View Full Version : Tony Blair, EU President
Jun 26, 2005, 05:56 PM
In what can only be described as an ill-timed event, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to take over the reins of the EU presidency on July 1st. After the collapse of the last summit, along with the future of the EU constitution in serious doubt, Blair takes on the presidency as the least likely head of government to build a consensus on future of the Union. Here is what the outgoing President has to say about Blair.
Juncker in blistering attack on Blair
23.06.2005 - 07:57 CET | By Honor Mahony
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Outgoing president of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker launched a blistering attack on the British prime minister laying the blame squarely at Tony Blair’s door for last week’s summit failure.
In an hour-long account to MEPs on Wednesday (22 June), Mr Juncker accused Mr Blair of using false arguments about the scale of farming subsidies and being misleading about the presidency’s proposals to try and forge a deal.
The Luxembourg leader said he had not tried to scrap the annual British rebate, over which the summit eventually collapsed.
"It is not true that the presidency wanted to kill the British cheque. We wanted to maintain it unchanged for the 15 old member states but give it greater solidarity with the new member states".
In an indirect reference to Mr Blair who will address the parliament on Thursday morning, Mr Juncker then said "I am telling you this because no one else will and because you are likely to hear other explanations in the future".
He went on to indicate that London had scuppered a deal by insisting that a review of the budget policy concentrate solely on reform of the farm subsidies saying that such a proposal was "impossible because it was unacceptable to other member states".
Mr Juncker also rejected Mr Blair’s assertions that seven times more is being spent on farm subsidies than on research and development.
"The CAP is the only real community policy entirely financed by the EU budget. Research is essentially a national budget, supported by the European budget. You cannot compare the two", he said.
He added that combined EU and national level money for research spending would bring the total to 525bn euros, well over the 305bn euros earmarked for agriculture from 2007-2013.
Mr Juncker’s words, for which he got a standing ovation by MEPs, bring to a head an extraordinary few days of sniping between London on the one side and Paris, Berlin and Luxembourg on the other.
Normally EU presidency handovers are dull affairs with the outgoing and incoming presidencies uttering smiling platitudes about what the one has achieved and what the other is expected to achieve.
But aside from attacking Mr Blair before his presidency has begun, Mr Juncker is also not going to be present at the British leader’s presidency debut speech to parliament - another breach of the way things are normally done in the EU.
For his part, Mr Blair will need all his energy and political skill to bring MEPs around to his way of thinking.
Many believe that all London wants from the bloc is a convenient free-trade zone and will be out to make life difficult for the UK prime minister when he takes over the EU helm on 1 July.
However British press report that Mr Blair, far from being cowed by the debate he has sparked, is invigorated believing he can lead Europe ahead on its modernising path.
EU Observer (http://www.euobserver.com/?sid=9&aid=19401)
Jun 26, 2005, 08:03 PM
In what can only be described as an ill-timed event, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is scheduled to take over the reins of the EU presidency on July 1st. After the collapse of the last summit, along with the future of the EU constitution in serious doubt, Blair takes on the presidency as the least likely head of government to build a consensus on future of the Union. Here is what the outgoing President has to say about Blair.Of course the Luxembourgeois are swimming in a sea of EU money, and they don't have a meaningful voice in any other forum. Blair's got as good a chance as anybody of re-establishing some sort of consensus.
Jun 26, 2005, 08:35 PM
Of course the Luxembourgeois are swimming in a sea of EU money, and they don't have a meaningful voice in any other forum.
As opposed to the British and their rebate? I thought the idea was for EU monies to help countries and industries to modernize and integrate? What's Blair excuse for scuttling the EU budget talks based on maintaining a rebate that is plainly unconscionable?
Blair's got as good a chance as anybody of re-establishing some sort of consensus.
And George Bush has as good a chance of leading the next socialist revolution as anyone, right?. Com'n, skunk, the only consensus Blair can lead is if he persuades the rest of the EU to give up on their founding vision and adopt the least common denominator of a trading bloc, devoid of any progressive future. Maggie Thatcher should be proud of him. Not what one would think the leader of the once proud Labour Party should be doing.
Jun 26, 2005, 09:22 PM
As opposed to the British and their rebate?Still the second-largest net contributor.
I thought the idea was for EU monies to help countries and industries to modernize and integrate?Not what the French seem to think. Apparently it's to keep the price of food artificially high and prevent poorer countries from messing up the market.
What's Blair excuse for scuttling the EU budget talks based on maintaining a rebate that is plainly unconscionable?No more unconscionable than it was when introduced. It takes two to scuttle.
And George Bush has as good a chance of leading the next socialist revolution as anyone, right?. Com'n, skunk, the only consensus Blair can lead is if he persuades the rest of the EU to give up on their founding vision and adopt the least common denominator of a trading bloc, devoid of any progressive future. Maggie Thatcher should be proud of him. Not what one would think the leader of the once proud Labour Party should be doing.Let's not get too misty-eyed about "founding visions" here: the ECSC, as it began, was a means for France to assert its rather questionable postwar moral superiority on the back of occupied Germany's industrial muscle. Italy was only too glad to be included, and Benelux came along for the ride. It's a grand experiment, to be sure, and clearly still a "work in progress", but when it comes down to it, "It's the Economy, Stupid!" None of the so-called powerhouses of the EU are doing very well at the moment, and there comes a point where raising taxes is like flogging a dead horse.
