This week in Europe: 11-15 November – it’s all getting a bit tense out there…

Following a complaint by the UK Government to the European Commission over the imposition of strict border controls by Spain at its border with Gibraltar, the Commission have, somewhat unexpectedly, concluded that the checks did not break EU laws. It has written to both the UK and Spain with recommendations to avoid future delays at the border.

In response, Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, said;

“It sounds to me as if Spanish officials have succeeded in nobbling this report. As the editor of Private Eye once said, if that’s justice then I’m a banana.”
 
“I am deeply disappointed in the European Commission’s conclusion there has been no breach of EU law in Spain’s checks at the border. I completely disagree.”
 
“The only welcome news is their reccommendation to Spain to put in place more targeted checks and a more ‘refined risk analysis’. The implication is that the current checks are too random.”
 
“EU law says that Spain’s measures have to be proportionate. Are random, blanket checks not disproportionate?”
 
“I will continue to press the Commission on this issue and have requested a meeting with the relevant Commissioners next week. I will do all I can to press them to ask the right questions as they continue to monitor the situation.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Duff has managed to upset the Daily Mail (again) with a speech that he isn’t due to make until tomorrow. In it, he will call for a general revision of EU treaties “in order to restore full democratic legitimacy to the project of building a united Europe”, as well as for faster progress towards banking union.

It is, despite the impression that Daily Mail readers might draw, an interesting speech, critical of both EU institutions and national governments, and would reward anyone who might read it, not least because it gives a flavour of European federalism, and why its adherents are so adamant that it offers the best way forward for Europe.

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15 Comments

  • The UK insists on strict border controls with the rest of the Schengen area EU (although they don’t seem to make an impact here in terms of illegal drugs, immigrants etc). Spain turns around and does the same at Gibraltar and suddenly our politicians are up in arms over the “unfairness” of Spain doing what the UK does every day.

    Most other EU citizens would see it as a case of “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”.

  • Unfortunately, the sanitized threads of LDV never grasp the true reality of feeling on the EU fiasco. To get a more accurate gauge of feeling from the general public, you have to exit LDV ivory tower, and check the comments on your Daily Mail link to find the real sense of anger and incredulity, with regard to Duff, the EU gravy train and the naive Lib Dem stance on this EU monstrosity.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Nov '13 - 6:06pm

    @ John Dunn,

    Do read the piece, rather than apply your usual prejudice against everything EU-related. And, perhaps, read the full text of Andrew Duff’s speech.

    But the piece makes no comment on the worth, or otherwise, of his comments. I believe them to be genuinely interesting and informative, whether one agrees with them or not. And the fact that there is a debate taking place, rather than an exchange of abuse, can only be a good thing. You never know, you might be wrong – the majority isn’t always right, funnily enough…

  • ” And, perhaps, read the full text of Andrew Duff’s speech. ”
    The public are not in the least interested, in Andrew Duff’s speech. That’s the point !. They are heartily sick, of a Westminster ‘lockdown’ on a REAL referendum on Europe. When are LibDems going to wake up to the fact, that that the voting public want none of this Federal EU bureaucracy ?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Nov '13 - 11:34pm

    So, you have no interest in what he had to say, but you don’t like it anyway? And you’re happy to take the view of those of the Daily Mail’s readers who choose to comment as representative of the view of the nation at large?

    Look, let’s make it clear. Most Liberal Democrats believe that our nation’s destiny is best served by collaboration with our European neighbours in some form or another, with proper democratic accountability and true devolution of powers to the most appropriate level, be that village, county, region or state. Likewise, most of us, Andrew Duff included, feel that the current set-up is far from ideal and want to engage in the debate on the way forward.

    We’re never going to come round to your view that ‘Europe’ is evil and bad and should be avoided at any cost. So, why not debate with us rather than just abuse us? After all, if you’re so sure that you’re right, it should be easy, shouldn’t it?

    And in the meantime, why not read Andrew’s speech, if only to know thine enemy? Or are you worried that you might agree with bits of it?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 16th Nov '13 - 11:46am

    @ jedi

    Indeed, so why not take the power away from conclaves of national ministers meeting in secret, and democratise the thing?

