27 December 2007

A year of "achievement"

So far, there seem to be only two media takers for the multimedia yearbook "presenting ten of the European Union’s achievements of 2007". One is Deutsche Welle and the other is the Cyprus Mail, which probably says as much about the media as it does the EU publicity machine.

Introduced by Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the EU Commission, responsible for communication, she tells us that in 2007, its 50th anniversary, "the Union has again taken concrete actions leading to concrete results".

First on its list of these "concrete results" is the "EU reform package" – aka the EU constitution – whence the yearbook parades the claim that EU leaders adopted a "Reform Treaty" in October to make the 27-nation Union "more efficient and more democratic." Efficiency and democracy were never exactly the EU's strong suits so, if that really was the intention, then the treaty has already failed in its purpose. In fact, the only way the European Union could enhance democracy is by abolishing itself, so it really cannot win on this score.

Included in the self-congratulation on this treaty is the fond hope that it will allow "Europe to speak with one voice through a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy."

Constructing our list of alternative achievements, therefore, this is a good place to state, noting the irony that today's EU news is dominated by the expulsion from Afghanistan of the EU’s acting head of mission in the country and a senior United Nations official. Both are accused of holding an illegal meeting with members of the Taliban and also of offering them money, invoking a comment from an Afghan official who said, "It is not clear whether they were supporting the insurgency or not."

Too late for inclusion in this year's official list, one suspects that this incident will not appear in the next edition of the EU's list of top ten achievements either, as indeed the previous EU problems in Afghanistan are absent from this edition. These were back in September when the much-heralded EU police training mission (dubbed EUPOL) was thrown into turmoil when Brigadier General Eichele, the general commanding the mission, resigned suddenly on three months after his appointment.

Commentators at the time said the mission had been underfunded, understaffed and poorly prepared. Ronja Kempin, an Afghan expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, remarked: "It seems that the EU was not really properly prepared for such a complex mission … The EU seemed to have rushed into setting up this mission…." Eichele's staff did not even have enough cars, computers or offices to function.

Another absentee from the current edition is the EU's diplomatic coup in allowing Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe to attend the EU-Africa conference in Lisbon earlier this year, in defiance of its own travel ban, thus forcing – quite rightly – prime minister Gordon Brown to boycott the talks.

Also absent is any mention of the debacle over the EU peacekeeping force to Chad which was originally due to be deployed in October and is now scheduled for January or possibly February – if at all – depending on whether the member states can pull together the pathetically small number of helicopters needed to support the mission.

The last we heard on this was a complaint from Austria that the failure of the EU to deliver was a "sign of incompetence", inviting a comment from us as to the lack of any material support from Austria itself, with 50 helicopters at its disposal.

The reason for this was not long in coming, from the Editor-in-Chief of the Austrian Airpower web magazine, who wrote to one of our readers painting a dismal picture of the parlous state of military aviation in that country.

Not least, the Air Force was disbanded in 2006, the remaining assets being taken over by the Air Support Command. But the real point is that the bulk of the utility helicopter fleet is 28 years old (with other aircraft over 40 years old). None of the aircraft have been upgraded, and few of the systems are fully operational. Those machines which are still flying have difficulty meeting even their low-key routine tasks (like VIP-flying), to the extent that Austria is in no position to meet any new commitments.

We have seen similar tales of woe with Italian forces having to sell off barracks just to meet current spending commitments. More recently, the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that over half of Germany's Transall military transport aircraft were unsuitable for long hauls. The paper quoted aviation industry sources as saying that corrosion and wear and tear have turned over half the aircraft - some of which are more than 40 years old - into "decrepit machinery", with increasing difficulty in locating spare parts.

As our reader put it, the EU (and indeed NATO) has a paper air force with impressive orders of battle but most of its useful utility and transport aircraft are hangar queens and museum pieces whose maintenance only enables them to be warmed up and moved occasionally to prevent tyre damage. The problem is that as aircraft have become more complicated and expensive so they have been made more complicated and expensive to undertake more roles and so fleet sizes shrink.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the only "concrete result" the EU could offer in the foreign affairs field was a "growing demand for election observers", having sent out nine observer missions in 2007 covering national elections in countries from Timor-Leste in Asia to Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Togo in Africa. Tragically, Sierra Leone is at war again.

Using this slender “achievement”, the EU was thus able to crow, "The promotion of democracy is a cornerstone of EU foreign and security policy, and its election observer missions help project the Union's 'soft power' around the globe." But the reality is that the EU is all mouth and no trousers – reliant on "soft power" because, when push comes to shove, the capability to project "hard power" simply does not exist.

No more so was this the case with Iran, where the Council’s bizarre behaviour in ignoring its own supreme court (the ECJ) in continuing to ban the PMOI has been picked up today by MEP Struan Stevenson in The Scotsman, who comments on, "Why UK has been shamed by Iranian fiasco". Once again, one does not see this little episode highlighted in the EU’s list of achievements.

Of course, the main foreign policy area for the European Union is enlargement and here the burning question is Turkey. Predictably enough, this also does not appear in the EU’s list of achievements, not least because Sarkozy is doing his level best to sabotage the deal. And, despite the supposed influence that the EU is able to exert, this has not stopped Turkey carrying out a series of raids into Iraq, to deal with the PPK.

Nor even has the EU been able to prevail on the issue of independence for Kosovo, the Serb parliament currently expected to adopt a resolution rejecting EU membership if Kosovo declares independence. This is very much "work in progress" so, no doubt, we can look forward to an announcement of the "success" in 2008.

Never mind all that, though – and much more. The EU – or so it tells us – is “good for the consumer, having "made good on its 2006 promise to slash the cost of using your mobile phone while on the move in Europe". The fact that this distorts the market and may have the effect of increasing domestic tariffs is neither here nor there – nor indeed should one point out that the major beneficiaries are the tranzie class of the European Union, not least MEPs.

One group of “consumers” that is less than enamoured with the EU comprises the disabled and the elderly who, this month were told that their special electric mobility vehicles had been reclassified by the EU as "leisure vehicles", alongside snowmobiles, jet skis and racing cars, forcing Revenue & to slap on the 10 percent duty, adding as much as £300 to the cost of a vehicle.

But, when it comes to protecting the consumer interest, however, curiously absent is the EU’s brave initiative to introduce heath and safety standards for MRI scans, a plan so mad that it threatened to deprive up to three million patients a year of life-saving scans. Its greatest achievement in this field, therefore, was quietly to abandon the idea in October.

The interesting thing though is how selective the EU actually is when it comes to saving the consumer money. In February last, we wrote about the largest Esso service station in the world, located in one of the smallest countries on earth, in Wasserbillig, Luxembourg - on the motorway to Germany.

A classic example of the advantages of tax competition, the service station thrived because fuel tax was lower in Luxembourg (as was the tobacco tax), so people came flocking in from Germany around to fill up their tanks and stock up on cheap baccy.

And László Kovács, EU tax commissioner, hated it. Starting with the truck drivers and those with diesel cars, he was then seeking to close down this "loophole", by upping the minimum duty, then at €302 per 1,000 litres to €330 in 2010, €359 in 2012 and €380 in 2014, thus reducing the attractions of driving from high-tax Germany to low-tax Luxembourg.

Still, there is always agriculture. Even though the CAP is universally condemned as one of the EU's most egregious failures, this does not stop the propagandists waxing lyrical about the "EU promotes EU reforms for fruit and vegetables" in 2007 which, they say "go beyond mere economics".

Thus, lauded as another of the ten "achievements", the EU is preening itself that it is doing its bit to encourage us to reach the WHO’s targeted daily intake of this produce, in a reform programme to improve the production and marketing of fruit and vegetables adopted in September.

Yet this is all it has to say about the flagship policy which consumes nearly forty percent of the EU budget yet, not only is the policy a failure, the biggest failure is already in the making. As Booker wrote in his piece this month, on the theme of EU failures, "a frequent misconception about the CAP is that it was set up to encourage farmers to grow more food." In fact, its purpose was to manage food surpluses created by the post-war subsidy system – a system which spectacularly failed, leading to huge and expensive food mountains.

But now, with structural shortages in world food production, we are left with a policy instrument – imperfect at best – designed to deal with surpluses, and wholly unable to deal with the consequences of shortage. And instead if dealing with the pressing issue of the near-collapse of the livestock industry, the EU has instead siphoned off surplus money from the CAP to pay for its failed vanity project, the Galileo satellite navigation system – supposed to have been up and running by 2008 and now working to a highly optimistic schedule of 2013.

Another failure Booker highlighted was the Common Fisheries Policy, noting that even the EU's Court of Auditors admits to that failure. Yet, despite even recognising that failure, it has taken the EU well over a decade to give a half-hearted recognition to limited technical measures, such as selective fishing, to conserve stocks.

While the EU conveniently ignores its failures on this front, it rushes to applaud its "achievement" in "leading the fight against climate change". As the scientific evidence of climate change hardened further, it tells us, the EU launched an ambitious strategy that will both sharply reduce its emissions of the "greenhouse" gases warming the planet and increase the security of its energy supplies.

The centrepiece of the “climate and energy strategy” is, of course, a pledge to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, provided other developed countries do likewise, and has already made a commitment to reduce its emissions by at least 20 percent. It has also committed to tripling the share of energy from renewable sources to 20 percent and increasing the share of biofuels in petrol and diesel to 10 percent.

All this is actually at a time when the science never looked more insecure yet the EU ploughs on regardless, launching its cathedrals of insanity.

And, as a measure of its departure from sanity, the EU’s flagship "emissions trading scheme", has lead to Britain paying out £470 million while Germany made £300 million profit (despite ordering 26 new coal-fired power stations). NHS hospitals had to spend £1.7 million on credits, while BP and Shell made £40 million. The EU's electricity supply industry enjoyed a windfall profit of £13.6 billion, with the biggest losers UK electricity consumers, whose bills rose by as much as 12 percent. The net result was that EU carbon emissions rose by 1.5 percent.

