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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    There is a strong reason for the EU, but it isn't any of the six goals. Every single goal listed by Timothy Garton Ash (freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity) can be met without an overarching body with extraordinary powers such as the EU. There isn't one item on that list which cannot be tackled by normal diplomatic cooperation between countries.

    The reason that the EU exists is to circumvent democracy and nothing else. Does anyone honestly think that all these new and often controversial laws could have been passed by a government in any country without that government being promptly ejected at the next election? Those who push the EU believe that they know better than the citizens of the countries they represent. Doesn't that seem rather arrogant?

    Perhaps the best evidence in support of this is that of the recent difficulty the EU is having over the constitution.

    What is the EU now working on? Ditching the constitution? No. They are looking for ways to get as much of the constitution into law without triggering a referendum. These safeguards which require a referendum are there for a very good reason - so that nobody can do this kind of thing without the agreement of the citizens themselves - what arrogance on the part of politicians to try to circumvent them.

    Consider this - had the constitution been passed - would the EU have held additional referendums every few years in case we wanted to remove it from law entirely? Would the EU have looked for ways to withdraw the constitution without having to hold a referendum?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    There is a programme being shown on British television at the moment where a police officer has an car accident and wakes up in the 1970s. I now know how he feels.

    "Does anyone honestly think that all these new and often controversial laws could have been passed by a government in any country without that government being promptly ejected at the next election?" I think that Hitler introduced some pretty controvertial laws, in a democratic country, and wasn't voted out. Mugabe does it all the time. Apartheid.

    Which political parties in Europe oppose membership of the EU? Only the fascist and communist ones.

    In the UK it has just been 300 years since the act of union that joined England and Scotland. Did the UK government hold referendums every few years to see if we wanted to break that union? No. Do the states of the US have referendums every few years? No. Do the members of the UN have referendums every few years? No. Is there anywhere in the world where the people are asked on a regular basis "Shall we carry on as we are?" No.

    You have entitled this strand "Benefits without the EU" but then you don't actually list any. What's the matter? You managed to think of a snazzy title but then couldn't think of any benefits?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    How can you (vincevincevince) say that peace can be ensured without the EU? The history of the last century shows exactly the opposite: two devastating world wars were initiated in Europe. And before that Europe wasn't exactly a peaceful region either. Sinde the creation of the EC / EU there has not been a war between the member countries.

    Preventing war was exactly the main aim of Jean Monet and Robert Schuman, the fathers of the EU. It was not, as you state, to circumvent democracy. It was to bring the countries together in a tight cooperation which would make them not only depend on each other but also benefit from each other.

    You can discuss whether the integration has gone too far, but you can not deny that the EU has succesfully reached its main goal: peace and prosperity in Europe.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I am fully on your side, SorenL.
    Peace is the most important value in my eyes. I am very happy that I can live in peace and have "a good life" without having to worry too much. I wouldn't want to change with my grandparents who were born in the late 1930s and had to grow up during WW2. I am from Germany and I could never imagine France as an enemy as it was all the time before the end of that war and the founding of the Community for Coal and Steel. The goal of that union was not to establish democracy but to ensure a prospering economy and that is still the main goal of the EU - just take a look at the Lisbon-strategy. I think that economic thing worked great, Ireland is a great example for that. This country might still have a weak economy if it wasn't for the EU.
    I do admit that the bureaucracy is really bad sometimes, I know that first hand as I work in Brussels right now. But the people in charge are working on that, they try to limit laws etc. Also the European constitution would help a lot - it tries to limit the bureaucracy and would make European law easier to understand. Right now we have the treaty of Rome and the Maastricht-treaty and other ones, with the constitution we would have one law. Also in my eyes the constitution would make the EU's institutes more effective - the parliament, the only citizen-elected institute, would have more rights. That is an important step on the way of finally accepting the EU.
    I hope that the German presidency will manage to bring the constitution back on the agenda.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    The benefits for those outside the EU are money and control over one's own laws . For those living in Britain the costs of EU membership in 2007 have been calculated to be £52.4 billion or £837 per person. Just think how far that money could go if it was spent on pensioners and hospitals rather than eurocrats .

