Blair has a lot to answer for
Tim, that is, not Tony. He has inspired The OmbudsGod, a site for those who find newspaper ombudsmen just as wrong as the papers themselves. Finally, the answer to Juvenal's question...
In accepting his K, Jagger is acknowledging that monarchy and meritocracy do mix and incarnating what every Rolling Stone has long known — there’s nothing wrong with a hard, crazed, knight.
One important question to which I haven't seen the answer: Will there be some civilian court screening of whether there's indeed very strong evidence to think that a detainee really is an enemy combatant, and thus properly subject to military detention and perhaps (if he's a noncitizen, or if he's a citizen and the rules are changed) military trial? It's one thing to say "enemy soldiers must be subject to military law" -- but quite another to say "people, including U.S. citizens, who are believed by the military to be enemy soldiers must be subject to military law," especially when we leave the easy case of soldiers captured on the field of battle.
As Mr. Bush noted, in a statement that is sobering if not chilling in its implications, "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond challenge — thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace." What Mr. Bush is saying here is that the United States will never allow a "peer competitor" (in the international relations lingo) to arise. We will never again be in a position of "superpower rivalry," let alone a cog in a multilateral balance of power. The current vast imbalance in power promotes peace most effectively because it teaches governments that any aspirations they might have to pursue war are "pointless."
CBS (6/10, story 10, Rather) reports, "The foremost English-speaking expert on" Al Qaeda, "in an exclusive interview...reveals tonight that Al Qaeda's original 9/11 plan included more targets and more destruction." CBS (Phillips) adds that Rohan Gunaratna's "new book, 'Inside Al Qaeda,' will be published later this week. Among its other revelations is the fact that the September 11th attacks were supposed to be even bigger, targeting the British Houses of Parliament as well, in an international display of terrorism's reach, and attacking them in the same way." Gunaratna was shown saying, "This team assembled at the Heathrow airport on 9/11 to conduct an airborne suicide attack on the Houses of Parliament." CBS adds, "But, Gunaratna says, the Al Qaeda operatives hadn't planned on one contingency: That after the US attacks all flights would be grounded." Gunaratna was shown saying, "The Al Qaeda team that went to Heathrow Airport had to return because there were no flights taking off. ... The testimony of this man, Afroz Mohammed, is cited as proof of the planned attack. He was arrested in India after fleeing Britain and, in an Indian security services document obtained by CBS News, admitted to the hijack plan. In his research, Gunaratna studied intelligence documents, and had rare access to serving and former members of Osama bin Laden's organization. ... What Gunaratna says he's learned, and what American intelligence failed to understand, is Al Qaeda's 'lose and learn' doctrine. It was prepared to lose terrorists like Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, in order to learn how to carry out the attack successfully the next time. And, Gunaratna says, Al Qaeda is still operating and still planning."
A dirty bomb makes no practical sense. To produce significant radioactivity over an area of, say, one square mile, the concentration within a small bomb would have to be roughly 10 million times greater and would quickly kill the terrorists trying to assemble the material. The radioactivity also creates large amounts of heat energy, sufficient to melt most containers. What's more, any such bomb would be easy to detect at long distance if it emits gamma rays. We therefore conclude that a dirty bomb is mostly hype.
Unemployment figures had been falling, which was a good thing not least because as the bills of social failure went down it meant we had more money to spend on public services, for example.
The truth is, the greens have lost the argument about GM crops in every country where there is a fair fight. Last year, five million farmers grew GM crops, up from three million the year before. Only by destroying the test sites in this country can terrorists and their organic fellow travellers suppress the truth and keep up the pretence that GM is bad for the environment.
Where GM crops have been planted, the use of sprays has gone down dramatically and the effect on birds and insects has been positive. If only the organic movement had been less blinkered, it could have seen that genetic modification was its saviour, not its devil. It threatens to replace conventional, chemical-using agriculture with a constitutive, biological and therefore, by definition, organic form of farming.
The first thing is to take Mr Miliband's one good idea - less government intervention - as far as it can go. Pare the vast expenditure of local education authorities right back, or even get rid of them altogether.
Let head teachers control their own spending. Keep teacher training to the classroom and make huge savings on teacher-training institutions. Tear up the national curriculum. Get rid of the Orwellian bodies - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Standards and Effectiveness Unit - that do little to maintain standards.
