(And why a week is a long time in British politics)
I came across a report from the EU on the progress they had made between 2009 and 2014 and took a quick look. The EU Parliament has a 5-year mandate between elections which is similar to the UK, and I confess to being curious as to what had taken place in 5 years of EU politics and comparing it with a similar period in UK politics
It was put together at least a year before the Brexit referendum.
The report summary had been put together with the UK in mind and deliberately aimed at a British audience, focusing on things that are of a benefit to, or have an effect on, the British public, which is primarily what the EU is all about…. People, the EU is very clear in this, the health and well-being of people takes priority over corporations, which is in stark contrast to the US & UK model of politics which is ALL about the Economy. The prime reason for the existence of a Tory Government, is profit and the “Business Opportunities” of big business interests.
Quick Detour #1
(We have allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into believing the Businesses and Corporations are to be treated the same as people and have “Human Rights”, the clever trick they have pulled is that they get to have the Rights but not the Responsibilities that people have, and this has bent Democracy so far out of shape it’s no longer recognisable. An Explanation of this is here.)
I must be honest here, I also wanted to compare the output of the EU with the output from the UK Government over a similar period of time and see if the “Useless EU” tag was deserved, or even misplaced.
This is a summary of the major points of EU activity with numerous links to the sources of the data, Foreign policy and International Trade are not included here,
Come in, sit down and take a look for yourself
10 Areas the EU worked on 2009-2014
1 – Measures to regulate the financial sector following its self-inflicted collapse in 2008
Over 40 new laws were drafted (Index here) to control the excesses of the financial sector, and it was accomplished with a British MEP chairing the Commission. This had a knock on effect, as it often does, by bringing the G20 into the agenda, engaging the US and the UK in implementing their own reforms. The UK was reported to be a “Strong supporter of the single market and they played a leading role in negotiating these reforms”
While these measures may not have replaced Glass –Steagall, they have certainly made a start on doing something from an EU perspective.
Quite how far the US and UK have got to go to reach this point remains to be seen.
The Bottom Line here is that within the EU, the steps taken, are starting to show signs of a positive effect, with Banking reforms seeming to show a boost to the EU GDP of approximately €1 Bn in the year 2013 alone.
2 – Tackling red tape
Europeans are no strangers to red tape, they have had to rationalise miles of it when getting 28 member states aligned with each other, but after 5 years of assimilation and pruning, real cost savings were apparent in a 26% decrease in Admin costs. This resulted in savings of approx. €32 Billion/£26Billion per year.
Examples of some of these steps taken are here, and include useful steps like streamlining public procurement procedures, the easement of VAT, Customs and EU law for very small businesses, and aligning the multitude of qualifications across nations, to enable people to gain employment. New Financial regulations were also adopted to simplify applications for EU funding and how to manage those funds if your application was accepted.
3 – The EU budget & its modification
Of strategic importance for Europe’s future, and central to its financial and political activities, the EU budget accounts for surprisingly low figures, 1% of GDP and about 2% of public spending, which for a union of 28 states is very low indeed
In the period 2009 – 2014 the European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States were locked into some very complex discussions about the Budget for 2009 – 2014 and the culmination of these ended in an overall reduced budget compared to previous years.
The scope of the Budget was also focused more intensively on the creation of economic growth and employment opportunities, and to help drive these Education, Research and Infrastructure projects all got a bigger slice of the budget, with Agriculture sustaining a reduction
4 – Science research & innovations
With the adoption of a Europe wide Patent system the incentives to innovate receive another shot in the arm as well as saving innovators a great deal of money and time processing multiple applications.
Two exciting satellite launches put into effect the Global Sat-Nav Galileo programme and the Copernicus European system for Earth monitoring designed to chart, monitor and possibly prevent natural disasters as well as assist in responding to them
Several New or revamped innovation programmes were implemented, Horizon 2020, which researches a wide range of issues like Food & Energy security, Cancer and Climate Change, and the initiative is to receive an €80 Bn budget in the forthcoming term, 2014 – 2020.
