Not signed in (Sign In)

Vanilla 1.1.5a is a product of Lussumo. More Information: Documentation, Community Support.

    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    IMHO the public debate on shared European "values", which is so popular among certain politicians and EU institutions, is the wrong debate.

    In my view, there are no common values, whether European or national. There are shared practicalities at the national level but those are sadly lacking at the EU level. By that I mean, for example, the ability to find work in other member states without a permit, the ability to offer one's services in other states, common military defense, commonly used language (English), compatible legal systems and beaurocracies, cross-border access to universal health care and public education, affordable cross-border train tickets, you name it. So long as none of these exist, all theories about a united "Europe" remain nothing but theories, regardless of how many constitutional documents are drafted and how many proclamations on shared values are made.

    It seems to me that whenever there is a "danger" of such common practicalities making their way, voters in most member states see that as a "crisis", whether it's Polish plumbers in France, Slovak students in the Czech Republic, French-speaking residents in the Flanders or French corporations in Italy. So do Europeans really want a united Europe or do they just want to talk about it? That is the question of the day.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    > So do Europeans really want a united Europe or do they just want to talk about it?
    I've not lived in any EU country other than the UK but I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of people in Britain would rather have their internal organs roasted on a barbecue whilst still attached than have a united Europe. Mostly, we talk about how much time and money we are wasting on the whole EU experiment. I'd personally drop all links with the EU without a moment's thought were I in a position to do so.

    Looking at the economic performance of European countries over the last 500 years gives you a very different picture of who you want to link yourself economically with. For many EU countries, the long term economic descriptor can only be 'rampant inflation'. If your friend continually ran up massive debts, would you willingly start a joint account with him?

    Then turn your eyes to the military history - over more than a thousand years, EU countries have proved themselves to be the most unfriendly and warlike countries going. There have been many periods of relative peace over the last 2000 years, just like there appears to be now, but it has never lasted more than a 100 years. However, the fact cannot be denied, that EU the countries which make up the EU seem to be inherently violent and hostile. A big group of violent and hostile countries working together sounds like a gang who won't hesitate to turn on anyone who upsets them. Ask any teacher what happens when all the school bullies start hanging out together.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    If Europeans don't want a united Europe, they should openly say it and the EU should be dismantled, otherwise it's a collossal waste. In my view, the result will be an assortment of weak and laughable countries but it's probably still better than what the EU represents today.

    However, my impression has been that a lot of politicians are advocating a united Europe and at least some of their voters (employees or businesses) support that. And to those politicians and voters I would like to address my comment. If Angela Merkel wants to have a functioning EU, she should not focus so much on the constitutional framework but should try to make things work in practise (e.g. by allowing the free movement of employees and by maintaining closer relationship with EU's new member states than with Russia in areas such as energy and defense policy).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu,

    "If Europeans don't want a united Europe, they should openly say it ", every time there is an election the UK Independence Party, the only UK party to state that it wants withdrawal from the EU, gets a minority vote. The British complain about the EU because complaining is what we do. We complain about the weather too but that doesn't mean we don't want any weather.

    I would like to see those "shared practicalities" in place too. If we have the premise that closer EU integration is good for the EU member states, and your "shared practicalities" are examples of closer integration, then the question becomes how do we explain that to the EU voters in such a way that they are willing to give up some of their nationlist independence for some supranational interdependence. Covey does quite a good job showing that interdependence is a more mature state than independence (which is in turn more mature than dependence).

    The "shared values" and "Europeanised education" strands help us to identify areas where we can say "look they are not that much different from us" and get the next generations to understand that.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    It is not helpful to talk about shared values if there are almost no "shared practicalities". That is called hypocrisy and no one believes it. If there is so much resistance from EU voters against "shared practicalities", does that not show that they and their politicians just do not want a functioning integrated EU?

    And "shared practicalities" do not always involve giving up national sovereignty.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu,

    Talking about things is always helpful, the opposite is called repression. We do not live in a world were only one subject can be discussed at a time. You think shared practicalities are important. Well done. You have expressed your views. Others think that shared values are more important. I think that there might be a "chicken and egg" argument going on here. You think practicalities come before values, others think that values come before practicalities. The end-state should be one where both shared values and shared practicalities allow the EU to function better for its people (and people elsewhere).

    There isn't so much resistance from EU voters, that is why all anti-EU parties are minority parties.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon - I think this is a misunderstanding. I am not trying to repress any discussion. I think discussion is good and that's why I contributed.

