27th November 2012: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on Multi-Tier Governance* in the European Union.
"I have a question relating to something that Mr. Galtieri said. He said that the important distinction to make was not between countries that were in the Euro-zone and those that were not. He said that a more important distinction was between that country that had opted out of the Euro-zone (the United Kingdom) and those that had not opted out from the Euro-zone but had a derogation from it, which means that they have permission to delay entry.
"How confident is Mr. Galtieri that all nine will eventually join the Euro-zone? If any of the nine should have second thoughts, would there be a mechanism to force them to do so. I asked this same question to Mr. Barroso (President of the Commission) as part of a larger question but he declined to answer.
"If the nine were indeed to join the Euro-zone, your** problem of multi-tier governance would be diminished because only the United Kingdom would remain outside it and might become an associate member as suggested by Mr. Duff. However, if a substantial number remained outside, your problem would continue".
* Multi-tier governance arises when fewer than the full twenty-seven members are involved in a particular project (such as the Euro-zone) and the question arises as to whether the representatives of non-participating countries should take part in decision-making on that project. This could apply to members of the European Council (heads of state or government); the Council of the European Union (a representative of the government of each member state) which is a co-legislator with the Parliament; and of course members of the European Parliament.
The solution to this 'problem' varies according to the nature of the project in hand. Representatives of the seventeen Euro-zone do meet as a body separately from the ten non-members, when only the Euro is being discussed.
Meetings about the so-called Fiscal Pact (an agreement about avoiding budget deficits) started in the European Council in December 2011, involving discussion between heads of government or state of all twenty-seven countries. The Fiscal Pact was eventually agreed to by twenty-five countries but not by the United Kingdom or the Czech Republic. It therefore has the status of a private agreement (an intergovernmental agreement) between the twenty-five countries and is not an official EU treaty. Nevertheless, the European Court of Justice can adjudicate on such agreements. However, it would appear that only one of the twenty-five countries and not the Commission, can bring any alleged breach to the attention of the Court.
** the problem for the supporters of the EU Project.
Mr. Roberto Galtieri said simply that the nine countries had a legal obligation to join the Zone but did not elaborate on what mechanisms would be used to enforce that obligation!
27th November 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on European Statistics on Demography.
He told his fellow MEPs on the Committee:
"I am less concerned with the statistical approaches and procedures and more with the substance and subject matter of the statistics.
"The Explanatory Memorandum mentions "increasing and complex demographic challenges" but avoids enlarging on the main one.
"It refers to fertility rates, old age dependency rates and relative total population figures and their implications for representation.
"However, there is no mention of the massive changes in the origins of population that have been taking place in the large towns and cities of Western Europe for a mere sixty years or so. Eastern Europe has yet to enjoy these transformations.
"There is an underlying assumption in EU documents such as Europe 2020 that falling birth rates and ageing populations can be compensated for by importing young migrants from the Third World. They are assumed to take off their cultural overcoats at the port or airport of entry and don European cultural overcoats. Well it doesn't work quite like that.
"The ordinary members of the native populations of Europe respond quietly by moving out to the suburbs.
"This transformation is ignored by official statistics as though it were not happening. There has been no real debate about the desirability of these changes.
"There is a reference in the Explanatory Memorandum to 'a high risk of heterogeneity of the statistics'. However, there is no reference to the high risk of heterogeneity of the populations."
27th November 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on The Establishment and Financing of European Political Parties.
"I am not in favour of state or EU funding of political parties at all. Parties with supporting memberships should not need it. It is, at best, a misuse of public funding.
"However, the right enjoyed by those parties that constitute a majority to lay down rules and criteria according to which other parties are or are not recognised and are or are not funded and the right enjoyed by those majority parties to deliver a judgement on whether other parties meet the criteria, becomes potentially a corrupt misuse of public funds.
"When one of the criteria is the programme of each party and another is who should be its candidates and how they are chosen, that strikes at the heart of democracy and freedom of association.
"It is all very well to use the word 'democracy' and sprinkle it liberally, like an overused condiment but that does not make it really democratic.
"What I am most concerned about is whether we shall move to a position in which only European political parties will be able to contest European elections."
9th October 2012: In his second contribution of the day, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee AFCO on(Measures) Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union.
"It is the view of the British Government, that this subject has little to do with countries outside the Eurozone and nothing at all to do with the United Kingdom with its complete opt-out. However, in December, it did seem to be reluctant to impose on others what it did not want to impose on itself.
"The British Government now seems content to see the straight jacket on the seventeen members of the Eurozone tightened more and more, because it (the Fiscal Compact) does not apply to us.
