbeki has yet again put himself beyond the pale agin. In Todays Mail and Guardian he actually says this while on a visit to his chum Mugabe.
"Our countries faced common problems. They shared common problems of oppression. They share common problems today. And in reality that is why we are here," Mbeki said.
Mbeki said he hopes Mugabe "can assist us to confront the problems we have in South Africa, so that if we can, we can assist you to solve the problems that face Zimbabwe".
He also accepted that vile regieme's land seizure policy with a shrug of his shoulders.
He also indicated support for the Harare regime's lawless seizure of white-owned farms when he said that the four-year expulsion of about 4 000 white farmers was "probably inevitable". Zimbabwe can assist South Africa, will the last sane human leave that country, quickly.
Hold your horses Surely the coverage last night that should have execised Samizdatas was not the stat showing the British mob in one of its moments of moral certainty, but more the way in which it was made clear, on the BEEB at least what the next step should be.
For what seemed like the entire broadcast was concentrating on the various charges that had been brought against Huntley before the Soham murders. The distinct impression that I recived from this coverage was that it hsould be the case that in the future a mere charge or accusation of either child abuse, rape or whatever should make one unfit for many jobs. The possibilities for further state intrusion in peoples lives are horrific, not even the possibility for malicious accusation.
The idea of inncent until proven guilty further driven into the dust.
My father in law has recently given up his greatest love, that of active inviolvement in cricket. He is a qualified umpire, and once or twice a year, to help out, he has umpired in school matches. Due to this he was forced to fill in one of those police check forms. This he refused to do as he felt in his own way was a direct rebuke for a former politics lecturer and town councillor.
The problem flagged up by my wife as she raged at the TV was neatly surmised thus.
So how about newsagents, and chip shop workers, those people who work in Macdonalds, surely they too have contact , regular contact with children. Surely they too must be on the database, dammit how about parents, why are you not on the register, why shouldn't the state have the right to check before the birth of opur child that you, and I have no accusations on our record...(Ok I made up the last bit, but you get the point).
You Gov have just sent through a poll asking these same questions, I do not know who has commissioned it, probably a Sunday paper, no doubt the Screws to bolster their Sarah's Law, all peadophiles - convicted or not should be gassed approach to th elaw - we will see the results, but don't go hoping for one in line with civil liberties.
Pity poor Gisella Stuart, Having done her masters bidding by trashing the Constitution she now feels the danger of being the Baptist, and seems to fear the results. In todays Guardian she desperately tries to avoid charges of Eurosceptism that have been brought about by her Fabian society pamphlet.
Despite a headline reading...
We have to tear it up and start again
The constitution would have been a disaster - and I helped to write it!
She is of course not a "sterile Europhobe" like the Tories, Oh no never, she is a principled realist like, ahem most Tories. Her semantic knots are a delight to read.
There are many paths to heaven Gisella, welcome aboad, even if you do not approve of your fellow passangers, we are delighted to welcome you.
If this is not a restating of Tory European policy, could somebody tell me what it is please.
"The cold war model of Europe has had its day. The options include a European Union with a more overtly federal and democratic structure, and one that has a far less comprehensive political and economic agenda, with much of the existing authority of Brussels returned to the member states.
The debate has to go beyond the political elite. Now is the time to start it". -Emphasis mine, hat tip Brothers Judd
Baba, please…get down,
careful now. You’ll slip:
the rocks are wet, stop
frightening me, I’m too
old to climb and carry you,
baba, let’s walk the sands,
reach home for tea,…but
I forget, you’re not ready yet
to run beside the sea
There’s a mushroom, look,
where the cattle eat, no,
don’t chase the sheep, they
soon have lambs, babes like
you were once, yes, I’ll close
the gate, show you where the
Vikings lived, sure, long, long
ago, they worked the land,
like Euan does today, no, they
hadn’t tractors then but gathered
mushrooms just the same, like
you and me
No, not that, we call them
toadstools, give you tummy
ache, toads…? sort of frogs,
a stool’s a chair without a
back, and that? That’s a
cowpat so wipe your boot, we’ll wash
it later in the sea and watch
the seals watch us, listen to your
singing with the wind… well,
later anyway, for I do hurry
things, forget you’re not ready
yet, have no name to be, baba,
how times flee, so hurry now
…run with me, I hear the dusk
calling on the tide, the gulls’
mad scream, no I’m not ready
yet to flee, for baba, we’ve much
to do, you and me
0945 hrs 07.xi.03
Isle of Tiree
(Envoy to a newborn grandchild born on St Bertille’s day 06.xi.03 11.45hrs)
One of the peripheral events to this weekend's IGC here in Brussels has been an attempt by a pan - European group of democracy activists. (Yes we dio get them here, sometimes it feels like Tiblisi, but sadly we don't get the numbers). However I had the good fortune to have lunch with two young referenda campaigners from the Vote 2004 camapign.
They had brought with them three trucks with a big banner riduculing Blair and his contempt for the people of Britain.
These three trucks were to drive in circles near the razor wire zone around the Council Building where our betters are carving up our future.
Well it seems from what I am told that they have been arrested and DEPORTED for having the temerity to demand democracy in Europe. It seems that they needed to get a permit a few weeks ago from the Mayor of Brussels to demand their democratic rights. Even the Lib Dem amongst them seems to be wavering in her support for the project from what I am told.
