18 March, 2010
It just wants to get over the financial crisis, and get back to normal. The Commission President Mr Barroso says in the introduction:
"2010 must mark a new beginning. I want Europe to emerge stronger from the economic and financial crisis."
All that assumes that Europe has dealt effectively with the CAUSES of the last crisis -- and there are no more financial crises coming. That is totally unrealistic. Everyone knows the banks and hidden speculators are up to their own tricks again. The report sees no problem.
Beware! The most logical attitude would be to tighten the belts for the next financial implosion. The combination of unrestrained financial gambling with investors' money (leveraged to the hilt) PLUS illegal energy cartels is a disaster waiting to happen -- AGAIN and AGAIN!
When are Europe's leaders going to do something about this continuing DANGER? When are they going to create a democratic, supranational Energy Community? I mean a real Community with active, open, democratic institutions with EUROPEWIDE ELECTIONS for Parliament, the EcoSoc, Committee of Regions and the Commission. It does not mean some pale apology like the Lisbon Treaty that has wearied the population first with its fraudulent consent process, then with its divisive, competing presidents. Europe should have one goal: clean production of energy to give Europe energy independence.
Back in the year 1999, Europe's leadership again closed its eyes to this Energy Danger. They blotted it out of their long-term forecast. Just look back to what happened. Some of the most powerful men in the world made industrial-weight predictions about the coming first decade of 2000. What did the captains of the biggest oil companies in the world say?
Both Europe's oil majors, British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell, confidently forecast a period of painless expansion and growth. The chairmen of both multinationals said that the 5 year oil price would be stable. Both majors said that for the next years as far as they could see, oil would be around 10 to 15 dollars a barrel, probably around 11 dollars. These CEOs have the most experience in the most vital resource for the world economy. They employ the world's best economists. They have every interest in getting their sums right. They have thousands of shareholders demanding that they show a reasonable profit from their predictions. They know all about supply and demand curves.
Were these long-term plans based on the best data, available to them, in the world: geology, refinery chemistry, marketing, risk analysis, meteorological trends, alternatives, innovations, ecology? Yes, but not on cartel activity. Why were Europe's two major oil multinationals so easily fooled?
What did independent economists predict? The Economist magazine with its international network of economic expertise said: ‘we may be heading for $5. … a normal price might now be in the range in the $5 - $10 range’. That made sense in terms of supply and demand. Again it was nonsense when it came to cartel activity. So three supposedly independent groups of economists came to the same conclusion -- and got it completely wrong.
Don't you smell something rotten with the so-called free market? The Commission, supposedly Europe's watchdog, detects no evil smell.
The era of cheap oil and the boom caused by the creation of the Community system are past. Gone for ever, unless Europe does something serious about it.
The ink was scarcely dry on these forecasts, when in 2000 the price of oil TRIPLED. Today we are no longer in the era of cheap oil of the 1950s. Nor that of 1999. Such violent changes in prices are sure signs of a cartel. And this is a whopper.
Europe's most vital ingredient for economic growth -- ENERGY -- is under the control of a CARTEL. And it is no ordinary cartel. It is leveraged by financial gamblers -- they are called banksters by some -- who managed to boost the price from around 9 dollars a barrel to a breath-strangling 147.27 dollars.
That is a massive increase of 1500%! It is the highest price for oil in nominal or in real terms since the 1860s when oil began to be produced commercially. That sounds exactly like cartel activity. It smells like a cartel. It looks like a cartel. The economists are right. Free market oil would be worth 5 to ten dollars a barrel. Europeans are victims of a TRILLION dollar rip-off.
Now don't tell me that this increase is just supply and demand. Don't tell me that the oil majors and all the smartest economists in the world who did not foresee the rocket-like changes in their curves were not the victims of a gigantic confidence trick by a cartel or cartels. The real victims were the European public. The oil majors made major profits.
In 1999, according to the International Energy Agency, expenditure on oil as a percentage of world GDP was about half a percent. When oil hit its peak price it was taking the equivalent of more than 10 percent of GDP. That amounts nothing short of sudden theft of trillions for the same black fluid that spurts freely in some countries for a few dollars a barrel. The IEA called it the THIRD oil shock.