FYI: from The Independent (paid sub only, so I've pasted it).
Bitter harvest: How EU sugar subsidies devastate Africa
By Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent
22 June 2005
One is an English aristocrat worth £35m with 9,000 acres and an 18th century manor house; the other earns less than £300 a year cutting sugar cane for 12 hours a day in rural Mozambique to support his parents and four brothers.
The link between the two, and the reason why one has continued to increase his wealth while the other faces losing what he has, is the £1.34bn a year EU sugar regime. Aid agencies are calling for reform of a system that costs some of the poorest countries millions of pounds each year in lost trade.
The European Commission is to publish proposals today on how it intends to reform EU sugar subsidies, after a ruling by the World Trade Organisation earlier this year that the regime was illegal.
But campaigners such as Oxfam say the proposals will not go far enough and will continue to benefit some of the richest farmers in the world at the expense of the poorest. Critics of the system, including the National Farmers' Union, say the system of inflated price guarantees, generous export refunds and high import tariffs surrounding sugar production is the most graphic example of how the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) distorts trade and makes it impossible for African farmers to compete on the international stage.
Michael Bailey, a senior policy advisor at Oxfam, said: 'The EU has been caught red-handed providing illegal subsidies to its sugar producers. European sugar policies top the list of trade injustices suffered by Africa and reform is desperately urgent.
"Consumers and taxpayers are financing a system which denies African countries the chance to grow out of poverty, while lining the pockets of the European sugar industry."
Nowhere are the iniquities of more apparent than when it comes to the lives of John Fellowes and Inacio Albano.
John Fellowes, the fourth Lord de Ramsey, receives more than £500,000 a year in CAP subsidies for various crops grown on his three farms in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.
In addition, a minimum pricing system run by the CAP guarantees that sugar made from his beet is bought for at least three times more than world prices.
Thousands of miles away, Inacio Albano, 25, cuts sugar cane until his hands bleed at a mill in Marremeo, north-east Mozambique but is just thankful to have a job in a country where more than two-thirds of the population live on less than £1 a day.
Mozambique is heavily dependent on its sugar industry, but loses more than £20m a year - equivalent to its entire national budget for agriculture and rural development - because of the trade distortions caused by the EU sugar scheme.
Landowners in some of the richest parts of Europe, including 7,500 in eastern England, grow sugar beet under quotas set by the European Union but managed by companies such as British Sugar, part of Associated British Foods.
For sugar grown within the quotas, a minimum price of €631 (£423) per ton has been set by the EU, below which it cannot be bought by companies that use it for food products or sell it in bags.
The guaranteed price within the EU is three times higher than the world price of €157 per ton.
Oxfam estimates the price system gives the 27 largest sugar beet farmers in the UK an average of £137,595 a year in support.
Production costs of sugar cane in countries such as Mozambique are far lower than in Europe, but they are prevented from importing their products to the EU and benefiting from the higher prices by import tariffs and duties charged on their products.
The import duties create a tariff equivalent to 324 per cent on sugar grown outside the EU.
The EU does allow some Least Developed Countries (LDCs) such as Mozambique to import sugar to Europe without incurring the tariffs, but the quantities are severely limited.
If that were not enough distortion, some of the world's poorest countries have to contend with EU export subsidies that leave them at even more of a loss.
Processors and traders who export EU-quota sugar outside the continent are compensated for the gap between domestic and world prices by €525 per ton. That means every euro in export sales generated by sugar costs the EU €3.3 in subsidies.
Tate and Lyle, the sugar company whose pre-tax profits rose by 12 per cent to £255m last year, was paid £120m in export refunds in 2003 alone. Five million tons of EU sugar is dumped on the world market every year, suppressing the international price while the European price remains at a guaranteed high.
Leaked reports of the European Commission proposals suggest they focus on cutting the minimum price guarantee by as much as 40 per cent over two years but do not address the issue of export refunds.
That would have the worst impact on many of the LDC farmers who do export some of their sugar to the EU, while not unduly affecting the richest farmers and businesses.
Lord de Ramsey, British landowner: £500,000 from CAP adds to £34m family fortune
John Fellowes, the fourth Lord de Ramsey, lives in an 18th-century manor house among 7,000 acres of prime farmland in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire worth £34m.
His family have been draining and farming the fens since the middle of the 17th century, and have grown rich off the land.
Like his father, he has been president of the Country Landowners' Association and was also head of the Environment Agency, an appointment made by his friend John Major when he was Prime Minister.
Lord de Ramsey was the recipient of more than £500,000 from the Common Agriculture Policy in 2003-2004, in subsidies for the crops grown on the two farms he owns and another in which he has a half share.
He also benefits substantially from the EU sugar regime, which guarantees the price of sugar beet that he grows on his land, and prevents cheaper imports from outside the member states.