The tragi-comedy of this is that one ofthose arrested, Mustapha Hulusi, an Anglo-Turkish student who was driving one ofthe trucks, was arrested and threatened under terrorism laws, due to the factthat he had a map of Brussels in the truck.
This from a country that refused to arrest supporters of those who blew up Massoud.
The idea of a truck driver in Brussels without a map is preposterous. I saw the maps - they were useless and showed the whol;e of central Brussels as only 2 inches across.
What is better from what I hear the police picked up the three vans and discovering that Iain Hollingshead was not with them spoke to him n the phone. They asked him to go to the foyer of a named hotel so that they could come and arrest him.
He turned up.
The OSCE has denounced the Russian elections thus "the pre-election process was characterized by extensive use of the state apparatus and media favoritism to benefit the largest pro-presidential party".
The head of the long term observer mission to Russia, Rita Sussmuth pointed out that "We have serious concerns regarding the lack of media independence. State media failed to provide balanced coverage of the campaign and considerable pressure was exerted on journalists, which restricted information available to voters to make an informed choice. Steps should be taken to develop the state broadcasters into a truly independent public service."
However Martin Helme of the Research Centre Free Europe in Estonia and the leader of the No campaign in the recent referendum on EU membership has pointed out the double standards. "UKVE conducted a thorough research on how Estonian media covered the subject of EU and found that both state and private media was heavily bias in following the governments line", he said today.
Everything that the OSCE has complained about in Russia happened in spades across the enlargement countries. When the OSCE was requested to send observers they refused citing financial considerations, “OSCE refused to send observers to Estonia for two reasons – they did not have finances for that and they are only suppose to observe elections not referendums. I find it extremely meaningful that they refused on technical grounds, one could read between the lines, that it was a decision based on a political calculation not on a conviction that all is well with fairness and democracy in the accession referendums. Basically, it is hypocritical of OSCE or anyone in the West to accuse Russia in failing to uphold the high standard of democracy, as the same standard used in Russia is widely accepted in Europe as well. It appears in OSCE's view failing the standard of democracy is acceptable if it is for a good cause, like enlarging EU. For me it is a sad message of double standards by OSCE“.
“Who’se that portly Italian dude, Buck?”
“Dunno Jed, pull him and frisk him, he looks dodgy”
A couple of weeks ago there was a bit of a fuss when it was discovered that the New Zealand PM was searched at Sydney airport Though amusing a far bigger gaffe of the same sort occurred at JFK in New York when the President of the European Commission suffered the same indignity. The Sprout learnt that Prodi was pulled from the queue where he was idling with his entire team. Not one of them lifted a hand to stop it happening, in fact I understand that their general response was laughter.
Just imagine somebody doing that to any serious world leader, or for that matter somebody who believes himself to be a world leader as Prodi definitely does.
The shame and embarrassment merely goes to hide the fact that the EU is lead by a non-entity, that its own projection of power is non-descript and it fails in any leadership role.
Exchange rate strangeness Why is it, and I ask any literate economist reader to put me straight on this one, why is it that Bank of Scotland pounds are exchanged for a marginally improved rate than Bank of England pound notes.
I was standing in a queue with a few hundred of the BOS notes this morning (mother in law over to gaze at the young Rose- and to involve herself in the minutiae of winding up my darling wife of all possible arrangements). When I reached the till the young Vlamming took one look at the purple notes, picked up the phone and demanded a rate for “livres Ecossians”, to my surprise the rate was better (OK only .712 to .711) but if we were working with multiple thousands and more that could make a margin.
Please somebody tell me what is going on?
Tax Harmonisation is definitely what they want - and no amount of lying by Blair and his chums can deny it.
Now I must have mentioned this before and if I haven't it is just oversight. Don't ask British politicians for the truth about Europe. The people that one should ask are the Europeans themselves. Why, because they are not frightened of the ramifications of concepts such as
“Ever closer Union” to which Britain sig ed up to in a fit of sovereign anmnesia (or were they lying) back before I was conscious.
Well Prodi has yet again said something to wind the nothing will come of it brigade in Whitehall.
In an interview with the Irish Times yesterday Mr ‘stupidity pact’ himself states
“Taxation is a national matter in all the fields that are under national discipline but in the fields that are under European discipline, you must have a European-level decision. In this case, it's not between citizens and member-states but between citizens and the proper authority. That is, in this case, the European Union,”
Wriggle out of that, straightforward, honest and intends to do exactly what it says on the tin. “In this case, it's not between citizens and member-states but between citizens and the proper authority”.
Got that everybody, good.
Oh elsewhere in this revealing interview he comes up with a fascinating example of the contempt for democracy along the normal EU lines, get the wrong result do it again, the people who vote No are simple ignorant people etc.
“A referendum is an important instrument but if we simply stop everything because of a problem in one country, we will come to a standstill”
Where do I begin or end with this farce?
Oh a little aside the article claims that Prodi would like a second term and claims that this is an exclusive to the Irish Times,. Hmm where have I heard that before, Oh yes in Prodi’s interview with my very own Sprout ooo lets think in April this year