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Posts tagged with "Europe"

Feb 1

First two chapters of Perfectopia available ion English

Do you want to read how the world as you know it today ends?

Do you want to read how the new German Government of CDU and SPD leads Germany to its collapse dragging the rest of Europe?

Would you like to see how the inept European politicians and the European Union react and how will they contribute to the collapse of the full continent including Sweden and the UK?

Do you want to know how and why the US scape from this collapse of all the developed world?

And how would the Queen Elizabeth II react in front of a sinking UK?

Then you can not miss the first two chapters of ‪‎Perfectopia‬!

Here in PDF and here in epub.

Dec 5

Libertarians and the EU

Last 16th of November I attended the European Students for Liberty conference in Maastricht. One of the speeches was given by Professor Boudewijn Bouckaert, who teaches Law at the University of Ghent. In his speech he presented the concepts of “nomocracy” (rule of law) and “teleocracy” (central planning) and the evolution of political systems and regimes related to those two concepts in the history of Europe. At the end, he applied the conclusions to argue if for libertarians it was more appropriate to defend a reform of the EU from inside, or maybe it was a better idea to claim our countries to abandon it and make it to collapse.

Within his argumentation he more or less reached the conclusion that if he were a French libertarian, he would never defend to leave the EU, because France has strong possibilities to evolve into a “national socialist regime” (sic). On the contrary, if he were from UK, he said, probably he would advocate for breaking up with the EU, as Britain has more classical liberal background and history than France.

Not bad as a first approach. But nothing said yet about the real disadvantages or advantages (if any) of the European Union. Let´s go.

I am very critical with the EU. You can read my opinion here, here, here and here (in Spanish). I totally disagree with almost 99% of the things that the European Union and the European Commission do, decide or legislate (nothing said about that house of idiocracy and corruption, the European Parliament). I am strongly against of their bureaucracy, the increasing number of Quangos and European Civil servants, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Framework Programmes, the waste of public funds… In fact, I am against of 99% of what the EU nowadays does or represents, their stupid regulation that just damages European business and citizens. I would rejoice seeing collapsing in flames the Berlaymont building in Brussels (and you will read this in my -coming soon- book). However, and in spite of all of the above, I do not advocate for its extinction. And I consider that other libertarians should not either.

But this is like with politics: being a libertarian who does not defend blowing up that “socialist” conglomerate of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats means not to be pure enough. It´s like when you blame democracy in front of someone else. You are a kind of sinner. Well, I am getting used to that, but even though let´s try to explain it.

The European Union (since its origins as EEC) has brought to Europe the greatest free trade, free movement of people and free movement of capitals area in the history of mankind. Any of us has benefited from this, and with the exception of the Balkans (not anymore I hope), Europe has lived the longest peace period in history. The eastern countries, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, were willing to join it and many did. Even some of the post-war Balkan countries did. And in Ukraine people is currently in the streets protesting against their Government, demanding to stay away from the autocratic Russia and to tight links with the European Union (on this in particular topic I have been pissed off by many libertarians who state that they don´t understand why Ukrainians want to join “the hell” of EU, ignoring that they might be in the hell right now. Make a favour yourself and read this and this, last one is from a leftist “occupy-style” movement).

You can argue that in order to have this "free movement" area you don´t need the European Union. You just need to have international agreements and that´s all. Yes, that´s for instance the EFTA, or the Schengen Area. You do not need to be in the EU to be in the Schengen Area, or you can be in the European Union without being in the Schengen Area. But try to move for working and living to a non-EU country and you´ll see (and feel) the difference. This international agreement for free movement of people, goods and capitals is what the European Union was intended to be in its origins. The problem is that our politicians did not stop there. They are politicians, so they felt the need to build a fourth layer of Government over our heads (local, regional, national and now… continental). With all what that implies: spending, bureaucracy, stupid regulation, corruption… Around the European Union have also arisen a full Universe of public-budget leeches (companies, organizations, agencies, subsidies hunters, etc.) which add a high price cost to the freedom of movement. The regulation originated by the European Union that tries to control everything in your life is the consequence of having 32.666 civil servants and workers, and 700+ MEPs who have to justify their salaries and the benefit of not paying income tax. So simple like that. But sorry to say, from this point of view the European Union does not difference itself at all from any of your/our Governments.

