Monday, December 29, 2003
Pathetic Pieties

The EU was setting out the "Austrian solution" for Serbia tonight: everyone who is acceptable group together to keep out the unsavoury nasties with their history of torching villages and living off the narco-economy. After all, the Serbs decided to vote for the nationalists because the "democrats" were not providing Serb voters with what they wanted: security, jobs, economic prosperity and also a touch of national pride.

European diplomacy was more concerned with picking at the scabs of the Balkan wars, living up to the ideals of their transnationalist ideology and preserving Kosovo in aspic so no independent observers could witness its sad decline into a mafia state under the veneer of an EU protectorate. In order to comply with the dictates of the West, the Serbs had to surrender their leaders to a war crime tribunal, witness the destruction of cultural treasures in their historical heartland and meet the stringent conditions attached to reconstruction aid.

Javier Solana stated that,

"I appeal to all democratic forces to work together in order to ensure that a new government based on a clear and strong European agenda can be formed rapidly," Mr Solana said.

However, expenditure demonstrates that the EU used the unimaginative stabilisation and accession process, without taking into account Serbia's particular problems as a defeated nation. This one size fits all approach that made no concessions to local sensibilities is a standard problem of the trannational approach. It does not understand nationalism and ignores its effects upon the political process.

Serbia required more attention from the European Union and greater skill in strengthening its moderate nationalists. This would have paid more dividends than poncing around like some Jacobite pretender imagining they have a claim on the global throne.

The Serbs can vote for whomever they like but the return of the nationalists was far more likely with the policies that the EU pursued.

(23.27, 29th December 2003)
Most European of Nations

Italy was always the country that looked towards Europe for good government as an alternative to the arbitrary stagnation of their own politics. With the end of the Cold War, there was a sense of renewal during the "clean hands" campaign but the underlying lack of checks and balances in their political system reappeared under the abuses of Berlusconi. (There is a similar story for Britain under Blair.)

Now that Romano Prodi is retiring from the European Commission, he is returning to the fray of Italian politics in order to challenge Berlusconi for Italy's political leadership. His bias, seemingly influenced by the BBC, was already clear during Italy's presidency of the European Union:

Prodi launched a broadside in November against his right-wing rival's coalition government, arguing that it has caused anguish to Italy. That earned the rebuke of European conservative leaders, one of whom argued, "This is improper conduct for someone who holds an office which should guarantee neutrality for everybody."

There are few other countries in the EU where the Commission is viewed as atraining ground for the top job rather than the graveyard for political elephants. it also repeats a point that bears repeating. The one-way gravy train of Europe is still influenced by elections and a possible Prodi victory bears this out. He would steer Italy into the Franco-German camp of integrating counterweight, a possibly irreversible step.

France and germany may well bide their time until a government more sympathetic to their aims is returned in Italy. Once three of the original six line up, will not the final retiring member, Holland, conform?

(22.56, 29th December 2003)
Sunday, December 28, 2003
The Revengers' Salad

There is a delicious irony that Blair, master of spin, has been undone by his own inability to stay "on-message". After claiming that a network of laboratories manufacturing weapons of mass destruction had been located, Blair was contradicted by Paul Bremer, the governor of Iraq, who stated that the information was false.

It was, he suggested, a 'red herring', probably put about by someone opposed to military action in Iraq who wanted to undermine the coalition.

'I don't know where those words come from but that is not what [ISG chief] David Kay has said,' he told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme. 'It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me"

Now, Blair must have jumped the gun and is probably privy to more information than Bremer, as a Head of State. However, his search for public justification leads him into yet another public storm about weapons of mass destruction and the Hutton Report will be published soon.

Perhaps President Bush should issue Blair with a pager and scripted press releases...

(9.47, 28th December 2003)
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Just a link to the post that I have written on White Rose concerning the Schengen Information System and its incorporation of biometric data.

(23.52, 27th December 2003)
Friday, December 26, 2003
Frontpage Symposium

Frontpage Magazine recently ran a symposium entitled "European Union and the Death of NATO?"

In the differing views and the interesting idea of Israel in NATO, most participants agreed that NATO could not survive if the European Union achieved the harmonisation of defence and foreign policy. None had any words of praise for the de facto federation or its leadership and accepted that, in the short-term, such a development was detrimental to the interests of the United States.

