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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    In order to stop threads about the EU as it is now being taken off-topic by what the EU could be, let's list those things which the EU could realistically do that would make it a story you'd really like to tell. This could be things that should be added to the constitution, or just general goals which provide something more that the original six.

    My three suggestions are:
    1) To provide excellent healthcare to every person within the EU (note, not just citizens) which is free at the point of use
    2) To provide a free and top-class education from primary to postgraduate level to everyone in the EU
    3) To abolish all import duties applicable to countries with a smaller or weaker economy than the EU
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Just a question: Do these things need to be realistic or shall we just write what we want to have without looking at money etc?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Sure, bring up things if you feel they would be a great achievement for the EU, even if they seem prohibitively costly. As they say "where there's a will, there's a way"...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    1) End global poverty
    2) Bring Elvis back
    3) Teach the world to sing in perfect harmony

    The suggestions have to be things that we think we can afford and they have to be achievable in a reasonable timescale, say the next 50 years?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon... agree 100% about number 1. Suspect that 2 and 3 aren't serious entries. If we could achieve number one then I would be happy to give the EU everything, including my kitchen sink.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    1) support cultural and ethnical diversity --> stop racism und prejudices
    2) make education free for everybody (that includes kindergadens as well as universities)
    3) create a "green" Europe as a role model to the rest of the world
    4) ensure friendly relationships with all non-EU-countries
    5) let the economy grow, also in the "new" memberstates --> higher living standards
    6) let every person have access to new media (especially Internet)
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    Sorry but number 1 wasn't serious either. With almost half of the world's population living in China and India, the EU has pretty well no way to free the world of poverty.

    Some (almost) serious ones (given no requirement of realism or timescale) would be:

    1) Be realistic - don't overstretch in economic/military/aid/integration terms
    2) Be optimistic - about Man's ability to see the good in their fellow man
    3) Be idealistic - dare to dream. If something is good enough for Europeans then it is good enough for anyone.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon - just for the sake of argument... I ran some rough figures to obtain a flawed estimate of how much it would cost the EU to end poverty worldwide. Note the following uses the American definitions of billion and trillion as that's what the initial data used.

    2001 estimates put worldwide:
    - 'moderate poverty' (less than $2USD/day) at 2.7 billion.
    - 'extreme poverty' (less than $2USD/day) at 1.1 billion.

    Taking the mid-point for each range to calculate the cost to lift all out of 'moderate poverty':
    - 1.1 billion people from $0.50 to $2 (1.1 billion x 1.5) = $1.65 billion
    - 1.6 billion people (2.7-1-1) from $1.50 to $2 (1.6 billion x 0.5) = $0.8 billion
    - Total required : $2.45 billion a day, $0.895 billion a year

    The CIA factbook puts the 2005 GDP of the EU at $13.31 Trillion, or $36.44 Billion a day
    There are 365.25 days in a year, making the total amount we'd need to pay 13.3 trillion, 6.7% of GDP from every EU country to fighting poverty.

    Just thought they were interesting numbers!

    Regarding your new list... they are starting to sound like a politician without any real manifesto... all good things, but with no clear end-point or way of measuring them. To me, a good story needs something concrete, a firm outcome.

    Gerbera - your list sounds great to me! Where do I sign up? I'm not sure about how important numbers 5 and 6 are when compared to 1-4.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    "To me, a good story needs something concrete, a firm outcome"

    EXACTLY. This means realistic, affordable, specified timescales, achievable, SMART.

    Interesting numbers indeed. Last time I checked India refused outside aid, I doubt that China would accept that level of investment in its people. I don't think this is a numbers game particularly, more of a political one. How does the EU (even if we were willing to spend 6.7% GDP) pursuade China/India/anywhere else to allow us to spend that money on its poor people?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince, sure numbers 1 - 4 are the "big" issues but I think for the citizens numbers 5 and 6 are also important. Maybe #6 is only supportive for #2 because media can and should be used to continue one's education. And higher living standards are important as well, especially for countries like Romania ...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Making EU a "green" role model would be an excellent story.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    jm,

    "Green" is good but we need to consider knock on effects. "Green" means more taxation (petrol, airlines, etc), it means higher manufacturing costs (thereby reducing exports), it means that we must impose "Greenness" on imports, so that means fewer imports (we don't want bananas travelling around the world) and more expensive imports (because foreign manufacturing costs have had to rise), it means less trade with developing countries (because of the travel involved in imports from Asia etc) and so developing countries grow more slowly, so their populations remain in poverty for longer OR it means that as the US, Asia etc isn't green then those areas happily trade with each other as they are doing now but they don't trade with the EU. I think that "Green" needs to be done at a global level not a regional one as manufacturing cost (for example) would rise everywhere and no-one would lose competitiveness.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Good point, GaryLondon.
    Everything has do be seen from an economic point of view ... That's the diifculty. I don't know much about economics so I ask the forum: How could being "green" be balanced with still being a powerful economy?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Gerbera, I wonder if you are right. What you say is certainly the case for US policy, however it is not a goal of the EU to emulate the US. It is undeniable that many good things to do can weaken the economy. This is true for social policy just as much as environmental policy. Were we to adopt a US model of employment "at will" it would almost certainly spur economic growth. If we cut back on employer side national insurance (or equivalent) and funded it by switching to purely private healthcare, it would probably do the same.