That sort of cartel activity makes utter nonsense of major political efforts by the European Community to save money. It extracts extra trillions out of the European economy for exactly the same amount of oil needed for the same goods and services. The great gains made by the Single Market of 1992 were wiped out many times over.
Why doesn't the EUROPE 2020 report WAKE UP the public to the series of disasters in the past? Why does it ignore repetitive coming dangers? Europe 2020 seems more directed at lulling people to sleep. Do the authors of the EUROPE 2020 report remember the first TWO oil shocks? They came after years, in fact, after decades of warning. Real Europeans cried out that EUROPE NEEDS TO BE COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT IN ENERGY in order to have an independent foreign policy. The founding fathers said so. Parliamentarians in Europe's first assembly said so.
Energy was the driving purpose of Europe's first Community. Europe's first supranational Community was an Energy community to make sure that all had equal access to the fuel that supplied three-quarters of Europe's needs: coal. In the 1950s the picture changed dramatically. Coal declined; imports of oil grew exponentially. In 1957, the Louis Armand report sounded a warning to the European leaders. His report called An Objective for Euratom dealt with the energy danger. Euratom's main objective is non proliferation of nuclear arms. That too is asleep, 'chloroformed' by de Gaulle.
In 1959 when Robert Schuman was President of the European Parliament, a special group was formed composed of members of Europe's three supranational Communities to make proposals for a common energy policy. De Gaulle seized power in France and binned everything. The five other Member States did nothing.
In the Near East, they have a war every decade. Those wars against Israel were another series of warnings. The Suez Crisis of 1956 led in Europe to rationing, higher taxes, and banning of some private car driving. During the 1967 Six Day War, Arab oil, the source of three-quarters of Western Europe's oil, was cut by 60%. Coincidently civil war broke out in Nigeria, a major alternative supplier, making matters worse.
That wasn't the oil shock. That first oil shock came in 1973. In 1973 Europe suffered the impact of a violent quadrupling of energy prices. Posted oil prices of $1.80 a barrel in 1970, rose by half to $2.90 in early 1973. The price hit $11.65 by the end of the year. World petroleum earnings went up from $23 billion in 1972 to $140 billion in 1977. The UK Stock Market crashed by as much as the 1929 crash but twice as fast. By 1974 the effect on Europe was as devastating as a military assault. With the first shock, oil costs were increasing at a rate of more than an extra trillion dollars a decade.
Europe continued to act like a dumb sheep, getting shorn and fleeced at regular intervals. Was anyone in Brussels listening to the miseries of the Europeans thrown out of work, to old-established firms that went bankrupt, to pensioners who suddenly had no income? Europe had no mandate for an energy policy. There was no legal framework in the treaties. Nor is there today. (The lamentable Lisbon Treaty has a couple of confusing paragraphs, written to cause dissent not policy.)
In 1979 the second severe oil shock struck, quadrupling prices again: spot prices hit the $40 to $50 range. It peaked in 1983 at $53. Europe's huge trade surplus was wiped out. The Werner plan for the single European currency, the euro, was postponed two decades.
In the war against Israel, Arab oil-exporters exploded the Oil Weapon on a sleepy European public. They wanted Europeans to change their foreign policy. They instigated a TOTAL oil embargo against The Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal. What was their crime? They were too democratic and too strong in their support of the only democracy in the Near East. All European democracies were attacked. The Arab oil-exporters threatened to cut oil step by step to the other Member States by a steep percentage each month. It was only through innovative means based on Community solidarity that Europe did not enter the new dark age where all the lights went out.
In 1957 the Armand report warned: in the post-war years, 'Europe has suddenly discovered that its favourable situation is completed changed and that a new factor dictates all perspectives for the future. From now on, we run the risk that lack of energy will apply the heaviest brake on all economic growth."
That was more than half a century ago. Europeans ignored, even despised, that warning. The result? Europeans have suffered energy crises every decade. The economy was crippled and broken by two Oil Shocks, leaching trillions from its resources. We are now well into the THIRD oil shock.
