Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Too pessimistic?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 12:55:45 PM EST


Some things will never be the same again and to imagine it will soon be 'business as usual' may well be wishful thinking. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

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Municipal elections in France

by eurogreen Sun Jun 28th, 2020 at 01:26:04 PM EST

I am a citizen assessor today at my local polling place in Lyon: looking up names, and verifying the integrity of the process.

The first round should have been cancelled, as it was held just a few days before confinement. Turnout was, logically, very low, and in particular, elderly electors mostly stayed away, wisely. The government then toyed with the idea of annulling the results of the first round, and holding both rounds of the elections after the confinement; this was unthinkable, particularly in the context, because the lists of Macron's La République en Marche party performed horribly, with no chance of winning a major city in the second round.

The first round was dominated by a "green wave" almost everywhere, with combined green-left lists set to make major gains in many places.

Frontpaged - Bernard

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Green centre right government formed

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 27th, 2020 at 02:39:09 PM EST

One of the elemental proprieties of democracy has been enacted  in Ireland today with the handing over of the office of Taoiseach from Leo Varadker, leader of Fine Gael, to Michael Martin, Leader of Fine Fail. The two civil war parties of Ireland are coalescing for the first time in tandem with the Greens.

Bitter personal rivalries and some policy differences have been set aside after the three parties agreed to coalesce on the basis of a 129 page programme for government endorsed by large majorities of their party memberships in the case of Fianna Fail, and the Greens, and an electoral college within Fine Gael.

The formation of the Government brings to an end an unprecedented 15 week hiatus since the General Election last February when no government could be formed for lack of an agreement between parties representing a majority in the Dail. Failure to agree would, most probably, have resulted in a second general election to resolve the impasse.

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New Government to be formed in Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jun 16th, 2020 at 11:44:34 AM EST


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Caroline Quinn/Damien Eagers/Leon Farrell/PA Wire


The Fianna Fail (FF), Fine Gael (FG) and Green parties have agreed a 50,000 word, 126 page programme for government which will now be put to the party memberships of FF and the Greens and an electoral college within FG for final approval. Approval is expected in FF and FG, but the two thirds majority of members required by the Green party constitution may prove a more difficult hurdle. Hence the ? in the title.

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It's not easy being Green

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jun 7th, 2020 at 11:26:49 PM EST

Both the Irish Times: Leadership and the Green Party, and the Independent have published my letter to the editor today:

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Trump Tweeting Violence Against Rioters

by Oui Fri May 29th, 2020 at 02:36:25 PM EST

[Update-1]

END OF UPDATE

Trump took to Twitter last night to threaten military intervention in Minneapolis, saying

"when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

More below the fold ...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Countering Karlsruhe

by Frank Schnittger Thu May 28th, 2020 at 11:43:51 AM EST

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The Primacy of EU law

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 25th, 2020 at 03:43:08 PM EST

I am upbraided by an email correspondent for my article on Karlsruhe and German exceptionalism as follows:

Dear Mr. Schnittger,

as long time reader of the I usually agree with most of you opinions. However, your comment on the German decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht misses by far the point in a few instances.

The major issue of the Judge Huber was  that in Germany (and according to Huber also other countries) the Basic Law/constitution sets the highest bar, it cannot be changed by a European court. There was and is a conflict that has to be solved.

"If the German court can be allowed to superimpose its own judgement on an EU policy it doesn't like, what's to prevent all other member states doing the same?" only points to the fact, that you do not understand the issue. To complain that a German judge points to this conflict is therefore weak, the EU is not one country, it is a union of sovereign states, that causes problems. Ignoring the problems solves nothing.

"Is the Merkel/Macron proposal for the EU to borrow and spend €500 Billion a direct response to the Karlsruhe ruling?"

Again a miss by a wide margin. There was never a discussion whether there is support for the countries hit hardest by the corona visrus epidemic, only the legal framework was. The judge Huber did NOT exclude some means, he only requested a better reasoning, this should be easy for the EU. And a larger EU budget as suggested for the 500 billion EUR is of course perfectly within the legal framework given by judge Huber.

"Far from being slow to condemn Karlsruhe, Ireland should be equanimous about the prospect of Germany leaving the Eurozone, if that is what it really wants to do, as the logic of the Judges ruling seems to suggest."

Nonsensical conclusion.

Best regards in the hope to read high quality article in future again.

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Karlsruhe and German exceptionalism

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 20th, 2020 at 02:49:31 AM EST


Michael McDowell
, prominent barrister, senator, Irish Times columnist, and former Tanaiste (deputy prime minister), Leader of the (now defunct) Progressive Democratic party, Attorney General, Minister for Justice, and leading advocate for the neo-liberal policies which devastated the Irish economy in 2008-2011, has written a column in the Irish Times basically supporting the Karlsruhe judgement.