As Chris Woodhead recommends in his book Class War, the Government should have nothing more to do with schools after funding them, except to assess their performance and let parents examine those assessments. The picture of education in this country need not be one of gloom and despair.
The Centre Right has a responsibility to ... reassert our values and press them into the service of those whose need is greatest. That means trusting people, not second-guessing them. It means understanding that communities are made by men and women, they are not man-made. It means understanding that better schools and hospitals and more responsive local government come from giving teachers, doctors, nurses and councillors the power to do their jobs and making them accountable for what they do.
As Europa, she combined her expertise in the Gaeia theory and her love of the natural world to become a committed environmentalist. Inside the ATOMIUM, Europa leads all environmental research and ocean wildlife protection projects from the ENVIRONMENTAL SPHERE.
And that's how it often is for sports fans, apologising and regretting and acknowledging it's ridiculous but "do you mind if I just catch the score on the teletext", in the same humble manner that you might say: "I know this isn't right but would it be alright if I nipped into your kitchen to warm up some crack?"
But now I've decided people who don't like sport are wrong. ... These types dismiss sport as "spoilt millionaires chasing a ball", but anything becomes meaningless once reduced to its component parts. If they went to a classical concert you could say: "What on earth do you see in a crowd of privileged people with nothing better to do than vibrate air by rubbing a stick against some string".
If someone said they had no interest in any music, it would be your duty to suggest they were missing out on a whole area of passion, excitement and culture. It's the same with sport, which has one unique quality over every other branch of culture: no one knows the result beforehand. Theatre has its qualities but you know with King Lear that eventually Gloucester's eyes are going to be put out. ... What the anti-sport people don't see is that the drama of sport flows from the compelling sub-plots that surround the game. One of the defining moments of history was when Ali knocked over Foreman, not for the quality of the punch but for the triumph of artistry, wit and rebellion.
Spirits were sky high in Leicester after the final whistle.
Teenager Kamaljit Singh Nagra, who led the crowd watching outside on a big screen, with the beat of his drum throughout the game, said he was delighted with the result.
The 16-year-old from Leicester said: "It was brilliant, the atmosphere was amazing. I think they will win the World Cup now. They have a good chance this year.
Auberon Waugh once predicted that ‘politically correct opinion’ would one day lead to the ‘advanced’ world invading Easter Island to stop the natives smoking in public. That may still be many years away, but unless the relentless progress of human-rights groups is checked, the prospect of the ‘advanced’ world imposing sanctions on a country not honouring an International Convention on Transsexual Rights may be considerably nearer.
On occasions like this it is virtually impossible to restrain the editor of this magazine from clambering into the cockpit of his Lancaster bomber and heading off across the North Sea to give the Jerries hell. He knows quite well that many Britons, including some readers of this magazine, will think it is an insufferable cheek for the Germans to attack our beloved Queen. Who saved the Germans from fascism? Who saved most of the Germans from communism? Who led them in the ways of justice and truth after the war? Who bought Mannesmann? Who beat them 5–1 at football?
Germany, in the opinion of many Britons, is an insufferably dowdy country, inhabited by perpetual students with bumfluff moustaches and satanic fetishes, who cannot even get out of bed in the morning, who are alternately hysterical and depressed, and whose layabout lifestyle is paid for by a dwindling number of diligent metal-bashers who, unfortunately for them, are expert at manufacturing heavy goods for which there is less and less demand. The Germans are the second fattest people in the world, and yet the food is poor, the service in restaurants is unbelievably slow, the shops are shut half the time, the schools are mediocre, asylum-seekers are burnt alive in their hostels, the motorways are jammed, and only a few years ago one of their trains crashed killing 100 people, which makes Hatfield look like a tea party. German jokes are thin on the ground. As for that gangster Helmut Kohl, he was bankrolled by arms dealers and others who secretly handed his minions briefcases full of banknotes.
Far be it from me to seek to undermine the finest traditions of British journalism, or to disagree with much of the above, especially the bit about Mr Kohl, but I am an admirer of Germany and have many German friends, and what follows is written in sorrow rather than anger.