Today we cannot hope to use oil to get out of our woes, or any climate-polluting energy source. Europeans need to mobilize their native intelligence and genius for invention to exploit new creative, ecological ways to survive. If Europe had acted decisively in the past each European would be thousands of euros richer off. The world would today be a better place.
Europeans need to set an immediate goal.
ENERGY INDEPENDENCE BY 2020! Europe must wake up and see the light or it will be left in the dark!
10 March, 2010
What makes a democracy more efficient than a dictatorship? Why did Franco’s Spain lapse into the economic doldrums? Why were Latin American dictatorships corrupt and lacking in vigour and growth? Why were Latin American currencies being constantly devalued? Why did Zimbabwe finally run out of noughts to add to the trillions on its useless paper currency? Why is violence the only means for dictatorships to survive?
It is because dictatorships cannot deal with the complexity of society. Businesses will not invest and workers will not work in an atmosphere of uncertainty. An autocrat can bring in changes overnight. He or she thinks he is being “smart” but it is in the end counterproductive.
Some dictatorships have remarkable growth — but only for an period. They fiddle the currency exchange rates and make their currency so cheap it causes a boom. Then it bursts. Reality sets in. The problem is far greater because a large population has greater expectation and huge disillusions. That is when civil unrest breaks out. A revolution might occur.
Dictatorships like to keep in cahoots with big business. They like to respond to their needs. They have an awe of business. Naively they think that if they please big business the country will all be rich. They are wrong. You can create a slave economy but you cannot make slaves rich. They will demand equality. Bye, bye dictatorship. Nor can you maintain constant growth and a contented population, if you do not allow citizens to have free expression.
Now let us ask the opposite question: Why are Western countries, in Europe, North America and Australasia, the most educated, richest and most productive societies in the world? Why do their currencies dominate world trade?
Doesn’t democracy have something to do with it? Clearly. And it is because they are able to deal with complex issues. The best democracies develop unprecedented freedoms for their citizens. They can criticize anything. They are not violent. And above all, in the very best of them, the citizens know how to exercise individual, associative and governmental SELF-DISCIPLINE.
Conclusion: the less democracy we have, the less we can expect to have prosperity, stability and freedoms. Given this elementary lesson of history, what should we expect from a Commission paper that calls itself EUROPE 2020 A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth?
I would hope that it would deal with how democratic European citizens could continue the example of our national democracies. Do the Commission SMARTSTERS deal with this core issue? NO
THE WORD “DEMOCRACY” DOES NOT APPEAR IN ALL THE PAPER!
Not very smart! There is one reference to democratic but it is nothing to do with European institutions. Instead they behave just like the disreputable gangs mentioned in the first part of this commentary. They say they will deal with stakeholders. That is another word for lobbyists. So this so-called SMART strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth will end in the dustbin of history in the company of tinpot dictators. The system they describe is an autocracy — that is a system in this case run by a three-party cartel that excludes civil society — surrounded by lobbyists.
Europeans should ask: IS THAT WHAT THEY WANT, EITHER NOW OR IN 2020? It is exactly what the people of the Iberian peninsula, the countries under the Soviet boot in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Greeks under the Colonels wanted to get away from! They thought they were joining a Community of shared valued and enhanced democracy! Instead the Commission paper promises them North Korean style government!
The paper fawningly recommends more powers to the secretive European Council and the Council of Ministers. What sort of INDEPENDENT, smart thinking is that?
“The European Council will have full ownership and be the focal point of the new strategy,” it says. Ownership?!! A European institution that calls itself democratic MUST open its doors so the citizens can see and hear those present and judge the quality of their interventions. The citizens should be able to judge their representatives.
If they can’t, then the the citizens are living in some modification, transmogrification or transformation of a dictatorship or autocratic system. Schuman called such shadow democracies “COUNTERFEIT” democracies. He said that a real democracy must be judged by two criteria. It must SERVE the people, not serve the leaders. And secondly it provide the means to allow the citizens and associations to disagree or to agree with any measure that is taken in its name. They should be able to make their own INDEPENDENT analysis.