    As for peace in Europe this has nothing to do with the EU, non-members such as Norway and Switzerland have had peace for longer than the EU has been in existence . If you believe that the EU is responsible for peace in Europe do you belive that the African union is responsible for the (lack of) peace in Africa ?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I would like to agree with SorenL above, one of the principal aims of the European Union is the safeguarding of peace within Europe. I suspect that many British people fail to understand how central this is to people on the continent, because they never suffered as the continent did in the last two Wars. Britain was never invaded (only by virtue of the Channel and nothing to do with our "Indomitable Will" or other such rubbish) and horrific as the Blitz was, the total number of people killed over its entire period is, I believe, less than died in Dresden in one night. As such, all too many British view the two Wars as mostly proof of the superiority of Britain over the Continent (who either colluded or were conquered) and fail to see its true horror.

    On a more general point, the Original Poster seems to think of the EU as a misleading plural noun. So, a pride of lions, a murder of crows and a Union of Europe are what we talk about, but really, according to the OP, the EU should be called a conspiracy of politicians (or is it the bureaucrats in Brussels who are conspiring, I am not sure). At least that is the only way I can understand the idea that the EU exists to circumvent the legitimate democratic processes of the member states. I suggest that such a view is highly suspect, after all, do we really want to believe that the EU intends to undermine the democratic process? At most, we might say that it might have that effect, but surely not that it intends that, for there seem to be no reasonable candidates who would want to so conspire and at the same time have the power to do so.

    As to promoting freedom, diversity, prosperity, law (one assumes the rule of law) and solidarity, well I suspect somehow that were it not for the carrot of membership dangling in front of the new member states, most of the ex-Eastern bloc countries would not have come as far as they have today. So the EU would seem to promote all of these values as well (let alone promoting them in the older members of Europe).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Viking, it is true that Norway and Switzerland have had peace for quite a long time but just look at France and Germany, the old enemies. As I said before, I am glad we have finally become "friends", although there are still a lot of prejudices on both sides. I don't think these (and other) countries would have such good relationships without the EU.
    Because of the African Union: I don't think you can actually compare it to the EU, it's too different in my eyes.
    And because of the money: I know that countries like Germany and Britain pay much but these are still strong economies and the help the other, poorer, countries a lot. We need a more European, not a national thinking.
    Oh, and when there's not enough money for hospitals, that's not a fault of the EU but a fault of the national parliament who did the household for this country.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    The problem with democracy is that it's impossible to reach a verdict which will appease everyone. It is still generally the pressing of the will of the majority onto the minority, or sometimes, that of the rich minority onto the poor majority. I doubt any country would achieve much if they were forced to stop at every step to appease every quarter, other than a high amount of freedom to sit around and not do much.

    The question is; what do the majority of Europeans want? Say all European countries vote to ratify the constitution, however, Estonia decides to hold a referendum over the issue and finds that 51% of the vote is against. Now the treaty is dead. Is it right that around 5 million people can halt the attempts of the rest of Europe? Not that I'm saying that this scenario would ever occur, but rather that it isn't representative of the overall view.

    You (vincevincevince) say that that perhaps the difficulty the EU is having over the constitution supports the view that people do not want to see it in place. I say, perhaps the current method of representing the views of the general populace isn't very efficient. You will always find people who will disagree on any issue. Could you try and reach agreement on any issue with the current framework? Only a few, tiny number things would ever find an overall agreement. Yes, gravity certainly IS a force. Indeed, the sky could, on occasion, be said to have a bluish hue. That's great.


    The problem is that the constitution represents a fairly large change in how things currently work, and we all know how people feel about change. And Europe is, by global standards, used to a high degree of freedom and debate. We're used to challenging every idea that comes our way, rather than blindly accepting what is passed our way. At least, we'd hope so.