However, one of the contributors, Vladimir Bukovsky, viewed the EU as a Menshevik body. The EUSSR. After all, one of the questions that plagues observers of the EU is: how does the EU fit into the European political traditions. Is it socialist, jacobin, a weberian technocracy, a corrupted bureaucracy, a Holy Roman Empire - what is it?

What is the EU today? It is an undemocratic superstate (governed by 25 unelected Commissars as opposed to just 15 in the former Soviet Union); which most nations join involuntarily, under tremendous pressure; which is socialist by nature (just read their Social Charter!); which has the same ideological goal of eliminating national states; which already has its own nomenclatura (about 30,000 unaccountable bureaucrats who don't even pay taxes); which has the same type of in-built corruption as the Soviet Union used to have ( last week, according to the same article in the WT, the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg released a 400-page report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU budget).

EU auditors could vouch for only 10 percent of the $120 billion the bloc spent in 2002. It was the ninth successive year the auditors were unable to certify the budget as a whole). And so on, and on, and on. I can spend hours pointing out those similarities. Admittedly, it is a much milder version of the Soviet Union (as yet), but a version nonetheless. Simply put, this is a Mensheviks' version, not the Bolsheviks' one. This is why two years ago I called it EUSSR, and this quip is becoming very popular in Europe today.

(17.32, 26th December 2003)
Will France become the first country to leave the European Union?

The question in the title has secretly nagged at me for some time. After the French Presidential election, it was clear that centrist politics had declined in favour of the traditional extremes of Left and Right and the environmental movement. This electoral arithmetic ensured that France met some of the preconditions for withdrawal from the European Union.

The scenarios for withdrawal from the European Union will always involve the domestic politics of a particular Member State. An obvious statement, but nevertheless one that allows us to examine what political parties will favour this development. From the protest parties that have arisen in Europe over the last ten years, it appears that 'coalitions of the willing', disillusioned by their existing political elites, can emerge rapidly and gain strong support in political systems with proportional representation and low electoral hurdles that bar smaller parties. The development of the Dean campaign, with its internet based organisation and grassroots support, indicates that existing continental political systems are also vulnerable to these surprising and unpredicted movements.

Recent polls have shown that the European Union is losing public support, especially when tied to the fortunes of the dominant political class. The structure of protest or extremist parties and the issues upon which they are based depend upon the peculiarities of each Member State. They can range from the racist and nationalist organisation of Jean Marie Le Pen to the regionalist Northern Alliance of Umberto Bossi and the liberal Fortuynists. However, their protests will react against the prevailing political structure, a structure increasingly identified with the EU.

Withdrawal will prove the political holy grail of a protest party, outsiders excluded from the spoils of the state and determined to gain their time in the trough of despondent taxpayers. Certain countries have proved or are proving vulnerable to these forms of political organisation including France, Italy under the 'rule of Berlusconi' and Holland. From May 2004, the nascent and unformed polities of Enlargement with their will o' the wisp parties and fickle voters (just like France really) will provide an enlarged canvas for the writ of protest.

(17.05, 26th December 2003)
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Basra has now reached a level of stability that still eludes some parts of Iraq. Although the British army may point to years of experience in Northern Ireland, this is never a good analogy unless no-go areas and colourful murals start to spring up in Umm-Qasr.

However, the problems of reconstruction including a policy that favours US companies to repair an infrastructure built by the Soviets, French and Germans results in warped priorities. The case of the airconditioners at a dysfunctional power plant in Basra is telling:

A clue lies at the Najibiya power station in Basra, Iraq's second largest city located south of Baghdad. Sitting uninstalled between two decrepit turbines were massive brand new air-conditioning units shipped all the way from York Corporation in Oklahoma. Pasted on one side of each unit was a glittering sticker proudly displaying the "Made in USA" sign, complete with the Stars and Stripes.

It's just what the Iraqis don't need at this time. Since May, Yaarub Jasim, general director for the southern region of Iraq's electricity ministry, has been pleading with Bechtel to deliver urgently needed spare parts for their antiquated turbines. "We asked Bechtel many times to please help us because the demand for power is very high and we should cover this demand," Jasim said. "We asked many times, many times."

