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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Four points and a question for eurosceptics who believe in the advancing EU superstate

This little debate seems to be running on and on – and it’s a fun one, so let’s keep at it. Some very good discussion is still raging away in the comments to my Jean Monnet and EU superstate posts, and Ken’s come back with a new post at EU Realist, at which I’ve just left the following.

(Other eurosceptic types who see the EU as heading towards a superstate: I’d be genuinely intrigued to hear your take to my sincere question – in bold – in the final paragraph. I just don’t get it, and truly want to understand your reasoning on this one – it’s just about the only eurosceptic anti-EU argument that I’ve never understood, even when I was a eurosceptic myself…)

Anyway, on with the argument…

1) I’m not accusing you of being a nutty conspiracy theorist at all (though there are a few of those knocking around the anti-EU camp, you can’t deny it…) – I just genuinely don’t understand how you can think that the EU is still heading down the superstate route after the repeated failures of the last decade.

2) Just because a few hardcore europhiles like Verhofstadt seem to want a superstate, and just because a few people identify some of the recent treaties as being stepping-stones on that path, doesn’t mean that this is what is happening. I could also find a number of quotes from other sources arguing exactly the opposite (quite a few hardcore pro-EU types have referred to the Lisbon Treaty as a step backwards, with a number of europhile superstatists bemoaning the lack of progress and entrenchment of national power, among other complaints).

3) You [Ken] quote the preamble to the Lisbon Treaty as an example of how we’re heading to a superstate. You do realise that the Lisbon Treaty hasn’t come into force yet, right? And not just because of the Irish referendum result – there’s also the challenge in the German constitutional court. Lisbon itself is a prime example of the lack of progress of those EU types in favour of a superstate – it’s the (in my view) failed bodged compromise rehash of the failed and unpopular Constitution, which was itself necessary thanks to the failure of the bodged compromise that was the Treaty of Nice – Lisbon is still trying to fix the same problems that Nice was attempting to solve when its descussions kicked off in the late 1990s. That’s a good ten years or more of stalemate. Hardly the stuff of an advancing superstate, surely?

4) There’s also the question of interpretation of terminology. You seem to see “federal” as being the same as “superstate” (a common assumption among British eurosceptics in particular). “Federal”, however, can mean any number of things; key to the idea, however, is the *lack* of overwhelming central control – precisely the opposite of the superstate bogeyman. You also identify “integration” and “co-operation” with being steps on a path to such a superstate – as I’ve said, I accept that that is a possibility, but I see it as being highly unlikely. Even if Lisbon DOES come into force, national vetoes will remain in pretty much every substantive area – as long as less enthusiastic countries like Britain, Denmark, the Czech Republic (and increasing numbers of eastern European member states) remain part of the EU, their vetoes ensure that a superstate remains an impossibility, no matter how many europhile superstatists there may be in other member states.

So come on: rather than pick a few quotes from individuals with limited influence while (seemingly deliberately) misinterpreting what I’m actually arguing, please just answer me this one, simple question – how can you look at the failure of every attempted EU treaty since the late 1990s and say that we’re marching down the path towards a superstate? I simply don’t get it. There has been no significant progress in European integration (that I can see) since Maastricht – and that was 17 years ago.

43 Comments

  1. All bureaucracies centralise. It’s what bureaucracies do. So to with political systems.

    The Westminster system is more centralised than it was (and it’s one of the most centralised in the rich world too). The US Federal system has seen power being grabbed by the centre over the last couple of hundred years. The German , French, Italian….they’re all more centralised than they were.

    Thus any European political system will become centralised because that’s just the nature of the beast.

    So…in order to avoid this we need to make sure we’re not part of it.

    QED.

  2. Perhaps – but in all those cases (bar America), the centralisation process took centuries, and the current residents of those countries couldn’t care less. (In America the process was faster – about a century – but only because of the civil war.)

    If the EU does end up as a centralised superstate, in other words, it won’t be for a very, very long time – not at the current rate of integration. You, I, and everyone alive today will be dead and gone. And our children’s children’s children will almost certainly look back on the disputes of today with incomprehension, just as we today find it hard to see how the original US states could get so het up as to go to war, and mostly forget about the days when England was split into multiple kingdoms.

    In short: If the superstate’s not likely in the next century or more (which it’s not), then why get so worked up? It’s a silly argument tapped on to the top of many far more sensible eurosceptic criticisms, and without fail detracts from the countless valid points that the anti-EU side has at its disposal.

  3. It’s not a silly argument….or if it is then the arguments made about climate change are too….who cares what happens in a century?

    Perhaps that’s too strong. But I regularly make arguments about things a century hence…..for example, the difference between a 2% and 3% growth rate upon the lives of our great grandchildren.

  4. Nosemonkey

    You say “In short: If the superstate’s not likely in the next century or more (which it’s not), then why get so worked up?”

