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 Communicating the EU?

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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 6:35 am

Ibis wrote:
Fortunately, that's not the goal of subsidiarity, which is simply to bring the decision-making level as close as possible to the citizen. Unfortunately, this is something that is an aspiration for the EU, rather than the member state governments as such. That allows centralising governments (and ours is so centralised that even the term decentralisation has been hollowed out) to capture the idea of 'subsidiarity' to mean that decision-making is best done at the national level - something in which they are aided blindly by nationalists, as they always have been. So, to me, the operation of subsidiarity in Ireland is something that is hamstrung by the central Irish government's emasculation of local government - however, if people can be persuaded to retake local power, the EU is a supportive environment in which to do it, which the alternative Westphalian model of competing states would certainly not be.

My apologies for taking what you've said backwards. What I want to say about subsidiarity flows into the rest of what I want to say. My apologies too for taking so long to reply. This topic fascinates me and I've been chomping at the bit to get back to it. I'm learning stuff. My opinion isn't changing all that much, it's just that you're facilitating the fleshing out of the blame I'm attributing to where I consider us to be.

Let me begin very strongly. I hate aspirational rhetoric. At least I hate it when it appears in something that purports to be policy. That's possibly a very strange thing for a 'utopianist' to say. For me, subsidiarity is the most important thing mentioned in the EU preamble. Everything else is up for negotiation. If I blame the EU for this I run the risk of overlooking the centralising tendencies of our political system in Ireland (and indeed in all the other EU countries). If I blame Ireland, I relegate the EU to being irrelevant. If I portion out the blame I lessen the seriousness of what's at stake and invite a piecemeal response that will barely address the issue, much less fix it (I'm not pointing a finger at you here Ibis, but I suppose that's probably obvious anyway). In short, I find myself with a very serious problem with no potential source that I can fairly attribute the blame to. Seems like I've been kneecapped, but this is very far from the case, for therein lies the heart of the issue I take with the EU.

I'm a man who despite being a lifelong anarchist, loves order. When I was a kid back in the early 80's I became addicted to my Commodore Vic 20 computer and spent a great deal of my wakeful hours messing around with BASIC. The EU sholuld be akin to a REM statement. It should describe the function of the following section of code. But it doesn't do it. It describes what it'd like the code to do, but the code doesn't give a toss. When the code (our State) executes all the knowns and variables and comes up with something that is completely at odds with the REM statement, the REM statement is blamed. The EU is a blamehound. The European Water Framework Directive is a prime example of this in action. The directive, in my opinion, is mostly a work of genius. But the fuckers in the Dáil have cherrypicked it and have blamed the EU for the obvious fallout (charging schools of water for example).

The EU, as you describe it, is a grand entity and I've no reason whatsoever to doubt anything you've said, especially since you've been willing to substantiate everything. If anything you're due a lot of praise for your patience. But you know what? I think we both stand at the very same impasse. We both see that something's very wrong with the picture. You say that powering up the EU is the answer and I say taking out our government, onto the streets, and shooting the fuckers (metaphorically of course) is the answer and let's deal with the EU question afterwards. Afterall, if Ireland were to honestly practice subsidiarity, I'd have no problem whatsoever with hooking up to a larger body in a similar partnership. Indeed my only misgiving would be that it should be a global partnership rather than just a small European one - one step at a time though, I suppose. I think we both agree too that Ireland's idea of subsidiarity i.e. decentralisation is a joke and really had no other purpose other than to take accountability out of each and every problem that results from our government's bungling.

Ibis wrote:
While that's a reasonable preamble to your following points, I don't think it's descriptive of the EU at all. Indeed, I'm not really sure how it can be. If you mean that the EU's policy model of Europe is based on neo-liberal economics, I don't think even that is accurate, although it has at least some applicability. The extent to which the EU does currently follow neo-liberalism is dictated by the extent to which governments following that philosophy have been elected across Europe, and the extent to which those government have in turn appointed Commissioners (like McCreevy) who follow those views - however, virtually no other European governments are as economically right-wing as those of the UK and Ireland, although the picture is somewhat confused by the continued (if declining) confusion on how to operate a market economy in the accession countries.

