Time for A Federal Europe?

It’s not hard to figure out that I am European Federalist. I hope that some day there will be some sort of European Federation, which manages to bring all the people closer together. But how will it happen and are current ideas holding this up?

One of the biggest threats to a Federal Europe is this idea of Budget commissioner with the ability to veto budgets of member states. Could you imagine this happening in any federal state? No way! As Jan Macháček writing in Prague’s Respekt states

If individual states in the U.S. were ordered by a central authority to rubber-stamp the financial budgetary rules and budget advice sent to them (i.e., change their own constitutions), to submit their budgets to Washington for approval even before they voted on them themselves – and then send them back for inspection (which is the principle of the European fiscal compact), it would lead to a revolt and the American federation would break up.

But as also pointed out building a federation also takes a long time and the American one was only completed in the 1930’s!

But how are we going to build this federation?)

One idea was floated in Milan’s Il Fogio by Lucio Caracciolo. He suggests a referendum across the 27 (soon to be 28) member states on the issue of more integration, not a treaty text.

The time has come to ask Europeans if they want to bring their country into a union – yes or no. By referendum. And not by one of these national consultations in which the voters of a Member State approve or reject (in the latter case, voters are called to the polls solely to approve the text) a treaty that is unreadable and, therefore, that remains unread.

This referendum among the twenty-seven Member States of the European Union (from next year, twenty-eight), which should take place at the same time and under the same rules throughout the European community, would pose the fundamental question: “Are you for or against the emergence of a European State comprising all member states of the European Union or of some of these states (specify which)?”

This would be a good idea. While it would be a consultative ballot, the power of this on European Leaders would be immense. The appetite for further integration would be quite obvious and ensure countries that want it can move forward. This would have important outcomes for the future of the European Project and how much support exist for a “Federal Europe” among Europhiles!

Whatever the outcome, we would finally have a clear picture of the degree of Europhilia among Europeans. Which is something that the Europhiles have always carefully avoided. It should, however, be clear by now that if we can one day unify Europe or a part of Europe for good, to make of it a force for democracy in the world, it will happen only on the ashes of Europeanism. On the ashes of its complacent paternalistic reflexes and its fundamentally elitist and undemocratic culture. The result is that, 55 years after the Treaty of Rome, not only do we not have a unified Europe, but we are exciting base emotions and tearing out the liberal and democratic roots of its member countries.

Of course it will be a tricky road. As Jan Macháček points out that identity is what will hold this back, something I have long said also.

Critics of federalism argue that the very idea is naive, and even dangerous, because there is no European political nation. An American is first an American, and only then from Minnesota. A German is first a German, and only then a European.
The emergence of a European identity, however, can be “artificially” promoted and accelerated. This and that may help here and there: direct election of a European president, an Institute of European citizenship, some minimum common European tax, and so on.

But at the end of the day I agree with Claudio Magris writing in the Corrierre Della Sera, it is a long hard road, but it will be worth it.

The establishment of a real European state is the only way to ensure that we can look forward to a worthwhile future. The problems we face are not national, they are of concern to us all. It is ridiculous, for example, to have different immigration laws in different countries, just as it would be to have different rules on migration in Bologna and Genoa. Furthermore, a genuine European state would result in significantly lower costs by, for example, doing away with the expense of endless committees, agencies and parasitic institutions.
Europe is a great power, and it is painful to see it reduced to bickering, or worse still, to the timid powerlessness of a building residents’ meeting. If it is to really become an entity that is able to punch its weight, the European Union will have to establish a decisive and authoritative government, give up on wooly ecumenisms, and abandon any reluctance to confront those who keep their own houses in order by dumping rubbish on their neighbours. No doubt it will have difficulty assuming a role of unshakeable authority, but if the European Union continues on the dangerous course on which it is currently embarked, its days will be numbered.
For the first time in history, we are attempting to build a large political community without recourse to the instrument of war. However, the rejection of war implies the need for a functional authority, and it is in this context that hesitancy is not democracy, but rather its death. It is natural for believers in Europe to feel dejected and uneasy, as I did on that in evening in Madrid, when faced with the spectacle of a European unity that is crumbling and fading away. However, that does not mean that we should surrender to melancholy. We have not been brought into the world to indulge our moods, or to give into gloom like so many small-minded sufferers from indigestion. No matter how we feel, we must continue to work for what we believe to be right, or at least for options that we believe to be better, with the stubborn conviction of “non praevalebunt”, they shall not prevail.
We must be prepared to fight against the evils of pessimism and weariness, which are continuing to gain ground. However, that is not to say that we cannot acknowledge the discrepancy between our terrible era and the aspiration for unity in the great professions of faith written by Europe’s founding fathers. As Karl Valentin, the great cabaret artist who inspired Brecht, liked to put it: the future was better in those days.