    If power becomes centralized and we have the laws to go with it then we are opening ourselves up to another Hitler or Stalin. This is the chief fear amongst the people of Britain – we want to be our own masters.

    Despite what you and many more say national countries are having more and more power to run their own lives taken away. I don’t want to live under German or French law, I want to live under laws made by my elected national representatives. It’s not silly to want that – it is a perfectly legitimate way of thinking. Please don’t go down the road of sneering at a sovereign people with genuine concerns.

  5. wg wrote:

    “”This is the chief fear amongst the people of Britain – we want to be our own masters””

    Speak for yourself. As a Cornishman I already suffer from a less-than-perfect overly centralised monarc… I mean democracy called the UK.

    EU federalism offers us smaller stateless nations and regions a chance to claw back power from the real villains of the last few centuries i.e. the power hungry ‘nation-states’ and their boundless state nationalism.

    You fret about another Hitler or Stalin whilst national minorities, their languages and cultures are already fighting for their survival against the ‘nation-states’ you seem to see as the pinnacle of democracy. Nothing more than double standards fulled by majority group English nationalism!

  6. You have a good case Cornish Democrat, I don’t even want my next door neighbour telling me what to do and so I can understand your resentment.

    Which is exactly the reason that I don’t want to be ruled from the EU.

    Do you honestly think that you will obtain more power from the EU?

  7. The centralisation argument is rather lame, it asumes that there is no counter-vailing pressure. In a democratic state, there is (or should be) plenty of discussion, debate, disagreement and consensus. On the EU that does not seem to happen, the fault in part lies with those who peddle half-lies, full lies, mis-truths on Europe.

    As for ”This is the chief fear amongst the people of Britain – we want to be our own masters”, the current economic melt down, the impacts of globalisation, the shift of economic power to the East and climate change, highlight that we cannot be masters of own destiny. No nation, how ever powerful, is fully in control of their destiny.

    What is important is that we acknowledge this (or rather Europhobes do) and do our up most to particpate in building a future worthwhile. Throwing our lot in with a set of nations which we are culturally, political and economically intertwinned with seems like a good place to start.

    The EU provides a framework within which this can be undertaken, it might not be perfect, but its better than the alternatives…a group of increasingly irrelevant nations getting shoved around by the USA, China, India, Brazil etc.

  8. “No nation, how ever powerful, is fully in control of their destiny.”

    Why do you insist that a nation must be. Why not the individual?

  9. WG – Tim (being, as he is, a libertarian) takes things to a bit of an extreme, but both he and the Cornish Democrat make points that – from different angles – tally quite a bit with my take: why “the nation”? Why Britain? Why England? Why Scotland? Why should I, a Sussex-born Londoner, have any say in how a farmer in Cumbria has to live, and why should s/he have any say over my life? Why should those of us who live in wealthy parts of the country have to subsidise the poorer areas, often hundreds of miles away? I was born closer to Paris than Edinburgh – why should I be affected by the actions of politicians north of the border any more than those of northern France? Why should a Breton have to listen to Paris, a Basque to Madrid, a Bavarian to Berlin, a Sicilian to Rome or a Cornishman to London?

    My take is that the current nation state model is outdated, has outlived its usefulness, and was in any case always something of a misnomer when applied to pretty much every European country (“nation state” implies a level of ethnic/cultural homogeneity which simply does not apply to most European countries). Europe is packed full of diverse cultures, with huge differences within the borders of pretty much every EU member state – even tiny Belgium and Cyprus have long been split down the middle on cultural/linguistic lines, with only the minute island of Malta having any real claim to be culturally homogeneous (it has a population of just over 400,000…). As such, the arguments against legislation at an EU level are (in the vast majority of cases) just as valid at a “national” level, in my books.

    What I want – and whether this is happening or is likely is another matter entirely – is more regional/local decision-making, with those areas of governance best dealt with at a broader level dealt with at as broad a level as possible. Immigration, counter-terrorism, organised crime, energy supply, pollution, trade standards and various other issues are increasingly best dealt with at a level above that of the nation state; practically everything else can be dealt with regionally.

    (Ideally, by the way, these big issues wouldn’t be dealt with at a mere continental level either – they’d be worked out at a global level. The EU, I’d hope, is merely a first step on the road to a Star Trek-style planet-wide government. That’s going to take centuries at best – if such utopian dreams ever come to pass – but in the meantime, the EU and Europe alone will have to do.)

    As for those things that the EU has legislated on that could be better dealt with regionally? Yep – there are loads. I’m still hopeful that the concept of subsidiarity will take a greater hold over future EU policy-making, however (and there are some signs that it is). And in any case, I still can’t see “being dictated to by Brussels” as any worse, really, than being dictated to by Westminster. (And that said by someone who can walk from his home to the Houses of Parliament in less than an hour…)

    In short: The perennial question of the eurosceptic camp of “I didn’t vote for it, so why should I have to put up with it?” is just as applicable to ANY democratic system. I didn’t vote for Labour in ’97, ’01 or ’05, and yet have had aspects of my life affected by the decisions of Labour MPs, often from constituencies hundreds of miles away from my home, with cultural backgrounds utterly different to my own. It’s no different.

