Thursday, June 23, 2005

Give us power, not orders

I have not been writing that much about the crisis of the EU. Well, it changes now. And today´s subject is my favourite politician, British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

UK is going to have the EU presidency from the beginning of July and that is why Blair addressed the European Parliament today. I was disappointed. The speech was Blair rhetorics at its best (lists, using the word ´I´ to show commitment, snappy one-liners, saying what should NOT be done) but his conclusion was a major disappointment: Blair calls for strong leadership. He ends the speech by saying:

"The people of Europe are speaking to us. They are posing the questions. They are wanting our leadership. It is time we gave it to them."

I disagree with the conclusion. What we, the people, want is power. We want to influence. We want genuine dialogue and not dictating. We want clearer links between power and responsibility. We want politicians to take our concerns seriously. Nowadays they´re saying that we concentrate on the wrong issues. This again is an argument for more and more people reading Tom Bentley´s Everyday Democracy essay.

Another thing about the EU. I had a discussion yesterday about the fight over the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) budget with my friend Joep who has studied agriculture. He highlighted some issues that were not really in my mind at that point:
- comparing to education budget and CAP is ridiculous because education is a national competency unlike agriculture (meaning that governments can subsidise education themselves but not agriculture)
- most subsidies go in producing grain and barley, not into pigs or poultry (and France is a heavy-weight producer of these subsidised things)
- in France being a farmer is a respected profession (he said that in a recent survey over 20 % of French parents wanted their children to become farmers). In the Netherlands farmer is used as a mocking word for hilly-billies.

The current CAP debate shows how far the agriculture debate in the press is from the daily life. The debate is about money but in the debate there are no links to the outcomes: agriculture is really about food in my table, income for some and continuing the tradition in your family.

p.s. If you´re interested in Blair rhetorics, his speeches are all on the Downing Street 10 website. The best analysis I have seen is Norman Fairclough´s New Labour, New Language. It is amusing, easy to read, witty and intelligent.

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