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Topic: The comings and goings of the European Union (Read 35092 times)

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #200
Now, GDPR in particular is such that it better not be different anywhere, if it is to have any point at all. And it isn't. It has a uniform global effect. Namely, the cookie popups are pretty much global. Another reaction from many American websites is to just block European visitors. The cookie popups and visitor-blocks are global effects of GDPR, but definitely not good effects.

But if you are not experiencing cookie popups globally, then again we have a difference...
The technically legal in some circumstances cookie popups already existed prior to GDPR. The ePR was supposed to come into effect at the same time as GDPR in 2018, but is largely separate except for where the handling of personal data part overlaps.

There is indeed a failure of sorts there being fueled largely by France if I'm not mistaken.

Overall, the video is from an EU-positive British perspective. Brits and Western Europeans have in common a denial of their colonial attitude.
I'm not sure if it's helpful to analyze certain types of at best unhelpful protectionism as colonialism, but yes, it's unfortunately all too present in recent years.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #201
Some time ago I came across this article justifying colonialism.[1] The first few pages I thought it was tongue in cheek, but it's not. See if you can find the counterexamples and counterarguments to every point, if you are interested. It's a good article to test one's level of colonialism.
Oops, I have the version without editor's note. Some nasty stuff has happened to the author meanwhile apparently.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #202
The first few pages I thought it was tongue in cheek, but it's not.
It seems to be riffing on things people wrote back in the 1920s and 1930s, that we read in history class. The gist of it being self-governance is a lofty goal, but these people aren't ready for it yet.

I find it somewhat amusing that within the internal logic of the article, most of the "anti-colonialism is bad, actually" shtick reads to me like Russian colonialism is a lot worse than Belgian/British/Portuguese colonialism, rather than an actual absence of colonialism.

Put another way, it's not so much the case for colonialism, but the case for 1930s style Western European colonialism.

A random thought:
Quote
“Since gaining independence, Congo has never had at its disposal an army comparable in efficiency and discipline to the former [Belgian colonial] Force Publique,” was Van Reybrouck’s sad conclusion.77 Maybe the Belgians should come back.
The army was there to fight Germany and the locals. It's unclear why we should assume there's some inherent good in it?

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #203
The end values and framing of the topic matters a lot. His end values are governance and socio-economic indicators as defined and measured by World Bank and the like, which is perfectly scientific as far as economics and economic history goes. His framing is "colonial legitimation", i.e. the more natives become employed by the colonial institutions and receive its services such as healthcare and education, the more it counts as (legitimate) colonialism, whereas mere slave trade will not count as colonialism insofar as slave traders are mobile between trade posts and do not govern a colony. They are ungoverned and unaccountable, therefore not a proper example of colonialism. But as soon as (governed) colonies reach the point of civilisation where slavery is abolished, it counts as fully legitimate colonialism, thus abolition of slavery is a benefit to the natives that they gain with colonialism. Moreover, in order for the natives to enjoy these colonial benefits, colonial intervention is necessary, destined.

This framing is nifty. It is difficult to argue against the loads of visible material and social benefits, infrastructure, industrialisation, lasting institutions and the transformed way of life left behind in the colonies. However, it all comes with a cost of having wiped away a previous way of life with its fragile institutions.

Insofar as the colonial power wipes away a previous way of life, I would say colonialism is never legitimate. When colonists build a school, it is likely to be in the language of the colonists and reflect their mindset. By whipping, most local natives may receive education in those schools, but how do numbers obtained by whipping legitimise education? Or healthcare, when the diseases are imported by the colonists? Besides, assuming that education and healthcare are such awesome values, Marxist-socialist-commie regimes have achieved numerically far better results in these areas and much faster too. Western colonial education never aimed for, say, 100% literacy, but commies did and practically achieved it too.


There's this anecdote I remember from Soviet times:
Africa. A black man is lazying under a coconut tree. A coconut falls down from the tree. A white man approaches him and says, "Hey, why are you lazying here? Why don't you gather coconuts?"