    (On the sovereignty issue – other than feeling the need to point out that in Britain the people are not nor ever have been sovereign, sovereignty lies with parliament – might I point you to this old post of mine that sets out my views on the matter?)

  10. I do indeed take things to extremes. For example, it is now law across 27 nations that carrots are fruit, jam for the making of.

    I don’t think there should be a law about whether carrots are fruit, jam for the making of, or not. So long as your Doce de Cenoura has a great big picture of a carrot on it to explain the orange colour, and the label as “cenoura” on it, that’s all that anyone needs.

    We don’t need, at EU, Westminster, Cornwall, Redruth or even postcode level a part of the criminal law (and, yes, this is criminal law here) that determines whether carrots are fruit or not, jam for the purpose of making.

  11. Question: If “Immigration, counter-terrorism, organised crime, energy supply, pollution, trade standards and various other issues” are best dealt with on as large a scale as possible – what do you see as being best decided on a local level?

    I’ve got to say that I agree with the general point – it doesn’t matter if laws I don’t agree with are passed in London by people I didn’t vote for or in Brussels by people I didn’t vote for. But at least I feel slightly more knowledgeable about London politics. Better the devil you know, and all that.

    And apologies for drifting off point. For what it’s worth, I don’t see any retreat of EU powers, so as long as they keep on passing laws, the end point is fairly ineveitable. Whether it takes decades, or centuries, is another question. And whether you care, on that sort of timescale, is another. I’m not irrevocably opposed to a European state – federal or no; I just wish I could envisage one with slightly less red tape.

    And for all people’s talk of ‘federalism’ from the EU – I assume that the smallest region of devolved decision making is the nation state? So my hopes that the Republic of Basingstoke will be able to break free of the yoke of London will have to wait a while longer…

  12. Stuart: a quick, of-the-top-of-my-head response to your last post. Health, personal taxation, education, criminal and civil law enforcement (including your ‘trustworthy” London bobby). There are probably more but I would need some time to reflect.

    National governments have often create international bodies to handle, jointly, issues that feel inadequate to handle alone. The EU is such a body, though more special than most others (it’s unique). You recognise the need for such action in the areas you mention. A major problem with your question, though, is that increasingly governments are finding it too difficult to cope alone with more and more matters of international importance. I’m no fan of this but, the way the world is and has been moving, it’s understandable.

  13. French Derek, good comment 29/03 8pm!

    Nosemonkey, again you’ve written a very sensible post.
    Excuse me for using this comment for something else but this carrots are fruit and its enforceable under criminal law thing is bugging me. It seems to come up quite often. So I took a look.
    The Directive in question does indeed say in the annex that “for the purposes of this Directive, tomatoes, the edible parts of rhubarb stalks, carrots, sweet potatoes,cucumbers, pumpkins, melons and watermelons are considered to be fruit”.
    Seems to me it’s an administrative convenience so that the whole text didn’t have to say “fruit or vegetable” throughout, no more, no less. Kind of like writing “s/he” when writing a job advertisement describing the ideal applicant so you don’t have to keep saying “he or she”. I guess you could argue it’s bureaucratic laziness but really I can’t see why it’s such a problem?
    By enforcable through criminal law, that means that Member States have a duty to make sure that fruit jam producers put into the jars what they say they do, and not use wood chips as pretend raspberry pips? Or orange paint to enhance the carrot-colour of the stuff inside the jar?
    Then good. That’s a consumer protection thing and as someone that likes jam on toast occasionally I think that’s a jolly good thing. I prefer my raspberries to actually be raspberries, thanks.

    I don’t see anything in the text saying that the criminal law enforcement will have a mandatory sentence, or that green-vested European fruit police will break down the door in the middle of the night. Seems that as long as the enforcement is effective, proportionate and dissuasive it’s for the Member State to decide the how and what.
    So 50-odd (or 50 odd?) people sat down and negotiated this. It almost certainly wasn’t the only thing under discussion at the meeting, or indeed in any of the EU meetings that day.
    But I guess if having this sort of clarity of law means that UK companies are able to sell their jam in Portugal, France, Hungary etc. and not be blocked because it doesn’t match what they or their manufacturers call jam, or having a huge tariff slapped on it and pricing it out of the market then fine – that’s what the free market’s for.
    What have I missed?

  14. The genesis is slightly different. Originally, they said that jam is made from fruit. Then they found that some people make jam from carrots. So then they had to say that carrots are fruit.

    In the UK breach of these regulations is punishable by 6 mopnths in jail and or a £5,000 fine. That is indeed criminal law.

