Category: European Union


I’m glad I was already mid-editing my LinkedIn profile. I have a new honour to add – I just won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, it’s official. The European Union has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012.

Of course, much like when Obama won, this has met with derision from many. I’ll admit, the announcement bemused me for a moment. But I do believe that this prize is merited.

The Prize is awarded to the person or organisation that has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Most EU Council meetings have at least an element of this – they are strongly akin to the Peace Congresses of the pre-war period…and to see 27 national leaders, all of whom lead countries which have previously been embittered by conflict with the others, in peaceful negotiation over their disputes, as opposed to armed conflict, is surely a sight for sore eyes.

Europe – a continent at war for centuries – is now in a state of perpetual peace. Because of the EU and its forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community, war on this continent is unthinkable.

The EU’s normative agenda has spread from those original six Member States, down the Iberian peninsula into former fascist states, across Central and Eastern Europe’s former Communist dictatorships, and now is working its way across the war-torn Balkans.

As Liberal Democrat MEP Ed McMillan-Scott said,

“The Nobel Peace Prize for the EU is recognition of the transformative power of the European project that brought a war-torn continent back to prosperity and through its enlargement process helped to spread democracy and freedom to the former Soviet bloc and is a model for reform worldwide.

 

“MEPs now have a decisive say on the EU’s international trade agreements and democracy and human rights are a cornerstone of our approach.

 

“In the latest survey of 25,000 European citizens by Eurobarometer, spreading democracy and human rights across the world was seen to be the most important task of the European Union.

 

“We must take this award as an encouragement to stand up for our values and redouble our efforts. We are grateful to the Nobel Committee on behalf of our constituents who must share in this award. At least we will be able to collect the award, unlike other prize winners in the past such as Andrei Sakharov, Aun San Suu Kyi and most recently Liu Xiabao.”

David Cameron gave his keynote speech at the Conservative party conference today. There’s a transcript here. It wasn’t a bad speech – not his best, but reasonable. But some of it annoyed me… Cameron showed a strong belief in standing together against globalization, and then expected plaudits when he shouted down such an approach in the European Council.

And the Olympics showed us something else.

Whether our athletes were English, Scottish, Welsh or from Northern Ireland…

….they draped themselves in one flag.

Now, there’s one person who didn’t like that…

…and he’s called Alex Salmond.

I’m going to see him on Monday to sort that referendum on independence by the end of 2014.

There are many things I want this coalition to achieve but what could matter more than saving our United Kingdom…

…let’s say it: we’re better together and we’ll rise together – so let’s fight that referendum with everything we’ve got.

Contrast that with…

Here’s something else this party’s done in government.

Last December I was at a European Council in Brussels.

It was three in the morning, there was a treaty on the table that was not in Britain’s interests…

…and twenty five people around that table were telling me to sign it.

But I did something that no other British leader has ever done before…

…I said no – Britain comes first – and I vetoed that EU treaty.

We’re doing big, Conservative things.

“We’re better together, and we’ll rise together” compared with “Britain comes first”. Anyone noticing a double-standard?

Those of you who’ve read me regularly will know I’m vehemently pro-European. But what bothers me most about the europhobe camp is the fact that they so clearly ignore their own arguments when it suits them. Apparently, we’re all better together. And I believe it’s true. We’re living in the era of globalisation. As Cameron said “We are in a global race today. And that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Sink or swim. Do or decline.” That’s true. It’s why I can’t truly support Scottish or Welsh independence, though I am a strong believe in localism and regional autonomy. As barriers come down, as the world gets smaller, the small get squeezed out.

Even Britain. We currently punch well above our weight. We assume “[t]hat we can earn our living as a major industrial country…and we will always remain one.” But “[i]t has fallen to us to say – we cannot assume that any longer. ” I agree with Cameron thus far. But then why is he acting so negatively towards our membership of the world’s largest market?

If Britain is to compete in the new globalised world, Britain needs to make friends, not enemies. The very fact that Cameron was in a situation where it was 26 vs 1, shows a lack of leadership and strategy. It used to be that Sweden and the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, could be counted on to support British free-market interests. When Cameron has alienated even then, it is a tragic day for Britain.

It isn’t even true that the old countries are on their way down. If we take a look at the following graph, the Guardian has made it look like our export market is ever increasing in the developing world, countries such as the BRICS of India, China, and Russia. Which is true, our exports there are increasing, and faster than to most European countries or Commonwealth states. But it takes a second-look to notice that our trade with China and India combined is still less than our exports to Ireland. Add in Russia and Hong Kong, and it’s still only equal to our exports to France. And despite Cameron’s attitude, our trade is still growing with the vast majority of Europe.

UK Trade exports graphic

And while Cameron argues that the Old World is “sclerotic, over-regulated, spending money on unaffordable welfare systems, huge pension bills, unreformed public services”, that ignores that Asia is building welfare states across the continent. The demographic crisis that is going to hit China necessitates at least some form of a welfare state. It’s true that they’re not very regulated – but that’s not always a great thing. Remember, regulation is what stops our children’s toys being slathered with poisonous lead paint.