At least Bismarck, the greatest brute of his age, knew how to write. This is more than can be said for a growing number of German 16-year-olds, who came well below the average in a survey of the 31 OECD countries. British children were the fourth highest achievers in science, with the Germans 16 places behind. Britain came seventh in maths and reading, well ahead of Germany. These surprising results are attributed to the increasing German reliance on half-day schooling, caused by the expense of full-time employment. Nor is the economy quite the force it was. Schroeder promised to get unemployment below 3.5 million by the end of his first term in September this year, and he will fail. Unemployment has been stuck on 10 per cent in Germany, while it is 3 per cent in this country. Germany has the lowest growth rate in the EU, and has lagged behind France and Britain since the mid-1990s. Economic freedom is crushed in Germany by regulation and by a vast welfare state paid for by taxes on jobs. Unemployment is inevitable until someone has the courage to make free-market reforms of the kind once introduced by Ludwig Erhard, but the political system favours immobility disguised as endless debate about what exactly needs to be done.
I wonder what [Her Majesty] thinks of the euro. I think we could make a pretty accurate guess. If the version of Britain presented this weekend — people of all ages coming together for a jolly good knees up to songs we can all sing along to — is the one people want, I’m not sure that this jubilee weekend hasn’t given the kiss of death to a euro referendum any time soon. If it comes to a contest between the Queen’s vision of Britain’s future and Mr Blair’s, she is well in the lead for now. There was nothing European about the weekend’s events. We had music and jokes from around the Commonwealth and the US, but not a squeak from Europe. The national mood may have demonstrated a belief in community, but not one with a European heart. No wonder the Prime Minister looked uncertain whether this was his sort of party or not.
The Wisdom of Nye Bevan….
In 1945, Nye Bevan said "This island is mainly made of coal, and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time".
Organising genius? Step forward the EU. As a result of gaping holes in European state aid rules, that allow Germany to pay massive subsidies to its miners, Britain's remaining mines are uncompetitive, and we are now a major coal importer. And of course the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has allowed Spanish fishermen to hoover up all the fish in the North Sea, creating an ecological disaster area in what were once the world's richest fisheries -- and a prime British national asset.
….and the folly of Commissioner Palacio
One of the lunacies of the CFP is that on the one hand it pays for capacity reduction and the decommissioning of fishing fleets, while on the other, it subsidises new-build capacity, primarily in Spain. There are current proposals for a modest reform which would at least abolish the new-build subsidies. (Our own Struan Stevenson MEP is Chairman of the Fisheries Committee).
But a few weeks ago Spanish Commissioner Palacio wrote to Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler opposing the reform, and calling for Spanish boats to be allowed to fish right up to British beaches. Palacio's letter was clearly in breach of her Commissioner's oath to promote the interests of the EU as a whole and not of her own member-state.
Then Prime Minister Aznar of Spain (Blair's buddy, and currently President-in-Office of the Council) phoned Commission President Romano Prodi to express his concern. Within 24 hours, an apparatchik called Steffan Smidt, the most senior official on the CFP reform process, had been fired.
But it gets worse. Commissioner Neil Kinnock's department insisted that Smidt's move was "part of a long-planned programme of staff re-assignments". But this story immediately fell apart. All the other staff on the "long-planned programme" had been advised of their moves weeks before, and given new assignments. Smidt was sacked unceremoniously on 24 hours notice.
Remember that Neil Kinnock was a member of Jaques Santer's discredited Commission (one of four who popped up again in Prodi's Commission) -- and that he's responsible for institutional reform! Watch this space. This story has legs. It will run and run.
On May 23rd, Kinnock appeared before the Budget committee in the parliament, and both Chris and I had a chance to question him on this fisheries issue. He asked us to believe that the firing of Smidt was completely unrelated to the CFP reform, or the Prodi/Aznar phone call, and that the failure to advise Smidt of his impending "re-assignment" until twenty-four hours in advance was down to an administrative error. The fact that Smidt remains without an assignment is merely coincidental. I told him in plain terms that his story was not credible and he should not imagine that we were children and that he could pull the wool over our eyes. He had a tough half hour.