    Nevertheless, I think that everyone involved needs to realize that the EU needs to start delivering results very soon or else it risks becoming irrelevant and wasteful. I don't agree with your proposition that there isn't much resistance from EU voters. It's true that most voters are not forcibly calling for the EU to be dismantled but at the same time they forcibly oppose any measures that could make the EU deliver any practical benefits. Sure, the voters don't mind the four liberties of free movement. They are also willing to discuss European values at considerable lengths. But whenever a situation arises when someone actually wants to take advantage of those liberties on any practically significant scale, you hear calls about an iminent "crisis" and how these "excesses" need to be stemmed. Similarly, EU's legislation is not functioning properly because it's a concoction of most impractical compromises that one could possibly imagine.

    Now, I call that hypocrisy and I'm afraid that with this attitude the EU will never work. I think it's very important for these issues to be pointed out at this crossroads in EU's integration. When the EU dissolves (which I think is a realistic possibility with voters' and politicians' current prevailing attitudes), you shouldn't blame me, you should blame those who were not against the EU, just didn't want to accept any measures that could make the EU actually workable and useful at a practical level.

    I agree that we have something of a chicken and egg situation but at the same time I believe that the current unacceptable situation cannot be allowed to last forever. The costs of a botched integration simply have to be capped somewhere if there's no political will to make the EU work. This should be clearly explained to the public and I feel that the debate on Europe's common values (which as I explained in my first contribution do not really exist in my view) is really just a dangerous distraction from reality.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu - I agree with you entirely when you say "everyone involved needs to realize that the EU needs to start delivering results very soon or else it risks becoming irrelevant and wasteful".

    To me, the EU has already gone too far without providing real and solid results. If the decision makers at the EU were the management of a company, the board of directors and shareholders would have had them thrown out years ago. We want some bloody good changes and we want them now. When will the EU stop pussy-footing around with politics and do something truly worthwhile?

    We need to forget about what the EU is, because quite frankly, the people who have to actually live in the EU don't like it. We need to have an EU which stands up for the rights of the individual person and not just moans about them. We need an EU which will make the very basic requirements for life into legal entitlements. We need and EU which will state that every single living person within the EU has the right to free healthcare, education and to have sufficient funds to escape poverty. And we need the EU to do it now.

    Perhaps then the EU can call a referendum across all the countries of the EU and simply ask "Do you still want the EU?". All countries who say yes then buy into the EU at the level of a citizen, all those who say No should be free to leave the EU. Only then will the browbeaten european actually support and believe in the EU.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince - I mostly agree with you. At the same time, we have to be realistic - EU surely can't do what has never been achieved in any country in the world, such as universal access to state-of-the-art health care and education completely for free. But I do agree that achieving a health-care and education system which is affordable, is of a decent quality and is universally accessible to all people living in the EU including their family members would be a reasonable standard.

    I personally would give the EU another chance, but it's very important that this comes with some serious warnings and specific deadlines by which specific actions have to occur if the EU is to remain a meaningful project. It is essential to make it clear to everyone that those voters and policians who are insisting on intra-state barriers and protectionist policies are destroying the EU - and then it's up to them to make their choice.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    > vince - I mostly agree with you. At the same time, we have to be realistic - EU surely can't do what has never been achieved in any country in the world, such as universal access to state-of-the-art health care and education completely for free.

    I'm sorry, but have you been to any of the nordic countries? At least in Sweden all education is completely free (and there is a student load almost without interest for living expenses), and health-care is very cheap. In fact, all citizens on this planet are welcome to study at any university in Sweden as far as I know.
    It IS possible for the entire EU, maybe not today, but it is a goal we have to strive for.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    zaph - is it really true that education in Scandinavian countries is free and is accessible to all students from anywhere in the EU? And what's the popular opinion on that? As an illustration, below is an article that sums up some of the restrictions that are in place or about to be introduced (source: Dagens Nyheter, 8/8/2006)

