Germany: The next sick man of Europe?

From the brink of incredible success, the new German coalition is on the verge of driving Germany back towards an almost inevitable economic abyss…

Eurocrats love to opine about European competitiveness from their lofty tax free towers. Yet the most competitive aspect of Europe remains the race to be the genuine sick man of Europe. Britain held the mantle unchallenged during the 1970’s until Margaret Thatcher revitalised the nation’s fortunes in an unprecedented reversal. Now the sick man of Europe mantle is hypercompetitive. Greece, Spain, Italy and Cyprus are amongst a series of basket case economies while France is on the cusp of a triple dip recession thanks to a dizzying spiral of dismal government.

However, the idea that Germany, the all-powerful hegemon of Europe, might itself biodegrade economically sounds preposterous as we can easily bear witness to roads awash with an ocean of Audis, BMWs, Mercedes and VWs. Nevertheless, the cycle is turning and Germany is once again in danger of decline. Ironically Germany was written off a decade ago, after a lavish but bruising reunification process proved the folly of top down economics: Eastern Germany remains economically patchy whereas Poland without a western ‘sugar daddy’ is a remarkable economic success story. Germany’s rise was thanks to the Social Democrats (SPD) who, ironically, are proving pivotal in dragging Berlin back down again. Hartz IV was a key development by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, at once making Germany more dynamic and igniting the incredible decade of growth that saw“Mutti” Merkel hectoring the rest of the EU on the virtues of fiscal prudence.

Alas the German electorate just didn’t quite love Mrs Merkel enough, voting her a poisoned chalice in the recent general election. Her third term is a coalition moving Germany left. One key SPD demand? Watering down the Hartz employment laws which they introduced! Swingeing rises in minimum wages won’t help competitiveness, nor will higher taxes.

This economic paragon has obtained a complacent coalition just when it must plan for the future. Mrs Merkel hectors abroad yet appears aloof to the problems facing her homeland.

Demography is a big issue. Despite a lavish $265 billion annual spend on family subsidies to encourage population growth, Germany is aging (already the oldest in Europe with median age of 45). Demographic studies are frightening: the German population could plunge by 21% or 17 million people to 65 million by 2060. The workforce is shrinking by 200,000 a year. Germany has fewer people in work today than it had 20 years ago. Germans tend to be guarded about immigrants – just when they need an influx.

The German state has a massive series of top down legacy projects which allied with even a much more modest than predicted population decline, can cause economic problems. German power prices are 30% above the EU average and twice that of US rivals (no wonder Daimler Benz are considering a new Mercedes factory stateside).

Scaremongering about fracking is closing the shale spigot while Mrs Merkel’s knee-jerk cowardice post Fukushima in closing down all nuclear power plants will go down in history as concerted energy suicide. Germany lavishes 700 billion – 1 trillion euro subsidising erratic renewables which is, itself, er, unsustainable. This green dream is every taxpayer’s worst nightmare. Mrs Merkel is invariably the woman banging her stiletto on the EU summit table demanding prudence, reciting her triptych of welfare madness (Europe is 7% world population, 25% of the global economy and 50% of Earth’s social spending). Yet, Mrs Merkel herself is perilously close to ignoring her own golden rules at home.

Despite a massive government bribe for births, Germany’s demographics look shaky. An aging nation is discouraging investment and employment while demanding fiscal rectitude from eurozone neighbours. Ultimately Germany is slowing long-term. Productivity growth has been barely 0.6 percent for a decade, half the OECD rate. Right now Germany may appear the class of the field in its own backyard but then again the ‘Eurotrash’ economies are no match for their emerging competitors. Meanwhile Germany cannot afford to bulk up its government sector when holding together the euro vanity currency. It will soon require hard cash on top of national bills for crazy green subsidies, birth bonuses and a massive unfunded pension liability.

The German boom is close to its peak. It may soon be a sick man although probably not the sick man amongst Europe’s fantasy economies. However how can the EU itself survive a bout of German influenza?