"Of course, if you prepare a restrictive prison for other people or other countries, you must not complain when you become an inmate and are subjected to the same conditions. A future euro-enthusuastic British Government will not provide a referendum on the Euro any more than its predecessor provided one on the European Reform Treaty (or Lisbon Treaty).
"It is the opinion of the Rapporteur that the surveillance and budgetary control of countries in the Eurozone could be made binding and subject to the control of the Court of Justice on the simple basis of the amended Article 136 of the TFEU in conjunction with Article 121(6).
"However, he believes that they should be used only if they strengthened Parliament's role with regard to the detailed implementation of Articles 121(3) and (4).
"Without reading Mr. Galtieri's very detailed report, I might not have read Article 121 of the TFEU. It would not be not my first choice for bedtime reading.
The preceding Article 120 states: "Member States shall conduct their economic policies with a view to the achievement of the objectives of the Union".
Article 121 says: "Member states shall regard their economic policies as a matter for common concern and shall co-ordinate them within the Council in accordance with the provisions of Article 120." Later in 121(4) where it is established that the policies of a member state . . . . . risk jeopardising the proper functioning of economic and monetary union, the Commission may address a warning to the Member State.
"There is no distinction in most of the subsections of Article 121 between countries inside and countries outside the Eurozone. However, the UK under Protocol 15 does have a derogation from 121(2). I learned this from Mr. Duff's book, On Governing Europe.
"Paraphrased versions of this have appeared in the popular press but when the words are seen in their legislative form it makes it clear that the restrictions currently being imposed on the Euro-zone could, under existing law, with minimal changes, be imposed on states outside the Euro-zone."
9th October 2012: This week the European Parliament is in Brussels and yesterday Andrew Brons spoke during a debate, held in the Constitutional Affairs Committee on the European Union's Mutual Defence and Solidarity Clauses.
He told his fellow MEPs on the Committee:
"This debate is about the political (as well as the operational) dimensions of this subject.
"Armed conflicts do not usually take place accidentally, although they might occur without long term premeditation. There are nearly always one or more political decisions preceding them.
"Conflicts are often and erroneously seen to start with the beginning of hostilities but before the hostilities begin there might be a whole catalogue of words and actions and perhaps long term resentments, rivalries and conflicting claims. The answer to the question of, "Which country started armed action?" might not be the same as the answer to the question, "Which country caused the conflict?"
"I would not want to see my country or other European countries for that matter, drawn into a conflict that was not of our or their making and which we and they did not fully understand. When we recruit service personnel, we recruit them to put their lives in great peril but we must endanger their lives only with the utmost caution.
"However, my mind is to some extent placed at rest, whilst my suspicions are roused at the same time, by the response of the EU to the plight of Cyprus. The Lisbon Treaty came into force almost three years ago. How much solidarity has Cyprus seen to help it to rid itself of the Turkish occupation, which seems to fall within the definition of "armed aggression on its territory", under Article 42(7) of the Treaty on European Union. Turkey has not even suffered the cancellation of its candidate status, let along armed removal of its occupying force that is resented by Turkish Cypriots as well as Greek ones.
"So what is this all about, if it not really about mutual defence? It is:
* in the words of Amendment 10, about: "reinforcing the European i.e. EU identity"; or
* in the words of Amendment 11, about "providing for compulsory, binding solidarity among member states"or
* in the words of Amendment 80, "for enhancing the EU leverage among European citizens giving tangible evidence of the benefits of increased EU co-operation".
"I believe that the mutual defence and solidarity clauses have the same main aim as everything else that the EU does from the creation of the Single Market to the Fiscal Compact.
"The aims of all are no more primarily military than the aims of the latter are primarily economic. The aim of everything that the European Union does is to advance the European Union Project of progressive integration."
6th October 2012: Last week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) during a hearing into Differential Integration (varying degrees to which member states were integrated into the European Project).
"Professor Weiler’s presentation was most interesting and extremely frank*. My perspective is unashamedly Nationalistic but I hope that I am not indifferent to the plight of people in other member states.
"It is easy to describe the reluctance of Northern Europeans to bail out the South to be simply a manifestation of meanness but the absence of a European wide demos cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. An extension of own resources (or EU-levied taxes), as suggested by one of the other speakers would not make that problem disappear.
"Among the reasons that I would oppose bail-outs, if my country were in the Euro-zone, is that they are not an act of generosity. If the EU really cared about the people of the South, it would free them from the Euro, with its overvaluation and its cycle of austerity, unemployment and sheer misery.