Two weeks ago, Bechtel finally came through. Before it could deliver any of Jasim's requirements, however, Bechtel transported the air-conditioners, useless until the start of summer six months from now.

But even if the air-con units become eventually useful, emphasized plant manager Hamad Salem, other spare parts were much more important. The air-conditioners, Salem pointed out, were not even in the list of the equipment and machine components that they submitted to Bechtel.

Security is also an increasing concern for the Iraqis. However, as our soldiers prepare for Christmas in the south of Iraq, thay are finding that age-old preconceptions of military behaviour have to be curbed in Iraq where men are tactile and women are forbidden:

Also on the danger list were women and some tabloid newspapers which tend to show more female flesh than the religious Iraqis think permissible.

As for women, the servicemen are warned not to engage in any conversation with local females which is seen as highly disrespectful, especially to their husbands, father or brothers. Men, however, can make long speeches of greeting and are very tactile. Blokes holding hands or kissing in the street is normal.

(23.24, 24th December 2003)
From Stasis to Stagnation?

The record of fraud that has dogged the budget of the European Commission for many years had little effect upon the well paid MEPs approving expenditure for 2004. The budget of €99.7bn was approved by a majority of 345 with 10 abstentions. Despite the greater publicity given to the issue of fraud within the European Union, accountability has not developed within its parliamentary institutions. Perhaps the recent breakdown in negotiations over the European Constitution have engendered a cautious culture of "business as usual" and an unwillingness to rock the boat at a time when public disillusion with the European Union is increasing.

This has also resulted in the rejection, even on the part of the original six, of the Franco-German project of a "hard core" integrating their state structures. italy and Luxembourg have both rejected these proposals. Whilst Martin Walker has described this as a legacy of Thatcher's view of Europe, a simpler and more truthful explanation is that most European politicians do not wish to abandon the draft Constitution or embark upon even more radical institutional transformations.

The incoming Irish Presidency is setting out a programme of accepting the reforms laid down by the Nice Treaty. However Bertie Ahern, Irish Tiaoseach, has condemned the proposal for a "hard core" an un-European:

In an interview published in the French daily Le Monde, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said, "The idea of a 'two-speed Europe' or of a 'hard core,' where certain countries would try to implement their agenda separately from the others, does not correspond to the common philosophy of the union."

He continued, "I really do not see what would justify a two-speed Europe and I am not convinced of its eventual advantages."

The European ideology was always a tool of the political elites, designed to reflect the positive and consensual benefits of integration. Values of harmonisation and solidarity were written into treaties and the draft Constitution. Now, there is a far more visible tension within this ideology between those who champion the existing consensus and argue that all reforms should be carried out, taking the interests of other Member States into account, whilst the call of further integration between a smaller group becomes a divisive objective that places the goals of particular countries for a state above the perceived needs of the Union as a whole.

This does not undermine the points of my previous post. 'Variable geometry' is viewed as a useful strategy because it cannot take effect without the agreement of most Member States. The current conservative reaction for the status quo amongst the political classes in Europe ensures that projects in this area are likely to remain dormant until jaded pols reacquire an appetite for further negotiation.

(23.02, 24th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
A 'two-speed Europe' is bad for Britain

Jack Straw made an unpublicised speech in Ireland as part of the welcome that Britain was giving to the new President Member State of the European Union. After an aside reminiscing about Heath's treachery, Straw provided some insight into the government's view after the postponement of negotiations on the constitution.

Indeed according to Hugo Young [in This Blessed Plot], we have Ireland to thank for our ability to use English at the European negotiating table. Young says Edward Heath had instructed British officials to speak French when they took up their seats as new members in Brussels - a promise he had given to Pompidou during our accession negotiations. The Irish delegates, however, were bound by no such undertaking - and along with the Danes they made clear from the start that they wanted to speak English. In due course, the British representative felt it would be absurd for him not to do so as well; and soon English's equality with French was established.

Whilst Straw wished to give the impression that the European Union was business as usual, based upon the Enlargement process and the continued institutional arrangements settled at Nice, his speech included two alternate possibilities. Firstly, the Government wished to shore up its support for the Constitution and maintain the consensus crafted before December's debacle.

