Friday, June 24, 2005

Myths about the CAP

An excellent article by John Lichfield on CAP reform in the Independent today debunks various myths. Obviously the CAP needs further reform, but populist discourse usually obscures the following points:

EU farm prices are on average only 30 per cent above those in the world market.

Reform of a key flaw in the CAP – the fact that about 50% of the CAP payments go to 7% of recipients – was blocked by Britain, which has the biggest farms in the EU and thus opposed a move to set a ceiling on single farm payments.

Abolition of the CAP intervention prices would hurt many African and Caribbean farmers who depend on selling to Europe at CAP prices. It would probably also result in increased rainforest destruction for beef farming in Brazil.

Agriculture is the only area of public finance which has been transferred to the EU. The agriculture budget thus represents one half of 1% of European countries' GDP, compared to an average 40%+ of GDP taken by Governments.

France’s percentage receipt of CAP money is proportional to France’s share of European agricultural output.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Whaling in the Gobi Desert

Breaching Whale 

An article in the Independent today focusses on Japan's efforts to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission. The unsentimental Japanese love whalemeat, and have, over the years, bribed many poor countries to join the commission and vote for a reversal of the ban - including such famous sea-going nations as Mongolia and Mali.

Perhaps it's time that Western anger at Japan's policies found concrete expression? Which Japanese products are most susceptible to boycott? People aren't going to desist from buying a Sony DVD player, but they might choose not to buy a Vaio. Maybe somebody could draw up a list of Japanese products that come in the endangered species category? A few adds featuring a Vaio with a bucket of blood dumped all over it might prove effective. Cultural imperialism of the worse sort, of course, with added xenophobia. But then, the Japanese are threatening something many people believe is precious and irreplaceable.

I wouldn't be surprised if people in a 100 years time look back with horror at the way we treated whales, chimps and other mammals with very sophisticated communication systems. The loss to science of our ability to investigate variations of consciousness would in itself be a tragedy, if whales do employ a form of grammar, as has been hypothesised. Kantian deontology and utilitarianism both call for a more considered approach to whaling, but I'll take pure sentiment if it'll do the job.

French attitudes to CAP reform

As highlighted by Edward at A Fistful of Euros, French reaction to the recent EU budget débâcle has been much more nuanced than the hysteria in the British press. Reform of the CAP is seen as necessary in France, especially given that such a high percentage of subsidies goes to 5% of recipients - which rather undermines the argument that the purpose of the arrangement is to maintain a living countryside which is something more than a theme park.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Turkey, the US and the Middle East: spat or rift?

The New View of the US in Turkey?

In early March 2005 an announcement poster was displayed extensively throughout the streets of Istanbul as well as the lobbies and hallways of public buildings, inviting the public to a large scale anti-US demonstration, scheduled for March 19, 2005. The poster depicted the US as a giant octopus whose long tentacles strangled the globe. The signatories were the most prominent national organizations, trade and labor unions and professional associations of Turkey, each of them representing millions of members.
Signatories (at the bottom of the poster) were:
TURK-IS: Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions
HAK-IS: Confederation of True Trade Unions of Turkey (Islamic)
DISK: Confederation ofProgressive Trade Unions of Turkey (Leftist)
KESK: Confederation of Public Service Employees' Trade Unions
TMMOB: The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects
The Union of Turkish Dentists
Turkish Pharmacists Association
Turkish Medical Society
The Union of Turkish Veterinarians
TURMOB: Union of Chambers of Certified Public Accountants of Turkey
Istanbul Bar Association

The poster read:

This is drawn from an interesting article on the subject, from a Turkish-American viewpoint, here. I've noticed this drift in Turkish foreign policy towards laying greater stress on Islamic ties with the Arab or Iranian Middle East before. Is it significant?

Unlike Rice's recent pronouncement of how the US sees US-Greek relations, it's more than one government sounding a diplomatic klaxon at another by cosying up to an unfriendly third party. It seems to express a growing feeling in Turkish society of solidarity with the Ummah , and the AKP may view this trend in popular sentiment on foreign policy issues with a benign eye for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, there's the whole issue of the AKP's relationship with those of its own senior army officers who see guaranteeing Turkish secularism as their duty - and their right. The Turkish National Security Council must have been horrified when, against their party's instructions, one third of AKP deputies voted with the opposition Republican People’s Party to prevent US forces transiting through Turkey to attack Iraq.