Nope, I mean that the EU is run in a fashion very similar to a large business, or more aptly a union for large corporations. Although I do agree with the point you're making nonetheless. I think it melds with what I've just said about subsidiarity. What I'm pointing to is how it behaves internationally and then reflects this behaviour internally. For example let's look at Dell (please note I'm not in the least blaming the EU for Dell, I'm just painting the atmosphere as I see it). Dell pissed off from Limerick because on average Dell can save €6 or €7 per hour per employee by shagging off over to Poland. Poland will become the new Ireland and will start getting all sorts of grants to improve its 'infrastructure.' Of course, by the time the Dell parasite seeks out a new host, Poland will no more have an infrastructure than does Ireland. Economic infrastructure is what's being built and this in no way is a good thing. It's like some multinational paying subsidies to some african farmer to plant sugarkane where he once planted food and then pissing off when the new crop is no longer economically viable, the soil ruined and famine is about to hit. In truth, the blame for this should be placed on individual governments. But the EU blamehound hides this fact for the most part. And so the circle turns and the rich get richer and multinationals become more and more powerful in their lobbying of the EU.

Ibis wrote:
That is something I can completely understand, but which, again, has relatively little relevance to the EU, except insofar as the EU is not changing things in that direction. It's a model I regard as pretty reasonable, except for one vital flaw - which is that if you make prestige the reward for social approbation, it will swiftly become a currency (and particularly the currency of power, where it is already very acceptable).

Observationally, I think society does a not unreasonable job of allocating monetary reward to work it values (outside the field of finance, because those who work directly with money will wind up as flush with cash as fishermen are with fish) - the distortions generally result from what we might well consider distorted valuations by people at large. For example, someone whose sole talent is the ability to pretend to be other people is currently paid much more highly than, for example, a teacher - unfortunately, under a prestige-based system, the disparity will continue, because it reflects a real valuation.

I cannot argue with the points you make here. The words "nail" and "head" spring to mind. I was indeed trying to chew more than I could fit into my mouth. I think if you couple what I said with my points on subsidiarity, it makes what I had to say seem more rational and tie it in with the EU. I also agree with what you say about prestige. I was again trying to condense too much into too little. I'd suggest that political currency developed from prestige, in today's setting is a very flawed picture. There are very few of our politicians who are entitled to little or any prestige, unless it can be inherited. A bunch of backslappers singing each others praises induces nausea in me as opposed to considering it to be down to any prestigious behaviour. I think we're both on the same page on this point although I might be a tad more extreme in my expression of it mind you. That's utopianists for you I spose. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 7:19 am

Very briefly - REM statement (or comment) is a good description of most of the language of EU treaties. It says "this is what the code should do" - such as providing for decision-making at the closest level to the citizen.

Something one knows, however, as a programmer, is that what the code below will initially do is say "Hello World". From there to code that does what REM statement says is a long road, with many bug hunts, rewrites, and swearing. This is exactly what we see in terms of EU evolution.

Extending the analogy a bit further, for fun (for an unusual value of fun), we can also see that the EU as a development project is being handled as a 'big iron' IT project (let's say a trading exchange). First, there are 27 separate companies involved, and together they form a steering committee. Second, changes are released only as major releases (called treaties) wherein each change must be signed off on by all stakeholders in legally binding contracts. Third, the exchange project code must be compatible with all 27 company systems, although any further company coming on board must sign up to a developed base of existing practice. Fourth, end users are consulted only through focus groups and 'delegates'. Finally, a major "refactoring" (ground-up rewrite) is always more likely to fail than a release based on incremental changes.

Further yet, we can see that each company has jealously guarded 'legacy code' for running their company systems, with which the EU project code cannot interfere. That, in turn, is often the source of the gap between the aspirational REM statement and the working code, because the EU project cannot even request changes in company code, let alone make changes.

