Thursday, March 22, 2007

Go Barroso!


On the 50th anniversary of the EU, I should admit I am not a big fan of Eurocrats. But Barroso is a star. Kind of.

As pointed out at the EU Referendum blog, it’s a weird world when EU bonkers-crats like the President of the European Commission (or something), Jose Barroso, starts saying something sensible.

But it’s happened.

Look what he has to say about the UK’s New Labour plans to (green) tax cheap airlines, so the (Polish) masses travel less, just as they have got out of the habit of going everywhere by horse and cart.

EU Ref writes:

He …hails cheap air travel as "a great thing for our civilisation" and expresses grave concerns over fashionable plans, floated by [New Labour], for personal carbon rationing and suspects that proposals to restrict CO2 emissions from an individual's activities will lead to intrusive surveillance into private lives.

"I do not see any need to establish these intrusive approaches that may reduce the freedom of our societies," he says. "We have to find the right balance and I believe the right balance is not found if we start giving these kind of personal good or bad behaviour certificates to people."

What next? Brussels decides to end the obscenity of CAP agricultural subsidies?

Nah...I was just dreaming.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Global warming means that flying across the Atlantic is now as unacceptable as child abuse

George Monbiot,
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/1999/07/29/meltdown/

opamp said...

Unfortunately it seems that Brussel's environmental policy is not about environment any more, it is about increasing bureaucracy, taxes, and privileging some companies against others.

Consider their newest idea: elimination of classic lightbulbs in favor of compact fluorescent lamps. The rationale is decreased energy consumption. However, the proponents of that idea are silent on the fact that the fluorescent lamps contain mercury vapors, and therefore require careful handling and special disposal and recycling when they fail. Of course, the recycling fee is already included in the lamp price. I am however unable to imagine common people going to shops to return the failed lamps; my bet is that they will just drop them with other trash, relasing mercury into the environment...

And why the directive? Well, check who is the main producer of CF lamps...

geez said...

Yet, child abuse is much more prevalent than transatlantic air flight.

braveliver said...

Well, istm the Irish are the problem, as usual:

>Click here "http://www.csindy.com/csindy/2007-03-22/news.html"<

If this didn't work as a hyperlink, what am I doing wrong?

varus said...

Beat said:
I should admit I am not a big fan of Eurocrats. But Barroso is a star. Kind of.

well, i agree on the general contempt of eurocrats, as part of the general species of burocrat, however what exactly don't you agree with in the EU. Generally our rights are far more protected as EU citizens than as national citizens. Recent labour cases in Poland as regards supermarket practice has undoubtedly proved this.

Also,

I saw Damo's invitation to his blog and wondered if i could do the same. I am new to blogging and so unsure sure of the general etiquette. I read with interest your discussion with Sonia a few days back. I saw you point, but was unsure of whether general promotion is ok. I set it up a two weeks ago and so far have not had a hit (rather depressing). As such i have not added any new topics and the two i have have been also covered by yourself. However, feel free to peruse at www.lodzwonderer.blogspot.com

I welcome any feedback,

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

Opamp

Unfortunately it seems that Brussel's environmental policy is not about environment any more, it is about increasing bureaucracy, taxes, and privileging some companies against others.

Brussels policies (plural) are more and more about changing people’s behaviour. That’s even more spooky.

Geez
Maybe they should put a tax on pedophilia. That would stop it…. Eh?

Braveliver (mine too)
For hyperlink you have to make a hyper link code and put the url in it (you can find this code does very easy on the web by googling

HTML codes tips.

And look for ‘link’

Varus

No probs with the self promo, varus.

I was having a go at Sonia because I have known her (him?) for a longtime on the blogosphere and I know that she/he can take a sharp remark. But I actually like the person who does the blog. Strange politics, but clever.

But with new bloggers like yourself then you should blow your trumpet as loud as possible and you can come here and drag as many readers to your blog as you like.