Civil society, the key element, has been short-changed and short-circuited out of the paper. Is Parliament supposed to take on this job? That is absurd. It has not even set its own house in order. The Parliament has NEVER had an election according to the legal requirements of the original treaties. That says there should be ONE election for all Europeans not 27 national elections for the European Parliament.
For civil society, there are perfectly suitable institutions like the Economic and Social Committee that need to be developed democratically. They have never even had an election at all! It is increasingly URGENT that they should fulfill their mandate to hold elections among ALL organised civil society associations who are implicated in European legislation. A move to give the Parliament powers in this area is anti-democratic because it denies the citizen the right to be represented in a non-party political way as the Founding Fathers wisely decided.
The Commission needs to be reformed so that it is really INDEPENDENT. It should have as Commissioners personalities whose independence is beyond doubt. It should not be stuffed with people who represent only 2 percent of the population. That is massive discrimination and a violation of citizens’ human rights.
The Commission needs to get back to the drawing board. It needs to learn a bit about history. It needs to review its own history. And it needs to set a strategy not only to save European Democracy but also to save the planet.
08 March, 2010
“Civil Society? — throw it out of the decision-making process!” That is the new law of the Commission in cahoots with the Council. A communication of the Commission to the Council and the Parliament deals with this new power-grab under the Lisbon Treaty. It comes under articles 290 and 291 of Lisbon Treaty’s TFEU. Powers to amend and supplement legislation are being introduced without the democratic control of non-party consultative bodies. When documents like these speak of “efficiency“, the citizen should always ask: What democratic supervision are you trying to short-circuit?
Obviously all this is morally reprehensible. It is totally undemocratic. Why? because it leaves all decisions to be concocted between three complicit institutions. They were ORIGINALLY designed to perform separate functions. None of them is now independent of the others. And they do not represent real citizens. They are all dominated by a cartel of politicos. It is a political cartel without any opposition. They are not responsible to anyone but themselves. So they think.
* The Commission is dominated now by political parties. It is a fief of a cartel. All Commissioners are exclusively members of political parties.
* The Parliament is dominated by two or three main parties. The small parties cannot influence matters much. Debate is stifled.
* The secretive Council of Ministers is dominated not so much by governments but by political parties in government. When did they last act like Statesmen?
The founding fathers thought such a concentration of power in the hands of two or three political parties was dangerous. They were right. There is nothing to stop these delegated powers of articles 290 and 291 being used for overt or covert party political purposes. Behind the arcane working of political machines, some hidden industrial or financial cartel may also be milking the public. (I hope I am not giving the rather suspect members of the political class any criminal ideas!)
And it will be the taxpaying citizen who pays again. The founding fathers said that the PEOPLE should decide matters that concern them. NOT parties. They defined the New Europe as one in which the People were FREE TO CHOOSE. And guess what? The political cartel refuse to publish the founding Europe Declaration of the EU.
That menace against real democracy is why the founding fathers specified two restraints. Firstly, the Commission should be independent of parties and also of national governments. Curiously that specification is still in the super-duper Lisbon Treaty! Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union says ‘Members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt.‘
Don’t make me laugh! How come ‘independence beyond doubt‘ means that they ALL have to be members of a political party. That means they are dependent on that membership. As for ‘beyond doubt‘, NO MEMBER OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC EVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS A DOUBT!! No non-party citizen was ALLOWED to give an opinion that had the least effect! That is the choice of an autocrat or dictator.
To influence the cartel’s choice, you would first have to buy a party card. Then you need years of patting shoulders and flattering. Next you have to find your way into the SECRET, inner chambers of the party headquarters. In some room or other, some SECRET committee decides which salary-hungry, pensioned off/ failed or opportunistic politician is to be designated THEIR Commissioner. That party committee may even be in a tax-paid government building. It is appropriated for party purposes. Commissioners are the products of pure party nepotism!
The politicians who framed this antidemocratic clause in the Treaty of Lisbon deliberately chose an illegal, cartel approach. Note the vague, passive verb ’shall be chosen’ with no identifiable system defining WHO makes the choice. Nepotism was pre-planned.
