You have one wish

You have one wish

Terry Reintke MEP, posted to twitter, asking what one change would her correspondents make to the EU. Terry is a co-president of the Green/EFA European Parliamentary group and a loud advocate for welcoming the UK back into the EU. She’s looking after our “Star”. She is also part of the Parliament’s delegation to the EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, which provides parliamentary oversight over the implementation of the Trade and Co-operation agreement. I wonder if it’s met? She says,

I have replied, here’s my draft, the tweet is different, as I sought to break what I wanted to say into 248 byte chunks.

There are many great proposals in the #CoFoE final report. https://bit.ly/cofoefinal. If having to choose one, I’d choose 11.3, including the goals of greening the economy and social justice within the EU’s economic governance system; I’d make the Semester a Regulation, not embedded in treaty. Economic Policy goals must be accountable to the demos, not embedded in unchangeable treaties.

CoFoE 11.3 Reviewing the EU’s economic governance and the European Semester in order to ensure that the green and digital transitions, social justice and social progress go hand-in-hand with economic competitiveness, without ignoring the economic and fiscal nature of the European Semester. In addition, there is a need to better involve social partners and the local and regional authorities in the implementation of the European Semester in order to improve its application and accountability;  

COFOE Final Report

Having to down select to only one reform, is tricky, as I say, in https://davelevy.info/big-changes-after-cofoe/ there’s a lot of great proposals involving extending competency into Education, Health and Energy, as well as other great . Good luck in getting it right, meanwhile it seems us Brits are changing our minds, I know you i.e. she will welcome us back, and it would help if we sought to do so with some respect and humility. …

Will CoFoE make a difference?

I had hoped to have my views on the progressive nature of the CoFoE published elsewhere, but I doubt it’ll happen. I have put it out on this blog, as at the date I submitted it, 21 Sep 2022. It reflects the demand for better, more inclusive policies, on macro-economics, climate change, health and education.

The demand for more citizen’s assemblies seems to have been adopted, but the need for treaty revision is more controversial.  …

Big changes after CoFoE

Big changes after CoFoE

The EU has the capability of placing a soporific blanket over much of its politics and also has a reputation for only reforming at the point of crisis. The last year has given it the opportunity to challenge both reputations. The EU held a citizen’s assembly driven Conference on the Future of Europe. (CoFoE). The idea was conceived by President Macron who in a 2019 speech called for this. It became an opportunity to try and raise the Union’s eyes above the trench warfare realpolitik of the EU.

The Conference’s genesis was complex, but impetus was given by the shenanigans played in the appointment/election of Von der Leyen as President of the Commission. The Parliament was unhappy at the way in which the spitzenkandidat process had been subverted. Von der Leyen, promised a mechanism by which it could be strengthened by promising to hold a conference in her statement for confirmation. The proposal rapidly came to include the use of citizen assemblies which it was hoped would enable innovative and orthogonal ideas to evolve. See also, my notes on my wiki.

The Conference was convened, it deliberated over 2021/2 and made its report to the final plenary held in April 2022. Important proposals were made on the topics of democracy, the rule of law, the EU in the world, and digitisation. The report also considered key economic and social issues in chapters on climate change, health, the economy and social justice, and education, all of which on first examination would involve an extension of EU competencies. These demands for a guarantee of a better life has come from the citizens’ panels and mirrors many of the demands made by the Chilean constitutional assembly.

Energy and Climate Change

On climate change, the conference proposes requiring safe, sustainable, and just production of food, while also requiring the same principles to be applied to energy supply.

The measures are obvious and effective. While they regrettably do not refer to the IPCC temperature change limitation goals, they adopt a series of progressive investment goals in renewable energy, while maintaining an absolute commitment to a just transition and the maintenance of social and human rights. Protecting biodiversity , the importance of public transport systems and internet connectivity were also mentioned as part of an anti-climate change programme.

Healthcare

On Health, the centre piece for progressives must be the proposal calling for a “right to health” by guaranteeing all Europeans have equal and universal access to affordable, preventive, curative and quality health care.

