Where we are on the 40th anniversary of joining the EEC.
This is part one of a two part series and the second article can be found here
The Political Basis of the EU:
All States and aspiring States have their myths of origin. The myth of origin of the EU is that it is a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France - as if a tendency to go to war is somehow genetically inherited.
The actual facts are however that the first step towards supranational economic integration, the European Coal and Steel Community of 1951, was to facilitate German rearmament at the start of the Cold War with Russia and to reconcile France to that fact. The US wanted a rearmed West Germany inside NATO. This greatly alarmed France which had been occupied by Germany just a few years before.
Jean Monnet, who was America’s man in the affair, came up with the solution. To assuage France's fears he drafted the Schuman Declaration proposing to put the coal and steel industries of France, Germany and Benelux under a supranational High Authority as “the first step in the federation of Europe”. A federation is a State, so the political aim of establishing a State or quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony has been there from the start. The EU celebrates 9 May, the date of this Declaration, as “Europe Day” each year. Monnet became secretary of the supranational High Authority, the predecessor of today’s Brussels Commission.
Thus historically the EU is in its origin an out-of-date legacy of the Cold War, pushed by the USA in the 1950s to provide an economic underpinning to NATO in Europe.
Simultaneously “Europeanism” became the creed of a legion of intellectuals across the continent, disillusioned by the failed ideologies of the 20th century. They provided ideological arguments in support of their assault on all things national. Their central assertion was that conflict between Europe’s States could be prevented by putting their national democracies under the control of a supranational high authority of non-elected technocrats – namely themselves or people like themselves - while trying to merge their peoples in a kind of jellybowl of nations.
They developed the doctrine that by "pooling" sovereignty small States increase their influence over bigger ones, whereas in practical reality it is the other way round. Classically, the concept of sovereignty means that a State is the sole author of the laws prevailing in its territory. For EU members however most laws now come from Brussels. Talk of pooling sovereignty is like referring to a woman as being half-pregnant. Sovereignty "pooled" is sovereignty surrendered.
Forty years after the 1951 Coal and Steel Community, and the 1957 Treaty of Rome setting up the European Economic Community(EEC) which followed, another shift in Franco-German power, Germany's reunification as a side-effect of the collapse of the USSR in 1991, led these two countries to establish the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and its single currency, the euro.
The big increase in Germany’s population and territory on reunification greatly alarmed France. However France had nuclear weapons, which Germany was precluded from having under the post-War treaties. The deal between the two of them was EU Monetary Union for Political Union or, put crudely, the Deutschemark for the Euro-bomb. Germany would give up its national currency, the symbol of its post-war economic achievement, and share the running of a new supranational EU currency with France, while France agreed to work jointly with Germany towards a supranational EU political union with its own common foreign, security and defence policy.
This would give Germany a central role in running a potential EU world power, with its finger on a nuclear trigger in due time. France in turn hoped the euro would give it a political lock on Germany. “The two pillars of the Nation State are the sword and the currency and we have changed that,” exulted EU Commission President Romano Prodi. A Franco-German army brigade with joint officers and a joint command was simultaneously set up as a symbol and prototype of the EU army of the future. Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain have since joined this as contributors to a common “Eurocorps”.
France and Germany are said to share a common interest in being joint engines of the EU integration project. The conventional wisdom has been that if they stay together they can push through the Brussels institutions whatever policy suits their interests, while between them they are strong enough to prevent any other group of EU States from adopting policies they do not like. The reality is somewhat different however, as Germany was always going to be the big winner in moves towards an EU monetary and political union.
The Intoxication of Big Powerdom:
That political realist, Germany's 19th century chancellor Otto Von Bismarck, once said: “I have always found the word 'Europe' on the lips of those powers which wanted something from others which they dared not demand in their own names.”
The rhetoric of Euro-federalism, talk of "the European ideal”, the requirements of “the EU project”, the supposed “necessity” of Europe's unification and the like, is essentially political cover for the national interests of the States concerned, as mediated by their political and economic elites.
Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung put the point succinctly:
"One formula for understanding the EU is this: Take five broken empires – Germany, France, Italy, Holland and Belgium – add a sixth one later, Great Britain, and try to make one grand neo-colonial empire out of it all.”