No list of EU “achievements” would be complete, however, without a paean of praise for the single currency and, sure enough, this is included in the EU’s list, masquerading as a job creation exercise. “Unemployment fell across Europe in 2007 thanks to a robust European economy and price stability ensured by a strong euro,” we are told.

Somehow, I doubt whether Ambrose Evans-Pritchard would agree on the utility of the euro while, as we recorded in January, an overwhelming majority of citizens in the big eurozone countries believe the euro has damaged their national economies. Of the French, Italians and Spanish, more than two-thirds believe the single currency had had a "negative impact". More than half of Germans felt likewise and, in France, a mere five percent said the euro has had a positive effect on the French economy.

Nothing however, as you would expect, is said about the EU’s disastrous immigration policy which led Italy's prime minister, Romano Prodi to bemoan that, "Nobody could have expected such an influx," of immigrants, with the accession of the former communist states, having promulgated a directive that made the situation immeasurably worse.

Instead, the EU offers the latest additions to the Schengen area, proclaiming that, "Frontier-free travel for countries which joined the EU in 2004 became a reality in December" – despite police doubts that the new borders are secure. The "concrete result" in this case looks like being a massive increase in illegal immigration.

So far, we have deal with seven of the EU’s claimed achievements for 2007. None of them really stand up and are offset by a far larger number of failures. There are many more, not least the failure of the EU to deliver certified accounts for the 13th consecutive year.

This is another minor detail missing from the EU’s self-congratulatory tract. Instead, it offers three more tendentious claims: that since July, households across the EU have been able to choose their electricity and gas supplier; that EU and US leaders signed an "open skies" agreement at a summit in Washington in April, giving "more choice and cheaper air fares"; and that 2007 was a particularly successful year for the EU's competition policy in safeguarding consumer interests.

It is, of course, to Thatcher that we owe competition in UK utility provision so it is hard to see how the EU can claim this as an achievement, but one needs to be highly suspicious of the EU's "liberalisation" programme, this being motivated by the desire to increase economic integration as a precursor to achieving political integration.

As for air fares, and the EU's "competition policy", we'll have a look at these tomorrow when we complete this piece.


13 December 2007

What are we fighting for?

Continued from Page one.

Called by Owen Paterson, the debate reflected another quaint British tradition. For, although he is shadow Northern Ireland secretary, he is also constituency MP for North Shropshire. He must, therefore, in addition to dealing with high matters of state, keep his feet very firmly on the ground, and stay in touch with local issues. Can you imagine an EU Commissioner being thus concerned? But then, of course, they don't have to put up with irritating little distractions like getting elected.

However, not only this an example of the "high and mighty" descending from on high to deal with the problems of mere mortals, he was joined by his fellow Conservative Shropshire MPs, Daniel Kawczynski, representing Shrewsbury and Atcham, Philip Dunne from Ludlow and Mark Pritchard from The Wrekin.

The problem which Owen flagged up, in a debate which did not start until 10.18 pm, was that Shropshire is one of the largest inland counties, but with 289,000 inhabitants is also one of the least populated in the UK, with long distances between its small towns and villages. This makes the delivery of public services costly and difficult.

In the front line is a network of 141 primary schools, 22 secondary schools and two special schools, collectively performing well ahead of national averages. Yet despite their success, and the approval of children and parents alike, they do this with funding which is considerably less than average. In fact, Shropshire has the second lowest funding of all 34 England upper-tier authorities.

Amazingly, this delivers currently £3,551 per pupil from a grant of £139.3 million, while the all-England average funding is £3,888 per pupil, leaving Shropshire with £337 less per pupil. If Shropshire received the funding of an average local authority, it would be £13.23 million better off. And. bad though the that situation is, in 2010-11 the gap increases to £385, leaving Shropshire's children £15.1 million behind

Taking a broader perspective, the situation looks even more bizarre. The City of London, for instance, receives £7,089 per pupil and the London borough of Tower Hamlets receives £6,028. Another London borough, Ealing, which, has an almost identical number of pupils as Shropshire, in the order of 39,000, receives £4,634 per pupil but in a much less sparse area. If Shropshire had the same funding, it would receive an incredible £42,486,428 extra. However, Owen made the point that he was not after more money. He did not want to see a penny more raised in tax. His complaint was with the distribution system that parcelled out the tax money from Whitehall back to Shropshire.

As to the performance, why Shropshire should be able to deliver such good results is, in itself, a minor miracle. Locally, it is attributed to the very fact that there are a large number of schools on the edge of economic viability, many with overlapping catchment areas where parents need to use cars to deliver their children to the schools. They can just as easily go to one rather than another, so an informal system of competition exists which have schools driving up their standards simply to stay in existence.

While local factors drive up standards, the reason for the disparity in funding is the highly bureaucratic centralised government formula which allocates education funding according to centrally dictated criteria, heavily weighted to favour inner city "deprived" areas – which just happen to be predominately Labour.

To add to Shropshire's woes, however, demand is falling: according to official projections, there will be 3,400 fewer pupils on the roll from 2001 to 2012. There are currently 2,500 unfilled primary school places, which will rise to 5,450 by 2012. And that will lead to a cumulative shortfall of £3.8 million by 2010-11 for which, under the current regime, there is only one remedy: school closures. No less than 20 schools are threatened.

However, "official projections" could well be wrong. As elsewhere, there has been extensive new building in Shropshire recently and dramatic increases planned for future years. Live births in Shropshire bottomed out in 2001, at 2,628, and rise to 2,767 in 2005.

Furthermore, women are choosing to have children later, so nationally, fertility rates for women aged 30 to 34 rose from 78.2 births per 1,000 women in 1986 to 104.6 per 1,000 in 2006. Current research suggests that the trend towards later maternity is strongest among women with better educational qualifications, with some postponing child rearing to pursue their careers. That could well be the case in Shropshire, where there has been an unprecedented increase in mid-range housing with an average age of occupants that conforms more with higher birth trends, which may, therefore, fuel an unexpected surge in the school-age population.

Another factor that is almost impossible for the "official projections" to recognise is the increase in population due to the massive – but recent – influx of immigrants. So flaky are the statistics that, when Poland acceded to the EU, the government predicted that only 13,000 Polish immigrants would come to this country to work. The actual figure was well over 600,000 and, ironically, 13,000 babies have been born to Polish women in this country since EU accession.

Population estimates assume inward migration contributing nearly 6 million to the projected rise of 7.2 million in the UK's population between 2004 and 2031 - equivalent to six cities the size of Birmingham over the 27-year period.

But the crucial point about rural schools is that they do not just provide educational facilities. In one instance, a village of 237 houses has only a village hall, a church, a working men's club and no other public facilities. The school, therefore, is currently used for out-of-hours activities, including a breakfast club, a computer club and other community enterprises.

Promoting this multi-use itself lies at the heart of government policy, with local authorities directed to explore ways in which schools can involve the local community, adults, families and local business partners, yet this particular policy is not due to take effect until 2013.

With the case made, a feature of the adjournment debate is that the minister is obliged to be present and to respond. In this case, it was the Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Children, Schools and Families, a Labour politician by the name of Kevin Brennan.

It would have been unrealistic to expect Brennan – who by that time had been joined by the secretary of state, Ed Balls and his deputy Jim Knight – to have done much more than counter with a litany of achievements of the current government. That is what ministers do. But one substantive point did emerge: that the government would launch in January a major review of the distribution of schools grants, with a full consultation starting in autumn 2009. The funding of schools in rural areas would be one of the issues explored.

In that frame, Owen was able to secure a firm public commitment that the schools minister would meet all the Shropshire MPs to discuss issues arising, together with an affirmation that a higher level of empty places in rural schools should be expected and that "the presumption against closing rural schools continues".

To secure a meeting was a real achievement. The issues had been raised, dialogue had commenced and the way was open for negotiation – MPs from an opposing Party discussing matters of concern to their constituents with senior members of the government.

Of course, the problems would be less acute if the system was not centrally managed, with local communities able to raise their own money rather than relying on government handouts. But the point was that the system, however imperfect – and that it is – allowed direct approach by and negotiation between elected representatives and the key decision-makers in government.

Ignored, unappreciated and barely recognised, this is the nuts and bolts of democracy. It is a system that cannot be replicated on a continental scale. How could any EU commissioner be expected to attend debates with the direct representatives of such a small area as Shropshire and, even if he could, how could he begin to accommodate the specific needs of one tiny corner of England when confronted with the competing needs of 450 million people?

Yet, as the EU extends it tentacles into ever-larger areas of governance, the opportunities for ministers to address specific concerns of elected representatives diminish. In this case – for the time being – the issue was education, over which ministers still retain some power. But in many other areas, it would be pointless having any debate. The ministers could do nothing and promise nothing.

As the scope for dialogue between ministers and elected representatives diminishes, we are all diminished – and democracy with it. This is what we have lost, and this is what we are losing, all in the name of the vainglorious European "project".


25 November 2007

The European Arrest Warrant is being used in an unexpected way

An interesting story has been doing the rounds, picked up by several newspapers in Britain and abroad. It is also, I believe, exciting some interest in Poland for reasons I hope to discuss in what is likely to be a longish piece. I have a kind of a personal interest as I knew several of the players some years ago when I lived in Oxford.

First the facts as they are at present. The District Military Court in Warsaw has issued a European Arrest Warrant to extradite Helena Brus-Wolinska, the widow of a well-known Marxist economist Włodzimierz Brus, a professor, recently emeritus, at the University of Oxford on charges of falsifying evidence against General Fieldorf, one of the heroes of the Polish anti-Nazi resistance and a victim of the post-War Communist purges. Helena Wolinska was, at the time, a military prosecutor, allegedly responsible for the lengthy imprisonment, illegal by the supposed Polish code of laws of the period, of the general and a number of other fighters in the Armija Krajowa that is the Home Army, better known as the Polish Underground.