    As to this is what a free market is for….sorry, but you’ve drunk the Kool Aid there. Markets are indeed delightful as price discovery mechanisms, as a method of exchange and of distribution. But they also serve as promoters of innovation.

    So this is how innivation in compotes would work in the EU today. If you look at the law again you’ll see that it is legal to add apple geranium leaves to jam made from quinces (as a result of another traditional Portuguese product, Marmelada). But it would be illegal to add it to jam made from gooseberries. 6 months pokey for you my lad.

    Now, we all know how innovation works in cooking, don’t we? We’ve all had enough fusion foods, some of which work, some don’t. So our brave innovative jam maker decides to add those leaves to gooseberry jam. Does it work? I’ve no idea. But say that it does. Now, to market his new, innovative, product, he’s got to go to the EU Commission (for only they have the right to propose that a law be revised). Convince them to change the law so that apple geranium leaves may be added to gooseberry jam. Then get the Parliament to agree. Then the law must be passed by 27 national Parliaments, all of the regional ones and the devolved ones. Perhaps 10,000 politicians must get their grubby hands on this. Some years must pass and much money spent.

    Do you really think that this is how an innovative economy works?

    If you want consumer protection why not ” label all your ingredients. And all products must be fit for purpose and of merchantable quality”?

    Note that these sorts of regulations are used on just about all and every products sold across the EU. It’s as if some malevolent creature deliberately designed a system to supress innovation: and most especially, to screw any new market entrant, any small company, that decided to compete not on price or quality but by new products.

    Now do you get it? Free markets, great, but they don’t flourish where the introduction of a new product staggers under the burden of hundreds of thousands of pages of restrictive legislation, nor require the attention of tens of thousands of politicians and bureaucrats before they can even be test marketed.

    Extend our jam making example to all foodstuffs…Boris Johnson wrote a piece about how a certain berry may not be sold. Nor is it on the list of allowed fruits for jam making. And then extend it right across the economy. Every sector has these restrictions.

    And remember that this nonsense comes from the same people who bring you the Lisbon Process…that the EU should become the most dynamic, innovative, economy in the world.

    I’m sorry but they’re fuckwits, aren’t they?

  15. Tim – “In the UK breach of these regulations is punishable by 6 mopnths in jail and or a £5,000 fine”

    You know as well as the rest of us that the UK has always had a tendency to completely cock up implementation of EU laws, and go massively over-the-top when it comes to laying down punishments.

    What are the punishments in other EU member states? What punishments did the EU recommend? Has anyone ever been prosecuted under this regulation?

    You have a point on the necessity for detailed legal regulations, no doubt – but this is hardly an issue unique to the EU. Most developed economies have similar obsessive-compulsive rules and regulations – and in the EU (in many cases, at any rate – no idea if it was the case for jam or not), until one EU-wide set of regulations was brought into force producers had to compete with 27 different sets of national definitions of what constitutes a particular product. So yes, such detailed rules may be unnecessary (not my area, so I couldn’t really say) – but if they exist surely it’s better to consolidate them than have loads of competing, contradictory ones knocking around? Isn’t one set of rules more efficient, and less damaging to the economy?

  16. For my own reference as much as anything, my most recent reply to Ken’s most recent reply over at his place. Some points may be of interest to some here – but it’s probably not worth another new post:

    —-

    1) My point is that the repeated failures of the last ten years show that whatever the current direction is (you think it’s towards a superstate/super government, I don’t), it isn’t working – the EU is standing still. You see the EU as still standing on the same path, even if it hasn’t moved forward (and even though we don’t know where that path was heading), I see it as faffing about trying to work out which direction it should be heading in.

    2) This I disagree with utterly – and that you are still restating this point seems to show that you’ve missed my fundamental question. You are simply stating “we are heading towards the superstate” as if it is fact while singularly failing to answer the charge that the EU has failed in every effort to get a major new treaty through since the late 1990s, and therefore is at best stalled. Nice failed to achieve what the most enthusiastic europhiles wanted it to back in 2001 when there were only 15 member states; we now have 27, and both the constitution and Lisbon have similarly failed (and even if Lisbon DOES end up somehow coming into force – which I still doubt – it is still far, far away from what superstatist europhiles wanted to see passed).

    3) Again, I acknowledged a while ago that if you look at Nice, the Constitution and Lisbon specifically searching for clauses that *could* be interpreted as advancing a superstate, of course you can – not least because they all mention “integration”, which *could* (obviously) one day lead to one giant state structure. But surely you can see that all of them – and Maastricht and Amsterdam and all the rest for that matter – are a very, very long way away from actually creating this superstate? Passing any of these treaties would not – COULD not – turn the EU into a superstate without several more treaties following them. And, fundamental to all this – national vetoes (27 of them) remain in place on substantive issues such as further institutional integration.

