Friday, October 31, 2008

Questions about the European Union

I am constantly trying to learn more about you. All kinds of things. And you have been very kind in the past to give me first-hand information about a wide variety of subjects. This time, I hope you will tell me a little about the European Union.

As usual, I suppose I could Google these questions, but it is ever so more interesting (and understandable) when you tell me from your direct knowledge and experience.

Since this is such a broad subject, let me use this post to ask some very basic questions. Don't laugh at my ignorance, even if you think the question is obvious. I assure you it isn't obvious to me.

1. I have read that the EU is governed by a council, and that it has a president. First question: is that president elected by all the citizens at large in the EU countries?

2. Is the election for the EU president held on the same day for all countries?

3. How important is the president of the EU to, say, a common bloke living in Yorkshire? (For example, Is the average EU citizen concerned about who is president of the Union, and would a different president greatly affect the average citizen's life on a daily basis?)

4. Can the EU council declare war? Enter into binding treaties? Negotiate territorial boundaries of member states?

5. What is the extent of the EU legal system jurisdiction? For example, are EU citizens subject to the EU courts, and does the EU have it's own prisons to house those who have violated EU law?

6. Since the EU handles such things as travel by citizens without passports, it is obviously much more than simply an economic entity. Is there a EU "national" identity card? Do voters register simply as EU citizens?

I have many more questions about your EU. But let me stop here for now and look for your answers in the comments to this post. Thank you!


  1. Don't get me started on the EU!!!

    As an idea, or to be pretentious about it, lets call it a concept, the EU is brilliant, but in practice it's just more red tape and a big black hole for tax pounds.

    We do get to elect our MEP's and they in turn vote on our behalf. SO unless you get the right person in, it's goodbye to your constitutional rights throughout Europe! The president is picked from a rota of member countries, so whoever is the leading MEP of your nation might possibly be the next president, if you are lucky.

    The things they vote on are usually ground breaking things like bananas that are too bendy can't be sold in the EU, you can't use Imperial measurements, it has to be metric, another victory for common European sense, not...

    Thank God they can't declare war on anyone, otherwise we'd be at war with the whole world, and I think we'd be quite crap at it too, seeing that most of the nations involved are pacifists or French.

    Think of anything bad wrong with Great Britain and I'll show you a EU law that prompted it.

    Long live Great Britain, lets declare war on the EU and fight them on the beaches with our superior upper lip and cups of tea!

  2. 1. No - it rotates every 6 months and is really a country rather than a person

    2. No

    3. Not at all

    4. No. No.

    5. The EU declares broad treaties which are carried out by national governments. Regulations become law, Directives are left to individual countries to apply as they will. No EU prisons.

    6. They've tried this for travel. The Schengen agreement was intended to abolish border controls within the EU but the UK opted out. You don't though have an EU passport, you retain your national one but don't have to produce it travelling between EU countries. So your internal border crossings no longer have huge border posts, just a sign saying welcome to... I still find it weird - "are we in Italy yet? Oh yes the road signs are in a different language..."

    Voting remains national. You are eligible to vote in another EU country after residency requirements are fulfilled.

  3. The EU is a good idea spoiled only by the fact, a simple fact, that all the nations involved put themselves first! Except the UK of course.
    Folks in the UK, usually Tory 'Daily Mail' readers, complain about the tax paid into the EU. However vast sums come back to the UK from the EU and much good it does us.

    In short there is too many words about the EU and too little information! It is deliberately obscured so nobody understands the workings, and no-one appears willing to give a clear explanation of the EU or its use of cash.

  4. Excellent questions and I appreciate the answers received so far (the KingofAnkh made me laugh). I look forward to more information.

  5. I'm with KingofAnkh on this one... the whole thing is an exercise in futility and red tape.. any excuse for spending tax payers money on themselves and not for the good of any of the countries economies that are members..

    bah humbug to the lot of them.. what was wrong with british measurements, the old imperial (sorry if not politically correct name) names of yards, inches, ounces and pounds.. instead we are inflicted with such daft rules as bananas being too curved to be sold, can't weigh goods out in anything other than metric weights..

