Archive for December, 2004

Saving cod and red herrings

10 December 2004

EU-serf, an EU-sceptic blog, wrote on 8 December:

In a desperate effort to undo some of the damage wrought by the stupidity of the Common Fisheries Policy, a complete ban on fishing in some parts of the North Sea is being proposed.

Unfortunately he is right: the Common Fisheries Policy is such a disaster that drastic measures like these have now become a necessity. I also agree with what I think is the basic idea of his post, namely that our best chance of returning to sustainable fish stocks lies in combining the ownership of fishing rights with responsibility for the same stock: The Icelandic shrimper whose boat I once sailed on had no issue whatsoever sticking to his quotas, because he knew that if he caught too many shrimp in his fjord this year, there would be fewer next year.

However, I am not convinced of what seems to be the other basic idea of EU-serf’s post, namely that this combination of fishing rights with responsibility must be achieved by returning fisheries policy to the national level. Cod levels in the North Sea, for instance, have been depleted by the joint efforts of local fishermen from mainly the UK, not (yet) by evil Spanish trawlers using the EU rules on “common fishing waters” to empty “our” sea before moving on to the next one. And local cocklers in the north of the Netherlands have succeeded in doing great damage to the ecosystem in their own tidal sea (while, for the time being, maintaining cockle production levels), without the help of any foreigners.

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“Die Türke vor Brüssel”

7 December 2004

Die Türke vor Brüssel, the Turks before Brussels, is the title of tonight’s “theme night” at Arte, the Franco-German television channel. The programme’s French, more neutral, title is: La Turquie et l’Europe, and it is of course about Turkey’s aspiration to become an EU member state. I would certainly recommend watching the repeat emission on December 8 at 15:15 (CET).

The, for me, most remarkable element was that those whose fate is often used as an argument by opponents of Turkey’s EU entry, actually seem to be among its most fervent proponents. The Armenian and Kurdish questions should not be used as arguments against Turkish accession, said the Armenian and Kurdish representatives I saw tonight. Even a Greek conservative MEP argued similarly as far as Turkish-Greek divisions were concerned. Obviously, their reasoning is that the continuation of the accession process makes Turkey less likely to cause trouble, and more likely to continue modernising.

Note that this does not imply that Turkey needs the EU legal and political framework as such in order to become stable and modern. The point (mine at least) is more about the effective management of expectations and political, economic, and social processes. The reform process in Turkey is driven by the goal and expectation of eventual EU membership and of what that requires. Previous EU enlargements have shown that it is not enough if a candidate state just transposes the EU acquis and additional requirements into domestic law. Implementation takes much more than that, including, in many cases, a change of mentality of ordinary people, policemen, civil servants, and producers. For the reforms to work, EU accession must be more than an elite project, but needs the active support of a substantial part of the population. It must be a truly nation-wide project.

But if public opinion inside Turkey is so important for the reform process to succeed, that means there is a role for politicians outside Turkey as well. If they make the impression of not being serious about Turkish EU accession, they undermine the reform process itself by taking away the common goal that drives it. What I am saying is that now the EU has said A by promising the country membership in 1963 and by confirming its candidacy in 1999, not just Turkish politicians, but the entire Turkish population expects to hear B as well. European politicians who want a different outcome for Turkey than full EU membership should think twice if they do not want to endanger the reform process.

Fabius: “L’Europe, c’est moi”?

1 December 2004

In one of his last contributions to the “blog à deux voix” on the European Constitution set up by Le Monde, Olivier Duhamel concludes succinctly as ever:

cette constitution ne comporte aucun recul et que des progrès

Fingers crossed that the members of the French socialist party see it that way as well, when they vote in their party referendum today.

If they do not, the French PS will campaign for a ‘no’ in the subsequent “real” referendum in France. Adoption of the Constitution by France would then become very unlikely, which in turn would pose serious threats to the Constitution project as a whole. Fabius would have sacrificed the European Constitution to his personal ambitions to become President, and to the ridiculous idea that after two years of arduous negotiations in a Convention and an IGC that were almost more left-wing than ever, the Constitution could still be made more socialist. It makes you wonder how he thinks to achieve that result – by armed force?

Fortunately, the latest polls among PS sympathisers look favourable for the Constitution, and quite bad for Fabius’ own ambitions:

Selon une enquête publiée par Le Figaro mardi 30 novembre (et réalisée les 12, 13, 19 et 20 novembre par TNS-Sofres auprès d’un échantillon de 1 907 personnes, dont 568 sympathisants socialistes), le numéro deux du PS reste bon dernier de sa classe. Non seulement une majorité des personnes interrogées plaident pour le “oui” (65 % chez les sympathisants UMP, 62 % chez les partisans du PS), mais même une victoire du “non” ne lui ouvrirait pas les portes pour 2007. Pour 58 % des électeurs socialistes, en effet, une victoire du “non” ne ferait pas automatiquement de lui le candidat naturel du PS pour l’élection présidentielle…. Ce sondage, qui fait de Lionel Jospin le favori, s’inscrit dans une série toujours négative pour M. Fabius.

However, party voters tend to be less puristic in their views on its policies than party members. So despite the favourable polls, the outcome is not a run race yet. But whatever the result, Fabius’ no-campaign does not seem to have improved his chances for the presidency. And that serves him right.

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Update December 2, 2004: “Les socialistes votent “oui” à l’Europe et “non” à Fabius