    (As for the Wheeler court case vs. the German ones – they aren’t comparible. Germany has a solid, clear written constitution; the British constitution is far less black and white, and Wheeler was in any case trying to establish in law that election manifesto promises are legally binding (something that has never been the case). Wheeler brought his case largely to drum up publicity for his cause; the German anti-Lisbon campaigners, however, have a real chance of winning.)

    4) The point on the definition of federal is precisely that it can mean any number of things – but that the precise nature of the EU’s type of federalism is not yet set. If you want another definition, the Oxford Dictionary of Politics entry on federalism begins “The term suggests that everybody can be satisfied (or nobody permanently disadvantaged) by nicely combining national and regional/territorial interests within a complex web of checks and balances between a general, or national, or federal government on the one hand, and a multiplicity of regional governments on the other” – the most important phrase here, of course, is “checks and balances”. The central, federal government prevents the national/regional governments going mental and vice versa.

    The reason the distinction is made between federal and confederal when it comes to the EU is precisely because the EU is so minimally advanced down the federal route – despite the claims of some eurosceptics that it has a flag (which it doesn’t – the circle of stars is actually the flag of the Council of Europe), that it has citizens (who have been granted rights, but no real obligations) etc. and that these are the hallmarks of a state. The definition of what makes a state is subject to even more intense debate in the world of political philosophy than the term federal, however, so it’s largely subjective. “Confederal”, however, means a rather looser grouping of individual states than a federation – often characterised by far stronger individual/national identities and a retention of control over taxation: as is the case with EU member states, just as with the Cantons of the Swiss confederation.

    So when you say that “The eventual political form of that United Europe is secondary to the desirability, or not of a united Europe” I cay no – that’s *entirely* wrong. Until we know what is meant by “a united Europe” how can we possibly judge if this is desirable or not?

    5) The whole point of the treaties is actually to make co-operation between European states as efficient as possible. *Some* reckon that a grand superstate along the model of the USA is the best way of doing this, but the majority of people involved in drawing up these treaties (of which there are tens of thousands of civil servants and polititicans and pressure-groups of all persuasians from all countries) reckon that this is a step far too far.

    Likewise, you keep insisting that “not a single power has been returned”, and yet since Maastricht – and in every subsequent treaty (passed or not) since, the subsidiarity principle has been enshrined in what the EU is doing. It hasn’t always worked as I would like, for sure, but this means that – by EU treaty law – decisions are meant to be taken *at the most appropriate level*, and that this level should always be “as closely as possible to the citizen”, as well as that “constant checks are made as to whether action at Community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level”. In other words – and the slowness of the transformation is one of my major gripes with the EU, as well as yet more evidence of its stalled nature – since 1992 the EU has been signed up to the idea that centralised decision-making should be the *exception*, not the rule. The precise opposite of a drive towards a superstate, in other words.

  17. I know this is getting off-topic, but I thought I might add my two cents to this whole jam thing.

    The directive in question can be found here: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32001L0113:En:HTML

    I sat down and actually read it, it’s only three or four pages and takes about 10 minutes. The body of the directive isn’t (surprise, surprise) very exciting. It standardises labelling for jam products.

    The stuff Tim Worstall is referring to is in the annex, where there are some definitions of what “jam” is and what additional ingredients (i.e. additional to the fruit) can be added.

    The offending article is in Annex II:

    “leaves of Pelargonium odoratissimum: in jam, extra jam, jelly and extra jelly, where they are made from quince,”

    It sounds bonkers! Why would they want to regulate that? Now, I’m no jam expert, so I can only guess. Thinking about it, the reason might be because pelargonium odoratissimum (aka apple geranium) gives products an appley flavour. I’m assuming the purpose of this regulation was to stop people making jam out of carrots then adding apple geranium leaves and calling it apple jam. That makes more sense than the EU just regulating for the hell of it.

    The regulation doesn’t seem to stop you making whatever kind of fruit jam you want, out of any combination of fruits. The main purpose of the directive is so German jam producers can sell their jam in France without being blocked by different labelling regimes. The stuff about geranium leaves seems to be mostly about stopping consumers getting ripped off.

    The list of additional ingredients allowed seems fairly comprehensive. If jam producers did come up with innovative new techniques, then they would have (I assume) to get them cleared by food standards anyway, and EU legislation would be updated off the back of that.

    It’s really not terribly exciting. It seems to be a fairly sensible directive, aimed at market integration and consumer protection. Apart from the apple germanium thing, jam producers don’t seem to be blocked from inovating.

  18. And, from what I can tell, it doesn’t stop you making “jam” (or “jam”-like-substance) from vegetables, or meat, or whatever crazy thing you want to make it from.

    “Article 1 – This Directive shall apply to the products defined in Annex I.”

