Monday, January 17, 2005

Free constitution for every reader! (And news round-up)

Now there's an idea. In preparation for their referendum on the EU constitution on 20th February, the Spanish dailies El Pais, El Mundo, ABC and Razon yesterday all provided free copies of the vast document with their regular papers.

Not a bad idea, and one that might bear copying in the UK should we ever get around to holding a referendum ourselves, although quite who would fancy trawling through that turgid document of a weekend I have no idea. The very first reason for rejecting it on this anti-constitution Spanish site is that it is way too long... They've got a point. I can't see readers of The Sun getting too excited about having a 300+ page legal document come free with their newspaper. Perhaps they could tart it up a bit with commentary from topless lovelies?

In other Euronews, Gerhard Schroeder is leading calls to loosen the EU's rules over budget deficits, writing in the Financial Times (behind a subscription wall) that "The stability pact will work better if intervention by European institutions in the budgetary sovereignty of national parliaments is only permitted under very limited conditions," and thus setting the agenda for tomorrow's meeting of all 25 European finance ministers. However, the German central bank seems to disagree with the Chancellor, noting that "a loosening of the budget rules could herald a paradigm shift of fiscal policy in member countries and lead to developments in economic and monetary union that make conflicts between fiscal and monetary policy more probable."

I'll confess to having no idea what either of them are talking about, but this problem of Germany and France flaunting the rules over 3% limits on budget deficits has been going on for ages now, and continually threatens new problems. Perhaps it's time it's abandoned, but then, what is the EU without its economic ties? This could continue to cause problems for a while... (Edit: EU Referendum has a good summary of what Schroeder's article could mean, along with a few more quotes.)

Meanwhile the Tories have announced their ambitious tax cut plans, promising savings of thirty-five billion quid. Of course, had we not gone to war in Iraq (a war the Tories fully supported), the country would have saved significantly more than that - something the Liberal Democrats, who also launched their pre-election campaign today, might want to point out at some stage...

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