22 February, 2010
19. Europe's 'US Ambassador' spat between Council and Commission
The new EU representative is the former chief of staff to Commission President Barroso. About a decade ago an earlier dispute between Commissioner Chris Patten (responsible for external relations policy) and Council of Ministers Secretary General Javier Solana became very public. It is not resolved by the Lisbon Treaty fudge. The dispute between the Commission and the Council, dating from de Gaulle's nationalistic attempt to distort and grab the powers of the Council, cannot be resolved by the Lisbon Treaty. Why? Because it tries to do so by the illogicalities of a shared function in two supposedly independent institutions. Baroness Ashton is vice president of the Commission and also at the Council, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Thus the power struggle dating from the 1960s is now continuing at a different more expensive and embarrassing level for all the world to see.
It is not so much about personalities or even about institutions. It is about power politics or a more just, democratic and equitable way to conduct the policies of some 500 million Europeans. It is about two systems: power politics now based on a cartel or Community democracy. At the core is the unresolved question of whether the EU should be a supranational Community system as envisaged by Monnet and Schuman or an intergovernmental system run autocratically by the ministers in a secretive Council -- still with little democratic oversight. This is really warmed-over Gaullism, that is, removing democratic checks and balances. It turns all public posts into party patronage and political nepotism.
For example, the Council decided by itself without any public mandate that the Members of the Commission should all be national representatives and they should all be party members of the main parties. Why make this change? The Council acting not in the public interest but in the interests of their own party members. No elections were held. The public were excluded from what are publicly paid for, public service posts! The more open countries in Europe that wanted to hold elections for these key posts in the European governance system were stopped. Why? because it would make the other governments look like petty dictators. Imagine one country publishing an advertisement for candidates for a Commissioner, nominated by any citizen. Then imagine the public outrage elsewhere when one government allowed 'their' people to vote while other governments refused to do so! The uproar would be worse than refusing referendums or ignoring the results if they were inconvenient.
So governments apply a technique to make appointments quickly before a debate takes place. No one can pretend that it is democratic. It is a party political stitch-up. And a new "External Action Service" could provide even more jobs for party members if the same cartel practices apply. The EEAS has not yet been organized, mainly because of power struggle on the budget control, and these new guidelines.
The new Lisbon Treaty tries to weld two incompatible systems together. De Gaulle wanted to run the show under an autocratic system. The Community system has five independent institutions that make sure that no interest groups can dominate and all citizens have the maximum amount of freedom to arrive at the fairest solution for all.
Popularity of parties is falling continually. So is funding. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, this independence of European institutions is confused so that parties and governments can dominate over the non-political population. A vice-president of the Commission also presides over the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the 27 Member States (but not other ministers in councils which are presided over by a national rotating presidency).
The nomination for Washington was made by the Commission because it involves a Commission office. Originally such offices were Information Offices of the European Commission but the national governments would like to control and organize them. The European Commission was given specific powers in sectoral Communities such as originally coal and steel, customs, commerce, and atomic matters, but not in other areas of foreign policy and military matters. For the latter, national governments show little inclination to Communitize their resources by placing them under a European supranational authority.
National governments also have their own diplomatic offices. A new 'diplomatic' European External Action Service is still not in place. This is likely to provide a lot of new jobs, while there is no sign that normal national diplomatic posts will decline. Recent surveys show the reverse trend. National populations need national diplomats abroad to lobby for national and regional, even city interests.
The Ambassadorial spat is also a question of glitz over substance. Glitz comes from giving inaccurate or exaggerated titles like Ambassador to high paying posts where the office has different functions from national diplomacy. Substance -- that is what provides the essence of European common policy -- still comes from the supranational Community base (the two remaining communities, the Economic Community and Euratom and the heritage of the first). Only a little is added by other areas such as Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) if the 27 cannot provide a coherent foundation of agreement based on public trust, real democracy, open institutions and the European rule of law. Trust is the principal victim.
The question is really: Do Europeans want a Commission retaining its legal, delegated powers that encourage it to be impartial and independent and to speak for all, including minorities? Or should the Commission become the lap-dog of ministers, acting too often like party politicians rather than Statesmen/ women? If Europeans prefer an impartial, independent Commission to power politics, then the Commission should be encouraged to nominate a competent candidate and the Council should reform itself, then support, encourage and protect the delegated powers they provided in treaties. All institutions must encourage more democratic, open assessment and the European rule of law.
