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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Commission vs State: the Empty Chair Crisis

I'm pleased I'm not alone in looking backwards - in this mini 'history corner' series - to try to understand the tectonic shifts now taking place in Europe. Bruce Anderson in the Telegraph today refers to 'a French jockey on a German horse' as previously described but more importantly describes a development from the 1960s, the subject of today's post. I'm also duly grateful for Dr Richard North's useful footnotes in the comments - and his forbearance - for whilst I'm plodding through these illustrative nuggets, Richard got to the conclusion many years ago. So far I've described the interactions between nation-states, France and Germany, in terms of 'France wanted ...' or 'Germany thought ...' and for these early years I think this is legitimate enough, to the extent that any broad national political consensus reflects the popular will. But from the 1960s something else was happening, as Anderson describes;
Throughout the continent, a cadre of Euro-intellectuals had come into being. For them, Europe was not about pragmatism and prosperity. It was a new religion. These people were not interested in learning from history. They wanted to re-make history. Like the French revolutionaries and the Marxists before them, they intended to transform human nature in order to reshape the human condition. Thus tragedy was incubated.1
This new breed of federalists believed in a Europe of weak nation states and strong supranational institutions. The 1960s brought them smack into conflict with De Gaulle, whose 11 year Presidency from 1959 has now assumed consensus admiration today from both left and right in France, as Mrs Thatcher's in the UK is now doing. De Gaulle had a mystical belief in a France not as she was constituted in 1960 but as an entity 2000 years old and pivotal to both European and world development. As Warlouzet comments;
This deep conviction triggered a European policy based on the promotion of the nation-state. The strengthening of the cooperation between Europeans should be based on an intergovernmental approach and every federalist ambition would have to be thwarted. Although de Gaulle never expressed this clearly, it is obvious that in order to satisfy his goal of French grandeur, the European organisations should be under French leadership. This purpose was expressed clearly in his willingness to free Europe from any American influence.
And also, of course, to keep Britain away. 

De Gaulle's efforts at securing political integration in Europe started in 1960 with 'A note on the subject of the Organisation of Europe', a 9-point plan that sidelined the US, NATO and Britain, and promoted an intergovernmental Europe with nearly all the power remaining with member states and not with supranational institutions. This was in direct conflict with the aims of the Federalists, and the crisis simmered away before it came to a head in the Summer of 1965. The Federalists proposed combining the CAP, the Commission and the European Parliament in a massively powerful triumverate. De Gaulle reacted by walking out of the Council. France's empty chairs were to remain until January 1966.

The resulting Luxembourg Compromise that brought France back to the Council table was not a resolution of the schism but an agreement to disagree. It governed Europe's development through the 60s and 70s, and during this period bureaucracy thrived and decision making slowed to the pace of cold treacle. The Federalists, Anderson's new Euro Zealots, in the meanwhile grew, multiplied and inculcated themselves like cockroaches into every cranny of public life, dominating the political class. I'll leave the final word to the man who, though a prickly little haemorrhoid to the British, was the greatest threat the Federalists faced;
Now, we know - heaven knows that we know! - that there was a different concept of a European federation in which, according to the dreams of those who conceived it, the countries would lose their national personalities, and in which, furthermore, for want of a federator - such as, in the West, Caesar and his successors, Charlemagne, Otto I, Charles V, Napoleon and Hitler tried to be, each in his fashion, and such as in the East, Stalin tried to be - would be ruled by technocratic, a stateless and irresponsible Areopagus. We know also that France is opposing this project, which contradicts all reality, with a plan for organized co-operation among the States, evolving, doubtlessly, toward a confederation.
 (De Gaulle 1965, quoted in Warlouzet)

The denouement would come in the 1980s.

1 Elsewhere Anderson's absurd suggestion on ConservativeHome that Britain is no longer threatened by the Federalists is shredded - notably in the comments. EUReferendum also trashes his belief that the Conservative Party was immune from the Federast infection; indeed, many of us believe the very Zealots that Anderson accurately describes are actually running the Tory party, and have been since the 1970s. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Will the Kermits be left at the altar again?