Black man, "Why should I gather coconuts?"

White man, "If you gather all these coconuts and go sell them in the market, you will have lots of money."

Black man, "What should I do with lots of money?"

White man, "You can hire other black men to gather coconuts, sell all the coconuts in the market and you will have even more money."

Black man, "What should I do with even more money?"

White man, "You will have so much money that you do not have to work anymore. You can retire and enjoy lazying."

Black man, "But I enjoy lazying already now."

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #204
The end values and framing of the topic matters a lot. His end values are governance and socio-economic indicators as defined and measured by World Bank and the like, which is perfectly scientific as far as economics and economic history goes. His framing is "colonial legitimation", i.e. the more natives become employed by the colonial institutions and receive its services such as healthcare and education, the more it counts as (legitimate) colonialism, whereas mere slave trade will not count as colonialism insofar as slave traders are mobile between trade posts and do not govern a colony.
Unfortunately I can't remember who wrote it (perhaps the minister of colonies?), but as I said that was almost exactly the argument for why Indonesia shouldn't be independent.

Incidentally, the former colony learned how to be invited as a colonial power: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Free_Choice

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #205
European Commission clarifies to Lithuania that sanctions are not meant to be taken too seriously.

The EU's executive body, the European Commission, announced that Lithuania must allow sanctioned Russian goods to transit between the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia proper. Sandwiched between Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad has suffered escalating economic and energy challenges over Lithuania's enforcement of the EU's sanctions that were introduced following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Those sanctions prohibited the use of EU territory for the passage of restricted Russian goods. On Wednesday, however, the European Commission invented the notion that its sanctions did not apply to Russian rail transports between the Russian mainland and Kaliningrad.

Lithuania's prime minister said that it would have been a real victory for Russia if EU members and institutions continued arguing about the sanctions with each other, so that's why Lithuania gave in to the commissars. She added also that the responsibility for the commission's current stance is on the commission.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #206
About EU in a positive light for a change. In the aftermath of the Uber scandal,[1] EU commission is pondering a directive to improve worker rights. The commissars have labelled the problem as "platform work" and, in response to the problem, they have proposed the following definition of employment:

- it [i.e. the platform provider, the contracting employer] determines the level of remuneration or sets upper limits
- it supervises the performance of work using electronic means
- it restricts the freedom to choose one's working hours or periods of absence,​ to accept or to refuse tasks or to use subcontractors or substitutes
- it sets specific binding rules with regard to appearance,​ conduct towards the recipient of the service or performance of the work
- it restricts the possibility to build a client base or to perform work for any third party​

If at least two criteria are fulfilled, it is an employment relationship, no matter what the contract or T&C between the platform provider and the platform client say. Which is all good, though it remains to be seen how watered down it will end up when taking effect.

(And the positive light is additionally dimmed by the fact that, as usual, it's only eastern member states who need to implement directives to the letter and obey commissars promptly, while western member states carry on as per their own usual.)
The scandal entails that Uber lobbied for - and obtained - ride-sharing-friendly legislation in pretty much all EU member states. "Lobbied for" is legally a dirty word in most continental Europe. Legislators are supposed to be genuinely independent, not under any influence. By now it can be concluded that Uber achieved two things by the lobbying. First, they managed to undermine the standards of the taxi industry, as was their goal. Second, they created a "ride-sharing" market, which means just ordering a taxi by an app. The market was quickly filled with a bunch of competitors and Uber is basically side-lined in many countries - which was not among Uber's goals. I personally almost never use taxis (certainly I have never used a taxi app), but as much as I know people, nobody uses Uber here. Everybody uses Taxify/Bolt or a few others we have here. By now most "ride-sharing" companies do food deliveries also.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #207
Scholz says,
Der Zustand unserer Bundeswehr und der zivilen Verteidigungsstrukturen, aber auch unsere allzu große Abhängigkeit von russischer Energie sprechen dafür, dass wir uns nach Ende des Kalten Krieges in falscher Sicherheit gewiegt haben. Allzu gern haben Politik, Wirtschaft und große Teile unserer Gesellschaft weitreichende Konsequenzen aus dem Diktum eines früheren deutschen Verteidigungsministers gezogen, wonach Deutschland nur noch von Freunden umzingelt sei. Das war ein Irrtum.
Germany is re-militarising. The effect will not be a militarily stronger and geopolitically more conscious European Union. The effect will be a more dangerous Germany, repeating history all over again.