18 February, 2010
17 Are passports an expensive scam? Do they enhance security? A lesson from History
A Hamas terrorist was found dead. He was staying at a plush hotel. He had a passport that did not have his family name. Where did his very generous expense account come from? Who gave him a false passport? Two Palestinians were arrested. As for the falsified European passports, the Dubai police chief would not say who had falsified them, nor who he thought was responsible. Some of the passports contain the real personal data of Europeans but false photographs.
This is nothing new. In 1985 the French President authorized an operation involving forged Swiss passports. French Intelligence operatives attached two explosive bombs to the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand, killing one person. The operatives were later promoted.
The citizen who is faced with this governmental monopoly practice, must ask: Is this another rip-off? A system uniquely in the hands of governments has no absolute security because quite often the governments do not respect their own rules. No one is there to check them. The monopoly fabrication and sale of passports are an anomaly in what should be a Single Market. It has created a secret black market with much higher pickings in the murky world of terrorism, hi-tech crime and spies.
The uncomfortable truth is that citizens are living under a technocracy -- where passport "experts" dictate how citizens should be made secure. Are they infallible? Obviously not. Further millions are wasted on airport security systems -- which do not work in practice to catch suicide terrorists. That is scare politics -- spending money on machines out of public fears and insecurities. But the citizen is paying for technology that does not do the job! That is a scam. Normally, court action would be expected. Instead the innocent public -- nearly 100 percent of travellers -- is humiliated by both searches and "expert" systems.
The founding fathers warned that a democracy -- the public -- must always be in charge of the policy not "passport experts". See http://www.schuman.info/passport.htm. The experts like to consider everyone guilty until their machine says no. Is that a healthy attitude?
The European founders wanted to regain real freedoms for the citizens after the restrictions of WW2. They wanted to break down unnecessary barriers. Before the First World War, citizens travelled without the need of passports -- even though there were major problems of terrorism.
These Statesmen established the Council of Europe in 1949, the basis for our Human Rights today. Schuman and the other founders set another goal to roll back unhealthy State power: get rid of passports wherever possible. Remember these Statesmen made this proposal at the worst time of the Cold War scare, when some even feared that an Red Army invasion was imminent. They did not see a contradiction with eliminating passports and making Europeans more secure.
'Why create a European passport,' asked Britain's Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin. 'Wouldn't it be simpler and more efficient to eliminate all existing passports?' The first efforts to make common passports were held up by committees of national ‘experts on passports’. Italy's Foreign Minister, Count Sforza, said prophetically: 'What on earth are 'passport experts'? If you put administrative people who make them inside a committee, you will never solve the problem. They will show that it is impossible to get rid of passports!'
Sure enough, it reached a bureaucratic logjam. The committee of experts had started complicating matters which both ministers and parliamentarians had just succeeded in simplifying. Then some enlightened politicians including Belgium’s Paul-Henri Spaak insisted that the technocratic horse should not be leading the political masters. ‘Once democratic politicians have decided that something must be done, experts have the duty to find the means to do it. If they raise technical objections, they must then find the remedies.’
But the technocrats persisted. A new generation forgot that citizens actually have a choice. They should be the masters. 'Passport experts' became guardians of this technocratic heritage.
Governments brought in new universal biometric passports -- without having a discussion on the alternatives. Yes, there are alternatives. And if citizens were given the choice about how to spend the enormous amount of money that firms and taxpayers spend on the system, they might come up with cheaper and more effective means of security. We now know what has been apparent for a long time. Mechanical security will always fail because of the human factor.
Interpol has in its database over 11 million stolen or lost passports. These passports are being used, fraudulently altered and are being given to terrorists, war criminals, drug traffickers, human traffickers, says Interpol chief Ronald K Noble. The solution, he said, is better intelligence, and better intelligence sharing, among countries.
Under a Community system as envisaged by the founding fathers, there would at least be a public debate on the misuse of passport data by governments. A functioning Parliament and Economic and Social Committee would have their word in any abuse of power. Technocratic dictators would have to answer some pretty probing questions by other technical experts representing consumers who were equally technically competent -- and did not have commercial, profesional or personal prestige interests to promote.
11 February, 2010
16 Council2 : Without impartial financial rules, all Europe could become PIGS.
But who makes the financial rules that the European Council commends? In the case of Greece, it was the Greek government. They made their own rules. Bad rules. Many commentators point out that successive Greek governments fiddled the books, and kept fiddling to the tune of about 53 billion euros. So to a varied extent did the other members of PIGS, Portugal, Ireland/ Italy and Spain. G is for Greece but the word is probably much longer. Maybe other Member States are mixed up in it too. We don’t know … YET. Governments want to keep such things SECRET.
