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There was a time, not so long ago, when I was fiercely
pro-european. Over time, this has started to change.

First and foremost is the fact that the European institutions have become very good at imposing ridiculous legislation. Apart from the now “traditional” regulations on what size a cucumber should be, the latest example is a suggestion, by a supposedly right-wing MEP that text messages and emails should be taxed in order to fund the Union. This stupid idea has thankfully been rejected. But the simple fact it
has been suggested is frightful. Not only would it be totally contrary
to the idea that new technologies should spread even more widely, but it’s totally impractical: it would imply tracking what every user does
with his mobile phone and his e-mail. Goodbye privacy, hello
totalitarism. And of course, it’s a tax, which is bad in and of
itself.

So, this kind of crap puts me off of Europe, but I usually think, “well, at least there’s the common market”. Well, that’s looking to be less and less true. Now the Bolkestein directive has been emasculated, one can seriously doubt if Europe will ever be a truly integrated market. Without the principle by which a service provider is only bound to respect the legislation from his state of origin, true competition, and hence the common market, is a joke.

And then, there’s the inherent problem of centralization of power. By becoming ever closer to a political union, Europe is cutting down legislative competition between it’s member states. This means we’re back to an imposition of silly rules from above, instead of having various rules, people being able to see which are the best, and only the best remaining, because governments adopt the better ones (or citizens move around). In the current system, Europe as a political entity basically only looks at it’s own belly without thinking of other solutions, hence paving the way for ever more stupid rules. It’s trial and error only without learning from your errors.

So what we’ve got now in Europe is:

  1. A not so common market
  2. Stupid rules that even local governments hadn’t thought of being
    imposed on us
  3. A suppression of legislative competition between the different
    member states heightening the likeliness of adoption of silly rules

The future looks bleak.

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10 Comments

  1. I understand that it’s very easy to fall out of love with the EU. Media coverage on the subject does not help either. Yet regardless of all your arguments testifying your euroscepticism, is there something that can revive that pro-EU attitude?

    In other words, the future looks bleak but have we crossed the Rubicon? And what would be necessary to make you a believer again? Is it a matter of more market integration and less of a political Union? More intergovernmentalism and less federalism?

    just wondering…

    • Meh, good question, not sure I really have an answer at this point. I definitely see the Union as pointless if there isn’t enough market integration. That was the idea at first, and the one I liked.

      But then again, by market integration I mean less trade barriers. If by market integration the EU goes out to heavily regulate the economy, it might be a heavily integrated market, but heavily regulated is of no interest to me. It won’t come as a surprise to you that I was staunchly pro-Bolkestein.

      I used to like EU competition law when it was all about breaking down government monopolies and the like. When “abuse of a dominant position” became “having a dominant position is per se wrongful”, I wasn’t too excited.

      At the end of the day, my views are more and more favoring small, local, and fairly direct democracy. Switzerland is a nice example. To the contrary, the EU becoming larger and larger, given it’s powers, means it is an ever expanding technocracy. And that’s something I have no taste for.

      At the end of the day, if the Union was simply about free circulation of persons, goods and services, I’d be very supportive of it. But those days are long gone I guess.

      As such, I doubt I could fall back in love with the EU, as much due to my own evolution as to the EU’s.

  2. You prefer as little intervention in the market as possible, understood, yet the Commission and more specifically DG Competition/Telecoms have done a good job of trying to do exactly that: going to the mattresses against the big [state] monopolies and trying to create more competition.

    I think the answer is not less but more Europe. A further integration will be the best remedy against the national tendencies to protect their markets to the detriment of their neighbours. And yes that will mean an element of EU government oversight.

    We need a political union to support the economic union but giving up power at the national level goes with tremendous growing pains and takes time and a lot of political will.

    • It’s true that DG Comp/Telco haven’t been too bad. But the ECJ rulings in comp law kinda irk me (these days). Worse, there is a definite new element in the past new years, which is “European nationalism”, for lack of a better word.

      The Microsoft cases for instance definetely smell of “trying to give Europe an edge against big bad US companies”. The Galileo project. All of those are unhealthy in my view. At least a country being protectionist will get it’s ass handed to it by the market whatever it does. The EU has just enough political/economical clout to pull it off. And that worries me.

      Thing is, I used to like the EU because it was much more liberal (continental sense) than national governments. It’s getting less true every day.

      And then of course, there’s the lack of EU accountability. Accountability is already a sore point at national levels, at Eu levels it becomes ridiculous. People nobody want in their country anymore just get shipped out to Brussels. Terrible.

      Plus, have to say I did quite a bit of business with the EU, and in my view it’s way of wasting resources is even worse than national levels (did business with Walloon Region and Federal Govt too). We can discuss that offline if you want.

      At the end of the day, the key thing for me is not so much the institutional arrangements, but what people do with them. Relatively “weak” commissions compared to today did a better job in the late 80s early 90s than what I see today.

      And of course, there’s Member State hypocrisy. The UK gets bashed every other day for be nearly anti-european (which it is), but is amusingly enough the country with the best record when one looks at EU law violations. Belgium or France are much worse offenders when it comes to implementing EU law. Which begs the question: what’s the point of being in Europe and supporting it’s decisions if you don’t comply afterwards – better to argue before and comply afterwards.

      Then there’s of course my sceptic part. I don’t believe you can regulate human action efficiently because human society is a chaotic system – too much complexity to understand and take into account. Obviously, with that kind of view, the larger the system you govern, the riskier the business you’re getting into. It’s just not realistic to imagine being able to predict the effect of a regulation on such a large entity as Europe. Thus the risk of lofty regulations out of touch with local realities.

      The beauty and efficiency of the EU was once that it was focused – common market, the 3 movement liberties – and wasn’t pretending to be a nation. Now that it is, I fear it will fall into all the traps into which nations fall into.

      Sorry for the rant 🙂

  3. The accountability issue. I admit that is a sore point for me as well although OLAF is doing a reasonable job in terms of curbing some excessive spending.

    There is much room for improvement on that topic but it’s not because the design needs to be tweaked that the idea is flawed.

    Just my two cents…to be continued 🙂

  4. Don’t know that much about OLAF, I’d be glad to discuss that, and it’s impact 🙂

  5. It was created after the Santer Commission, for obvious reasons. Albeit it being an indepedent investigative body, it has no judicial or disciplinary powers and it cannot oblige national prosecutors to act. So limited in powers but there is progress. OLAF is now very much involved in the possible EU fall-out of the UK MP expenses scandal.

  6. Ok, thanks for the info! 🙂

  7. The situation is worse than you think.

    The EU parliament doesn’t master its agenda. This agenda is set by the EU council of ministers; The vote process is by itself a joke, EU MEPS have regularly dozens of texts to ballot every week, and the time and format of debate is emasculated.

    So the EU ministers can set up directives with the EU Commission, obtain a mere registration by the parliament, then every national Parliament is MANDATED to transcript the EU directive…

    So, the EU ministers, who represent the executive powers in their countries, can OVERRIDE their local parliaments.

    Not that those parliament are unreproachable, not that they always have independance to act from their executive counterparts, but the way the EU “works” is simply heading towards soft dictatorship.

    • Indeed, the processes are absolutely unbelievable and short-circuit any checks and balances the States themselves have internally.

      So we basically have executive powers who have free reign to go do what they want, unchecked, totally unaccountable.

      Yep, you’re right, that’s heading for dictatorship alright (“soft” purposefully omitted).

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insights!


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