The European Research council specialises in funding for new ideas and developments for the European Institute of Technology and Innovation who specialise in Hi-Tech futuristic products
5 – Agriculture and fisheries policy
Both the Common Agricultural policy and the Common Fisheries policy have had an overhaul and set forward targets for the period 2014 – 2020 The philosophy has been to make both more sustainable and more equitable for Farmers
€25 Billion is to be invested in the UK farming sector and in rural areas.
The budget for UK Farmers direct payments is set to be stable, whereas Europe as a whole is set to suffer a 3.2% reduction.
Changes in the CFP have acted to stop the deaths of millions of fish caught up as “By Catch” (This single rule alone is worth its weight in Gold bars)
6 – The environment
In order to protect nature and drive a fully sustainable agenda the EU concentrated on low carbon technology and the efficient use of natural resources with the overall aim of reducing threats to health and well being of its citizens.
To make it all happen the European Commission, The European Parliament and all of the member states have been tasked with delivering goals set in the Environmental Action Programme 2014 – 2020 put together to work as a blueprint.
In some UK cities air pollution is a major concern, costing 29,000 lives every year and a lot of that arising from the use of diesel fuel. Between 2008 and 2012 the number of places suffering from these raised pollution levels was reduced by around 25% but it was considered still too high in a number of places. Rules had been set by the EU, and agreed by member states so the EU Commission has decided to take legal action against the UK to get them to toe the line and get the situation under control
Significant progress was made during the life of this parliament in the processing of rubbish and the reduction of tonnage sent to landfill sites. From 2001 to 2012 recycled or composted rubbish doubled from 21% to 42% but there is still considerable work to be done to reach the goal of 50% which is set to be achieved by 2020
7 – Climate change and EU energy efficiency
The European Commission proposed a new Energy and Climate change policy in December 2013 setting targets for 2030, including 40% cut in emissions and an increased share of renewable energy in the EU increasing to 27%.
Key points of this Energy policy are: –
- To Increase the energy efficiency and reduce wastage of energy resources.
- Increase the development and use of Renewables. (Strategic removal of dependency on ME & Russia to supply EU)
- Cut emissions all round by significant amounts
- Develop an EU wide single energy market to guarantee security of supply and control costs
At the time of writing the report the EU had instigated a commission to review the Energy Efficiency directive and report back with its progress and any corrective actions.
8 – Consumer Protection
Many advances in consumer protection took place in the last EU parliament including: –
- Reinforcement in the field of Food safety measures in response to the horse-meat scandal and other inputs.
- Improved Eco-design standards and clearer labeling have led to much improved and less expensive electrical appliances across member states with significant improvements in the last 5 years
- The Commission is running a campaign, commencing 2014, to inform businesses and consumers about their rights and obligations.
- Consumer disputes will be dealt with more effectively and faster with new EU Dispute resolution procedures. Customers will be able to manage disputes with EU traders(Online included) without needing to go to court
- Drastic cuts to cross-border mobile telephone and data (roaming) charges. Overall, the EU has cut roaming costs by 50% for calls and 93% for data
- Air passenger rights strengthened so that cancellations and endless delays are properly managed and compensated with these rights gradually being extended to other forms of transport.
9 – Animal welfare
The Commission has put forward an animal welfare strategy which will cover the beginning of the next mandate and asks the European Parliament and Member States to take further decisions.
Highly intensive farming techniques have, by their nature, increased stresses and unacceptable conditions to animals, and Laying Hens and Pigs are especially vulnerable. Much progress was made in the field of cruelty to animals but these 2 sectors still require attention.
Bans were put in place on cosmetics that had been tested on animals
10 – EU funding & its effect on young people
This represents one of the few areas that gets an increased budget for 2014-2020, so it’s fair to say it reflects the importance that the EU places on the development of young people.