From the NSC's point of view, Turkey should have participated in such an attack, to secure an armed presence in Kurdish areas. The AKP has strenuously tried to reassure a furious Washington that it has no intention of loosening ties with the US, but posters like the one above do not only appeal to secularist DSP supporters. The AKP's own constituency is becoming increasingly hard to satisfy; yet this mood in the country makes it easier for them to pursue a domestic agenda that may not suit the military guardians of Attaturk's legacy.

One could even speculate that the AKP may be using EU pressure for democratisation as a way of de-instututionalizing the Army's role in politics. While the EU can still use accession as a bait with which to lure Turkey towards the sort of society in which markets can operate properly, there's no reason to believe that the AKP hasn't worked out long ago that the bait is in fact unattainable. EU membership is a popular prospect in Turkey, but if and when Merkel kills the talks and it becomes clear that full accession is not going to happen, the mood in Turkey may well allow the AKP greater latitude. It's never been clear how genuinely the party is committed to secularism.

Secondly, the desire to prevent an economically viable Kurdistan emerging within a loose Iraqi confederation is a major factor in Turkish-US relations. Although the Kurds are eager to shelter under the American wing, it is unlikely that the US will allow them to destabilise borders - and may even push their leaders into taking a hard stance against the PKK in Turkey, which is defined as a terrorist organisation by the State Department. However, if things go to the bad in Iraq, if a constitution cannot be agreed or if Sunni-Shia rivalry becomes fiercer, the Kurds could prove useful proxies, protecting oil-supplies for instance. They are certainly making efforts to present themselves as acceptable secular and pro-American allies. There has even been a spate of statements 'condemning anti-semitism' in Kurdish material recently.

As always, one key question is whether the Kurds can achieve the sort of unity required to serve their own ends effectively, let alone anyone else's. William Eagleton's appointment as Bremer's assistant indicates that the US is at least trying to work from adequate background information. It's not just Kurdish carpets that Eagleton's an expert on.

In such a situation, one can imagine the AKP and the NSC both wishing to intervene in Iraq, but this time against US wishes. Better relations with fellow Muslims in Arab states and Iran would make taking that kind of action easier.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Dual-Nationality in Greece

I've just read an article illustrating the convoluted processes by which succesive Greek Governments have sought to achieve a definition of who is, is not and could be a Greek citizen. Although it's not mentioned in the article, the modern Greek conceptualisation is reminscent of Herodotus' old definition of the Greeks, perhaps the first explicit definition of a nation that we have. Herodotus' definition is in fact put in the mouth of an Athenian, responding angrily to a Spartan, during the war against Xerxes:
"the kinship of all Greeks in blood and speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life, to all of which it would not befit the Athenians to be false. "

However, it is noteworthy that Herodotus himself was profoundly sceptical of notions of Greek racial purity. "For this reason, and for no other, the Ionians too made twelve cities; for it would be foolishness to say that these are more truly Ionian or better born than the other Ionians; since not the least part of them are Abantes from Euboea, who are not Ionians even in name, and there are mingled with them Minyans of Orchomenus, Cadmeans, Dryopians, Phocian renegades from their nation, Molossians, Pelasgian Arcadians, Dorians of Epidaurus, and many other tribes; and as for those who came from the very town-hall of Athens and think they are the best born of the Ionians, these did not bring wives with them to their settlements, but married Carian women whose parents they had put to death. For this slaughter, these women made a custom and bound themselves by oath (and enjoined it on their daughters) that no one would sit at table with her husband or call him by his name, because the men had married them after slaying their fathers and husbands and sons. This happened at Miletus." Perseus

All these peoples could be called Greeks in one sense, but it is doubtful they would have met the criteria of the angry Athenian. The Carians even fought on the Trojan side, according to Homer.