So the function "subsidiarity(Ireland)" hands over to the Irish company code at quite a high level (national), and it's then up to the Irish code to take that further, if it wants.

Coming back, in that analogy, to the question of where the blame lies if end-users in Ireland Inc feel that subsidiarity isn't working for them, I do think the issue lies quite clearly with the internal workings of the Irish State. In turn, that probably reflects the quite parochial and clientilist operation of Irish politics - as long as most people have got "our man" in the Dáil, they do not ask for any system of local power - again, this is strikingly like the way big iron multi-stakeholder IT projects evolve!

Surprisingly good analogy, actually. Not brief as such, though...
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 4:40 pm

I like the way that you've developed the anology, it's very apt. I want to run with with the picture you've presented as it's easy to follow and lends itself to exploration.

So, we've got a large and complex computer program to develop. I'll consider the software to be a bit more complex than a trading exchange, I'll develop my argument as if the software was an operating system.

The first thing that springs to mind is the question: where is the kernal? I suppose the Union itself could be considered to be the kernal. This does present a few issues though. I'll touch on this some more shortly after I examine what type of software we're writing.

One of the big questions that must be considered is whether this piece of software, when it's finished, will resemble a Microsoft product or a Linux effort. I think the answer must be Microsoft. We have a kernal updating and we have the software it controls updating too. Backward compatibility is not an option and large swathes of software that used to run on our operating system must be dumped. Of course, our government refuses outright to change their modus operandi and drift further from functioning efficiently and coherently each and every time the kernal is updated. We end up with a bloated mess that at some point will demand a rewrite from scratch.

Both subsidiarity (the lack of it) and the excellent point you made about parochialism figure into this issue. To make matters worse we send some of our programmers to help with upgrades of the kernal, Microsoft certificates of competency in hand.

The EU is a brilliant idea. And indeed its purpose, even if it doesn't exactly reflect my goal, lies along its pathway. But, and it's a massive but, unless there's a possibility, or rather, a probability, of achieving compatibility, you do not and cannot achieve the goal of the EU. You end up creating a massive problem that functions solely as a problem and is geared very efficiently to cope with any attempt to hack it. Its further development is controlled solely by Microsoft who care not a jot if the operating system does not do what you want it to, they only care that it kinda does what they want it to do and that you pay for it.

If on the other hand, the issues of subsidiarity and parochialism were addressed and bound in law, the whole project would more resemble Linux and whilst initially it might seem less glitzy than the Microsoft operating system, it wouldn't be long until it surpassed it. There'd be very few freezes, hackers etc. would be more intent on helping with the project than fucking with it and we'd not once experience the dreaded blue screen of death.

Okay back to my original point in this post. Wherein lies the kernal? It's a trick question isn't it. Afterall, each of the members of the EU existed prior to the existence of the EU. Each member must be a separate kernal or else share common kernals. If we wish to hook up all the members, under a new and single kernal, the new kernal must either be a melting pot of all the former kernals, a copy of the most efficient and desireable kernal or something brand new that all members agree to become compatible with. Currently we seem to have the third choice. Unfortunately the members are acting the maggot and are only paying lip service about being compatible. They're adding a massive amount of bloat to give the illusion of compatibility. The truth of this bloated farce lies in the EU's preamble as it does in the preamble of our own constitution. The REM statements are the crux of the whole thing. It's like we've set up a virtual linux operating system within windows and told the proles we've got a linux system. In reality we have a slow piece of crap that's giving off more heat than light. Not the fault of the EU, in theory at least. But it's not a solution as long as the members are acting like a bunch of ghouls.