[The picture above is of Helena Wolinska in a major's uniform and of General Fieldorf's daughter in the early fifties.]

One of the victims was Władisław Bartoszewski, a survivor of Auschwitz, courageous anti-Nazi fighter in the Home Army, a man who helped Polish Jews to escape the Holocaust and sent messages to the West with information about the death camps, an honourable and highly regarded politician who held several important political positions in post-Communist Poland.

According to an article by Anne Applebaum, published when the story first emerged about ten years ago, Helena Brus, who claims that the continued attempts by the Polish government to put her on trial are politically motivated, which is probably true and anti-semitic, which is non-proven and irrelevant, could not recall who Bartoszewski might have been at the time.

Ms Applebaum’s article is very good but a quick summary of Mrs Brus’s life story here may well be helpful. The roots of the problem go back into that murky period during and after WWII that has left deep scars on East European psyche. As it happens, this is a subject that has been raised on the blog before.

Helena Danielak, as she was called in the first place, though she had already been married to Włodzimierz Brus, managed to escape from the Warsaw ghetto and, as she claims, from a train that was heading towards one of the death camps. She fled to the Soviet Union, became a member of the Communist Party and returned to join the Communist underground movement, whose aim, let us be clear, was to make sure that it would not be the nationalists who take power after the war.

It was inevitable that Jews in Eastern Europe (and even in Poland there were still some alive) should greet the Soviet army as their liberators, its non-role in the Warsaw uprising not being clearly perceived at the time.

In Budapest there is a plaque next to the central synagogue to commemorate the day in February 1945 when the Soviet tanks broke through the wall the Nazis (German but with help from the local ones) had built to create a ghetto.

This does not mean that all those Jews were Communists or even, necessarily, pro-Communists. Many East Europeans, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, were hoping that a new democratic order would be created in their countries as they recovered from the horrors of the previous years.

In Poland this hope was quashed almost immediately, in other countries after a couple of years. Helena Wolinska, the name under which she went in the underground and the one she retained afterwards, remained a Communist and became a military prosecutor.

According to Anne Applebaum she was also the “mistress of Franciszek Jozwiak, head of the new People's Militia and eventually to be both deputy prime minister and a Politburo member”, though I suspect that was a result rather than cause of her own rise in the hierarchy.

As military prosecutor she signed arrest warrants and ensured that people whom the Communist government called bandits because they fought for an independent Poland stayed in prison and went to their various punishments. For General Fieldorf that meant death by hanging after a show trial that lasted exactly one day in February 1953 after prolonged imprisonment and maltreatment.

At the same time Helena Wolinska met quite accidentally Włodzimierz Brus, who, also, had spent much of the war in the Soviet Union. As soon as they extricated themselves from their respective partners, legal or otherwise, they remarried. Their marriage lasted until his death in August of this year.

Włodzimierz Brus may not have been involved in the destruction of heroic fighters who presented an alternative to the new Polish system but he, too, did his bit for the latter. Soon after the war there were debates between Marxist and “bourgeois” economists in Poland. There are written accounts of these debates and even some transcripts that were published in various journals in Britain in the seventies but do not seem to be available on the net.

As his obituary in the Guardian puts it:

After the war, Brus headed the propaganda effort of the Polish Workers' party, the wartime successor to the Polish Communist party, which allied with the Polish Socialist party to win constitutional referenda in 1946 and elections in 1947. The following year, he was active in the union of the two groups as the Polish United Workers' party, which ruled Poland for the next 40 years.

The Guardian, however, does not write about the sheer nastiness of the debates. In fact, the obituary does not even mention them. Led by the young Brus the group of Marxist economists attacked the “bourgeois” economists personally, bullied and threatened them, destroying them intellectually and spiritually before the secret police could do so physically.

By 1956 Włodzimierz Brus had changed his opinions a little and started arguing for social market structures. Presumably he saw that pure socialism had been a disaster everywhere in Eastern Europe. Helena, on the other hand, was mildly criticized by a government commission for acting illegally during the Stalinist purge trials of the early fifties.

He became involved with some of the dissidents though he never abandoned Marxism fully, unlike his great friend, the philosopher Leszek Kołakowski. In 1968 there was another intra-party battle and this became a serious anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish members and officials.

Those who could, left the country and the Bruses together with their son came to Britain, first to Glasgow, then to Oxford in 1972. I met them there some years later and we became friends despite the age difference (it does not count for much in post-graduate Oxford colleges) though the story of Helena’s past was reasonably well known. One knows all sorts of people in life.

The Bruses fitted in well. His ardent Marxism had long ago transmogrified into a mild form of it that verged on social-democracy. His views fitted in with most of Oxford academia quite well. He and Lena, as she was known, full of Polish charm and hospitality, became well known and well liked.

Włodzimierz continued to be interested in Polish and other politics, supporting Solidarnosč and other Polish opposition groups, as long as they and their Western supporters were on the Left. Lena, on the other hand, tended to retreat with a headache if the discussions became too boisterous. It seems that she had already decided that she hated Poland as the country of ineradicable anti-semitism.

By the time Communism collapsed I had lost touch with them and so I do not know what their reaction was but I suspect it would have been mixed. Sadly, the third way of neither Communism nor capitalism had no place in Eastern Europe and neither politics nor economics went the way the Włodzimierz I knew would have liked.

Furthermore, they could not go back, as in the nineties the Polish authorities began their attempts to bring Lena back to stand trial. As Wikipedia puts it (she has a longer entry than he does, which is a rum turn up for the books):

The official charges against her were initiated by the Commission for Investigating Crimes against the Polish Nation. Wolińska is accused of being an "accessory to a court murder," classified as a Stalinist crime and a crime of genocide, and is punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Then and now Lena Brus has maintained that the motivating factor is anti-semitism and I was sorry to see at least one newspaper falling for that line. Quoting Jonathan Webber, whom I also knew at the time in Oxford, on matters of recent East European history is never wise and to go along with his analysis that this is all to do with the anti-semitism of many members of the Home Army is fatuous.

Undeniably there were people in the Home Army who were anti-Semitic and the stories of Jews helping the Soviet authorities to round up Poles were at least partly based on truth as were the stories of Poles helping the Nazis to round up Jews. It is also true that the Home Army helped Jews to escape before and after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and sent urgent messages to the West about the death camps from 1942 onwards.

In any case, the crimes Helena Brus is being accused of were real and are not merely a figment of some anti-Semitic Pole’s imagination.

Two attempts to extradite her failed. The British authorities refused on humanitarian grounds, citing her age. All of which is very admirable but not very logical in the light of the shenanigans around the War Crimes Act of 1991 and the subsequent trial of the former Nazi criminal Anthony Sawoniuk.

The Bill was fraught with difficulties as it was creating retrospectively crimes to be tried in Britain though they were not committed in Britain. There was a great deal of opposition, much of which was dismissed as being anti-semitic, though it had more to do with worries about the undermining of certain basic precepts in English law. Those media organs like the Guardian, the Independent and the BBC who have been weeping crocodile tears over revenge being visited on an elderly lady in Oxford had completely different views on elderly gentlemen in various other places.

There was strong suspicion that behind the pressure that was being put on the government to pass the legislation lurked the KGB who were anxious to drive a wedge between anti-Soviet nationalist and anti-Soviet Jewish groups.

In the end it took so long to pass the Bill that the Soviet Union itself was well-nigh finished by the time Margaret Thatcher used the Parliament Act to over-rule the recalcitrant House of Lords.

Suspicions of KGB involvement strengthened when English lawyers travelled to Byelorussia (as it was then), Ukraine and the Baltic States to be presented with witnesses of miraculous memory and recognition powers and found that they could not bring their own interpreters or cross-examine those witnesses.

There was only one trial in Britain, that of Sawoniuk, allegedly because no other person on the list of war criminals had come to this country. He was tried and convicted in 1999 and died in Norwich prison in 2005 at the age of 84. No humanitarian grounds for him.

Why should there be, one might argue. What has age to do with the beastly crimes the man had committed? Still, there is a certain lack of consistency here. The Poles do not even want Britain to pass difficult legislation or undermine the English legal structure. They merely want to try Helena Brus as they have tried various others who had behaved in what most of us would call criminal manner during Poland’s Stalinist period.

Now the Polish authorities or, at least the District Military Court in Warsaw have decided on a different strategy and has invoked the European Arrest Warrant. The problem as I see it, having written about the EAW, is that it is a little unclear under which of the 32 categories Helena Wolinska’s alleged crimes are to be put. Here they are:

- participation in a criminal organisation,
- terrorism,
- trafficking in human beings,
- sexual exploitation of children and child pornography,
- illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,
- illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives,
- corruption,
- fraud, including that affecting the
financial interests of the European Communities within the meaning of the Convention of 26 July 1995 on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests,
- laundering of the proceeds of crime,
- counterfeiting currency, including of the euro,
- computer-related crime,
- environmental crime, including illicit trafficking in endangered animal species and in endangered plant species and varieties,
- facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence,
- murder, grievous bodily injury,
- illicit trade in human organs and tissue,
- kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking,
- racism and xenophobia,
- organised or armed robbery,
- illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiques and works of art,
- swindling,
- racketeering and extortion,
- counterfeiting and piracy of products,
- forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein,
- forgery of means of payment,
- illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters,
- illicit trafficking in nuclear or radioactive materials,
- trafficking in stolen vehicles,
- rape,
- arson,
- crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,
- unlawful seizure of aircraft/ships,
- sabotage

Of course, one could argue that the Communist military prosecutor’s office was a criminal organization but I can’t quite see the British authorities falling for that one. Conspiracy to murder? It’s possible. Does Helena Brus’s activity in the late forties and early fifties constitute crimes under the International Criminal Court, given that the ICC did not exist at the time?

