Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 10:47 PM
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Oct 26th 2000
From The Economist print edition
We among the states of Europe, seeking to encourage peaceful, open and constructive relations between our peoples, and seeking to advance our common interests in the world, ordain and establish this Constitution for our European Union. This constitution shall prevail over other European and national law, including treaties of the Union, should conflict arise.
The Union is established by the Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht on February 7th 1992, and founded on the European Communities.
The Union shall uphold the principles of liberty, democracy and the rule of law.
The Union and its Member States shall respect the fundamental rights of citizens, including, but not limited to, those rights guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on November 4th 1950, and rights common among Member States. (1)
All powers, other than those clearly delegated to the Union by this constitution and by the treaties of the Union, are reserved to the Member States.
The Union and the Member States shall uphold the principle of subsidiarity. (2)
English, French and German shall have equal standing as the sole official languages of the Union institutions. (3)
The Union shall have legal personality. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall complement and not replace national citizenship.
Any citizen of the Union having the right to move and reside freely within his own Member State shall have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of all Member States.
A citizen of the Union residing in a Member State of which he is not a national shall have the right to vote in his country of residence only. (4)
Heads of government, one from each Member State, shall meet at least once every six months, as the European Council. (5) This European Council shall be the high policy-making body of the Union. It shall give instructions and guidance to the Council of Ministers and to the European Commission, which shall be published after each meeting along with voting records. (6)
The Union shall be served by the following common institutions: a Parliament, a Council of Nations, a Council of Ministers, a Commission, a Central Bank, a Court of Justice and a Court of Auditors. These institutions shall possess those powers, and only those powers, granted to them through treaties ratified by all Member States.
Parliament shall consist of representatives of the peoples of the Member States. Representatives shall be elected by direct universal suffrage for terms of five years. Their number shall not exceed 100. Seats shall be allocated among Member States in reasonable proportion to population. Parliament shall fix its own rules of procedure. (7)
Parliament shall debate the policies and the legislation of the Union. It may strike down legislation and it may propose amendments to legislation, where this is authorised by the treaties of the Union. It may request the Commission to propose legislation to the Council of Ministers. It may bring actions before the Court of Justice.
Parliament, including committees of the Parliament, has a general right to question in public hearings any member of the Commission, or any proposed member of the Commission.
Parliament may, acting by a two-thirds majority of its members, dismiss any member of the Commission. (8)
No judge shall be appointed to the Court of Justice without approval from the Parliament.
Save as otherwise provided here and in the treaties of the Union, Parliament shall act by a simple majority of the votes cast.
The Council of Nations
The Council of Nations shall consist of representatives drawn from the parliaments of Member States, according to procedures devised by the respective parliaments. Seats shall be allocated with reference to population, save that every Member State shall have at least two representatives and the number of representatives shall not exceed three times the number of Member States.
The Council of Nations shall act as a constitutional council. It shall have power to overrule the Court of Justice. It may strike down legislation. The Council shall act by a simple majority of the votes cast. (9)
The Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers shall be the legislature of the Union. It shall consist of one representative of each Member State. Each representative shall have the rank of government minister, and shall be authorised by his government to make commitments on its behalf.
The Council of Ministers shall consider, and, when it so decides, enact, laws and resolutions furthering the aims of the Union as set down in this Constitution and in such other treaties as Member States may from time to time enact, provided always that any such treaties have been ratified by all Member States.
The Council shall act by unanimity where the treaties of the Union require it to do so. At all other times it shall act by a double-majority system: to carry, a vote shall be supported by a majority of Member States, containing a majority of the Union’s population. (10)
An agenda shall be published before each Council meeting. A voting record shall be published immediately after it. (11)
In all other respects, the Council shall fix its own rules of procedure.
The Commission shall be the secretariat of the Union. (12) It shall consist of a president and 12 commissioners (13), having authority over a civil service. It may propose and draft legislation for the Union, at the direction of the European Council or at the request of the Parliament. It shall have the right to bring cases before the Court of Justice. It shall have the general task of ensuring that the laws of the Union are respected.
The European Council shall appoint the President of the Commission, acting by a simple majority. The President shall be appointed for a term of five years, which may be renewed. Member States shall propose candidates for commissioners’ posts from among their own nationals. The President of the Commission shall choose his commissioners from among those candidates, also for terms of five years, and shall decide their responsibilities. (14)
Commissioners shall act in the general interest of the Union. They shall neither seek nor take instruction from any Member State nor from any private interest.