    ::slides back under the soap box again::

  6. Totally off topic-in a fit of madness I have awarded you The Butterfly Award-head over to London Thoughts to pick it up.

  7. Oxymoron-"European Union".
    We have a long history of warring with each other, and spilling each other's blood and entrails all over the place. It's a bit too much to imagine we'll all play nicely together. Even without all the jokes.
    The E.U. was foisted upon us brits in a stealthy sort of way. At first, it was called "The Common Market" and there was an idea that it would be about free trade. Gradually, other nonsense crept in, a corrupt market in subsidies to the inefficient, ohhhhhh.
    Some of the stories are a myth. Or based on bad interpretation. Our shopkeepers were harassed and threatened with jail for selling in non-metric measures. In fact, the E.U. had no problem with it. But our own weights and measures inspectors seized scales, and took people to court.
    The E.U's parliament sits in Strasbourg and also in Brussels. It's a gravy-train for its workers.
    And provides member states with a dumping-ground for disgraced politicians.

    Nope, I'll explode if I think too much about it. I'm not a european, I'm British!

    P.S. In Britain, we go into shops still and ask for half a pound of the wensleydale cheese, or a quarter pound of the farmhouse pate...
    "Sorry, we can't sell it in pounds, sir." "In that case, then", I say, "I'll have 113 point 398 grammes of the farmhouse pate, please...."
    As for metres, kilometres, all of that guff, well, you know where you are with rods, poles, chains and furlongs, bushels and pecks... "A couple of cubits of your finest gopher wood please, my man, I have an ark to build!.

    P.S. It is wise not to let me get started on the business of rods poles chains and furlongs... I could fill several chapters and I'm attempting to curb my verbosity. Bushels and pecks are volumetric, by the way, not linear, and an inch was three barleycorns or the width of an average man's thumb. King Alfred's thumb was the arbiter abour 100 a.d. Not that he'd claim to be average... Whereas metrics?
    I metre was "1⁄10,000,000 of the distance from the equator to the north pole through Paris"
    Now it's "the distance travelled by light in absolute vacuum in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second." Now a yard, well, a yard is the length of a yard.. the yard being the arrow shot by an English long-bow, length? from the tip of your nose to the tip of your left index finger. Or 36 inches or.. 108 barleycorns.
    The frenchies, they still hate us for our yards, and our longbows. They consider them unsporting weapons of mass destruction. They were deeply hurt by the ease with which our peasants could kill their noblemen, at a distance, through plate-steel armour. It was not chivalrous to allow such a thing. Only knights were supposed to be able to kill knights. I mean: Imagine a chess game in which one side was English and the other french.. One volley from our pawns, and their back row would be in ruins, And their genoese crossbow-pawns would fail to hit anyone at the range, then be cut down as they tried to reload.
    Check-mate in three, I think.

    A metre is about 39 inches.
    Depending, of course. on how accurately your watch measures the travel of light in an absolute vacuum.

    Okay. I'll shut up now.

  8. ..... I just spotted Al Gore.....

  9. I think this is one best Googled after all. I was only trying to learn a little how it works. And now I find, as an aside, that few of you love it much.

    And I am forced to either take A's answers as truth or go to Wikipedia. Ha! Some choice. A. would lead me astray just for the sport of it.

    And so I am going to conclude that the EU president is not elected by the people, but by their reps to the council, and that the people do not find this man or woman of much interest to their daily lives at all. I will in a later post explain why this is important to an American.
    @Kingofankh - thank you for being one of the few to give me a few facts at least.

    The thing I have learned that I didn't expect to learn is that you have indeed given up some of your national powers, apparently, to this rather unusual bureaucracy. At first I thought you (and Soubriquet) were joking at the unusual powers you have granted the EU, but I am starting to think you are serious.

