EU Elections and the Lisbon Treaty: Only Rookies Have No Plan "B"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

As I read more and more about EU politics thanks to this EU blogging initiative, which provides me with a good insight on the issues in the other 26 member countries I am becoming more and more enraged. 
Digging through the wealth of information on the EU’s official websites and after reading the Lisbon Treaty in full (find it here in your preferred language) I am more ambivalent than ever because the way to this complete overhaul of the EU’s inner workings lacks too much in terms of a truly democratic process. We the people are certainly not the ones who can influence our very own political future, being overridden by our own governments.

Governments Overriding the Will of the Sovereign
France and the Netherlands had both voted against the treaty, but the decision of some 80 million EU citizens in these 2 countries against the Lisbon Treaty was overruled by their very own governments who were elected to represent the interests and the will of the sovereign, that is the citizens. My last hopes lie with the German constitutional court who will publish his decision on the Treaty only after EU elections.
I am calling on all Irishmen and -women to clearly signal the EU at the second referendum in September that is has to become an institution that follows the will of the sovereign if it does not want to risk major social unrest in the time of the worst global economic crisis since 60 years.
The arrogance of the EU not to accept the sovereign’s decision in 3 countries is unacceptable. In my country Austria the sovereign was not even asked about its stance on the Lisbon Treaty with a heavy focus on the interests of business and the warmongers, while lacking a social charta that deserves that name.

Vote Until It Is RIGHT
People are not as stupid as incompetent politicians on the supranational and national level want to believe. Sensing a more aggressive tone in the only news sector not filled with blatant lies and politicians lala-gobbledygook, the blogosphere, I would say the gloves are coming off in the discussion of our future.
Driving the Irish to the polls again in September is certainly not democratic. It is a clear sign that the EU council, which is not elected by anyone, gives a you know what about the sovereign’s will. Read these older posts.
Being a history buff I am also most skeptic when leaders tell their people that there is only one possible way. Hitler did it in the 1930s (reminder: he was elected before starting his tyranny that cost probably more than 25 million people in Europe and Russia their lives.) Sorry, only rookies, dictators and tyrants have no plan “B.” If you don’t like this very cynical comparison, prove me wrong in comments - without being polemic - please.
Every business, from the one-wo/man graphics design bureau to multinational corporations has to have at least 3 scenarios (best, average, worst case) on their economic future or they would be laughed out of the bank when trying to aquire new funds for an expansion of their firm.
So how come politicians think they can create an agreeing followership when they leave us only one choice? The political spectrum and with it the possibilities is much broader. Seeing tendencies
to discredit the pan-European libertas party - linking them to shadowy characters - I consider a principal discussion of the EU style of democracy much more urgent than anything else.
Having read the Lisbon Treaty my 3 major criticisms focus on
  1. the establishment of a EU president (have they already decided which historical palace will be his residence and how much this will cost?)
  2. the establishment of a EU foreign minister (the sovereign in the smaller countries has probably very different interests than those countries that partook in former US president Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”) Don’t try to tell me this is will be a peacekeeping force. We have this at the global level already, with UN soldiers and the bloody history of corruption, human trafficking and other issues that are far far away from the law I respect most, but which is trampled on by so many Western countries by now.
  3. the foundation of a EU army (will you send your kids to die for imperial visions at the highest level of the EU or will the grown up children of EU politicians volunteer to help their parents’ visions of warmongering?)
EU commissioners Juan M. Barroso’s dangerous visions cannot be displayed often enough. Watch the long version of his statement about an imperialist EU that has a (negative) historical dimension.

Empires always waste the lives of a sovereign turned into cannon fodder. The American Indians may not have known the wheel, but they dissolved conflicts by having the tribal chiefs fighting each other with their communities onlooking. No lives got wasted this way. 
When I voted yes for the EU in Austria in 1995 I voted for a European Community. Now I find myself in a union nobody has ever asked me about whether that is my will.
Can anybody help me with the question whether the EU is really democratic? In 1987 I compiled an executive briefing for the Austrian Trade Union Congress ÖGB. At that time the EEC (European Economic Community) would not have been able to join itself because of lacking democracy. Is this still the case?
Following EU politics I think it still is the same. After all the EU council still can overrule the EP (European Parliament) so easily as they decide on political milestones at their regular meetings.
The EP certainly has an image problem stemming from the length between their decisions and the ratification in all 27 member states that can take up to 2 years. Nobody has such a long attention span.
Putting all internet assistance aside the only EP decision that made it to my ears/eyes is the limit for international roaming fees charged to mobile phone users. But how many normal people, who have 5 weeks or less time to vacation every year, are really helped with this legislation?  This may be very interesting for EU officials jet-setting between Brussels, Strasbourg and their homecountry, but the rest? The internet savvy generation has long discovered that email dispatched in a cybercafe or vocal communication via Skype is much much cheaper than those new limits on roaming fees promise.

