Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scottish referendum and the next Convention

Tomorrow is a big day for the European Union. If Scottish citizens (including more than 160 thousands non-British ones) vote for the independence, they will launch an unprecedented process within the EU. It will trigger a whole debate about the reorganisation of internal EU affairs. 
If they vote NO, it will trigger a reorganisation of the Great Britain according to the latest promises of the UK leaders. So the reorganisation process is under way, one way or another. 
My sympathy is with the pro-independance vote but not so much because independant Scotland is so dear to me. I could live with both outcomes, whatever the Scotts choose. 
What I am interested in is how such a process would be menaged by the European polity. And it is better to test it with the pragmatic British mind than an emotional Iberic heart (Catalogne). 
Here I come to a second part of this blog. What should be the best platform to deal with a Yes vote of the Scottish voters? I tend to think it should be a Convention. Here are some arguments for this thesis:

1. Whoever followed the discussion about jthe Scottish independance knows that in the discussion rooms part of the public always came from the Cataluna. So whatever comes out of negotiations between London-Brussels-Edinburgh, will be closely followed by Madrid and Barcelona.... Sorry, I meant to say that both Madrid and Barcelona will be part of this process anyway. So the new blueprint will hold for the future. And that is why it is important to set the precedent right! 

2. One of the big discussions about independant Scotland is the question of the British pound. Interestingly, it touches the discussion on the benefits and costs of having a single currency - the Euro. If Scotland is asked to negotiate its terms of accession according to the Maastricht treaty and the Copenhagen criteria, it would be forced to adopt the Euro, which economicaly (access to the British market) is not the best solution. This opens the whole debate about concentric circles in the Union. Should we force all the countries to join all the core policies, or should we allow for flexibility, different speed Europe? Should we allow countries to leave the Euro, without leaving the Union? We should touch on such taboo topics too. 

3. A minor detail which was already discussed in the last Convention. Can we still afford to have a Commissioner from each Member State? Because of the Irish no in their first Lisbon treaty referendum, we have to stick to 28 'ministers' and we are approaching a non-managable number of them in the future. If this logic holds true that each of the 16 German landers (if Germany was to disaggragate) could claim a Commissioner... we would end up in the Commission of 40.... This has to be rationalised somehow. 

4. Of course there is an issue of the potential UK referendum whether to stay in the EU or not. A Convention process would the best forum to discuss the reformed EU at large. It gives the opportunity to cater for the wishes of the British euro-scepticism and the Dutch EU reluctance... 

I advise all of those interested in the topic to follow the streaming of the conference 'We, the citizens: how to let Europeans participate in the future Treaty changes' where different experts discussed not only the question of the Convention, but a European-wide referendum as well. I am particularly enchanted with the speech of Ben Crum (II part, 1:00) where he developes a political perspective of a vulgarisation of the convention method. He says: 'We have to live the fact that democracy is a way.' 
So we cannot pre-define all the results. We have to live both the success and the failure if we want to learn and open the decision process. 
What I find most striking is his idea that also the citizens should be allowed to elect directly their representatives for the next Convention. So are we moving back to the ancient Rome and the idea of people's tribunes? This is a new issue for me that merits a good discussion... 

Let's keep our minds open and see how the future unfolds... 

Friday, 20 June 2014

What is in the head of Mr Putin?

I am deeply worried. 
Although I am an optimist always trying to find the positive aspects of the situation I cannot help this worry. 
I am part of the generation of 1989. Which means my whole life (that I remember) so far happened after the dissolution of the Soviet empire in Europe. 
What is now happening in Ukraine is deeply troubling. I am troubled that apparently Mr Putin believes democracy is not good for Ukraine. This is how I see it. Maybe I am blind following mostly the western media (I do not really speak Russian)... but it seems to me that Russian tsar wants to turn back the time and rebuild the Russian empire like his predecessor Katherine the Great did in the XIXth century...
I am not a rioter. I do not like when presidents are destituted by protesting crowds. I much prefer elections. But what happened in Ukraine over the last 8 months is a very complex process with true societal basis. I hope Putin cannot turn back the clock.
Ukraine was a victim of the XXth century. You should read the recent article of professor Snyder. The inhabitants of the current Ukraine have a right for some peace... Why Mr Putin wages war? Is it because democratic Ukraine is a threat to his regime in Russia? I do not see any better response to this question. 

