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Referendum day

I came across a really stupid article about the European Defence Agency, by Vincent Browne who should know better. The best analysis of it and where it fits into overall EU plans is by its former Chief Executive, here. I would like to summarise it but don't have time.

Meanwhile this is a brilliant parody of the "No" posters:


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)
Wonderful poster.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 11:06 am (UTC)
You could also do one that says 'If you don't want Tony Blair to be president of Europe, vote No'.

Just saying...
Oct. 2nd, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
I saw the 'President Blair waits for Ireland' headline on one of today's papers, so I think someone's done it already.

I'm pro-EU and the idea of him being in charge makes me think twice about it.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 11:29 am (UTC)
I'm pro-EU and the idea of him being in charge makes me think twice about it.

I too am broadly pro-EU, but there are a number of things, like the way national governments launder unpopular legislation through the commission, our inability to directly affect commissioners (who, from the UK at least, are usually national politicians who have failed in some way), and the planned appointment (not election) of an EU president all worry me as well.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 01:11 pm (UTC)
The Brits are relatively unusual in appointing commissioners who have peaked in career terms. Most other countries choose middle-ranking pols.

As for the laundering of unpopular legislation via the EU route, Lisbon brings more transparency to the process, at least potentially.

On the EU president see my response to redfiona99.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
I don't follow other countries as well as I do the UK, but I can recall Edith Cresson as a failed French politician kicked upstairs to the EU where she continued to screw up..

The laundering issue has been visible (don't know if this makes it transparent) for years. The visibility is not the problem. The fact that it's done at all and is possible is the problem. I don't see Lisbon doing anything about that.

I'm unconvinced that Blair will be a useless and non-dangerous president. He was plenty dangerous as PM when he got together with Bush. At least the US president is now more reliable... And what if they decide to appoint, say, Berlusconi next time?
Oct. 2nd, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
The British followed the French lead on Commission appointments (the current French commissioner is the oldest of the bunch, born in 1937). Most of the others, however, can expect to go back into national politics at the end of this year, if they don't stay in Brussels.

I wouldn't worry about Berlusconi getting a top EU job.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
I'm pro-EU but not especially in love with the idea of the full-time president. I must say putting Blair in charge is a genius stroke - he is sure to screw it up and ensure that it is simply useless rather than dangerous.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
That might explain this year's Ig Nobel prize for Literature - awarded to "Ireland's police service for writing and presenting more than 50 traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country - Prawo Jazdy - whose name in Polish means "Driving Licence". "
Oct. 2nd, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
I'm aghast at this part of the report summary (quoting Pres. Sarkosy):

"Duplication within the defence industry (5 ground-to-air missile programmes, 3 combat aircraft programmes, 6 attack submarine programmes, and more than 20 armoured vehicle programmes) has led to a massive waste of resources and inflated prices - making companies vulnerable to takeovers from US rivals."

Of the projects mentioned I'm familiar with the combat aircraft: Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen. Only the Rafale could be said to have an inflated price, due to the small numbers produced. Also, they all have different roles and capabilities - so lumping them altogether is silly.

It's also unprofessional to just take this quote from Sarkosy without providing some information on the projects concerned - names would be good!
Oct. 2nd, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
I think you should read the report in full, because I thought it made an extremely convincing argument - these "different roles and capabilities" are essentially generated by the vanity of the commissioning member states, not by actual operational needs.

It's entirely normal, and not at all unprofessional, to include headline quotes in executive summaries as is done here. If you check the body of the report you will find it put in context on page 36:
Almost thirty years ago, at the January 1979 Guadeloupe summit of the four biggest Western powers, Chancellor Schmidt, President Giscard d’Estaing and Prime Minister Callaghan, took time out to discuss the European defence industry. It was folly, they agreed, to persist in competing programmes to produce different combat aircraft, different tanks and different frigates. They concurred that it made obvious sense to specialise, with one country producing all the aircraft, another all the ships, and so on. And they concluded that the idea was sound but much too difficult to implement.

The consequences of this failure of leadership are felt today, as the makers of Europe’s three combat aircraft (Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen) commit fratricide in export markets, trying to recoup their investments and reduce the crippling unit cost to European defence ministries. As President Sarkozy observed at the Le Bourget Airshow soon after taking office: “Europe cannot afford the luxury of five ground-to-air missile programmes, three combat aircraft programmes, six attack submarine programmes, and twenty-odd armoured vehicle programmes”.
The case is much stronger and more obvious, of course, with the armoured vehicle programmes, but I would take a lot of convincing that it was really necessary to develop Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen separately. Defence procurement simply isn't a free market, it's allocation of massive amounts of political patronage, and not having a European policy means that the Americans get most of the the money by default.
Oct. 2nd, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
Where are the names of the submarine programmes? The armoured vehicle programmes? That's what's needed.

Eurofighter and Rafale were once the same programme - but the French wanted their aircraft to be capable of using an aircraft carrier and so the split occurred. Eurofighter is more capable in air defence because of this, as it doesn't need to be beefed up to land on carriers.

Grippen is much smaller than Eurofighter and Rafale - this suits some nations better than others - as they can purchase enough of a reasonably capable aircraft to tackle all their air combat requirements. For nations like France and the UK - who may be seeing combat against very capable aircraft something more is needed.

I can't see how the development of these aircraft could have taken place any other way - unless there was a desire to go the old Soviet way of producing something cheap and cheerful and throwing lots of them (and pilots) at the enemy.

Now, in an ideal world the ideas of Schmitt, d'Estang, and Callaghan would be a good idea - however the reality is that different nations have different requirements and strategies. If one nation is producing all the ships - is there really going to be much savings if the French Navy still requires its own type of ships for its specific duties, the Royal Navy the same for it's different duties, the German Navy...etc. You could say: standardise, but some roles do require different ships.

Another point is what if some internal problem occurs in one of these 'specialist' nations? Nation X decides it can't supply Nation Y with whatever due to philosophical problems. This happened in the first Gulf War when Belgium wouldn't sell ammunition to the other European nations involved in that conflict. Also, seeing how each nation tries to extract the most benefit for themselves in multinational programmes I think with nations having a monopoly things would get much worse.

"The case is much stronger and more obvious, of course, with the armoured vehicle programmes"

Maybe it is - but unless some details are provided on those programmes then it's just an opinion. Facts are needed. When you look at the wide range of armoured vehicles: Tanks, Tracked Armoured Fighting Vehicles, Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles, All Terrain Vehicles, Wheeled Scout Vehicles, Tracked Scout Vehicles, Self-Propelled Artillery - that could easily run to '20-odd armoured vehicles' taking into account differing national requirements. That also doesn't take into account the need for airmobile versions of those types of vehicles too.

"Defence procurement simply isn't a free market, it's allocation of massive amounts of political patronage, and not having a European policy means that the Americans get most of the the money by default."

It's also a fact that the Americans can also provide cheaper aircraft because of their much bigger production runs. Purchasing nations also like the fact that a US programme is likely to be around for some time - so whatever they purchase is liable to be supported for all of its lifetime. Some European projects have this advantage - Eurofighter for one.

I can't comment on the policy side of things, as I haven't had time to read all of the report yet. However - do they mention the issues I raised? If they haven't then it's incomplete.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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