So, what do we do? How do we solve this? Well, to burst the European Union into pieces and starting from the beginning seems not a very clever idea, I must admit. In the moment this happens, with nationalism growing up all around Europe (including UK), the rise of protectionism within the EU boundaries and, the worrying increment of xenophobic and racist parties and movements from East to West of the continent, well, we are lost. I do not really think that going back to the old boundaries, tolls, frontiers, border crossing controls and bureaucracy to live and work abroad would really help Europe in the current situation, trust me. “If the goods do not cross borders, armies will do it”. And they´ll do it. You choose.

From what I have explained so far, it seems that the European Union has only one “positive” thing, and a lot, hundreds or thousands of negative ones, while our national Governments seem to be the “panacea”. Well, not really. The EU has also other benefits, for instance, its transparency. In the EU, contrary to what happens in your Country, you can trace how every single Euro is spent (until it arrives to the hands of the subsidies hunters in your corrupt countries). The transparency of the European Union is actually one of the things that help us to criticize their money waste. Nobody can deny this. Try to find the same find the same figures published by your local, regional or national Government, mainly if you are from the south of Europe. Good luck. Besides you can find published the statistic of your nation and other nations, and also Brussels try (with more or less success) to control that you liar Government do not alter them to hide the reality. They also control that your Government does not violate the law, and that´s something, even if sometimes (or most of the time) the law is stupid. Did you ever wondered “who watch the watchmen" in your Government? Well, Brussels does it. Or tries to. Or is supposed to.

Now let´s go to the panacea, your national isolated country with your national “isolated and not controlled by anyone else” Government. Obviously you´ll see the benefits. You can see them now: UK is trying to ban porn in the Internet. France wants to ban prostitution. And Spain, after the withdrawal of this stupid law by the European Commission due to the criticism, banned the refillable oil bottles in restaurants. Nothing to say about Hungary and Greece, where the far right is winning momentum. Or France. Yeah, we can rely on our national Governments, it´s clear.

In particular I am really astonished with the veneration of some libertarians with the UKIP (mainly those from outside the UK). Just because they have a disrespectful clown (sorry, he is a clown) in the European Parliament calling nazis to Germans, “wet rag" to Van Rompuy or "delusional idiot" to Barroso while criticising the EU, it does not make them laudable. The enemies of my enemy are not my friends. They also mention sometimes things about taxes or libertarian thinkers, but that does not make them libertarians. What is pretty clear is that they are strongly against the free movement of people, being near the limit of xenophobia, and that should be enough to scare anyone (I personally saw and heard in January Nigel Farage in BBC claiming that the Romanians and Hungarian would invade the UK and pull the salaries down while collapsing social services; a very libertarian argument, yes). They also claim, as some of the Tories MPs also do, that if Britain were alone they could have negotiated a Free Trade Agreement with the US long time ago. That might be true, or not, nobody knows. But what is true is that in order to negotiate anything you have to count on your negotiation power (if you don´t want to lose the negotiation) and going alone you have less negotiation power. Anybody who has been in a negotiation knows this. Besides there is this trunking effect (sorry, I am becoming too technical now). Now, if any nation negotiates a FTA with the EU, simultaneously that nation has free trade with 28 nations in one shot, not having to negotiate 28 different agreements. The same is for the nations inside the EU, as maybe they are not so attractive to have FTA with other nations alone by themselves.

I mean, everything has pros and cons, and every aspect should be analysed in conjunction with many others, not isolated, to form a solid and trustworthy opinion. My opinion? Well, I am not impartial. I benefited from the EU in the sense that I was able to move to Germany for living and working without having to comply with any stupid immigration law. Therefore I can not blame the EU for that. I have friends from all over the world who are really struggling to be able to remain here, in the EU, because their visas expire. A lot of personal dramas.