And don’t worry. It takes ages to get comments but you will get them. If you keep at it. And keep visiting lots of other blogs and leave your trail (much like my dog does visiting trees, as it were).

But no comments doesn’t mean no readers. And if you say something interesting then for sure people will read it.

Damo said...

Thanks for the advice to Varus Beatroot. I'm new to blogging also and quite undisciplined when it comes to updating. I should have asked permission before putting my link on a previous post but good to hear your open for new bloggers to have an initial springboard into cyber-expression.

Interestingly, the Irish government have the environment at the top of their agenda during their annual gathering this weekend - more to do with real politik and the fact that they may find themselves in coalition talks with the Greens after summer elections.

However, each and every one of us who are privileged enough to be able to afford and have access to cheap flights have a serios responsibility in terms of measuring our carbon trail - just like you should be responsible for your dog if he does a shu-shu (spelling) or a number two on the pavement while blabbering with your friend and not paying attention to his requests to find a greener spot.

Al Gore's documentary on climate change is very educational and should be mandatory viewing in schools, etc. Of course, leading by example is better than leading by powerpoint presentations and Al would be able to survive in a smaller house than his current mansion.

I think that New Labour for sure have a hidden agenda - if they really gave a shit about the state of the planet they would not renew billions of pounds investment for the Trident nuclear weapons system.

The cheap Euro-airline factor may be small in terms of the global global warming impact, compared to China's coal power stations and the U.S. gvt.'s and public's obsession with polluting the planet, but it is a factor that citizens have to be educated about and act on accordingly - no point in waiting for sensible rhetoric from pseudo-green Blair and frequent-flyer miles Barroso!

varus said...

Beatroot,

thanks for the feedbakc ref the Blog.

-

As far as your opinion about the EU goes, you didn't respond to my questions. I am to take it that from: "Brussels policies (plural) are more and more about changing people’s behaviour. That’s even more spooky." that you are against the EU, as you see it as intruding on peoples lifes? Are you more in favour of a confederate style loose association of nations approach to Europe. Or perhaps no EU? I for one am all for a federated Europe. I understand that there is a lot of work to do before we get there, but i do not fear the loss of soverignty and feel that as one country we will be stronger, in every sense of the word.

beatroot said...

Varus
I think the EU (meaning the Brussel Sprouts) feel that they are distanced from the people of Europe. It’s not democratic and people feel little relationship to it. So a lot of the time (apart from spending half their budget on the CAP) they are looking for a mission in which to connect themselves to the people. The nonsense over the ‘constitution’ is one case in point. Another is trying to impose all sorts of stuff on nations that nations themselves.. Recycling, food labeling, taxes….it’s an institution trying to seem relevant, when it isn’t. I don’t mind entering into all sorts of relationships with nations (and not just European ones) but the out of touch monolith in Brussels is not one of them.

varus said...

Beat,
CAP is an abomination, it is against EU competition rules and extremly harmful to farmers outside of the bloc, such as Africans.

However,
You said: "Another is trying to impose all sorts of stuff on nations that nations themselves.. Recycling, food labeling, taxes….it’s an institution trying to seem relevant, when it isn’t. "

As an Ex-pat, i want to fell that there is a common standard across the EU and that my right are protected, regardless of where i travel. I agree that there is an image problem, and that they are struglling to justify themselves, but i feel that most of the fault for this lies with national governments, as they continuly strive to undermine the EU. Aslo in the world of politics,the EU parliment is seen, (at least in Britain and Poland) as a retirement ground for politians who are nolonger useful. Or which is perhaps worse, an out of sight waiting area for those who have made mistakes (Mandleson). Until the political parties send their best to Brussels, how can it achieve either sucess or credibility.

beatroot said...

Until the political parties send their best to Brussels, how can it achieve either sucess or credibility.

The best? Who would that be then? I don't think you could even fill up a phone box with 'the best' politicians in Poland or UK, let alone a parliament!

