“Open Letter” to Stephen Collins, Irish Times political correspondent, from Anthony Coughlan

Dear Stephen,

I suppose that you would count me as one of “the usual suspects” whom you refer to in your Irish Times article of last Saturday (23 March): ”Cypriot crisis puts Irish experience into perspective”, as wishing “to make political capital out of the initial botched attempt to impose some losses on Cypriot depositors”.

While you make valid points in your article, its concluding thrust – that “the EU and its institutions have made Europe a far better place than at any time in its history” – sidesteps the question of whether adopting the Euro-currency and becoming a member of the Eurozone, which is currently a legal obligation on all EU members except the UK and Denmark, have really made Europe “a far better place”.

Do you really believe that Europe is a better place today than it was, say, twenty-five years ago?

As the Cypriots, Greeks, Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians – and we Irish – are discovering the hard way these days, the EU/EC of, say, 1988, before the euro-currency project was embarked on, was by any objective standard surely a better place than the EU of today, when tensions and even hatred are growing between creditor and debtor States INSIDE the Eurozone and when the peoples of the ten EU States which have decided to stay OUTSIDE the Eurozone and to retain their national currencies are thanking their lucky stars they did not join that crisis-racked entity.

This point is made strongly by Bernard Connolly in the introduction he has written to the recent new edition of his classic book, “The Rotten Heart of Europe:The dirty war for Europe’s money”, which I am putting a copy in the post for you today in case you have not read it.

Connolly knows what he is talking about when it comes to monetary matters and his book sets out clearly how the Euro-currency was envisaged by its progenitors from the start as a device for pushing the peoples of the EU towards a supranational fiscal and political union, a quasi-Federation which would be under Franco-German political hegemony and in which the Brussels-Frankfurt bureaucracy would have vast executive powers.

This development was meant to erode – as it has eroded – the democracy of the Eurozone’s Nation States without replacing this with any meaningful democracy at the supranational level.

The latter is indeed in principle impossible, for there is no EU/Eurozone “demos” or people who are willing to identify with and give allegiance to such a supranational entity as truly “theirs”, and such an EU/Eurozone “demos” cannot be artificially created.

In other words, contrary to what your article of last Saturday implies, there is a qualitative difference between the pre-Eurozone and post-Eurozone EU, just as there is inside the EU between the 17 countries which have adopted the Euro and the 10 EU Member States which decided to retain their own national currencies.

As former Commission President Romano Prodi exulted some years back: “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency, and we have changed that.”

Maybe you would consider sometime addressing these differences between the countries INSIDE the Eurozone, which Ireland’s leading politicians were foolish and irresponsible enough to join in 1999 even though we do over two-thirds of our foreign trade outside it, and the ten countries OUTSIDE the Eurozone which are still members of the EU.

On a related point: as Germany uses the crisis of the Euro-currency in an ever more obvious attempt to impose its political-economic will on the 16 other Eurozone Member States, it may be worth reminding Irish Times readers that from next year, 2014, Germany’s relative voting weight under the new population-based EU-law-making system enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon will increase from its present 8% of the total number of EU Council votes to 16%, the voting weights of France, Italy and Britain will increase from their present 8% each to 12% each, while Ireland’s relative voting weight in making EU laws will decline from its present 2% to less than 1%.

You will agree, I am sure, that this step, which most Irish people and indeed most Europeans are currently quite unaware of, is unlikely to make the rest of the Eurozone/EU look more kindly on Germany.

With best regards
yours sincerely

Anthony Coughlan
Director

PS. I am copying this letter to some of your fellow commentators in the Irish Times and other papers for their information, as doubtless they will have read your Saturday article also. The crucial distinction between the crisis in the Eurozone and the situation in the rest of the EU is too often not made by those who wish to divert attention from the historical catastrophe which the single currency is manifestly turning into.

Video: what is the National Platform?

Irish Times: Dominating Role of Larger EU States

The Irish Times – Friday, March 4, 2011 (letters)

Madam, – Dr Garret FitzGerald (Opinion, February 12th) shows concern that moving away from the so-called “community method” of making EU laws towards a more “inter-governmental” approach may open the way to an EU that “for the first time becomes dominated by some larger states”.