The founding members of the original EEC, apart from Luxembourg, had all been imperial powers for centuries. They were all defeated, occupied and ravaged during World War 2. After 1945 they found themselves in a world dominated by the two military superpowers, the USA and USSR. The European governmental elites, who were used to thinking in imperial terms, said to themselves: if we cannot be Big Powers in the world on our own any longer, let us try to be a Big Power collectively.
Germany in particular saw EU integration as the way back to world power following its reunification, with France ever more desperately pretending to be her equal partner in the process.
This is not the whole story of the EU, but it is fundamental to understanding its development.
Different countries had their own motives for embracing supranationalism. Britain wanted to prevent the continent being dominated by the Franco-Germans. She sought either to prise them apart or else be co-opted by them in running the EU as a triumvirate. Both aims proved illusory, and this is the root of British Euro-scepticism.
Spain, Portugal and Greece saw the EU as guaranteeing democracy following long periods of dictatorship. The East Europeans saw it as a way of moving out of Russia’s sphere of influence. Their representatives in the EU bureaucracy, the European Parliament, the Court of Justice, Central Bank etc. are paid salaries which are typically ten times higher than what they would get at home. This makes Brussels a specially attractive career prospect.
For them as for politicians, senior bureaucrats, media people and social science academics in the smaller EU States generally there is the sense of importance of having wider fields to conquer, side by side with representatives of the big countries, and the intoxication of helping to build a superpower. ”It is much nicer to be running Europe than running Slovakia,“ as one of them put it.
The Economic Basis of the EU:
The Franco-German economic deal which was embodied in the original 1957 Treaty of Rome offered protection for French farmers in return for free trade for German industry. The Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) kept European food prices high for decades by reducing food imports from the rest of the world. Farmers like high food prices. As CAP supports were tied to volume of production, this benefited big farmers most, French and Irish ones particularly.
On the free trade side the EU Treaties make it illegal under supranational EU law for governments to put obstacles in the way of the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour between the 27 EU Member States. National Governments are legally forbidden to discriminate in favour of their own citizens or business firms by adopting any such measures, whether liberal or restrictive, although the possibility of doing that if it is judged to be in the interest of a people’s economic welfare is one of the main reasons why countries want to have their own governments in the first place.
From the standpoint of private capital it is normal to want minimal interference by the State with private profit-making activities. EU law drastically limits the possibility of such interference. Any national law which seeks to enforce a national common good in the economic sphere must give way to EU law in areas covered by the Treaties.
This is what makes transnational capital, firms with branches in different EU countries, the principal lobbyists for ever further EU economic integration.
Most EU laws and court cases before the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) are concerned with enforcing these rules. The constitution of the EU, the Treaty of Rome and its amending treaties, is in effect the first State or quasi-State constitution in history to be drawn up entirely in the interest of big business, without the slightest popular or democratic input into its making.
The EU’s foundational “four freedoms” – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour - enshrine the basic principles of classical laissez-faire as constitutional imperatives which no government or elected parliament may legally change or violate, regardless of the wishes of their voters.
The Succession of EU Treaties:
Each successive EU Treaty was sold to the different peoples across Europe as a modest incremental step towards getting more jobs, growth and higher living standards. Yet each took powers away from national parliaments and governments and the citizens which elected these, turning the Nation States of Europe into provincial shells, subverting their national democracy and making their citizens subject to a supranational political and economic elite which runs an EU system whose workings most people poorly understand.
This is the “Great Deception” of the EU integration project, a constitutional revolution by stealth.
- THE 1957 TREATY OF ROME set up the European Economic Community(EEC) to complement the supranational Coal and Steel Community of 1951. This principal EU foundation treaty established the four supranational institutions, the European Commission, Council, Court and Parliament – the latter originally called an Assembly - to enforce free movement of goods, services, capital and labour among the original six Member States, and to manage the Common Agricultural Policy.
Over the next half-century membership of the EU went from the original six founding members - Germany, France, Italy and Benelux - to nine to twelve to fifteen to twenty-seven in 2012 and twenty-eight in 2013 with Croatia's accession. Thirty years after the Treaty of Rome came the next major push to Euro-federalism, the treaty called the Single European Act.
- THE 1987 SINGLE EUROPEAN ACT (SEA) set up the so-called “single market”. This made non-tariff barriers to trade illegal under EU law, ranging from State aids to public purchasing to discriminatory health and safety measures at national level. The SEA led to a host of harmonization directives to iron out national differences in product standards and specifications. To enforce these rules, unanimity was replaced by qualified or weighted majority voting across most economic areas in the EU.