Sweden is remilitarising too. This will be very consequential assuming this will last longer than a couple years (otherwise it would just be kicking off the rust of mothballed equipment), as it most certainly will.  It is fairly logical that we will remilitarise, as the conditions for demilitarising no longer hold. While it is clear there will be consequences, it is less clear what those consequences will be.

There will be opportunity costs. Partly in government spending, which will be significant, but not all that much. We'll be on a cold war footing, not on a war footing. More in the changes in attitude and strategies, and their outcomes.

Greater uncertainty lies in what this remilitarizing would consist of. Easy to say we are going to spend more money, but on what, and for what end? When? 

As frequently noted, with increases Germany will have the largest military budget in the world, after the US and China. Sure, that is a handful of euros. The EU needs to become more German, but are the Germans themselves up to this? Indications so far are not too impressive. They have been kicking that aforementioned rust, announced that they will be buying some US equipment at inflated prices. That is not upgrading capabilities, that is re-defending the Fulda Gap. Of course, now we got the Suwałki Gap, but that we probably could defend anyway. Russia picks up Estonia, we pick up Königsberg. A little prisoner exchange, and status quo ante. Russia cannot win, Russia will not try.



Preparing for this would be another version of fighting the last cold war.

By default the Three Seas initiative would have succeeded in that the Baltic Sea (certainly), the Black Sea (probably) and not just the Adriatic, but entire Mediterranean would be under EU dominance. The split along the Scandinavian Keel has mended. The Nordic countries were split between the Atlantics (Norway, Iceland, Canada, US, UK; in NATO, not EU) and the Baltics (Sweden, Finland; in EU, not NATO), with Denmark more Atlantic than Baltic. The Atlantic and Baltic were distinct and disconnected zones. Now the Cap of the North, the Nordic area north of the Arctic Circle is one military zone. Germany like Denmark is both Atlantic and Baltic, more the latter. However, for the rest of this decade, Germany is unlikely to do much more than catch-up.

The European Defence Fund is more interesting for direction. It is a tiny fund (in military terms), but it shows priorities. Same goes for the European Defence Agency. I don't think Germany will be the instigator of change, but it can become a conduit.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #208
Scholz held a grundsatzrede in Prague. I'm taking just one programmatic point from there: Enlargement.

Yes, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and, down the line, also Georgia and, of course, the six countries of the Western Balkans belong to the free and democratic part of Europe. Their EU accession is in our interest. [...] Realpolitik must mean involving friends and partners with shared values and supporting them in order to be strong in global competition through cooperation. [...] Together, we stand the very best chance of helping to form and shape the 21st century in our own, European, vein – as a European Union of 27, 30 or 36 countries, which will then have over 500 million free citizens enjoying equal rights, with the biggest internal market in the world, with leading research institutes, innovations and innovative companies, with stable democracies, with social welfare and a public infrastructure that is without parallel around the world. That is the ambition that I associate with a geopolitical Europe. [...] Where unanimity is required today, the risk of an individual country using its veto and preventing all the others from forging ahead increases with each additional member state. Anyone who believes anything else is in denial about the reality of Europe.

So, the enlargement will continue on apparently discounted terms. There's no way the two poorest countries in Europe (Ukraine has surpassed Moldova in poverty since Crimea was annexed to Russia) qualify according to the present requirements. Accepting new members on discounted terms has never gone well.