The Commission shall act by a simple majority of its members.
The Court of Justice
The judicial power of the Union shall be vested in the Court of Justice, and in such inferior courts as Member States may ordain and establish through treaties. The Court shall be the supreme court of the Union in matters of Union law only, save that it may be overruled by the Council of Nations on matters which the Council of Nations considers to be constitutional in nature. The court shall have appellate jurisdiction over inferior courts, including those of Member States, in matters of Union law only.
Each Member State shall appoint one judge to the Court of Justice, save that no appointment shall be made without the approval of the Parliament. A judge in office may be dismissed only by a vote to that effect by both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The retirement age for judges shall be 70.
The judges shall elect a President of the Court from among their number, and shall fix their own rules of procedure.
The Commission, the Parliament and the governments of Member States have the right to bring actions before the Court. The Court may choose to hear actions brought by private and legal persons.
No judge shall seek or take instruction from any Member State or from any private interest.
The Court of Auditors
The Court of Auditors shall examine the revenue and expenditure accounts of the Union and its institutions. At least once each year it shall provide the Parliament and the Council of Ministers with a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts, and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions. This statement shall be made public.
Each Member State shall nominate one member to the Court. Each member of the Court shall act in the general interest of the Union. None shall seek or take instruction from any Member State or from any private interest.
The Central Bank
The Central Bank shall be governed solely by an executive board consisting of a President, a Vice-President, and five other members. (15) Each shall be appointed by the European Council, by simple majority vote, save that heads of governments representing countries outside the Monetary Union shall not participate in voting on these appointments. Each executive board member shall be appointed to an eight-year term, which shall not be renewable.
The Central Bank shall define and implement the monetary policy of the Monetary Union, this Monetary Union consisting of all, and only of, Member States that have adopted the euro as their sole legal tender.
The primary aim of the monetary policy of the Central Bank shall be the maintenance of price stability within the Monetary Union.
The Central Bank shall hold and manage the official foreign reserves of those Member States within the Monetary Union. It shall have the exclusive right to authorise the issuing of banknotes and coins within the Monetary Union.
Members of the executive board shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government nor any private interest.
The Union shall levy no taxes. (16)
The Union, and Member States, shall strive to remove all obstacles to the free movement of goods, and services, and capital within the Union. Save that governments may disallow the free movement of specified goods and services where there is a clear and significant risk to public health, or public order, or national security. No national law regulating the taxation of income or profit shall be construed as an obstacle to the free movement of goods, or services, or capital. (17)
The Union shall fix common rules on competition to assist the proper functioning of free markets.
The Union shall fix a common regime for trade between Member States and other countries.
Membership of the Monetary Union is open to all Member States, save that Member States within the Monetary Union may impose reasonable, objective and non-discriminatory entry criteria on Member States wishing to join the Monetary Union.
Justice and home affairs
The Union shall fix a common policy for the entry of foreign nationals on to the territory of Member States.
The Union shall fix a common policy for the granting of asylum by Member States.
A person charged with a criminal offence in a Member State carrying a sentence of imprisonment shall be given up for extradition, on the demand of a high court, by any other Member State in which he may be residing or in which he may have taken refuge, promptly, or on completion of any prison sentence he may be serving, or about to serve, when the extradition request is made. (18)
Foreign and defence policy
The Council of Ministers shall appoint a High Representative, authorised to speak for the Union in matters of foreign and defence policy on which the Council of Ministers has agreed a common position. The High Representative shall have the right to seek decisions from the Council in matters of foreign and defence policy. (19)
Member States shall seek to agree common positions when acting in international organisations, save on questions of national representation. (20)
Other policy areas
Member States may, through treaties, grant powers to the Union in other policy areas, and take back powers granted previously, so long as such treaties are ratified by all Member States. (21)
Treaties made among groups of member states
Member States may make treaties among themselves to which some but not all Member States are signatory. Parties to any such treaty may choose to make the treaty justiciable before the Court of Justice, provided that:
i) Nothing in the policy content of the treaty contradicts anything in the main policy content of this Constitution or any existing treaty of the Union;
ii) The parties include at least half the Member States of the Union at the time of signature, and no other party at any time;
iii) Any other Member State may accede to the treaty at any time, subject only to reasonable, objective and non-discriminatory criteria.