Brussels regards all sorts of unrelated issues as single market ones - for example working hours, emissions trading, driving tests, vitamin supplements - for this shifts what are essentially domestic matters to the supranational level where they can be decided by means of qualified majority voting.
The cost of such measures to national economies is enormous. Yet most economists tend to ignore them when working out whether a country is a net contributor to or a net beneficiary from the EU. They just subtract the flows of funds between national treasuries and Brussels.
Taking the onerous regulatory burden of the "acquis communautaire" into account greatly changes the calculation of the economic costs of EU membership. New EU Member States are compelled to adopt every single one of this vast superstructure of rules.
- THE 1992 MAASTRICHT TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION required all EU Members apart from Britain and Denmark to abolish their national currencies and adopt a single EU currency, the euro. So far 17 of the 27 have done this. The internal “price” of a currency is the rate of interest, the external “price” the rate of exchange. So by joining the Eurozone the 17 countries concerned have abandoned national control of their rates of interest and their exchange rates. They have thereby surrendered vital economic tools for influencing the supply of credit and their economic competitiveness in the interest of the common good of their own peoples. The European Central Bank(ECB) decides credit conditions for the Eurozone as a whole. In practice this means what suits Germany and France, for they constitute half the Eurozone’s population.
- THE 1998 AMSTERDAM TREATY extended qualified majority voting to a number of new areas. It gave the EU its own code of human rights, its own external border and immigration policy, a harmonised approach to civil and criminal law across the EU and its own foreign and security policy.
- THE 2001 NICE TREATY increased the relative voting weight of the Big States in making EU laws. It abolished the national veto and extended qualified majority voting in a range of non-economic areas. It allowed sub-groups of Member States to integrate more closely among themselves, using the EU institutions for that purpose, thereby moving away from the original concept of the EU as a partnership of legal equals.
- THE 2009 TREATY OF LISBON embodied the provisions of the 2004 Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which sought to establish the European Union DIRECTLY on the basis of its own Constitution, just as with any State. When this was rejected in 2005 by French and Dutch voters in referendums its provisions were repackaged virtually unchanged and adopted INDIRECTLY in the form of amendments to the existing EU Treaties in the Lisbon Treaty.
Lisbon provided for the abolition of the European Community, which was the legal repository of supranational powers up to then, and its replacement by a constitutionally new European Union, with full legal personality separate from that of Member States for the first time. It made citizens of the different EU Member States into real citizens of this constitutionally new federal-type Union for the first time also, giving them a real second citizenship IN ADDITION TO their national citizenships, just as citizens of regional states like California or Bavaria are citizens also of their respective Federal States. EU law has primacy over national law and the claims of EU citizenship have primacy over the claims of national citizenship in any cases of conflict between the two.
Lisbon also provides that from 2014 law-making in the EU will be put on a population basis just as in any State. From that year a qualified majority for purposes of making EU laws on the Council of Ministers will consist of 55% of the States - which means 15 out of the then 28 - as long as that 15 comprise 65% of the EU’s total population of some 500 million.
Germany and France between them have half that percentage, which gives them a blocking minority vote. As Germany is the most populous EU State this means that from 2014 Germany’s voting weight in making EU laws will rise from its current 8% of Council votes – 29 votes for each big State out of a total of 345, Ireland having 7 votes - to 16% on a population basis. The voting weight of France, Italy and Britain will rise from their present 8% each to 12% each, and the relative voting weight of smaller States will fall, in Ireland’s case from its present 2% to less than 1%.
Lisbon also makes the "European Council" of Prime Ministers and Presidents into a formal EU institution for the first time, bringing this “intergovernmental” grouping within the ambit of the treaties and making it the constitutional driving force for ever further integration, especially for the Eurozone.
How the EU is Run... No Separation of Powers:
For the past three centuries the separation of powers and functions between the Executive (Government), Legislature(Parliament) and Judiciary has been acknowledged as the necessary basis of democratic states and fundamental to maintaining the liberty of citizens.
This principle goes out the window in the EU. There the exclusive power of proposing new supranational laws rests with the EU’s Executive or Government, the Commission in Brussels . . .
- THE COMMISSION is more a government than a commission. Its members are nominated by national governments, not elected. Thus a condition for proposing supranational laws in the EU is that one should NOT be elected. Once appointed Commissioners' allegiance is to the EU, not their own countries. French President Charles De Gaulle once described this body aptly as “a conclave of technocrats without a country, responsible to no one”.