This could be an interesting little problem, though I suspect that the British government will, once again, go for the humanitarian argument, for which there is provision in the European Arrest Warrant, to avoid all these discussions.

The question, I suppose, is whether this is quite what the European Arrest Warrant was intended for. Then again, what we are always told it was intended for – to make the fight against terrorism easier – is somewhat at variance with the crimes listed in it.

Another question is whether this is the best way for the East Europeans to confront the past. It’s all very well for people to sniff about political motivation and sneer at vengefulness among those ungrateful East Europeans who did not like the Communist system but as even Adam LeBor points out in this article if elderly Nazis are pursued why not elderly Communists.

It is true that the case against Helena Wolinska is being pushed by General Fieldorf’s daughter and her family but one can understand the desire to see justice being meted out to those who had destroyed her father, the great war hero. Not many of them are alive.

Besides, the years after the war when the Communists were accumulating power, in preparation for a final coup and the destruction of the anti-Nazi non-Communist resistance remains troublesome in other countries as well as Poland. Not only were they physically destroyed but their role was completely re-written in textbooks. A real investigation of what happened is essential if these countries are to face the future with any real confidence.

But would that investigation be best served by the trial of an old woman, however bad the crimes are of which she is being accused? Gerald Warner of The Scotsman thinks so. I am not sure I agree with him though I think he is certainly right in finding Helena Wolinska’s use of her Jewishness to try to escape punishment distasteful. He, however, sees it as a test case for Britain to abandon the West’s double standards over Nazism and Communism.

For too long, a double standard has rightly demonised Nazism, but wrongly humanised Communism. The nauseating cult of 'Uncle' Joe Stalin was part of it; so were the Cambridge traitors. On any festive occasion in pre-1989 Moscow, the podium at Lenin's tomb was creaking beneath the weight of British trades unionists and fellow travellers. Even today, students who would never dream of wearing Nazi insignia will cheerfully sport red stars, hammers and sickles and other Stalinist kitsch. The Nazis murdered 20 million souls, the Reds 100 million. Does a nine-figure score for genocide transport an ideology beyond the gravitational pull of moral censure?

Can one argue with that? The trouble is that I do not think the case of Helena Brus-Wolinska will change much as far as the double standard is concerned especially if she is made out to be a victim of political forces and anti-semitism. The fight for that will continue for a while longer.

17 November 2007

One ring to rule them all...

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

For "ring" read "treaty" and that is where it looks like game, set and match.

For more than 80 years, visionaries have been dreaming of the settting up of a supra-national government over Europe, one which would take over the power of nation states to rule themselves and replace them with a new form of government to rule them all.

It is more than 60 years since one of those visionaries dreamed of the day when, after this new edifice was more or less complete, they could unveil a Constitution for Europe which would be its "crowning glory".

It is more than 50 years since some of those visionaries realised that the only way to build that edifice was stealthily, piece by piece, over many decades, without letting on where it was intended to end up.

But in 2001 the successors of those visionaries, now comprising the European Council, thought they had reached the point where they could finally come out into the open about it, and could summon a convention to draft the Constitution for Europe which was to be the crowning glory of the whole project.

The original idea, as dreamed of by Spinelli in his prison cell in 1941, was that, when the Constitution was unveiled, the peoples of Europe would greet it with acclamation as just what they all wanted.

But in reality, as we know, at least some of the peoples of Europe did nothing of the kind. And, as we remember, in that summer of 2005, this threw the gaggle of nonentities making up the European Council into a state of shocked bewilderment. It was simply not in the script that their Constitution should be rejected.

The whole point of the Constitution, as they had solemnly agreed at Laeken in 2001, was that it was being presented to the people of Europe as what they the people wanted". It was there to redress what even Europe's leaders called the "democratic deficit". And the one thing the democratic deficit was not meant to do was to turn round and bite them, with the message that the peoples of Europe would prefer to hang onto what remained of their existing democracies, thank you very much.

So Europe's political leaders, those nonentities making up the European Council, went off into a huddle, indeed a whole succession of huddles, trying to work out what to do. They knew they had to have that Constitution which had been so unceremoniously rejected. They knew they could not possibly allow the peoples of Europe the chance to reject it again. So sometime last winter they came up with their brilliant plan.

They would bring back their Constitution almost exactly as before, but rearranged in a new way, to make it much less easy for an outsider to understand. And they would change its name to something different, less provocative.

Then they would simply come out with it again, saying there was no longer any need to consult the people. They would rush it through their parliaments and there they would be, happy as fleas, with the Constitution they had wanted all along.

There was just one little snag to their plan. They knew they would have to call it a treaty, and they knew that, under the rules, before you can have a treaty you have to have something called an intergovernmental conference, where all the sovereign national governments get round a table and negotiate the terms of that treaty.

But if they allowed that, then different governments might want to argue all over again about the contents of the treaty, and that they couldn't possibly allow, since the whole point was to get that new version of the Constitution exactly as it had already been agreed by the European Council.

So, in for a penny, in for a pound, they came up with another brilliant idea. To satisfy the rules, they would put up a show of holding an intergovernmental conference. But they would then doing something quite unprecedented and certainly against the rules. The IGC would be strictly mandated by the European Council to come up with exactly the text the Council had already approved.

At this point, many of the heads of government making up the Council, realising that they had stitched the whole thing up so neatly that they were virtually home and dry, came out in the open and admitted that the old Constitution and the new treaty were pretty well identical. 90 percent the same? 96 percent? 98 percent? 99 percent? Who cares?

Only one prime minister, as we know, in his brooding, devious way, didn't think he could dare admit that the two documents were in effect the same. He knew he was committed to grant a referendum on the Constitution, and that this was the solemn promise on which his party had been elected.

So if he admitted like the others that the new treaty was just the Constitution under another name, he would have great difficulty in explaining why he was going to break that promise, by refusing to hold a referendum he knew he would every chance of losing.

So he decided not only to break his promise but to tell a blatant lie into the bargain – perhaps the most brazen and shameless lie that any prime minister of this country has ever uttered.

His calculation was, and clearly remains, that the people of Britain didn't ultimately care enough about this issue, or understand sufficiently what was at stake, for them to do anything but make a kind of token, half-hearted fuss about it. Some of the press would jump up and down. The Tories might make half-angry noises. But ultimately Mr Brown thought he could rely on his majority in Parliament, and that within a few months the whole thing would be done and dusted. Britain would have ratified the treaty, just like everyone else, and Europe would have its Constitution by any other name.

Now I don't have to explain to you in this hall what the new treaty does for the way we are governed. It certainly doesn't mark the absolute end of the road the European project has been travelling these past 50 years or more. But it is equally a further giant step towards the creation of that supra-national government for Europe which the project’s original handful of visionaries were dreaming of as long as the 1920s.

The one thing they hated, despised and feared more than anything else was the nation state, and the right of each national people to have a government of their own choice, ruling through national institutions as they had evolved in many cases over centuries. What they wanted was a wholly new form of government that was above all the nation states, with the power to rule them all.

And perhaps the cleverest thing they did was not to sweep the nation states and all their institutions away, but to leave them all standing – while gradually sucking away all their power to the new supra-national government that was being constructed above them.

Parliaments, monarchies, presidencies, courts, all were still left in place, just as if nothing really had happened. But gradually they had been hollowed out from within. And by gradually drawing national politicians and civil servants into the great task of constructing the project behind the scenes, they could create their shadowy new supranational government without most people really having a clue what was going on.

I have often observed over the years that the people who enthusiastically support the European Union either don't really know very much about it or are in some way making money out of it. To those I think we have to add all those politicians and officials who see it as in some way adding to their own sense of self-importance, as being part of the big show.

The point about this new treaty is that it really does formalise that new supranational form of government much more obviously and completely than ever before.

It is very important that, instead of that shambolic rotating presidency which gives each country in turn the semblance of being in temporary charge of things, Europe should now have a single President who can be in office for as long as five years, and who can pose as "President of Europe" on the world stage, as a counterpart to the President of the United States or any other country.

It is important that, sitting next to him, should be Europe's own foreign minister, even if for the moment he still has to be called the "High Representative".

But there is one other very important change in this Constitution the significance of which few people seem to have appreciated, even though my friend Richard North and I have been rather forlornly banging on about it for months. This is the change which is taking place in the status of that body known as the European Council.

Most people, even most politicians, let alone most of the media, are still amazingly hazy about the European Council, precisely what is its purpose, its status, its role. It is of course made up of all the EU's heads of government. It meets three or four times a year, and those meetings are still usually referred to by uncomprehending hacks as "summits".

But even though it has come to play an extremely important and central role in the workings of the EU, the European Council is still not formally part of the EU's structures. Although Mr Blair used to think that it was set up by the original Treaty of Rome in 1957, it only came into being in the 1970s, when it was first suggested, like almost everything else in the great project, by Jean Monnet.

Monnet's idea was that the heads of government should hold regular, informal meetings to discuss how best the great task of Europe's political integration could be moved forward. He himself called it "the provisional government of Europe". It was on that basis that the European Council was set up in 1974, and it was on that basis that it has come to play an ever more important part in steering Europe towards its eventual destination as in effect a single country ruled by a single government.

But only now in the Reform Treaty is the Council finally admitted as a fully-fledged "Institution of the Union", alongside the Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers (a wholly different institution with which it is often confused). And this brings with it a significant change, not just in the Council's status but in its nature and the role it is expected to play.

As members of a "Union institution", those who make it up will be bound by a wholly new obligation. No longer will they attend meetings of the Council as heads of supposedly sovereign governments, representing the interests of their own people.