    By pushing through a small number of peices of the constitution which can be accepted without issue or horrible overreactions, we become slightly closer to approaching a unified goal for the EU. It's a little sad, but I think it's the only way to advance in any direction, because at the moment all that seems to be happening is the blind fumbling for a purpose by hoping that, at some point, someone won't disagree over something.

    It would be ridiculous to suggest that repeated referendums be held for every law in place. We'd never leave the voting booths. I think it'd be better to allow countries to opt out if they choose, that way a country does not interfere with the streamlined operating of the EU and can observe the progress (if any occurs) and choose to join later if they wish.

    Please excuse my rambling comments, I'm new to this sort of debate and I'm just trying to be clear.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    As vincevincevince said in the first post peace, law, prosperity etc can be achieved without any need for the EU .
    This is how Canada , New Zealand , Norway , Switzerland , Singapore , Brazil and many more have been happily at peace for years . As for the money I might be happier with the cost if the money was going from rich countries to poorer ones but this is not always the case. Ireland and Luxembourg are the countries in the EU ( and more or less the world) that have the highest GDP per person but they are still net beneficiaries of EU handouts not net payers.
    As for individuals Prince Albert of Monaco pocketed €287,000 in EU subsidies ( ie EU taxpayers money) in just one year.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Of course it is possible to achieve these goals without the EU, but for the EU-countries, the foundig of the EU (or better EC) helped a lot to speed up that process of reaching the goals. And it made it a lot easier.

    The GDP is not the only value that says whether a country needs help or not. Germany pays the most but still gets at least some money back for the former GDR-states.
    Anyways, who gets the money will change with the next giving-period as the new members will now get most of the money. Former receivers will get less or nothing at all. That may be quite hard for these countries, but I think long-term it is better for Europe to help the poor countries so they can develop a prospering economy. This way countries can turn from receivers to givers. By the way, Luxemburg is counted as a paying country, too. They pay 87 Million € more than they get. (source: German Wikipedia).
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    [quote]You have entitled this strand "Benefits without the EU" but then you don't actually list any. What's the matter?[/quote]

    GaryLondon - My point was that all these six beneficial goals can be achieved without the EU. None of them require such a big and powerful body of this type.

    [quote]Do the members of the UN have referendums every few years? No. Is there anywhere in the world where the people are asked on a regular basis "Shall we carry on as we are?" No.[/quote]

    Too right too, I agree. It would be crazy if we had to keep repeating a referendum. That's why, in just the same way, when a referendum has been lost it must stay lost forever - no repeating or revising to ask "Shall we carry on as we are, or have you changed your mind?". If every lost referendum is repeated, and every won referendum is kept forever then the whole process of referendum becomes massively biased. Just as yes means yes, no must mean no.

    SørenL - for the answer to your question about how peace can be ensured without the EU - please refer to later posts, especially by Viking. Also, you cannot say that peace and prosperity was a result of the EU, that can never be proven. In addition - there are ongoing wars within the EU even today, and there are many people who are far less than prosperous.

    [quote]Also in my eyes the constitution would make the EU's institutes more effective - the parliament, the only citizen-elected institute, would have more rights.[/quote]

    gerbera - I have a perfectly good citizen-elected body, one which has done a fairly good job for a very long time (recent euro-blunders excluded). Why would I want to be represented somewhere where my vote is watered down by all the other countries in the EU? What is the advantage to me in having some farm hand in Romania's vote have just as much bearing over the laws I live under in the UK as my own? No thanks!

    Pedant - your point about the UK not having been conquered is fair, and I accept it. However, I must take issue with your point about the EU not circumventing legitimate democratic processes of the countries which have joined. To me it is plainly obvious that anything which means a decision taken somewhere else has more power than a decision taken by the government of a country is circumventing the democratic process of that country. Why does the EU need such power? Because they believe decisions taken far away in Brussels are somehow better than those taken in the country itself.

    gerbera - about France and Germany - if those two countries want to make a friendship club and avoid future war between themselves then good for them. There's no need for anyone else to join in.

