So about the Lisbon Treaty...

Surely, they needn’t be opposite though. The EU’s motto is “United in diversity” with no recognised religions (though they have offices in Brussels) and 23 official languages. For once, the promise of a 500 million people market and low military spending is a factor in current independence movements. Economy and culture aren’t unconnected, anyway. I won’t be surprised if (more of) the new generation is running all over my lawn, speaking Chinese.

It doesn’t work that smoothly, and often it doesn’t work at all.

The problem with thinking that economic connectedness will solve cultural problems is that it assumes people will usually act in their economic rational self-interest. Which isn’t really true. People frequently act irrationally. Once again, I point to the United States as an example: why is it that blue-collar, uneducated workers consistently vote to give corporations more power to screw them over? The economic policies of the Democratic party would help them much more, yet, to them, cultural issues like abortion, guns, religion, gays are more important.

I never said a superstate wouldn’t help Europe. It will help them. My argrument is that probably won’t happen, because of that basic irrationality.

There’s no accounting for preference. If people prefer to support a cultural issue over some economic gain, it’s still a rational choice if people value said issue over said gain.

My point is that it’s easier to support your culture with a robust economy (e.g. French cinema subsidies) and that you can “pimp” your culture for money (e.g. anime, Hollywood, these DaVinci Code tours).

Perhaps the strongest evidence for why this treaty won’t work is that the people pushing it don’t want public votes to ratify it.

MPs have rejected proposals to hold a UK-wide referendum on whether to ratify the EU’s Lisbon Treaty.
The House of Commons turned down the Conservative proposal by 311 votes to 248 - a margin of 63.

The result means Parliament itself will decide whether to ratify the treaty, signed by EU leaders last December.

The big issue, as others have said, is that the whole thing is so ambiguous nobody’s quite sure how much autonomy member nations will have.

Here you are. According to the treaty of Rome, the aim was “an ever closer union”, though how various people interpret that is another matter. The EU isn’t formed and doesn’t operate in a vacuum, so only time will show. Rigmarole out.

It is a NO, after all. I guess you guys liked the improved and “simplified” (260 pages, 356 amendments of earlier treaties, accompanied by 13 protocols, 65 declarations and an annex) version of the EU treaty almost as much as the Dutch and the French liked the original three years ago.
It looks like the only way to finalize this, is through elected officials.

And to be honest I’m just as glad, since after reviewing the arguments I realised I really didn’t want to vote yes.

Which is a pity, since I wouldn’t minda United States of Europe too much.

Unfortunately, having a treaty which the centre for good English came out to say had sentences which are “gibberish” that lawyers would be debating about for the next thousand years didn’t appeal to me.

The other reason being that, since the EU proclaims it wishes to be a force that represents the people of Europe, starting off by ignoring what they want is just a bit too corrupt for me to stomach.

For those interested:

George Friedman

The creation of a European state was severely wounded if not killed last week. The Irish voted against a proposed European Union treaty that included creation of a full-time president, increased power to pursue a European foreign policy and increased power for Europe’s parliament. Since the European constitutional process depends on unanimous consent by all 27 members, the Irish vote effectively sinks this version of the new constitution, much as Dutch and French voters sank the previous version in 2005.

The Irish vote was not a landslide. Only 54 percent of the voters cast their ballots against the constitution. But that misses the point. Whether it had been 54 percent for or against the constitution, the point was that the Irish were deeply divided. In every country, there is at least a substantial minority that opposes the constitution. Given that all 27 EU countries must approve the constitution, the odds against some country not sinking it are pretty long. The Europeans are not going to get a strengthened constitution this way.

But the deeper point is that you can’t create a constitution without a deep consensus about needing it. Even when there is — as the United States showed during its Civil War — critical details not settled by consensus can lead to conflict. In the case of the United States, the issues of the relative power of states and the federal government, along with the question of slavery, ripped the country apart. They could only be settled by war and a series of amendments to the U.S. Constitution forced through by the winning side after the war.

The Constitutional Challenge
Creating a constitution is not like passing a law — and this treaty was, in all practical terms, a constitution. Constitutions do not represent public policy, but a shared vision of the regime and the purpose of the nation. The U.S. Constitution was born in battle. It emerged from a long war of independence and from the lessons learned in that war about the need for a strong executive to wage war, a strong congress to allocate funds and raise revenue, and a judiciary to interpret the constitution. War, along with the teachings of John Locke, framed the discussions in Philadelphia, because the founders’ experience in a war where there was only a congress and no president convinced them of the need for a strong executive. And even that was not enough to prevent civil war over the issue of state sovereignty versus federal sovereignty. Making a constitution is hard.