In 1956 French Prime Minister Guy Mollet met with his British counterpart Anthony Eden, with Norman Brooke note-taking. The French proposal was astonishing; full union between France and Britain, with Elizabeth II as Head of State. Alternatively, Mollet asked, could France become a Commonwealth member, with joint citizenship rights on the Irish-UK model?

The Quai d'Orsay moved rapidly to deny the existence of its own records when the marriage proposal became public in 2007. No suitor with France's hubris likes to be known to have been spurned. After Eden's rejection, France turned its love-interest elsewhere - across her Eastern border - and the Treaty of Rome was born.

After living together for fifty years, France is once again looking for a ring on her finger. She's not as young as she was, and the liabilities and fears of old age are upon her. She wants a trip to the altar whilst she's still got some style and chic, before her looks go completely. The problem is her partner; while she's grown old, he's matured into a stable and powerful prospect, wealthy, outgrowing his borders and entranced by younger, fresher nations to the East; a lithe-limbed Poland in micro-skirt and heels, the cute cheeky-girl Balt twins, the sultry Balkans girls. None with the class and style of his partner, of course, but maybe more fun, though he'd have to watch his wallet. Now Steven Erlanger of the NYT, writing last year, speculated that France may be left at the altar a second time;
FRANCE AND GERMANY, with their shared bloody past, are unlikely allies, and they have radically different notions of how Europe should work. France wants a state-dominated, centralized, bureaucratic Europe in its own image. France also maintains a Mediterranean attitude toward budget deficits, having last balanced a budget 35 years ago. Germany, a federal state with powerful regions, coalition governments and an influential constitutional court, wants a Europe of laws, discipline and fiscal probity, with a strong currency and real penalties for the spendthrift

Long the financier of the European Union, Germany has made it clear that it will no longer pay for the mistakes and frauds of others. While Germany has always acted in its own interests, the Kohl generation interpreted those interests as being embedded in institutions like NATO and the European Union, which protected the new democratic Germany and kept its ambitions in check. But Germany, reunited, sees NATO as less necessary, even hollow. It needs the European Union less. And it is turning more toward the east — the old Soviet bloc and Russia — for energy and markets.

As the euro crisis grinds on and the German economy continues to outpace the others, Sarkozy is paying more attention to the German model and giving in more to German demands. He is extremely anxious, aides say, that France is losing its prominence in the new Europe, slipping behind Germany to second-class status. Inside the French cabinet, Germany’s economic model, labor relations and capacity for technical innovation are prominent topics, with German standards — and the fear of losing Paris’s AAA bond rating — driving French reforms and budget cuts.

The cliché used to be that nothing happened in the European Union without French and German agreement. Today France and Germany are regarded as necessary but no longer sufficient. Sarkozy fears, with some justification in a bigger European Union of 27 nations and a euro zone of 17, that French agreement may soon not be needed at all. The new E.U. members to the east are more German in their aspirations than French. The Czechs and Slovaks, as well as the Balts, are all fiscally conservative. Even Poland, which has such an emotional tie to France, sees its economic future with Germany.

“The Germans have discovered that they are the only serious global economy in Europe, capable of competing with the United States and China,” says John Kornblum, a former American ambassador to Germany. “But they’re afraid their world is coming apart around them, and what they thought would support them, the European Union, is dragging them down. They realized that the stability pact isn’t working, that the Greeks were lying and maybe others, too, that their banks and French banks were deep in the muck, and they understood this is going to cost a lot of money. So they are behaving in a very demanding way, which smells to some like nationalism. But it really is fear.”