    Mild - you make may very good points. I particularly appreciate your discussion of the way in which democracy works and its limitations. That is a much overlooked topic in political discussion, and something which needs a lot more attention. No system is perfect, everything can improve, and that goes for our democracies as well. I must object to your suggestion, if I understand you correctly, that representing the views of the general populace is somehow undesirable. Representing the views fo the general populace is the number one priority for every politician - that is the sole item on the job description and precisely why they are voted for and not just appointed.

    Another point you raise, Mild, is that it is better to allow countries to opt out. I agree. All those countries who voted no in the referendum should have been exempt from the constitution in full, and all other countries should have had it imposed with immediate effect. Those who want it should have it, those who don't want it should have their views respected.

    Finally - Viking. I agree with much of what you have said, in particular about the fact that the EU is not the only way to achieve peace. I personally feel that the EU is a rather selfish organisation which gives charity but only to friends. I'm sure that there are countries in Africa, Asia the Middle East and South America which would benefit greatly from EU membership - if these six goals are really what the EU is about then they should certainly be extended to all, regardless of physical geographical location.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera,I agree that things are likely to change in the next round of budget talks but I disagree with some of your other points . It is true that Germany pays the most in but it does not pay the most per head that honour goes to the Netherlands . As for Luxembourg you are firstly ignoring all the subsideis it has got over the years that more than counter balance the recent changes but also the fact that so manu EU institutions are in Luxembourg to its benefit.
    I appreciate you quoting a source of your figures as this is a good way of justifying your comments so it is only fair in retune that i justofy mine. As I am guessing you are German how about this site ?http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,348546,00.html
    More importantly I do not believe that susideis are necessary for a prospering economy . The fastest growing ecnomies are those of China and India with not an EU subsidy between them.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vincevincevince: "What is the advantage to me in having some farm hand in Romania's vote have just as much bearing over the laws I live under in the UK as my own? No thanks!"
    I think your advantage is that at least you do have some influence! Speaking for Germany, about 80% of all laws that pass the parliament (Bundestag) come from Brussels. I think it would be horrible if Germans had no influence at all. I agree that one vote does not count much, but at least it's something. How would you change the weight of the votes but still keep it fair for the smaller countries?
    As for Germany and France opening a peace-club: This was only an example and I think you know that. I could also have mentioned Britain and other countries.

    Viking: The Spiegel-article is interesting and I mostly agree with what is said (although it's a little outdated).
    China and India are not Europe. In my eyes the German "Wirtschaftswunder" of the 1950s and 60s was only possible with the help of the ECSC. Also the fast growth of the Irish economy after the joined the European Community to me is a sign of EU benefits.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vincevincevince, I am not aware of any wars between EU-countries? ("there are ongoing wars within the EU even today")
    Of course it is not possible to prove that EU has prevented war. Actually my point was also a bit opposite: You started the thread by stating that "Every single goal listed by Timothy Garton Ash (freedom, peace, law, prosperity, diversity and solidarity) can be met without an overarching body with extraordinary powers such as the EU." My point is that ensuring peace in Europe without an overarching body has not exactly been a success during history. Since the establishment of the EU there has not been a war between the member countries.

    I still maintain that the EU has brought prosperity to Europe, especially to countries like Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. These countries have seen a dramatic increase in living standards since their accession - to a large extent the result of active support from the EU.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Just to clarify the point raised by SørenL, I said that there are ongoing wars within the EU, not ongoing wars between EU-countries. From the UK one need go no further than Northern Ireland to see an ongoing war. The Basque separatists and the ever-recurring problems in Corsica are other good examples. Finally, don't forget wars in which at least one party is in the EU - such those taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan. Make no mistake, there is no peace in the EU today.