The current affairs in Poland with the wiretapping scandal are serious. But I see a strong potential link between the Putin's campaign in Ukraine and what is now happening in Poland. It is clearly in the interest of Putin to destabilize Polish government at this very moment. Poland was behaving too much pro the democratic developments in Ukraine... 
I am not saying the Polish government is clean and fine. But I think we should look beyond what is now going on in Poland. And this is deeply worrying.
So what will be next? Baltic states destabilisation? Lithuania is joining Eurozone next January. Will it be allowed to do it.... I hope I am just worried too much... But I am not sure. 
What is in the head of Mr Putin? How he sees the future of Europe and Russia? I hope we are not going into a war. But I think we should seriously consider this question. 1914 happened because some people miscalculated the situation. It was definitely not in the interest of the French, German, British, Russian, not to mention Poles and Ukrainians... Belgians to spend 4 years if the trenches. Let's try not to slip to the abbys again! 
The only way to redeem the past is to change the future! 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Juncker versus Cameron - or how personal is the EU politics?

I have attended a conference in the Centre Edelmann yesterday about how the press perceives EU election process and results. Here is a couple of points:
1. In international press nobody gets what the EPP and S&D are, not to mention Liberals or Greens. But personalities play well. It is easier to build stories on them.
2. The press coverage was concentrated on the 2 big contenders: Schultz and Juncker. Apparently the scene was set by the first debate in France24. Poor Verhofstadt.... did not make it...
3. The Schultz-Juncker duel played really well in Germany in the last phase of the campaign. This creates a very tough situation for Merkel, as she needs to respect the democratic logic that came with it. It will be hard for her not to respect the official narrative that 'Juncker' won it. Even though in fact he did not... as most of European public did not notice....
4. We are now in a process of nomination of the Commission president that is hard to predict. This alone is a very interesting novelty for EU commentators.
5. The EP is exploiting its 'democratic legitimacy' to its limits. But European Council has a 'democratic legitimacy' as well. I would even claim that by the participation rate in the elections (EP - 43%) the European Council of elected leaders has much higher legitimacy (national elections turnout tends to be higher).
6. Now the game seems to be between Juncker and Cameron who voiced his strong veto. Can UK block the third Commission president in a row (Jean-Luc Dehaene, Guy Verhofstadt, now Juncker)?
7. The UK situation will be one of the key thing to watch over the next months. UKIP win shakes the whole political system.
8. Hollande has officially backed the presidential contest in these elections. Now it is actually France that gives a strong backing to Juncker... very interesting element.

The EP made a campaign under the slogan 'this time is different' Clearly it looks like it is. But before we jump into the nomination process we should spend some time and reflect on the Eurosceptic votes in UK, France, Italy (Grillo), Germany (Alternative fuer Deutschland) etc. Next time it might be quite different again...

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Banking Union - unintended consequences and path dependency

I kept silent for 6 months or so.... Was I too busy? Or my personal computer went down which forced me to use the older, crappy one. Anyway, my previsions for steps to federation during last December proved overly optimistic and a bit too early. But the unfolding of events looks like there is a new great bargain approaching.
I can bet by December 2012 we shall start a real next step in the european integration. Will it be called Banking Union (sounds like Ban-Ki-Moon...... :), or Fiscal integrated management..... or The Union (do not mistake with The Facebook :))..... the name can be sorted later. But the financial and economic crisis is posing an existential threat to the Union as we know it and it will require a substantial readjustement of the whole structure. When I wrote about the last Convention in 2005 I did not think we shall have another one that quickly. But from what Andrew Duff says and I believe THIS TIME he might be right..... we might face a new one in the beginning of 2015. What is the logic?
1. European Council will come up at the end with Treaty proposals that will substantially alter the distribution of power and competences in the European Union. Depending on the British position we shall have a new Maastrich type treaty (for all 28 Member states).
2. The economic governance reforms will be created in a piecemeal approach. They will not be perfect, rather short-term fixes like EFSF, ESM..... Ok, 6-pack was not short term... but what I try to say is that we shall have many pieces of a structure but the new architecture shall be missing.
3. The European Parliament elections will be tough for the traditional ruling blocks of Socialist and European Peoples Party. The new power structure and new entrants will show the disenchantement of the population with the behind the scenes tractations at European summits.
4. A legitimation effort shall be needed, and maybe this will even be the claim of main parties that a Convention looks  at the new picture and tries to bring clarity to the new status quo.

So let's see and wait if this time my prognosis will be proved right. I expect a bumpy second part of 2012 but the framework presented by Van Rompuy for the June summit seems like a vision document (but without the dates).....