Making access free is not explicitly demanded but the proposal calls for treaty change to allow the EU and its member states to offer a pan-European personal and public health service to its citizens and residents.

Economics and social justice

The chapter,   “A stronger economy, social justice and jobs”, calls, for the need to subordinate the macro-economic goals of the European Semester to the European Green Deal, digital transition and social justice & progress goals. It explicitly calls, in the context of the single market, the importance, if not the primacy, of the need to conform to “Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality, and … not [to] undermine the protection of human, social and workers’ rights [ and] environmental and consumer protection standards.” It also calls for the EU’s macro-economic policy framework to take on board full-employment, sustainability, and minimum income goals.

On Tax, the report focuses on anti-tax avoidance measures, QMV for council decisions on tax, and anti-tax haven measures. The report is particularly excised by corporate tax avoidance through transfer pricing and international profit repatriation.

The one downside is where the report talks about responsible fiscal policies at the member state level, which is usually code for austerity and suggests that on the debate between QMT & Keynesianism, this part of the report is agnostic at best and remains in favour of tight money at worst.

Education

On education, the report demands the immediate establishment of an inclusive “Education Area” which provides equal access to quality education and life long learning. They propose mutual recognition of professional degrees and a common validation scheme. They make practical proposals  that would give effect to this while recognising the need to accept national, regional and local variances. They also propose using the cohesion fund to combat brain drain and/or youth exodus.

The Education chapter also includes proposals on youth, culture and exchanges, and sport. They propose permitting votes at 16, promoting exchanges beyond Erasmus+.

What next?

The European Parliament has issued a call for a convention to amend the Treaties to consider all the changes while the Council in July postponed its reply to the Parliament’s request. Some of these proposals would seem to require treaty change, others maybe not; the EU always seems to find a way to change itself when circumstances need.

This article highlights the progressive demands of the Conference, on Health, Climate Change, Social & Economic Justice and Education. It is a social democratic manifesto addressing the demands of the less well-off and marginalised. It’s the opportunity for a renewal of the social pillar which progressives should grasp with both hands, this time in alliance with the voters of otherwise conservative governments.

Last week in her State of the Union speech, Von Der Leyen committed to a call for a Convention on the treaties, prioritising an inter-generational contract, to leave the world better than we find it for our children but also to make the accession of new countries simpler and to ease decision making.  She welcomed the Conference outcome.Whether a convention is called, and whether all items will be on the table is now in the hands of the European Council.


I had hoped to get this published elsewhere, but it seems not, I have backdated it to the date I submitted it to what I considered my best hope.  …

Will CoFoE’s democracy come to be?

Will CoFoE’s democracy come to be?

At the CTOE plenary meeting we discussed Von der Leyen’s state of the Union address, we are/were most focussed on what she said as a result of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

We noted that she concluded the speech with a call for a convention on the treaties, prioritising an inter-generational contract, to leave the world better than we find it for our children but also to make the accession of new countries easier and to ease decision making.  She also welcomed the Conference out come and promised that citizen’s panels, “will now become a regular feature of our democratic life.”.

It was reported that there was little coverage of the commitment to reform in the speech in Germany. It was also reported that at the moment there are 17 member states opposed to a convention including the current presidency, the Czech republic, and its successor, Sweden. However circumstances change, and there is significant interest in the larger member states in specific reforms most obviously reform of the veto and possibly the extension of competencies, with defence, migration and energy markers being the obvious candidates, as a result of the war in Ukraine.

I am of the view that the Conference report opened a number of gates to a massive progressive improvement of the social and economic well being of the citizens of the European Union and Von der Leyen has in particular picked up on Migration policy as an area where it can do better, building a system based on dignity and respect. She also promises to incorporate citizens’ panels into the democratic fabric of the EU.

The CTOE agreed to continue to campaign for a convention, with the whole report of the Conference being on the table, and to continue to push for reform of the veto, and the implementation of transnational lists, which requires Council acquiescence. …

CoFoE’s final word on Migration

CoFoE’s final word on Migration

I was invited to speak at the Young European Federalists rally/conference as a representative of AEIP and CTOE. I spoke about CoFoE’s proposals on Migration, and the need for a generous and inclusive citizenship definitions.