It may be true that while we are, at present, having a tough time across Europe “on the other side of the world, China is moving so fast it’s creating a new economy the size of Greece every three months” it doesn’t matter to us if they aren’t buying what we have to sell.

As László Andor, EU Social Affairs Commissioner said today in an interview with the FT, Cameron’s attempts to curtail the right of Europeans to live and work in Britain merely serves to damage our economy. Why should we close our doors to the best and brightest, when instead they could contribute to our economy. When the UK economy benefits to the tune of £90bn per year from levy-free trade throughout the 27 country European Union, and yet only pays an £8bn contribution to the EU for access… I cannot find a better example of “we’re better together, and we’ll rise together”. I just wish Cameron would wake up to this.

Europe Day!

Enlargement of the European Union (animation) ...

Enlargement of the European Union (animation) European Community European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Europe Day!

Today is a day to celebrate everything Europe has done for us – from unity and peace to the single market.

The date itself is somewhat contentious. May 9th is the date of the Schuman declaration of 1950, widely held to be the inauguration of the European Union. The Council of Europe on the other hand, celebrates it on the 5th, the date of its inauguration in 1949. I personally prefer May 9th, because it’s also Victory Day in Eastern Europe, the date when Nazi Germany finally capitulated in World War II. The date is May 8th in much of Western Europe, so the 9th shares two important dates.

The EU hasn’t got the best reputation in the country I know best – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Several prominent Europhobic MPs and MEPs on twitter are trying to get #NotoEU trending.

Stuff like the above makes me sad.

Because it’s just like this…

People forget everything that a unified, harmonious Europe has managed to do for us. So, here’s a brief rebuttal.

  • Worker Mobility – you can live, work, study, and retire anywhere in the EU!
  • Consumer Protection
  • Cheaper Flights
  • Faster Travel on Eurostar etc
  • Compensation for Air Delays
  • Lower Data Roaming Charges on Mobile Networks
  • Food Standards
  • Regional Development
  • Language Protection
  • Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics
  • Protection of Wildlife
  • Driving Licences RecognisedContinent-Wide
  • Controlling the Use of Chemicals
  • Better Rights for Temporary Workers
  • Safety Standards for Children’s Toys
  • Equal Rights for Passengers with Low Mobility
  • Milk for Schoolchildren
  • Common Research and Development Programmes
  • University Research Funding
  • Disaster Relief
  • Competitive International Trade
  • European-wide Policing via Europol and Eurojust
  • Cleaner Beaches and Rivers
  • Easier to Buy Property Abroad
  • No Death Penalty
  • Smaller Bureaucracy than the BBC
  • More Aid to Developing Countries
  • European-Wide Medical Care in Emergencies
  • Non-discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, ethnicity…
  • Pet Passports
  • ERASMUS Student Exchange
  • Da Vinci work experience exchange
  • No Border on the Continent
  • 20-20-20 – Strong Support For Environmental Protection
  • A Single Voice in World Trade
  • Counterweight to America and China
  • Greater Representation Internationally – Stronger Together Than Apart
  • Stability and Prosperity
  • Peace and Harmony on the Continent for the First Time
  •  Influence over Modernisation in the Balkans and Turkey
  • BENT BANANAS!

See a few of these lists for more.

The Europhobes are right – Europe really does affect every area of our life. But I firmly believe that we are better for this, not worse. Leaving the EU would be a disaster – we’d either leave the world’s largest trade bloc, or simply have no sway in its development. We’d lose our rights to multi-nationals and pervasive government. Yes, the EU isn’t perfect – is anything? In Britain, today’s Queen’s Speech is trying to finish the job of Lord’s Reform started a century ago by Lloyd George. But Britain, and all European nation states and nationals, need to be actively involved in Europe in order to build a better Europe… not let everything that we have achieved together fall apart.

Remember that.

Happy Europe Day.

Jack Straw, Labour’s former Foreign Secretary, has decided, in his infinite wisdom, that because the European Parliament suffers from low voter turnout, people treating it as a referendum on the government, and a lack of connection between the EU and the citizens… something radical is needed.

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European Council on Foreign Relations

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, the European Council on Foreign Relations, the first Pan-European think-tank, released details of its European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012.  It offers an overview of how EU member states dealt with Foreign Policy issues in 2011, and tells us who the leaders and slackers were on each issue. As a Blogger/Journalist, I was offered an advance copy, but under embargo. But the embargo is now lifted, and I can release my analysis of the Scorecard.

Bearing a British passport, I’m interested in how the UK fares under scrutiny…

By the way, this post was featured on Liberal Democrat Voice’s Top of the Blogs: The Golden Dozen! My first, and thanks very much to Helen Duffett for including it, and Alisdair Calder McGregor for recommending me.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

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