 

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Santorum’s Out

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The Race for the Republican Presidential Nomination just became easier as Rick Santorum has pulled out of the race this evening.

Santorum who was trailing Mitt Romney in the Delegate race for the nomination phoned Romney before making the announcement.

“We made a decision over the weekend, that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting,”

After the announcement Mitt Romney issued a statement

“Senator Santorum is an able and worthy competitor, and I congratulate him on the campaign he ran,” Mr. Romney said. “He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation. We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity.”

The road to the convention in Tampa now looks clear for Mr Romney for the nomination setting it for a clear race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the Autumn.

EU split on Palestine

 

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Today’s vote at UNESCO’s General Conference on full membership for Palestine gives an idea of how a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) vote could go if the membership bid gets that far. More worrying for me is the complete split among European Union member states showing the failure of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

The application for membership was accepted by 107 Yes votes to 14 No votes with 52 Abstentions. The EU was split as follows;

Countries voting YES:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Cyprus
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

Countries voting NO:

  • Czech Republic
  • Germany
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden

Countries who Abstained:

  • Bulgaria
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • United Kingdom

So that meant the EU split 11 Yes, 5 No and 11 Abstentions. Some Common policy there?

The question of Palestinian membership of the United Nations is going to be a long protracted one as long as the United States is threatening the use of the Veto on the UN Security Council. This is holding up a vote in the UNGA on Palestine’s membership. But at least now the Palestinians have an idea of the amount of support they have within the UN System.

Of course the fallout of this vote will not show in the EU’s CFSP and will be ignored. But the big fallout will either be the US withholding funding from UNESCO or withdrawing from the organisation completely.

For now though the idea of a Common Foreign Policy is a long way off, and today’s vote proves that.

Addendum

The applicant Countires to the EU voted as follows:

  • Croatia: ABSTAINED
  • FYR Macedonia: ABSTAINED
  • Turkey: YES
  • Iceland: YES

The potential Candidate Countries voted as follows:

  • Albania: ABSTAINED
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: ABSTAINED
  • Kosovo: Not a member
  • Montenegro: ABSTAINED
  • Serbia: YES

To see a full list of how countries voted check out the post on

The Human Province

Belarus Shuts Down OSCE Office

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Radio Free Europe is reporting that the Government of Belarus has ordered the shut down of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe‘s (OSCE) office in Minsk.

This was because it had fulfilled its mandate according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh.

This is on top of the multiple arrests of activists and opponents of the Lukashenka administration.

The OSCE has stated that Belarus is still “a considerable way” from holding a democratic vote. The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, also condemned detentions and assaults of journalists in Minsk following the election as “unacceptable.”

On Thursday Lukashenka issued a statement on the arrests saying “Don’t you demand [their release] from me. We are doing the way they do things in France and Germany”. Then he added, “If anyone pushes me and demands [the release], it will only make matters worse”. (As quoted by Interfax-Belarus & translated by Denis Baranov of Free Belarus. Original quotes in Russian: http://www.interfax.by/news/belarus/85687)

Worrying times for those opposed to the regime in Belarus.

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US Midterm Elections

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So Tuesday is the first electoral test faced by President Obama, since his election in 2008. That year also saw much celebration by the Democrats as they won many seats in the Senate and House of Representatives as well as a number of state houses. This year that could change. The Republicans look set to win a number of Senate and House seats, this could be because of or despite of the Tea Party.

Senate

There are a number of very interesting Senate races this year. They are mainly in the west. Two that I will be watching closely will be Carly Fiorina’s bid to unseat Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in California. Most of the polling have Boxer retaining her seat, but not by a very wide margin. Most give Ma’am Boxer a margin of between 3 and 8%, so this could be an interesting race.