Their primary duty, as set out in Article 9, will now be to promote the values, the objectives and the interests of the Union. And if you read through Article 3 of the treaty, setting out just what are those objectives of the Union, you will see that they are pretty well all-embracing, covering just about every aspect of government you could imagine. But these are the objectives of the Union which members of the Council will now be legally obliged to place ahead of any of the interests of their own peoples.

What this means is that when, say, Gordon Brown, goes off to Brussels for a meeting of the Council, he will no longer be doing so primarily to represent the interests of Great Britain, but as one of the 28 members of a body which is above all committed to putting the interests of the Union first.

By this change, the new government of Europe will not only have its own permanent president and foreign minister, it will in effect be given its own Cabinet. The prime ministers of Latvia and Greece and Malta and Finland will sit alongside our own prime minister as the Cabinet which decides the policies which are to rule our lives here in Britain and everywhere else.

We shall thus have a government which not only is not even nominally obliged to consider Britain's interests, but one which we cannot in any way call to account and which we will no longer have any power or right to dismiss. We shall never be able to change it through a democratic election. We shall in effect be just a small part of a giant one-party state.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them. In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. Not quite what we all had in mind when Edward Heath assured us that going into the Common Market would in no essential way effect our sovereignty.

So what hope is there? Is there any glimmering of a chance that we can halt this final step into a one-party state which has already shown itself to be stupendously incompetent, corrupt, dishonest and quasi-totalitarian in everything it does?

There is perhaps just one very faint glimmer of hope and in the short term it is really the only one open to us. Mr Brown may be right in thinking that he can railroad this treaty through Parliament. But even Mr Brown, as the events of recent weeks have made obvious, is not going to be our prime minister forever. And however much many of us may have been dismayed by the performance of Mr Cameron and his party since he and his friends took it over, we are picking up indications that there may just be a stiffening of the Tory position on this treaty: a readiness at least to discuss behind the scenes the possibility of going to the country at the next election on a promise of some form of renegotiation of our relationship with the European Union.

All this may seem very far-fetched, but even at the top of the Tory Party there has recently been a shocked realisation of just how much of our power to govern ourselves we have already given away: not least on the issue of deciding who has the right to enter and live and work in our country.

We have certainly given away far more of the power to decide how Britain is run than most people realise, but with this new treaty it really is game, set and match. There may be little to stop us having the treaty imposed on us by a prime minister who is prepared both to break his word and to lie to us to get what he wants. So our hopes, fragile though they are, must now centre on the possibility that one day, perhaps not all that far off, we might just have a government for which this treaty was the wake-up call that it was the bridge too far.

If that is not the case, however, then let us be in no doubt as to the reality of the situation we shall be faced with. Like all the other peoples of Europe, we shall have become the victims of an immense, slow-motion coup d'etat. A coup d'etat brought off by a political class which holds both the idea of democracy and us, the peoples of Europe, in total contempt.

We have rarely seen this more clearly expressed than in the reported comment this week of Nicolas Sarkozy, the new President of France, that there is no way in which the peoples of Europe should be allowed to give their views on the treaty through the ballot box. Such matters are simply not for the people to decide.

But if that observation reflects the contempt in which our new rulers hold us the people, then we must remember that contempt very often works both ways, If there is one thing about our contemporary Europe which is as obvious as the contempt in which we are now held by those who govern us, it is that the contempt is reciprocal.

Never in history can the politicians and officials who make up the political class have commanded more universal distrust and scorn than today, as we see reflected in the ever dwindling turnout at elections and in the comments one hears on every side from people for whom politics and politicians have become words as dirty as any in the language. Even our ruling class in Brussels have long noticed what they call in their lofty way "the democratic deficit", even if they have not the slightest idea how to do anything to remedy it.

But if the rulers and the ruled in any society get that far apart, as history shows, if both sides to a broken contract hold each other in equal contempt, if one side possesses the power and is only too ready to use it, while the other feels increasingly powerless to effect any change, then we have something building up which is potentially very dangerous.

The pressure in the vessel is steadily increasing, while its lid is being screwed down tighter and tighter. The only way such a story can eventually end is in a very nasty and messy explosion.

Take away from people any right to control their own destiny, and eventually they will take their destiny back into their own hands. That is the stark reality of what we are confronted by today. Unless something gives, there will eventually be no alternative but a very nasty disintegration. And so long as Britain remains part of this crazed, self-deceiving enterprise, we shall be caught up in that mess just as surely as everyone else.


04 November 2007

Scared to Death

Remember two years ago when a senior official of the World Health Association told us that soon "150 million people" might be dead from bird 'flu?

Remember Edwina Currie and the great panic over eggs?

From "mad cow disease" to the Millennium Bug, from DDT to passive smoking, from leaded petrol to asbestos, one of the most conspicuous and damaging features of our modern world has become the "scare".

This week a new book is to be published, Scared To Death, co-authored by Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North, telling for the first time the inside story of all the major scares of recent decades, showing how they have followed a remarkably consistent pattern.

Even though a scare often begins with some genuine problem, such as BSE, the book analyses the crucial role played in each case by supposed scientific experts who eventually turn out to have misread or manipulated the evidence; then by those sections of the media who eagerly promote the scare without regard to the facts.

The "tipping point" of any scare, the authors show, comes when it is taken up by the politicians who, with their officials, come up with an absurdly disproportionate response. This leaves us all to pay a colossal price, often running into billions or even hundreds of billions of pounds.

The book shows, for instance, how Mrs Currie set the great salmonella scare on its way in 1988 by falling for what turned out to be a wholly mistaken theory that the rise in food poisoning was due to salmonella getting into eggs.

In 1996, panicked by the media, the Government's chief scientific adviser on BSE claimed that by 2005 half a million people might have died of CJD. Only a year later, he had revised his forecast of deaths down to just 200 – leaving Britain with the consequences of a scare that cost £7 billion.

In the late 1990s top industrialists and governments, led by Tony Blair, predicted that to "fix the Millennium Bug" would cost $300 billion. Yet minutes after midnight on January 1, 2000, it became clear that the threat had been grotesquely exaggerated.

By removing our most effective protection against malaria, the ban on DDT, thanks to the scare that it not only harmed wildlife but caused cancer, may have cost up to 50 million lives across the Third World.

Perhaps the most chilling scare of all was the hysteria which swept through many social services departments in the late 80s and 90s based on the belief that huge numbers of children were being subjected to "Satanic" or ritual abuse by groups of adults. The terrifying scar this left on hundreds of families persists to this day.

The book shows how scares wildly exaggerating the dangers of lead, passive smoking and asbestos were promoted through wholesale manipulation of the scientific evidence.

A deliberately fostered confusion between different types of asbestos created in the US one of the greatest swindles in legal history, what was termed "the $200 Billion Miscarriage of Justice", bringing Lloyd's of London to its knees. This was followed by a further multi-billion pound scandal on both sides of the Atlantic when new laws allowed specialist contractors to charge almost any sums they liked to businesses and homeowners panicked by the scare.

But Booker and North's narrative culminates in a long, meticulously sourced account of the story behind what they suggest has become the greatest scare of them all: the belief that the world faces catastrophe through man-made global warming. It is on this that our preview of the book focuses.


No one can deny that in recent years the need to "save the planet" from global warming has become one of the most all-pervasive political issues of our time. As Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, claimed in 2004, it poses "a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism", warning that by the end of this century the only habitable continent left in the world will be Antarctica.

Inevitably many people have been left bemused by this somewhat one-sided debate, imagining that if so many experts are agreed then there must be something in it. But if we set the story of how this fear was promoted in the context of the pattern followed by other scares before it, the parallels which emerge might leave any honest believer in global warming feeling distinctly uncomfortable.

The story of how the panic over climate change was pushed to the top of the international political agenda falls into five main stages.

Stage one, as an overture, came in the 1970s, when many scientists, followed by the media, expressed alarm over what they saw as a disastrous change in the earth's climate. Their fear was not of warming but global cooling, heralding the approach of "a new Ice Age".

The reason for this was that for three decades, after a sharp rise in the interwar years up to 1940, global temperatures had been falling. The one thing certain about climate is that it is always changing. Since we began to emerge from the last Ice Age glaciation 20,000 years ago, temperatures have several times been through significant swings.

The hottest period since man appeared on the earth, around 8,000 years ago, was followed by a long cooling. Then came what is known as the "Roman Warming", coinciding with the Roman Empire. Three more centuries of cooling in the Dark Ages were followed by the "Mediaeval Warming", when Greenland was inhabited and all the evidence agrees the world was hotter than it is today.

Around 1300 began "the Little Age", when glaciers advanced, the Thames froze over, Greenland had to be abandoned, and this did not end until, 200 years ago, we entered on what is known as the "Modern Warming". But even this has been chequered by colder periods, such those years between 1940 and 1975 known as the "Little Cooling", when scientific and media sages predicted that return to the Ice Age.

Then, in the late 1970s, evidence showed that the world was warming up again. As we see from many other examples, a scare is often set off when two things are observed together and scientists suggest that one must have been caused by the other.

In this case, thanks to readings commissioned by Dr Roger Revelle, a distinguished American oceanographer, it was observed that since the late 1950s levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere had been sharply rising. Perhaps it was this increase in greenhouse gases which was causing the new warming in the 1980s?

Stage two of the story began in 1988, when with remarkable speed global warming story was elevated into the ruling orthodoxy of the time, partly due to publicity given to hearings in Washington chaired by a comparatively new young Senator, Al Gore, who had studied under Dr Revelle in the 60s.

This helped make fighting climate change the fashionable cause of the moment, taken up by leading environmentalist groups, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and by an array of Hollywood celebrities, from Robert Redford to Barbra Streisand,

But more importantly global warming hit centre stage because the UN in 1988 set up its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, which from now on was to play the leading role in the whole debate.