The European constitution was also born in battle, but in a different way. For centuries, the Europeans had engaged in increasingly savage wars. The question they wanted to address was how to banish war from Europe. In truth, that decision was not in their hands, but in the hands of Americans and Soviets. But the core issue remained: how to restrain European savagery. The core idea was relatively simple. European wars arose from European divisions; and, for centuries, those divisions ran along national lines. If a United States of Europe could be created on the order of the United States of America, then the endless battling of France, Germany and England would be eliminated.

In the exhaustion of the postwar world — really lasting through the lives of the generation that endured World War II — the concept was deeply seductive. Europe after World War II was exhausted in every sense. It allowed its empires to slip away with a combination of indifference and relief. What Europeans wanted postwar was to make a living and be left alone by ideology and nationalism; they had experienced quite enough of those two. Even France under the influence of Charles de Gaulle, the champion of the idea of the nation-state and its interests, could not arouse a spirit of nationalism anywhere close to what had been.

There is a saying that some people are exhausted and confuse their state with virtue. If that is true, then it is surely true of Europe in the last couple of generations. The European Union reflected these origins. It began as a pact — the European Community — of nations looking to reduce tariff barriers. It evolved into a nearly Europe-wide grouping of countries bound together in a trade bloc, with many of those countries sharing a common currency. Its goal was not the creation of a more perfect union, or, as the Americans put it, a “novus ordo seclorum.” It was not to be the city on the hill. Its commitment was to a more prosperous life, without genocide. Though not exactly inspiring, given the brutality of European history, it was not a trivial goal.

The problem was that when push came to shove, the European Community evolved into the European Union, which consisted of four things:

  1. A free trade zone with somewhat synchronized economic polices, not infrequently overridden by the sovereign power of member states.
  2. A complex bureaucracy designed to oversee the harmonization of European economies. This was seen as impenetrable and engaged in intensive and intrusive work from the trivial to the extremely significant, charged with defining everything from when a salami may be called a salami and whether Microsoft was a monopoly.
  3. A single currency and central bank to which 15 of the 27 EU members subscribed.
  4. Had Ireland voted differently, a set of proto-institutions would have been created — complete with a presidency and foreign policy chief — which would have given the European Union the trappings of statehood. The president, who would rotate out of office after a short time, would have been the head of one of the EU member states.
    Rejecting a European Regime
    The Irish referendum was all about transforming the fourth category into a regime. The Irish rejected it not because they objected to the first three sets of solutions — they have become the second-wealthiest country in Europe per capita under their aegis. They objected to it because they did not want to create a European regime. As French and Dutch voters have said before, the Irish said they want a free trade zone. They will put up with the Brussels bureaucracy even though its intrusiveness and lack of accountability troubles them. They can live with a single currency so long as it does not simply become a prisoner of German and French economic policy. But they do not want to create a European state.

The French and German governments do want to create such a state. As with the creation of the United States, the reasons have to do with war, past and future. Franco-German animosity helped created the two world wars of the 20th century. Those two powers now want a framework for preventing war within Europe. They also — particularly the French — want a vehicle for influencing the course of world events. In their view, the European Union, as a whole, has a gross domestic product comparable to that of the United States. It should be the equal of the United States in shaping the world. This isn’t simply a moral position, but a practical one. The United States throws its weight around because it can, frequently harming Europe’s interests. The French and Germans want to control the United States.

To do this, they need to move beyond having an economic union. They need to have a European foreign and defense policy. But before they can have that, they need a European government that can carry out this policy. And before they can have a European government they must have a European regime, before which they must have a European constitution that enumerates the powers of the European president, parliament and courts. They also need to specify how these officials will be chosen.

The French and Germans would welcome all this if they could get it. They know, given population, economic power and so on, that they would dominate the foreign policy created by a European state. Not so the Irish and Danes; they understand they would have little influence on the course of European foreign policy. They already feel the pain of having little influence on European economic policy, particularly the policies of the European Central Bank (ECB). Even the French public has expressed itself in the 2006 election about fears of Brussels and the ECB. But for countries like Ireland and Denmark, each of which fought very hard to create and retain their national sovereignty, merging into a Europe in which they would lose their veto power to a European parliamentary and presidential system is an appalling prospect.

