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...