Through a series of reports, the IPCC was to advance its cause in a rather unusual fashion. First it would commission as many as 1,500 experts from all over the world to produce a huge scientific report, which might include all sorts of doubts and reservations. But this was then prefaced by a Summary for Policymakers, drafted in consultation with governments and officials, which was essentially a political document, in which most of the caveats contained in the experts' report disappeared.

This contradiction was already obvious in the first report in 1991, which led to the Rio conference on climate change in 1992. The second report in 1996 gave particular prominence to a study by an obscure US government scientist claiming the evidence for a connection between global warming and rising CO2 levels was now firmly established.

This study came under heavy fire from various leading climate experts for the way it manipulated the evidence by what became known as "the fingerprinting fraud". But this was not allowed to stand in the way of the claim that there was now complete scientific consensus behind the CO2 thesis, and the Summary for Policymakers, heavily influenced from behind the scenes by Al Gore, now US vice-president, paved the way in 1997 for the famous Kyoto Protocol.

Kyoto initiated stage three of the story, by formally committing the governments of the developed world to making drastic reductions in their CO2 emissions. But the treaty still had to be ratified and this seemed a good way off, not least thanks to its unanimous rejection in 1997 by the US Senate, despite the best efforts of Vice-President Gore.

One of the less familiar aspects of Gore's career is how he had already by now become somewhat notorious among America's leading climate scientists for the ruthless way in which he used his influence to try to suppress any evidence they came up with to contradict the approved global warming thesis.

Not least of his efforts to rewrite the historical record was his bid to suppress an article co-authored just before his death by Dr Revelle. Gore didn't want to be known that his guru had expressed serious doubts about the supposed consensus, urging that the global warming thesis should be viewed with much more caution.

click to enlargeOne of the greatest problems Gore and his allies faced at this time was the mass of evidence showing that in past times, such as the Mediaeval Warming, global temperature had been even higher than they were in the late 20th century, long before CO2 levels had started to rise. Even the first two IPCC reports had included a graph conceding this point, But In 1998 came the answer they were looking for – a completely new temperature chart, devised by another obscure young American physicist, Michael Mann. This became known as the "hockey stick" (pictured) because it showed historic temperatures running in an almost flat line over the past 1,000 years, only suddenly flicking up at the end to temperatures never recorded before.

Mann's hockey stick was just what the IPCC wanted. When its 2001 report came out it was given pride of place at the top of page 1, and prominently repeated four more times. The Mediaeval Warming, the Little Ice Age, the 20th century Little Cooling when CO2 had already been rising, all had simply been wiped from the record.

click to enlargeBut then a growing number of academics began to raise very fundamental doubts about how Mann had arrived at his graph. This culminated in 2003 with a devastating study by two Canadian computer analysts, showing how Mann had not only ignored most of the evidence before him but had used an algorithm which would produce a hockey stick shaped graph whatever evidence was fed into the computer. When this was removed, the graph re-emerged (pictured) just as it had looked before. The Mediaeval Warming was back in place, again showing the early Middle Ages as even hotter than today.

It is hard to recall any scientific thesis ever being so comprehensively discredited as the "hockey stick". Yet the great global warming juggernaut rolled on regardless, now led politically by the European Union.

In 2004, thanks to a highly dubious deal between the EU and President Putin's Russia, stage four of the story began when the Kyoto treaty was finally ratified. Climate change had at last hit the top of the Western world's political agenda and the ratifying governments now had to act.

In the past three years, we have seen the EU in particular announcing every kind of measure geared to fighting climate change, from building ever more highly-subsidised wind turbines to produce derisory amounts of absurdly expensive electricity to a commitment that by 2050 it will have reduced its carbon emissions by 60 percent.

This is a pledge which could only be met by such a massive reduction in Europe's standard of living that it is impossible to see the peoples of Europe accepting it.
All this frenzy of political activity and propaganda has rested on the assumption that global temperatures will continue to rise in tandem with levels of CO2 and that, unless mankind takes the most drastic action, our planet is faced with the kind of apocalypse so vividly portrayed by Al Gore in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth.

Yet in the past year or two, stage five of the story has seen all sorts of huge new question marks beginning to be raised over Gore's alleged consensus. It was not just that every single assertion in his film was dismissed by experts who knew their subject very much better than he did. For instance, Gore claimed that by the end of this century world sea levels will have risen by 20 feet when even the IPCC itself, in its latest report, only predicts a rise of between 4 and 17 inches.

There is also of course the harsh reality that, wholly unaffected by Kyoto, the economies of China and India are now expanding at nearly 10 percent a year, with China alone building a new coal-fired power station every four days, and likely within two years to be emitting more CO2 than the United States.

More serious than either of these points, however, has been all the evidence recently accumulating to show that, despite the continuing rise in CO2 levels, global temperatures in the years since 1998 have no longer been rising and may soon even be falling.

It was a telling moment when, in August, Gore's closest scientific ally James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies was forced to revise his long-influential record of US surface temperatures, showing that the past decade has seen the hottest years on record. His graph now concedes that the hottest year of the 20th century was not 1998 but 1934, and that four of the ten warmest years in the past 100 were not in the present decade but in the 1930s.

Furthermore scientists and academics have recently been queuing up to point out that fluctuations in global temperatures correlate much more consistently with the patterns of radiation from the sun than with any rise in CO2 levels, and that after a century of abnormally high solar activity the sun's effect is now weakening again, presaging a likely drop in temperatures.

If global warming does turn out to have been a scare like all the others, it will certainly represent as great a collective flight from reality by our politicians as history has ever recorded. The evidence of the next ten years will be very interesting.

Scared To Death: From BSE to Global Warming, How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth by Christopher Booker and Richard North is to be published by Continuum on November 8.


05 October 2007

The revised treaty

This is a republication of our original posting of June of this year, which started as an analysis of the European Council "mandate", produced at the June European Council in Brussels.

It is, at this stage, very much "work in progress" to which we are continually adding, with a view to producing a comprehensive document. When complete, we intend eventually to publish it as a .pdf file on this blog, to enable easy downloading as a reference document.


On 21/22 June - spilling over into the early hours of the 23rd - the heads of states of governments of the European Union member states, accompanied by their foreign affairs ministers, attended a meeting of the European Council in Brussels, chaired by the German presidency.

Although widely trailed by the media and others as a "summit", it was no more such than a meeting of the British Cabinet. The European Council is a quasi-institution of the European Union, charged by Article 4 of the Treaty of the European Union with providing the Union with "the necessary impetus for its development" and with defining "the general political guidelines thereof". In effect, the European Council is the unofficial Cabinet of the government of the European Union.

Neither was the meeting convened to agree a treaty, much less sign up to one. Its precise purpose was to consider (and agree) a proposal by the German presidency for a draft "mandate" to instruct a subsequent Inter-governmental Conference (IGC) on the content of a treaty, ostensibly to replace the failed EU constitutional treaty.

In the event, the European Council did agree this "mandate" which ran to 16 pages (not two as some media reports would have it), including detailed footnotes. It was published on 23 June as Annex 1 to the The presidency conclusions. Although it had no legal authority to do so, the European Council then directed the IGC to "carry out its work in accordance with the mandate", declaring that, "the present mandate will provide the exclusive basis and framework for the work of the IGC".

Thus did the European Council hope that the mandate it has adopted would become the template for the treaty to be negotiated by the IGC. As of 5 October, it had been incorporated in a "provisional" draft treaty - the second version to have been produced, ready for the IGC of 18-19 October. Then, in the early hours of the 19 October, the IGC summit in Lisbon approved this draft with certain modifications.

This is our analysis of the documents so far produced.

1. Overview

Starting with the "mandate", the central feature of the document was to instruct the removal of any reference to a constitution in the new treaty. The new treaty produced from it has since been called as a "Reform Treaty", amending rather than replacing the existing treaties, the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). The title "reform", however, is unofficial, without legal status. The official title is the "Draft Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community". In short, the document will be called the "Lisbon Treaty", to be signed on 13 December.

In producing the mandate and then the two draft treaties, the "innovations" from the EU constitution were removed - leaving the orginal treaties. The bulk of these so-called "innovations" (with some additions) were then written up separately as "amendments" to form the basis of the new treaty. When they are added to the existing treaties, the resultant consolidated treaty will be the constitution in all but name, with a few cosmetic changes and omissions.

As to the resultant treaties, it is propsed that the TEU will keep its present name and the TEC will be called Treaty on the Functioning of the Union. The word "Community" will throughout be replaced by the word "Union"; it will be stated that the two Treaties constitute the Treaties on which the Union is founded and that the Union replaces and succeeds the Community.

One of the cosmetic changes is that the terminology for EU laws, introduced by the constitution, such as "law" and "framework law" will be abandoned. The existing "regulations", "directives" and "decisions" nomanclature will be retained. Again, this is a cosmetic change - there is no practical significance to it.

However, the change of nomanclature has been sufficient for the government to assert that the constitution has been abandoned. This was demonstrated by a question posed by William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, who challenged Miliband on the comments of Giscard d'Estaing.

He had declared, of the European Council's "mandate" that: "This text is, in fact, a re-run of a great part of the substance of the constitutional treaty", adding, "the public is being led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly."

In was in the answer, however, that the government's strategy becomes apparent, in holding the line against such assertions, maintaining that the "mandate" is not a re-run of the constitution. Miliband refused to be drawn on the Giscard statements, but instead referred directly to the first clause of the "mandate", which "clearly states":

The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called "Constitution", is abandoned —
"Not reformed," said Miliband, "not amended, but abandoned. The constitutional treaty has been abandoned. That is not just my view, nor is it just the view of our Prime Minister - it is the view of the 27 Heads of Government who signed the document."

