Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 11 December 2016

EU Citizenship, Verhofstadt and actual EU law - or does this no longer matter?

I was startled to learn of the somewhat left-field proposal by Guy Verhofstadt (widely quoted in the media, but I include this BBC link here). Guy Verhofstadt, in case you have just crawled from out of some subterranean cavern, is actually an MEP from Belgium and is leader of one of the [minor] groupings in the European Parliament called "Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe", see his page here.

Mr Verhofstadt seems to be implying that a modification of "EU Law" can somehow be "fast-tracked" to allow "EU Citizenship" to be retained on an individual basis by UK citizens, when the UK leaves the EU, as seems to be likely a few years from now.

Now I do not doubt that that this may be a theoretical possibillity, but I think the likelihood of this or any other 'ad hoc' modification of EU Law being "fast tracked" is, ahem, illusory - it might happen after MANY years of tedious negotiation, but the idea such a change could be fast-tracked is just so much hot air, in my view.

To bring this whole nonsense proposal back down to some semblance of reality, here is what the official EU website says about the status of EU citizenship here:

What is EU citizenship?

- Any person who holds the nationality of an EU country is automatically also an EU citizen. EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. It is for each EU country to lay down the conditions for the acquisition and loss of nationality of that country.

- Citizenship of the Union is conferred directly on every EU citizen by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
This seems to imply that the status of 'EU citizen' is entirely dependent on being a citizen of an EU member state. Whether it follows that if one is a citizen of a member state of the EU which ceases to be a member state of the EU that such a citizen might retain the status of EU citizen, is not at all clear, whatever Mr Verhofstadt may care to assert.

Frankly, though, I'd never heard of the "Treaty on the Functioning of the EU" before - as this is stated in the official website of the EU one must suppose it is a real thing and not just wishful thinking; have you heard of this before? By the way, if you want to 'blow your mind', you could always read this document and try to understand it - here. This is just a minor example of the "Alice in Wonderland" fantasy-land that the decision of the UK to leave the EU seeks to consign to unlamented history! My best reading of this fantasy is that it is a part, or apparently subsidiary to, the 'Lisbon Treaty'

I think what this whole [probably minor and best forgotten little nugget of an] episode reveals is just how much of a wake-up call the UK has delivered to the schlerotic EU and just how desperate it is to try and defuse this 'crisis' - that is to say, the decision of the UK electorate to leave this cosy (suffocating?) little club.

Natrually it is no surprise to learn that the UK political party, or the remnants of its following after recent elections, in both the UK and the EU, which participates in this frankly minor and inconsequential grouping, is the "Liberal Democrats" - as a true 'Liberal' and a true 'Democrat' I do not wish of course to try and and silence these people, rather do I celebrate the welcome diversity of views which they represent.

However, I would love to know the legal basis under which the so-called "associate citizenship" of Mr Verhosfstadt's fantasy-thinking might be conferred. It is either a naive declaration with little consensual acclaim (from the rest of the EU, or at least its two or three most influential members), or it is a sign of the increasing desperation of the EU hierarchy to try and respond, perforce feebly, to the existential crisis that the imminent departure of the UK from the EU represents. If EU citizenship does not depend on being a citizen of an EU member-state, on what does it depend? Is it proposed that any existing 'EU citizen' holds that status independently of a similar citizenship status of a member state of the EU? If this new status is to be conferred upon UK citizens, presumably it must apply also to citizens of all EU member states. If accepted as a valid EU treaty amendment (fast- or slow-tracked) it seems to imply that EU citizenship may be granted completely independently of any partuclar citizenship status of an EU member state. Is the EU, in Mr Verfofstadt's thinking, to abrogate to itself the power of granting citizenship of the EU to anyone, independently of whatever status they may or may not hold in any member (or former member) atate if the EU?

