21 February, 2013

Elysée2: Horsemeat fraud and de Gaulle's cuckoo

Do you have control to what politicians put in your mouth? Some 70,000 horses disappeared in Northern Ireland alone to the apparent consternation of authorities. They may have ended up in your lunch as Horse Lasagna.  What mischief happens in the UK, Romania, France, a dozen other countries and all the many labeling stations in-between has yet to be revealed.  Quantities of horse inflammatory medicine, bute, (phenylbutazone) have been detected. Bute can be harmful to humans. Other horsemeat forbidden for sale in America and thus exported to Canada is re-exported to Belgium and who knows where else in the Single Market. In this fantasy land across all of Europe from east to west, horse and pig and maybe chicken feathers and unspeakable additions, become ‘beef.

All this anti-democratic practice arose because of a simple fact. Europe lacks a democratic Community Agricultural Policy. It has never had one. Instead it has a policy still defined by anti-Community nationalist principles dating back to General de Gaulle in the 1960s. What we have today is in flagrant violation to the European Economic Community treaty. It is illegal. The treaties say that the consumer should be fully part of all agricultural decisions. Instead the consumer was cut out of decision-making – right from the beginning.

The European Commission now says that the public should be calm because all the meat constituents can be proved by its paperwork! The old-fashioned system where inspectors or meat workers could easily detect horse meat has been rendered null because frozen meat is directly mixed in vats. Previously any worker could distinguish the smell of horse from beef and they applied simple tests. Even test borings of frozen meat are no longer taken. Paper is king! Big mistake.

The Commission maintains all frauds could be detected and corrected by traceability certificates. Not true. Traceability investigations as food crosses five or six borders have been thrown into confusion when it was revealed that microchip animal identifiers can be bought on the internet for a few cents and veterinary documents are easily falsified with cheap stationery stamps.

The horsemeat fraud is a latest scandal in a whole cascade or historical pageant of multi-million euro rackets arising inside the EU agricultural system. At the core of the matter was de Gaulle's cuckoo egg. Under de Gaulle the whole of the Community system was distorted so that German industrialists were only allowed a single market for their products (many outclassing the French) if they subsidized French farmers (and Gaullist voters). This is far from the Community method where all States are equal and overall consumer interests are sought.

The total Community budget was soon bloated with agricultural spending taking the major part. This political fraud led to the Milk and Wine Lakes, where politicians milked the European taxpayer’s money for massive over-production to subsidize votes among the farming community. That was joined by the Meat Mountain scandal and the Butter Berg scandals (where further export subsidies provided cheap butter for the Soviet Union during the Cold War!). These rackets all had the same fingerprints  -- politicians committing fraud and abusing taxpayers as the helpless stooges.

Expect more scandals to come. The more agricultural products move from country to country before it reaches your mouth, the more you can expect that olive oil, orange juice and your shopping list of food and drink is adulterated by inferior and often dangerous mixtures.

Who is to blame? Who started it? Where the Founding Fathers of Europe responsible for this? Did they badly design the Common Agriculture Policy?

The answer is No. The first proposal for a supranational Agricultural Community, was presented by Pierre Pflimlin and Robert Schuman after widespread discussions in the Council of Europe, Europe’s great laboratory of ideas on integration. It aimed to bring in as much as possible the United Kingdom, and countries as geographically diverse as Greece and Turkey, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and Turkey. For the UK and the Commonwealth and others the option of association was muted. Called after name of the French MRP politician the Charpentier Plan was passed by the Assembly of the Council of Europe. In the 30 November 1951 debate he said it was aimed ‘serving the best interests of farmers and consumers alike.’

Note it had nothing to do with gaining party political votes. It was aimed at balancing agricultural production and consumption with the help of a High Authority (or European Commission) thus removing surpluses or deficits and providing for public supported procedures for stocks, imports and exports by the fair means of the democratic assembly, an executive committee, a council of ministers and a court of justice.

These ideas met with British opposition and in France Communist and Gaullist hostility. A more restricted conception was implemented later in the Rome Treaties in 1957. The principles remained the same: a balance between farmers, farm workers and consumers on a pan-European scale.
The European Economic Community treaty  signed in Rome in 1957 has a whole chapter on the Agricultural Community. It provided for full democratic control of prices and supplies for the benefit of three categories:
  • farmers,
  • workers and
  • consumers.
They were never implemented!

By 1958 the Gaullists were in power in France. It was this generation that did not set up the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) according to the treaties. This generation also distorted and manipulated the policy to feed their party political machines. The consumer suffered. The consumer paid.

The Treaties of Rome provide for safeguards to ensure low prices and high quality. If the Community organization had been implemented as described in the treaties there would never have been horse-meat frauds. There would never have been
  • Wine Lakes,
  • Milk Lakes,
  • Meat Mountains
  • Butter Bergs
  • Or subsidized sales of what Europeans saw as useless surpluses to the USSR,
  • The EU would not have dumped agricultural surpluses on developing countries;
  • nor would it have blocked developing countries from importing their foods into the EU allowing poor farmers there to gain a decent living from the land.
De Gaulle’s confidant and Minister of Information, Alain Peyrefitte later revealed how the de Gaulle saw the Community system as a political milch-cow and  sabotaged all democratic development.