A 7 year programme has been developed, called the Erasmus+, and it has been allocated a budget of €14.7 Billion (40% up on current funding levels), they expect to have over 4 million people taking part during its life.
The new programme is a simplification and amalgamation of various earlier schemes, that has taken the best from each and incorporated into the new version.
It is designed to expand the possibility for students to study in other EU lands as well as their own, and will also include the teachers, apprentices, volunteers, young entrepreneurs, in fact anyone that could expect to benefit from extra training and tuition.
Those 10 categories contain an impressive volume of work and 95% of it is dedicated to making life better, easier, safer and more profitable for the citizens of the EU. I am sure that if you delve deeply into some of the specifics, it will be possible to find parts that may not be a perfect fit with some folk in the UK but looking quickly through the list, the advantages of all this work outweigh any small disadvantages considerably. It also needs pointing out that with a fully functioning contingent of MEP’s working with the EU, (Instead of against it) anything that is considered to be onerous to the UK could easily have been sorted out during the protracted negotiations.
The decision for UKIP to distance themselves from these proceedings, and not turn up for meetings and votes is an insult to the democratic process of the EU at work, and will certainly have had an effect on the outcomes of some of these rules from the British perspective
The EU has a different reason for cutting red tape in its administration to that which David Cameron spoke about “leading the first government in modern history to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation.” This was less of a real ambition and more of an attempt at delivering the rabid Libertarian drive to maximise ‘profit at all cost’ for his school chums.
As if to prove what an utterly useless PM he was, in 2014 after several years of tinkering, the removal of the effects of these regulations had been cut by £1.500,000,000.
No sooner had they finished congratulating themselves when Camerons slash and burn coalition realised that they had actually added more regulation than they had removed, to the sum of £3,100,000,000, stupendous in its own ineptitude.
Back to the comparison, let’s take a look at what the UK accomplished in the 5 years 2010 to 2015 now that we have seen what the EU had done for the UK.
Here is my top 15
- They managed to well and truly alienate Scotland and give the SNP the boost it had been looking for.
- Equal Marriage rights, not to be sneezed at but basically just cut and paste from the EU.
- PM says “Get rid of all the Green crap”, a much reported in depth look at the workings of the Tory Environmental policy
- Camerons director of Communications got himself jailed – Part of the ongoing Murdoch Saga
- The rise of UKIP, 1 Tory MP defects – No Comment
- Osborne defers the much publicised “elimination of the growing financial deficit” for a few more years. More Austerity
- Talk of building a Northern Powerhouse confined to talking only – Sod all of any note
- Airstrikes against Syria voted down by 39 Tory Lib-Dem MP’s seeing sense – (BAE Not Happy I’m sure)
- Universal credit, A Tory Cock up, It’s not Universal & Nobody gets it
- The bedroom tax, A Tory Cock up, HM the Queen refuses to pay for 96 rooms
- Free schools programme, A Tory Cock up There is no such thing as a Free School
- Reorganised the NHS (It will NOT be a top down reorganisation, Oh Yes it will) type Cock up
- Cut legal aid to people who really need it. (And make sure it’s still available for those that have money)
- Tampon tax – A significant reduction of VAT on Tampons. Probably the best thing that 5 years of Tory/Libdem coalition produced in 5 years, at least half the country got some benefit from it
In my opinion the efforts of the EU make the efforts of the Tory/Lib-Dem government look simply incompetent/bone idle by comparison
Taking all these things together, my personal feeling is that NO other political entity in the world has done so much in the space of 5 years as the EU.
The US and the UK, the “Self Proclaimed World leaders” are bloody good at bombing the shit out of innocent people, but when it comes to discussion, negotiation and a genuine effort to improve the lot of ordinary people in their territory, the EU is second to none.
Let’s hurry up and leave it then, Nigel Farage says he knows all about this sort of thing and we can trust him, can’t we?
He has after all such a magnificent track record…..Of Failure