One fact should send a shivering chill down Mr Smith’s spine [Andrew Smith is the new Work & Pensions Secretary]. Lombard Street Research has recently reported that new inflows to pension funds have fallen to a quarter of the level they were shortly after Labour came to power in 1997. Far from the Government’s strategy filling what the Association of British Insurers estimates to be a £27 billion-a-year pensions deficit, this gap is fast becoming a chasm into which more voters will fall as the population ages.
No one should be surprised at this either. For the best possible reasons, Gordon Brown wished to help today’s poorest pensioners and did so by introducing the minimum income guarantee (Mig). This means-tested benefit penalises huge numbers of pensioners who have saved. The rules prevent them from claiming Mig, while at the same time its recipients are given a passport to housing benefit and nil council tax. This is the killer. Most working-class pensioners who have saved find themselves thereby with a lower standard of living than people on income guarantee — some of whom could not have saved, but some of whom decided to spend their money and rely on taxpayers’ largesse.
One other area of interest is the genetic modification of The Guardian into a new kind of newspaper. Before the general election, it published its own manifesto for government. Last month it hosted its own version of Middle East peace talks. Now its Editor is writing drama scripts for public education — the heroes of which, coincidentally, are crusading journalists. Some might just detect signs of a worrying new strain — self-importance.
It goes almost without saying that middle-class life as we know it in London and in many other places would no longer be possible without the help of foreigners, many of whom come here as students but also work on the side, which they can do quite legally for up to 20 hours a week. They are usually at least as middle class as we are, and, in many cases they are the kind of trustworthy, intelligent, hard-working and sympathetic people whom you can trust implicitly with the care of your own children. There is a persistent tendency, in reporting on foreigners who come to Britain in search of work, to concentrate on those who do so illegally. It is fashionable, just now, to go underground with a hidden camera and film people doing things they should not be doing. This approach has at least three drawbacks. It is underhand, it seldom tells us anything we did not already know and, by focusing on criminality it makes it hard to imagine the existence of open, unashamed honesty.
I saw a car a few days ago with both DARWIN and ICHTHUS fish symbols. And thought, "finally!"
What Hutton is actually observing, of course, is not the Americanization of Britain, but what I have called Anglosphere convergence. Hutton ignores work such as Alan Macfarlane's, which indicates that individualistic lifestyles, measured by such indicators as predominance of nuclear families, market relationships to land ownership, and geographic mobility, have characterized English social life from as far back as records exist, far predating the Industrial Revolution that supposedly spawned such individualism. He ignores work such as that of David Hackett Fischer, who indicates the cultural characteristics of the United States, including its individualism, were inherited from the British Isles and have been remarkably persistent over the centuries.
It is rather the divergences between Britain and America that have been relatively recent by historical standards, and that have been steadily diminishing under the influence of improved communications, freer trade, and increased personal movement across the Atlantic. This convergence has been two-way, not just a case of American influence in Britain, but it is the case that much of America's openness and dynamism has contributed to the eradication of the sharp gap between the classes in Britain, and the emergence of an American-style middle class there.
[Sauron] is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind.
In the community centre of the Stockwell Park Estate [I used to live three minutes walk away from this notorious project - ed.], Julie Fawcett has seen at first hand the effects of leniency. "I have kids coming in here high on skunk [a particularly potent form of genetically engineered marijuana] and it makes them psychotic. They smoke it in their lunch hours and you can't tell them to stop it because they say 'the police don't mind'. What do you say to that?"
Ms Fawcett, whose office still bears the blackened mark of an arson attack, believes that legalisation is a middle-class project got up by people who do not understand the effects it has on the ordinary people who live on her estate. "This is a middle-class agenda from people who may smoke their dope responsibly. They don't buy from the dealers on the street who run everything here. The police have basically given up."
While accepting a modest vision of what a continued NATO might achieve, America would do well to begin constructing alternative structures for defense collaboration with nations that wish to cooperate, like Canada, on a modernist and sovereignist basis. For a roster of who else might fit into such a structure, we could do worse than look at who is fighting on the ground with us in Afghanistan, particularly Britain and Australia. Australia is another nation with a postmodernist intellectual class and a modernist population; its recent actions in dealing decisively on the asylum issue were as fully supported by the general population as they were furiously protested by the intellectual elites.