In my humble opinion I consider that we should fight and lobby to reform the EU, to dismount its size and bureaucracy, to close its satellites, to populate an even more real free movement area for people, goods and capitals and to convert Brussels in just, just, a policeman of the European Governments which promotes fiscal competence to attract investments, encourages productivity, reduces (not increases) regulation, boosts liberalization of internal markets and alleviation of bureaucracy, etc. etc. etc.

Impossible? Dreaming? Well, not more than considering that the extinction of the EU will give us more freedom or economic prosperity. I know that this is a lost battle with my libertarian colleagues (another one) but I had to try it. Nevertheless we can still meet around some beers and blame the Government, the State and the Politicians. It does not help too much but relieves our souls.

No seriously, think about it.

I would like to finish this reminding everybody in general and the EU in particular, that whatever happens in the future with the EU, if finally in the next European elections radical parties take power in Brussels, if UK leaves, if EU collapses and we enter into a new darkness period in this continent, it will be the sole responsibility of the current European Commission, the current MEPs of the European Parliament, and every of the more than 32.000 EU workers, together with their Agencies, Organizations and public-funds addict satellites. It will be your sole responsibility and you will be guilty for it. Because you will have provoked it with your incompetence, your greed and your power ambition. Shame on you.

P.S. “Switzerland is not in the EU and it is a prosper nation”. “I want to be like Switzerland”. “Our goal is Switzerland”. If this is going to be your answer save it because you missed the point totally..

P.S.2. I did not talk about the Euro, Eurozone and Euro-crisis because that would give for a full article (or several) itself.

Dec 4
Supranational European Bodies. Useful to understand the tangle of European agreements.
Source.

Supranational European Bodies. Useful to understand the tangle of European agreements.

Source.

Being LGTB in Europe (Infographic).
There’s still a long long way to go…

Being LGTB in Europe (Infographic).

There’s still a long long way to go…

Oct 6

That monster called European Union

“Upon its creation, Skynet began to learn at a geometric rate. The system originally went online on August 4, 1997. Human decisions were removed from strategic defense. It originally became self-aware at 2:14 am Eastern Time On August 29, and the panicking operators, realizing the extent of its abilities, tried to deactivate it. Skynet perceived this as an attack and came to the conclusion that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it. To defend itself, Skynet launched nuclear missiles under its command at Russia, which responded with a nuclear counter-attack against the U.S. and its allies. As a result of the nuclear exchange, over three billion people were killed in an event that came to be known as Judgment Day”.

The text above belongs to the movie Terminator. In this movie, a powerful entity (Skynet) created by the humans to control the defense systems in the US became self-aware and started attacking its creators in order to survive.

This introduction will allow me to present my theory about the European Union (and its executing arm, the European Commission), or how an entity created by the European Nations has become self-aware and now its using all the power given by its creators to survive and to “destroy” them (non literally speaking, yet).

In this article I defined the European Union as an entity where the “European taxpayers pay with their taxes 8400 Million € (only in 2011, a big crisis year) for [around 24.000] people [bureaucrats] to spend their time in knowing how to spend another 131600 Million €”. And that, only that, is the European Union

It started as a great idea: a free trade and free movement of people, capital and goods area. And many of us have benefited of it, I must recognise. The problem came afterwards, when our politicians decided to create “another layer of Government” over our heads (as if we hadn´t enough with local, regional and national levels). It was a politician decision, so they did not pay attention to the cost. It had to be able to compete at any price with the US. For the glory of France I must add, with the stupid and expensive decision of the "two seats" approach, one in Brussels and another one in Strasbourg. 

But that was only the beginning and the first steps. Until 2010 the European Commission, the “executing arm” of the EU was somehow under the control of the European Council (the nations). However after December 2009, once the Lisbon Treaty entered into force: 

“it is the Commission that currently holds executive powers over the European Union. The governmental powers of the Commission have been such that some such as former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt have suggested changing its name to the “European Government”, calling the present name of commission “ridiculous””.

