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Monday, January 13, 2014

Gaining allies for #EUReform: Open Europe / Fresh Start Project's EU Reform Conference is drawing huge levels of interest

Advocates of 'Out' of the EU or the 'Status Quo', are fond of saying that EU reform is impossible - it suits their respective cases. They are wrong. Reform is possible, but will not happen on its own, reformers in the UK need to go out there and win allies and put forward solid thought-through proposals to make the EU more competitive and closer to voters.

This week Open Europe and the Fresh Start Project will attempt to do just that by hosting a ground-breaking conference for EU Reform in London.

It will be a landmark event - and the response to this conference has been absolutely amazing. A reminder to those who say there's "no appetite" for reform in Europe that they may be speaking too soon. There will be 300 delegates from over 30 countries debating a full spectrum of ideas on how to achieve major reform in Europe. Keynote speakers include eight ministers from across the continent, leading business people, MPs, MEPs, former heads of state and a European Commissioner.

Here are some highlights:
  • A major contribution from a senior UK Minister.
  • Agnieszka Pomaska, Chair of the EU Affairs Committee in the Polish Parliament, and Priti Patel MP debating EU free movement and rules on access to benefits.
  • Rachida Dati MEP, Deputy President of the French UMP Party, asking if it’s time for a “realist revolution” in Europe.
  • Leading German MP Klaus-Peter Willsch and former EU Commissioner and Dutch minister Frits Bolkestein discussing if, and how, powers can flow back from the EU to its member states.
  • UK Europe Minister David Lidington and Irish Europe Minister Paschal Donohoe discussing the role of national parliaments with break-out sessions looking at whether national parliaments should be given veto rights over EU law.
  • Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Fisheries, explaining why EU reform is possible using the case of the EU’s fisheries policy.
  • Bruno Maçães, Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, discussing how services liberalisation can be achieved in Europe.
  • Serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson and Dr Daniel Mitrenga of the German Association of Family Enterprises identifying ways to cut EU regulation.
  • UK Foreign Secretary William Hague addressing the “Reformers’ Reception”.
  • Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, and former Slovakian Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, drawing lessons on reform from Eastern and Central Europe.
  • Peter Norman, the Swedish Minister for Financial Markets, looking at how the single market can work for economic recovery.
  • Young reformers from across Europe setting out their ideas for change in the concluding “Future of Europe” panel.
What do we hope to achieve?One conference will not achieve #EUReform on its own, but ahead of a crucial year in Europe - with the European elections and the selection of a new European Commission - it'll be a hugely important opportunity to really delve into the kind of policies that will achieve sweeping change in Europe. It'ls also be a key testing ground for what kind of reforms David Cameron might achieve ahead of a potential 2017 EU referendum.

We have provided a platform, now lets see what the delegates make of it...


Anonymous said...

OE - Let's get this straight.

Reform is required, yes. Better still let's go for Free Trade only via EEA and EFTA membership and free ourselves from having to go back every few years asking for further reform.

If reform of the EU is possible now it will, in my opinion only be temporary.

In a few years time, we will be back to the drawing board again when the EU over steps its authority with yet another grab for our sovereignty or perverse decision that impacts our sovereign interest.

The same unelected and bungling bureaucrats will still be in their jobs in the EU and the culture will be exactly the same.

Reform is not enough. Let's leave with Free Trade only.

jon livesey said...

The danger here is that the EU will now start to talk about "reform" as a way to put people to sleep and get them to stop worrying their little heads.

We don't really need the great and the good to get together to make soporific declarations on the topic of reform.

What we need is for there to be enough blue water between the UK and the rest of the EU that the EU can do whatever they want without bothering us.

The last thing we want is to hold up the integration of the rest of Europe. We made that mistake in 1914 and 1939 and we should not make it again.

If the rest of Europe is convinced that Germany is a completely changed country, and that economic and political union is safe thing, and that the number two has a rational square root, good luck to them.

We'll be happy to trade with them and build the clever bits for their planes, and we'll even be an associate member if that's what trade demands.

Rik said...

On immigration

As stated earlier hard to see change in the EU without this issue being centre stage (or vey close to that).
The moment it comes up discussions usually ends in 2 sides shouting at each other. Look at the UK (or in fact any other Western European country where it is very similar) how these things always develop.

To get the change process started is a biggy. And OE is doing a great job in that respect btw. But managing the immigration discussion will be an almost as big one and what makes it worse an even more complicated one.

1. Start with the basics. Immigration in the EU was more or less pre-determined to be a huge potential problem with the accession of the Northern part of the former East block.
At that time it was however also a wise political and strategic move to assure that the cold war was really won and could never realistically be started up agin at the same level. But was an acceptable trade-off.

Things however went terribly wrong when people like your Mr Blair accepted the second layer East blocks (Balkan). No political/strategic need to do that at that time. Eastblock was broken up unreparably.
Only a more or less guaranteed disaster in the making, with nothing in exchange. It was beyond stupid to think that Balkanisthaners would get a) at the same level as Western Europeans within a few years; b) if not would behave differently from other poor country immigrants; and c) would not be Poland 2.0, The Worst Edition. as far as immigration goes.
Everything went on the EU automatic pilot in that respect and ala 'we' got a problem.