In formal terms, nothing in the new treaty will be agreed until everything is. But as Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi said at the end of our meetings last weekend, there are already some 82 points were consensus is close. Many are points which Britain worked hard to achieve: retaining unanimity for issues such as defence, tax, EU finance, social security and criminal law; changes on energy, civil procedural law and the so-called European foreign minister; and confirmation of the fact that any further treaty change will need to be subject to the approval of national parliaments. We are getting the right outcome in these debates by engaging with our partners rather than sulking on the sidelines.

As Jack Straw had already stated that this speech was rewritten following the failure (another rhetorical sop to the Constitutional Europhiles), his alternative support for variable geometry was the start of teh government's ideological support for alternative structures that increase the integration of Britain in the European Union.

Finally, there is going to be quite a lot of talk over the next few months of 'core' or 'two speed' Europe. On this I would make this comment. It is already the reality of Europe that there are different groups pursuing deeper cooperation in certain areas. Some countries are inside the Euro and some outside. Some countries are inside Schengen and some outside. Some countries are participating in European security and defence operations - in Macedonia and in the Congo - but not all. So groups, of varying membership, are already a feature of the EU.

Even though Straw recognised that Europe, as presently structured, is in economic and political decline, his answers were limited and unconvincing. Since this government is at the forefront of defence co-operation, the themes of variable geometry and a 'two-speed Europe', once so hopeful for Eurosceptics, are now the engines for the further integration of Britain in Europe through intergovernmental institutions.
Sunday, December 21, 2003

One shouldn't be churlish in commending the Foreign Office or our intelligence services for achieving a foreign policy objective, namely, the reeling in of Libya to the civilised world. After all, the deployment of chemical or biological weapons on missiles that could reach our shores was a threat, due to our current alliance with the United States. One less threat to Great Britain is a preferable state of affairs.

Nevertheless, there were other countries whose national interest coincided with or even outweighed ours in the disarming of Libya. France, whose own citizens were victims of Libyan state sponsored terrorism, appears to have played no part in these negotiations. Dominique de Villepin's call for compensation for these victims demonstrates that the entire process must prove frustrating for France since their soul-searching analysis raises questions about why their own approaches to Libya have proved so fruitless.

In terms of diplomacy, the actions of Qadhafi tend to place political success upon those states who defend their interests in the Middle East through force of arms. Those who champion a separate European defence policy or privilege soft power over force have been wrongfooted. Those within the EU who would pretend to challenge the United States find that the occupation of Iraq has resulted, by the end of 2003, with increased American hegemony across the entire Arab world and the overt dismantling of their nuclear capacity. The dangers are contained in the Arabian Peninsular and points east.

Libya will open itself to inspections from the United Kingdom and United States, perhaps under the auspices of the United Nations. This is a far greater move towards disarmament than the pallid acceptance of inspections that Iran signed.

Bilateral negotiations between nation states, often involving the threat of force, gains results. Negotiations using international treaties and institutions on issues of defence or security achieve more limited objectives, often using bribery. Long live realist foreign policy.

(11.07, 21st December 2003)
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Opera yes, West Ham never

"Football and women" was Berlusconi's suggestion for fostering cooperation amongst the vexed negotiations on the Constitution. Sounds good, but it proved too populist for the political elite.

John Palmer of The European Policy Centre argues, in a paper on the failure of the negotiations, that variable geometry will prove the motor for integration within Europe.

These will almost certainly involve some kind of “two speed Europe” with one or more core group of countries moving ahead to integrate among themselves further and faster than all the 25 may be ready to accept.

Neither Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany nor President Jacques Chirac of France made any attempt to disguise their ambition to forge ahead with plans for an EU “hard core.” Indeed President Chirac indicated that, following the successful launch of the defence initiative, the next area where the vanguard countries would begin to integrate their national policies and institutions was justice, police and internal security. There are fewer signs of a consensus about a hard core moving ahead with economic integration.

In these negotiations, Britain was close to conceding on one of the redlines for the higher European goal.

To be fair, the Italian Presidency’s job was made none the easier by the insistence of a number of other countries to hold dogmatically to their “red lines” on negotiating issues. This led to a reportedly abrasive exchange at one point between Mr Blair and both President Chirac and Chancellor Schröder. They insisted that if there was to be a compromise agreement, then Britain as well as others would have to abandon at least one of its red lines involving maintenance of the British veto over tax, social security, foreign and defence policy. There is no doubt that British diplomats feared they would come under irresistible pressure to give some ground on at least one of these policy “no go areas” once the stand off with Poland and Spain was resolved.