It strikes me that whilst the UK occasionally arrives at a pragmatic interpretation when responding to contemporary events, it would be highly unusual for an entity so hidebound by its own self-image as the EU to do likewise. Please wake me up when the dysfunctional EU actually bucks it historic reputation and shows it is capable of genuine change, not the kind of desperate gesture politics that Mr. Verhofstadt seems to be peddling.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Over-spending and Debt at Christmas - please try and resist the temptation

I rarely touch on personal domestic matters, but at this time of year many people will become increasingly "excited" over the coming few weeks in the run-up to Christmas or the Festive Season or the Holiday Season or however you choose to describe it. I have little or no religious faith (I hover between Agnosticism and Atheism), but I have felt since I was becoming a teenager and then young adult that the idea that there was some "power" overseeing humanity was so much superstitious nonsense. I try to be "nice" in my personal dealings, so I hope that not too many are offended by my cavalier viewpoint, but ultimately if you are offended I'm afraid you will have to live with it, because in reality I don't much care. You have your views and I have mine.

In any case, however you view the coming few weeks, many people including me look upon the forthcoming Christmas holidays/festival/celebrations as an opportunity to get together with friends and family, eating and drinking rather more than is usual during the rest of the year, also offering hospitality and gifts to various family, friends and acquaintances and receiving similar in return. However, the simplest thing I can urge upon you is to not overdo it, and remember that if you are incurring debts, or your friends and family are, to fund this annual extravanganza, that booms generally are followed by busts. Debts incurred to fund this period will fairly soon have to be repaid, somehow or other. I realise that for younger families with young children that they will want to provide their children with a happy and exciting Christmas and certainly will not wish their own children to feel they are less fortunate than some of their classmate contemporaries, who receive the latest "must have" toys, games, clothes and gadgetry generally at this time of year. I understand the pressures that people face in a "consumer" society. Most of us have budgetary limits in what we can do; some of us have more "discretionary" income, beyond the absolute essentials, than others. Some amongst us have almost no such "discretionary" income at all and whatever "joy" (if any) they can look forward to over the coming weeks will be dependent on the help of others, which I hope will be as generous as others' means will allow.

But for everyone, I would like to urge some level of moderation, both in the desire to "give" and expectation of what you may wish or expect to "receive"; we all want to enjoy oursleves, but not at the expense (surely) of subsequent weeks or months of actual or near penury to pay for it. I volunteered for some years, quite some years ago now, with a charity organisation that sought to help people in various personal struggles and I always remember that another volunteer, when we were both "on duty" around this time of year, tried to explain to me the pressures she was under not to disappoint her own children in their expectations, which she was barely able (if at all) to satisfy. I am not "wealthy", but I suppose I am "comfortable" in comparison to many others, so it's possible that I don't always understand fully the pressures that face some others, I don't deny it, but I am very aware that not everyone is so fortunate as me.

In Nairn we have a weekly newspaper, published every Tuesday, as I have mentioned a few times before - The Nairnshire Telegraph does not have any online presence, so it is not possible to link to their articles, but one item they carry every week is a sort of 'moral homily' from some religious bloke signing himself 'Sandy Shaw - Nairn Christian Fellowship' and they are usually pretty trite, apart from being poorly written and full of logical non sequiturs. I read them, or at least glance at them, every week when I am in Nairn, and usually indulge in a little derisive chuckle and have at least once before written about something I read in the column - for example, in November/December 2011 when I wrote this. The article today (Tuesday, 6th December 2016) is the usual mix of religious mumbo-jumbo mixed in with practical advice, so whilst I find the former risible I am happy to acknowledge that that there is considerable "common sense" in the latter. The article this weeks is pithily entitled "Debt" and I reproduce it below:

The Nairnshire Telepgraph
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - page 8

Whatever your views on "religion" (and I have already expressed my own scepticism and indeed scorn for these "notions" and "beliefs" as they are what I regard as fiction), there is I think a good deal of common sense in the linked article. Do with my article what you will. In any case, enjoy yourselves over the coming weeks, but don't overdo it in any sense.