Inancio Albano, Mozambican cane-cutter: 'Things are difficult, but I am glad to have a job'
Inancio Albano, 25, considers himself one of the lucky ones in the area of north-east Mozambique where he lives, despite leaving school at 14 to work long days cutting sugar cane to support his parents and four younger brothers.
While the work is hard and he earns less than £300 a year, he says that at least he has a job.
Across the river from his town of Marrameo is Luabo, where the sugar mill isderelict. It closed during the civil war, and while people in Luabo are desperate for it to reopen and provide jobs, it remains closed, partly because of the EU sugar regime. Despite having higher yields and lower production costs, Mozambique cannot sell its sugar within the EU because of the huge import duties imposed on most of its products.
It is also disadvantaged because EU companies are given generous export refunds, allowing them to dump more than five million tons of sugar outside its borders each year.
* £1.34bn: amount EU pays in sugar subsidies every year
* £120m: amount paid to Tate and Lyle in export refunds in 2003-04
* 300 per cent: subsidy paid on EU sugar (it spends €3.3 on every euro of sugar it exports)
* €64: amount every household in the EU pays a year to support the sugar regime
* Two-thirds: number of people in Mozambique living on less than $2 a day
* 1.8 million: number of people in Mozambique with HIV and Aids
* 38: life expectancy in Mozambique
* 20,000: number of jobs that could be created in Mozambique if sugar trade distortions were scrapped
Jun 26, 2005, 09:54 PM
Economically, UK is making the mainlanders look like 3rd world chumps. Like all the "know it alls" few will listen, not because of the msg, because of the messenger. That logic makes them look worse than, but they won't figure that out either.
Jun 27, 2005, 12:14 AM
skunk, I'm not against revisiting the effect of EU or US subsidies on other nations, but I don't believe for an instant the cause of poor farmers in Mozambique or anywhere else was behind the British stance at the last summit. The UK government's stand there showed just how little chance Blair has in leading the EU out of its present crises.
If Blair's idea of leadership is that everyone else must accept his vision of the EU, complete with his neo-liberal economic strategies, then he hasn't a clue about what it will take to bring others along with him. His stance seems more effective as a means of alienating others and creating divisions than it does in bringing about unity in a time of crises. One could almost believe he sees a divided Europe as a good thing. However, then he would be playing to conservative sympathies in both the UK and in the US - something the good Labour leader would never do, right?
As to the rebate, I think you're right. It was wrong when it was adopted and is wrong now. Maggie forced the concession back then and she was wrong. Blair is standing against every other nation in the EU in demanding the UK maintain the rebate and he is wrong now. Does that mean the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) shouldn't be revised? I don't think so, but by tying the two together Blair assured a disaster on the budget. Something, that right after the collapse of the Constitutional effort, the EU could ill afford. Maggie Thatcher or the UKIP could not have done a more effective job of sabotage.
Just in case others might think it is only the Luxembourgeois, or the French and Germans, who rejected Blair's tactics and vision, here is an interesting article on Deutsche Welle's website which includes the thoughts of the Austrian Chancellor and others.
The failure to agree on a budget has exposed differences over the EU's future. Britain, which has been blamed for the crisis, cannot force its path on others, said Austria's Schüssel, who inherits the presidency in 2006.
Following the collapse of the European Union summit over a bitter budget dispute, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel took British Prime Minister Tony Blair to task for putting national interests above those of the 25-member bloc. Britain, which insisted on retaining its five-billion euro rebate despite opposition from the other 24 member states, has been widely criticized for torpedoing the 2007-2013 budget compromise.
Speaking in an interview with Germany's public broadcaster ARD, Schüssel acknowledged that Britain was not the only country to veto the proposed budget. But Blair's stubborn refusal to yield on the issue of Britain's paybacks unless changes were made to extensive – and in his opinion overly inflated – agricultural subsidies has set a negative precedent for future negotiations in which each member state thinks only of itself. Schüssel, whose country takes over the rotating EU presidency on Jan. 1, 2006, following Britain's stint during the second half of 2005, warned that London cannot continue to "force its path on others." Otherwise, there is a real danger that each member state will only fight for itself, and the concept of a united Europe will be left on the wayside.
"It's certainly the question of the concept. The British want a different Europe. They want more a market-oriented Europe, a large market, but no deeper union," Schüssel told ARD....(more)
Deutsche Welle (http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,1564,1620830,00.html) emphasis added
Let's not get too misty-eyed about "founding visions" here: the ECSC, as it began, was a means for France to assert its rather questionable postwar moral superiority on the back of occupied Germany's industrial muscle.
While I maybe misty-eyed when I look back at the ideals that came out of the defeat of Germany in World War II, I also acknowledge the hard-edged realities that came out of that time as well. France asserting its unquestionable moral superiority over a Germany still dominated by those with far-right sympathies was not a mistake. Much of the stability of Europe over the last half century was owed to the strategies laid down then, through the ECSC and other "misty-eyed" organizations. I don't think one has to apologize for or denigrate those ideals.