    It is always easy to do things for the benefit of the economy, and always hard to do things to the detriment of it. As an example, consider the lack of universal social provision and labour protection in the US which successive governments have been unable and unwilling to remedy. It would be much easier for EU countries to strip these things away than it would be for the US to add them.

    Returning again to the topic of the environment and being green, such decisions must not be seen in terms of the economy but in terms of the benefits it brings which extend beyond the economy. Is it not better to lead by example and start to reduce our dependence upon environmentally unfriendly products?

    Here are ways in which the economic penalty of green policy can be reduced:

    1. Applying the same restrictions to imports as to domestic produce (i.e. both domestic and imported aluminium must contain at least 15% recycled metal)
    This provides an advantage to domestic firms for whom a large portion of their output is destined for the domestic market as the added cost can be averaged over the bulk of their output. Foreign firms will find it costly to produce specific output destined for the EU, and will either choose not to do so or impose significant premiums for those products. This will lead to increased domestic turnover and a reduction of imports.

    2. Appropriate channeling of the proceeds from additional taxation
    'Green' taxes such as those on fuels and flights (alluded to by GaryLondon, above) do not have to dent the economy if the proceeds are appropriately channeled back into the economy in other ways. In some cases this could mean direct funding of 'greener' options, for example, subsidies on domestic train and bus travel funded by automobile fuel taxation. Likewise, ships still remain much more fuel efficient, in most cases, than flights. I see no reason why additional taxation upon aviation fuel could not be used to subsidise sea travel. Taking a week to cross the Atlantic is no hardship with modern passenger shipping, especially with the availability of satellite internet and telephone lines - the only hardship is the significantly higher cost.

    3. Improving our awareness of the 'green-ness' of produce
    Something as simple as a labelling change could do wonders for improving the direct choices made by consumers. A traffic light system (Red - this product has travelled a long way and is available from closer sources, Amber - this product has travelled a long distance but is not available closer, Green - this product is locally sourced). In that way products such as apples from half-way around the world which are sold at the same time as the domestic apple harvest will be clearly marked as red - i.e. bad for the environment. When apples are imported but there is no domestic harvest at that time, they will be marked orange - i.e. bad for the environment but the best you'll get if you really want apples. Such measures entice consumers to pay a small premium, or even choose less-shiny products, reducing the national reliance upon imports, boosting domestic spending, and helping the environment.

    4. Reflecting additional cost of production in import tariffs
    If 'green' legislation adds 20% to the cost of producing a given item, then an import tariff increase of 20% for countries or companies unwilling to adopt similar 'green' measures will avoid market distortion and reduce the disincentive for exporting nations to switch to 'green' methods.

    5. Looking in both directions
    It is meaningless to avoid buying produce from half-way around the world if we still sell our produce half-way around the world. 'Green' taxes on cargo shipping and air freight need to be applied in both directions, both for planes and ships leaving here and those arriving here. An appropriate exemption would be to waive taxes where the cargo or a similar cargo cannot be sourced nearer to the destination.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I think your third point is very good, Such a labelling-system would help a lot.
    But to your 5th point: Aren't the exports too important to the EU-economy? I mean, when we put taxes on cargo shipping etc, the exports would problably be limited ...
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera - in general I agree with you re the 5th point. I''m not sure what vince meant by "produce" though. Applied to agriculture, it's a totally different story. Subsidizing global exports of agricultural products is HUGELY inefficient, anti-ecological and morally obscene. For example, subsidized European chicken meat is being exported to western Africa where it is sold cheaper than local chicken (!) and is taking livelihood from local farmers. It's not clear to me why the affected countries don't apply prohibitive anti-dumping duties against such exports. Notwithstanding that, the EU should not even attempt to engage in such predatory trade practises against the weakest countries in the world. Politicians and voters who support the CAP are moral MONSTERS and have absolutely no right to profane the word "values" by letting it out of their mouths.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    My 5th point is fairly important. Productivity is slow to adapt to a changing market. If we start charing 'green taxes' on imports and we don't also make exports less financially attractive then we will end up with a mismatch of supply and demand for those commodities. If export costs increase it becomes more attractive to sell within and market to the domestic arena.

    Don't forget that even if exports are not taxed as per my suggestion (point 5) they will eventually become taxed through the 'green taxes' at the destination countries. This is then just a measure to ensure stability during the transition, and to ensure that the rate of adoption of 'green taxes' across the world is not allowed to distort our market.