From the introduction to the article:

Possessing citizenship in the state of one’s residence unquestionably constitutes a fundamental factor for social integration, while not being a citizen is likely to cause social exclusion. Thus, the legal norms regarding the acquisition or the loss of citizenship, and therefore dual citizenship or statelessness, take on major importance for social stability. However, national ideology should accommodate such a perspective, and this is not an obvious undertaking. The choice by states to permit or to prevent dual (or multiple) citizenship is essentially political in nature, regulated by legal regulations and conditioned by historical factors. In this context, ius sanguinis and ius soli offer legislators a series of options. However, citizenship law is also closely linked to the ideological perception that a state has of its most valuable asset- its own citizens.

Greece does not constitute an exception to these thoughts. To comprehend citizenship issues in Greece, one has to consider the political and legal context regarding the acquisition and loss of Greek citizenship / nationality in its past and present status and the inter-relation between the Greek nation, the Greek state and the phenomenon of alterity. The homogeneity of Greece is built upon the elements of religion (Greek-Orthodox), language (Greek), national consciousness and an ambiguous cnceptualization of “Greek descent”. Thus, alterity in Greece, regarding Greek citizens, may be described in terms that are religious (Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jehova’s Witnesses), linguistic (Turkish, Arvanite, Romanes, Vlach, Slavo-Macedonian/Pomak), or ethnic/national (Turks, Macedonians, Jews, Armenians, Pomaks, Romas). This“traditional” otherness was enriched during the 1990s by the massive settlement of immigrants who represented 10% of the population in Greece in 2004.

This paper presents and analyzes the historical background which has affected citizenship law in Greece, and the law in force on citizenship, with special emphasis given to citizenship deprivation. Furthermore, it examines court and administration practice and especially immigration as a challenge for socio-economic and political citizenship policies. Education on otherness, and Greece’s citizenship perspectives within the European context, are the topics on the basis of which the present paper achieves the analysis of the politico-legal and social state membership in Greece

Citizenship in

Present challenges for future changes
Konstantinos Tsitselikis
University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki.

Repatriation of funds - no, Minister.

Repatriation of funds is a novel idea whereby an EU member state would reduce its contribution to the EU budget in return for allocating a similar sum to regional development projects, in keeping with EU objectives.

An interesting debate at Westminster Hall illustrates why the parliamentary representatives of European regions sometimes have doubts about their Governments' determination to prioritise the objectives for which those European funds were originally allocated. If people in Wales feel this way, one might expect others, say in Italy or the Balkans, to have similar anxieties.

My opinion of Plaid Cymry has gone up, especially of ex-MP for Ceredigion, Mr Simon Thomas, a lefty who opposed the hypocritical and populist fox-hunting ban.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Nous sommes tous des Suisses Allemands

The title above was once a humorous take by the students of Geneva on one of the wonderful slogans of the May 68 events in Paris, expressing solidarity with Daniel Cohn-Bendit - Nous sommes tous des Juifs Allemands. Switzerland is a united country, but the distinct cultural identities of la Suisse Romande and the SchweizerDeutsch speaking areas still occasion this sort of good-tempered jibe.

The use of the original Parisian phrase has gone far beyond simply protesting at xenophobic attacks on 'Danny'. I'm a sentimentalist; I hope it will be immortalised as expressing something worthwhile about late 20th century European sensibilities.

Cohn-Bendit himself recently gave an interview to John Lichfield of the Independent, republished at Friends of Europe . His subsequent career, from the days when he was a busy agitator during the May revolt against a sclerotic French system, is interesting. Are there, I wonder, any equivalent political migrations on the left in Britain ?

For many people, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 60 years old, will forever be "Danny the Red", the cheeky, ginger-haired, Franco-German, student revolutionary, who led the Paris student-worker revolt of May 1968. In truth, Cohn-Bendit has long since metamorphosed into Danny the Green, a French, then a German Euro MP, a "liberal-libertarian" ecologist and militant pro-European.

