Clueless In and Out of Brussels

We’re still all waiting really. Waiting to know what the next move really in the saga is going to be (Iceland isn’t in the community yet, if I remember correctly). Staring into the tea-leaves and casting a wary eye over towards Brussels, looking desperately for clues.

What this continuing lack of definition really does is make matters worse., compound the problem. It re-inforces exactly that feeling of being ‘left out of things’ that probably produced the ‘no’ votes in the first place. This isn’t very promising if you were hoping that at least the rejection of the constitution at the ballot box would act as a kind of ‘shock therapy’, now is it?

However, according to the rumours:

Gerhard Schr?der yesterday launched some sort of ‘big push’: a round of diplomacy aimed at keeping ratification of the constitution going in spite of the defeats in France and The Netherlands. But, in the other corner, Tony Blair, is working equally hard to stop this initiative dead in its tracks.

According to the FT, several European commissioners are privately calling for a pause in the referendums, to prevent an avalanche of No votes causing long-term damage to the Europen project.:

At a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, when exit polls already indicated that the Dutch would vote heavily against the constitution, the commissioners warned Jos? Manuel Barroso, Commission president, that further referendums could paralyse the EU’s agenda and put its future development at risk.

Peter Mandelson, trade commissioner, warned of ?creeping paralysis? for the EU if attempts continued to ratify the constitution, which has so far been backed by 10 EU countries.

?The priority must be survival and revival,? he said, suggesting that the EU push the ?pause button? on the constitution. ?There is a risk of two years of uncertainty if we continue with the referendums,? said Gunter Verheugen, deputy Commission president. ?We must not give into blackmail,? he added, expressing a concern that if popular votes continued, the Commission would be pushed to scale down or delay plans on economic reform”.

Now among other points of interest in this report is the emergence of the name of Peter Mandelson. Whenever you have a power vacuum, you may also find an emergent ‘power behind the throne’. Whatever the ‘mal-odeur’ there may be associated with this particular name in UK politics, I have no doubt whatsoever that he is head and shoulders above much of the other ‘talent’ that there is knocking around, and would only expect his star to rise and rise in the corridors of the Commission, unless, that is, he gets there first, and successfully alienates all those within striking distance.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

19 thoughts on “Clueless In and Out of Brussels

  1. ?power behind the thrown?

    Who has been throwing whom here ? Where have they been thrown ? Out of a window ? Is this the Brussels denfenestration ?

    Inquiring minds want to know 😉

  2. ?creeping paralysis? is a good description not simply of the implications of continuing with the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty, but also of a state of affairs that has been evident in the way the EU institutions have been conducting business / policy for much of the past decade.

    I have to say that I think that the “push” by Schroeder and others for a continuation of the ratification is as much about snubbing Blair as it is about doing what is right for the EU. Forcing Blair to experience the humiliation of a British “No”, or push him into not even bothering to put the Treaty befor Parliament will make Britain once again the EU whipping boy; for this reason Chirac will, I am fairly certain, back Schroeder to the hilt simply to “enmerde” Blair if nothing else. The spectacle of all these EU leaders engaging in these type of power games does little to endear them to ordinary people.

    Frankly the EU’s political leaders have done themselves more harm than good this week. The attitude of some that elements of the Treaty be tacked onto the Nice Treaty – this simply makes ratification by referendum a charade. Then there are the notions expounded by Juncker that ‘EU citizens must keep voting until they give us the right answer’ ….. unreal.

  3. “Who has been throwing whom here”

    Sorry, this is typical of the kind of dyslexia you may have to get used to from me. Thanks. Duly correcting now :).

    Glad to see you have an ‘enquiring’ mind :).

    Actually, and griping out loud, the one I’m really getting tired of is the plural of referendum. Two variants are apparently acceptable ‘referendums’ (which I find ugly) and referenda (which is better, but sounds pretentious). I tend to go for referendum as a plural (which is to treat it as a Latin type 4 noun or whatever, which it isn’t) but the effect (or affect) is more pleasing.

    Bottom line: this is the strongest argument I can think of for ‘doing away’ with the things.

  4. Forcing Blair to experience the humiliation of a British “No”, or push him into not even bothering to put the Treaty befor Parliament will make Britain once again the EU whipping boy; for this reason Chirac will, I am fairly certain, back Schroeder to the hilt simply to “enmerde” Blair if nothing else.

    Why would that bother Mr. Blair? He’s elected in Britain and can now reasonably claim that he tried to get along with the continentals, but they are simply clueless.
    He can’t really hope to get anything productive done in his presidency, can he?

  5. I suspect French voters just put Blair in a ‘no-lose’ situation.

    I think both Chirac’s and Schroder’s problems are now so great, they can only make their position worse by trying to switch attention to Blair. He just particpated in a highly unpopular war, and still won the election. This is a ‘nice’ place to be.

  6. Nietzsche: ‘God is Dead’ – Netherlands (et al.): ‘Europe is Dead’
    ******************************************
    Just as the bystanders in the market-place smirked in amusement at Nietzsche’s madman as he ran around in broad daylight holding a lantern and asking where God is (for they no longer believed in God), voters in Europe can expect to be approached by their politicians and asked what they have done to Europe. Of course, the governments know exactly what has been done — Europe has been killed, and they have killed it. But as the story goes, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For, in its current form, the EU has encouraged the illusion that there are particular truths (promoted as universal) that all must accept. So like God (as construed then), Europe as currently conceived is dead — which actually translates as meaning, not Europe per se, but the current understanding of Europe is dead. The idiom about a baby and bathwater comes to mind here. The madman was last seen heading East of the Elbe, next stop, Poland?