Okay, that's the whole thing nerdified beyond recognition and I've given myself a headache. Time for a nap and a defrag I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:16 pm

Actually, I think that's a completely different analogy, and quite telling. I chose the idea of an exchange quite deliberately, in that it's a necessarily collaborative project out of which each connected partner hopes to get as much as possible while giving as little as necessary. Most importantly, perhaps, it's obvious that a trade exchange will not ever subsume the partners, or at least not until it's evolved a long way from being an exchange - so it's something that the partners need to collaborate on, but which remains distinct from them and does not alter their separate fundamental characters.

Your choice of an operating system, on the other hand, immediately implies a totally different set of constraints - that there can only be one kernel, for example. In turn, this leads to the question of where the kernel is, what model it should adopt etc.

That highlights very well, I think, the difference in our core view of what the EU is. I believe it's a form of collaborative exchange, you believe it's trying to become an operating system for Europe.

Since I think you're completely wrong about that, I won't, for the moment, deal with your OS analogy. but will instead say why I think you're wrong.

First, it's clear, even from what you're saying about the member states, that if the EU were trying to become a common OS for Europe, it would be doomed to failure by the member states "acting like a bunch of ghouls".

Second, the member states - the ghouls - are the people in charge of the EU - legally, politically, logistically. The EU's goals, direction, capabilities are set by the European Council of heads of state, its finances are entirely dependent on member state contributions (and are largely in turn consumed by the member states), it has no army, no police force, no navy, no guns. Its only real product is legislation, which it is then entirely dependent on the member states to enforce. It can levy fines, but has no power to ensure compliance.

To use your analogy, that's like an operating system that has no access whatsoever to any system resources (not even the CPU) except what it is allowed by other programs - which is, let's be blunt, not an operating system.

So, to me, the claim that the EU intends to be an operating system for Europe - a superstate - falls completely flat. It not only says it doesn't intend being one, it can't realistically hope to be one, since it is, as you've pointed out, incapable of enforcing its will against those of the member states.

Since your points follow on largely from the choice of an operating system as an analogy, and I don't think it's a valid analogy for the reasons given, I'll wait until we've argued those before considering whether any of the subsidiary points you've raised stand separately.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:37 pm

I've been trying not to say it, but I'e got a problem with the grammar of the thread title bounce
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:49 pm

As with any social project it's 'hearts and minds' that matter.

Nothing to see here then.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:49 pm

Off topic slightly, but ibis, do you know what is the more common name for the Commission v Italy case which stated that regulations by their nature have direct effect? Is it the Slaughtered Beef case or something?
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:26 pm

I thought regs weren't enough. Didn't we try that on with EIS's?
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 9:50 pm

evercloserunion wrote:
Off topic slightly, but ibis, do you know what is the more common name for the Commission v Italy case which stated that regulations by their nature have direct effect? Is it the Slaughtered Beef case or something?

Generally Van Gend en Loos is cited as the seminal case establishing Direct Effect and Costa v Enel as the one establishing Supremacy.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:00 pm

johnfás wrote:
evercloserunion wrote:
Off topic slightly, but ibis, do you know what is the more common name for the Commission v Italy case which stated that regulations by their nature have direct effect? Is it the Slaughtered Beef case or something?

Generally Van Gend en Loos is cited as the seminal case establishing Direct Effect and Costa v Enel as the one establishing Supremacy.
Indeed. But there is another case specifically concerning regulations, brought by the commission against Italy after Italy failed to implement a Regulation establishing a system whereby the state pays premiums to farmers for slaughtering cows and disposing of dairy products.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:06 pm

I'd look it up for you in Craig & deBúrca but to be honest... I'm trying to forget EU law for the next month or so... as he says Equity, Constitutional, Criminal and Contract over and over and over again.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:10 pm

Thanks johnfás, no worries. I have C&dB up in Dublin anyway, so I'll check it up tomorrow. In the meantime I shall be buckling down to contract myself. Oh those chancers with their collateral contracts...

*sigh*
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:41 pm

evercloserunion wrote:
johnfás wrote:
evercloserunion wrote:
Off topic slightly, but ibis, do you know what is the more common name for the Commission v Italy case which stated that regulations by their nature have direct effect? Is it the Slaughtered Beef case or something?