Why can’t governments keep the books straight? Did they make an honest mistake? Did they spend less money or more than they declared. Need I ask? Of course they overspent. That shows it was deliberate. It wasn’t an honest mistake. Why did they do it? To bribe the electorate. To put it more frankly, they bought votes so they would stay in power. Both politicians and the electorate were silent partners in this corruption. In the past the government always devalued. This offloaded inflation and debts onto external trading partners. Governments and their electorates who benefit from this game export inflation and their costs.
Before the Community was created, governments got into long cycles of competitive devaluations. They tried one cycle of devaluation after another and round again to off-load all the disagreeable consequences of their bad practice on their neighbours. They did not want to balance the budget or cut inflation.
When Schuman was France’s Minister of Finance, he was the first to balance the books for generations. He cut inflation. He accomplished this under the most difficult circumstances with Communists and others in the government coalition. His sound monetary policy started the boom of France’s thirty glorious years after the WW2. Honest money makes sense.
Not all governments have the discipline to do this. They liked to print more money and control the printing presses. What power! Governments have traditionally used the coffers of the State for corrupt purposes. Further, for some while, a good deal of both Greek and European money seems to have stuck to fingers even before it got to the bank.
The Community system was based on Schuman’s principles, including his monetary success. It was designed to put an end to all this dubious practice by making all partners in the Community co-responsible. All sections of society, that is governments, associations and individuals, must have a voice in how money is collected and spent. In that way everybody looks at each other to see if they are cheating.
The real Community system is the way we can get back to sound money, sound ethics and sound politics. It is no use using the policy of ‘Beggar my neighbour’ because we are all each other’s neighbour.
So on 11 February 2010 what is the European Council’s remedy to cheating? The statement says: ‘The Commission will closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations ‘(put forward by Greece). That is fine … if the Commission were an impartial body. But is it any more? In the original Community system the Commission represented the whole of Europe’s citizenry involved in that particular single market. The major feature of this first supranational body was that it had to be independent of interests such as governments, interest groups, party politicians and cartels.
Today things are quite different. Somehow we have now a Commission that is composed EXCLUSIVELY of Government nominees (no elections, no public call for candidates!!), the biggest lobby groups in Europe, and party politicians in a cartel!!! All Commissioners are political buddies of three main groups! Instead of the Commission being composed of a cross-section of impartial Europeans, it is being run by a cartel of the guilty.
The Commission does not reflect the 98 per cent of the population who are NOT card-carrying members of a political party. The Commission is completely composed of members of a 2% minority of Europeans. It comprises the two offending groups: that is national governments and the main political parties. These are the main people who are motivated to fiddle the books. They have a major interest in doing so — if they can get away with it. If the rules are bent, (but appear straight at first glance) they can hoodwink the public to their own advantage.
Just recall. Who is it that got us into the euro crisis, by not observing the growth and stability rules? National governments and politicians. Who pays for their mistakes? The general public. And it is usually the poorer sections of the public. When the dirt comes out, it is certainly not the bankers and international financiers who foot the bill. They are already far away with their tax breaks. The poor then pay their bills for years to come.
We are here not talking about a piggy bank. We are talking about billions of euros that have been used for corrupt purposes. Billions of euros from all Europeans, provided to ‘modernize’ Greece when the country joined, have simply gone astray. ‘Gone astray’ that is to the people who provided the funds, not the people who washed it through their bank accounts.
So who should be the supervisors of the system to make sure that (a) politicians do not cheat by fiddling the budget and that (b) national governments’ budgets and book-keeping are correct?
Certainly NOT the nominees of governments, NOR the card-carrying members of the political parties who have an interest in fiddling the books.
Would it be better for the public, the tax-payers, who are the victims to have the supervisory function?
That is exactly how the original Community system worked. In the first Community, those who put money into the Community budget — that is the coal and steel enterprises who paid a European tax — also had a say in how it was spent. So also did the workers in the industries — who might have got short-changed and the consumers of these products, who also held a close eye on efficiency, low costs and competitive prices. These groups in the Consultative Council, one of the five supranational institutions of the Community, had a power equal and in some ways superior to the Council, because it was their money.
There was no need for multiple committees of bureaucrats. There was no need for a Court of Auditors, either. They all knew were their money came from, and where it was spent. They checked the accounts themselves. Money was only spent on what everyone agreed was a good idea. And it was spent correctly. De Gaulle did not like that. Which is why we have a very secretive Council today and umpteen thousand committees meeting in secret.
With the arrival of de Gaulle, and also the later breed of egotistical and nationalistic politicians, this fine, workable and honest system was put in cold storage. It is still there in the treaties, but politicians do not want to apply it. It would save millions of euros in cost, end graft, manipulation and dubious political practice.