De Gaulle rejected supranationality or European democracy as dangerous and totally opposed to his policy to dominate Europe.
‘That’s what we don’t want! That won’t do. That would be gross stupidity. Of the two treaties of Rome, I do not know which of them is the most dangerous! The Treaty on Euratom is worse that useless. — It is pernicious. I ask myself if we should not denounce it openly. And then there is the Common Market. It is a customs union, which can help us, provided that we realize a common agricultural policy, which is not instituted there, and several other common policies, which are not even mentioned,' he told Perefitte.

Did de Gaulle want a fully European Community Agriculture policy? Not at all. He wanted a French-centered agricultural policy, paid for by Europeans. He blocked any real Community policy. He had no motivation to treat other States as equals.

The treaty of Rome article 40 calls for something quite different from what de Gaulle delivered:
a. common rules for competition;
b. compulsory coordination of various national markets organizations;
c. a European Market Organization.

What was the purpose of this European Market Organisation? Article 39 spells out five objectives:
  1. increase in productivity
  2. ensure fair standard of living for agricultural workers;
  3. stabilize markets;
  4. assure availability of supplies
  5. ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.
Note that consumers are a key part of the arrangement. Consumers are major co-decision-makers in the Treaties of Rome and of Paris. Yet politicians wrote out consumers of the agricultural arrangements, even though it is specifically written in treaty law.

For more than half a century the politicians have refused to put the consumer in a position to oppose their misappropriation of Community resources for voting purposes. That, in spite of the fact that the same articles about a European Market Organisation and other stipulations are repeated more or less word for word in the Lisbon Treaty!

This European Market Organization is at the center of all agricultural and food policy with the Economic and Social Committee giving overall guidance. The latter has never been properly elected as, again, de Gaulle blocked it as well as elections to the European Parliament.
The guiding Agricultural Market Organisation is to be composed of Producers, Workers and Consumers. In the 1960s there were many lobbyists rooting for farming interests. They even brought a cow into the Council of Ministers meeting! They rioted in the streets. They set off fire-crackers and waved flags and banners. Above all they threatened politicians with voting against them.

There were however no equivalent consumer organizations. So politicians ignored them. No consumers were asked about their opinions, nor did they activate the Economic and Social Committee to act on their behalf, because it was already hamstrung by politicians' refusal to treat it seriously as a sovereign body.

What was instituted was a perverse system – the mother and father of what is now called comitology.

Politicians created secret committees away from the press and public that would advise them on package deals. Diplomats were told to work out the best national deals to appease the agricultural lobbyists and let the European consumer go hang!

Instead of consumer rights being considered, the French strong-armed the others. They retaliated in similar measure. The French even threatened to withdraw from the Community in 1964 if they did not get their own way with Germany paying to support its cereal prices. (See the Common Agricultural Policy, Robert Akrill, p34).

The Commission proposed that the cereal and other prices should be subsidized from the Community budget via the TEMPORARY agency of the European Agricultural Guarantee and Guidance Fund, the FEOGA, Fonds Européen d’Orientation et de Garantie Agricole. Compared to how it was used, it is misnamed. It became a permanent subsidy, nothing to do with stabilized markets, competition, quality food and the benefit of consumers or in fact farmers. It became the cuckoo that soon took over TWO-THIRDS of the EU budget in 1988.

The ministers in Council, dominated by the French, surrounded themselves with their own closed-doors committees of their so-called experts. Absent was the main thrust of taxpayers – the consumers. Package deals were cut in secret and are still being made on the basis of power politics, not consumer interests of all European citizens.

Imagine what would have happened if the ministers and self-seeking politicians had followed the law of the treaties instead of distorting and blocking the treaty.

The consumers would have spoken out at the monstrous mountains and lakes frauds. Instead they had no voice. They would have not allowed their money to be wasted on such subsidies. Instead they would have pointed to the countries around the world that were far more efficient and provided top quality agriculture without subsidy.   Two effects would be apparent:
  • Stopping unnecessary waste, counterproductive subsidies,
  • Raising the efficiency of farms and productivity of farm workers to the benefit of consumers with lower prices and higher quality products.
The Franco-German governmental control of agricultural markets was shamelessly made apparent on the accession of the new Member States of Central and Eastern Europe. They were treated not as second class citizens but third class. They were refused equal treatment. There was no real rethinking of agricultural policy based on Community lines. Instead millions of farmers which had supplied food across eastern Europe and for other  markets were thrown out of work.

The consumer is left asking:
When are European leaders going to obey the treaties and bring in an empowered European Market Organisation to control and guide consumer interests for affordable, healthy and high-quality food?