Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reform Treaty 2

It is with some bemusement, and horror, that I have followed the campaign in Britain to have a national referendum over the EU Reform Treaty. Bemused because the campaigners are essentially trying to save Parliament from itself, by defending the supremacy of Parliament with a demand that it submit to a referendum.

What is less amusing is the xenophobia exhibited by the conservative press in connection with the referendum campaign. Britain's largest selling newspaper, the Rupert Murdoch owned Sun, is (as expected) leading the xenophobic charge. Yesterdays front page had this manipulated picture of Gordon Brown displaying what is a very offensive hand gesture in Britain, and called the Reform Treaty the "Greatest threat since WW2." The Brown picture is, arguably, not as offensive as some of the Sun's past headlines, such as 'Up Yours, Delors'(1) and 'Gotcha',(2) but the World War II references are very disturbing.

Maybe I should just ignore what the Sun writes as the usual conservative rhetoric and campaigning. It is, however, hard to ignore the Suns views on the EU, and its general hated of everything European, as it is very much representative of mainstream opinion. While more serious media outlets, such as Sky News,(3) The Times,(3) The Daily Telegraph and, yes, the BBC, may not express their views as crassly as the Sun, their anti-European prejudice is, in my opinion, just as strong.

As a foreigner living in Britain It all makes me feel very uncomfortable.

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1) Jacque Dolors was EU Commission President from 1985 to 1995, and the headline related to the Maastrict Treaty negotiaions.
2) Celebrating the sinking of the Argentine Cruiser the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands war.
3) Sky News and the The Times are also owned by Murdoch's News Corp.

9 Comments:

At 26 September, 2007 13:19, Blogger Andrew said...

It makes me feel uncomfortable living in this country because I think of myself as European...

You might like version of the Sun instead

 
At 26 September, 2007 22:11, Anonymous Kiersten said...

Since I don't know to much about European politics I'm seeking to understand. My question is does the Reform Treaty really detract from Great Britain's sovereignty? Is the Sun overstating their case just to make a point? Or is it a case of "fear of the slippery slope"?

 
At 26 September, 2007 22:43, Anonymous Charles said...

I know that I am against the North American union that is in the works, though some may claim it as urban legend. Being someone who is proud to wave the flag and patriotic, I can understand the fear that some my have of the EU.

My question is this, "Is it wrong to want to retain sovereignty? Whats wrong with wanting to keep an identity?

Another example of a "unifying" body would be the U.N. The U.N. has been trying for some time to impose laws on Americans. To me that is BS, and BIG TIME. A body composed of despots and genocidal maniacs is not going to dictate what I should or shouldn't do.

Now, I am NOT saying that the EU is composed of the likes of Chavez (thankfully). But would you not be concerned if someone in, lets say, France, dictates a law for your country, that would affect your life, or take away a cherished freedom?

~Charles the Inquiring American!

 
At 27 September, 2007 10:48, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Andrew, unfortunately its not just in Britain that prejudices towards other nations is present in the political discourse. What stands out in the EU debate in Britain is the constant WWII references.

Kiersten, the Reform Treaty will to some extent limit Britain's sovereignty by taking away the national veto power in some areas of EU law. There has also been a 'slippery slope' of increased EU competence since the founding of the EC by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 (the Treaty of Rome actually calls for an "Ever closer union among the peoples of Europe").

The Sun is, however, dramatically overstating the point. Compared to the Treaty of Rome (1957), Single European Act (1987) and Maastricht Treaty (1992), this Reform Treaty doesn't change very much. (The BBC has a good presentation on the Reform Treaty here :http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6928737.stm.).

The Sun's campaign is very offensive to me because it presents EU reform proposals as European armies trying to invade Britain and invokes war rhetoric. Unfortunately this way of portraying Europe is very common in Britain, and in my opinion is based on deep seated prejudices.

Which gets me to your point Charles. It is, of course, completely valid to be against the Reform Treaty and against the EU. To misrepresent the EU and invoke images of war is, in my opinion, not valid.

 
At 27 September, 2007 13:04, Anonymous kiersten said...

I can see your point. What really stood out to me yesterday when I read the article in The Sun, was it's emotion. I think the article would have been much stronger if instead of relying on fear mongering generalities, they would have published the parts of the Reform Treaty that they had a problem with. Then explained why they felt that that these proposals limited Britain's sovereignty. Even though this would be slanted towards one point of view, and I personally think the news should give both sides, it at least would have been reasoned and thought out instead of relying on few facts and much emotion. Unfortunately it seems like both "conservative" and "liberal" news does this to often.