Instead, for the moment, the political cartel are manning the Commission. They are the new servants of the parties. Those who have been found with their fingers in the cookie jar meet across the road at the Council. But greedy people will make pigs of themselves. Eventually, either by disgusted people in revolt or by the Court or some other way, the system will return to the moral centre of a supranational Community.
The markets, the people and the Courts will judge.
08 February, 2010
15 Cyprus 4 : A Community solution is the way forward, not the UN resolution straitjacket
No Community solution was possible at present, he said. Why, one could ask. The European Community is the most successful security and peace-enhancing system the world has found so far. It created peace in Western Europe after two thousands years of practically constant warfare every generation. Furthermore Cyprus is technically a Member State of the EU and the European Community system. That applies even though it lies geographically in Asia.
Mr Talat said that even before he was elected president he wanted to create a Community-type solution. However, later, when he tried to raise this option, he couldn’t. Why? He was told by everyone that the negotiations were confined to the concept of a federal, bi-zonal and bi-communal approach under the auspices of the United Nations.
Why should Cypriots be restricted to this UN straitjacket? Because the United Nations resolutions say so.
So whose peace is it anyway? Is the UN going to dictate a so-called solution that experience has proved does not work? It has had its way since 1950s. Isn’t half a century long enough to show its deficiency and failure?
Who put these ridiculous restrictions in place? The member states of the UN, fired by the passions of the moment. One thing is certain is that they are crude political compromises made by people who may be more interested in national opinion outside Cyprus! Each has his own prejudice. And even if they were then filled with the wisdom of all ages in the 1960s – which is demonstrably false – that would not mean that it would be applicable in 2010. Things have cooled off since Greece sent in army officers and Turkey sent troops to the island. Both sides agree they do not need an army in a unified State.
The UN has created a LCD, a lowest common denominator straitjacket. What the Community gives is a solution bringing the highest possible combination of values and interests together. Sixty years of peace in Western Europe are proof. Half a billion people have experienced peace. True Europeans have changed bloodshed for step-by-step, pragmatic, common solutions.
It seems especially curious for everyone to take this anti-Community stance for Cyprus. In the 1950s, Europe created a system that made ‘war not only unthinkable but materially impossible’. That was the European Coal and Steel Community based on a supranational Community governance system. Are the principles of supranational Community governance applicable to Cyprus? Of course!
Why wasn’t it applied in the 1950s and 1960s? Well, the world leaders such as France’s Charles de Gaulle did not like the supranational Community—because it restricted his immoral and undemocratic actions.
But that is no reason why present day European leaders are not advocating the Community system for Cyprus, as mentioned here. Why aren’t they? Yes, why? Might the anti-supranational and Gaullist Lisbon Treaty have something to do with it?
However, if the European leaders are still being myopic and stubborn, at least the United Nations are beginning to see the light. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on his visit to Cyprus, implied that peace between Cypriots is the most important issue at hand.
"This process belongs to Cyprus," said Mr Ban. "Your destiny is in your hands. You have taken responsibility for finding a solution."
He gave his "personal support to the Cypriot-led and -owned process to reunify the island,” or whatever else the owners of the process might want to do with it.
He is right. A free decision among free people is more likely to be just. It will last longer than a mucky compromise. All the dossiers must have the best, most moral solution possible. Supranational governance aims at solutions based on eternal values.
So Cypriots, why not begin to act like Europeans?
02 February, 2010
14. European Council publishes orders for public to STAY OUT!
In December — when no one was looking — Member States governments adopted their Rules of Procedure for the new Lisbon Democracy. You missed it? No wonder. This ‘agreement’ was definitely not agreed in public, for the public by the public in a public meeting place in Brussels.
It was all done more or less by post. (Written procedure). It says
Done at Brussels, 1 December 2009.
For the European Council
H. VAN ROMPUY
Done? The public certainly have been. The first of December 2009 is another black day for European democracy.
The newest institution of so-called European democracy confirms that the EUROPEAN COUNCIL wants to be SECRET. It is a way to get rid of the pesky press. The politicians can control the news-hounds like Pavlov’s dogs with ‘off the record‘ news feeds. That makes managed “democracy” so much easier.
Article 4 inset 3 says Meetings of the European Council shall not be public. (OJ 2.12.2009, L 315/51)
It does not say; Occasionally tired and delicate heads of government, after a long trip to Brussels, need some privacy. Nor does it say: As a democratic institution we will eventually open our doors to the public and the press as the Founding Fathers said all such European institutions should be.