Generally Van Gend en Loos is cited as the seminal case establishing Direct Effect and Costa v Enel as the one establishing Supremacy.
Indeed. But there is another case specifically concerning regulations, brought by the commission against Italy after Italy failed to implement a Regulation establishing a system whereby the state pays premiums to farmers for slaughtering cows and disposing of dairy products.

The "Cow Slaughter Case"? Commission v Italy 39/72 - Word format.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:19 am

Ibis wrote:
Actually, I think that's a completely different analogy, and quite telling. I chose the idea of an exchange quite deliberately, in that
it's a necessarily collaborative project out of which each connected partner hopes to get as much as possible while giving as little as
necessary. Most importantly, perhaps, it's obvious that a trade exchange will not ever subsume the partners, or at least not until it's
evolved a long way from being an exchange - so it's something that the partners need to collaborate on, but which remains distinct from them and does not alter their separate fundamental characters.

Your choice of an operating system, on the other hand, immediately implies a totally different set of constraints - that there can only be one kernel, for example. In turn, this leads to the question of where the kernel is, what model it should adopt etc.

That highlights very well, I think, the difference in our core view of what the EU is. I believe it's a form of collaborative exchange, you believe it's trying to become an operating system for Europe.
Snip...
Ibis wrote:
So, to me, the claim that the EU intends to be an operating system for Europe - a superstate - falls completely flat. It not only says it doesn't intend being one, it can't realistically hope to be one, since it is, as you've pointed out, incapable of enforcing its will against those of the member states.

I think we're both saying the same thing in a certain sense and that we're getting bogged down on the timeline. You say that the EU cannot subsume the member states until it has long since evolved past being an exchange. I can agree with this. I can also agree with the fact that Lisbon II does not constitute a suitable degree of evolution that brings us to the point of being a superstate. But the intent must be a blending of political models into one. The alternative is a blending of all consumers into a common herd. Of these two, I prefer the former, as I'm sure, you do too.

I must refer back to REM statements. With each new release, the REM statements must be updated, or more appropriately, new REM statements must be added, to account for the added intricacies and indeed to account for operations that bring us closer to the primordial REM statements - the preambles. There's an important point to be made here about the preambles - both the Irish and the EU preambles. Whilst the Irish preamble may be a lot shorter than the EU's, when you boil them down to their essentials, they say the exact same thing. I think the use of words, like "subsume" has a tendency to invoke in folks a kneejerk reaction. I'm as guilty in this as the next, possibly moreso. A more apt description might be "bootstrapping." Indeed, such a word conveys the nobility of the concept that you're trying to get past my thick skull. This point is not lost on me. Indeed the nobility of the picture you paint is as subtle and as elegant as relativity. But could I not say the same of the Irish State? Is the development of the State (ongoing) not a sum of its parts, acting harmoniously as stakeholders to bring about an efficient and tear-jerkingly beautiful state of existence (with or without the aid of the EU)? Will the Irish operating system right itself over time without the need for a complete re-write? It is this bloated virus-ridden whore, who is the current stakeholder in the EU project. You and I are being held to ransom. You see the beauty of what could be. I see the whore trying to sell me for its next fix and so that it might spread its infection. We most certainly do disagree and at a fundamental level too. But this does not mean that both or either of us are wrong, particularly so, if we agree that the nature of the beast is a bootstrapping mechanism rather than an issue of subsumation.

Tis only a matter of price after that. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Mon Jan 12, 2009 6:20 am

Again, you're assuming that the EU must become a superstate, and it's simply a question of what kind of superstate we want, and how long it takes. I don't think that's the case at all. In over two centuries the US hasn't become a centralised state, and the states didn't have millenial histories of individual sovereignty, separate languages, and interstate warfare.

