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.


“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.


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

A slap in the face of Turkey

30 November 2004

[updated] In his (Swedish language) blog, the always well-informed Bengt Karlsson points to a Presidency document outlining proposals on the start of accession negotiations with Turkey. It was leaked to the press yesterday, possibly in order to test the water. Its most remarkable contents:

  • Turkey has to recognise Cyprus;
  • The accession negotiations could be suspended if requested by at least one third of the Member States;
  • No Turkish membership before 2014;
  • No talks on membership before there is agreement on the 2014-2020 financial perspectives;
  • The EU should consider “permanent safeguard clauses, notably in the area of the free movement of persons”;


Getting worried…

29 November 2004

This fantastic photo (more here) sums it up pretty well: tensions are growing in Ukraine now part of the country is threatening to split off if Yushchenko becomes President. I am getting a bit worried now.

Many Ukrainians, in blogs or elsewhere, point to the fact that this is not about geopolitics, about East vs. West or Russia vs. America. The conflict is about Ukrainians, they say, fighting for their democratic right for free and honest elections.

Well, yes, I agree with them that this is what it should be about. But I am less convinced that this is what will determine the outcome. When Putin decided to support the Yanukovych election campaign, he, at least, seemed to be well aware of the risk of spill-over to his own sphere of influence would a western-european style government take over from the current autocratic cronies in Ukraine. So the fact that the outcome was almost even for both candidates was largely of his making. As for the EU, it is clear that it feels safer with a solid democratic state at its borders, especially if that state ultimately wants to join the EU. The same goes for the US, which has an interest in both strong democracy in an EU-aspiring Ukraine, and the weakening of Russian as well as EU foreign power following Ukraine accession to the EU. Therefore both the US and the EU are encouraging Yushchenko to stand firm.

Other worrying factors: the fact that state security personnel in the Ukraine comes mainly from the Yanukovich east whereas demonstrators are from the Yushchenko west, and the fact that Putin may not accept a solution involving a split-up of Ukraine. On the other hand: the EU is unlikely to impose strong sanctions on a country through which much-needed energy supplies are transported, and Ukrainian demonstrators from both camps are still treating each other with admirable respect and cheerfulness.

So let us just say the situation is hard to predict and very interesting.

More French influence in Europe – but it is liberal and federalist

25 November 2004

With the Buttiglione crisis behind us and the fight over the ratification of the European constitution before us, Le Monde notices an increased French influence in the European Parliament:

Cette crise aura en tout cas confirmé la nouvelle et paradoxale image que renvoient les Français siégeant au Parlement européen – moins nombreux, mais plus identifiables -, cinq mois après les élections du 13 juin.

It is true, and I had noticed it myself, that French politicians seem to have improved their visibility on the European scene recently, whereas only six months ago, the general opinion seemed to be that Enlargement had put a definitive end to France’s leading role in the European Union. This was then typically illustrated by noting that, whereas most of the Commissioners, MEPs and civil servants from the new Member States could speak the language of Shakespeare, only a small minority of them had mastered the language of Molière.

Values that shake the world: II – Tolerance in the Netherlands

22 November 2004

When Pim Fortuyn rose to (posthumous) power on an anti-immigrant agenda in 2001, and now again with the assaults on Muslim schools and mosques after the murder of Theo van Gogh, foreign commentators expressed surprise. That this could happen in the Netherlands, of all places – that cool little country where they legalised prostitution, pot and gay marriage – how could they hate foreigners?

The misunderstanding here is that Dutch people have a long tradition of tolerance. This is not true. The way I would put it, is that over the ages, Dutch people have not so much learned to tolerate, as well as to ignore differences.