It says that the rules preclude any of the Public EVER getting in.
This is the latest sad retreat from the Community democratic system to irresponsible intergovernmentalism. It is the last fling of effete Gaullism. Politicians like making their deals in the dark, away from public light. The ruling political cartel does not want any one to meddle if such a democratic institution or individual wants to argue with secret intergovernmental deals.
The new Rules say:
Without prejudice to the provisions on public access to documents, the deliberations of the European Council shall be covered by the obligation of professional secrecy, except insofar as the European Council decides otherwise.
And of course they won’t. It will take all 27 to say Yes. They will flip coins to take turns for each one to say No.
Europe’s new democracy — after ten year’s of the public’s resistance — will be like getting sardines, squeezed together in the dark, out of their can. It will require a legal can-opener.
The European Council may authorise the production for use in legal proceedings of a copy of or an extract from European Council documents which have not already been released to the public in accordance with Article 10.
Why should the Council be the only institution that remains an absolute disgrace to what should be the greatest democratic organisation in the world — the grouping of 27 democracies of Europe?
The European Parliament has open debates. It is a model for the world.
Despite some hesitations at the start (that is in the 1950s) the Consultative Committees — the nascent debating chamber for organised civil society — are open to the public.
The Economic and Social Committee is open.
The Committee of Regions is open.
The Commission is one of the most open institutions in the world.
The Court of Justice is open.
…. And the Council of Ministers ??? Hardly.
Now the European Council, too! SECRET!
While the European Council was not a real, legal institution, that is was not really an institution in the treaties, it could get away with the political equivalent of murder. It is still murdering democracy.
We now have the extraordinary sight of the President of the European Parliament attending the European Council — and he is made mute by the Council’s lack of democracy. The President of the European Parliament usually does things openly and before the cameras and a forest of microphones. When he addresses the European Council, no cameras are allowed. Radio journalists and their mikes are chased out. The public is excluded. A text may be produced. But the public and the press have no idea how the ‘lords and masters‘ of the European Council react or respond to the suggestions, criticisms and commentaries about their actions from the representative of Parliament.
In short the new rules have gagged Parliament.
General de Gaulle — who wanted to destroy European democracy — would be well pleased. His hand has made Parliament behave like a naughty schoolboy going to see the headmaster. De Gaulle thought that having to speak in a democratic debate in public was demeaning and undignified. He did not like giving reasons for his actions. He did not even tell his ministers what French policy was until he announced it. As for Europe, he preferred the ‘empty chair‘ ; he was not very much in favour of having any minister go there unless it was to collect money for wine lakes and beef mountains. Nor did he like a display of his henchmen arm-twisting and bullying the smaller States of Europe. The blood on the carpet might upset little old ladies. De Gaulle insisted that the Council should firmly shut its doors to the public.
All democratic chambers should be open to the public and the press, unless the public can be convinced there is a valid reason why they should not be. That is a basic principle of democracy. From the time when Celtic tribes assembled to debate matters in public, it has been so for a few thousand years.
And don’t give me that ‘Oh, if the Council is open to the public, they will talk in the corridors.‘ Parliamentarians talk in the corridors. But they have a debate in public.
Why? So that there will be a public record of what they say, how they say it, and why they are moved to say it. Only when the public — let us call them voters or their democratic masters — can have this evidence of their motivation, reasoning and quest for European justice, can they judge them. And fire them, if necessary. Maybe even congratulate them on occasion.
That is democracy. It is quite different from Gaullist autocracy. Had we forgotten? Schuman defined democracy as being ‘At the service of the people and acting in agreement with the people‘. Lincoln said it was ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people.‘ The new Lisbon system is now defined as being SECRETLY for the secretive politicians, by the secretive politicians and for the secretive politicians; people stay OUT, referendums and public opinion are of no consequence to us. Please go away and be ruled in silence.
If you don’t agree with me, please leave a comment telling me where and when the public had a democratic debate and agreed that the Council and now the European Council should be SECRET.
At the moment I feel quite free to speak out so boldly. At the Council offices, no one will be listening or reading this commentary . They’re in the middle of a cat-and-dog fight about who is in charge. Is it the Spanish national presidency or the President of the European Council? Then there is the latest debacle. The US President does not want to attend a Summit with Europe until he knows whose hand to shake first. In the Council the European cartel are still arguing about who is responsible for making Europeans look like a bunch of fools, and not only to the Americans over the EU-US Summit. The undemocratic cartel running Europe has made European government look ridiculous to the wide world.
These so, so, embarrassing matters shall not be open to the public.