"Professor Kumm’s idea of competing visions of Europe at European elections was both interesting and imaginative.** However, his idea is of alternative and competing ways of advancing the European Union Project and not a choice between accepting and rejecting it.
"I am not a Little Englander and I do have a European Perspective. I do not want to turn my back on Europe as a cultural and, to varying extents, ancestral entity. However, I do want to reject the European Union with its desire to create a political entity of Europe, in which the only thing European about it would be its geography and its name. It would be neither culturally nor demographically European.
"Most of all, I dislike the way in which the terms European Union and Europe are treated as though they were synonymous. They are not. People who are opposed to the European Union are described as Anti-European, which they are not.
"Europe, unlike other continents, is not a natural geographical entity. Geographically, it is simply the Western third of Asia. Its identity is dependent on its distinctive but similar peoples and cultures.
"The irony is that the EU talks about Europe but is determined to change its identity by cultural relativism and demographic replacement."
* (He had commented on and lamented that the EU’s legitimacy in the eyes of the electorates was almost non-existent and that there was no solidarity felt by the North of Europe for the plight of the people in the South).
** Professor Kumm suggested that competing candidates for the Presidency of the Commission should head competing party lists so that European elections would really be about EU issues
5th October 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech in a debate during a hearing in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on Differentiated Integration (which means the different extent to which member states have agreed to be subject to the integration process).
"Professor Louis said, "Impressive progress has been made since the crisis that would have been unthinkable before the crisis". He was presumably referring to the moves towards fiscal union, budgetary surveillance and bail outs.
"It would seem that the 'crisis' (or recession as we would call it) has been seen, not so much as a problem but as an opportunity and an excuse to advance the progress of integration. It is as though the integrationists have a vested interest in economic problems and the misery that they cause.
"Anybody could have seen, at the introduction of the Euro that it would be highly unlikely that its external value would be, and would remain, suitable for the several different economies that used it. Whatever the cost that misery has facilitated EU integration.
"Professor de Witte said that the European Stability Mechanism was authorised by the treaty change to the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which is the Rome Treaty, as amended. However, he said that the treaty change followed and did not precede the establishment of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Did the treaty change operate retrospectively. If not, does that cast doubt on the validity of the establishment of the ESM?
"Professor de Witte continued to say that the European Court of Justice can adjudicate on intergovernmental agreements (agreements like the Fiscal Pact that are agreed to by fewer than all twenty-seven member states and are therefore unofficial agreements and not official EU treaties. However, only member states and not the Commission can refer alleged breaches of such agreements to the European Court of Justice."
* Professor Louis said that what he had said was a fact but that did not mean that we had taken advantage of the crisis.
* Professor de Witte said that the Commission could ask the European Court of Justice to consider breaches of EU law but not the breach of an intergovernmental agreement unless it involved a breach of EU law. He said that treaty changes could not operate retrospectively, so the European Stability Mechanism could come into being before the treaty changes but could not give financial support until 1st January when the treaty changes came into being.
22nd September 2012: On Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels, there was a Hearing on Democracy in the European Union in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, which lasted all day. Andrew Brons attended the whole of the morning session - he was one of very few MEPs to do so - while perhaps a dozen or so MEPs attended some part of this morning session.
Andrew told his website:
"I was about twenty minutes late in arriving for the afternoon session. The two MEPs on the platform – the Vice President presiding over the sitting and the member who had organised the event – seemed unusually pleased to see me. I sat down and looked around to see members of the AFCO Secretariat, MEPs’ assistants, an MEP from another committee, some representatives of the Commission and some of the outside speakers from the morning session. However, I looked in vain for other members of AFCO. I had the weighty responsibility that afternoon of being ‘the audience’. The Vice President and the organiser of the hearing looked embarrassed. I hope that fellow nationalists will not think that I have ‘gone native’, when I admit to sharing their embarrassment.
"While I appreciate that MEPs often have contradictory commitments - indeed, I (unusually) missed the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) meetings on the same day and the following one. However, I do believe that before an expensive hearing is organised, to which nine (expensive) experts are invited, perhaps there should be some investigation into the extent of interest in the event and the likelihood of members attending.
"During the afternoon I was able to contribute to the debate on Deliberative Democracy and said:
"Do you agree that democracy cannot exist without freedom of communication? This must mean the absence of any legal constraint other than those against the encouragement of violence.
"However, there must also be freedom to hear what has been said and to read what has been written. This must imply a freedom of access to the media and the duty, at least during election time, to report what all participants in the electoral process have to say."