More surprising is that the weakening moves towards integration have not abated in the areas of defence or foreign policy, with the new co-operative structures indicating a European presence.

Ironically foreign, security and defence policy (CFSP/ESPD) may prove to be one important counter trend to the wider ebbing of the integrationist tide. The Brussels summit enthusiastically endorsed the revised European Union security strategy put forward by the High Representative, Javier Solana. At the same time the Union has nailed its colours to the mast of “effective global multilateralism” with a reformed United Nations at it heart. The two policies mark out clear elements of divergence from the policies of the current United States administration – even while acknowledging the primary importance of the trans-Atlantic partnership.

With the agreement on an EU arms agency along with the French/German/British led drive for a European Union defence force which will include an embryonic military planning staff attached to the Council of Ministers as well as to NATO military headquarters, CFSP and ESPD are providing an important impetus to a clearer collective definition of the European Union’s global role. The more this develops the more powerful the arguments will become not only for the creation of a European Union Foreign Minister (now on hold) but also for some move towards qualified majority voting on foreign policy (if not on defence matters).

Palmer concludes that the relationship between the United States and Europe will be subjected to greater divergence over the medium to long term due to the institutionalisation agreed to above.

Lastly, on the civil liberties front, the EU remains wedded to biometrics and a common border policy.

However, the summit separately called on Justice Ministers to finish their examination of the proposed European Agency for the management of cooperation at the Union’s external borders so that it can become operational by January 2005. The European Council also wants to accelerate the introduction of “biometric identifiers” in passports and the development of a Visa Information System. It also noted the “persisting political obstacles” in the way of directives on a common asylum policy.

The truce on the Constitution may have been constructed in time for Christmas but it is not the only front.

(16.37, 20th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Has There Been a Deal?

Saddam Hussein caught. I wonder if he will now help the Americans find all those atom bombs they buried in the desert last summer - in return for which he will drag out the remainder of his miserable life in a nice war prison with satelite TV while the layers argue over jurisdiction and procedure?

Whatever the case, I bet the resistance with now gather pace. All that has been keeping the lid on things in Iraq was the faint possibility that he might come back. Now he is out of Iraqi politics, all those old men with beards will seem so much more persuasive, and pressure will mount for the Americans to go away.

Call me an old cynic, but this capture may not be quite what was desired....
Monday, December 15, 2003


Who's winning?

Before I go, this article in the Spectator by Correlli Barnett is quite sobering reading. Written before the capture of Saddam, it points out that terrorism hasn't exactly slowed down since invading Afghanistan and Iraq.

What is refreshing is his treatment of the fundis as a rational (if not particularly nice) adversary who should be fought as such.

Who gives a Shiite?

So Saddam has been captured. It's good news for the Iraqis who were persecuted by him and for the Bush family who don't look like such incompetents a second time round. It also is far better than the utter cock up when the Yanks killed Saddam's sons rather than capture them for information. However is it good news for us?

British troops in Iraq are almost all in the south of Iraq around Basra. The majority of the British zone is Shiite. It is also far quieter than the American zone.

Why this is so should be, but isn't, a matter of urgent debate. After all if this situation could be upset then it has the potential to stretch our army to the utmost. When it is addressed at all it is seen to be because our troops are somehow superior to those stupid and insensitive American troops. Now the Yanks do have many stupid and insensitive troops, and compared to our more compact and bijou armed forces it is perhaps not surprising that the stupidity and insensitivity quotients are somewhat higher. The average IQ would decline in ours as well if we had the amount of men under arms that the interventionists imagine that we do.

So is it this intelligence and sensitivity together with our experience in Northern Ireland keeping our sector that much quieter than the Americans? I have my doubts. The American sector is not that much more lively than ours if you take out the Sunni Arab areas. The Kurds and the Shiites in the American zones are just getting on with it. Of course there are some misunderstandings, for example when Kurds want to ethnically cleanse Arabs or when Shiite holy cities get bombed, but we had Fallujah and riots in Basra. The real source of bad things for the Americans has been the Sunni triangle. The very use of the term by the media has been an admission that the real damage on the occupation forces has been imposed almost entirely by a minority of the population. The comfortable official story that the attacks are orchestrated by the largely Sunni Baathists or the entirely Sunni Al Qaeda network is also a recognition of the ethnic imbalance.

