Wednesday, June 22, 2005

European politics ? No, just the circus

These days, watching the European politics part of the news is like going to the circus. To attend the summit on the budget of the European Union, Chirac had traded is Super Liar’s cape (1) for the costume of Pierrot, the sad clown. All we saw on TV was a sad Chirac, sad after the French No at the referendum, sad to be the most unpopular President under this constitution. But he wasn’t the only star of this humorous show. Blair, came as a magician and tried to make disappear the reasons for Great-Britain’s refusal to give up its financial advantages. Like a rabbit, he pulled the CAP out of his hat. Did any one believe that the urgent problem here is that 40 % of the budget is spent on agriculture? Was he a good enough magician to hide the fact that those 40% would become much less if the national contributions to the budget were raised over 2 % of the GDP? Obviously not, the other actors didn’t buy it and they didn’t like it either. So Super Magician Blair changed the script and explained how he would turn the reform of the CAP into a reform of the UK's EU rebate. In modern circus, even the spectators participate so Bush felt free to state with humour his worries over the unity of the European Union making everyone laugh really loud.

The best is seemingly yet to come. Today every one was calling every one egoistic, the French socialist say that Chirac is egoistic because he failed to reach an agreement; Schröder calls Blair egoistic because he feels that he’s responsible and Belka says that both of them are. Until yesterday I thought that Blair had made the greatest effort at bad humour by portraying agriculture as an anachronous activity and scientific research as a modern one, and by opposing jobs to cows. But in fact the prize of stupidity must be awarded to Villepin. Our freshly named Prime Minister was already making very promising debuts for a career in comedy and we had hopes that he would be as funny as Raffarin his predecessor. However, after the good joke of the politician that will fix unemployment in 100 days, he changed styles and showed yesterday that he could also act in scary movies by falling into the populist habits of the anti-British French discourse. In Parliament he played the detestable part of the Frenchman that will not be pushed around by the bad British hooligan, borrowing images from sports and history he tried to convince the members of Parliament that they should not worry, that our interests would be well protected. I can’t say I’m really reassured! Did Clinton’s career in Hollywood pickup yet? Might be giving bad ideas to all these guys.

(1) For all the different roles that he convincingly played over his long political career, ranging from a Thatcher fan to a Marxist, Chirac has earned himself the title Super Liar. Of course it also has something to do with his judicial problems and how he is able to argue in favour of his innocence.


Euan MacDonald said...

Interesting post, Raph.

One thing that I want to ask, and it's somethign I'm not sure of, is on the issue of the UK's rebate. This is clearly being reported by the UK press (even the pro-Europe, left-leaning broadsheets such as the Guardian and the Independent), in a different manner from on the continent. There is much less of a sense here that Blair's stance is either cynically strategic or fundamentally unreasonable.

As far as I understand it, Blair's argument is that the rebate needs to be looked at, but alos that the reasons for which the rebate was given in the first place need to be examined. He suggests that one of the reasons for the rebate is that, without it, certain countries would benefit dispropotionately from the CAP, due to differences in the agricultural systems, and the economic structures more generally (clearly, with France being head of the list here).

It is undeniable that France takes more (in fact, more than double, I believe) in agricultural subsidies than the UK takes in the rebate. So the UK argument seems less that 40% of the budget goes on agricultural subsidies, and more that to remove the rebate without reviewing these subsidies will skew the budget dramatically and unfairly in favour of those, such as France, who already seem to benefit disproportionately from the CAP.

Must stress that I'm in no position to way up the economics, thus the real strength, of these arguments; but wanted just to set out what I see the UK's position as being.

Raphaël Paour said...

You're right Euan. I don't think Blair's position is either fundamentally cynical or unreasonable. Many people in France, I believe, know that it is unfair that France benefits so much more than other countries from the main European policy. The fact that he started by saying that he would refuse to let go the rebate made his whole position very suspicious. First he doesn't want to let it go, than he agrees to it at certain conditions; it is hard to know where he really stands and for what reasons. We don't know what made him change his mind. What I don't like is the way he phrases his argument - the opposition between cows and jobs - it seems to me to be very populist. Or the way he is trying to pick up on the American government's opposition between one old and one dynamic Europe. Villepin and Chirac of course might be worse; they're trying to become popular by criticising GB.

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone say that the EU producing cheap food for Africa causes famine Surely it stops famine and getting rid of the CAP would cause more famine aren't the euro skeptics confusing poverty with famine, when they complain the CAP stops africa selling food to us what is the point in africa selling food to us if they don't and have any left over and they don't get cheap food from us anymore and they have a famine.
Stop falling for right wing extremist drivel the sort of dogmatists who allowed 4 million Inidans to starve to death in the Brittish empire because the free market said the poor should not get food, and the free market dogmatism said the free market will allways provide well it wonn't why on earth would any country in the world provide food for starving Africians other than subsidies.
Look at the potaoto famine and the indian famines, caused by the free market when they couldn't afford our food prices. how does the CAP cause famine how does making too much food cause famine.
The last time we had a free market in Britain in the days of the empire, 1940s India was exporting food while 4 million Indians starved. That is the cruelty of the free market. Why does selling food to a drought stricken country cause famine. Surely we need more food security not less especially with climate change issues.

Why is EU extremism has increased to such levels that anything the EU does is allowed to be insulted wihout criticsm back.
Why are we becoming so ignorant that we forget ths mistakes of the past the free makret in CAP will not help Africans or Europeans.
Oi forgot everything Britain does it right must remember to keep tkaing the Tony Blair is allways correct pill that all you lot take.