 
At 27 September, 2007 14:08, Anonymous Charles said...

Personally, I think it is OK to insert emotion into a debate like this. After all, when one identifies themselves with something, emotions ultimately are tied in.

Intellectually, I am an American. Emotionally, I am an American. To give up my freedoms to any other governing body, even if it is sanctioned by an American administration, would cause me to react with great emotion. Is that wrong? I hardly think so.

The problem (with the sun article, and I agree with you)that I see is blatant fear-mongering on the part of some alluding to WWII imagery. This definitely is NOT an invasion of England. Comparisons of this nature are silly. However, there would be areas of sovereignty handed over to a "united Europe" and common laws.

To me that is worrisome only in the sense if one or more of the EU governing bodies was O.K with extreme socialism (like what's happening in Venezuela - Chavez). Then the charter that is set forth currently would quickly become a very slippery slope.

Hypothetical situation - what if SDA's were considered a cult and were outlawed by the EU, and investigated/prosecuted in the manner or worse than Scientology is? Topics like that need to be considered earnestly and thought about.

Granted, I have never been to Europe, and don't really understand the mindset as well as you, or even Kiersten. Looking through my limited prism, I can see where some would be afraid, especially if Rome gets involved. But that is another topic. :-)

 
At 27 September, 2007 18:09, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

I agree with Kiersten that the emotions the Sun is invoking are troublesome. The Sun is of course the worst tabloid for emotionalism and jingoism, but even supposedly serious newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph engages emotional anti-EU reporting. (The Daily Telegraph is the largest broadsheet newspaper in Britain and very right wing, as is the vast majority of the media in Britain).

Charles, your right, the EU could one day turn anti-democratic and threaten cherished freedoms. However, this would only happen if there is popular support across Europe for such policies and laws. Britain itself could turn against the rule of law and respect for civil liberties. The argument that Britain's freedoms are threatened by the EU is therefore based on the belief that other European nations are inferior and less democratic than Britain. I actually believe the EU makes sucess of such extremism in individual countries less likely.

The EU is not a federal state and is mainly concerned with freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and workers (As my EU Law Teacher used to say: "The EU is about three things: money, money and money.") The constitutional treaty was actually an attempt to define the boundaries of the EU's competence more clearly. Unfortunately this treaty was rejected so now we're back to the Rome Treaty's aim of an "ever closer union".

For me the important questions are whether the EU decision making process is democratic, respects the rule of law, respects human rights and whether the member states have proven democratic credentials. The EU has some democratic deficits (mainly due to the desire to limit the power of its institutions), but is on the whole democratic and the rule of law is at the core of its principles. The Reform Treaty will actually strengthen the democratic process by giving the Parliament equal legislative status as the Council.

p.s. I believe your reference to persecution of Scientology is a reference to the situation in Germany. I do not agree with the German government's position that Scientology is not a religion and the laws that excludes Scientologists from certain governmental positions. While this is discriminatory, it does not, in my opinion, amount to persecution. If it were persecution, then the US has, and does, openly persecute Communist and Socialists. These groups are also excluded from many US government jobs. For example, when I joined the US Navy I had to swear that I was not, or had ever been, a Communist or Socialist!

p.p.s Sorry for the long reply.

 
At 27 September, 2007 22:57, Anonymous Charles said...

Torsten - no apologies for the long reply. I found your comments very interesting and thought provoking.

I had to stifle a little giggle about your questioning when joining the Navy. Wow! I never suspected one would be questioned about that. Was it because of duel citizenship?

Thanks for your patience with this ignorant American!! :-)

 
At 28 September, 2007 13:19, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Charles, the questioning by the Navy of my political views, particularly if I was a Socialist or Communist, was standard procedure. This was after all 1991 and the all the Cold War structures where still in place. These questions might not be asked anymore, but I'm certain that Socialist and Communist still wouldn't be able to obtain the highest levels of security clearance in the US.

My point is that all nations recognize that certain groups and ideologies, while legal, can pose a threat the the established order. Those belonging to these groups or subscribe to their views are therefore often excluded from public positions of trust. Whether such practice is right in a democracy is questionable.

ps. Concerning the question of international organisations and international law as a threat to freedoms, I was actually (in my own convoluted way) trying to agree with you. Surrender/pooling of sovereignty can be a threat to freedom and should be considered carefully.

 

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