Bush was not wrong to give one more performance of the old show in Berlin; that is a theater for old shows. Soon, however, other stages will call for new plays, with bringing together veterans of other shows in other places, with a few old faces as well.
"Third Way triangulation," he said in an interview last week, "is much better suited to insurgency than incumbency. 'Not-this, not-that' is a very good way of throwing out a right-wing government. But it's not a long-term prospectus for changing your country."
The war against terrorism is a further aid to this, as it widens the distance between, on the one hand, Americans of all backgrounds and, on the other, the movements and groups with which radical African-Americans had once claimed the kinship of mutual oppression. Radical black groups were the cutting edge of the American multicultural moment, insisting on the right, even the duty, of black Americans to promote their separate culture (however that might be defined). Now, black Americans - after many decades of prejudice, and despite the poverty in which many of them still live - are able to conduct the same intricate negotiation with the rest of US society and its power structures as other groups that have successfully retained an ethnic identity. Middle-class blacks are both using and losing their separateness in order to climb up society's ladders, to enrich themselves and to pass on their wealth and position to their children - as did the Irish, Italian, Jewish and other elites. Shorn of its most active support outside the academy (where it has become a subject), extreme multiculturalism is withering on the vine.
The British governing classes have been willing to accommodate cultural exceptionalism in many ways - exempting Sikhs from wearing motorcycle helmets; allowing Jews and Muslims to kill conscious animals; acknowledging (now) that Muslims, like people of other faiths, should have their own state schools. But that is as far as it will go for a while. "Liberalism" - rather more hard-edged and unillusioned than in the 1960s - is back. David Blunkett, who articulates the view of the council estates best, as he came from one, has made it clear that citizenship, learning the English language and adherence to the law and cultural norms will now be more explicitly expected of communities that still define themselves as culturally or religiously apart from the indigenous one (white, brown or black). This month, the police got new guidelines on forced marriages which stress that these are not simply a faster version of arranged marriages, and that the possible consequences - assault, rape, kidnap - are no less crimes because committed within a family. A recent ICM poll for BBC News Online showed that, even though most people think that race relations have improved in the past ten years, they also think that immigration has had a negative effect - further ammunition for those who believe that multiculturalism, which pinpoints the indigenous community as the problem, can damage race relations.
Here is a selection of some of the things being pushed through the European Parliament this week. None is especially momentous. None is big enough, on its own, to make much of a stir. But, taken collectively, they give a pretty good indication of the direction in which the EU is going.
Report on the Future Development of Europol
Europol is described by the European Parliament as "the embryonic federal European police force". It is intended to evolve into a kind of European FBI, dealing with major crimes while leaving the lesser offences to the national constabularies. To this end, the report proposes to make it directly accountable to the European Parliament, and to incorporate its funding into the EU budget, thus removing it completely from the control of the nation-states.
Report on Corporate Social Responsibility
Here is yet another attempt to regulate businesses, so that their mission is "broader than only making profits". In particular, firms are ordered to "maintain a gender balance, not only in Europe, but in third world countries where they have branches", and to allow a whole clutch of busybody pressure groups to regulate whether they are trading ethically, maintaining a proper work-life balance and so on.
Recommendation on a Single Electoral Method
In a separate report, the European Parliament reiterates its demand for a uniform voting system for European elections. It wants all countries to operate on the basis of party list proportional representation, and to hold their elections on the same day (which would mean moving the UK election from Thursday to Sunday). It also demands equal numbers of men and women on the party lists, and calls for 10 per cent of MEPs to be elected from a single pan-European list. This would obviously disqualify parties, such as the British Conservatives, who do not contest elections on a trans-national manifesto.
Division of Powers
The Parliament is setting out its stall for the proposed European Constitution. It wants to endow the EU with legal personality, opening the way to EU representation at the United Nations and on other international bodies. It also calls for the "communitarisation" of justice and home affairs and of foreign policy – that is, an end to the current intergovernmental approach in those areas.
This is, if anything, a light legislative week. Yet, day after day, the European Parliament is adopting a series of harmonising measures which barely make the news in the member countries. So much for Tony Blair’s fond notion that "Europe is coming our way".