Summing up, It is a very good time to be passionately interested in European politics. Watch the new union unfold. As to discussions if this should be a federation, confederation, union or community..... I vote for 'EUROPA'. We do not need to abide by what is there in the political science. We create an entity that will defy the existing categorisations. New ones will need to depict the new reality. Enjoy the show!

Monday, 5 December 2011

The EU on a way to federation

So it looks like France and Germany agreed for a new treaty change. Yet this time the logic of change is different. It is enough if some 17 plus countries ratify the new treaty for it to come into force. This looks like a situation experienced by the States of America when they were ratifying the US Constitution in 1787...
So this is a historical moment: change from a confederal rule of unanimity to a federal rule of a majority. Ok, a special majority where France and Germany have to be in, or do they?
So the next steps are as follows:
The European Council will agree this week to start the treaty amendment process. Then the European Parliament will use its right to convene a Convention, why should not it insist of this right?
So in March we start a Convention, which we probably be limited in time - let's say till end of July. The new IGC will be so locked by the Convention that it will barely touch on the substance and in December 2012 we shall start the ratification process. However this time ratifications will be clearly scheduled in a sensible way. Starting from the most pro-European to the least. So if the majority to enact the treaty is set at let's say 4/5 of the countries and 2/3 of the population we shall see an interesting count down.
Maybe it is time to undust my thesis on the dynamics of the Convention? Who knows....
Now let's see who will chair the next Convention? Is it Mr Van Rompuy or the Convention will be allowed to choose itself? Rather not.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

So much going on in the world... it made me silent...

Dear readers,
I have been silent for a while, almost 9 months. This is a suicide for a blogger. In the world of twitter, on-line news, Arab spring and euro zone fighting for credibility this is an inexcusable absence. But what means 9 months in our lives?
I was struggling to stay on top of the news. What is really important? What should we concentrate our attention on?
I participate in the Brussels Forum in April where we had a meeting with Gordon Brown. He said that we are in the middle of a big change which touches on the way we produce and think about the world.
I read today that if the imbalance cannot continue forever it will not. So actually the big question of today is: when will US realize it cannot continue as it does and does the Chinese government really know what it is doing?
I witness the European institutions on the daily basis and still I think it is mostly concerned with the inward looking. What will be the next financial perspective 2013-2020 and these type of questions.
I have a big trust in Mr Van Rompuy and European Parliament on the whole but can these two 'institutions' carry the burden of ailing monetary union alone? I do not have any good answers.... So far the financial markets with their 'idees fixes' have won on Greece, Ireland and Portugal. So now the whole European game should be about stopping the disease and defending Spain credit standing.
One year has gone since Greece went 'boost'. What have we learnt since the? Are we addressing the causes or just put palliative pills to deter the shock therapy?
I think everything can be faced with a good leadership and a vision. I see it being constructed around Mr Van Rompuy. But I think that the turf wars of Brussels can still take a lot of energy and divert his attention. What are his powers? Chairing meetings and making speeches....
The real power is in the Commission and member state chancelleries.
Sarkozy is fighting for reelection and his mind is probably dominated by preparation for G8 and G20. I have been recently to Deauville - really nice place which looks probably the same as 100 years ago. But if Deauville is the place to make world decisions.... I doubt. It looks more like the old XX century decisions taken in Yalta or Teheran... has the world changed a bit?

With time and Fukushimas I am growing more assured by the Ecologic movement. Sure, as our neighbour Claude said recently there are also 'Khmer vert' - green Khmers in the world. But at least about the nuclear power the Green seem to put the right diagnosis- we cannot control it, the risk is too high.
So coming back to the French elections next year, I hope the Greens can make it to the second round :) Can Eva Joly make it?

And on my professional front the Deauville summit will discuss also the 'development accountability'. For me this is a very interesting concept. I think it is not about how much money have we committed but what have we achieved through this....

So this is in the nutshell a 'tour of the monde' as I see it. I hope I will be back to blogging. It is like a security valve: when you have too much intellectual input you need a place to put it out....
In the meantime I plan some travelling: Berlin, Kinshasa, Madrid. Is not Brussels central? From Gliwice to Brussels and around the world. :)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

on burka ban

Very good article from Bruno Waterfield (here). I can hardly imagine people going to jail because wearing wrong clothes.
Europe has a problem facing islam. And it even fails to admit that there is an issue. Banning is not the best basis for a dialogue...