And they don;t send the 'best' because the EU parliament has no power.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Varus, Africans probably, on net, benefit from the CAP. Since CAP was revised (in 95 or so, can't remember) African farmers have had equal and complete access to the EU market. And they mostly grow crops which are not in direct competition with EU crops (there's a couple of exceptions). As a result what the CAP means for Africans then is basically cheaper food. And there's basic economic theory. What do you do if someone tries to sell you stuff cheaply? You buy it!

The costs of the CAP falls mostly on EU consumers and Latin American farmers (which is why it was Latin American countries like Brazil, not African ones, which led the walk out at the next to last round of trade negotiations).

The "CAP is bad for Africa" meme gets repeated often but there's little basis in sound economic reasoning or data to support it. This, perhaps venial, sin is committed even by reputable economists who instinctively dislike the CAP but in their reflexive desire to slam on it forget their basic principles. And every principles of econ text will tell you - if your trading partner is subsidizing their industry, let'em.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Great blog BTW, even though you're totally wrong about central bank independence.

beatroot said...

No, I am completly right about central bank. And the EU one. Especially the ECB!

Cheers!

YouNotSneaky! said...

ECB is probably the most decent among the EU institutions. That may not be a very high standard but still. Bad things happen when the government gets control of the money printing press. And not just in developing countries. For US one need only look at the case of Arthur Burns and Richard Nixon. Or take Italy, pre EU. Or think about this - would you rather have Balcerowicz or Lepper (who's been pretty frank about cranking that sucker up and giving out "free" money) in charge of the money supply? Independent Central Banks are "democratic" in the same sense as federal judges (in US) - they're appointed by a democratically elected executive.
Central bank independence and inflation are pretty tightly related - less of the former means more of the latter, for quite intuitive reasons. On the other hand, aside from crisis situations, the ability of central banks to tweak the unemployment rate or economic output is limited, transitory, and generally not worth the cost in inflation it usually entails. In this case focusing on price stability, while standing ready to provide liquidity in case of a major shock (like stock market crash), makes perfect sense.

Cheers.

varus said...

Younotsneaky said:

"the CAP means for Africans then is basically cheaper food. And there's basic economic theory. What do you do if someone tries to sell you stuff cheaply? You buy it!"

Ok, so far so good, (for the consumer) but what of the small holder/producer. How are they affected by the sheap imports? I take your point that the 'African argument' is perhaps a little over used, however artifically managing market prices is not good for everyone, as you seem to suggest.

Beatroot said:

"The best? Who would that be then? I don't think you could even fill up a phone box with 'the best' politicians in Poland or UK, let alone a parliament!

And they don;t send the 'best' because the EU parliament has no power."

I agree that a phone box may be a more appropriate size :) - but seriously, it a bit of a chicken and an egg situation. Until national politics takes the EU seriously, then the Parliment will not have true power, and until it has true power, then people will not take it seriously. - Answer? Unfortunatley, as i am not an advocate of drastic change within any political system or entity, then the path we are on seems the best to me. With gradual incramental steps, the EU is gaining more relavence for the population of Europe. As part of this though, i feel that we need a consolidation period. Expansion is all very well, however, we need to sort out the relationships between the current 27 before any more are allowed in.

beatroot said...

Younotsneaky
I take your point about Lepper being in charge of monetary policy! But my point about ‘independent’ central banks is that they de-politicize economics. Because ideological battles appear to be in the past, economics has taken on the characteristic of not a social science but almost a natural one.

That’s bad. Interest rates are a political matter. We can make choices.

As far as the ECB is concerned this gets worse. Now rates are being set by very distant faceless people…’experts’…that people feel no control over.

And we also have ‘one size fits all’ policy, where one rate is being set for different types of economies. Ireland vs Germany is an obvious example, where you have quite a dynamic economy like Ireland’s struggling with an old dinosaur like Berlin’s.

Varus
With gradual incramental steps, the EU is gaining more relavence for the population of Europe.

Have you any evidence for that? I would argue to the contrary – it’s seen as an irrelevance.

varus said...