Member States, acting by a three-quarters majority of states, may agree to admit to membership of the Union other countries that are able and willing to meet the obligations of membership. (22)
Supension and secession
The Council of Ministers may suspend the voting rights of a Member State, if that Member State departs from the basic values or violates basic rules of the Union. (23) In such cases the Council of Ministers must act by a three-quarters majority of states, exclusive of the Member State that is the subject of the vote.
A Member State may leave the Union at any time. (24)
This constitution may be amended only by all Member States acting unanimously, and after a referendum in each and every Member State on the proposed amendment or amendments.
1) There is thus no need for an additional charter of fundamental rights, currently under discussion.
2) This enshrines in the constitution a principle that governments have often proclaimed, but which has rarely been used in practice as a way to judge or justify new initiatives.
3) This shifts the main burden of other translation to member states that want it.
4) There may be arguments for assigning the voting right to the country of nationality, rather than the country of residence. But taxation is based mainly on place of residence. The formula chosen here preserves the link between taxation and representation. A citizen may, on the other hand, run for office in any country that will allow him to do so.
5) One country, one representative. France will have to decide whether to send its president or its prime minister.
6) This describes, and so institutionalises, current practice. It denies the European Commission the status of “high policy-making body” that federalists would wish to assign it.
7) Including its choice of seat, so ending the monthly commute between Brussels and Strasbourg.
8) A new power. Until now Parliament has been able to dismiss the commission en bloc only. This new power for Parliament checks the greater power given to the commission president in choosing his commissioners.
9) We favour separating constitutional oversight from the other duties of the Court of Justice, and charging a chamber of parliamentarians with this responsibility. The reason is that the court would have a stronger tendency to extend the reach of European law than would such a chamber. This is the tendency which our constitution aims to resist.
10) A new formula. The current system is one of “qualified majority voting”, whereby a proposal must command at least 62 out of 87 possible votes in the European Council. Member states agreed in 1996 that the voting system needed reform before the Union could add many more new members. This formula links voting power more directly to population.
11) A new requirement, which obliges governments to reveal to the public how their ministers have voted on Union business.
12) A new description, recognising a shift in political power away from the commission and towards the European Council.
13) A new formula. At present the commission has 20 members, including the president, two from each bigger member state and one from each smaller member state. Governments agree that reform is needed here before another enlargement of the Union. “Capping” the commission at a fixed size, regardless of the number of member states, is one option.
14) A new mechanism, designed to encourage member states to “compete” for commission places and so to offer better candidates.
15) There will be no national bank governors. With enlargement, the inclusion of national bank governors on the governing council of the central bank will become unwieldy and (since big countries will have the same representation as small ones) inequitable.
16) A short article, but an important one. It underlines the standing of the nation state within the Union. Any transfer of power to tax should require not merely unanimity among governments, as for treaty changes, but a constitutional amendment, which demands also the direct endorsement of citizens through referendums.
17) This puts flesh on the bones of subsidiarity in an area of policy where the issue is especially likely to be fudged.
18) The minimum of guaranteed co-operation that would be needed as an alternative to harmonising national systems of criminal justice in a Union of open borders.
19) A minimal mechanism for ensuring that member states can be obliged to consider common positions and common actions in respect of world events. In practice, the Union is evolving mechanisms for institutionalising common foreign and common defence policies which are likely to be the subject of future treaty provisions.
20) Thus national governments with, for example, permanent seats on the UN Security Council, cannot be obliged to support the abolition of those seats.
21) An “ever closer Union” is not, therefore, a constitutional obligation. Powers can also be returned to member states, if all member states agree.
22) Action by majority vote is proposed here so that accessions cannot be blocked by a local squabble, or by one country’s threat of a tactical veto; and also on the grounds that the addition of any one new country to the Union is unlikely to be a matter of vital national interest to any one country already within the Union. This clause also removes Parliament’s right to block an accession through a simple vote. But Parliament could always challenge an accession before the Court of Justice, on the grounds that the candidate country was not “able and willing to meet the obligations of membership”.
23) A simplified version of current rules, and one that leaves the Court of Justice to decide, if asked, what is a “basic value” or a “basic rule” at the time in question.
24) A new provision, perhaps surprisingly.