    gerbera - I think you may have misunderstood me complaining about my vote being worth the same as that of a Romanian farmhand. I'm complaining first because instead of being one in about 60 million I am now one in almost 500 million, and second because I don't think a Romanian farmhand should have any say in my life, and I don't think I should have any say in his. The one-size-fits-all idea of the EU is plain wrong - even the US has difficulty getting anything to work throughout the whole club and they've had a lot of practice.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Yes, I think I misunderstood you, sorry.
    "I don't think a Romanian farmhand should have any say in my life, and I don't think I should have any say in his."
    I could agree with you on that. The problem is, when the EU starts to seperate countries again when they make laws (like Poland and Czech do things together, BeNeLux do things together etc) would slow down everything even more.
    Also I think we need some laws that are the same for everybody - that makes it easier to work and live together, especially the free trade of goods, money and services needs common laws.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    As vincevincevince has already said all the goals of peace , prosperity etc are perfectly possible outside of the EU as Australia, Cananada , Singapore , Norway and Switzerland have demonstrated. The only countries wanting to join the EU today are the poorer ones who are willing to sacrifice the right to self-determine their own laws in return for large handouts of money . For the countries like the UK and Germany all we are doing is losing the right to decide our own laws and paying someone else for this privilege ! Worse as I have already indicated the money is not even going to deserving cases but to the like sof Prince Albert of Monaco and even the Queen of England. Furthermore the EU subsidies are distorting the market to such an extent that they are adversely affecting the income of the really poor people in the developing world see http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/trade/bp31_dumping.htm
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera, I think the point to which we agree is now clear, that whilst we (and I'm sure many others) have many of the same reservations about the EU, the question is whether those reservations outweigh the benefits we perceive from the EU. It wouldn't take many benefits for me to be happy to forget about some of my reservations, but they would have to be real benefits which I both see and I approve of. For example, if the EU provided income support for every man, woman and child across the EU so that no person will ever need to go hungry again, that would be a real benefit for which I would give up almost everything. Wiping out poverty in the EU would be a good first step in wiping it out worldwide.

    Perhaps that is the true story of the EU, that so many people work so hard for the EU and yet achieve nothing about which a story can be told. I love reading stories such as the establishment of the NHS, the spread of education for the masses and the eradication of small pox. I'd love to read the story of the EU if only it had half as good an ending!

    Choose your ending:
    a) "and nobody ever went hungry or couldn't afford a roof over their head in the whole of the EU ever again. The End."
    b) "and, for the first time in history, anyone, however rich or poor, could obtain top class free education and health care. The End."
    c) "and they didn't have any wars between themselves, French wine remained far too expensive in the UK, and they boosted intra-EU trade by almost 80%. The End."
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Reading this whole thread again a question came into my mind: Is there a way back? I mean, what would happen to a country that quits the Union? What would this mean to the Union?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera , You could argue this has already happened Greenland left the EU following a referendum in 1985 but I don't know whether you would consider it a separate country from Denmark. I think the real answer to your question is it depend on which country leaves . If it was a big net payer like Germany or the UK then the finances would be put under great strain but if it was as smaller country that was a net receiver then I don't think we would notice much difference. In the UK there is a political party (UKIP) which was formed with the aim of leaving the EU . They got 16.1% of the UK votes in the last EU elections so were the party that came in third place in the UK.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    In my opinion, Eire should have left once they'd cashed in!
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Talking about democratic methods of approving the EU constitution, it would appear to make much more sense to hold one pan-European referendum as opposed to the national referenda. Should the voters of any state not agree with the pan-european result, they could subsequently hold a national referendum on splitting from the EU. It doesn't make sense for a single state to block the constitutional process but at the same time it is not right to bypass voters altogether on such key issues.

    As regards the EU's role as guarantor of peace in Europe, I think the EU's performance in this respect is absolutely pitiful. Europe's security is currently guaranteed by the U.S. and/or by the NATO and there is absolutely no will in the EU to take any even moderately constructive steps towards finding unity on defense issues and taking responsibility for Europe's security.