    Jordan Seidel
    Warsaw, Poland

  7. “bystanders in the market-place smirked”

    Actually the madman in question here could be Diogenes the cynic: location Athens, mission, find an honest man.

    Another group of bystanders smirked when they saw himself Nietzsche lying in the street – on this occasion the location was Turin – embracing a horse (the legend doesn’t tell us if it was a dead one).

    All of which brings us to the fact that the Oedipal act of ‘killing god’ can be liberatory or profoundly destructive. The jury is still out on which it will be in the current historical re-run.

    Twilight of the idols, Jordan, twilight of the idols :).

  8. “All of which brings us to the fact that the Oedipal act of ?killing god? can be liberatory or profoundly destructive”

    Or it can be both at the same time, which I think may be the case here. I say “may” because we haven’t yet reached the destructive stage, which wouldn’t be a re-run of the Terror but a failure to take advantage of the liberation by not being grown-up enough. Hmm, that’s a bit gnomic; I mean that we now have an opportunity which we’re in danger of seeing pass us by. I think that’s a bit sad.

  9. Something worth remembering –

    Blair would lose pretty much any referendum on the EU in the UK because he is so unpopular – the only reason he and his party are in office is because of the UK’s first past the post electoral system – only a little over 30% actually voted for Blair’s party.

    Blair has already said he backs the EU Constitution so he would have to campaign for a “Yes”. Aside form being humiliating for Blair, forcing him to go through this process would put him in an awkward position within his own “New” Labour party, and possibly severley impact his tenure of No. 10; there have been quite a few noises about him standing down during this term of office.

  10. “Blair has already said he backs the EU Constitution so he would have to campaign for a “Yes”.”

    No, I don’t think this is necessarily so. I’m not sure I would be campaigning for a yes in this situation in the UK, mainly for the reasons I’ve already outlined, that with so much opinion evidently against, you need a rethink. We don’t want to pit one country against another in the way Bolkende tried.

    Anyway, this is rather academic, since there won’t be a referendum in the UK, not on this constitution anyway :).

  11. Send in the Ubercrats!

    I like that, the EU as idol…but I also think that the two kinds of perspectives introduced by the N-man are relevant – master and slave moralities…And to kill one’s god might encourage (to borrow from Nietzsche) the killers to become like gods to justify and make themselves worthy of the dirty (or liberatory) deed…

    We just might be in need of the Uber-Eurocrat –those who can rise above the moralistic (good vs bad)not beholden to the slave morality (which itself is power used by the masses)…but is this democracy?

  12. Anyway, this is rather academic, since there won’t be a referendum in the UK, not on this constitution anyway 🙂

    You may be right but Chirac and Schroeder may yet try to hold out for a continuation of the process – it might be stupid of them to do so but then politicians are often stupid. My original point was bascially that these latter two may try to “enmerde” Blair – remember they don’t like his “anglo-saxon capitalist model” the “New Communism” was how Chirac described it ….

  13. You may be right but Chirac and Schroeder may yet try to hold out for a continuation of the process – it might be stupid of them to do so

    I think Schroeder said something along those lines this afternoon (based on what I hear on DW-TV): it would be unfair to those countries who haven’t voted yet to deny them the chance to vote on the constitution … .

  14. “it would be unfair to those countries who haven’t voted yet to deny them the chance to vote on the constitution … .”

    yes, quite, but this could yet bounce back on him in Germany itself.

  15. yes, quite, but this could yet bounce back on him in Germany itself.

    No, it can’t. He’ll be gone.

  16. Schroeder didn’t say it needed a referendum to decide, just that the countries vote in the way they have chosen to vote for/ against the referendum.

    BTW, I wouldn’t see the CDU criticizing Schroeder for this in a campaign. They too voted largely in both houses for the constitution and only very few propagated the use of a referendum, but the general tone is that a referendum in Germany is just not possible, therefore a parliamentary vote is sufficient.

  17. “No, it can’t. He’ll be gone”.

    Oh, I see, so your saying that this is a kind of real life prisoners dilemna type thing. He encourages the other countries to continue, and this way he doesn’t have to find any other solution, in the meatime he’s out the back door, leaving his successor in the mess.

    I mean, short term peace, longer term big bang.

  18. BTW, I wouldn’t see the CDU criticizing Schroeder for this in a campaign.

    Yes, the taboo will hold this time.

    Oh, I see, so your saying that this is a kind of real life prisoners dilemna type thing.

    Not quite. The opposition wouldn’t want it any other way. They can always claim it was his fault, they just inherited the mess. And they want this election to be about the economy and only the economy.

    BTW, I don’t think he has any principled objection to referenda. He just feared the result. The trend is clearly for introducing them for federal legislation (they exist on the federal level for redrawing state lines) eg. all new states have extensive referenda, popular initiatives and recalls. Several states have extended their use of referenda in the last decade.

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