The Lisbon Treaty: A constitutional revolution by stealth by Anthony Coughlan

When the Lisbon Treaty came into force at the end of last year, members of the European Parliament, who previously had been “representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community”, became “representatives of the Union’s citizens”. This change in the legal status of MEPs is but one illustration of the constitutional revolution being brought about by the Lisbon Treaty.

For Lisbon, like the EU Constitution before it, establishes for the first time a European Union which is constitutionally separate from and superior to its Member States, just as the USA is separate from and superior to its 50 constituent states, or as Federal Germany is in relation to its Länder.

The 27 EU members thereby lose their character as true sovereign states. Constitutionally, they become more like regional states in a multinational federation, although they still retain some of the trappings of their former sovereignty.

Most people are unaware of these astonishing changes, for two reasons. One is that, with the exception of the Irish, the people of the EU member states have been denied any chance of learning about and debating them in national referendums. The other is that the terms “European Union”, “EU citizen” and “EU citizenship” were already in use before Lisbon, but Lisbon changes their constitutional content fundamentally.

The Lisbon Treaty therefore is a constitutional revolution by stealth.

Three steps to a federal-style Constitution

This revolution takes place in three interconnected steps:

Firstly, the Treaty establishes a European Union with legal personality and a fully independent corporate existence for the first time. This enables the post-Lisbon Union to function as a State vis-a-vis other States externally, and in relation to its own citizens internally.

Secondly, Lisbon abolishes the European Community which goes back to the Treaty of Rome and which makes European laws at present, and transfers the Community’s powers and institutions to the new Union, so that it is the post-Lisbon Union, not the Community, which will make supranational European laws henceforth. Lisbon also transfers to the EU the “intergovernmental” powers over crime, justice and home affairs, as well as foreign policy and security, leaving only aspects of the Common Foreign, Security and Defence Policy outside the scope of its supranational powers. The Treaty thereby gives a unified constitutional structure to the post-Lisbon EU.

Thirdly, Lisbon then makes 500 million Europeans into real citizens of the new Federal-style Union which the Treaty establishes. Instead of EU citizenship “complementing” national citizenship, as under the Maastricht Treaty, Lisbon provides that EU citizenship shall be “additional to” national citizenship.

This is a real dual citizenship – not of two different States, but of two different levels of one State. One can only be a citizen of a State, and all States must have citizens. Dual citizenship like that provided for in Lisbon is normal in classical Federations which have been established from the bottom up by constituent states surrendering their sovereignty to a superior federal entity, in contrast to federations that have come into being “top-down”, as it were, as a result of unitary states adopting federal form. Examples of the former are the USA, 19th Century Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia. Lisbon would confer a threefold citizenship on citizens of Federal Germany’s Länder.

Being a citizen means that one must obey the law and give loyalty to the authority of the State of which one is a citizen – in the case of classical Federations, of the two state levels, the federal and the regional or provincial. In the post-Lisbon EU the rights and duties attaching to citizenship of the European Union will be superior to those attaching to one’s national citizenship in any case of conflict between the two, because of the superiority of EU law over national law and Constitutions.

An alternative source of democratic legitimacy to the Nation State

Under Lisbon population size will in turn become the primary basis for EU law- making, as in any State with a common citizenry. This will happen after 2014, when the Treaty provision comes into force that EU laws will be made by 55% of the Member States – currently 15 out of 25 – as long as they represent between them 65% of the total population of the Union. Germany and France together have one third of the EU’s population.

Lisbon provides an alternative source of democratic legitimacy which challenges the right of national governments to be the representatives of their electorates in the EU. The amended Treaty provides: “The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments.”

The constitutional structure of the post-Lisbon EU is completed by the provision which turns the European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents into an “institution” of the new European Union, so that its acts, or its failing to act would, like those of the other EU institutions, be subject to legal review by the EU Court of Justice.