This looks like trying to lock the proverbial stable door after the horse inside has bolted.

For decades Dr FitzGerald and those who share his views on the EU have been advancing the quite unrealistic notion that the EU is a radically new form of political life and governance in which the big European states are willing to subordinate their national interests to a larger common EU interest and that it therefore makes sense for smaller states to “pool sovereignty” with them.

In historical reality the EU since its inception has been an arena for the pursuit of the national interests of its member states, above all its bigger ones, France and Germany especially. The big states use the EU to try to dominate the smaller ones if it suits them. If not, they will go outside it or beyond it. Three developments in the past 20 years show this strikingly.

The first was the establishment of the euro currency under the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. The core objective of that was to reconcile France to Germany’s sudden reunification in 1990, using economic means that were quite inappropriate for that purpose.

The current financial crisis shows the euro currency’s structural flaws. It has fundamentally divided the EU between the 17 EU states inside the euro zone that are now suffering the euro’s torments, and the 10 EU states outside it that are not.

The second was the 2001 Nice Treaty which allows an inner group of nine or more EU states to integrate further among themselves and to use the EU institutions to do that, even though the other EU members are opposed. This was a fundamental break with the notion of the EU as a partnership of equals in which no major step would be taken without unanimity. It enables the big states to present the others with unpleasant faits-accomplis. For example it would enable the 17 euro zone members, or a sub-set of them, to adopt a common tax base for assessing corporation profits tax, or a common tax rate if they wish, as could well happen in the coming period.

The third was the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. In power-political terms this treaty’s most important provision is that it puts EU law-making on a primarily population-size basis for the first time – from 2014. This means that in three years’ time Germany’s voting weight in making EU laws on the EU Council of Ministers will be doubled from its present 8 per cent to 17 per cent, France’s, Italy’s and Britain’s vote will go from their present 8 per cent each to 12 per cent each, while Ireland’s will fall from its present 2 per cent to 0.8 per cent. Is not this by any standard a power-grab by the big states?

For decades Irish policy-makers have used rhetoric about “the European ideal”, “our EU partners” and “an EU community of equals” to justify handing over ever-greater tranches of State power and law-making to the EU. A more hard-headed and less self-deluding approach will surely be needed by future Irish governments if we are to get out of our present mess. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY COUGHLAN,
Director,
The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre,
Crawford Avenue, Dublin 9.
 

Wake Up Time for Ireland! Public Enquiry Needed

A public enquiry is needed into how the Irish people have been turned into indentured debtors of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

We need to know this if we are ever to recover.  We need to know who was ultimately responsible for the situation we now find ourselves in, trapped inside the Eurozone when we did not need to join it.

EU Member States outside the Eurozone like Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic are not caught up in the current torments of the Euro. They can weather the economic recession better because they have kept their national currencies and with it control of their rate of interest or exchange rate.

Most Irish economists, the National Platform and several non-governmental groups warned at the time of our 1992 Maastrict Treaty referendum that abolishing the Irish pound would be the biggest mistake the Irish State ever made (John FitzGerald’s ESRI was an influential exception). The second biggest mistake – largely a consequence of the first -  was the 2008 blanket guarantee of all the debts of our private banks

The period 1993 to 2000 was the only period in the history of the Irish State when it followed an independent exchange rate policy and effectively floated the Irish currency. That gave us a highly competitive exchange rate and with it  the “Celtic Tiger” growth rates of over 7% a year.

It is impossible to have a lasting monetary union that is not also a fiscal union, part of one State, with common taxes and a common budget.  However Ireland’s Euro-fanatics pushed us into the Eurozone against all the economic arguments.  They were impelled by their zeal to help build an EU superstate led by Germany and France, without any national democratic control.

Such a construct would inevitably lack the mutual identification and solidarity between its members which would sustain transfers from the rich countries to the poorer ones sufficient to compensate the latter for loss of their capacity to run independent budgetary policies or restore their economic competitiveness through currency devaluation.