Those are tough words. But true. An honest politician would not agree to something that goes contrary to the Law of the Treaties. Tell me if I am wrong! Even this Lisbon Treaty invites dishonesty. Who is going to be the first to say: I resign because the procedure is contrary to law. I have not been properly appointed for this publicly paid-for post. It has not been advertised. There was no Call for Candidates, no Jury at the European level. Not a single independent non-party person was ever considered. Public opinion was gagged. It could not express doubts. My posting is contrary to the Treaty specifications. It was ‘fixed’ in secret. A Court would judge the Commissioners to be illegally ‘fixed’ by a grubby cartel. No government objected to other governments’ candidates. Their silence is eloquent. It is evidence of a cartel. And this post provides a suspiciously big, big salary from the public purse as if I should remember with gratitude who gave me the job. I don’t want to be an object for party nepotism. A big public protest will explode and I don’t want to be seen as another grubby politician.
The three institutions are now being exclusively run by party politicians who refuse the slightest recourse to Public Opinion. What a haughty disdain they have for law — all of them. Who will speak out? Where is the whistle-blower that we have in other cartel cases?
Secondly the founding fathers said that organized Civil Society should have a major role in decision-making. And when I say major I mean a MAJOR, MAJOR role in decision-making. Even though the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions are supposed to deal with geo-economic and social matters that have no specific political content they are largely dominated by party political figures. Even these poor souls, who were nominated and agreed in secret in the Council of Ministers have been cut out of the loop. They are supposed to represent EUROPEAN consumers, manufacturers and workers. Instead they are always national nominees. The treaties say they should organize European elections for organized civil society. They didn’t. They never managed to organize a European election at the EcoSoc in 50 years.
This exposes the further power grab by parties. There is no reason why all categories of Civil Society be restricted to those people holding party cards. It is supposedly a democratic institution, designed to debate technical details of all legislation. They are to expose to European debate all obvious aspects and unforeseen consequences of proposed measures. They are to check that that regulations are not being drafted secretly by lobbyists. A debate on legislative proposals should involve three organized sections of civil society. consumers, producers and workers. Most citizens work, consume and invest. They are the best judge, not parties.
What have the political parties to do with technical matters, like standards in commerce? Are we to have a conservative and left-wing position on what is the length of a meter, the weight of a kilogram, how to measure pollution or even Internet standards? That is highly dangerous. Party politicians can’t be trusted to have standards in book keeping as the present monetary crisis demonstrates. They fiddle the books. By billions.
Now with the delegated powers of articles 290 and 291 this illegal take-over doesn’t matter. The EcoSoc is irrelevant. They are suppressed.
This new anti-democratic “innovation” contrasts starkly with the founding supranational philosophy of Europe.
The big danger with the articles 290 and 291 is that it will provide even more possibilities to fiddle the books. All measures will be initiated and then agreed among party stalwarts, whether of the right, left or center.
I expect the Commission to throw up its hands in feigned protest. Well no, they will say, we are only fulfilling the mandate given us by the Lisbon Treaty. What mandate? The only way the wretched articles got into a European treaty was by agreement with whom? Well the same politicos who will benefit from them. It gives them carte blanche. The party cartel lacks public support and whatever support they now have is declining precipitously with every parliamentary election.
And the most ironic of all this. The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions all gave their full support to the Lisbon Treaty. I had to write to the Ombudsman before they even deigned to write a reply to these letters — ONE YEAR LATE!
The members of the Consultative Committees — that treaties give powers sometimes greater than Parliament — voted in effect to cut their own throats when they supported articles 290 and 291. Where was Civil Society when they agreed to this? Where was the Europe-wide debate that the two Consultative Committees were supposed to have organized to analyze, examine and debate European democracy?? They said the Lisbon Treaty was to be applauded because it made Europe more efficient. Yes, by cutting them out of the picture. What a disaster for democracy!
They supported the message of the Council: ‘Democracy and Public opinion go hang!’
For those brave souls still worrying about their democratic rights, you can check out the new powers at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/10/st05/st05107.en10.pdf
Have a stiff coffee before you start to read it!