The context

Migration is an issue of some controversy as we well know in the UK. It is one of the few policy areas where racism is seen as a legitimate policy design goal. For the EU there are two countervailing political forces, both having some age now. The EU or its predecessor was founded as a response to the 2nd World War and its consequent movements of people primarily as refugees or asylum seekers. The second is the massive post-colonial legacies held by so many of the member states many of which are ex-empires, although some seem to have recovered from these influences more rapidly than others. I said at the meeting that I’d be happy to learn from others about their colonial pasts, but the list is longer than the obvious.

Given the technical problem solving nature of CoFoE the proposals need to be judged in the light of scope of the issue. Immigrants are, workers, refugees, family members or students. Counting students as immigrants is a subject of argument. The European economies need migrant workers. If they don’t come, work doesn’t get done. It’s not just the taxes, it’s the output. The domestic demand for migrant labour is demand led, if they are stopped, then the work they seek doesn’t get done. Refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing for their lives, escaping war or oppressive regimes who may be seeking to kill them for their sexuality, or political opinions. Legally and morally we owe refugees a duty of care and should be proud they choose our countries of places of safety. I can’t comment on other countries but the UK has been busy making it hard for its citizens to pass their nationality onto spouses and even to children. It is hard to bring spouse to the UK, i.e. if you want to marry a foreigner, you may have to live in their country.   Students shouldn’t be counted in the immigration numbers.

We have missed one opportunity as I note the EU’s shameful partial response to the UN Global Compact on Immigration, ; it was a missed opportunity to show a united, world leadership on this critical issue. It shows the resistance in the the political leadership in the EU which may be characterised as specific to a limited number of member states but racist popularism is embedded across the Union.

A route for change

The Conference and particular the citizen panels were more progressive than might have been expected and the worst of the proposals from the digital platform were ignored.

There are a couple of proposals on reducing labour market friction which are probably a good idea. There may well be a view that if employers can fill vacancies with local labour then there will be less need to employ immigrants, but I think that effectively this would be marginal.

There is a proposal to increase aid to likely source countries that need it. The debate about aid is also complex; aid must not create dependency and must avoid corruption.

There are proposals on the policing of immigration criminality. When one reads the words, it is clear that human traffickers must be caught and stopped, however, care must be taken to ensure that the EU and its member & neighbour states must not be criminalise the aiding of and rescue of people at sea as has occurred in Italy and been attempted in the UK. This proposal talks of the proper resourcing of Frontex. If immigration is to become an EU competency, then it needs an agency and the common border, Schengen now includes the vast majority of the population of the EU. The strength of this recommendation will have been helped by having Frontex as one of the experts to the citizens panel.

On refugees, there are strong progressive statements, empasising a duty of care and welcome to refugees. It also recognises the duty of solidarity to those countries who bear the brunt of welcoming refugees. It seems there is an EU agency for asylum and there is a need to move on from the Dublin Regime, which was designed to allow refugees some say in where they go, but has become a trap keeping them in the first place they arrive.

There are proposals on integration. This is another complex area of policy as in some decisions requirements to integrate can be posed against the rights to practice one’s culture and the development of a multi-cultural society. The EU should be one of the most sympathetic political entities in recognising the rights of multi-culturalism since it has so many.

At the least

In the UK, our politicians have been getting this wrong, albeit for 20 years, maybe even longer and is one of the reasons the UK voted for Brexit.

We need workers, we must welcome and protect refugees, we must allow people to love who they choose and marry who they choose and then live together. We should welcome students from abroad; they enrich the host nation’s culture and teach the young about the peoples of the world.

We cannot compromise with the racism inherent in anti-migrant policy; it’s the route to disaster.

We i.e. AEIP fear that adopting common standards will lead to a levelling down which is not what’s needed.

In some places in the document the words are unclear in intent and may be misused. I am reminded of the newspeak used by the UK Government in selling its offshore immigration camps to the UK and international public opinion. On aid and border control, the words may be innocuous but there is still time to get it wrong.