"Six countries of the Western Balkans", hmm, let's count:
1. Bosnia
2. Montenegro
3. Albania
4. Kosovo
5. Serbia
6. North Macedonia

So, Bosnia, which is a non-country - it is three constitutionally separated bantustans with conflicting interests - should become a member. Kosovo and Serbia, who do not recognise each other, should somehow miraculously start getting along, share values and support each other. They should somehow all jibe well with the common interests of a "geopolitical Europe". Sorry, but this is bringing more Cyprus-like warzones and at least one outspoken Trojan horse into the union. What kind of Realpolitik is this? Scholz is offering no solution to the conflicts, but going on with the old EU policy - hope the old conflicts fade away, probably by Brussels diktat, after bringing the new members in. This is the usual geopolitical suicide that the EU has been practising thus far.

Moreover, note the unanimity and veto bit - the EU must move to majority/plurality decision-making some time very soon. Thus the new members will be joining a different EU where their voice is simply disregarded, if it proves too bothersome. Why would the new and smaller members accept this unbegrudgingly? In the EU, where grudges have been mounting, Scholz plans to introduce more grudges.

Speaking about grudges, Scholz conspicuously failed to mention Poland in a few places where it would have been absolutely imperative to mention Poland:

We [Germany] are compensating the Czech Republic and other countries with tanks of German build for their provision of Soviet tanks to Ukraine.
On this very topic, i.e. compensating for tanks sent to Ukraine, Germany has no quarrel with Czech, but does have a quarrel with Poland. Why not say something to mitigate this? Too complicated? Too recent grudges?

Circumventing the debates that were typical of the past, we have taken in millions of women, men and children from Ukraine seeking refuge here with us. The Czech Republic and other countries of Central Europe in particular have demonstrated their big heart and great solidarity. You have my very greatest respect for this.
Again, Poland has taken in most refugees by far. This is a very conspicuously missed opportunity to express respect to Poland for dealing with the refugees.

Of course, Poland was watching carefully, took note, and decided that now's a good time to ask some trillion in WWII reparations from Germany.

Scholz's grundsatzrede ended up highlighting how screwed up relations in the EU are. Sure, things must be done to make the EU truly geopolitical, and the protocol of the most important meetings should change, but they should have been changed long ago when smaller members called for it. Also, Macron did a similar programmatic speech some years ago (with its own problems) that Merkel simply ignored. Right now is a bit too late, and Germany has accrued too much ballast and cannot be trusted to drive the changes.

Edit. Different from Merkel ignoring Macron's grundsatzrede of 2017, Macron immediately responded favourably to Scholz's.

In a nearly two-hour speech meant to outline the goals of the French diplomacy in the upcoming year, Macron praised the views expressed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week in Prague as “fully in line” with his own plea for a stronger, more independent and sovereign Europe.

So, what is the line?

“We cannot let Russia militarily win the war,” Macron said in a speech to French ambassadors at the Elysee presidential palace.

He set the goal of enabling Ukraine to either win militarily or be put in a strong position to achieve “a negotiated peace.”

“We must get prepared for a long war,” Macron said, adding that this would involve tensions escalating over Ukraine’s nuclear plants.
These are the strongest pro-Ukraine and anti-Russian statements yet from Macron. But it would be moving the goalposts from his position earlier this year and the commitment to Russia actually losing remains to be seen. What may have brought about the moving of the goalposts?

Macron vowed to “keep talking” to Russia despite criticism from some countries, especially in eastern Europe, which defend a hardline stance against Moscow. “We must do everything to make a negotiated peace possible” when Russia and Ukraine will be ready to sit for talks, he said.

“We must not let Europe get divided” over the war in Ukraine and its consequences, Macron said, adding that the EU mustn't align itself with “warmongers” or allow countries from eastern Europe to act alone in support of Kyiv.
I see. The motive is to catch up with the sentiment and level of commitment that eastern EU members are displaying. So it's a rhetorical move. Macron does not like when somebody else is ahead in initiative.

« Il faut assumer de pouvoir toujours continuer à parler à tout le monde, surtout ceux avec qui nous ne sommes pas d’accord. Qui a envie que la Turquie soit la seule puissance du monde qui continue à parler à la Russie ? », a lancé le président devant les ambassadeurs français réunis à l’Elysée.
Oh yes. It is not good to see Turkey ahead in initiative either. Must outtalk Erdogan.