Since the last general election the Tories have learnt to listen, and adopted a strategy appropriate to reality. They recognise that the biggest challenge facing the nation is the need to improve health, education, transport and crime-fighting. They identify the biggest impediment to reform as the impulse to centralise, regulate and second-guess which is intrinsic to Labour. And they emphasise that while all of us lose out as a consequence of public sector failure, with the middle classes forced to pay twice for many services, the biggest losers are the most vulnerable.
By concentrating on this strategy the Tories align themselves with the majority, where elections are won. By declining to be drawn into other arguments, such as the euro, they display that focus on the real national interest which an aspirant government requires. Should a euro referendum be called, then the Tories are in a better position to argue, as is right, that it is a monumental distraction from the real issues Britain faces. And they come to the argument with greater credibility as a party which sees this issue in the round.
A MAN who spent 11 years in jail for a murder he did not commit has been charged £37,000 for his stay.
The Home Office deducted the money from Michael O’Brien’s £650,000 compensation.
Officials claimed he was not entitled to the full amount because he did not pay living expenses while behind bars.
Together, we oppose an enemy that thrives on violence and the grief of the innocent. The terrorist are defined by their hatreds: they hate democracy and tolerance and free expression and women and Jews and Christians and all Muslims who disagree with them. Others killed in the name of racial purity, or the class struggle. These enemies kill in the name of a false religious purity, perverting the faith they claim to hold. In this war we defend not just America or Europe; we are defending civilization itself.
The evil that has formed against us has been termed the 'new totalitarian threat.' The authors of terror are seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Regimes that sponsor terror are developing these weapons and the missiles to deliver them. If these regimes and their terrorist allies were to perfect these capabilities, no inner voice of reason, no hint of conscience would prevent their use.
Wishful thinking might bring comfort, but not security. Call this a strategic challenge; call it, as I do, an axis of evil; call it by any name you choose -- but let us speak the truth. If we ignore this threat, we invite certain blackmail, and place million of our citizens in grave danger.
Those who despise human freedom will attack it on every continent. Those who seek missiles and terrible weapons are also familiar with the map of Europe. Like the threats of another era, this threat cannot be appeased or cannot be ignored. By being patient, relentless, and resolute, we will defeat the enemies of freedom.
In my judgment, the volume and intensity of this unchallenged diatribe has now transcended mere criticism of Israel. Hatred is in the air. Wittingly or not, I am convinced that the BBC has become the principal agent for reinfecting British society with the virus of anti-Semitism. And that is a game I am not willing to play, even if, as one BBC researcher recently assured me, my interview fee far exceeded that of my Arab opposite numbers (an outrageously racist point that I, a third-generation refugee and an exile from apartheid South Africa, found difficult to appreciate fully).
I am neither an apologist for the Israeli government nor a defender of its policies. I have been perfectly capable of taking a critical view of Israel when appearing on the BBC, whether it was the Israel of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak or Ariel Sharon. And I am not afraid of informed criticism from others. On the contrary, I believe that criticism is essential to the health of the democratic process (although I was always perplexed that Arab guests were treated with a kind of paternalism that never permitted hard questions).
I have a problem with the BBC’s propensity to select and spin the news in order to reduce a highly complex conflict to a monochromatic, single-dimensional comic cut-out, whose well-worn script features a relentlessly brutal, demonically evil Ariel Sharon and a plucky, bumbling, misunderstood Yasser Arafat, the benign Father of Palestine in need of a little TLC (plus $50 million a month) from the West.
But it was not just the lamentable standards of journalism. I parted company with the BBC over its hysterical advocacy of the most extreme Palestinian positions; an advocacy that has now transmogrified into a distorting hatred of a criminal Israel and, by extension, into a burgeoning hatred of Jews closer to home.
It is astonishing that little more than half a century after the Holocaust, the BBC, guardian of liberalism and political correctness, should provide the fertile seedbed for the return of ‘respectable’ anti-Semitism that finds expression not only in the smart salons of London but also, according to the experts who monitor such phenomena, across the entire political spectrum, uniting the far-Left with the Centre and far-Right.
While voluntary co-operation can achieve progress, the need for binding legislation on certain aspects should also be examined, such as the statute of immigrants within the European Union or a European regime for dealing with asylum seekers. All legislation on justice and home affairs should be proposed by the Commission, adopted by co-decision (Council and Parliament) and controlled by the Court of Justice.