    Then in Annex I:

    “I. DEFINITIONS

    - “Jam” is a mixture, brought to a suitable gelled consistency, of sugars, the pulp and/or purée of one or more kinds of fruit and water. However, citrus jam may be obtained from the whole fruit, cut into strips and/or sliced.”

    So, if you make jam out of meat (you lunatic) then the EU doesn’t consider it “jam”, and this directive doesn’t apply. In that case, national “meat jam” laws would probably apply. Assuming such things exist.

  19. “Apart from the apple germanium thing, jam producers don’t seem to be blocked from inovating.”

    Except that if you do innovate you then have to get the permission of 10,000 politicians to say that you can.

  20. “Except that if you do innovate you then have to get the permission of 10,000 politicians to say that you can.”

    Hehe, well… not quite 10’000. But you mean there’s a lot of red-tape.

    This is true – but the jam directive doesn’t support your argument, because it makes things easier from a producer’s point of view (it means UK jams can be sold in Poland, Spanish jams sold in France, etc, etc).

    And “red-tape” exists in the national system as well (and a good thing too!) If I want to innovate, I have to prove my innovation is safe for consumption. This is entirely sensible.

    The jam directive is more about labelling than anything else. You could probably make whatever strange and unusual substance you wanted under national laws, but you wouldn’t be able to market it as “jam” (and so the directive wouldn’t apply).

  21. “If I want to innovate, I have to prove my innovation is safe for consumption.”

    What? But jam isn’t safe for consumption. It can cause diabetes you know!

    No, you do not have to prove that an innovation is safe. Not if you want to have any innovation that is. That’s a ludicrous over interpretation of the precautionary principle.

    What you might have to show is that as far as anyone knows it’s not unsafe. Prussic acid flavoured jam might not be a good idea for example.

    But insisting that people prove something is safe before it goes on sale is ridiculous. You cannot prove that anything at all is “safe”. After all, that jar might fall off the shelf onto someone’s head….

  22. “What you might have to show is that as far as anyone knows it’s not unsafe. Prussic acid flavoured jam might not be a good idea for example.”

    I’m with you on the prussic acid flavoured jam. Yum. But you’re saying you don’t have to prove it’s safe, you just have to prove it’s not unsafe? Sounds like something the EU would come out with! :-D

    I may be being too loose with definitions. It depends what you mean by “innovation.” If you mean new additives, then you do have to prove they’re safe before you can introduce them. Every new additive first has to be approved by a regulatory body (FDA in the US, not sure who does it in the EU – but that’s where we get all those e-numbers from). This applies to colours, preservatives, flavourings, acidity regulators, etc. Regulation in this case doesn’t seem to be such a crazy idea.

    If by “innovation” you mean a new cooking-technique or something along those lines, then the jam directive doesn’t mention that and you’re free to innovate.

    If by “innovation” you mean making jam out of meat or vegetables, then that falls outside the definitions of the directive, so you’re free to innovate.

  23. “If by “innovation” you mean a new cooking-technique or something along those lines, then the jam directive doesn’t mention that and you’re free to innovate.”

    No you’re not. Haven’t you been reading?

    Apple geranium leaves are an ingredient in a Portuguese “jam” called Marmelada, made from quinces.

    The most common form of innovation in the food industry is “fusion”. Taking the ingredients, ideas, mixture of flavours from one cuisine and using it on the ingredients or recipes of another.

    And that is expressley what the jam regulations forbid me from doing. I cannot take this quince based marmelada recipe and adapt it to the more English fruit of gooseberries.

    The jam regulations specifically forbid me from innovating on pain of going to jail.

  24. This is now way off-topic, but it’s still interesting!

    Okay, the directive does block some innovation.

    You can’t, apparently, put leaves into your jam. Apple geranium has been singled out as an exception in quince jam – probably because of the Portuguese recipe.

    You can, however, include honey, fruit juice, essential oils of citrus fruits, citrus peel, spirits, wine and liqueur wine, nuts, aromatic herbs, spices, vanilla, vanilla extracts and vanilline, and some other, less tasty sounding ingredients (liquid pectin and edible oils and fats).

    I wonder if you could get away with calling chopped up leaves “aromatic herbs”?

    Anyway, why is apple geranium barred from other jam products? I’m not sure. At a guess, it could be because it’s a cheap, natural flavouring (and hence not covered by legislation regulating e-number flavourings) which makes a product taste like apples and could be used by producers to make potato jam taste like apple jam. Thus ripping off the customer.

    I could be barking up the wrong tree.

    I don’t know – but reading the directive, it’s a directive regulating the labelling of jam products. It benefits the producer, who can now sell all across the EU without worrying about different labelling regimes, and it benefits the consumer, who can buy jam safe in the knowledge that it contains actual fruit, instead of cardboard and potatoes.

    Unless you really like apple geranium flavoured jam.