By the way, both Ukrainians and Russians call Macron's behaviour "macroning".

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #209
Countries don't have to join the EU if they don't want to, but there is no reason to exclude them if they do fulfil the requirements, and those requirements are not lower than they were when earlier entrants joined.

And there would have to be different rules when the EU approaches 40 members than when it had 6 or 12. The greatest problem isn't the threshold to join, but what happens after, as Poland and Hungary have shown.

There are many potential Hungaries, particularly among the candidate countries, but also the existing members.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #210
The greatest problem isn't the threshold to join, but what happens after, as Poland and Hungary have shown.
What have Poland and Hungary shown? Why are they the problem? How was the problem not foreseen? And why is it not being dealt with? Doesn't it all indicate some structural rigidity in the EU that has not been repaired and likely cannot? And if this is the case, the real problem lies with the founders and drivers of the EU, not with the later members.

I have re-read some of the older posts here from some five years ago. My position used to be that the EU is inherently irreformable - and that it is good this way. I think I was spot-on on the first point. However, due to rigid irreformability the EU is now in imminent danger to fall apart and this is not really good in a crisis situation.

Why is the EU irreformable? Because any change requires consensus. And also because in this consensus the drivers of any change would be the most powerful members, the biggies as I call them.

But there are even more problems. The biggies, due to being the biggies, and also due to being the founders of the EU, have not allowed any input from the newer members. Even right now when it is lucidly clear that the newer members have been correct about Russia as the threat to the EU - and therefore pushing for a geopolitical focus in the EU - and the biggies have been wrong about this, there is zero acknowledgement and zero respect given to the newer members on this. Instead, the biggies want to make it seem that the upcoming proposals of change are entirely the initiative of the biggies. This will not wash. This will only deepen the mistrust that has already accrued and the EU will certainly fall apart.

The EU biggies will not give up their leading position which they have mishandled. They will try to hold on to their leading position, thus only mishandling it further, because they do not know how to handle it properly. They will not become good masters of their position in half a year. They have mismanaged every single crisis thus far, except perhaps the covid crisis. The crisis we have right now, the Ukraine invasion, they have not managed at all, but *followed* the drive of USA/Nato and eastern EU. EU reform, if any, should be derived from who have the initiative right now, because the eastern members have shown they can see a crisis coming and they know what to do in a crisis. The biggies will not be given their position back anymore. The biggies have demonstrated themselves utterly incompetent and cannot be trusted for a moment. The biggies, even though they can apparently admit a mistake, they still cannot allow that anyone else is in the right. Therefore the fate of the EU is to dissolve. The sad thing is that it is happening in a crisis instead of in calm times.

Your position those years ago was that the EU is a club of dogs, that there are big dogs and smaller dogs and that the smaller dogs should behave as per the barking of the bigger dogs. Well, this leads to the same conclusion: The smaller dogs will get fed up with the misbehaviour and bullying by the bigger dogs and leave.[1]

There are many potential Hungaries, particularly among the candidate countries, but also the existing members.
The funny thing is that Hungary's Russia-policy was identical (actually milder) to Germany's and France's until the invasion. It was less dangerous because Hungary mattered less. So, yeah, there is a Hungary in the EU. There is also a Poland. There is also a Cyprus, perhaps the point with most explosive potential even though it hasn't exploded. But they are not as dangerous as Germany and France who want to introduce yet more Hungaries, Polands and Cypruses, after having demonstrated that they have no clue how to deal with any of those except by making relations with them worse after admitting them into the union.
Edit: Anyone is hardly joining the EU with the understanding that it is a pack of dogs. They all hope they are joining something better than this, something more human and humane or at least a colourful zoo. By now the newer members, having suffered repeated humiliations (and some near-existential threats!) from the biggies even though the biggies were in the wrong, and seeing that even in the current situation the biggies have no humility, are being forcefully led to the conclusion that this is indeed a pack of dogs, a different kind of EU than what was advertised. Therefore the newer members are seriously considering returning the merchandise. This would be a horrendous tragedy for the EU-faithful, but not a drastic disruption of Europe's security structure as long as there's still Nato.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #211
We now have Ursula's state of the union address also. Different from Scholz, she manages, in addition to admitting a mistake, to acknowledge those who were right.