Come another May, come another French rebellion, Danny is back; this time on the side of the establishment. Sort of.In the vociferous, confusing European referendum campaign in France, muddling towards an uncertain conclusion next Sunday, Danny the Red has become Danny the Blue (with Yellow Stars). He has been the single most passionate, energetic and persuasive campaigner for the "yes" camp. Cohn-Bendit has addressed 36 political meetings. He has appeared on a dozen television programmes. He has been called a "social traitor". He has had eggs thrown at him. He has been hailed by ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing - who was a senior, financial apparatchik of the bourgeois, imperialist French state in 1968 - as a "true European, a political visionary".

You can read the full interview here.

National and International Anthems

The anthem I'll still stand up for is God save the Queen. It has dumb words, ghastly sentiments and a poor tune, and if you Google for it you'll get the most extraordinary list of parodies, some of them pretty harsh, long before you get to the thing itself.

The verse below doesn't get sung anymore, but it catches the original spirit, which was one of fear of a French and Scottish Jacobite invasion in 1745. French support never came. The Jacobites marched south, faltered, fell back to Scotland and were crushed by Cumberland at Culloden Moor. Charles Stuart fled, and soon afterwards, speaking Gaelic was made a hanging offense in Scotland and the highland clearances began.

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the Queen!

There are surprisingly fine sentiments at the beginning though.

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world ov'er.

I find it typical that the British Government's site only has a fairly deeply buried external link to the anthem, and that the link leads to the site devoted to our Head of State. And I take pride in the fact that British traditions are maintained: there is no 'authorised' version of our national anthem. I wonder how many other countries can say that?

An anthem that epitomises an equivalent fear of invasion, but is based on popular mobilisation, is this one, the song of resistance originally composed when the rulers of Austria and Prussia joined forces to attack the French revolution and restore the King's privileges. The "Chant de Guerre pour l'armée du Rhin" was soon afterwards adopted by the Fédérés marseillais, a volunteer batallion from the south, who on their way to the battlefields played a key role in the assault on the palace of the Tuileries that finally broke royal power. The song became the national anthem in 1795, was banned under Napoleon, resurfaced in 1830 and 1848, and finally regained its status in 1879.

The fact that the version here, excellent and by a major star, is made available free as an MP3 by the French authorities, says something about the contrast between the two countries attitudes to promotion of a national image. It is difficult to imagine even the Situationists, for all their talk of tearing down Notre Dame, successfully taking the piss out of the Marseillaise, as Chumbawamba and the Pistols did with God Save the Queen. It's more difficult to subvert. But there was an amusing parody published in 1792. And what do you know - it's all about food. "A table, citoyens!"

Do good wherever you can, love freedom above everything, uphold truth even before the throne.
Obviously I'm fond of this one. An excellent choice, since Beethoven was an intense advocate of democracy, apparently even in his later years when his commitments ceased to be obvious. He was a great admirer of Bonaparte and the revolution, but when
in May 1804 Napoleon declared himself emperor. Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven's pupil at the time, claims to have been the first to give Beethoven the news, upon which he flew into a rage declaring "So he too is nothing more than an ordinary man. Now he will also trample all human rights underfoot, and only pander to his ambition; he will place himself above everyone else and become a tyrant!" He then ripped up the title page upon which he had written the dedication "Buonaparte" and produced another giving it the new title Sinfonia Eroica
The passionate idealism explicit in that story is still apparent in the Choral Symphony. Schiller too was a poet of freedom.

And this one too.

Most translations of it are rubbish, especially the English one. There is no substitute for the original; "La raison tonne en son cratère". Le genre humain is not the human race, and L'Internationale has to stay something resonant, not the International Union of the equally pedestrian. My favourite phrase is Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun, a reminder that this was an anarchist poem written around the time of the Paris Commune, when Thiers and Bismark sought to reduce an insurgent Paris. A plebs that lastingly dispenses with People's Tribunes may be a chimera and the fact that the song later became the anthem of the CPSU may be depressing but I prefer to remember Louise Michel and enjoy the fact that streets, schools and squares are still named after her and her comrades all over Paris.

Louise Michel
Since it seems as if every heart that beats for liberty has only the right to a little lead, I too demand my share

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Migration and Development in Albania

An interesting study on migration from a European country which still has a high birth rate. The majority of the emigration is towards the two EU countries worst affected by the current EU-wide decline in natality, Italy and Greece.