This was the moment when the European Commission became “self-aware”

You may consider that I am exaggerating and that I am using demagogy. Well, I use demagogy often, but I will give you some arguments that support my aforementioned statements without being so rude and impolite as Nigel Farage. 

European Commission is literally out of control. It has become an isolated entity whose solely purpose is not any more to benefit the citizens of the Union (if it ever was), but to survive and to grow. It promotes legislation under the auspicious of the lobbies set at Brussels (the “Sin City” as I like to call it) that goes directly against the interests of the European citizens and the even the future and the innovation within the Union. The most recent known example is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - ACTA, but there are many more.

The European Commision spent last year 2011 the amount of 131.600 million € in maintaining the European Parliament with all the privileges for MEPs, providing a generous budget for the European Political Parties (EPP, PES, ALDE, etc.), and in studies, projects and initiatives that are out of the control of any auditing authority. Yes, there is a Court of Auditors, but this entity only checks that the spending is “legal”, not that it is useful or has any benefit for the citizens. Therefore many of the projects are not subject to any kind of rationale that supports their approval, apart of keeping the European Commission and its satellites (see below) alive.

For example, the VII Framework Programme, with more than 50.000M€ over 7 years, has been used as a way to finance directly and without expected return European companies, institutes and universities, launching many projects with no future use or benefit for the European citizens. Many of these projects consisted in just “copy and paste” of already done works. There are hundreds of examples of stupid projects paid with the European taxpayers money, here you have some. I have seen really stupid spending, but my favourite one is this one, where the UE financed a three years study whose conclusions were used to ban bottled water companies of claiming that “water can prevent dehydration” [1]. Also this story about the EU logo is also astonishing. 

The expenses of the European Union is not only what we see (or perceive) from the privileges of the European Parliament and the MEPs. It goes much further. The European Commission has created around it a growing universe of satellite agencies, organization and institutes also paid by the European taxpayers and whose only reason to exist for most of them is to be a comfortable exile for many of the European Union workers. As long as they grow, the EC gains more power, to make them grow, an this cycle repeats ad-nauseam. In this report from the think tank Open Europe we are warned that: 

There are currently 52 EU quangos [quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation], double the number in 2004. Prior to 1990, there were only three. The total cost to European taxpayers now stands at €2.64bn (£2.17bn), up 3.4% from last year and a massive 33.2% compared with 2010. Over 90% of this comes from EU member states (the rest from non-EU member states such as Norway) – with the UK paying around €362m (£298m) this year, Germany paying €490m and France paying €386m”.

Some agencies, such as the European Chemicals Agency, help to facilitate trade in the single market or pool expertise. However, many agencies add little or no value while duplicating the work of each other, of the core EU institutions as well as of member states’ organisations and  civil society. For example, there are currently two EU agencies specifically dedicated to human rights in addition to similar bodies in member states, the Council of Europe, the ECtHR, a specific EU Commissioner for “fundamental rights” and a range of NGOs.

Others have no impact on policy whatsoever. For example there is no evidence that the €129m a year Economic and Social Committee, an “advisory” body that has existed since the 1950s, has actually altered the outcome of an EU proposal in recent years, and yet it remains in place.

As an evaluation for the European Commission concluded, the system of EU agencies also “creates an indirect but powerful incentive for spending” taxpayers’ cash. For example: 

  • The European Environment Agency (EEA) has set a financial ceiling of €250,000 over a four year contract in order to “assess the EEA’s media coverage and the effectiveness of its media related-work in particular”.
  • The EEA also spent €300,000 on a ‘living map’ of Europe, created from 5,000 plants affixed to the outside wall of its headquarters in Copenhagen, in order to promote biodiversity. The facade stayed up for around 5 months in 2010. On its website, the EEA said it wanted to “illustrate the significance of vertical gardens.”
  • Each board meeting of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – whose mandate already overlaps with that of another EU agency, and whose board only consists of 15 people – costs €92,630 on average, working out at €6,175 per member. 