The exchange continued but it need not trouble us, as we have the bones of the argument. It is developed by sleight of hand and relies on the substitution of one word with another. To see how it works, we have to note how Miliband refers, in the first instance, to the "constitutional concept", calling in aid the "mandate" as his authority.

Now, this "concept" was an innovation in producing treaties. All previous affairs had taken the form of amendments to the original Treaty of Rome. It was these amendments, and only these, the formed the basis of each subsequent treaty, until the constitutional treaty. Then, it was decided to absorb all the treaties and the proposed amendments into one consolidated text, which was to form the new treaty. That was the "constitutional concept", as indeed the "mandate" indicates.

The trouble with that was people - many for the first time - were able to see the full text and take on board how many powers had been ceded to the EU. Not a few of the complaints over the text actually related to powers handed over in previous treaties. Thus, the "colleagues" decided to abandon this "concept" and revert to producing another amending treaty, only this time they would call it a "reform treaty".

There we have the slight of hand. Miliband takes the phrase, "constitutional concept" and changes one word, to produce "constitutional treaty". In one fell swoop, the "treaty" has been abandoned. Except that it has not.

Interestingly a similar tactic has been tried before – by Tony Blair, when he reported on the European Council. Then, he offered the first clause of the "mandate" without even embellishing it, relying on his showmanship and emphasis to slide the point past the House.

2. The symbolic issues

The crucial cosmetic omissions will be the removal of "state-like symbols" from the new treaty, such as the EU flag, the anthem or the motto "Strength in Diversity". These are entirely cosmetic. The EU will continue to display its flag, it will continue to play it anthem at every opportunity and parade its "motto".

Even then, the new draft is not to be entirely without symbolism. Added to the the recitals will be the text of the first ricital of the the failed constitution, to be inserted as a second recital into the Preamble. That is as follows:

Drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy and the rule of law,
There will be no new Article on primacy of Union law, on the lines that which appeared in the failed constitution. This, though, is largely an academic distinction, as the IGC had been told to agree the following Declaration:

The Conference recalls that, in accordance with well settled case-law of the EU Court of Justice, the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States, under the conditions laid down by the said case-law." In addition, the opinion of the Legal Service of the Council (doc. 580/07) will be annexed to the Final Act of the Conference.
In effect, primacy will continue as before – but there will be no reference to it in the treaties.

3. Institutional changes

All the institutional changes found in the failed EU constitution have been lifted and placed in the new treaty. They have been integrated partly into the TEU and partly into the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union.

There is a new Title III, which gives an overview of the institutional system and will set outs the following institutional modifications to the existing system. This is to be found in the new Article 9:

  • the Articles on the Union's institutions,
  • the European Parliament (new composition)
  • the European Council (transformation into an institution)
  • creation of the office of President
  • introduction of the double majority voting system
  • new composition of the European Commission
  • strengthening of the role of its President
  • the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • The president is to be elected by EU leaders for a two-and-a-half-year term will replace the current system in which EU leaders rotate into the president's post every six months.

    The original proposal of for a "double majority" voting system allows for qualified majority voting to be carried with 55 percent of member states representing 65 percent of the EU's population.

    As a concession to the Poles, introduction will be delayed until 2014, when it will be gradually phased in over three years.

    The European Council

    Much of the focus on the changes proposed has been on headline issues such as the appointment of a full-time president and a "high representative" to act as an EU foreign minister. Perforce, less attention has been given to other changes in this "institutional changes" section.

    These, Blair would have us believe, are simply changes of rules to make the European Union "effective". More specifically, he told us:

    This deal gives us a chance to move on, it gives us a chance to concentrate on the issues to do with the economy, organised crime, terrorism, immigration, defence, climate change, the environment, energy, the problems that really concern citizens in Europe. And this is why it was important to get out of this bind into which we had got with the constitutional treaty, to go back to making simple changes in our rules that allow us to operate more effectively now we are in an enlarged European Union, but most of all allow us to work effectively for the betterment of people inside the European Union.
    In the manner of the joke about the Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto, however, the key to understanding what is going on is to ask, "who's this 'us' paleface?"

    To answer this, in paragraph 12 of the mandate we find the dense but superficially anodyne statement that:

    The institutional changes agreed in the 2004 IGC will be integrated partly into the TEU and partly into the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union. The new Title III will give an overview of the institutional system and will set out the following institutional modifications to the existing system, i.e. the Articles on the Union's institutions …
    The reference to the "2004 IGC" is of course the code for the EU constitution and the important modification here is to the "Articles on the Union's institutions".

    To find these, we have to go to Article I-19 of the constitution, where we see the definition of the "institutional framework" and a statement of its aims. These are expressed in terms of the "Union" telling the institutions that their aims are to: "promote its values; advance its objectives; serve its interests, those of its citizens and those of Member States; and ensure the consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions".

    Now, the crucial point here is that the first three of these objectives are entirely new. And, of these, the third is especially important. It is to: "serve its interests, those of its citizens and those of Member States".

    However, this is but a curtain raiser to another short insert in paragraph 12, which states (by way of one of the institutional changes): "the European Council (transformation into an institution…)".

    This is of huge significance. Originally set up in 1972 by Jean Monnet, the European Council was presented, during its first meeting under president Pompidou as a "fireside chat" between the heads of states and governments of the then nine members of the EEC.

    Indeed, the first meeting was in fact held in Pompidou's private salon, with members lounging in armchairs and even sitting by the fire, but Monnet had far greater ambitions for it. He styled it as nothing less than a "provisional government" of Europe, its task being to steer Europe though the "transition from national to collective sovereignty" (Memoirs, p. 503).

    However, as is the way with the incremental development of the European Union, the European Council enjoyed a half-life outside the treaties, acquiring the appellation "summit", and reported almost universally as such by the media, growing from its origins as an informal "fireside chat" to the full-blown monster that it is today.

    But, while it remained, in treaty terms, an informal body, it was formally recognised in the Nice Treaty (Article 4) which first defined its role as to "provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development" and to "define the general political guidelines thereof".

    Thus, while it was seen as a meeting of heads of states and governments (now assisted by foreign affairs ministers), the inference being that they were representing their respective nations, the European Council was being drawn into the treaty maw. Although not yet a fully-fledged institution, it role was being more clearly defined as a representative body of the European Union.

    Now, with this proposed change, the European Council is being defined fully as an institution. Furthermore, its aims have been set out, which it shares with the Commission, the EU Parliament and the European Court of Justice. It now will have developed into Monnet's "provisional government", acting, to all intents and purposes, as the formal "cabinet" of Europe.

    The problem, of course, is that the members are still made up from the heads of state and governments of the member states. But, rather than representing their respective nations, they now act as a corporate body – an institution – the aims of which are, in respect of the Union, to: "promote its values; advance its objectives; serve its interests, those of its citizens and those of Member States; and ensure the consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions".

    Crucially, the requirement to serve the interest of the Union comes first, the "citizens" come second and the Member States come third. The order is neither accidental nor without significance. The European Council has to put the Union first. Tony Blair's "us" is the European Union.

    Serving the EU is, de facto, what the European Council already does, but this is now to become de jure. That such an important change is tucked into a paragraph of an obscure document which few will read – and fewer will understand – is another of those dangerous and deliberate obfuscations, designed to defeat easy analysis.

    It also represents a very significant transfer of power from member states, our leaders having been hijacked and impressed into the service of the Union – all the more dangerous because, as far as the media and the general public is concerned, they are part of an invisible institution, one that will, to them, remain a "summit".

    4. Qualified Majority Voting

    This is to be extended to 40 new areas - mainly in matters related to the police and the judiciary. The UK has negotiated an opt-out from criminal matters and police co-operation. The national veto will be maintained in the fields of foreign affairs, defence, fiscal matters, and social security and culture.

    5. The foreign minister

    The constitution's envisaged post of "foreign minister" has been dropped in favour of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He or she will also become vice-president of the union, "double hatted" as a representative of both the Council and the Commission.

    There is a codicil to this appointment, with a declaration (which has no legal effect) that the post will not affect "the responsibilities of the member states, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy or their national representation in third countries and international organisations".

    This is the BBC "take".

    6. The Commission

    From 2014, the Commission, will be reduced to 18 members, selected on a system of rotation. As now, commissioners will to serve five-year terms.

    7. Legal personality

    Lifted straight from the failed EU constitution, the European Union is to be given the status of a legal person. There will also be a declaration that: "the fact that the European Union has a legal personality will not in any way authorise the Union to legislate or to act beyond the competences conferred upon it by the member states in the treaties."

    However, according to Anthony Coughlan, Secretary of the Dublin-based National Platform for EU Research, politically, the most important thing the proposed new Treaty. It sets up a legally a new EU in the constitutional form of a supranational European Federation and makes us all real citizens of that State, owing obedience to its laws and loyalty to its authority, in contrast to our notional or honorary EU "citizenship" at present.

    The legal personality gives the EU its own corporate existence for the first time, separate from and superior to its Member States, just as the USA is legally separate from and superior to states like California, Kansas and New York, or Federal Germany is superior to Bavaria, Saxony etc. Politically and legally, this is the core element of an EU Constitution, which the Intergovernmental Conference is now being established to draw up.

    Up to now the European Union has not had a legal personality or corporate existence in its own right. Only the European Community, which makes supranational EC laws, possesses that. Properly speaking therefore, there is thus no such thing as "EU" (European Union) law - only "EC" (European Community) law.

    At present the name "European Union", which derives from the 1992 "Maastricht Treaty on European Union", is a descriptive term for the various forms of cooperation amongst the 27 EU Member States. These forms of cooperation cover the area of supranational law constituted by the European Community on the one hand, where the European Commission proposes all the laws, and on the other hand cooperation in the "intergovernmental" areas of foreign and home affairs, where Member States have up to now retained their sovereignty and the European Commission has no legislative role.