Constitutionally speaking, the summit meetings of the European Council will henceforth no longer be “intergovernmental” gatherings outside supranational European structures, as they have been up to now. The European Council will in effect be the Cabinet Government of the post-Lisbon EU. Its individual members will be constitutionally obliged to represent the Union to their Member States as well as their Member States to the Union, with the former function imposing primacy of legal obligation in any case of conflict or tension between the two.

As regards the State authority of the post-Lisbon European Union, this will be embodied in the EU’s own legislative, executive and judicial institutions: the European Council, Council of Ministers, Parliament, Commission and Court of Justice. It will be embodied also in the Member States and their authorities as they implement and apply EU law and interpret and apply national law in conformity with European law. Member States will be constitutionally required to do this under the Lisbon Treaty.

Although the Lisbon Treaty has given the EU a Federal-style Constitution without most people noticing, they are bound to find out in time and react against what is being done. There is no democratic legitimacy to the institutions the Lisbon Treaty establishes and there is nothing that will make people identify with these as they do with the institutions of their home countries. This is the core problem of the EU integration project. Lisbon has, in effect, made the EU’s democratic deficit much worse.

Anthony Coughlan is President of the Foundation for EU Democracy, Brussels, Belgium, and Director of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, Dublin, Ireland. (See www.nationalplatform.org.) He is Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin.

OBITUARY of Councillor Peter Hollingworth

Councillor Peter Hollingworth, one of our longest serving members, passed away in January aged 88
He served as a Birmingham City councillor representing the Harborne ward for 51 years between 1960 to 2011.
Peter, a chartered surveyor, had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and in 2012 was made a Freeman on Birmingham City, having served as Lord Mayor bewteen 1982-1983 and Deputy Lord Mayor 2004-2005.
Sir Alfred Bore, leader of the council. member of the EU Committee of the Regions since 1994 and President of that Committee 2002-2004, said “ There were fundamental disagreements between us on issues such as the European Union”. This a remarkable  understatement. Peter often called Sir Alfred Bore “Der Fuhrer”.
My favourite story is an occasion when Peter placed a copy of our Free Britain newspaper on every seat in the council chamber. Apparently red in the face Alfred demanded that all copies should be removed or the city solicitor would be called in. With his arms folded and a smile Peter refused, accompanied by laughter and applause from other city councillors.
A great character, family man and church supporter, Peter will be greatly missed
George West
President CIB

Trade with the European Union and its member states does not depend on being members of the European Union.

At present, the European Union (EU) has bilateral and regional trade agreements with the following countries:

Free trade agreements (FTA) with Chile, South Africa, Mexico, and South Korea; as part of the wider European Economic Area

FTAs with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland;

Negotiations with Central America (El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama), Andean Nations (comprising Peru and Columbia), and Ukraine have been concluded, and will be ratified in due course.

Negotiations are ongoing with other countries or groups of countries, namely: Canada; India; Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay); Singapore; Malaysia; Vietnam; Moldova; Georgia; Armenia; and the Gulf Co-operation Council.

Furthermore, the Government are supportive of negotiations starting in 2013 with Japan, the
USA, Morocco and Thailand.

In addition, as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a multilateral trading system for the 157 member countries, the EU is party to both the general agreement on tariffs and trade (GATTS) and general agreement on trade in services (GATS).

The EU also has various other trade agreements with other countries or groups of countries: association agreements (AAs), economic partnership agreements (EPAs), stabilisation and association agreements (SAAs), partnership & co-operation agreements (PCAs) and memberships of the Customs Union.

Blair policy to undermine national homogeneity

The Derby Telegraph – Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Edward Spalton Roy Wheatley asks “What is the purpose of large-scale immigration when we have so many people out of work? Why rely on migrants if millions are out of work?” (Derby Telegraph, May 30).

 The answer is simple: it was a deliberate government policy to “undermine national homogeneity”. It used to be the duty of government to protect the native population from invasion and colonisation. Now they have stood that duty on its head.

Andrew Neather revealed that New Labour boosted Third World immigration with the deliberate intent of causing irreversible demographic change – the government was electing a new people which would be more likely to vote Labour.