Why Zero Tolerance Policies?
This leads me to my last pricipal issue. With 27 member states there are certainly more than just one approach on issues.
Being a smoker who was turned on to cigarettes by unlimited advertising in the 1970s (gorgeous woman surrounding cool guys) I take the mad rush towards a smoke-free world as a good example that the EU would be better advised to respect the personal freedom and the sovereignty of my body.
Austria has a 300 years old history of smoke filled cafes that used to be the second living room of such prominent smokers like the author Stefan Zweig and the Russian revolutionary Leo Trotsky. We call that a “smoking culture.”
(Small anecdote: When the Russian revolution overthrew the Czar’s abusive rulership, a waiter in Cafe Central shook his head, saying, “who should make a revolution in Russia? Don’t tell me it was maybe Herr Trotsky from table 12.”)
Austria has a very high, if not the highest percentage of sovereigns smoking within the EU. Again: First I was turned into an addict (tried to quit uncountable times with no success as I like to relax with a cigarette. Nicotine is the only drug that can both help you relaxing as well as sharpening your concentration.)
Then I was forced to shell out more and more money because the state raised taxes to the point that more than 70% of a pack’o fags’ price lands in the government’s empty coffers.
Now they attack my health a second time with outlawing smoking in many more places so I have to leave buildings regardless of the bad Austrian weather, risking a cold in the process.
I know enough members of the hospitality industry that complain about sharply falling revenues because smokers can no longer socialize in their former favorite venues. All this because some anti-smoking zealots drive their ruthless agenda forward.
Take a look in Paris. Isn’t it perverse that you cannot smoke in a Bar Tabac? Where would Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg and Andre Glucksmann convene nowadays?
I  see the same picture all over Europe by now. As roughly a fourth to a third of Europeans still smoke despite high taxes (just check out the well filled smokers section in the Brussels EU headquarters) I cannot understand that we need a regulation where the free market had found a working solution.
It should be left to the restaurateur/bar owner etc. to decide on this issue by her/himself. Smokers visit their smoke-filled cafe/restaurant of choice and leave the same right to non-smokers in choosing where they go out.
Don’t tell me all places have to be accessible for everyone. Applying the same rigid standards the EU does with non-smoking would mean that all restaurants have to have the same menu in order not to discriminate against somebody. Well, I do not need to go to every restaurant. I prefer those where I can enjoy a meal and the cigarette/cigar afterwards.
If this were really about health politics the EU has a much more pressing problem with alcohol.
Quoting from a EU press release from 2006:
  • 55 million adults are estimated to drink at harmful levels in the EU (more than 40g of alcohol i.e. 4 drinks a day for men and over 20g i.e. 2 drinks a day by women). Drinking more than this is known to carry a health risk
  • Harmful alcohol consumption is estimated to be responsible for approximately 195,000 deaths a year in the EU, due to e.g. accidents, liver disease, cancers etc.
  • Harmful alcohol use is the 3rd biggest cause of early death and illness in the EU, behind tobacco and high blood pressure.
  • More than 1 in 4 traffic accident deaths on EU roads is caused by drink-driving (approximately 10,000 per year)
  • More than 1 out of every 4 deaths among young men (aged 15-29 years) in the EU is due to alcohol (often caused by road traffic accidents, homicide, violence etc) and 1 in every 10 deaths among young women.

  • If the EP is a representative cross-section of 300 million EU citizens, 1 in 6 MEPs has an alcohol problem. Talk to a politician and he will tell you that we have a “drinking culture” in Europe.

    PHOTO: One of 55 million EU citizens with an alcohol problem called "drinking culture"
    Go here for pictures of binge drinking among the younger generation that will direct the EU’s fate in the future. Please tell me more about the alcohol “culture” we have in Europe. Find a treasure chest full of information on this webpage with many more links concerning this “culture” whose total social cost is estimated at 1.3% of the EU’s annual GDP (gross domestic product), equivalent to the costs of smoking.
    Reading that page you will arrive at the conclusion that the EU initiatives to curb drinking are quite lame and do not reach the public at the same level as the propaganda of the anti-smoking zealots (are they all abstinent by now, promoting the same zero tolerance for alcohol?)
    With more than 300 million citizens - each of them an individual with his very own political interests - I consider it a very bad mistake that the EP tries to dress us with only one suit of regulations. Democracy means to tolerate different points of view.
    Last but not least I think the EU should focus much more on the 3 fundamental problems that will relegate Europe to become the backwater of the world if nothing is done very soon:
    1. Heavily indebted Europe has almost no energy or commodity resources, putting us at the mercy of the Chinese who buy up everything all over the world.
    2. The future demographic development with a flip-flop of the age pyramid will force us to roll out the red carpet for “economic refugees” and asylum seekers, spoon-feeding us in senior’s residences.
    3. Labor unit costs are still the highest in the world.
    Enough for today, I will come up with more examples of hypocrisy in the EU next week. And now, PLEASE comment, comment, comment!
    NOTE: This article gets cross-posted at TH!nkABOUTIT, an EU blogging initiative in the runup to the EP elections from June 4 to June 7.


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