With Germany ascendant and looking both inward and eastward, Britain staying out of the euro zone and France carrying less weight, the question of German leadership is now at the fore. Germany has traditionally avoided trying to lead Europe from the front; memories from World War II, though faded, have not yet gone away in the rest of the continent. Even now, anti-German feeling is rising among Greeks, Portuguese and Spaniards, who feel abandoned, even betrayed, by Berlin.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sun and Moon

Like Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today, I am utterly confused by the direction of UK energy policy; wind is risible nonsense, so fatuous an answer as a credible energy source that the only rational explanation for those that support it is bribery and corruption on a widespread scale. Tree-hugging lunatics distort the science, powerful industry lobbies such as that for the hugely ineffective Solar PV distort the subsidies. And Westminster and Whitehall just spin about in dizzy confusion not knowing what day of the week it is. Anyhow, here's my take on the options for the UK (experts please pile in ...):

Nuclear - the risk is worth the gain. Serial construction of a standard design would lower costs and there are plenty of places in the world to dump the waste (Mariana Trench looks good to me)
Gas - Methane from the ground is good and there seems to be lots of it, even in the UK
Coal - Coal's greatest potential is through pyrolysis to make Hydrogen and Methane in quantity, and we've got huge reserves

Then the best of the renewables

Solar - through the heating effect of the Sun of the Earth's surface. A couple of metres down in the UK the temp is a constant 14deg - masses of heat that can be extracted via GSHP. I've done this on a commercial scale - it works very well. Solar Thermal and Solar PV are no good - too variable, yields too low and costs too high.
Lunar - The power of the tides is immense, and a diurnal range of up to 7m in the SE as billions of tonnes of  water pushes up the Western Approaches twice a day means it's not just the Severn that could provide feasible installations. Good for the UK, France, Ireland etc but no good for inland States.

Then the worst

Biomass - there's simply not enough of it, but burning wood is good for the environment. 
Wind - a risible and nonsensical solution that suggests massive corruption somewhere - follow the money
Biofuels - Corn to Ethanol is a stupid idea unless you intend to drink it. Bacteria that convert household wastes to diesel have some promise, but too small scale to have an impact
Fairy-power, ley-lines, henges - I suppose sixty dancing fairies doing the Rumba can provide enough power for an average new-age Yurt but the trouble is keeping the little buggers at it. Etc.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

More Monnet

At the risk of boring you with horreur! these revisionist snippets in relation to Saint Jean Monnet, I promise this is the last. For now. It's from the LSE's excellent collection of papers online, this one by Eric Holm, and worth reading in full for a readable gallop through the failings of the European project from the Saar to Kosovo.
"The French on their side had their own European ambitions. They wanted to become an industrial power on the same level as Britain and at Germany’s expense. De Gaulle had in September 1945 appointed Jean Monnet to head an industrial planning board, the Commissariat du Plan, for the modernisation of France. At the time it was the policy of the allied powers to internationalise the core of industrial Germany, the Ruhr district, and France was the strongest promoter of that idea. However, when the Americans changed their minds and wanted to re-install Germany as an economic power, the French ambition to promote national industrialisation by the resources of Ruhr began to look a little improbable. That was when Monnet showed his genius. If only the coal and steel industries of Germany could become Europeanised and not internationalised – and Britain could be trusted to stay out of such a supranational adventure – then France could control and benefit from such a project and thus achieve its national aims. And that was what happened. Monnet’s idea of a European Coal and Steel Community, controlled by a non-political supranational High Authority, proved to be the perfect fit for both French and American desires. Only a Frenchman could become president of the High Authority – Jean Monnet himself"