It was profoundly irresponsible to abolish the Irish pound in order to join a monetary union with States with which we did only one-third of our foreign trade, while simultaneously halving interest rates at the height of an economic boom.

That made things “boomier”, as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern put it. It set us on the borrowing binge that followed, and the catastrophic course Ireland’s Government has since taken with its Banks.

It is the grand panjandrums of Irish Euro-fanaticism: Peter Sutherland of Goldman Sachs, Garret FitzGerald, Alan Dukes, Pat Cox, Brigid Laffan, Brendan Halligan, Ruairi Quinn and David Begg, who ultimately impelled us to surrender our political independence and democracy in the Eurozone.

As influential, although their names are unknown to the public, are the “career federalists” of Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Department in Iveagh House, who form the policy and write the speeches of successive Foreign Ministers. They are keeping their heads down these days and are happy to let the Department of Finance take the rap for our current economic debacle.

However it is they more than any other element in Ireland’s civil service who have steered our ship of state on to the rocks.  Cheering them on throughout have been uncritical elements in our media, above all in the editorial office of the Irish Times.

There is deep irony in the fact that their zeal for ever more EU integration has turned Ireland into a bomb inside the “infernal machine” of the Euro-currency, hastening its inevitable demise, and in the process possibly plunging much of the world into the second phase of a W-shaped recession.

Henceforth we should be more critical of what these people say when they enthuse for ever “more Europe”.

Anthony Coughlan – (01) 830 5792

Emmett O’Connell – (051) 565 844


(First published on Indymedia.ie)

Village Magazine: Ireland should abandon the Euro which was established for political not economic reasons and so has not worked

“Eur-over”

By Anthony Coughlan

The political purpose of establishing the Eurozone was to reconcile France to German reunification following the USSR’s collapse.

This political agenda used economic means that most economists who were not EU-ideologues regarded as quite unsuitable for that purpose. The irrationality of this ill-conceived and doomed project is now playing out before our eyes.

The value of having one’s own currency, and with it the ability to follow an independent exchange rate policy, was shown decisively in Ireland from 1993 to 1999.

This was the only period in the history of the Irish State when we followed an independent exchange rate policy and, in effect, floated the Irish pound, giving us a highly competitive exchange rate. This boosted Irish exports, inhibited competing imports and gave us the “Celtic Tiger” years of high economic growth.

Read More at Village Magazine

Anthony Coughlan on the Eamon Dunphy Show

Audio file:

  • 100521_NewsTalk_Dunphy_Coughlan: Eamon Dunphy (”The Eamon Dunphy Show”: NewsTalk106fm) has Anthony Coughlan on with his panel of guests, to discuss the Irish and European economies, and the trials and tribulations of the Euro☚ (time -19:20; format – M4a/Quicktime/iTunes; date – May 16, 2010);

To access via iTunes, either:

Statement by Anthony Coughlan on the Lisbon Two referendum result

Not the will of the people, but the fear of the people, has led a majority of Irish voters to approve ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in yesterday’s re-run referendum.

Ireland’s voters voted not on the content of Lisbon but on membership of the EU, on fear of political isolation if they did not say Yes to the same Treaty as they said No to last year, and on the promise of jobs and economic recovery which the Yes-side bullied and bamboozled them into believing was they would get if they only voted Yes.

Thus the bankrupt Irish political Establishment, which has ruined its country’s economy, has opted through stupidity and fear to clamp an undemocratic Constitution on itself and most of Europe.

This year the Republic of Ireland will suffer a decline of nearly one-tenth in its economic output; it will have a Budget deficit equivalent to 12% of GDP, an unemployment rate of some 14% of its labour force and resumed net emigration from the country.

One accepts the result of the Lisbon re-run as a fact, but it is not a result that democrats need morally or politically to identify with or approve. This result does not have political legitimacy, whatever the voting percentages amount to, because of the fraudulent and undemocratic way in which the referendum was run, making it unique in these respects among the 30 or so referendums that have been held in Ireland since its Constitution was adopted in 1937.