Imagine if we had that with the Shia? Would our intelligence and sensitivity manage to keep a lid on things? Perhaps, but I'm not that keen on finding out.

So, what will the capture of Saddam do for the Shia population? Well first off they will be very happy for a couple of weeks. Most observers can agree on that outcome. Most Shia hated Saddam, for good reason. Then, many of the observers believe, they will be grateful to us and keep on co-operating. That's nice. Gratitude is not a well known quality in Middle Eastern politics, in fact it's almost unknown in politics the world over. Although I will be the first to admit that I don't know the intricacies of Arab tribal customs or Shia theology - I simply find it as stupid as the idea that Iraq could be democratic by now, or as stupid as your average neo-conservative public pronouncement on foreign policy.

So let's hope for gratitude but prepare for the Arabs to act like, well, Arabs. What has kept the Shia so relatively co-operative, or at least not fighting to the last cousin as the Sunni do? Perhaps its the fact that they like to be occupied by non-Arabic speaking nominally Christian foreign powers. Or perhaps they, or their leaders, trust us to give them democracy, sovereignty, control over their oil money, the right to bash ten bells out of the Sunnis and other good things. Well do you, dear reader, believe that we will sign up wholeheartedly to the Shia agenda - if we can find out which Shia agenda is the real Shia agenda? Do you think they've forgotten what they regard as our betrayal of the Shia rebellion after the last Gulf War? If you don't think so, why should they?

Perhaps its just not worth the bother. Perhaps we are seen as more ruthless and more desperate and able to pour more armed men in to suppress a rebellion than Saddam was. Perhaps they got fed up after the last rebellion and they think that trusting the authorities, vigorous debate and civil disobedience are now the way to go. Perhaps, but a prudent man wouldn't bank on it.

So what has been there motivation so far? Well let me hazard a guess. Fear. Fear that Saddam may come back like he did last time. Or fear that the Sunnis may come back like they did last time, and every time since the Ottoman Empire first came along. (Parenthetically, do you think that the Shia like hearing all this talk of reconciling the Sunni Arabs with the occupying forces now Saddam has gone? Oh well.) Now arresting Saddam has not removed the fear entirely, after all he could be brought back by the Americans, or his son could come back, or he could escape, or some crazy Western judge could set him free. However this fear, this until now very useful fear, will have been reduced drastically. The man is now in American custody, his supporters have seen him weakened. Even a conspiracist Arab would admit that Saddam is probably (the conditional is deliberate) a spent force. You don't fear a spent force.

That's why I want Saddam kept alive. The very fact that he is alive will give the Shia pause for thought. They know that he would welcome the prospect of returning as a puppet president of Iraq, and although they would be fairly certain that the Americans wouldn't wear it - could they be entirely sure? Of course the fear would be far less than it was last Saturday, but at least we would have some leverage.

But will it be enough fear? I doubt it. Perhaps the Shia will be grateful enough to leave us alone. Perhaps they will see more profit for their agenda of Shia domination of Iraq through co-operating with us. Perhaps they fear their Sunni neighbours enough to prefer us. Perhaps if they do rise, it will be so divided and puny we will not be greatly inconvenienced.

That's an awful lot of perhapses.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Saddam Captured

They really did find the ace in a hole.

I shall just note that BBC News 24 stated that Saddam was beaten by his stepfather, and from this cruelty, it was just a short step to megalomaniac dictatorship.

Hand him over to the Iraqis since they are willing to put him to death!

(13.36, 14th December 2003)
Saturday, December 13, 2003
24 Hours

Last night, I was attending the Putney Debates where Russell Walters of the Democracy Movement gave a clear and objective talk about the European Constitution (where I shall link to the obligatory Searchlight article warning of the dangers of people like us to the democratic structures of the European Union).

Walters pointed out the centralised and unifying force of the proposed European Constitution, with its dangers to the continued existence of British institutions through powers that allowed further involvement of European law on hitherto domestic policymaking areas such as education, health and social security. Now, a day later, the more immediate threats and possibilities of a ratified Constitution have been postponed for a while.

