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⁂ French Europe Minister – We want a single EU military HQ; plus – gravy train, directive costs, lack of confidence

French Europe Minister: We want a single EU military HQ

French Europe Minister Bruno Le Maire has announced in an interview with French radio that France wants the EU to have its own single defence headquarters, autonomous of NATO. He said: “While it may be a difficult objective, in time we will need to have a single military command for the European Union, a European staff headquarters which could be installed for example in Brussels, and which would allow us to command European operations wherever European security interests are at stake. Today there are three staff headquarters which do that: one in England, one in France, one in Germany. I think it would be more logical, more reasonable and also more economic for public money to have a single operational headquarters.”

He admitted it would be “very difficult” to convince Britain of the need for a single headquarters, which has for years blocked the creation of a proper permanent EU military headquarters, because of the risk of duplicating NATO structures. But, Mr. Le Maire said, with the return of France into the integrated military structures of NATO, “we can no longer be accused (…) of doing it against NATO because we are now fully in NATO.”

Meanwhile, Le Figaro reports that Le Maire has said that he wants a “politically strong Europe, with an autonomous defence force, which is responsible and advocates financial regulation”. Le Maire also said that Nicolas Sarkozy’s Presidency of the EU has changed Europe for the better and he hopes that Sarkozy will become involved in the election campaign. He argued that the French Socialist Party is “neither honest nor responsible” and wants to transform European issues into national issues.

AFP Le Figaro Open Europe blog

MEPs create new scheme allowing them to claim £257 for each journey to work;
Taxpayers to fund £100m hole in MEP pension fund created by financial crisis

The Mail reports that from June MEPs will be able to claim up to £257 per journey under a ‘duration allowance’ which reimburses them for the time spent travelling between their homes and European Parliament buildings. The article notes that this comes on top of free business class travel to anywhere in the EU and a ‘distance allowance’ – which is supposed to cover the cost of meals, taxis and any other expenses incurred while travelling.

There is also further coverage of the revelations on Tuesday that the European Parliament has guaranteed that all MEPs who are members of the institution’s voluntary supplementary pension scheme will receive their full entitlements even though the fund currently has a deficit of ¤120 million because of the financial market crash. According to the Mail, between £35 and £50 million was allegedly lost in the Bernie Madoff debacle. According to the Telegraph, the European Parliament’s authorities are expected to bypass a decision by its budget control committee not to bail out the scheme in order to “honour legal requirements”, meaning that additional taxpayers’ money could be used in future to cover the deficit.

The Telegraph notes that two thirds of the optional extra pension is paid for in supplementary payments by the taxpayer. MEPs pay £1,052 (€1,194) a month into the scheme. That cash is added to by a publicly funded payment of £2,104 (€2,388). MEPs, on reaching retirement age, can expect an extra pension benefit, on top of generous national schemes, worth an annual £14,736 for every five year term of office. An MEP benefiting from the perk can net a combined pension of over £35,000 after just 10 years in office.
The management of the supplementary pension fund has repeatedly been criticised since 1999 by the European Court of Auditors, which questioned the legality of the scheme.

Telegraph: Waterfield blog

Costs of EU directive on biofuel to be passed on to motorists

The Times reports that the EU’s directive on biofuels, recently passed as part of the EU’s climate and energy package, will raise the cost of motoring for drivers. The EU rules state that 13 per cent of petrol and diesel fuels need to be derived from biofuel by 2020. Oil companies have had to spend more than £100 million in the past year on adapting refineries and storage facilities to cope with biofuels. The paper notes that the costs of complying with the EU directive will increase sharply over the next five years and most of the cost will be passed on to drivers.
A Friends of the Earth report this week said that biofuels could increase emissions because forests were being cut down to clear land for crops.