The other race I will be watching closely will be Senate Majority Leader’s Harry Reid’s attempt to hold his seat against Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada. This is a loss that will be a great victory for the republicans, but if he hangs on, there wont be much for the Republicans to gloat about.

Of couse their are other races to watch. They include the race for Obama’s old seat in Illinois. It looks like that will be a very close one. Republican Mark Kirk looks set to win the seat and defeat the Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, as he has fallen behind in recent polling.

Other races that will be interesting are Florida, West Virgina and Alaska. It will be interesting to see how Christine O’Donnell does in Delaware. The big question here is, will Republicans get a majority? I think they will get a bare majority of 51 to 49.

House

The US House of Representatives is always interesting as the entire house is up for re-election. Here there is set to be a big change. The current state of play is the Democrats have 256 seats and the Republicans have 179. The Republicans need to gain 39 seats to gain control. Most forecast have them winning 40-60 seats so it is expected to see a good few seats change hands. And of course the results of this election will give us a better view of Democratic’s position across the country.

Some of the races to watch are Arkansas’s 1st District, Delaware’s At-Large District, Florida’s 2nd, 8th and 22nd Districts and Idaho’s 1st District.

Governors

39 state governorships are up for grabs also on Tuesday. A few of these are very interesting. In Rhode Island, independent Lincoln Chafee is leading the race to become senator. He was a former Republican senator but endorsed Obama in 2008 and this has led to an interesting race.

In Vermont, Republican Brian Dubie and Democrat Peter Shumlin are in a close battle for the Governorship. In current polling there is a 1% gap!

In Florida, Democrat and Chief Finance Officer of Florida, Alex Sink is locked in battle with Republican and Health Care Activist Rick Scott. In some polls there is no difference between them!

Other states that will be interesting to watch include Obama’s home state of Illinois, where the Republicans could gain. Other states I will be watching Ohio, Oregon and Minnesota.

So I will be getting up early on Wednesday morning (as I have work) to catch up with what has happened and see how it may pan out. Should I make predictions? Maybe tomorrow!

Have you got any tips before I make them?

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A European Army??

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Last Tuesday I attended the Alliance Francaise de Cork/UCC European Symposium. In the afternoon we split into round-tables. I went along to the round-table entitled “The Question of the European Army”. This round-table was led by Quentin Perret of Atelier Europe, Nevin Power and Frank O’Callaghan.

Quentin seemed to be on his own on the Pro-Army side. He based his arguments around four points.

  1. Security
  2. Influence
  3. Military Division
  4. Efficiencies from Commonalities

On the other hand the Irish in attendance were very much opposed to the idea of an European Union. The arguments weren’t as easily grouped as we weren’t the ones guiding the discussion, but they centred around the following ideas

  1. Neutrality
  2. Language
  3. Agreement at EU Level
  4. lack of need for hard power

It was quite an interesting discussion. I think in Ireland we do need to discuss this more. We seem to have a “lalala – fingers in ears” reaction to any discussion about a European Army. I know I found it hard to discuss myself.

Towards the end of the discussions we found two scenarios when a European Army is possible. The appearance of another. For example, if Russia became belligerent against the EU member states,  or if the United States decided to withdraw from supporting European security. Then there will be a big hole in European defence structures and a lack of ways of European Armies to be deployed around the world. (NATO is heavily dependent on US Military might). I think it is highly probably in either of those cases that a European Army will be on table.

One thing that Quentin said though is true, if Europe is to become a European Federation (United States of Europe) then it will certainly need some sort of army. That is true of any state.

Ireland has a strange relationship with military power. As a small country we bat way above our weight without having to resort to use military force, or the threat of such force.

I think we need to start really talking about a European Army in Ireland so we can be properly aware of when it is acceptable to us that an army is created. It should not be a discussion that should be led down the road of conscription and the loss of the triple lock etc, they will still be our Governments choice. As long as the Common Foreign and Security Policy is an area where unanimity is needed then there will be no European Army, but what will Ireland’s relationship with an Army set up under the enhanced co-operation procedure be?