Economists always have trouble understanding nationalism. To an economist, all human beings are concerned with maximizing their own private wealth. Economists can never deal with the empirical fact that this simply isn’t true. Many Irish fought against being cogs in a multinational British Empire. The Danes fought against being absorbed by Germany. The prospect of abandoning the struggle for national sovereignty to Europe is not particularly pleasing, even if it means economic advantage.

Europe is not going to become a nation-state in the way the United States is. It is increasingly clear that Europeans are not going to reach a consensus on a European constitution. They are not in agreement on what European institutions should look like, how elections should be held and, above all, about the relation between individual nations and a central government. The Europeans have achieved all they are going to achieve. They have achieved a free trade zone with a regulatory body managing it. They have created a currency that is optional to EU members, and from which we expect some members to withdraw from at times while others join in. There will be no collective European foreign or defense policy simply because the Europeans do not have a common interest in foreign and defense policy.

Paris Reads the Writing on the Wall
The French have realized this most clearly. Once the strongest advocates of a federated Europe, the French under President Nicolas Sarkozy have started moving toward new strategies. Certainly, they remain committed to the European Union in its current structure, but they no longer expect it to have a single integrated foreign and defense policy. Instead, the French are pursuing initiatives by themselves. One aspect of this involves drawing closer to the United States on some foreign policy issues. Rather than trying to construct a single Europe that might resist the United States — former President Jacques Chirac’s vision — the French are moving to align themselves to some degree with American policies. Iran is an example.

The most intriguing initiative from France is the idea of a Mediterranean union drawing together the countries of the Mediterranean basin, from Algeria to Israel to Turkey. Apart from whether these nations could coexist in such a union, the idea raises the question of whether France (or Italy or Greece) can simultaneously belong to the European Union and another economic union. While questions — such as whether North African access to the French market would provide access to the rest of the European Union — remain to be answered, the Germans have strongly rejected this French vision.

The vision derives directly from French geopolitical reality. To this point, the French focus has been on France as a European country whose primary commitment is to Europe. But France also is a Mediterranean country, with historical ties and interests in the Mediterranean basin. France’s geographical position gives it options, and it has begun examining those options independent of its European partners.

The single most important consequence of the Irish vote is that it makes clear that European political union is not likely to happen. It therefore forces EU members to consider their own foreign and defense policies — and, therefore, their own geopolitical positions. Whether an economic union can survive in a region of political diversity really depends on whether the diversity evolves into rivalry. While that has been European history, it is not clear that Europe has the inclination to resurrect national rivalries.

At the same time, if France does pursue interests independent of the Germans, the question will be this: Will the mutual interest in economic unity override the tendency toward political conflict? The idea was that Europe would moot the question by creating a federation. That isn’t going to happen, so the question is on the table. And that question can be framed simply: When speaking of political and military matters, is it reasonable any longer to use the term Europe to denote a single entity? Europe, as it once was envisioned, appears to have disappeared in Ireland.

Nice article. I think that Friedman hit the bull’s eye talking about nationalism, and the need for Europe to strengthen its foreign and defense policy. I just glanced at Friedman’s bio – very impressive, I must say; but now that USSR has collapsed, he could be seeing new bogeymen in other political entities.

The French and Germans want to control the United States.
True, and so does the rest of the world.

And reading this

Economists always have trouble understanding nationalism. To an economist, all human beings are concerned with maximizing their own private wealth. Economists can never deal with the empirical fact that this simply isn’t true.
suddenly I remembered the catchy slogan coined by James Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

As a side note, not too long ago I came across an article that mentioned an increase in the number of Americans of European descent for whom the Old Country is becoming a new country “full of promise and opportunity”. Americans can claim citizenship in any of the 27 European countries that are in the EU based on the nationality of their parents, or in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents. Citizenship in one of those countries allows you to live and work in any EU nation. So with US in the slump and the American Dream fading, the duel citizenship is in vogue for those who can afford to leave.

I disagree with a lot of the points in that article but goddamn am I too hot to complain about them right now coherently.

Damn Texan heat.