We need to ask ourselves, “Motives, motives, motives?”.

The truth is that migration and citizenship are currently split between the EU and the member states. Asking the member states to share the right to define citizenship is a big ask but when looking at the proposals in the Democracy chapter, it’s clear that citizenship needs to be more inclusive; one initiative that deserves support is the ECI “Votes without Borders­” which seeks to ensure that EU Citizens can vote in the EU no matter where they live. This should be supported, but sadly UK citizens, even those resident in the EU cannot sign the petition.

Democracy requires an inclusive view of who is a citizen, which while it’s an argument in the UK and other countries, the famous slogan of the American Revolution, “No taxation without representation” applies here. We can’t welcome people to work, pay taxes and then deny them the vote.

ooOOOoo

There were two questions, one on the accountability of politicians and, the second, asking if the EU can EU protect its citizen’s against an EFTA member.

Politicians can be held to account via the mechanisms of the institutions and by the political parties. The parties are part of civic society but as a member of the Labour Party I recognise that members and voters can’t always hold the politicians to account.

Citizenship of the EU gives its citizen’s the protection of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which can be exercised initially through the member state courts. It also avoids the longer passport control queues. The duty to protect citizens against harassment by a foreign government belongs to the member state. The EU embassies do not offer consulate services. …

CoFoE, Climate Change, environment and health.

Those of you following me, know that I have been following the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe. I have been mainky tracking Citizen’s Panel 2 on Dempocracy and values, but also reviewed ECP 4 and their recommendations on Migration. I have had a brief look at ECP3’s Climate Change and Environment proposals; I looked at these in January and the proposals that made the final plenary will differ.

I made a word cloud of the proposals other than health. Carbon should read carbon reduction, but the generator wouldn’t work with such a long phrase. I have created summary keywords for each proposal, this would be better if I had crowd sourced this allocation stage, but I didn’t.

Word Cloud, ECP3, Climate, environment & health

The Citizen’s panels full proposals are published by the Conference. The panels work in sup groups and so can produce multiple, very similar recommendations.

My highlights are that the panel recommends, the reinforcing of the health care system and the assumption by the EU of competency for health with equal access for all. It also takes a powerful stand for a sustainable energy economy, together with transport system reform: more public transport, particularly buses and trains.  …

The end of fortress Europa?

The end of fortress Europa?

This is a commentary on the CoFoE proposals on ‘Migration’. CoFoE is the European Union's hybrid citizen's panel on the future policies and structure of the Union. Migration is often the issue where racism within the state and population expresses itself most strongly. Debate has become very polarised. If you’re interested, in the issue, you’ll remember the stories and pictures of the Greek refugee camps, and deaths in the Med and in the Channel together with the EU’s payments to Turkey, and the prosecution [ also here ] of rescue ship captains by Italy. Let’s hope this is the opportunity to bury “Fortress Europa”. .... for more, "Read More" ...

What the CoFoE thinks about citizen privacy

What the CoFoE thinks about citizen privacy

The Conference on the Future of Europe, Democracy and Rule of Law panel has generated 39 recommendations to improve the EU’s Democracy and compliance with the Rule of Law. Three of these related to Privacy and one to Cybersecurity. I have drafted a response for CTOE, which I hope will become part of their response but did not form part of their first response, which is fortunate since I changed my mind slightly. The article, overleaf, covers regulations and sanctions, equality of arms, and enforcement and political will. ...

Sptitzen Kandidaten, the rule of law and the EU’s CoFoE

beralaymontbuilding

Yesterday France assumed the Presidency of the European Union, as planned, in time to move forward the final recommendations of the “Conference on the Future of Europe”. In mid December, 39 recommendations were made from the Democracy and the Rule of Law panel. Most surprisingly, they do not recommend changing the means by which the President of the Commission is elected/chosen and yet, they propose the establishment or repetition of the Citizens’ Assembly approach adopted by the Conference.

In the rest of this blog article, over leaf, I look at how the EU got here, and comment on some surprising and positive recommendations and the one surprising absence. ...