Morgenthau and Potsdam

As a footnote to the post below, the extent to which the Morgenthau Plan governed the post-war administration of Germany until the US changed tack at the end of 1946 is evident in the Protocol of the 1945 Potsdam Conference. France was not, of course, present at Potsdam, but as a member of the 4-Power Control Council was bound by the Protocol. France presented her own 'French Thesis' to the three powers - France's own conditions for a post-war Europe. The French demanded
  • No central government organisation should be permitted in Germany
  • France to receive reparations calculated to assist in dominating German capability
  • Germany to lose access to and control of the whole Rhine / Ruhr / Westphalia and its industrial and mineral products and potential
The Monnet Plan (French control of Rhine / Ruhr and transfer of the Saar) grew out of the French Thesis and was wholly compatible with Morgenthau. The Potsdam Protocol put meat on the bones;
  • In order to eliminate Germany's war potential, the production of arms, ammunition and implements of war as well as all types of aircraft and sea-going ships shall be prohibited and prevented. Production of metals, chemicals, machinery and other items that are directly necessary to a war economy shall be rigidly controlled and restricted to Germany's approved post-war peacetime needs to meet the objectives stated in Paragraph 15. Productive capacity not needed for permitted production shall be removed in accordance with the reparations plan recommended by the Allied Commission on Reparations and approved by the Governments concerned or if not removed shall be destroyed.
  • At the earliest practicable date, the German economy shall be decentralized for the purpose of eliminating the present excessive concentration of economic power as exemplified in particular by cartels, syndicates, trusts and other monopolistic arrangements.
  • In organizing the German Economy, primary emphasis shall be given to the development of agriculture and peaceful domestic industries.
  • Allied controls shall be imposed to ensure;
- the production and maintenance of goods and services required to meet the needs of the occupying forces and displaced persons in Germany and essential to maintain in Germany average living standards not exceeding the average of the standards of living of European countries. (European countries means all European countries excluding the United Kingdom and the U.S.S.R.).
- to control German industry and all economic and financial international transactions including exports and imports, with the aim of preventing Germany from developing a war potential and of achieving the other objectives named herein.
French post-war (until 1948) policy was centred on re-establishing France as a 'Great Power', at the expense of Germany. From 1946, the US essentially frustrated this policy aim, and Churchill in particular was as conscious of the threat to peace in Europe from a resurgent France as the threat from Germany - hence, I think, his support for a federal merger between the two troublesome States. A federal Europe would pose less of the threat to British interests than either a strong France or a strong Germany.  

It was pragmatism that changed the French direction from 1948; under Schuman's Plan, recognising that France couldn't hold onto the Saar or deprive Germany of the assets of the Rhine and Ruhr for much longer, a different approach was required. As a fallback, France proposed in effect that German coal and steel assets, along with the French and other (much less significant) ones, be placed under a joint High Authority. And so was born the ECSC, and the EU. 

So please forget all the false and altruistic guff about the reasons for the formation of the EU. It grew from two coincident factors - the French long-term policy objective of containing and controlling Germany, and a British / US willingness to play France and Germany off against eachother in a weak alliance. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Churchill's United States of Europe

Contrary to much mis-reporting of what Churchill actually advocated in terms of a United Europe, his belief was in a two-fold European solution; the first was a reconstituted 'League of Nations' in the UNO, to which the UK would belong, and the second a federation between France, the German Länder and Europe's other small states but excluding the United Kingdom. He formulated this as early as 1946, at a time when France and the US were still committed to implementing a version of the Morgenthau Plan aimed at depriving her of all industrial capacity, governing the Saar and Ruhr as international zones, and reducing Germany's population by 24m to a level at which she could only just subsist.

Churchill had revolted against Morgenthau when the plan was first proposed in Tehran in 1943. By Quebec in 1944, the US had explicitly linked a $6.5bn credit for the UK to Churchill's acceptance of the Plan; Roosevelt, in an act of utter crassness, actually required Churchill to sign the Morgenthau Plan before they signed the credit agreement, prompting Churchill to exclaim "What do you want me to do? Get on my hind legs and beg like Fala?". Morgenthau became occupation policy as JCS1067.

The other key influential supporter and proponent of the Morgenthau Plan was Jean Monnet, later to achieve notoriety as the 'Father of Europe'. The Monnet Plan and Morgenthau Plan had a single shared aim; to deprive Germany permanently of any industrial capacity, and of any export capacity. Through 1945 and 1946 the US and French long-term aims of German population reduction came dangerously close to realisation; disease and starvation stalked Germany, in the wasteland ruins and in the POW camps Typhoid, Cholera and Diptheria raged. At a time when UK and French civilians has returned to pre-war nutrition levels, German civilians were subsisting on as little as 1,000 Kcals a day - comparable to Concentration Camp rations. A great part of the problem was that 17m more Germans than calculated had to be fed in the US, UK and French zones - the 13m Germans who crossed the Elbe, 8m DPs and slave labourers, and 5m POWs who surrendered to the West were vastly in excess of expectations.