Beatroot said: "Have you any evidence for that? I would argue to the contrary – it’s seen as an irrelevance. "

An irrelevance for who? I agree that many people look at the EU with distain, they mock it and think it is a cumbersome giant with no real point. However, these same people are the first to run to the EU when an employment issue arises. Or the case you used as the basis of your post on abortions. Here the EU provides a balance and check against the irrationalities of national government. It is as with most things (like car insurance for example), an often not used thing which most people only realy see the benifits of when their lives are directly affected.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Varus, like I said, the typical African small farmer/producer does not grow crops which are in direct competition with those grown by European farmers. Different climate and all that. But I don't mean to defend the CAP which is a pretty stupid program (it was much worse in the 70's and 80's). Most of the costs though fall on EU consumers.

Beetroot, sure, interest rates are political decisions. So are cases decided by the Supreme Court, or policy set by regulatory bodies such as the FDA. Just because a particular issue is political does not automatically imply that it should be decided by mob rule. With respect to institutions which need to take a long term view, such as a central bank, it is pretty important to isolate the actual decision making from politicians who usually can't think past the next election. Empirical record bears this out. In countries with non-independent CBs money supply always goes up right before elections, resulting in temporarily lower unemployment, but more inflation and lower growth in the long run. Pretty much the only way to avoid it is independence.

As far as the ECB. Well, these faceless bureaucrats in Frankfurt are actually the bankers and experts from the various countries appointed by their respective democratically elected governments. As far as I know the organization of the ECB is pretty similar to the organization of the US Fed, with its regional banks and such. Countries get votes and a say as to what the proper intrest rate policy should be.

The "one size fits all" policy is not a consequence of the independence of a central bank but just one of the costs of having a common currency (there's obviously benefits on the other side of the ledger). It is no different a problem then that faced by say California and New York. One currency means one monetary policy for all, end of story. It might mean that EE countries like Poland may not wish to join the Euro since their economies are quite different from that of WE but it has nothing to do with independence or the structure of the ECB.

beatroot said...

Varus
Here the EU provides a balance and check against the irrationalities of national government.

EU. Rational? Are you serious? Look at the above post about Irving…

Sneaky
Just because a particular issue is political does not automatically imply that it should be decided by mob rule.

If by ‘mob’ you mean ‘the people’ then I am afraid it should be ruled by them. That’s called democracy. It’s only people who regard the people as a mob who have anything to be afraid of…

varus said...

Beatroot,

i said the irrationalities of national government. I aggree that often the EU can be irrational also. - can two irationals balance each other? I think yes.

Sneaky,

i take your point and maybe i was just quoteing misconception.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Well, I consider myself to be a proud member of the mob, so that phrase was used tongue in cheek. But no society, no matter how democratic leaves ALL decisions up to majority rule. It couldn't function if it did and it probably wouldn't be a very fun to place to live in. So again, just because it's political doesn't mean it should be up for a vote.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

Then sneaky, you are advocating representative democracy. Which is fair enough (except for the Swiss).

But the EU is not representaive of 'the mob'. It has very vague aims and the only directly elected part of it has not much power - it's a bit like the House of Lords. The EC has members nominated by national governments, but I do not remember voting for any of them myself.

That is not rule by 'the mob', and I have no power, consequently, to get rid of these people.

varus said...

Beatroot said: "That is not rule by 'the mob', and I have no power, consequently, to get rid of these people."

But you can vote for the national government and so its indirect representation. I'm not saying its great, but by voting for national politians who would choose the people you want in the EC, you would affect it.

beatroot said...

The poeple on the EC get a ten year term. That's over the period of two national parliaments.

It's that way so the appointments are NOT political.

Therefor they are not representative and I can do nothing about them if I think they are crap!

eulogist said...

That's not correct: EC members get five year terms, the same as the European Parliament which has to approve their appointment. The EP can also vote the EC out, as it would have done in 1999 with the Santer Commission had it not abdicated by itself the day before the vote would take place (and knowing what the result would be, of course).