    That is why the 1992 Maastricht Treaty is called the "Treaty ON European Union" rather than "OF" Union. The proposed revised constitutional treaty which the Intergovernmental Conference will now draw up would be in effect the "Treaty OF European Union".

    8. The Charter of Fundamental Rights

    Britain has been allowed to opt out of a charter of human rights and the charter will not become part of the treaty. This is to be added to the treaty by way of a new protocol, which will undoubtedly become a lawyer's paradise. The text is as follows:

    The High Contracting Parties

    Whereas in Article [xx] of the Treaty on European Union, the Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

    Whereas the Charter is to be applied in strict accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned Article [xx] and Title VII of the Charter itself;

    Whereas the aforementioned Article [xx] requires the Charter to be applied and interpreted by the courts of the United Kingdom strictly in accordance with the Explanations referred to in that Article;

    Whereas the Charter contains both rights and principles;

    Whereas the Charter contains both provisions which are civil and political in character and those which are economic and social in character;

    Whereas the Charter reaffirms the rights, freedoms and principles recognised in the Union and makes those rights more visible, but does not create new rights or principles;

    Recalling the United Kingdom's obligations under the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and Union law generally;

    Noting the wish of the United Kingdom to clarify certain aspects of the application of the Charter;

    Desirous therefore of clarifying the application of the Charter in relation to the laws and administrative action of the United Kingdom and of its justiciability within the United Kingdom;

    Reaffirming that references in this Protocol to the operation of specific provisions of the Charter are strictly without prejudice to the operation of other provisions of the Charter;

    Reaffirming that this Protocol is without prejudice to the application of the Charter to other Member States;

    Reaffirming that this Protocol is without prejudice to other obligations of the United Kingdom under the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and Union law generally;

    Have agreed upon the following provisions which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union:

    Article 1

    1. The Charter does not extend the ability of the Court of Justice, or any court or tribunal of the United Kingdom, to find that the laws, regulations or administrative provisions, practices or action of the United Kingdom are inconsistent with the fundamental rights, freedoms and principles that it reaffirms.

    2. In particular, and for the avoidance of doubt, nothing in [Title IV] of the Charter creates justiciable rights applicable to the United Kingdom except in so far as the United Kingdom has provided for such rights in its national law.

    Article 2

    To the extent that a provision of the Charter refers to national laws and practices, it shall only apply in the United Kingdom to the extent that the rights or principles that it contains are recognised in the law or practices of the United Kingdom.
    The version of the Charter as agreed in the failed constitution will be re-enacted by the three Institutions and will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

    Again, however, this is largely an academic distinction. The mandate states: "The Article on fundamental rights will contain a cross reference to the Charter on Fundamental Rights, as agreed in the 2004 IGC, giving it legally binding value and setting out the scope of its application."

    Effectively, therefore, the charter will become part of the Treaty and will, therefore, apply in its entirety to EU law which, in turn, will apply to the UK. Progressively, therefore, more and more elements of the charter will apply to the UK.

    This may be the most important part of the Reform Treaty as it will have a retrospective effect on all EU law. Essentially it introduces both a "Bill of Rights" plus the power of judicial review, i.e., the power to invalidate laws that do not comply with the charter to the ECJ. It thus gives the ECJ the power similar to that of the American Supreme Court, acquired since the 14th Amendment was broadly interpreted, i.e., truly supreme power.

    9. Provisions on "democratic" principles

    Other lifts from the failed constitution are those which the “mandate” calls provisions on democratic equality, representative democracy, participatory democracy and the citizens' initiative. Concerning national parliaments, the “mandate” declared that their role will be further enhanced.

    • The period given to national parliaments to examine draft legislative texts and to give a reasoned opinion on subsidiarity will be extended from 6 to 8 weeks (the Protocols on national Parliaments and on subsidiarity and proportionality will be modified accordingly).

    • There will be a reinforced control mechanism of subsidiarity in the sense that if a draft legislative act is contested by a simple majority of the votes allocated to national parliaments, the Commission will re-examine the draft act, which it may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw. If it chooses to maintain the draft, the Commission will have, in a reasoned opinion, to justify why it considers that the draft complies with the principle of subsidiarity. This reasoned opinion, as well as the reasoned opinions of the national parliaments, will have to be transmitted to the EU legislator, for consideration in the legislative procedure. This will trigger a specific procedure:

    - before concluding first reading under the ordinary legislative procedure, the legislator (Council and Parliament) shall consider the compatibility of the legislative proposal with the principle of subsidiarity, taking particular account of the reasons expressed and shared by the majority of national parliaments as well as the reasoned opinion of the Commission;

    - If, by a majority of 55% of the members of the Council or a majority of the votes cast in the European Parliament, the legislator is of the opinion that the proposal is not compatible with the principle of subsidiarity, the legislative proposal shall not be given further consideration. (the Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality will be modified accordingly).

    A new general Article will reflect the role of the national parliaments.

    This was highlighted by commission president Barroso in a speech at the National Forum on Europe in Dublin, kick-starting his "Plan D of dialogue and democracy”. Then, he argued that the constitution went a long way to resolving the democratic deficit, because:

    It gives the European Parliament a much greater role in decision-making, allowing it to amend and approve almost all new legislation. It throws open the doors of the Council when it is acting as a legislator, making it easier for citizens and national parliaments to monitor government positions. In fact, participatory democracy acquires a new status, with an entire title of the Constitution (Title VI) devoted to "The Democratic Life of the Union".

    …the Constitution reconnects Europe with both citizens and national parliaments. It gives citizens the right to invite the Commission to introduce proposals on appropriate issues, if they can gather one million signatures in a significant number of Member States. And it gives national parliaments important new powers to enforce subsidiarity. They will be given early warning of all new legislative proposals from the Commission and the possibility to send them back for a rethink.

    Now we see exactly the intention to re-introduce exactly the same provisions and, not doubt, exactly the same claims will be made for them.

    Deconstructing these claims, we find again the use of that word "reconnect". This is part of the self-deception – delusion, even – of the élites , whereby the project was in the past somehow in tune with the "needs of the citizen" but has lost its way and must now be brought back on track. The lie is, of course, that the EU has ever "connected". It has always been an élite project and, therefore, any suggestion of a "reconnection" is a fraud.

    10. A reference has been included to EU solidarity in the event of an energy supply problem.

    11. A reference to the qualification criteria for new EU members was added (the Copenhagen criteria). The conditions for entry, therefore, will become part of the Treaty.

    12. Treaty revision procedures

    Currently, treaty revision is accommodated by means of a single article, Article 48, which deals with the convening of an IGC (precisely the mechanism being currently used to amend the treaties). The existing Article 48 will make it clear that the Treaties can be revised to increase or reduce the competences conferred upon the Union.

    However, the "mandate" also extracts two particularly contentious provisions from the failed constitution, known as the "simplified revision procedure" (Articles 444 & 445).

    The first of the simplified procedures provides for the Council to remove unanimous voting (the veto) from any provision in Part III of the (which accounts for the bulk of the policies), and to substitute qualified majority voting, without the inconvenience of convening an IGC. National parliaments, however, are given the power to block any such change - effectively a form of ratification - so the net effect of this is to sidelines the IGC.

    The second of the procedures alllows for the revisions of text, within Part III, "on internal policies and actions of the Union", again without the inconvenience of convening an IGC.

    These two provisions represent a significant increase in the power of the Union.

    13. Voluntary withdrawal

    There will be an article on voluntary withdrawal of a member state from the union.

    14. Common Defence Policy

    On page 26, in the eighth numbered paragraph under the anodyne heading: "Amendments to the EU Treaty Annex 1", this little gem:

    8) In Article 11, insertion of a paragraph 1 reading as follows (the current text of paragraph 1 being deleted):

    1. The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.
    This is followed by a longer piece of text, which is reviewed below, but this is the crucial piece.

    Now, in what might be evidence of hurried drafting, this raises a slight problem as the new paragraph of Article 11 actually replicates (in part) Article 17 of the Treaty, which reads, in full:

    1. The common foreign and security policy shall include all questions relating to the security of the Union, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy which might lead to a common defence, should the European Council so decide. It shall in that case recommend to Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
    Presumably (although this is not stated), this paragraph will be deleted – the two passages can hardly stand in the same treaty.

    What needs to be noted is the substantive difference, which is the deletion of this phrasing:

    …should the European Council so decide. It shall in that case recommend to Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
    This is replaced by a longer passage (broken into two paragraphs for ease of reading):

    The common foreign and security policy is subject to specific procedures. It shall be defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded.

    The common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and by Member States, in accordance with the Treaties. The specific role of the European Parliament and of the Commission in this area is defined by the Treaties.
    We are back to the "devil in the detail". In the first passage, in the existing treaties, we see that the decision rests at the discretion of the European Council. But all it can do it make a recommendation to the member states, which can chose to adopt such a decision "in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements." In the UK, this would require, at the very least, the approval of Parliament.

    What is happening, therefore, is that the decision process on the "progressive framing of a common defence policy" is being re-framed, taking it away from the member states. Instead, it becomes the sole province of "the European Council and the Council", cutting out national parliaments and any reference to "respective constitutional requirements".

    For sure, the decisions as EU level are still unanimous, but the fact is that, having been national decisions, they now become European Union decisions. Is this a small, technical point? Or does this represent a significant transfer of power from the member states to the European Union?

    I suspect those who choose to see merely small textual changes of little significance will continue to do so, but any rational assessment of what is going is suggests that this is another small but significant step towards a Common Defence Policy.

    This is the game the EU has been playing ever since Maastricht, when the policy was first introduced. Every treaty since, we have seen small, subtle adjustments in wording, every change tightening the screw slightly, bringing the "colleagues" slightly closer to their goal.

    This change, this time, comes under the guise of a "Reform Treaty" instead of an "EU Constitution". The name might change, but the objective remains the same.


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