Against this background Churchill spoke at Zurich in September 1946 (RECORDING);
".. we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe, and the first practical step will be to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join a union we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and every land from war and servitude must be established on solid foundations, and must be created by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than to submit to tyranny. In this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together."
But he made clear that Britain and the Commonwealth would not be members of this USE;
"Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America — and, I trust, Soviet Russia, for then indeed all would be well — must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live. Therefore I say to you “Let Europe arise!”"
Churchill also advocated that a United States of Europe, with France and Germany at its core, take its place alongside Britain and the great powers at the United Nations; 
" There is no reason why a regional organisation of Europe should in any way conflict with the world organisation of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis can only survive if it is founded upon broad natural groupings. There is already a natural grouping in the Western Hemisphere. We British have our own Commonwealth of Nations. These do not weaken, on the contrary they strengthen, the world organisation. They are in fact its main support. And why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this mighty continent? And why should it not take its rightful place with other great groupings and help to shape the honourable destiny of man?"
By September 1946 the prospect of mass starvation in Germany was real. The vengeful, retributive policies of Morgenthau and Jean Monnet were leading to a genocide of the German people. Churchill's dictum that "The USA always does the right thing - eventually" proved true again when James F Bymes spoke in Stuttgart to repudiate the Morgenthau and Monnet Plans; in "Restatement of Policy on Germany" the US ditched the hateful JCS1067 and JCS1779 - the Marshall Plan - was launched.

This wasn't quite the end. The 'Morgenthau boys' committed one last act of spite and destruction in breaking the German banking system, and Jean Monnet held onto both the Saar and control over German coal and steel production for many years. 

But it was Britain's conscience, through Churchill, that from 1943 to the end of 1946 spoke up to save Germany from US and French intentions for her destruction. "In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill"


May's Prodnose Centralism

As hard as it may be, imagine that Theresa May was a minister of powerful intellect, political commitment and imagination. Imagine that in forming measures to tackle local, neighbourhood problems she looked to local, neighbourhood solutions rather than to formulaic, costly, central Statist, ineffective and offensive blanket laws that will make little difference. But no. Any minister who believes that the tidiness of folks' front gardens is a legitimate matter of concern for the nation's Home Secretary is so far beyond rationality as to be lost wholly to the siren voices of Whitehall. 

We don't need elected Police Commissioners. We needs Parish Constables and more JPs. 

The Parish Constable, or High Constable, was a citizen whose affairs had reached a certain financial equilibrium, at least enough for him to perform the duties of this unpaid office for a year. Either elected by ratepayers or appointed by the local bench of JPs, the office would rotate between miller, innkeeper, yeoman, smith and bootmaker. The modern equivalent would be men or women with the full power of constables in uniform within their own parish who would lead all matters of bread and butter policing in their patch. It was never popular; those who did their turn as high constables did so out of duty rather than will, and it was a sign of a man's political and social maturity when he did his stint, on call 24/7 for a year. Any abuse of power would be paid-back by neighbours when the protection of the office ended, but successive high constables would protect their predecessors from revenge by those justly prosecuted however wealthy or locally influential. 

Together with a local bench of JPs who licensed the inns and disposed of all non-indictable offences, with the flexibility to apply the Law of England as local circumstances allowed, the high constable formed a basis of public order that worked very well until industrialisation made metropolitan parishes too populous to manage, and the Met was created in London before the old rural parishes were radically sub-divided into the new Metropolitan ones. 

But (sigh) having delivered her nonsense Ms May can now go back to her shoe catalogue and give the little grey cells a rest.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Grexit mechanics

As to exactly how Greece can be forced from the Euro without a newly elected Greek government having a say in the matter, the decision could well rest with the group of men pictured below - the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.