    I will have to study this some more.

    @a. - I see. A country and not a person. So France is currently in charge of the UK's foreign affairs. Or at least acting on Britain's behalf (best interest?) as far as your European connections and business goes. Very disturbing.

    I'm afraid I don't understand your passport explanation at all. Sorry.

    @Adullamite - Have I found an EU proponent, then? Finally? For someone (me) who knows nothing much about the organization (except that it's original purpose was to provide you with a common market free of tariffs, I believe, as well as a show of solidarity against outside traders (read: The United States of America) from making inroads into your individual markets, I am still lacking much useful information, I'm afraid. If you all know how to describe it to an outsider, you are keeping it well to yourselves.

    @Janet - So do I. :)
    @Sage - Alas, another friend who I feel could well explain it workings to me, but tells me some more drawbacks. So interesting though, as are all of your comments. I am losing interest in how the President is elected. I think the real story lies elsewhere. I must redo my post. :)

    @Descartes - Thank you! I will pick it up and post it. Thanks again!

    @Soubriquet - See, I never know when you are joking. How could someone seize someone's scales or tell them how to sell their merchandise? You are a free country, so I know you are jesting and not telling the truth. And you are contrary: if you would visit my country, you would undoubtedly order in metric just to confuse our shopkeepers who deal only in pounds and ounces and feet and inches and bushels and pecks. It is still as you taught us, here. But you wouldn't order 2 pounds of this or that sandwich meat at the deli, would you? Oh, no. "Give me 800 grams please", you would say, just to see the poor clerk get flustered at knowing nothing of metrics or even have a slight desire to know about them. Like A., you are mostly a troublemaker. But I don't believe for a moment I couldn't order a pound of cheese or a yard of fabric in your shops. Once again, you take advantage of my delicate sensibilities. Here a mile still contains 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards. And it always will. You can keep your barleycorns, however.

    @Petra - algore is in Florida demanding a recount already, and ranting about global warming. Stick to realgore. :)

  10. 1. The president is not elected by the great unwashed public, but somehow gets put into position (this changes every 6 months as mentioned by a.)
    2. See 1.
    3. None whatsoever, unless they pass one of their completely unreasonable rules that makes life impossible for the great unwashed. Like growing the wrong sort of potato or tomatoes not meeting the regulatory standard red.
    4.Only by rules and regulations, and as most of the members are by nature peacekeepers I expect we would negotiate handing over our respective countries in the case of a hostile takeover.
    5. Each country retains it's own legal system, however the Great Unwashed can appeal to the court of Human Rights and this can (if it thinks fit) overturn a judgement of a specific legal system.
    6. Again each country has it's own identity card/passport, but it shares a common design where possible; this has taken many years to implement and many great unwashed have still retained their old style driving licences and passports until the bitter end.

    The sarcasm in this post is intentional but not aimed at any one individual. The only good thing the EU does is employ lots of people to do daft things with legislation that didn't need doing in the first place.

  11. Sage, I love it! Thank you for taking the time, but the other subject (how I LOVE the EU and all it has done for me) is MUCH more interesting! I promise to do a post entitled: Name one thing the EU has done for you today. :) Your comments will be expected!

    Right after Obama wins over here and we get that out of the way.

    Then you must contribute in more detail. Please!

  12. I still have my paper Welsh Drivers License and I refused to renew my Passport until they recognise Wales as a country not a principality!

    Who needs Europe? The UK really doesn't.

    As it was mentioned we pay a hell of a lot into Europe, and we get quite a bit back, but what the hell is the point? We might as well keep our own money and spend it on ourselves!

    Europe has been at war for centuries in one form or another, and it riles me knowing the French are in charge at the moment, I still remember Agincourt!!!!

  13. Last time I'll make any effort to answer any of your questions then. All I get is abuse.

  14. What's new there then, you ask.

    No, nothing, I should be used to it by now.



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