So, its not perfect (formal votes of non-confidence require 2/3 majorities and can only be tabled for the Commission as a whole, not individual Commissioners - though there are ways to circumvent both requirements in practice). But it's not as bad as you say either.

beatroot said...

I stand corrected. Maybe it's just that they have the appearence of ten years terms because they get the nod from someone without ever asking us first.

Drag a few people off the street and ask them to name more than two from the EC and you will have a lot of blank faces staring back at you.

These people have no connection with anyone at all. Not democratic.

eulogist said...

Well, you wouldn't be the first British person to confuse the EC with the Central Committee of the SU Communist Party ;-)

But seriously: you are right of course, there is a democratic problem in the material (not so much the formal) sense. But what do you suggest? I see only two ways to go:
- Either downgrading the EU and cross-border cooperation to 19th century levels so that also most policy-making moves back to the national level (which I think would be rather unwise at a time when nearly everything in the real world is globalised).
- Or upgrading our 19th century democratic models and institutions so that they start playing a real role in things that take place at supra-national level. But note then that the bottleneck here is not formal democratic powers (although they too could be improved). The real problem right now is what politicians and media (and the public) *do* with the powers they already have over the EU level (which is practically nothing). It's the mindset that has to change, not the institutional set-up (unless you want to go down that 19th century road I mentioned above).

Someone reminded me a few weeks ago that there was nothing natural, organic, or democratic about the way those nations we so cherish today came about in the 19th century. They are artificial constructs as well, the result of political will and necessity. So true. But if the 19th century's belligerent and intermarrying monarchs could shape Europe's map to their own needs, and still get nations that are alive and vibrant, why couldn't the EU do something similar today in a way that is much more transparant, democratic and beneficial for the common good?
I am a strong believer in democracy in the sense that I think you have to be prepared to put anything to the test in a referendum. But I do not believe that the electorate is able to set the political agenda or to formulate solutions in any significant way (although the possibility, citizens' initiatives, should exist as a matter of principle). You need opinion leaders, politicians, governments, to lead the way. If you wait for the people to take the initiative on everything, just nothing happens.

beatroot said...

Hi Eulogist, nice to see you back.

They (nations created in the 19th century) are artificial constructs as well, the result of political will and necessity. So true.

But is that correct? OK, Germany, Italy etc were ‘political constructs’ but they were product of years of conflict and struggle.

All nations are created that way. There are two other types of construct:

Those which are the creation by colonialism (Iraq?)

And those which are created ‘top down’ supra states, like the EU.

Both types are not good and are anti-democratic. And week attempts at creating something that people can ‘relate to’ – EU Constitution? – are doomed to fail.

eulogist said...

But is that correct? OK, Germany, Italy etc were ‘political constructs’ but they were product of years of conflict and struggle.

Conflict and struggle by whom? Not by the general public at least, which only suffered from its effects but was never the demanding party. Ruling elites were.

Until the 19th century, people felt connected to their city or region - not to the larger entity (often a kingdom) it belonged to. It took romanticism and years of propaganda to make people love "their country" enought that they were willing to die for it (as was necessary to raise effective mass armies using conscription, in order to fight even more wars).

Of course, the idea that our respective nations are the result of politically inspired brainwashing seems hard to accept today as we have been brainwashed ourselves. Ever compared your own history schoolbooks with those of a historic enemy nation? It's fun! Those others get it all wrong, don't they? ;-)

The creation of our nations was a top-down process. The only way the EU is different here, is that it is not allowed to do it the same way our nations did it...

beatroot said...

Eulogist
Conflict and struggle by whom? Not by the general public at least, which only suffered from its effects but was never the demanding party. Ruling elites were.

And you can say that about many conflict in the past up until industrialization and ‘mass society’. Tory vs. Whigs in England, for instance.

But ‘elite’ struggles do represents the conflicts in society that drag it forward. So they are real motors for change. Not to be underestimated.