In this context, Commissioner Vitorino recalled: "The constitutional architecture of the Union should be based upon the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This will guarantee the protection of democratic values and the individual rights of all residents in the Union".
EU COMMISSION DAVID BYRNE GIVES INCOMING IRISH GOVERNMENT ITS ORDERS
"A conclave of technocrats without a country responsible to no one" - French President Charles de Gaulle on the EU Commission.
* * *
The incoming Irish Government should "get down at once" to re-running the Nice Treaty referendum, Irish EU Comissioner David Byrne said on RTE's "Morning Ireland" this morning.
This statement comes a day after Mr Byrne put his name to the Commission's proposals to the EU Convention that the Commission become a quasi-government for Europe,the sole source of EU legislative proposals on economic policy, EU-wide taxes, foreign policy, and an EU frontier police and public prosecutor in an EU area of harmonised civil and criminal law.
(N.B. If the latter should come about - and big steps in this direction have been already taken - it would mean an end to trial-by-jury and "habeas corpus," as these pillars of the justice systems of the English-speaking world do not exist in the continental EU systems, which permit preventive detention and inquisitorial judges.)
Key elements of Irish civil society such as the Trade Unions, IBEC and the Churches must play their part to get Nice 2 ratified, Commissioner Byrne laid down on "Morning Ireland."
In assessing Commissioner Byrne's remarks one should bear in mind that the EU Commission, and Mr Byrne as one of its members, has a significant selfish vested interest in the ratification of the Nice Treaty. Nice's abolition of the national veto in some 30 policy areas means that the Commission becomes the sole proposer of EU law in these areas, which obviously increases its power.
Other Nice Treaty provisions have the effect of moving the Commission towards becoming a quasi-EU Government,an aspiration which Commission President Romano Prodi's proposals to the EU Convention yesterday puts further flesh and bones on.
These include the provision of the Nice Treaty that removes from national governments and prime ministers the final say in deciding who will be their national Commissioner. Under Nice this is to be done by majority Council of Minsters' vote, rather than unanimously as heretofore. Under Nice, Governments also lose their veto on the appointment of the Commission President, who will henceforth be able to shuffle and reshuffle Commissioners after their appointment, much as a national prime minister can shuffle a cabinet.
This replacement of unanimity by qualified majority vote will have the effect, if Nice is ratified, of ensuring that both the President of the
Commission and individual national Commissioners must be congenial from the outset to the qualified majority on the EU Council - which means effectively the EU's Big-State Members.
Couple these provisions of Nice with the Treaty's proposals for a rotating EU Commission in an enlarged EU, and the fact that the ultimate size of the Commission is still undecided, and one can see why former top Irish EU officials Eamon Gallagher and John Temple Lang told the Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle that Article 4 of the Nice Treaty's Protocol on EU Enlargement providing for rotating Commissioners, is "a serious flaw" in the Nice Treaty, and is in no way necessary to facilitate EU enlargement.
As Eamon Gallagher said there: "If the principle of one member of the Commission per Member State is given up now, you will not get it back later."
These are some of the reasons why all good Europeans and exponents of the European ideal should be pleased that the Nice Treaty was rejected by the Irish people last summer, for it gives the opportunity of deleting these objectionable proposals in a revised EU Treaty, or one that does not require a constitutional referendum in Ireland, before it is too late. Or else leaving the contentious issues of Nice to the 2004 grand constitutional EU Treaty now being discussed in the EU Convention.
On "Morning Ireland" also Commissioner Byrne repeated the canard that the Treaty of Nice is necessary for EU enlargement, despite the statement of his superior, Commission President Romano Prodi, last summer that "Legally,ratification of the Nice Treaty is not necessary for enlargement. It is without any problem up to 20 members, and those beyond 20 members have only to put in the accession agreement some notes of change, some clause. But legally, it's not necessary... from this specific point of view, enlargement is possible without Nice."
The FACTS about the relation between the Nice Treaty and EU enlargement are given in a letter in today's "Irish Times" from National Platform secretary Anthony Coughlan. This was written in reply to an article by UCD Jean Monnet Professor Brigid Laffan, in which she gave the same tendentious twist as Commissioner Byrne does to what the Nice Treaty is about.
