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Oct 052009

So the Irish have voted and agreed to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. In addition President Kaczyñski of Poland has promised to sign, maybe even this week. The reality is that the future of the Union then lies in the hand of one single man and not a very nice one at that. The tactics of President Klaus of the Czech Republic clearly are to delay his signature until after a conservative election victory in England, perhaps in April next year. A resounding “no” in a British referendum is of course a foregone conclusion.

This is of course an absurd situation. The new Treaty will, albeit to a limited extent, prevent some abuses of the veto power. That would at last be a step in the right direction.

Remains, however the problem of England. England has already opted out of central  parts of the new Treaty. Conservative sources have indicated that a new government will do everything in its power to “repatriate powers” from Brussels to London, particularly in the fields of social and employment legislation, home affairs and justice.

This will, however, not be achieved without difficulty since every change must be approved by all member states which the British may counter by hijacking other cooperation measures through a veto. England would practically withdraw from Continue reading »

Jan 262009

MEPs, mainly the Socialist fraction, have responded angrily to the Commission’s rejection of the EP report on challenges to collective agreements in the EU. The MEPs had requested legislative action as a response to a number of recent rulings by the European Court of Justice, seen to threaten to system of collective agreements and the rights of trade unions to protect workers from other member countries when working in another country. (For a summary of those cases see link list at the site of the European Trade Union Conference.)

This issue has taken on a great significance in Sweden since one of the first cases related to an Latvian firm working in Sweden (“The Laval case or the Vaxholm case.”). The Parliament rapporteur on the issue was Swedish MEP Jan Andersson, chairman of the Employment Committee.

In a press release from PSE one of the group’s vice presidents is quoted Continue reading »

May 052008

In our previous posting we reported on the rather gloomy outlook of Swedish researchers on the possibility of fundemental reform of the way the EU budget is financed.  The present post will review a contribution to the Budget Review from the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies where researcher Sándor Richter not only reviews the development of the infamous net financial positions as well as the various reform proposals that have been tabled but also presents a radical proposal of his own. In contrast to the attitudes displayed in the surveys undertaken by Swedish Sieps, Richter neither joins those who pretend that the problem will go away of its own nor those who, shrugging their shoulders accept the impossibility of changing the attitudes of the member states.

The study “Facing the Monster of ‘Fair Return’” starts by a review of the actual development of the “net positions” over the period 1997 - 2006. The so called major net payers (Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Austria) achieved a relief in their negative net position as of 2002 through an ad hoc decision that they only would have to pay 25 % of their share of financing the budget shortfall caused by the British Budget Rebate. Whereas this led only to minor positive adjustments for the Netherlands and Germany, Sweden and above all Austria could enjoy substantial reductions in their deficits: the net position of Sweden improved from -0.40 % of GNI in 2001 to -0.28 % in 2006 and that of Austria went from -o.21 to -0.12 % of GNI over the same period. Since the budget shortfalls created by these adjustments had to be covered by other member states, the net positions of Denmark, France, Finland and Italy deteriorated correspondingly. The British net position, which amazingly was positive in 2001 fell to -0.11 % of GNI in 2006. Continue reading »

Apr 162008

In the previous post we presented 5 recent studies by the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies. In this posting we will have a closer look at document 2008:02 The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Positions of Member States.

The study basically consists of two parts, the first one based on a survey with responses from 167 experts, decision makers and business persons in 23 Member States, the other on country papers, reviewing more or less official positions of 8 member states.

The authors are, of course, very well aware of the lack of representativity and other statistical fallacies of the sample survey. Nevertheless, some very interesting information can be gleaned from the results.

To start with, dissatisfaction was great with present System of Own Resources (the way in which the EU budget is financed). Transparency, autonomy, fairness and efficiency were rated as poor – only “sufficiency” received a somewhat higher rating. The expenditure structure was rated even more harshly.

Interestingly enough, more than 20 % of the respondents would prefer a considerably larger EU budget than 1.5 % of the GNI (the present ceiling is 1.24 % – the actual budgets are as a rule lower than 1 %). Figures in a range of 2 to 15 (!) % Continue reading »

Apr 142008

The Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (SIEPS) two days ago published no less than 5 different studies as a contribution to the ongoing EU budget review. It is a truly European undertaking with contributions by experts from several countries. The project leader was Mr. Jonas Eriksson, M.Sc.Econ. of SIEPS.

SIEPS has the good sense to publish their reports on-line. Titles and links are given below and we will revert in the coming days to some of the studies, in particular, “The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Position of Member States“, a report which is based on a unique enquête of experts as well as country papers.

2008:01 The Purse of the European Union: Setting Priorities for the Future.

2008:02 The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Positions of Member States

2008:03 Can Reforming Own Resources Foster Policy Quality?

2008:04 Turning the EU Budget into an Instrument to Support the Fight against Climate Change.

2008:2epa A Better Budget for Europe: Economically Efficient,
Politically Realistic

(Full disclosure: Your blogger has worked with SIEPS latest with the study From Policy Takers to Policy Makers.)

Apr 032008

Today’s ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen has already led to strong reactions in Sweden and Denmark. The Chair of the EP:s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Mr. Jan Andersson, calls the ruling (SW) “unfortunate” and “a deafeat for Europe’s wage earners.” Swedish MEP Åsa Westlund (SW) calls the ruling a   “set-back for the Swedish model” and argues that it is wrong in principle that the Court makes political decisions. According to Europa-Nytt, (SW) Swedish and Danish Trade Union representatives find the ruling unwelcome but are of the opinion that it will not affect the situation in Denmark or Sweden.  Predictably, the Swedish Employers Association welcomes the Court’s ruling.

The ruling of the Court (EN) can be read here. An angry reaction from the European Trade Union Confederation (EN) calls the ruling “destructive and damaging.” A quick analysis of the consequences from a Swedish point of view is given by Europa-Nytt (SW).

It would be a daring undertaking to summarize the ruling in a few words but, as far as we understand, the main point is that Trade Unions can only demand that workers from other member states are paid according to the national minimum wage or a national collective agreement but not according to local conditions which may grant workers higher wages in a Continue reading »

Mar 052008

A wave of new protectionism is sweeping through the Western World and through the EU. The failure of  globalization and unbridled competition to provide new jobs and increased welfare everywhere has slowly but certainly created a backlash. And the climate change debate will provide a perfect alibi and may even lead to an Ehrenrettung for the generally detested Common Agricultural Policy.

Economists question time-honored truths

There has been no lack of theoretical backing also from the most liberal of quarters. Already in 2004 Paul Samuelsson published a paper, in true academic style  called “Where Ricardo and Mill Rebut and Confirm Arguments of Mainstream Economists Against Globalization.” His paper (not on-line) was summarized the same year by Robert Kuttner in the Boston Globe under the heading Rethinking Free Trade.

“Free trade is not always a win-win situation,” Samuelson concludes. It is particularly a problem, he says, in a world where large countries with far lower wages, such as India and China, are increasingly able to make almost any product or offer almost any service performed in the United States.

If we trade freely with them, then the powerful drag of their far lower wages will begin dragging down our average wages. Our economy may still grow, he calculates, but at a lower rate than it otherwise would have.

In 2006 Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and the Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Jacques Sapir,  joined in. Stiglitz argued the case of the developing Continue reading »