As well as administering the existing EU rules and having the monopoly of proposing new ones, the Commission has quasi-judicial powers as well. It can adjudicate on competition cases and impose fines on EU members. Even though there may be an appeal to the Court of Justice, the Commission acts as if it were a lower court. It draws up and administers its own budget, with minimal democratic control. Its president can hire, move and sack individual Commissioners. It is supported by some 3000 “secret” working groups, whose members are not publicly known, where most Commission decisions are actually made and where corporate lobbyists wield their influence. Only 2% of Commission decisions come up at meetings of the full Commission.
- THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS is called a Council, but it makes laws just like a Parliament, on the basis of the Commission's proposals. It makes these laws in secret, often in the form of package-deals between its members, and it takes some executive decisions. Approximately 85% of EU directives and regulations are agreed privately in some 300 committees of civil servants from the EU Member States which service the Council and they are approved without debate at Council level. Only 15% of EU laws are actually discussed or negotiated at Council level. The formal adoption of these laws now takes place in public, although the negotiations leading up to them are private. The Council of Ministers is responsible as a collectivity to nobody and is irremoveable as a body.
- THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT is more a Council than a Parliament. It cannot initiate any EU law although it can amend draft laws which come from the Commission and Council as long as the Commission agrees. If the Commission disagrees, all 27 Member States must agree to allow an amendment by the Parliament to be adopted. If the Parliament by an absolute majority of its members opposes a draft directive from the Commission it cannot become law, but this rarely happens. The Parliament has the final say over the EU budget except for agriculture. If it vetoes new budget proposals, the previous year’s EU budget is repeated.
- The COURT OF JUSTICE is not just a Court but is also a Constitution-maker, with constitutional powers similar to what some Parliaments have, as set out below.
It is easy to see from the above that the executive, legislative and judicial functions of government are not separated in the EU institutions, but are inextricably intertwined. There is none of the separation of powers which characterises normal democracies. Moreover, the Commission, the Parliament and the Court of Justice share a common interest in having ever more powers shifted from the national to the supranational level where the three institutions are involved together in exercising them.
The EU Court as Constitution-Maker:
The Court of Justice(ECJ) is a highly political Court. It continually interprets the treaties in such a way as to extend the legal powers of the EU to the maximum, moving the EU in directions which were never envisaged by the people originally involved. Here are some revolutionary verdicts of the ECJ:-
- Van Gend en Loos, C-26/62 of 1963: EU Treaty rules have direct effect inside Member States;
- Costa v. Enel C-6/64: EU law has primacy over national law;
- Internationale Handelgesellschaft C-11/70 and Simmenthal C-106/77: EU law has primacy over national Constitutions;
- AETR C-22/70: the EU may enter into common international agreements instead of Member States in areas where EU powers are internally exercised, bolstering its external powers;
- Van Duyn C-41/74: EU directives have direct effect inside Member States and national courts must enforce them;
- Dassonville C-8/74 and Cassis de Dijon C-120/78: the lowest national standards for product specifications can apply throughout the EU, leading to the Internal Market on the basis of qualified majority voting after 1987;
- Hauer C-44/79: Fundamental human rights form part of the supranational EU legal order;
- Les Verts C-294/83: the EU Treaties have the character of a Constitution;
- Frankovich C-6/90: Member States are financially liable for violations of EU law within their borders;
- Kohll C-158/96: Internal market rules entitle national citizens to get medical treatment in other Member States and be reimbursed on the same basis as the locals;
- Environment verdict C-176/03: The EU may decide on criminal sanctions for breaches of EU law;
- Pringle C-370/12: the amendment to the EU Treaty ostensibly authorizing a permanent bailout fund for the Eurozone, which comes into force during 2013, is redundant and legally unnecessary, for the 17 Eurozone States had the right to establish this fund “intergovernmentally” among themselves anyway, which they did the year before, in 2012, by means of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)Treaty.
The Extent of EU Laws:
It is hard to think of a single area of national life nowadays that is unaffected by EU law. In most years the majority of laws and statutory instruments put through national Parliaments now come from Brussels. There are over 100,000 EU rules, international agreements and legal acts binding on or affecting citizens across the EU.
It is calculated that in 2013 there are in force