This follows for your information:
THE NICE TREATY AND EU ENLARGEMENT -
Text of letter in today's "Irish Times" from National Platform secetary Anthony Coughlan:
Professor Brigid Laffan writes (15 May) that the Nice Treaty was negotiated to permit EU enlargement. How does she reconcile that statement with the following facts?
Nice replaces unanimity by qualified majority voting on the EU Council of Ministers in some 30 policy areas. These include the appointment of EU Commissioners, the funding of EU-wide political parties, international trade in services, the implementation of agreed foreign policy joint actions and common positions, and the rules of the EU Structural Funds. What have these to do with EU enlargement?
Nice abolishes the right of each Member State to have one of its nationals on the EU Commission in an enlarged EU. Former Irish EU officials Eamonn Gallagher and John Temple Lang have characterised this provision as "a serious flaw" in the Treaty and as in no way necessary for EU enlargement. They see it as a dangerous erosion of the legitimacy of the Commission as the guardian of the common EU interest, and particularly disadvantageous for small States like Ireland.
Nice permits the division of the EU into first-class and second-class members by permitting eight or more EU Members to "do their own thing" and to use the EU institutions for that purpose, even though the other Members disagree. Examples would be harmonising taxes among themselves or making the EU Court of Justice the final determinant of their citizens' human rights.
Eight out of 15, or eight out of 20, or eight out of a possible 27 in an enlarged EU. This ends the EU as a partnership of legal equals, in which each State has a veto on fundamental change. At present the other EU States cannot go ahead and agree special arrangements among themselves without Ireland's permission. These "enhanced cooperation" provisions of the Nice Treaty would allow them to do that in future.
It is these provisions which make up the new constitutional matter that requires a referendum in Ireland if Nice is to be ratified. There is no need for us to change our Constitution to permit EU enlargement, anymore than we had to hold referendums on previous enlargements.
These provisions for what would effectively become a two-tier three-tier EU are not necessary for enlargement. They were brought into the Treaty negotiations by France and Germany at the Feira EU Summit after the Intergovernmental Conference(IGC) to consider the implications of enlargement had been set up. Their political purpose is to enable the Big States, Germany and France in particular, to establish an inner directorate in an enlarged EU, which can then confront the rest with continual political and economic faits accomplis. They provide the legal path towards what M. Jacques Delors called for in 2000: "A Union for the enlarged Europe
and a Federation for the avant-garde."
Nice militarizes the EU in a new way by making the EU directly responsible for the first time for the 60,000-soldier "Rapid Reaction Force" and the associated EU Military Committee and EU Military Staff, instead of using the Western European Union as the agent of the EU in military matters, as was previously the case. Again, what has this to do with EU enlargement?
The Treaty of Amsterdam says that if the EU enlarges by even one State, the Big States will lose one of the two Commissioners each now has, but will be compensated by increasing their relative voting weight on the Council of Ministers OR by taking their population size into account in such votes. That does not require a further EU Treaty. It is why Commission President Prodi told the Irish Times last June that "enlargement is possible without Nice," and that the EU can be enlarged by 10 or more Applicant countries on the basis of their individual Accession Treaties, as happened with previous enlargements.
Nice BOTH increases the relative voting weight of the Big States AND introduces a population criterion for Council votes from January 2005, irrespective of whether EU enlargement has occurred by then, and irrespective of the number of new Member States. The allocation of Council votes and Euro-Parliament Seats for the 12 Applicant countries is set out in a Declaration attached to the Nice Treaty as the common position of the 15 Members in their negotiations with the Applicants. This is not legally part of the Treaty proper. It was therefore not rejected by Ireland when we voted No to Nice last year. There is no reason why the Applicant countries
cannot join the EU on the basis of the proposals in this Declaration.
The logic of these facts would seem to be that the non-contentious parts of Nice should be put into another Treaty which does not require a constitutional referendum in Ireland. The contentious parts, such as the "enhanced cooperation" provisions, should be left to the Year 2004 Treaty now being discussed in the EU Convention, when the Applicant countries can have a say on them as full EU Members. May I suggest that this is the course the Government should insist on vis-à-vis its EU partners, if it is to do its constitutional duty in the light of last year's Nice referendum result.