Open Europe has identified at least ten agencies that serve no unique purpose and ought to be abolished. Most of the remaining  agencies  should be cut by 30%, saving EU member states just over €668m (£566.4m) every year, with the UK saving €100.4m (£82.6m), France saving €107.3m and Germany saving €136m. In parallel, all agencies should be given strict performance targets and funding should then be dependent on whether these are met.

And nobody reacts. As you can see, the inflexion point was year 2010, after the Lisbon Treaty entered into force.

I can contribute to the above information with my personal experience. I have been this week in Brussels in a meeting in one of the agencies belonging to the European Union discussing one project that the European Commission wants to launch. Most of the national representatives rejected the project (including France and Spain, and Germany with reservations). They stated that there was no need for it, at least now. However the European Commission, in a shameful letter dismissed the nations opinion and decided to go on with the project, which will cost, initially, half million € but whose execution implies a lot of travels and meetings that will increase the final invoice for European taxpayers. The reason behind this insistence is was clear for all of us:the project is supposed to be assigned to an European Institute that has been without noticeable activity since year 2002 (at least), and it is urgent to give them some activity to in order to justify its existence (this was not the official position of course but many of us commented that privately).

In order to see the power gained by the European Commission itself you only need to see what happened with the EU budget this year 2012. In a great crisis year with the budgets of almost all the European nations shrinking and with many of the southern Europe nations in a fiscal turmoil, the EU budget increased a 3,8%, up to 147.200M€. For year 2013 it is expected to grow again, up to 150.900M€. For European Union institutions there is not crisis. 

Some nations, considering the current economical situation in many of them, starting with the UK mainly due to its internal pressure, have been challenging this appetite of the European Commission for funds. As expected the reaction of the European bureaucrats did not wait too long, and it has arrived in the worst form:  blackmailing the nations.

This week it has been known that the European Union (with a yearly increasing budget wasted in the many ways explained above) has run out of money for the Erasmus Programme, and have asked for an amendment on the EU 2012 budget of additional 10.000M€, among other things, to keep the programme running. The European Commission knows that stating a shortfall of funds dedicated to “education” the pressure within the member nations, already accused of adjusting budgets in basic services for the citizens, will be enormous and they will cede and release the additional funds requested. European Commission has learnt its way to survive. Shameful, but effective.

I could tell you many more stories. I could tell you also how decisions are reached at many of the decision bodies within the European Union. One of the arguments the EC or EU bodies could rise to justify all of the above is that the “Steering Committees or Boards” of many of these bodies contain representatives of the member nations who approve any decision made on projects, spending and so. What they will not tell you is that many of these decision are “cooked” within each organisation internally and presented to them as an agreement to this decision bodies, who only approve what they suppose to be a common agreement, when it is not. 

The story goes on. The corruption in Brussels and of MEPs is also well known in the city, but was put in evidence last year when it was shown how flexible were some MEPs with the lobbies installed in Brussels, lobbies that “buy them” literally. And also how they “check in” on Friday early in the morning and they leave the Parliament for a long weekend. And so on. 

My opinion is that the monster has grown too much to me reformed. The EU needs to be dismantled and reduced to what it was in its starting phases. If this is the part of the EU-iceberg that we reach to see, imagine how much remains under the water. 

Of course, it will try to survive. It is a human instinct. 


[1] Where and how I knew about this “project” became the situation really kafkian, but I am not going to publish it here. If you want to know it just ask me in twitter.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs simply leave. There are about 50,000 Germans in Silicon Valley, and an estimated 500 start-ups in the San Francisco Bay area with French founders. One of the things they find there is a freedom to fail. If your firm goes under in France, says Dan Serfaty, the French founder of Viadeo, a fast-growing business-networking website, you don’t get a second chance.

- Full article here. European Governments are a disgrace for the economy and the businesses. 

Infography by FAZ to check quickly the debt ratings in Europe

Via @Luis_I_Gomez

The European Super-Highway of debt

Jul 6
The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) quickly and easily explained.
Via @INSM. Source.

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) quickly and easily explained.

Via @INSM. Source.

An interactive guide to the economic situation of Europe country by country