Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Wir haben kein Vertrauen in Europa

The cornerstones of a good relationship are trust, communication and fidelity. Without these, love alone is not enough to keep a marriage happy.

No, my blog hasn't been commandeered by an over zealous Agony Aunt, relationhip counsillor or spammed by a Thai registered company that is building up to redirect dissatisfied husbands and wives to a site selling suspect medicines.

I am instead referring to the buckles in the EU tracks that could cause the project to derail.

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a recent opinion poll has recorded German public sentiment towards the EU at an all time low. The findings of the survey conducted by the Allensbach Institute show that German citizens' trust in the EU has waned to what would democratically be a near critical level. 63% of respondents had "little or no trst" in the EU, representing a 51% increase since this time last year. Only a quarter had "large trust" in European integration, representing a fall of 37% ten months ago. Meanwhile some 68% of those questioned said they had little or no trust in the single currency.

So what's so urgent about these findings? Surely a similar poll canvassed in the UK would garner such results. But this we, and Brussels, have known for a long, long time. The shock factor here is that not only are Germans historically the EU's stalwarts, but also somewhat of a keystone of the whole project, the lynchpin of the Eurozone economy and the very broad shoulders upon which the weight of the Union's woes are carried. If Germany cracks, well, the whole Union is thrown into jeopardy.

I mentioned earlier, and with a deliberate piquancey, that public opinion was at a democratically dangerous level. Now I am not suggesting the Euro hardballer is about to take to the streets of Berlin and upturn blazing cars and stone police, a la Tunis. I somehow do not equate this with the Germanic poise that made this country such a reliable and effective European ringleader. But democratically, were politics socially reactive in the way that political philosophers believe they ought to be, if affect moved from bottom to top before translating into effect, well this would mean a cataclysmic shift in the shape of the Union. However, any grassroots discontent, as regarded in the equally stoic comportment of the British, is unlikely to even ripple at the bureaucratic level in the Bundestag, and subsequently, Brussels.

It is also thus pertinent to point out that only 4% of those surveyed could correctly answer the question "Who Is Herman Van Rompuy?"

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What is more surprising? The fact that Baroness Ashton has slotted herself nicely into some sort of legal loophole that prevents her from having to pay full tax or the fact that, despite being born and raised her, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs has not been to Blighty at all in her current capacity as an EU supremo.
Well, neither really.
We shouldn't be surprised that yet again EU fatcats have conjured up ways to keep their claws on greedy stashes of taxpayers money (lest we forget that it is you, the citizen of the EU who is paying her wage and you, the citizen of the cash strapped UK who will not benefit from her withheld taxes). We should also not be surprised that 10 Downing Street is the last place the Labour, Europhile sovereignty sapping High Rep would want to go, well, at least while DC is trying to prove to his backbenchers that he IS serious about placing a stranglehold on the UK-EU power shift.
(I do usually cross reference with the BBC here, that bastion of neutrality of course, who unlike every other media platform in the UK has not reported Ashton loopholegate, so here is the Telegraph's representation)
According to that article: her salary of £230,000 a year(£100,000+ more than Hillary Clinton) is paid at a reduced tax rate that begins at eight per cent and only rises to 45 per cent after an earnings ceiling of £70,000. While the reduced rates are automatic, EU officials can choose to give the difference to the exchequer in their home country, a political party or a charity, but most, including her, do not.
So when she next, along with her cronies, stands up in front of Parliament and argues why the EU needs more money, or finances should be driven into this project, or in that direction, I hope someone points out that she herself could be a bit more honest about the state of her personal finances and the hypocrisy of Eurocrats banging on about the need for more investment from member states, when ultimately, nobody benefits but them.
It has also been in the news recently that the EU are fining British councils a total of around £1bn for misuse of funds etc. This is from the organisation that for a 14th year in a row has not had it's annual accounts signed off by auditors. Worse still is the added insult that under the Localism Bill, councils will be made liable for many of the fines imposed on the UK for breaking EU rules. So that means unsuspecting citizens will see local councils closing libraries, cutting street lighting, not repairing roads, reducing services all because Brussels says we have not spent the money we recoup from our huge membership fees as they wish.
Yet again, the solution isn't hard to imagine...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Can Politicians actually do their job?

The Welsh Assembly Government First Minister Carwyn Jones has called upon the public to help him do his job, it would seem. Much like the UK Government's window dressing PR push just after the 2010 election, the European Commission have invited citizens across Europe to put forward their ideas on how structural funds should be spent, applauded and promoted by our man in Wales.
Yet what doesn't quite connect here is that only a few months ago I made a speech to Parliament after going through the 5th report on Cohesion Policy where the future of structural funds and the Commission's intentions were clearly laid out.
In this document it was discussed that there would be a narrowing of policy where Brussels would have rgeater say in here money was spent. It seems a bit odd then that they are turning to members of the public to put forward their ideas. I would imagine the stunt is going to be as useful as the same exercise carried out by UK Government last year. Afterall, the complaints about health and safety have evidentally fallen on deaf ears. Just today I was reading how a Welsh school teacher has been sacked for allowing pupils to use a sledge on school grounds during the snow. He had brought in the sledge to demonstrate design adn technology and clearly thought it was a fun, hands on way to engage with the pupils and bring to life a subject. It is so disappointing that more and more health and safety encroaches on harmless fun.
In the news yesterday too was an argument brewing over who should pay for the port of Angelesey's £60m redevelopment. Westminster says it's devolved, WAG says it isn't. Is this what we should expect from now on? Matters are devolved when it suits WAG but not when it doesn't. Above all, it's highly embarrassing that Politicians go on air and show the voters just how inept they really are. Perhaps someone could file it as a suggestion to the European Commission who seem to have no idea all of a sudden how they wish to spend their structural funds.