  25. Or cardboard and potatoes.

  26. It should be pointed out that the era of solely using exhaustive regulation (pre-Single European Act) is over, even if exhaustive regulations are still made – the EU applies many different models now since the old ER model was too slow and cumbersome and couldn’t keep up with the market. The EU is far more flexible now – one method they have is setting guidlines and letting the industries themselves set up optional standards!

    To cut and paste my rushed comment from the previous post:

    “I should have been a bit clearer when I was talking about a legal framework: it doesn’t necessarily mean harmonisation measure, though they are a part of it too. The legal regime of the EU has liberated the single market through the application of treaty principles (e.g. in the form of the doctrine of mutual recognition, which allows good produced legally in one member state to be sold in all the others, though it can be blocked if there’s an overriding public interest reason) [and different regulatory models].

    Community law also allows for the use of higher standards by member states – the Community can set a minimum standard and member states can set higher standards for businesses on their territory, as long as the goods, etc. meeting the minimum standards can circulate freely.

    There are many models of regulation used by the Community (not just the exhaustive harmonisation model that you refer to). The main feature of the single market, however, remains the acceptence of common rules (either centrally set, jointly set by the centre and the member states, or set just by the member states [and enforced by common legal principles]).”

  27. May I be a complete creep and say that I have enjoyed the contributions from all of the people here. It’s really good to see.

  28. As far as I’m concerned after this thread, if the EU bans ALL jam then it’s still not going far enough… Jam, jam, jam sodding jam. Gah!

    Various detailed points have been made, but one fundamental question still hasn’t been answered – did the EU legislate that using this apple geranium nonsense in whatever jam it was is a criminal offence with a specified jail time, or did the UK, and in how many EU member states is this a criminal offence? Come on, Tim, you’ve led us down the path of insane detail (with nary a whiff of a reference or a hint as to where you got all this info from) – time for you to provide us with some hard data. Of the 27 EU member states, how many have criminalised making quince jam with apple geranium?

    (I neither know nor particularly care, it must be said, as we’ve all fallen into Tim’s classic anti-EU trap of discussing one of the myriad silly details hiding amongst the reams of EU legislation that have been produced over the last half century – this jam nonsense sounds to me just like the sort of legislation that the EU is slowly doing away with as part of the post-Maastricht drive towards subsidiarity and deregulation, just like the “curvy cucumbers” nonsense that was scrapped a few months ago. I am, however, still unconvinced that the EU has criminalised my octogenarian grandmother because she sometimes whacks any old crap in a jam jar and tries to make me eat it – though what with her not liking the French or (specially) the Germans much, she’d probably blame the EU too…)

  29. “Anyway, why is apple geranium barred from other jam products? I’m not sure.”

    I am sure. The bureaucrats thought that they could write a set of regulations for what “is jam”. Then they found out that over 500 million people, the definition of what is jam changes. Which is rather why writing one set of regulations to cover what “is jam” for 500 million people from different culinary traditions is simply a nonsense.

    “Of the 27 EU member states, how many have criminalised making quince jam with apple geranium?”

    None. All have made making jam that is not quince jam with apple geranium leaves illegal. As to sentences….come along now, you’re the defender of this idiocy. Defend it!

  30. Tim – what you’re currently doing is little short of the toddler’s “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and a million – what is it?”

    You’ve so far provided no references of where you’re getting any of this stuff from – not even the UK’s supposed criminalisation, nor the piece of legislation that this quince jam business came from. It’s time to put up some hard evidence and back up your claims. You’re an intelligent chap and usually have good (or, at least, arguable) grounds for claiming what you do when it comes to the EU.

    But (and this is the key point) you’re no longer just another anti-EU blogger, you’re an employee of UKIP – and there’s an election coming up. Which means any claims you make that are unsupported by evidence go in my propaganda folder until proven otherwise (and yes, the same is true of employees of any other parties – and of any other unsupported claims or insinuations designed to win/skew a debate, especially when the debate has been sent so massively off topic by their introduction).

  31. Really? We have to stop talking about jam?

    About bloody time.

    Tim’s overall argument, though, is larger than just the “jam directive.”

    Maybe the jam directive has a sensible rationale behind it (although I’m sure Tim would disagree), but if Tim really went hunting, he could probably find dozens (hundreds) of seemingly pointless directives which would support his argument.

    Tim, please correct me if I’m misinterpreting, but your argument seems to be that too much regulation swamps a system in bureaucracy and inhibits innovation, which has a knock-on effect on competitiveness and hence on European economies in general. The EU is thus doomed to economic stagnation and failure.

    I can see the logic in this. There is, however, a difference between regulation to harmonise the single market and regulation to create pointless red-tape. Harmonising regulation actually cuts away at red-tape, because it sets up a standardised system of, for example, packaging regulations, or shipping regulations, or production regulations, etc., etc.