Confidence in EU institutions at an all time low ahead of European elections

El País reports that public confidence in EU institutions has plummeted with the economic crisis and that record levels of abstention predicted for the European elections threaten Europe’s future. According to the Eurobaromoter survey, in Spain only 27% of the electorate are likely to vote, and yet in 1987, the year after Spain joined the EU, turnout was at 69%.
Le Figaro has published an article by Jean-Dominique Giuliani from the Fondation Robert-Schuman analysing the European elections. Entitled “A Parliament in search of credibility”, the article highlights voter apathy and explains that while the electorate demands more transparency and proximity to EU issues, the majority of French citizens prefer national politics. He argues that the candidates chosen by political parties and the size of the constituencies contribute to the nationalisation of European elections. However he also emphasises how the Parliament has become increasingly powerful and influential.
In article in the Independent looking at the European elections, Adrian Hamilton writes that the expected low voter turnout “is an indication of just how little the great European experiment has impressed itself upon the consciousness of the ordinary citizen.”
He writes that, with a resurgence of the Franco-German axis, evident at the G20 summit, and with the recession testing the EU’s ability to co-operate, “All of a sudden Europe has become an interesting place, although you won’t have any reflection of that when voters come to choose their European candidate in June.”

El País Independent: Hamilton Le Figaro

*Myths about the Lisbon Treaty


If you get rid of democracy and the need to consult with people, you can certainly get more laws passed.  But will they be good laws?
Is that more efficient government?  When it comes to law-making it is quality that counts, not quantity. Hitler could issue new laws
ever five minutes, but were they good laws?

The advent of 12 new Member States has not made the negotiation of new EU laws more difficult since they joined the EU.  On the
contrary, a study by the Science-Politique University in Paris calculated that new rules have been adopted a quarter times more
quickly since the enlargement from 15 to 27 Member States in 2004 as compared with the two years before enlargement. The study also showed
that the 15 older Member States block proposed EU laws twice as often as the newcomers.  Professor Helen Wallace of the London School
of Economics has found that the EU institutions are working as well as they ever did despite the enlargement of the EU from 15 to 27
members. She found that "the evidence of practice since May 2004 suggests that the EU's institutional processes and practice have stood up rather robustly to the impact of enlargement." The Nice Treaty voting arrangements thus seem to  be working well.

Lisbon would commit the EU to “promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems and in particular combating climate change”(Art. 191.1 TFEU). This is laudable, but its significance has been “spun” out of all proportion. Note that the action is “at international level”. It does not give the EU new powers internally. Any internal actions on environmental problems would have to be reconciled with the EU’s rules on distorting competition, safeguarding the internal market and sustaining the energy market. Combatting climate change can carry heavy costs. EU targets for carbon dioxide reduction in Ireland announced earlier this year would cost Ireland ¤1000 million a year if implemented, which would average some ¤500 per household. In fact the EU’s carbon reduction targets would impose a heavier relative burden on Ireland than on any other EU country. Also note the absurdity that the new Treaty reference is to combatting climate-change, without qualification. It is not just “man-made” climate change. So the EU is going to take on things affecting climate-change which are not of human origin, like sunspot cycle as well!Myth 3: LISBON MAKES THE EU MORE DEMOCRATIC:
Lisbon provides that if one-third of National Parliaments object to the Commission’s proposal for an EU law, the Commission must reconsider it, but not necessarily abandon it (Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality, Art.7.2). It might review the draft law, or if it considered the objection was not justified, it might ignore it. This right to complain, for that is what it is, is not an increase in the powers of National Parliaments, as it has been widely misrepresented as being, but is symbolic rather of their loss of real power. To say that it is an increase in the power of National Parliaments to “control”, or even to affect, EU legislation is a blatant lie. Lisbon takes away major law-making powers from National Parliaments. It would give power to the EU to legislate in relation to some 32 new policy areas, thereby removing these areas from decision by National Parliaments. It also gives the EU the power to decide many other matters.

Lisbon would increase the power of the European Parliament by giving it many new areas of new EU law which it could propose amendments to, but that does not compensate National Parliaments and the citizens who elect National Parliaments, for their loss of power to decide. The new EU laws would still be PROPOSED exclusively by the non-elected Commission and would then be MADE primarily by the Council of Ministers, mainly on the basis of population-based voting. The EU Parliament can only amend these EU laws if the Commission and Council agree. Ireland would have 12 members out of 750 in the European Parliament under Lisbon,a reductuon from the current 13. When we had 100 out of 600 MPs in the 19th century UK Parliament, the Irish people were not that happy with the laws that were passed there. Yet Westminster was a real Parliament which decided all UK laws. The Irish representatives could propose laws in it, as they cannot do in the European Parliament.