We should have listened to the voices inside our Union – in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe.

They have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop.

And they acted accordingly.

Our friends in the Baltics have worked hard to end their dependency on Russia.

Applause. It is probably very hard for Westerners to acknowledge that someone else, particularly Poland, was right. But if you want to keep the EU together, there is no other way. The Western mistakes had accumulated too far. It is extremely sad that these were mistakes of diplomacy, the field where Western Europe was supposed to be the best in the world. Correcting this will not be easy. I personally am still skeptical.

Hardly a state of the union goes by without a shoutout to candidate countries:

So I want the people of the Western Balkans, of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know:

You are part of our family, your future is in our Union, and our Union is not complete without you!

Let's be realists here. Most of these are countries in war and can only join after the wars have ended. Some of these are even at war against each other, such as Kosovo and Serbia, or even against itself, such as Bosnia. In the foreseeable future, they cannot realistically join. Whoever sincerely wants them to join ("accept them as they are") wants the implosion of the EU.[1]

The EU mission of Transnistria has been deeply flawed. This needs to be fixed, namely the mission's goal must be the abolishment of Transnistria, end of discussion. There is no ethnic issue there and there is no "partnership" role Russia can have. There is only the issue of eradicating a Russian military base. Then Moldova can join.

Georgia is more complicated. Georgia has real conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the foreseeable future, these can only be resolved with force, such as Georgia abusing the current moment of Russia's weakness. This would resolve the territorial conflict as understood by the majority of the international community, but it would not resolve the ethnic issues. Moreover, military force would not be in harmony with European values. So, realistically there is no way for Georgia to join in the foreseeable future, provided that the EU remains true to its values.

And then there's Ukraine. The EU needs to understand the difference between peace and a ceasefire. Give Putin a finger, such as Sevastopol, and it is only a ceasefire, not peace.

Oh, there's also Albania. This would be the first Muslim country ever to join the EU. Other than that, I am not familiar with Albania. The last time I heard about it was when there was a crackdown of an international investment scam headquartered in Kiev - I know that the perpetrators moved on to Albania https://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/fraudfactory/
The EU looks like a strong and solid institution, almost "too big to fail", only from the perspective of the biggies. From the perspective of eastern EU members, the quota of mistakes is full and we cannot afford a single misstep for quite a while now. But of course there will be more mistakes, because when the biggies insist on it, who can refuse it.

Re: The comings and goings of the European Union

Reply #212
Ursula and Scholz are not just from different parties, but represent different political cultures.

Die EU-Kommissionspräsidentin erinnerte daran, dass die Ukrainer „diesen Kampf für uns alle“ kämpfen. Nötig sei der Sieg der Demokratie.

For a "geopolitical Europe" (a term from Scholz's grundsatzrede) to be a thing, it is important for the EU members to demonstrate coherence and consistency with regard to Ukraine war. Instead, Scholz is playing a solo Nein-policy.

At the same time, Scholz eulogises Germany as the future main defence pillar of Europe.
„Eine gut ausgerüstete Bundeswehr, die ihren Auftrag zum Schutz unseres Landes erfüllen kann, ist für mich eine Selbstverständlichkeit“, sagte Scholz. „Dafür stehe ich als Bundeskanzler – und darauf können Sie sich verlassen.“ Die Bundeswehr solle zum Grundpfeiler der konventionellen Verteidigung in Europa werden, „zur am besten ausgestatteten Streitkraft“. [...] „Der Kernauftrag der Bundeswehr ist die Verteidigung der Freiheit in Europa!“
No, Scholz. A soloing Germany always meant destruction and devastation to Europe. You are hell-bent on repeating Germany's biggest past mistakes.