Where is the evidence that the EU must become a superstate? All I can see is that people have said: "look! there's a trend line through increased pooling of sovereignty through a common entity, so the inevitable outcome must be complete surrender of sovereignty to a common entity". That's no more logic than claiming that house prices would inevitably continue rising in perpetuity because that was the trend, and that we would all become billionaire property owners. Granted, a lot of people did do that - but it turns out that was wrong. You can't simply draw trend lines through social changes - it's bollocks.

Let me suggest the following picture instead - the member states pool sovereignty on various issues up to the point where they feel that no further issue will benefit from being acted on jointly (we're very close to that now). They use the joint entity to pursue their various goals, sometimes dealing with the issues of the day jointly, sometimes separately. From time to time an area of policy is added or taken away from the joint entity depending on whether the need is felt. Joint EU weight is added to the international mix, and much argument is had about common policies, with back-biting, pettiness, posturing and horse-trading. Irish people continue to go to GAA matches, and to feel first and foremost Irish rather than EU-ropean, and the same goes for most other people. Occasionally there is a major drama as some extremish government is elected in a member state and claims it will withdraw entirely. Occasionally, member states really do withdraw, and rejoin.

Yes, it would make a terrible video game, and a lousy plot for a novel. So what? Universities have existed this way for centuries. There is no need for the EU to be an exciting and compelling story, and anyone who claims otherwise should be shot, and quickly, before they take us down another road of blood and fire. We have plenty of real problems to be sorted out on this planet that call for joint effort, without anyone needing the EU to become something virtually everyone would rather it didn't. There is, as they say, no call for it.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:28 am

A rose by any other name?

The idea of a superstate is really holding us back here. This is why I initially wanted to consider the EU a kernal. It simply powers the machinery. All the other pieces of software (member states) get to keep their own personality and function as they themselves decide. I've always understood this at some level, but more coherently now than ever, thanks to your own efforts. This kernal facilitates cooperation and indeed a pooling of resources and sovereignty but never, or at least probably never, becomes a sovereign entity in and of itself.

But that's a danger too, as well as being something to strive for. Shit man, do you not think I strive for exactly what you strive for? Never let the best be the enemy of the good? A very wise motto and not at all linear.

You mentioned the US. The American dream... Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 50 members all acting in unison to achieve this fine dream. Different in a significant way to the EU assuredly, but similar in that it is peopled by creatures of flesh and blood. The pathway to hell and good intentions...

The EU can never be the best, so long as its constituents refuse to get their own houses in order. It is an entity that can magnify the good and indeed apply it efficiently. But since we live in a very flawed societal model where greed is valued above compassion and dignity, we cannot look to a well designed entity, people it with our greediest, and stand back and hope for the best. For the best to not be the enemy of the good, each and every one of us must strive. Only then can we consider our efforts to be the best and a friend of good. Can we honestly say that we even approach offering our best to this fine aspiration?

Even if the political party model were to cease, and we've both agreed that this would be a fine thing, we would be at the beginning of where the best might begin to manifest and embrace the good. There is so much that needs to be accomplished and it's a daunting task even to consider it. Your motto is most true when applied to the individual. It is most dangerous when divorced from the individual.
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:40 pm

With all this crisis around it'd be interesting to analyse a bit on where the EU starts and where Ireland ends in things like banking and law, applied to banking if possible.

johnfás said on another thread that it's often expensive to make new laws and perhaps we need to create new ones to deal with lads who engage in dodgy corporate practices. I'd imagine this is a fraught area and impinges on sovereignty and whatever but is there a mechanism does anyone know where there is deference to Euro law on some banking thing?

We're locked into the Euro - obviously - it's bizarre that the same legal money controls that exist in the other 14 (?) of the Eurozone don't get automatically inherited into an economy when you join the Euro because it's the stuff underneath that make anything like that work, not the thing itself ??

The questions are:
are those mechanisms inherited in effect?
should they be ?
if they aren't, is it a failing of the EU mechanism of the Euro currency or am I completely off the mark?
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PostSubject: Re: Communicating the EU?   Today at 6:58 pm

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