Basically I think he got some of the point, but it was only a graze along it that he managed by accident as much as anything else. At least with regards to the Irish situation.

This entire process in Ireland was so ironic. Without the EU, Ireland would still be a country of mass poverty, shipping people to the USA to evade the regular famines. It was the EU that provided Ireland with the money and means to develop into a prosperous country and now it’s those very Irish voters who are so presumptuous as to decide over the fate of the other 500 million EU citizens. Great!
By the way, the Treaty of Lisbon may be relatively elaborate but nonetheless it’s a tremendous improvement compared to what we have now. Without the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is literally dead and Ireland should have realised that. We are now on the path of becoming simply a Free Trade Agreement like the NAFTA. Which is, by the way, precisely what Britain has always tried to achieve.

That’s all true, Shimo. But if the rest of the European Governments had been willing to give their countries votes then Ireland wouldn’t have been deciding the fate of all of Europe. I would say there would’ve been much more goodwill towards it had it not been a case of us on our own against the big powers that were threatening us to try and force us to agree.

As for the EU being dead? If you really think that, then you really are ignorant of the whole thing. Even if the Union didn’t become any tighter than it aready was, it is already a strong union. It is only if the larger nations refuse to change the direction, or at least the manner they wish to move forward, then they need to take smaller steps. A constitution which declared that the so called ‘major’ points in a clear way and left out the more technical aspects would be much more likely to be passed.

If you follow daily EU politics, you will soon realise that since the 2004 enlargement, it’s almost impossible to bring about a consensus. It used to be 15 different opinions, now it’s 27. And the crux is, for almost all decisions you need unanimity. That’s increasingly hard to achieve, because some Eastern members now have rather euro-sceptical governments. The aim of the Lisbon treaty was to establish the so-called “double majority.” A motion would be accepted if 55% of the member states, at least representing 65% of EU citizens, voted in favor. That would give the EU some of the mobility back it lost in 2004. Without the Lisbon treaty, further enlargement of the EU will not take place. President Sarkozy already made it clear that Croatia cannot hope for membership (initially slated for 2009) until the Lisbon crisis is solved. In other words, the EU is stuck and will - in its current form - not move anywhere. The only possibility to get ahead is “Europe of two velocities” as done with the Euro, that is a few states willing to work together closer than the others band together to implement their ideas, and the others may follow later if they feel inclined so.

Or they could design a treaty specifically to do with the issue of the required majorities, and ignore the rest of political crap for another day, if they will refuse to bring it down to a more basic form which people can actually read. The reasons you discussed are not the reasons the Lisbon Treaty got turned down.

And I have been following EU politics (at least until I left for America, now not so much as I settle in. And I realise that what I suggested won’t happen, because it’s not the way in which the two biggest countries want to go forward. Oh well.

And can you honestly say that a treaty with sentences which have been defined as ‘gibberish’ by the centre for good english could be good for the people of Europe?

Stick a bunch of bureaucrats together to come up with a compromise-able treaty and it will necessarily be gibberish, that’s a paradigm of bureaucracy!

And you wonder why the public at large isn’t wild about it.

Hi. Any man of true democratic virtue recognizes that the grosser the unification of territory under one government, the more egregious the neglect of the governed by the holders of power. Because of the blind faith Americans hold in their “Founding Fathers,” the rich men who conquered this country and continue to carve it up between themselves, America is not a country, it is a systematized banking scam. Capitalism as formulated by Americans allegedly provides the greatest efficiency to the valuation of objects, and ends up devaluing all things except money. That which existed before this capitalism: art, science, philosophy, beauty itself, and even food, has been forced under the yoke of the dollar and willfully by the people, under the impression that this was progress. After the last gas pump runs dry and the last SUV rolls to a stop and the final television shuts down from lack of power, what we will have inherited from capitalism? One continuous parking lot, sprawling garishly over hill and stream, a landscape of asphalt and the rows and rows of aluminum people-boxes and the free-standing franchise-owned buildings that gaudily advertise what no longer exists, and probably never really did if you weren’t watching TV. Perhaps the waters will have rolled in over the east and west coasts soon afterward, and we can move inland to the great plains and the rocky mountains where we can destroy what is left and rebuild society on the only sure foundation, of the aesthetic and the true.

Europe! Asia! Reject this dream!

I love you, Sil2. Where the fuck have you been?

I disagree, of course.