It all depends now on Greek depositors. If the run on the Greek banks continues, the decision will land in the lap of the ECB, as Greek blogger Inside Greece explains;
To make up for the loss of deposits over the last two years, the ECB has allowed Greek banks, shut out from intermarket borrowing and lacking collateral that the central bank would accept, to be financed through emergency liquidity assistance (ELA). This means that the banks are able to borrow from the Bank of Greece, rather than the ECB, by putting up collateral that is theoretically more risky than bonds, such as small business loans or mortgages. It is thought that Greek banks have borrowed about 60 billion euros this way. But the supply of money is finite. Parliament has set the limit for the ELA scheme at 90 billion euros and Greek banks do not have limitless collateral.

Furthermore, there is the possibility that the ELA tap could be turned off if central bankers in Frankfurt become concerned about Greek banks becoming insolvent. In order to access ELA, currently the banks’ only source of funding, albeit a dwindling on, the ECB board needs to give its approval. But ELA funding could be halted with a two-thirds majority decision. This would cut off Greek banks from liquidity and Greece would be forced to begin printing its own money. Since it can’t print euros, the only option would be to return to the drachma.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's out of their hands now

The only message coming from the G8 is that they haven't a clue what to do. Besides the vacuous rhetoric - "Growth through Austerity", "Jobs not Spending", "Strong Plans for Action" - you can be sure that worst-case contingency plans are under discussion; border closures, emergency food and health relief, military mobilisation, evacuation of friendly nationals, but definitely not, as one MSM report suggested this morning, martial law. For the political oligarchy to accept martial law they have to accept failure and redundancy, and they're a way away from that yet. They want to use the military to impose control, not give control to them.  

Another report warns of the 'Fury about to erupt' in Europe as realisation dawns that everyone's been lied to, that it WAS a political project after all, a secret project that has cost the wealth of an entire generation. It could happen within days; it's all down now to people, and markets. And how long have we got before this:-
 Becomes this:-

What's in a name?

Bluetoothy and infrared have just about made redundant the odd collection of cards and phone numbers scribbled on scraps that one used to empty from the pockets after a good night out. I recently cleared out a bedside table draw in the spare room which for some reason had become a depository for such things from the 1990s. What curious days! Many were written inside the flap of matchbooks (remember them?) that catalogued exactly where I spent my drinking time in those days; too many from the French House, but an odd one from an 'International' 5* hotel bar giving me Escobar's number. I racked my brain. A Columbian hitman? Someone after a job? 'Escobar' had no surname, so didn't count. Proper introductions always include the parties enunciating their surnames clearly. If you have a surname you're Somebody. A surname such as Cecil, Deveraux, Percy or Howard allows a follow-on such as 'Northumberland Percys?' to which the wrong response establishes the interlocutor's lack of cred. 

Bibbers with aspirations to poetic or literary ambition also always state their surnames clearly. Even at the risk of earning the Peter Cook response "You're writing a book? Yes, neither am I" which could have applied to nine out of ten topers in the dear old French. As I cleared the draw I unfolded the torn half of a menu card with the scrawled name 'Llewellyn-Coleslaw' and a number. Llewellyn-Coleslaw? Was I reading correctly? Perhaps not. The writing was poor. Then I remembered. The chap with the pretty blond wife and the clock. They lived in some obscure old farm / rectory in Wales of the sort I could imagine well, with three walls made of the sort of Welsh stone that abounds in slimy green algae and the front wall rendered in cracked Portland cement mortar, with leaking slates, rotting window frames and old bits of agricultural machinery under nettle-clumps. He'd come to London to sell the last thing he had of value, a clock that he believed to be worth £32,000. I remember the figure exactly - he repeated it often. Unfortunately the dealers disagreed, valuing it at less than a tenth of this figure, it having been abused as an umbrella cupboard and broom closet for many years. The missing part came back to me. The wife had been sent to a cordon-bleu cookery school by her parents to prepare for the county-set marriage market (do they still do that?) but the only thing she'd come away with was a decent recipe for Coleslaw, which she promised to give me if I called. I didn't call of course - not wanting the inevitable invitation down for the weekend, then the inevitable pleading to buy the clock. 

You just don't get that from bluetoothing mobile numbers.