Done in Brussels by Sonya Jay Porter

Done at Brussels

GUEST ARTICLE

SONYA JAY PORTER on the ever-expanding, rarely-asking EU

The creation of a European union of states was considered a noble aspiration following the destruction of the continent in two world wars. First proposed in the Schuman Declaration of 1950 by the then-French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, it aimed to transform Europe through a “step-by-step” process, leading to the unification of Europe and so ensuring that the individual nations of Europe should never go to war with one other again. But although senior politicians may have been aware of the gradual subsuming of their countries into a Federal Europe, most of their populations were not.

In Britain, for instance FCO 30/1048 which was written in 1971 by civil servants at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but only brought to light in 2001 under the 30 year rule, shows that the FCO was definitely aware of the gradual loss of Britain’s sovereignty that entry into the Common Market would entail. However, introducing the 1972 Bill, Geoffrey Rippon, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said “there would be no essential surrender of sovereignty” and this was echoed by the Prime Minister, Ted Heath when he said in a Government White Paper of July 1971, “There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty”. (On a TV current affairs programme in 1990, he was asked if he had known that this statement was untrue. His answer was “Of course, yes”.) So it would be unwise to take what the EU authorities say at face value, including the fact that it is a strictly European union of nations or that any other countries brought into its fold would be there simply as trading partners.

Turkey is not a member of the European Union, and may never be. Yet on 30th March 2012, the members of the European Commission (who are appointed by the governments of member states rather than elected) quietly decided to grant Turkish citizens the same residency and labour rights as full members of the Union.

This accord will apply to Turkish workers who are or have been legally employed in the territory of a member state and who are or who have been subject to the legislation of one or more member states, and their survivors; to the members of the family of workers referred to above, provided that these family members are or have been legally resident with the worker concerned while the worker is employed in a member state. The text reads:

“It follows from Article 12 of the Agreement establishing an association between the European Economic Community and Turkey (the Ankara Agreement) and Article 36 of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement (the Additional Protocol) that freedom of movement for workers between the Union and Turkey is to be secured by progressive stages.”

It adds,

“This proposal is part of a package of proposals which includes similar proposals with regard to the Agreements with Albania, Montenegro and San Marino. A first package with similar proposals in respect of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Israel was adopted by the Council in October 2010.”

As a mark of their devotion to openness and transparency, the following laconic note appears under the heading “Consultation of interested parties” –

“There was no need for external expertise.”

Later still, the following difficult-to-believe statement appears:

“The proposal has no implications for the Union budget.”

Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Israel are not in the EU but many of their citizens will now be allowed to live in, and benefit from, EU countries – which could cause many problems, not least that of how the EU is going to cope with yet more unemployed at a time when the Union’s financial situation is so parlous.
The assimilation of countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean was first discussed in Spain when the Barcelona Process was set up in 1995 to promote “democratisation, security and economic growth” around the area including Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. However by 2005, this scheme had to be judged a failure, but the EU was reluctant to let the matter drop and in 2008, cooperation agreements were re-launched in 2008 under the name of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).

Along with the 27 EU member states, 16 southern Mediterranean, African and Middle Eastern countries are now members of UfM – Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. This partnership aims to turn the Mediterranean into

“a common area of peace, stability and prosperity through reinforcement of political dialogue.”

Meetings continue to take place and are co-presided over by one Mediterranean and one EU country. As from September 2010 the UfM has also had a functional Secretariat, based in Barcelona, a Secretary General and six Deputy Secretary Generals. Also in 2010 Jordanian, Ahmed Massade, became the first leader of the Secretariat of what is now commonly referred to as ‘Club Med’ or more properly as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. In various forms the European Union now stretches across the globe.

There is also a European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) which was developed in 2004 to “strengthen the prosperity, stability and security” of EU neighbouring countries. This included the Black Sea Synergy (launched in Kiev in 2008) and the Eastern Partnership (launched in Prague in 2009). The ENP, which includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine as well as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya for the Eastern Partnership and Bulgaria and Romania in the Black Sea Synergy, “foresee a substantial upgrading” of the level of “regional cooperation and political engagement” (see here and here).

There are economic partnership agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) groups of countries, aiming through trade development to encourage “sustainable growth and poverty reduction”. EU relations with the ACP group date back to 1975 and were revised on four occasions until 1989. These were then replaced by the Cotonou Agreement in 2000, revised in 2005, and covers EU-ACP partnership to include a stronger political dimension.

The European Commission adopted a “European Union Strategy of Africa” in 2006 and in 2007 a Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) was set up. The latest meeting was held in 2012 and lists their aims, amongst others, of

“promoting peace, security, democratic governance, human rights, gender equality and regional and continental integration.”

Fifteen Caribbean nations are currently part of the ACP and at a meeting held in 2012, the Heads of State and Government of the EU, Latin American and Caribbean countries agreed to create the EU-Latin American and Caribbean (EU-LAC) Foundation as a useful tool in strengthening their

“bi-regional partnership and to debate common strategies and actions.”

Ten years of negotiations with the European Union for an economic partnership agreement with the Pacific members of the ACP group still haven’t resulted in a permanent deal. Both parties are now adamant that an EPA ought to be sealed and signed before the end of 2012, although this may be wishful thinking.

The European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) which comprises Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, was set up in 1960 as an alternative for those European states which were either unable or unwilling to join what was then the European Economic Community (EEC). Currently EFTA operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union. Three of the EFTA countries are part of the European Union internal market and the fourth, Switzerland, concluded a set of bi-lateral agreements with the EU covering a wide range of areas which has prompted EFTA to expand trade amongst themselves, and with the rest of the world.

The European Union also has bilateral relations with many countries around the world, from Canada and Latin America to China and Japan.

So, with its bilateral relations, trading agreements, its unions, neighbourhood policies and partnership agreements, the European Union now has a reach far wider than some people may have considered. Is there another step by step “noble aspiration” in progress here?

But there are at least two problems with this plan (if plan there is). The first part concerns money. Although most of these arrangements are currently limited in scope, there is the matter of where in future the EU will find the funding for them all. The common currency is in crisis and if Greece fails and has to leave the Euro then this might well be followed by other countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy or even France. In this case the currency will go into meltdown, possibly creating a recession or even depression throughout the European Union.

Secondly, in order to cure the financial situation in the EU, Angela Merkel and others are now pushing for a political union of the countries within the Eurozone – and possibly of those outside it – but would this be possible? Is it likely that Britain or other member states, some with a long history as sovereign nations and others who have only recently emerged from the dictatorship of the USSR, would be willing to lose their independence? Or will the European Union now disintegrate? And if the latter, will most Europeans be sorry – or secretly relieved?

SONYA JAY PORTER is a freelance writer from Surrey

 

 

 

 

 

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