    And, by the way, one EU diplomat, whoever they are, is not necessarily the official last word on the subject. Assuming, of course, that it was an actual quote, in context…

  • Mark Valladares asks :
    “So, why not debate with us rather than just abuse us? After all, if you’re so sure that you’re right, it should be easy, shouldn’t it?”
    You would like to think so. But writing for LDV comments section is a bit like walking on eggshells. You have to be very cautious with respect to what facts and conclusions you write, for fear of upsetting the fragile sensitivities of the LibDem position, and as a consequence, getting your comment pulled. (Ask Norman Baker in a thread higher up the article chain !!!)

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Nov '13 - 1:03pm

    @ Mark – “Indeed, so why not take the power away from conclaves of national ministers meeting in secret, and democratise the thing?”

    Because I do not recognise a suitably converged european people, with shared aims and expectations forged from a shared social and cultural history, that governance can be [both] representative [and] accountable. It would therefore lack legitimacy in my eyes, and the eyes of innumerable others.

    If a useful majority of the electorate in a number of european countries can agree that they are willing to be bound by the decisions of a supranational governance, great, for this is what a common currency requires. However, I have to question, quite apart from Britain, whether all eurozone nations are happy to live under the lowest-common-denominator rule of all other eurozone nations…

    For this reason, I am quite content with the Councils of europe as they are, for in effect they enforce a level on intergovernmental

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Nov '13 - 1:06pm

    continued

    … intergovernmental governance on an ideology that screams for suprnational control.

    If there must be a federal europe then I want all nations – not just britain – to have the freedom to not be part of it. This means keeping the common market the exclusive preserve of an intergovernmental commission, in order that euro-outs are not marginalised via an economic governance that seeps out from the core.

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Nov '13 - 1:08pm

    this is getting messy, correction

    “This means keeping the common market the exclusive preserve of an intergovernmental EU as enforced by the Commision”

  • “If a useful majority of the electorate in a number of european countries can agree that they are willing to be bound by the decisions of a supranational governance”

    A useful majority already has agrees this including here in the UK. The “Common Market” relies on supranationl governance from the EC, EP, Council and ECJ and has done for decades. But, let me guess, you don’t accept that the UK electorate and/or parliamanet have the “legitimatcy” to make a decision to accept that?

    As for the “innumerable others” who share your opinion, we can enumerate them after the next EP election in a few months – at a guess less than 1 in 5 of the EU-wide electorate, falling to 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 if we just consider the other EU member states.

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Nov '13 - 5:32pm

    Cobblers, Paul,

    The EU has always been a mishmash of intergovernmental and supranational governance.

    The councils being very much intergovernmental
    The commision being the executive
    The parliament being suprnational

    The growing authority of the parliament over the council, such as the ability to initiate legislation is tipping the balance in favour of suprnationalism:
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/0042423726.html

    The eurozone crisis has seen the ECB given a raft of new powers, notably to intervene in Gladstone’s power0f-the-purse, again a boost for suprnationalism:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/10452968/EU-uses-new-budget-powers-to-demand-more-austerity-in-Italy-and-Spain.html

    If you are a fervent believer in ever-closer-union, having no qualms about common governance, then this is no doubt a good thing. For there is greater democratic oversight of governence that you hold to be representative.

    If you don’t believe that ever-closer-union is a good idea, for all the people[s] of europe are too divergent to create a form of indirect governance that is [both] representative [and] accountable, then this is a bad thing.

    I am in the latter group, as would the population at large be if we are to look back to the last time we were asked:
    http://www.harvard-digital.co.uk/euro/pamphlet.htm

    Judging by that you’d imagine that the public had grave doubts about the future direction of the EU, given the lengths to which it had to go to allay those fears.

    So, no Paul, that is cobblers.

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Nov '13 - 5:45pm

    on the subject of the european elections, i wholeheartedly agree; the answer will be evident.

    i have seen reported various european sources predicting one third of the popular vote as being eurosceptic.

    more pertinently, we could look at britain. how does the notion of this grab you: UKIP 28% / Con 27% / Lab 21% / Green 10% / Lib-Dem 8% / Other 6%

    just a wild stab at a prediction…

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