"In his response, Dr. Andreas Gross seemed to go further than my suggestion and said that those exercising power have a duty to listen!"
19th September 2012: This contribution from Andrew Brons yesterday came during a debate on Direct Democracy during a hearing in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO).
"Reference has been made (by Professor Schiller) to ad hoc referendums as distinct from constitutionally or legally prescribed ones. The problem with these (ad hoc ones) is, of course, that governments can hold them or not or decide when to hold them, on the criterion of whether or not they are likely to win them.
"The United Kingdom's referendum on the European Economic Community has been described as a referendum on accession. In fact we acceded to the EEC in 1972 with effect from 1973 but the referendum was not held until 1975 - on whether or not we should withdraw from it. The conservative (with a small 'c') default position was to keep the status quo. There was also a most intense propaganda campaign and more than twenty times as much money was spent on securing a Yes-vote than on attempting to secure a No-vote.
"We in the United Kingdom were promised a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty but as the Swedish Presidency admitted to me in answer to a question, only the names and the symbols were changed to produce the European Reform Treaty (later the Lisbon Treaty). However, this change provided the UK Government with an excuse to renege on its promise to hold the referendum.
"The question was raised of whether or not there ought to be a facility for the public to trigger a referendum. I would say 'yes' so long as there was no restriction on the questions that could be asked. Perhaps we should have had a referendum in the 1950s or 1960s in the UK and perhaps some other European countries on the mass immigration that all of the major parties seemed to think was such a good idea to impose on us. However, I suspect that that question would have been deemed to be inappropriate. That, incidentally, is a code word for a question that would have produced the wrong answer.
"With regard to the question of whether or not there should be referendums on fiscal policy or government spending, I feel that it might be misguided to hold one on one or the other in isolation.
"However, it might be acceptable to have a referendum on a general approach or policy on economic problems. For example one might be held on the austerity programme being imposed on Greece, which is based on the assumption that increasing unemployment and cutting incomes of the Greek population will help Greece get out of debt. For this referendum alone, I would reduce the age for participation to that of primary school children. Even they would know the answer to this one!"
19th September 2012: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate on Participatory Democracy, held at a Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) Hearing.
He told MEPs:
"I was going to say that I wish that I had a £ or even a Euro for every time that I have heard the word 'democracy' this morning. There is often an inverse correlation between the use of the word democracy and its reality. This is particularly evident in the names of countries; the use of the word democratic usually indicates that it is not!
"The European Union does not want democracy as an end in itself, regardless of the outcome. Indeed few individuals or institutions do. The EU wants democratic approval for its decisions; it wants democratic legitimacy for what it has already decided to do before any formal vote is taken.
"Structures and procedures are devised with the express purpose of ensuring that democratic decisions are the right ones.
"Indeed, words have been devised for democratic decisions that are not the right ones, such as populism, which is a misuse of the word, which originally referred to appeals to the whole people regardless of class. What they really mean would be popularism(if it were a word!) which would refer to attempts to court superficial popularity. Another pejorative word that we have heard this morning is irrational to refer to decisions that are disapproved of.
"When a referendum produces the wrong answer, we have another referendum (and even another one after that!) until the right answer is given. Two were held in Denmark over Maastricht; and two were held in Ireland over both the Lisbon Treaty and the Fiscal Pact.
"When the Constitutional Treaty was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands, the Treaty was withdrawn and repackaged as the European Reform Treaty (later the Lisbon Treaty) and the repackaging was used as an excuse for not having any referendums at all! I have heard admissions since I have been in this Parliament that this was a repackaging of the same Treaty.
"Of course, the wrong decisions can be avoided altogether with massive spending to support a Yes vote. This is what happened in the UK in 1975 and in Croatia in 2012 when propaganda was dressed up as information.
"Citizens' Initiatives can be controlled by restricting the proposition: banning trivial ones (rather a subjective judgment); insisting that they are consistent with so-called European values; and one invented by Mr. Sefkovic in answer to a question from me - they must not be contrary to the interests of the EU, another subjective judgment. The number of signatures necessary (one million) from several countries would ensure that only Initiatives organised by parties, unions or corporations would stand any chance of success. The idea that a million ordinary people from several countries would act spontaneously to sponsor an Initiative is a dangerous delusion.
"What the EU wants is participation of the people on its terms. It wants people to participate obediently. EU participatory democracy is not a bottom-up democratic expression of people but a top-down democratic centralism.
"It is a myth that despotisms do not want people to vote; they insist on it."