People's opinions have changed all over the place. And it has to be seen if Balkanites will move in similar numbers. Most things point in that direction, but clearly not everything does. Especially the 'bad' press the UK will have had lately will simply have reduced numbers considerably (especially of the worst sort of immigrants). One can never say that aloud. But simply look the mere influence the rise of Wilders has had on immigration numbers it is clear that a 'bad' press is as effective as legislation.
Anyway the issue is that if this goes wrong it in all likelyhood cannot be reversed anymore (as history shows). People who are in are practically impossible to ship out in significant numbers even if you want to, unless you move to very unpleasant measures.
And unlike us you are very poor at best at those and maybe better that way.
Furthermore Cameron (and likely much of Labour as well as they carry most of the blame for this kind of immigration and by Blair going further than his European counterparts a defence of we had to is totally uncredible) will be dead and IP will be a permanent fixture. And any referendum will more likely than unlikely see an exit. At best it will become a high risk event. Not only on the outcome but also how (how quick especially) the electorate will demand things to happen. Not unlikley in that case unrealistically fast.

2. Looking at criteria.
Immigration has AT LEAST short term medium term, long term consequences. Also economic, social and political ones seen from another angle.
Furthermore calculations have to be made correct (for all mentioned earlier parts).
And yoiu have to give a good reason why you should not be sherry picking.
Lets not make things more complicated than this there are 9 (3x3) areas to be covered in which calculations should be made in a proper way.
So examples as only 24 immigrants have arrived in the first week or OE's own less foreigners on welfare etc. are p-poor. It only covers part and a small part of the potential problems and on your own example you should look at longer term issues as well and compare what these people pay in and get out. Being at the bottom of the tree they are likely paying in relatively less and getting out relative more on top of the earlier thingy. If you want to make it a money issue ayt least do the calcs right.

Rik said...


3. Most likely not a good idea to bring it into any first discussion on EU change.
Unlikely to give results and messes up the discussion. Likely will end up with 2 groups shouting at each other like in the UK with no proper discussion.
Or even as a last agenda item (as it will likely f-up the positive atmosphere most meeting end with. (when people become less stressful).

4. However on local level it is hard to see it possible to avoid the topic. Cameron simply needs the immigration issue and for more than one reason.
He needs to close ranks. Hard to see him doing that without there being communis opinio or at least a lul in intra-party hostilities. Problems are basically there because a large part of the Conservative clients are moving elsewhere for a large part because of immigration and the Tory franchise holders (aka as MPs) in large numbers get very nervous about that. Cameron should close ranks with his MPs and with the electorate. Also to avoid that every 5 minutes someother rocketscientist comes up with another strategy.

These things clearly bite but hard to see how it could go otherwise. Just do damagelimitation.
And nevertheless Poles and Co not even to mention Balkanisthaners always will be pissed off in that process. The only issue is when.
So not make it worse than it is and try to time it if possible to happen at a least inconvenient time. In that respect early on has its advantages. People have time to rationalise it.

5. Immigrationdiscussion is one of the major dangers in the whole change discussion. Because it is that emotional.
As said on the other hand hard to see how it can be avoided. Both on a local UK level as well as in the negotiations.
I also donot see how OE as one or possibly the frontrunner in this discussion can get around it.
My guess would be pick it up timely yourselves. But not bring it directly in the discussions.
Come with a balanced view yourselves. I always have wondered why Europeans still are not able to get even the basic facts on this issue right (after 2 decades).

The main issue is the discussion should be broken down in 2 pieces (and asap):
-Western immigration;
-3Rd world (poor country (including eg the Balkan).
For several other things this split is already made (black and white schools in many countries) so it will be simple to do it with immigration as well. (Were it not for dysfunctional immigration authorities basically all over the Western world).
First part Western immigration works great for basically every criterion and for the second part people need their immigrant neighbour to show that it works.
At the end of the day it is as simple as that.
Mass immigration from poor countries doesnot work. Not economically and not socially and the longer it lasts the worse the divide between electorate and traditional politicians will get (until it blows up in their faces).
For Not-Western immigration you should simply move on to sherry picking and proper picking. Not one sherry with a complete tree of relatives attached to it.

Rik said...

For the EU immigration issue unfortunately we have a 'perfect storm' at the moment. 'Poor immigration' is now covered by EU rules while people have crearly enough of it as well as off the EU. No great timing, but as said unavoidable.
Seen the fact that people like your Boris still sees it as one issue clearly indicates that the population mixes the 2 things up.

Another point re the discussion. keep it scientific on proof (no neighbours criminal or 3rd world academics).
Also academic on the sociology issue. That clearly there are some social issues (both integrational as well as simply on acceptance/absorbability capacity. Starting from the point that all human beings are completely rational and want to share thier last piece of bread with the poor of the world as many do, is beyond moronic.
Start with clearly stating that you cannot be nice to all people. This is not a perfect world, not by far. Simply no platform for that how often you call the others racist or similar things.

Imho those are the issues that might lead to a discussion with a positive outcome (at least a chance thereof) and reduces somewhat longer term the emotionality around the topic. If horse trading has to be done at the end of the reneg (likley the case) you donot want overly emotional people at the table.
So start late and defuse early in a nutshell. Ignore as you seem to be doing might lead to an explosion at the least convenient time.

So start late get it out of the picture quick. Easier said than done. Good thing is this has now basically started up by itself (buy public pressure to be precise).
Better stay out of it for the moment but prepare yourselves.
Gives better insight in sensitivities of main players and who knows maybe it will solve itself without running the risk to burn your fingers.
Maybe only bring some very academic (more than usual) stuff into the discussion if it starts to move to 'shouting' again. Like bring in the facts and calculations and ask the right question andf kick the neighbours out of the discussion (both the criminal as well as the academic ones).

christhai said...

Just looking at the list of participants, it is clear this is a very PRO-EU gathering, like the last disaster.

New Start? Open Europe? Hague?

Even Goebbels was smarter than try to pass this off as an "Open" discussion.

Can you not see why the vast majority of people do not trust the EU - AND - its servants.