If someone says that it is the National Government which really decides what laws are passed in the Dail or Parliament, because the majority of TDs or MPs belong to the Government party, and the EU Commission is acting like a national government in proposing EU laws, the obvious reply is that National Governments are elected by National Parliaments, who in turn are elected by the national citizens. But the EU “Government”, the Commission, is not elected. It is appointed by the Commission President and the EU Prime Ministers and Presidents on the basis of qualified majority voting.

[28/02/2006] EU /US Open Skies treaty, global warming, reduces national powers


Ireland could lose its ability to impose environmental taxes, pollution
restrictions and safety safeguards on airlines under a draft Treaty between
the EU and the USA which curtails the power of national governments. The
draft treaty, meant to liberalise aviation,includes a little noticed clause
that requires EU Member States to reach agreement with each other and with
the USA before taking measures to tackle noise or pollution from airplanes.
"The Guardian" newsaper, London,leaked the text of this draft "open skies"
treaty on Monday 20 February.

This EU-US Treaty will alarm environmental activists who point out that the
growth in air travel is among the main causes of global warming. Aviation
emissions are now the fastest growing sector of total greenhouse gas
emissions. Article 14 of the draft Treaty forbids any environmental
measures that could have "possible adverse effects" on the free traffic of
aircraft.  US negotiators insisted on this clause's inclusion when
negoitiating the draft Treaty with the EU Commission, acting on behalf of
the EU. The Americans feel that controls on aircraft emissions will
increase costs, lose jobs and push several of its airlines,already under
bankruptcy protection, out of business.  The new Treaty will be adopted by
the EU Council of Ministers by qualified majority vote,which means that
Ireland will not have a veto and must comply with its terms even if it is
quite opposed to them. So much for Dublin's sovereign independence!

[24/08/2005] EU world trade distortion

COMMENT: The first article below is the measure of how the EU
distorts world trade and beggars poorer nations.  It is not subsidies TO
farmers that are the problem but EXPORT subsidies of EU produce.  In this
the EU accounts for the vast majority of such subsidies.


By Lisbeth Kirk, from EU OBSERVER, Wednesday 24 August 2005

The EU is the world's largest provider of export subsidies by far, providing
85 percent to 90 percent of the world's total, according to a new report
from the US Congressional Budget Office.

The report is published as work intensifies ahead of a crucial World Trade
Organization (WTO) summit in Hong Kong in December.

Developing nations are accusing the rich of using subsidies to lower
international prices and hurt farmers in poor countries.

In total, 64 out of 76 countries have reported to the WTO that they granted
subsidies of some kind to farmers in at least one of the years from 1998
through 2004, the report said.

But a few countries dominate the total dollar value of subsidies granted.

The EU and the US each grant about one-third of the world's total - the EU a
little more than the US because its agricultural sector is a little larger.

The countries with the highest rates of total subsidy - that is, total
subsidies as a percentage of agricultural output - are almost entirely
high-income countries.

Members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Norway, and
Switzerland-Liechtenstein) top the list, followed by Japan, the US, and the
EU at substantially lower but still sizeable rates.

Australia and New Zealand have very low rates of total subsidy.

A substantial portion of agricultural production is protected from
international competition by extreme tariffs - tariffs of over 100 percent.

This holds true for 50 percent of eastern European production, 39 percent of
EU production and 26 percent of US production, the report revealed.

The EU provides over half of the world's most trade-distorting category of
domestic support (so-called amber-box support), according to the American

Amber-box support can be limited and reduced by the WTO's agriculture

In contrast roughly 70 percent of US subsidies fall into the so-called green
box, which is exempted from reduction requirements.

The green box is for measures that were deemed to have little or no
distorting effects on trade or production, such as income support that is
decoupled from production.

The EU has also pushed through reforms of its Common Agricultural Policy in
recent years, aiming to decouple farm subsidies from production.

The US report is mainly based on statistics from 2002 or earlier, so that
enlargement of the EU and the 2002 US farm bill might have changed the

The Congressional Budget Office assists the US House and Senate Budget
Committees, and the Congress more generally, by preparing reports and[]
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