    Don’t get me wrong. The jam directive still annoys me. We’re reduced to guessing why apple geranium leaves are banned in gooseberry jam, and we don’t actually have any idea. It could be to stop people making potato jam and selling it as apple jam. It could be to protect the definition of “jam.” It could equally be because the Council was bored one day and decided to sneak through a meaningless article in a random directive about jam to check if anybody was actually paying attention (Surprise! We were!).

    To drag this whole jam thing back to the original point of the post: there is a concern that this is how the EU will form itself into a “superstate.” Not through a series of demi-democratic treaties, but through a sort of slow, suffocating creep of boring, incomprehensible, impenetrable legislation. If you write a follow up post, Nosemonkey/J Clive, then I’d be interested to hear your take on this.

  32. Well, I got my information on the alternative models of regulation mainly from “The Substantive Law of the EU: the Four Freedoms” by Catherine Barnard (2nd ed) pp. 589-624. Not that I’d recommend it – only buy textbooks on Internal Market Law if you really feel you’ll need it!

    In the end this is really a critique of a certain model of regulation, rather than the need for regulation itself.

  33. Pingback: The Minster for Europe on Lisbon Treaty | eurealist.co.uk

  34. If the EU has stood still it`s not because the colleagues want it to stop. If they were as tuned in to the proles desires they wouldn`t keep having new treaties and problems with referend(a)ums.

  35. Pingback: EU competence creep, the spectre of the superstate, and how governments actually work | Nosemonkey’s EUtopia

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  37. >Maybe the jam directive has a sensible rationale behind it

    It does. We have a single market. Completely integrated. More unified than the United States internal market was just 50 years ago.

    Every single thing that is produced in one EU country can be sold in another. With a couple of exceptions of course (cultural, health reasons, etc).

    There is an absolute necessity in making sure that jam produced in Romania is of same quality and standards as jam produced in the United Kingdom. It would not be proper if Romanian companies could produce jam that didn’t meet British production standards, yet would be able to be freely bought and sold within the United Kingdom. Ultimately it is in the interest of both countries to make sure that regulations, standards and definitions are unified and coherent with one another.

    When people pick apart the EU and only look at a single items they don’t look at the big picture and how things are related to one another. They don’t consider the context of history or its intent. As an example: 1) We have a single market 2) as it’d be wrong for goods to have more rights than human beings, we allow humans to move around just as freely as well 3) We have to establish the Europol who help transfer information and monitoring, because criminals can take advantage of the single market freedom too.

    Yet instead of that rational explanation above – we end up with crazy nutters who roam all over the internet and in the UKIP (and their pan-European counterparts) who believe that the Europol is some kind of an internal FBI that goes around and carries out secret assassinations…When in reality Europol is confined within a single building and all they do is just transfer Microsoft Excel and Word documents between country police HQs.

  38. “There is an absolute necessity in making sure that jam produced in Romania is of same quality and standards as jam produced in the United Kingdom. It would not be proper if Romanian companies could produce jam that didn’t meet British production standards, yet would be able to be freely bought and sold within the United Kingdom.”

    And there we have exactly the problem. Producers compete in markets precisely and exactly on the basis of the quality of their offering., as well as upon price, design and so on.

    If you don’t understand this then you don’t understand markets. As those responsible for the Single Market clearly do not when they trot out this trope that everyone must be producing to the same standard.

    And thus my anger with the whole process.

  39. “There is an absolute necessity in making sure that jam produced in Romania is of same quality and standards as jam produced in the United Kingdom. It would not be proper if Romanian companies could produce jam that didn’t meet British production standards, yet would be able to be freely bought and sold within the United Kingdom.”

    I believe the idea is not have an equal standard but have a minimum standard.

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  41. Pingback: Models for an EU superstate? | Nosemonkey’s EUtopia

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  43. copied and pasted from a nosemonkey post.
    Likewise, you keep insisting that “not a single power has been returned”, and yet since Maastricht – and in every subsequent treaty (passed or not) since, the subsidiarity principle has been enshrined in what the EU is doing. It hasn’t always worked as I would like, for sure, but this means that – by EU treaty law – decisions are meant to be taken *at the most appropriate level

    ALL FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, of course. Europol, highly paid and untouchable. Just waiting for some statelet to have an emergency, get your gear on Franz they are rioting at the G20 conference in London, and they are all wearing burquas so the British police won’t deal with it. For your own good.
    European Defence Force, just in case, grrrr did I hear a bear?. Sorry mister bear did my expansionism step on your toes? All for your own good. Eurojust and European Arrest Warrants, ME? I was never ever in your country, so I couldn’t have dropped that chocolate wrapper. What I’ve already been convicted? All for your own good. Emails and telephone databases, all for your own good. ID cards, all for your own good. Shared databases, no oversight, ask and all your details will be given. All for your own good.
    They are building the infrastructure of a superstate, and trying to behave like one, and you think they don’t want one??????????????? One of us is mad, and I have a certificate to say it ain’t me, any more.