Posted by A. Kvetch at 9:37 PM
Friday, May 27, 2005
As older societies, we tend to think of ourselves as more experienced in the way societies evolve, and we tend to be skeptical of Americans who seem to think that if you believe hard enough, and you muster enough resources, you can change the world... In the last year or so, as we've engaged in discussions about the transformation of the Middle East and democracy, I have told my American friends that the region in this world that has seen the most transformation and change is Central and Eastern Europe--without shedding a drop of blood. So don't preach to us. And don't think transformative change will work according to mechanistic rules. This is very complicated. Changing the way people think often has to do with religious and cultural issues--we tend to think of them as long-term, and Americans think, Let's solve the problem in the next four years!So says the German ambassador to the US, quoted in the New Yorker. Is this guy for real? As older and more experienced societies, we Europeans, who are so sophisticated, have managed, just in the last century, to kill tens of millions of innocent people (at home and abroad), to create and abet two of the most destructive ideologies ever known to man (Nazism and Communism) and without the intensive and extensive help of the Americans we would never have been able to beat these existential threats back.
And this unintentionally comic punk says "without shedding a drop of blood"? If I were German I would be appalled and outraged that my representative to the US was going around making such embarassing, condescending (and preachy, I might add) statements. And, mother of all ironies, apparently it's all those American officials with graduate degrees and years of experience "on the ground" that are supposed to be the naive ones. (Whilst the experienced Germans are running their country - and continent - into the ground.)
The Belgravia Dispatch has a thorough critique (and the full New Yorker quote; via Instapundit) and Davids Medienkritik underlines the absurdity of the statement with a few historical details and photographs.
Posted by A. Kvetch at 9:24 AM
Thursday, May 26, 2005
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
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Sunday, May 22, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 2:05 PM
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Read the whole thing.Hirsi Ali: Start by knocking on the door! We must penetrate into their worlds.
SPIEGEL: You'll be seeing many doors slammed in your face.
Hirsi Ali: I'm not saying that it would be easy. For her book entitled "Invisible Parents," the journalist Margalith Kleijwegt did some research in the Moroccan section of Amsterdam, where Van Gogh's murderer, Bouyeri, lived. She knocked unsuccessfully on doors six times. The seventh door was opened, and then she learned a great deal about this community. For example, she learned that no parents in that neighborhood knew about the murder, that no parents even knew who Van Gogh was or had heard about the film. They only watch Arab television where they are fed with conspiracy theories about the West. They spend every vacation at home in Morocco. They can't speak or write Dutch, and they don't read newspapers. The lesson of Margalith Kleijwegt's book is that the parents are not equipped to give their children the upbringing necessary in a modern western society. They also have many children and these parallel worlds are growing. We look on without even knowing what happens in them.
SPIEGEL: Who should go in? Social workers?
Hirsi Ali: Certainly not. They are too politically correct and in most cases very young and inexperienced. No, there are other ways to get in. One is the political tool of preventing further growth of the ghettos. We need to employ a policy of integration that dictates to people where they can live and where they cannot live, thereby guaranteeing a mixing together of cultures and nations.
SPIEGEL: That sounds like a lot of trouble - from the Dutch as well.
Hirsi Ali: So what? What is at issue is defending our values, and that can certainly lead to arguments.
SPIEGEL: Aren't you concerned that tensions would arise in these forced communities?
Hirsi Ali: The other alternative creates even greater tensions. If you allow the ghettos to grow, you'll have clashes between skinheads and Muslim extremists, for example. The second means of access should also be controlled by political means: A prohibition on all faith-based schools. Schools must be places of civilization, places that impart Western values, the purposes of democracy. We must treat the children as our children and not turn their education over to defenders of foreign dogma who indoctrinate them with anti-liberal doctrines.
SPIEGEL: Ignore the cultures of the immigrants?
Hirsi Ali: Blindly respecting their cultures is the wrong approach. Here's an example: Many children in Holland's Arab ghettos are taught the teachings of Ibn Abu-Taymiya, one of the founders of pure Islam who preaches the holy war as a way of life. Instead of studying European philosophers, the children are taught to abide by 11th century teachings!
SPIEGEL: Integration and European culture can't be imposed on people.
Hirsi Ali: But we can do something about it. This is where society comes in. Artists, kindergartens, churches, they should all penetrate into the ghettos. It's really grotesque: We have all kinds of NGOs that send people all the way to Africa to convince people to use condoms. But they don't dare touch the problems we have at home. Charity begins at home.
SPIEGEL: Perhaps this is partly because part of democracy means allowing people to think as they wish.
Hirsi Ali: Democracy also includes legitimate intolerance. The intolerable cannot be tolerated. We must declare war on Islamist propaganda. Why should we ignore that women in our midst are being suppressed, beaten, enslaved? Why should we ignore that people preach hatred and vow to destroy us?
