Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More EU budget nonsense

Tony Blair will end up a "serious loser" if he doesn't sort out the EU budget according to his old buddy Peter Mandelson, who it would appear is a reader of this blog...

To be fair to Mandelson (which is something that goes against my better instincts) he does genuinely appear to be striving for everyone's best interests here. Because, as French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy puts it,

"Either [the UK presidency] presents a balanced proposal in the coming days with a just distribution of the costs of EU enlargement or it condemns us all to failure"
- and Gordon Brown, albeit for different reasons, agrees:
"Failing to break the deadlock will mean a huge price – for reform of Europe, for prices, for consumers, for our competitiveness, and for the world’s poor"
They're both right. No agreement will mean failure. It will mean an all-round fuck-up.

But we're still not going to get an agreement, because neither Britain nor France - despite what their leading politicians may say - is going to back down. It's hard not to agree with Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht's assessment of this whole thing,
"We are sitting here wasting our time."
Gordon Brown may be spot on when he says that
"It is simply wrong to say that tariffs are essential to advanced industrial societies and wrong to say that big cuts in farming tariffs would not help a solution to poverty"
but sadly being right means nothing when it comes to this sort of thing. Because, as pointed out yesterday (for the umpteenth time - see also here, here and here for starters) there's no way in hell France will back down on this one.

Blair has offered to give up the rebate, the US has offered to cut their farm subsidies to make the loss of CAP cash less hard. But French parochialism has already blocked both of these really quite incredibly generous offers.

So, once again, Blair will be a loser - and his EU presidency (as predicted right at the start) will be a failure. Which would normally be something to celebrate - unfortunately, however, the longer the CAP remains in its current state, the more poverty-stricken and screwed will be the third world farmers who are always going to be the biggest losers as long as France continues to act in its national interest rather than in the interest of the world.

Nation states, you see? It always comes down to nation states. Source of all the world's ills.

7 Comments:

Blogger garlicsmack said...

Hullo

Thought you might be interested that ministers obviously have SO much going on that they just had to tell everyone about it. We had a couple of Q&As by Paul Goggins (Home Office), Douglas Alexander (Minister for Europe), and an article by Gareth Thomas (DFID). They're available here.

Well, apart from Douglas Alexander's. his was really dull. I mean, really REALLY dull. And not even our questions. European policing may hardly be laugh-a-minute stuff but full credit to Mr Goggins- not only has he made it to the Home Office with a name that suggests that the best he should have hoped for in life was running the Greendale Post Office, but he can also be bothered to write a decent answer to a straight forward questions. Huzzah for him.

11/22/2005 06:18:00 pm  
Anonymous avaroo said...

Nation states? You mean like the US? The UK? Both of whom have, as you noted, offered serious proposals. Rather than nation states being to blame, isn't it actually FRANCE to blame for not getting an agreement?

11/27/2005 08:10:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

No, it's nation states. It is in the national interest of both Britain and America to make limited concessions now for gains in the longer term. It's not in France's national interest to give in.

Part of the idealistic point of the EU was to try and get the entire continent working as one, with no individual nation acting in a way that would be detrimental to the others, and for market forces in the Europe-wide free trade zone eventually to shape the continent into the most efficient economy it could be. This has never worked in practice largely because of national interest getting in the way of the greater, continent-wide good. Nation states by their very nature are insular and selfish, and act with their own interests (often short-term interests only) foremost in their minds at all times.

In other words, on this occasion it is specifically the nation state of France (well, depending on your point of view) - but it is the system of nation states itself which is the real problem in gaining any kind of international agreement.

11/27/2005 11:25:00 pm  
Anonymous avaroo said...

How is it in Britain's and the US' national interest to make limited concessions now for gains in the longer term but NOT in France's national interest to do likewise?

I'm willing to hear an explanation of how France is not the only nation acting in an insular and selfish manner on this issue. So far, I haven't heard one. It looks to me like Britain and the US HAVE looked beyond their national interest and France is unwilling to.

11/28/2005 12:29:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a couple of comments.

The UK really missed a trick here when the CAP deal was stitched up between the French and Germans a couple of years back. Why didn't Blair say at the time that if the CAP budget was going to be fixed for ten years, then there was no way the UK was going to shift on the rebate when the new Financial Perspective was up for negotiation. As it is that red line was not drawn, and the UK is now completely on the back foot.

Secondly, I'm not so sure that this is really in the French national interest. They are defending what they perceive to be in their interests, but in doing so (and probably doing so successfully) they are simply playing the ostrich game of not wanting to break with the past. If they succeed in doing so, this political "success" will simply encourage them to carry on with this retrospective attitude both to Europe and to economic reform more widely. Probably not a good thing for the French economy in the long run.

11/28/2005 12:03:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

OK, evidently forgot to point out that it's PERCEIVED national interest - not objective national interest. It's only ever the perception that matters when governments are acting "in the national interest".

Here follows a generalisation: The French see globilisation as a threat to the French way of life, and the CAP as a means of protecting that way of life from change. To them, protecting their way of life - especially in rural communities - is still considered more important than long-term economic prosperity.

This is largely because, as it stands, the CAP ensures Frnace a certain level of prosperity. It is, for the short to medium term, in France's best interest to maintain its current position - and it is in the national interest as part of the national identity to try to maintain the status quo.

In the short to medium term, France will lose out massively by CAP reform, as she has the most to lose and little to gain. Worst case scenario would see farms across the country go bankrupt, fields revert to nature, centuries of rural tradition be wiped out in the space of a few years, the end of ancient methods of cheese production, vineyards being allowed to wither, and the skills to revive these dying industries with them thanks to a concurrent mass migration to the larger towns and cities as rural areas collapse economically and revert to wasteland.

Britain and the US, however, are less set on maintaining their current national identites, are more willing to see the potential benefits of globilisation and trade liberalisation, and have proven themselves more capable of adapting to a shift in economic base in the past. Although it is entirely possible that France could adapt to the loss of her agriculture as Britain has (just about) adapted to the loss of her industry, it would appear that the French feel that the loss of rural communities and traditions would be too high a price to pay. Although the CAP

Add to that the interests of the various governments (Bush/Blair, following a rough patch, trying to appeal to a global audience and prove that they're nice chaps and gain support vs. Chirac, following a rough patch, trying to appeal to a domestic audience for the self-same reason), and it makes it pretty much impossible for France to act in any other way.

11/28/2005 12:14:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Ah, someone just beat me to it with the perception thing. Anonymous above has got it far more succinctly than I managed. Plagues with cold/flu thing at the moment and dosed up on paracetemol, so brain not working full-on today. Sorry etc.

11/28/2005 12:17:00 pm  

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