    "Swedish media reacts against Sweden “free-riding” on Danish medical education.
    For several years now the Swedish Agricultural Agency has reported a shortage of veterinary students in Sweden. This shortage has partly been filled by returning Swedish students from other Nordic countries. During this autumn, 180 veterinary students are accepted in Denmark, half of which are Swedish. The situation is almost the same for medical students in Denmark, were 1 out of 4 are Swedish.
    This will probably change according to Helge Sander, the Danish minister of Science. During August he will propose a new rule for non-Danish citizens to enter Danish educations. A similar problem has occurred between Austria and Switzerland, where 75% of Austria’s educational positions now are reserved to Austrians.
    The Swedish Ministry of Education, Research and Culture denies that there is a deliberate shortage of Swedish educational positions within these areas. No matter how these educational statistics originate, it is not surprising if Denmark accepts the limitation suggested by Helge Sander. The final solution is not Danish quotation however, instead Sweden needs to increase the number of students within these areas or at least fund the education in Denmark undertaken by Swedes."
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Oh yes, it is true that all students from any country are free to submit an application to any Swedish university. No tuition fees exist but in order to get a residence permit one has to show funding equal to the Swedish study loan. There is an ongoing discussion about tuition fees, though. The universities have realized that there is money to be made and it is considered to be unfair that the Swedish tax-payers should sponsor non-Swedish (= not living in Sweden) students. So, it is very likely that foreign students will have to pay tuition fees in the future. The Swedish student organizations are against this proposition. They fear that it is the first step towards charging the domestic students as well.

    Yes, Denmark has started limiting the number of Swedish students entering some of their programs. The reason for it, I believe, is that the requirements have been somewhat lower to the Swedish than the Danish students.

    It is also very easy for Nordic citizens to study in another Nordic country. For example, no residence permit is needed, one just has to register at the local tax office. And, it is relatively uncomplicated to apply for higher education in another Nordic country by using highschool grades from your home country. After all, we aren't that much different from each other.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    With reference to the Swedish education situation, the easiest thing for the EU to do to resolve such problems would be to oblige the country of which the student is a citizen to pay for the costs of education. This would stop Denmark complaining about Swedish students, and Sweden complaining about foreign students. As it is the duty of the country to pay for the education of its citizens, and as the country won't have to pay for that person to go to university in the country itself, I cannot see why any country could possibly object to this.

    If a French student wants to study in Oxford, it's only fair that the French government pays Oxford the costs involved.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    "If a French student wants to study in Oxford, it's only fair that the French government pays Oxford the costs involved."

    I thought you wanted free, universal education for all Europeans. For that to happen in reality it would need to be centrally funded. Is your French/Oxford view a temporary stop gap on the way to universal provision?

    BTW, the UK university system loves foreign students (especially non-EU) as they charge them much more than British students for the same course.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I really don't mind where the payment comes from, so long as it's not the students. From the perspective of countries and citizens, I would suggest a country funding the education of her citizens, wherever that happens, would be a sensible way forward. If Italy invests heavily in quality undergraduate teaching then it is only right that they will benefit from funds from other EU member countries when their students apply for the improved quality courses. If it is centrally funded then the direct economical benefits of investing in high quality educational provision is reduced.

    That being said - central funding doesn't seem like a major problem for me, so long as we do not have the situation where the central fund-holders are the ones who decide where students can study and in what numbers. I'd not want to see them funding places in each country on a quota-basis.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    In my view, enabling all students residing in the EU to study in any member states without any quotas or other restrictions would be a major benefit or "shared practicality" of the EU. The only problem with that is that it's not current reality and it doesn't seem to have political support (as the above discussion demonstrates).

    The discussion on funding university studies (European-wide vs. inter-governmental vs. private vs. private with generous public-sector scholarships) is a separate discussion which doesn't have much to do with the EU. From the point of view of the European debate, what counts is that there is no unwarranted discrimination among students from different member states (i.e. all students residing in the EU should have access to education (not just university-level but also secondary and primary) on equal tersm, possibly subject only to moderate financial advantages granted to students meeting a reasonable length-of-residency criterion in the relevant member state, e.g. one year).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Well, the discussion on the original question has sidetracked into issues of common education which we have not really resolved either. But coming back to the original question, can we really dismiss it as a chicken-and-egg problem? I mean, I don't really know what more can be done that can instill "common values" into people. I don't feel like I or other people I know are some kind of monsters that need to be lectured on how it's not nice to eat, kill or rob other people. I also have a fair amount of information on other European countries and I follow international press to get balanced coverage.

    Isn't the reason for EU's low approval ratings the fact that the EU has a double standard - preaching something but then doing something altogether different. Isn't the real problem that voters truly don't want the EU but are afraid to express this preference openly? And if voters are in favor of the EU, isn't it time for EU to start focusing on providing value to its people and businesses, as opposed to discussing values or constitutional framework or showing off the art of political intrigue? One has to see the connection here, each protectionist gesture of any member state has a direct impact on the prospects for EU's viability - and this should be communicated and expressed clearly and a direct link should be made between those who are in favor of intra-EU protectionism and those who want to prevent the EU from functioning properly.