Posted by A. Kvetch at 9:46 PM
Friday, May 20, 2005
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Thursday, May 19, 2005
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 10:10 AM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Even if this incident turns out to be false, our previous policies have made it perfectly plausible. That's the deeper issue here.
Posted by A. Kvetch at 10:20 PM
Monday, May 16, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 6:16 PM
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 11:10 PM
On the other hand there is also some good news: growing opposition to the AUT boycott! Sign the petition here. (All via Gay and Right: great blog - take a look around)
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Saturday, May 14, 2005
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Friday, May 13, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 11:15 AM
Thursday, May 12, 2005
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 9:17 AM
Monday, May 09, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 1:07 PM
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 3:16 PM
Friday, May 06, 2005
“The public has spoken. Iraq was a mistake” Martin Phillips, Oxford, UK
Posted by A. Kvetch at 10:42 AM
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
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Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 10:20 AM
Monday, May 02, 2005
Posted by A. Kvetch at 2:32 PM
The reason why some people want to keep the banks in Italian hands is because, often at the behest of the government, they finance Italian industry, even when there is little chance they will get their money back. Deals are made in which debt is transformed into equity, so that if (or when) a company cannot honor its debts, the creditor banks become shareholders. It goes without saying that under these deals, which are explicitly intended to sponsor, or bail-out, struggling companies, there is no market justification to actually lend the money. At any rate, this practice has enabled the Italian government to continue to indirectly subsidize industry without incurring the wrath of the EU.
Posted by A. Kvetch at 8:58 AM
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I left after work on Wednesday and arrived in the evening. I stayed at a friend's house in Kensington (very nice area - and house, near Earl's Court).
I went to Westminster where I had to attend the Annual General Meeting of Barclays (a large British bank). As they say, it was "bloody good fun" and I met a few corporate bigwigs. It was over at around lunchtime and I strolled around the area. I walked up Whitehall, looked in at Downing Street and then went past the Cabinet War Rooms, through St. James' Park up to Buckingham Palace. I walked to Hyde Park Corner and made my way up Piccadilly. There I took my time, especially towards the end, where I popped into Fortnum & Mason (the world-famous gourmet food store) and I spent a long time in Hatchards (a large, beautiful bookstore). Then I looked into the Economist Shop in Regent street and strolled to Trafalgar Square. In the late afternoon I had an appointment with Megan McArdle (I'll post about that separately) at a bar near the Imperial War Museum, on the other side of the Thames.
I had to attend the Annual General Meeting of Pearson, which owns Penguin, the Financial Times, half of the Economist and Pearson Education. This meeting was rather smaller than the Barclays one. However, given my interest in journalism, I found it much more exciting. After the meeting there were refreshments and I got a chance to chat with Marjorie Scardino, the CEO of the company. It was great and since I am a great fan I'll dedicate a separate post to her too. In the evening I met up with another friend from college who is now at the London School of Economics.
I met up with my LSE friend again (my host was very busy with an essay all weekend) and we visited the Tower of London, which was a wonderful experience. I had already seen it, but that was almost a decade ago. We went through the whole thing, including the classic Beefeater tour, but for me the treat was the Crown Jewels: truly dazzling!
I walked from my house to Harrods in Knightsbridge where I met my LSE friend again. We took a long walk in Hyde Park, whose luxuriant lawns and towering trees brought to mind the sorry condition of the "parks" in Milan, where we both went to college. Then I caught my Eurostar train at Waterloo.
Now I am back home in Brussels. I am happy to be home even though I had a wonderful time. So many of my intellectual interests are tied to the Anglosphere, including Great Britain, and it was fascinating to see it live again, after all this time. I assiduously read the Economist and look at the Financial Times daily, when I was youger I read all of Agatha Christie's novels and more recently I have been reading Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers. Actually visiting Great Britain has refreshed so many images which had become faded and stale in my mind.
London lived up to all my expectations and I had a lot of fun, which I also owe to my good friends who did a lot to make my stay pleasant. The only aspect which leads me to prefer Brussels (at this time in my life) is that London is so large that it is difficult to get around. Brussels is much easier to navigate, while maintaining the flavor of an important European capital, with its institutions (Belgian, EU and NATO), its cosmopolitan populace and first-rate cultural events.
Posted by A. Kvetch at 9:49 PM