    In my view, the biggest benefit of the EU is the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The only problem is that they don't function in practise. One could perhaps say that the benefit of breaking up the EU would be saving the costs of employing armies of useless beaurocrats (those in the EU and those in national governments who have to implement the EU's work product); on the other hand, the costs would be the loss of the imperfectly functioning single market. It's anyone's guess which one is higher, the costs or the benefits.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    "In my view, the biggest benefit of the EU is the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The only problem is that they don't function in practise."
    Can you explain why you think they don't function?

    "One could perhaps say that the benefit of breaking up the EU would be saving the costs of employing armies of useless beaurocrats."
    I don't think that all of those so-called "beaurocrats" are useless - and compared to any memberstates the EU doesn't really have very much of them!
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera:

    I. Can you explain why you think they don't function?

    1. free movement of people. Extensive restrictions are in place for new member states. Even notwithstanding that, not many people relocate within the old member states. Those that do get punished by discriminatory attitudes, unwarranted linguistic requiremens, burdensome national regulations (that the EU is doing nothing to alleviate) in the area of tax, health care, social security and other areas, and plain protectionism in a number of areas. Any larger stream of people to another member state is consistently portrayed as a threat or crisis rather than a benefit of EU's integration. The concept of EU citizenship is also still in its infancy (see, for example, the extremely limited/non-existent rights of non-EU spouses of EU nationals that they enjoy in other EU member states).

    2. free movement of services. Cross-border trade in services is lagging, partly due to continuing disparities between national business environments and partly due to regulatory and tax obstacles and protectionism. This has been plentifully illustrated by the debate over the services directive, which was reduced to a bland compromise unlikely to change the current situation. Any efforts to offer services in other member states are consistently portrayed as "social dumping" and unfair competition. Please note that services represent more than 2/3 of EU's business activity and, therefore, without free movement of services there can be no single market (regardless of the volume of hypermarket goods and goods of Chinese origin that gets transported accross EU's internal borders).

    3. public services constantly operate with a national bias. It is impossible/difficult to buy cross-border health care services, basic education etc. National monopolies persist in a number of areas, such as train and bus transportation or energy, which makes cross-border services impossible or disadvantageous to obtain in many areas. National beaurocracies are largely incompatible with each other.

    II. The above situation is despite the fact that 80% of national legislation actually represents attempts at implementing EU legislation (unfortunately, only attempts, discrepancies persist due to linguistic differences, differences in legal systems and due to vague wording of EU directives as a result of unreasonable compromises among member states).

    The logical question then is, what are these beaurocrats doing? They manage to produce 10,000s of pages of rules each year, which bring no tangible benefits and at the same time somehow manage to keep most national beaurocrats busy implementing them (mostly in highly defective and ambiguous fashion which, in turn, also keeps the national courts jammed).

    III. A wholly separate issue is the linguistic issue. The idea that most EU documents should get translated into all national languages is simply ludicrous. I'm afraid the EU can never function unless it manages to pick one official language (and in my view that should be English although I'm not a native English speaker).

    Look, I'm not against the EU as such, I think it's a great idea but its current implementation is deeply flawed and without a serious fix the EU is likely to collapse sooner or later (because no system can survive in the long term if it does not show any positive results), bringing upheaval and depression to Europe.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu: "not many people relocate within the old member states. Those that do get punished by discriminatory attitudes, unwarranted linguistic requiremens, burdensome national regulations (that the EU is doing nothing to alleviate) in the area of tax, health care, social security and other areas, and plain protectionism in a number of areas"
    I don't know how many peple actually do "relocate" but I know I did. I have not been discriminated and until now I did not have any bigger problems with health care etc. The language is also not a big issue. Here in Brussels most people speak French, I learned that at school, but forgot the most. Since I have started living here I was able to reactivate a lot of my French. Also I get along with English when I forgot the French words for what I want to say. To me it's not a problem to learn a new language - if I want to move to a country and live there, why not learn the language?! Lots of people do already speak English as a second language so I do not see the need for making English the official EU-language.

    "Any larger stream of people to another member state is consistently portrayed as a threat or crisis rather than a benefit of EU's integration"
    I have to agree with that, there's nothing to add. Sad but true.