However, arguments were dominated by a literal reading of the Constitution and the probability of a war if the European Union were to implode under the pressures of absolute economic decline, nationalism and our coming demographic downfall. Whilst the ideological trend towards centralised integration has been consistent, its institutional expression has mutated from Weber's bureaucratic rational state, with power vested in the Commission, towards the institutions of the political elite, the Council of Ministers. With the strengthening of the latter body, the geopolitical struggles that underpin the European Union's policies have become more transparent and more fractious. If the Constitution were to be ratified in some form, its unitary underpinnings would, in the short term, be counterbalanced by the political jockeying of Member States, horsetrading with each other, over political issues. In the longer term, if or when more powers over tax, defence and foreign policy were centralised, this counterbalance could diminish in importance.

Any reading of the European Constitution has to balance what is written with the practical expression of these clauses in institutions and legal practice. The incoherence of the document gives few clues as to whether the immediate trend favoured strong centralisation or indeed promoted the very gridlock it was designed to prevent - a possible outcome. I might add that, at no point, does it adopt the repatriation of powers or more influence for Member States.

We are left with scenarios that debate the dynamic of further integration under the proposed Constitution but agree on the thrust of the ideological programme adopted by D'Estaing and the European Convention.

The final possibility that must be faced is the implosion in violent conflict that accompanies the end of most multinational state structures. Given the history of Europe as the cradle of nationalism, the chances of avoiding a conflict amongst these nations are poor, if the spoils of the state are a source of competition. How fitting that even the possibility of such wars becomes an additional moral resource to oppose the continued existence, in its present form, of the European Union.
Paradise Postponed

The negotiations over the draft of the European Constitution have broken up without agreement. The gap over voting rights, between those who defended their privileges enshrined in the Nice Treaty and the supporters of the new system that increased German influence, could not be bridged.

The initial reaction of European leaders to this development has been to downplay the consequences of the breakdown.

Whilst the current postponement of negotiations is welcome, it is too early to conclude its effect upon long-term trends. The existing structures based upon Nice remain and will be stretched through their accommodation of the new accession countries. Arguments of an inner zone, variable geometry or institutional crisis are speculations that await further events.

This is not the first time in the history of the EU/EEC that countries have failed to agree. So far, this has not led to the withdrawal of a member state or a reversal of the long-term ideological and institutional trend towards integration.

Still, I'm enjoying a warm glow this afternoon.

(16.43, 13th December 2003)
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

We will be in Iraq for 10 years, says MP reservist

The real issue on withdrawal

The anti-war Tory MP and army reservist Andrew Murrison says that Britain will be in Iraq for ten years, because Iraq can simply not govern itself.

While we probably will be there for ten years, and Iraq probably will be unable to govern itself in that time - this dependence need not detain us in Iraq. The Americans will suffer if they leave Iraq in chaos, but we will not. We are the junior partner - we can leave whenever we like. The Yanks will simply have to fill the vacuum.

Of course the consequential Yankee displeasure may be worse than any withdrawal. However it is the prospect of American displeasure that is the reason for keeping the troops in place. We must not fall under the illusion that Iraq is our show.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Moment of Truth

The meetings surrounding the draft of the European Constitution have continued. Whilst the 'Big Three' (Britain, France and Germany) agreed upon a provisional form of military headquarters (an acorn or successful sabotage, depending upon your viewpoint), their proposals still require full agreement from every Member State.

The other issue of European defence is the mutual defence pact, suggested by the Italians at the end of November and viewed as anathema by those smaller countries which maintain the myth of neutrality as their foreign policy objective. This has been ditched for the concept of soverien countries assisting each other in the event of armed aggression.

However, Berlusconi was 55% optimistic on Sunday and was in a halfway house on Saturday. Both France and Germany are unwilling to compromise on their demands for voting powers and greater integration, with Chirac describing the critics of the draft constitution as "incoherent".

Jack Straw has repeated the government's position: that a bad Constitution is worse than no Constitution. The anxious moment is this weekend when final negotiations take place and hardline positions give way to compromises in order to achieve that final deal.

On Monday, we could wake up to find the European superstate has arrived or has been definitely postponed.

(22.50, 8th December 2003)
An Unsurprising Insight

Gisela Stuart, the New Labour member who sat on the European Convention's presidium, has finally admitted her disillusion with the whole process. Stuart provides anecdotal evidence of the strategy D'Estaing employed to achieve his consensus.

