29, July, 2010
‘A moment of joy‘ said Belgian Foreign Minister Vanackere for the European Council of Ministers. ‘A day of celebration,’ said Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson, With the meeting of the Accession Conference on 27 July 2010, Iceland has now embarked on the route to full membership of the European Union. This followed the decision of heads of government in the European Council on 17 June to open accession talks.
High on the list of crucial topics for negotiations are Fish and Finance. For generations Icelanders have had a policy of high inflation, rivalling the South Americans, and then off-loading the problem with devaluations. Then they came up against the euro and a big crunch. It is clear both the Icelanders and other Europeans are being hurt by such irresponsibility. The euro is held together by a Stability and Growth Pact, which in theory at least, outlaws such abuse. The Icelanders were free of this self-imposed constraint. They inflated their financial sector to such an extent the debt of three banks amounted to more than six times the country’s GDP.
In 1958 Robert Schuman wrote: ‘It is an incontestable truth that a politically free Europe cannot prosper or even survive unless it succeeds in enlarging its base of activities, imposing a discipline that is acceptable to all and having a consciousness of the coherence and interplay of European interests.‘ (Notre Europe, p118.) Some of those threats may have changed or have disappeared but more and more Europe is faced with even graver global problems today.
Fish is another matter. The EU politicians are keen on fishing with little restraint. The politicians always overrule the scientific reports on the estimated fish stocks. On which side do they overrule the scientists, by being conservative or exploitative? Don’t ask. Remember fish do not have votes. The Icelanders do not want the EU to wipe out fish stocks in their waters. Their future depends on fish.
What is the answer? Should the EU make the rules, with its present agreements, known significantly by the French word as the Acquis? Or should the Icelanders expand their conservation system to the EU? The Icelanders admit that their system is not perfect but believe it is far superior to vacuuming the oceans of the last fish.
Who should rule? EU or Iceland? The answer as everyone knows in their heart is that the fish should rule. Europeans must be wise guardians of their fish. If we wipe out the fish no one will gain. We will all be left without a source of food. The first rule must be sustainability. What about the EU Acquis?
Why do politicians use a special term like Acquis? Why not translate it? And yes, it does sound like a selfish concept. It should be remembered that the Acquis is a Gaullist principle. It has nothing to do with a Community of democratic nations. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was implemented by Gaullists, such as Maurice Couve de Murville, (earlier de Gaulle’s foreign minister and prime minister) just before three maritime nations joined: Denmark, United Kingdom and Ireland. Its basic feature was to stitch up the policy before enlargement. Negotiations were then dominated by Couve who tried to squeeze the most concessions out of the three candidates — or stop them joining at all.
My pocket dictionary says Acquis means attainment. That English word is avoided. Why? The question would come up as to what is to be attained. What did the Gaullists and selfish nationalists want to attain or rather retain? They did not want to attain a higher form of democracy. They wanted to attain their special advantages that de Gaulle had attained by blackmail. Examples of this are many but we could point to the Wine Lakes, the Meat Mountains and the Common Fisheries Policy. For de Gaulle, the Acquis of having other Europeans subsidize his voters through the CAP was a good deal. This Acquis is a childish attitude to a Community policy: ‘I want to keep my toys. And I want some of yours too!‘ It is the opposite of what a real Community is about — a means to help all members flourish and attain their potential to contribute to the whole.
It was ‘a negotiation like other negotiations’, Couve said. Schuman said the Community should be based on revolutionary principles unlike any of the negotiations in history. He said this at the opening of the first intergovernmental conference.
Should the original Community of the Six, and France especially, have had the final say? Is it a matter of other States, like Denmark, Ireland and Britain, joining a club? That is a misunderstanding — a deliberate misunderstanding by the Gaullists — of what a Community is about. The Gaullist CAP is being revised — at last. There is no reason that the same should not be done for the CFP. A Community is not a selfish, inward-looking club but a free asociation trying to achieve the highest moral values of European civilisation. The aim is to serve each other as best they can, and in the world others who are not so privileged.
If Community principles are to be applied the Fisheries Council should be open to the public and the press. How can Europeans have a consciousness of each other’s problems if Ministers debate behind closed doors and cut deals. Are they ashamed of what they say in private? The original treaties give the ministers no more privileges for such secrecy than they do to the European Parliament or the other institutions. They hold their debates in public.
The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions should have their full part in the decisions. They represent organized Civil Society. Legislative consultation is required from those who are consumers of fish, those who work in the fish industry and those who are ecologists and conservationists. In other words those who worry about their children and our common future. Everyone who has an interest needs to have their say in a supranational democracy.
According to Robert Schuman, when a new Member State joined the whole policy should be reconsidered. He used the word ‘reconstituted‘. Why? Because all the aspects of the common assets and the common problems associated with them have changed. It was up to all the new Member States to create a policy that fitted the new situation. Anything else treats the new Member State as a second class entity. The whole idea of the Community was not to create an exclusive club where others had to beg to join. The idea of the Community was to create the means where all nations could unite under jointly agreed rules that had the highest moral content. That is why the founding principle of the Community Charter is that people and States should be ‘free to choose’.
The idea of Gaullists and nationalists was that everybody should agree that Charles de Gaulle or some other nationalist knew best. Wisdom comes from the counsel of many.
Should the Icelanders insist on the real application of the Acquis? Yes. It is about attaining a purer, better form of democracy. It is defined by the law of the original treaties. They should insist on dropping the present CFP and CAP. The Icelanders with a long democratic tradition should insist on attaining the democracy that the Gaullists and many other nationalists refused to implement. For example, the Icelanders should insist that the elections to the European Parliament are, as the treaties define, conducted under a single electoral statute and are held at one time across the whole of the Community. Otherwise they will have some Europeans in Iceland who have possibly TWELVE votes to the Icelanders’ one.
The oligarchy of the main political party machines has had a crushing effect on European democracy with ever-declining voter support and lack of public trust. There are many other matters of democracy and fairness that the governments and politicians have refused to apply.
Iceland could take the EU further on the road to democracy. Will the EU now be extended geographically further to the West than ever before? The answer is No. I am not talking about the Portuguese Azores where the island of Florus is far to the west of Iceland. The EU already extends much further West.
The legal profile of the EU also extends to French Guyane to the north of Brazil. It lies within the boundaries of the EU because it is an internal Département of France. The EU as a supranational union has global boundaries. It also has a global vocation, worthy of the globalist Vikings.David Heilbron Price
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