    As for the positive sides of the EU - I think I have already written about them a lot so I don't want to repeat that now.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    gerbera - well, your experience may be different. But don't forget that Brussels (and Luxembourg) is not very typical, it's more like an articifical "greenhouse" for officials, diplomats and professionals who work or deal with the institutions. I'm afraid moving between other member states is still much more difficult than moving inside a member state (or moving from one U.S. state to another). Maybe that's the way it's meant to be (which I don't agree with) but in such case we should not be talking about EU integration and we should seriously consider reducing the size of EU's beaucroracy, the volume of its regulations and the scope of its powers.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    "not many people relocate within the old member states" I suggest you check out :
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5273356.stm
    Furthermore this 600,000 people mentioned does not include those who do not bother to register nor does it include those from the new member states who joined in January 2007.
    England has one of the highest population densities in Europe so these new residents are putting a massive strain on resources such as housing , transport and water.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Viking - by "within the old member states" I meant from an old member state to another member state. I myself have no intention of moving to England, knowing in what precarious situation my arrival in England could put the residents of England, taking into account the unbearable population density. To the contrary, you're welcome to move to Prague which has a lower population density.

    Britain and Ireland as a destination for people from Poland and the Baltic countries is the only notable exception (and the only notable benefit of the freedom of movement of people in the EU). And yet it is portrayed not as EU's achievement but as its failure. Doesn't this tell us that people in the EU really do NOT want the EU to bring any benefits?
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu, there are other examples of movement "within the old member states" as you put it, for example there are around 761,000 British people living in Spain. Clearly for those who wish to live in another country within the EU this freedom of movement will be seen as a benefit but those adversely affected by immigration may not see this as a benefit. Membership of the EU brings advantages and disadvantages the key question is whether you think the advantages out weigh the disadvantages.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Viking - below is an excerpt from a statistics on where British people residing abroad have moved. A look at it will tell you that the No. 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 destination is in the EU and only No. 2, 5 and 8 are in the EU. Considering that the EU is geographically much closer to the UK than other countries, that's a very poor showing. Doesn't that suggest that the EU is mostly irrelevant to Britons' emigration patterns?

    "Country name Resident Britons
    Australia 1,300,000
    Spain 761,000
    United States 678,000
    Canada 603,000
    Ireland 291,000
    New Zealand 215,000
    South Africa 212,000
    France 200,000"

    (source: BBC)
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu , I do not dispute your figures nor your opinion that the EU is "mostly irrelevant to Britons' emigration patterns" but I do not see how it is relevant to this thread which is 'Benefits without the EU'. The point I am trying to make is that under EU law all EU residents have the right to live and work in another EU country and in my opinion this is having an adverse affect on the UK which has large net immigration (both from the EU and outside the EU) . As you seem to live in Prague I will give another statistic to put things in perspective. The population of Prague is around 1.2 million , the population of foreign born people living in London (admitedly not all from EU) is > 2.2 million so London alone has a million more foreigners than the entire population of Prague. To me one of the ''Benefits without the EU' would be that Britain (and indeed other countries) would be allowed to choose their own immigration policy rather than having one forced upon them.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Viking - that makes sense then. Although, as you point out yourself, your "Benefits without the EU" would be limited because you would have the same "problem" (foreign immigrants) even if the EU didn't exist.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    oulematu,

    Another way to analyse your list of destinations for emigrating Britons would be:

    English-speaking destinations: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (total : 3 299 000)
    Non-English-speaking destinations: 2, 8 (total : 961 000)

    There is a common language debate on going (for some time now) on the education thread.

    I don't think that EU status or geographical proximity is an issue for the vast majority of emigrants.

    BTW, I have a father-in-law who emigrated to 2 and a sister who emigrated to 8, neither are EU fans, neither speak the language of the country they emigrated too
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I agree that language is very important and that EU status is not that important (which is a sad testimony to the benefits of the EU, isn't it?). I agree that one can't generalize, as your family's example shows.