"There was little time for informed discussion, and even less scope for changes. Large parts of the text passed through without detailed discussions", she writes.

Small details would be strangely absent:

Some members of the secretariat showed particular irritation with my insistence that documents be produced in English. On one occasion a redraft of articles dealing with defence mysteriously arrived just before midnight. They were written in French and the authorship was unclear. Verbal reassurances were given that this was little more than a "linguistically better draft of the earlier English version". The draft was discarded when some of us spotted that references to Nato had mysteriously disappeared".

Yet, for some reason, there is a faint echo of the British Parliament. Another planted article to allow New Labour both possibilities: success or failure.

(22.22, 8th December 2003)
Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Airstrip One: British foreign policy as if the national interest mattered

A Brown Government?

What would a Brown government look like foreign policy wise? It's a good time to ask this as Blair seems to be (A) amazingly reckless on non-core items of the New Labour agenda such as tuition fees and (B) publicly sickly.

On the second item I am sceptical about how much Blair's actual health has deteriorated. After all he has been incredibly profficient at hiding Leo Blair's avoidance of the single vaccine MMR jab, his use of IVF to conceive Leo Blair and the rather extensive, and free, use of private health resources. If he can keep this stuff secret why are we suddenly hearing so much about stuff that sounds scary but is in fact relatively minor - at least compared to conceiving a child to win seats at the next general election.

After this we leave the realm of facts for that of speculation. Is this a deliberate ploy or just a post-Campbell policy decision to be more honest? Perhaps they think that a Prime Minister's health is more to the point than his children's. Well my theory is that this is deliberate, and it is a ploy. Blair probably intends to keep his promise to resign and let Brown have a fist at being Prime Minister - around about now. However the Great British public may not like the idea of electing Blair and getting Brown. However if Blair had to resign...

So what would Brown be like in foreign policy? In the least important area, our relationship with the third world, he would be worse. He thinks that we should be indulging in transferring our wealth to third world elites in the shape of aid programmes (or he is transferring our wealth). He may also be even keener on implementing pointless environmental treaties (although that's not certain).

In the second most important area, our Special Servitude to America, there will be little difference. Despite the (often skin deep) Atlanto-scepticism of his backers, Brown is as emotionally committed to America as Michael Howard is - and as committed as Blair is to Europe. We are unlikely to give less to, or receive any more from, America. Our boys will still be dying in useless wars.

The most important area is Europe, and Brown will be marginally better. His current, exagerated, Euroscepticism will almost certainly be diluted. For a start he will be out of the traditionally Eurosceptic environs of the Treasury. Secondly, he is not truly as Eurosceptic as he appears to be in contrast to Blair. On the other hand he is no longer committed to Europe in the same way as Blair is. For a start America is no longer as keen on Europe. He also seems to have shown a genuine distaste for the wranglings of Europe, and he is not as capable of self-delusion as his neighbour - he does not think things will improve fast. It will be a marginal improvement, but a marginal improvement is still an improvement.

Sure, the Tories will be better than Brown, but Brown is better than Blair. All those concerned for Britain's independence should be fervently praying for a Brown succession.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Persuading old allies

Geoff Hoon is meeting Donald Rumsfeld in order to allay US concerns about the fleshing out of the joint defence clauses written into the draft of the European Constitution. As there are 1,000 planners in NATO and 30 in the new planning unit, the ambitions are not yet matched by the embryonic institutional structures being put in place.

On a separate note, the CBI has warned that the proposed Constitution could undermine British industry and security. Energy assets (North Sea oil and gas) could be sequestrated under a European licensing and nationalisation system, sharing these assets to all Member States in a time of crisis.

His [Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI] deputy, John Cridland, said last night that the energy chapter could allow the EU to take control of energy supplies by giving it the potential right in times of crisis or scarcity to effectively share out reserves.

"It's not that evil people in Brussels want to steal our oil and gas but we should not be signing a treaty with significant uncertainty or ambiguity," he said. The EU could take control of licensing and regulation.

By extension, a crisis in pension provision could lead to the sequestration of private pension assets from countries with a strong asset base.

Alistair Darling made noises. That's another battle lost then.

(22.49, 2nd December 2003)

Blog Archive