This is a big and complicated issue and one there needs to be civilised public discourse on. Will it happen? I doubt.

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A Climate Change Agnostic

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So the COP 15 summit is coming up in December in Copenhagen. I will be blogging about it in the lead up to it both here and on the Think About It blog when launched. Like Joe I have a bit of a manifesto going, for example learning more about Climate Change, COP15 and finding out Ireland’s poistion and expert and NGO poistions on it.

For me though this is will personal aswell. While I applaud government efforts in the area of Climate and I applaud Governments who will meet their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and the original United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. What I am not sure of, is can we do anything do change for good?

While I don’t think meeting targets under Kyoto is a waste of time or anything like that, we do need to lower emmission and reduce dependence on fossil fuels as they are running out. But will these changes do anything to stop or lessen the impact of Climate Change?

Is human action only adding to what would happen naturally? Thats what I want to know?

Also will the big countires like China and the USA sign up to this deal? Will the targets be effective and acheivable? Will it actually make a difference?

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Th!nk Round 2 Open for Applications

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The 2nd round of the Th!nk Blogging Competition is open for applications. They are looking for 81 bloggers from Europe as well as having guests from India, China, Brazil and the USA.

The focus of the competition this time round will be the COP15 Climate Change Confrence in Copenhagen, Denmark.

You can sign-up for Th!nk2 on the home page as well as finding out more about the competition.

PS: There is prizes and I have signed up.

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Shock: A Politician that wants to be fired?

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Yes, you read that right, A Politician that wants to be fired. A rare thing? Well I have found one in Cheboygan County in Michigan, USA. His name is Dennis Lennox a Republican from Topinabee. He was elected as a County Drain Commissioner. Why does he want to be fired? He has nothing to do.

“There is nothing for the drain commissioner to do in Cheboygan County except waste taxpayer money,” said Lennox, who defeated a two-term Democratic incumbent in November on a platform of reforming local government and abolishing the office. “We simply don’t need a drain commissioner — we don’t have any drains for the office to oversee and manage.”

Michigan law mandates the election of drain commissioners in counties with a population over 12,000. In smaller counties, the office can be abolished with statutory duties, responsibilities, obligations and requirements devolved to the county’s road commission.

Under Lennox’s proposal, the population exemption would be boosted to 35,000 — allowing rural, cash-strapped counties to save taxpayers money and eliminate unnecessary expenditures. Something every level of Government should be doing.

“Taxpayers deserve public servants who will put their constituents ahead of themselves,” said Lennox. “This proposal is a commonsense reform that saves money and makes government more efficient.”

Senator Jason Allen (R-Traverse City) and Representative Kevin Elsenheimer (R-Kewadin) have both committed to drafting and introducing legislation, and it’s hoped that Representative Gary McDowell (D-Rudyard) — whose district includes part of Cheboygan County — will support the proposal.

The Board of Commissioners will meet on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. The text of the proposal is as follows

WHEREAS, Section 280.21 of Public Act 40 of 1956, commonly known as the Michigan Drain Code, requires a County Drain Commissioner be elected in counties with a population over 12,000, as determined by the last United States decennial census.

WHEREAS, many counties having population in excess of 12,000 may find it more expedient, economical and in the best public interest to have the duties of the County Drain Commissioner vested in the Board of County Road Commissioners.

WHEREAS, because of the population quota of 12,000 here in before mentioned, certain counties, including the County of Cheboygan, are electing County Drain Commissioners only because of said statutory regulations.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners request for the third time since 1955, that the Michigan Legislature amend said section of Public Act 40 of 1956 to allow counties under 35,000, as determined by the United States decennial census, to abolish the office of County Drain Commissioner and transfer statutory duties and responsibilities to the Board of County Road Commissioners if the duly registered electors vote in the affirmative in a general election.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners hereby requests its legislators, Senator Jason Allen and Representatives Kevin Elsenheimer and Gary McDowell, to introduce the legislation providing for such amendment.

I wonder how many positions we can do without in Ireland? I also wonder how many would put themseleves forward to be fired like that? I know the Junior Ministers kind of did, but they didn’t put forward an actual proposal, they just mentioned the idea..

Best of luck to Dennis. Check out his website firedennis.com to keep up with developements and media coverage.

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