With limitless money provided by the Brussels Commission, the political parties in the European Parliament, the Irish Government and private business firms, Ireland’s Yes-side forces easily outspent the Nos by at least ten to one in a referendum campaign which was unique in modern Irish history for its massive unlawfulness and breaches of the country’s referendum law.

There were at least six dimensions to this illegality:

1) The intervention of the European Commission, entailing massive expenditure of money to influence Irish opinion towards a Yes, the running of a web-site and the issuing of statements that sought to counter No-side arguments, and the adocacy of a Yes vote by Commission President Barroso and other Commissioners and their staffs during visits to Ireland. This is unlawful under European law, as the Commission has no function in relation to the ratification of new Treaties, something that is exclusively a matter for the Member States under their own constitutional procedures;

2.) The part funding of the posters and press advertising of most of Ireland’s Yes-side political parties by their sister parties in the European Parliament, even though it is illegal under Irish law to receive donations from sources outside the country in a referendum and even though, under European law, money provided by the European Parliament to cross-national political parties is supposed to be confined to informational-type material and to avoid partisan advocacy;

3) The Irish Government’s unlawful use of public funds in circulating to voters a postcard with details of the so-called “assurances” of the European Council, followed by a brochure some time later containing a tendentious summary of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, as well as other material – steps that were in breach of the 1995 Irish Supreme Court judgement in McKenna that it is unconstitutional of the Government to use public funds to seek to obtain a particular result in a referendum;

4) The failure of the country’s statutory Referendum Commission to carry out its function under the Referendum Act that established it of explaining to citizens how the proposed constitutional amendment and its text would affect the Irish Constitution. Instead the Commission’s Chairman, Judge Frank Clarke, turned the Commission into an arm of Government propaganda, while the judge indulged himself in various “solo-runs” on radio and in the newspapers, giving several erroneous explanations of provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, even though this was quite beyond his powers under the Act;

5) Huge expenditure of money by private companies such as Intel and Ryanair to advocate a Yes vote, without any statutory limit, in possible breach of Irish company and tax law, and undoubtedly constituting a major democratic abuse.

6) Breaches by the Irish broadcast media of their obligation under the Broadcasting Acts to be fair to all interests concerned in their coverage of issues of public controversy and debate. Newstalk 106, owned by Mr Denis O’Brien, a committed supporter of the Yes side, was quite shameless in its partisanship on its current affairs programmes.

Democrats across Europe will now hope that the brave President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, will hold back Czech ratification of the Treaty until the constitutional challenge that has been launched there is completed and there is a change of Government in Britain by next May. In that way the promise of a referendum made to the British people in the Labour Party’s Election Manifesto may yet be fulfilled under the Conservatives – something that would give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance of voting on this EU Constitution.

In June the German Constitutional Court laid down that the basic principles of democracy required that there should be parliamentary control of how Government Ministers from the EU Member States exercised various implementing powers under the Lisbon Treaty – for example the “simplified revision procedure” of Article 48 TEU whereby policy areas can be shifted from unanimity to majority voting without need of new Treaties or referendums.

Germany instituted such parliamentary controls in September. Ireland has done so in the Constitutional Amendment people voted for yesterday. Similar parliamentary controls should now be sought through Court actions in as many EU countries as possible in the interest of defending what is left of democracy in Europe.

If Lisbon however should go through and come into force for all 27 States, giving the post-Lisbon EU the constitutional form of a Federation and turning 500 million people into real EU citizens for the first time without their being asked, that is bound to make the question of national independence and democracy the main issue of European politics for years and possibly decades to come – not least in Ireland, whose modern political history has been largely a struggle against the drawbacks of its people being made citizens of another country.

The Lisbon Two referendum has exposed the moral and political bankruptcy of Ireland’s main political parties. There is a vacuum in Irish politics, as there is in many other EU countries, when all the “Establishment” political parties line up on one side and so many of the country’s citizens are on the other.

Across Europe huge numbers of citizens are not being properly represented by those who have been elected to represent them. The coming period in history will see many attempts to fill this political vacuum, in Ireland and elsewhere.

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