Peter Sutherland, former EU Commissioner, former head of the World Trade Organisation, former chairman of BP and Goldman Sachs multi-millionaire, told the House of Lords last year that the EU should undermine the homogeneity of native populations.

He criticised the modest restriction imposed by the present government, saying it had no basis in international law.

As the contents of our jails show, the advent of multiculturalism has not been an unmixed blessing. What is the point of importing unskilled people to a country with high unemployment, if not simply to force down wages? That may well suit Goldman Sachs. Add a highly attractive system of welfare payments, much more generous than in the Eastern member states of the EU and we can expect many more coming to live off us as well.

They will have a right to do so, as long as we remain in the EU. This government favours staying in the EU and Turkish EU membership. This will bring a huge influx from that country.

The Blair government commissioned a study on British identity by the Runnymede Trust. Their report asserted that the terms “British” and “English” were so laden with racist overtones that they should be avoided where possible.

The native British people are wedged between the ideologues of the Left, who despise us, the EU, which wants to destroy our national identity, and the vested interest of corporate capital, which wants to use these forces to help the prosperity of Goldman Sachs and friends, making their investments more profitable by forcing down wages.

Annual cost of European Parliament soars to £1.332 billion

THE PRESS OFFICE OF the Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour) News Release

Cost of European Parliament soars to £1.332 billion per year, £838 million more than Westminster (MEPs cost £1.79 million each).

The appallingly high running cost of the European Parliament has been exposed in a written reply to a question put to the Government by independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.

The Government was asked for comparative costs between the European Parliament and Westminster.  In his response (8.01.12), Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, confirmed the 2011-12 cost of the European Parliament at £1.332 billion compared with £494 million for Westminster, including both the House of Commons and the Lords.

Lord Stoddart also asked for costs per member to be included in the figures.  In 2011-12, MEPs cost a colossal £1.79 million each compared with just £0.59 million per member of the House of Commons.  Peers cost a mere £0.13 million.

Lord Stoddart, commenting on the Government’s reply said: “These are eye watering figures that make Westminster look like very good value for money. The European Parliament costs £838 million per annum more than the combined cost of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Government is constantly on the look-out for ways to save money to reduce the deficit. It should take a serious look at its contribution to the cost of running the European Parliament! This is an institution that does not hold proper debates and whose members cannot even introduce a Private Members Bill. It merely acts as a rubber stamp for the unelected European Commission’s legislative proposals. The number of MEPs has risen from 736 to 754, since these figures were produced, so even these huge figures fall short of the real cost!”

 The full text of Lord Stoddart’s question and the Government’s response is as follows:

Hansard 08.03.12 Parliaments: CostsQuestion Asked by Lord Stoddart of Swindon

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the latest figures for the annual total costs, and cost per member, of (1) the House of Lords, (2) the House of Commons, and (c) the European Parliament.

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): The table below sets out the annual cost, number of Members and average cost per Member for the House of Commons, House of Lords and European Parliament.

 

House of Commons House of Lords EuropeanParliament

Annual Cost

(£million)

385

109

1,332

Number of Members

650

821-831

736

Expenditure per

Member (£million)

0.59

0.13

1.79

The figures for the House of Commons are taken from the House of Commons annual accounts 2011-122 (for both administrative and Members’ budgets) and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority annual accounts 2011-123.

The House of Lords figures are for taken from the House of Lords annual accounts 2011-124. For the European Parliament, figures are taken from the European Union Budget of 2011 financial report5. The European Parliament increased from 736 Members to 754 from 1 December 2011.

1 Reported annual cost of €1,555 million, converted at the December 2011 exchange rate of €1.18 = £1

2 http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/commons/resource-accounts

3 http://parliamentarystandards.org.uk/About%20Us/ Corporate%20Publications/Annual%20Report%20and%20Accounts%202011-%202012.pdf

4 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/

00059f3ea3/The-budget-of-the-European-Parliament.html