This is hot on the heals of Fintan O'Toole taking McDowell to task for his new role of deficit-scold-in-chief, having been entirely profligate while a Minister of the disastrous 2002-2007 Fianna Fail Progressive Democrat government. As I noted in the comments to that article:

"Deficit Scolds" is the term of art to describe those far right economists (like Rogoff) who criticise all spending when the Democrats are in power and give free licence to Republicans to run up far bigger deficits whenever they are in power - usually on tax cuts for the rich. As Dick Cheny said: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" when it comes to rewarding the rich, even if this is the most economically inefficient form of "spending" any state can opt for. Michael McDowell fits the description admirably.

But it is his view on Karlsruhe that concern me here. I have responded, in the comments, as follows:

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European sovereignty : All Hail Mutti the Great

by eurogreen Tue May 19th, 2020 at 03:34:33 PM EST

A French-German Initiative for the European Recovery from the Coronavirus Crisis

A modest proposal with potentially far-reaching consequences. A founding act of European sovereignty?

I am incapable of saying, writing or even thinking anything positive about Emmanuel Macron. So I will lavish effusive praise on Angela Merkel : she is a conservative, but she is not stupid, nor is she doctrinaire. On a number of historic occasions, she has demonstrated an unstatesmanlike, but crucial, ability to change her mind. Who will follow? Who, in Germany, dare stand against her. And if this proposal goes through, in the twilight of her career, she will establish a lasting, positive legacy.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Test Test Test

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 15th, 2020 at 12:14:18 PM EST

The data above (sorted by total deaths per country) is taken from Worldometer with the exception of two calculated column (in red) of confirmed case mortality rates (deaths/confirmed cases) and % positive tests (confirmed cases/tests) which I have added to illustrate the degree of testing which is happening in each country. Obviously the more widespread and intensive the testing regime, the lower the % positive rate you are going to get. Conversely, countries which only test the most obvious cases, usually on admission to hospital, will return a much higher % positive rate.

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Sacrificing Lives to Save Capital

by ARGeezer Sun May 10th, 2020 at 03:24:27 PM EST

The Plan Is to Save Capital and Let the People Die Common Dreams

Whether Americans know it or not, their government is not working for them. Their government is working on behalf of capital. Humans are now a mere second-order, instrumental factor to be considered based on how it affects capital.

This is particularly tragic considering that, for countries with their own fiat currency such as the USA and the UK, capital can be created at will by the treasury/central bank of that country. Granted the USA has more leeway in this regard due to the weight of its currency in the international market. But the government of such a country can always purchase any good or service that is produced in their country without inflationary effect provided such purchases do not produce shortages of resources.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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The Joys of Spring

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 4th, 2020 at 02:04:15 PM EST

One of the reasons the lock down in Ireland has garnered less opposition than might be expected is that we are currently enjoying glorious May sunshine having had a much sunnier than average April. Temperatures of 10-15 degrees with an absolute max of 20 degrees recently may not seem like much to our European neighbours, but hey, this is Ireland, and we will take this kind of weather any day.

As I write my 6 month old grand daughter is enjoying her first outdoor bath in warmed water under a clear blue sky and a light breeze in blissful 12 degrees sunshine. Many Irish people regard 20 degrees as hot, and 25 degrees an almost unbearable heatwave. There is a reason our forebears migrated northwards out of Africa, but I have always wondered why the war loving Vikings focused on polar climes. Surely population and military pressures from the south couldn't have been that bad?

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Growing Old?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 29th, 2020 at 03:33:58 PM EST

As an old radical I now sometimes find myself in the unaccustomed and uncomfortable position of defending a conservative party led government. There was a time when I couldn't locate myself anywhere on the Irish political spectrum, such was my disenchantment with everything that passed for politics in Ireland.

I could just about associate myself with campaigning groups like Amnesty International and the Irish anti-Apartheid movement but never felt comfortable with the idea of joining any political party. As Groucho Marx is reputed to have said: I refused to join any club that would have me as a member.

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Growing old?

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 29th, 2020 at 03:31:10 PM EST

As an old radical I now sometimes find myself in the unaccustomed and uncomfortable position of defending a conservative party led government. There was a time when I couldn't locate myself anywhere on the Irish political spectrum, such was my disenchantment with everything that passed for politics in Ireland.

I could just about associate myself with campaigning groups like Amnesty International and the Irish anti-Apartheid movement but never felt comfortable with the idea of joining any political party. As Groucho Marx is reputed to have said: I refused to join any club that would have me as a member.

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Of Corona bonds and viruses

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 26th, 2020 at 11:41:39 AM EST

There is no doubt that having a common currency like the Euro has been a net benefit for most members, most of the time. For a net exporting country like Germany it eliminates one barrier (currency fluctuations and exchange costs) to trade. For a small economy like Ireland it can also avoid the wild fluctuations in currency value experienced by our previous currency, the punt, which could be gamed by a medium sized hedge fund. Businesses crave predictability and eliminating exchange rate fluctuations and costs helps provide that.

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Nirvana around the corner?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 23rd, 2020 at 02:41:24 AM EST

Letters to the Editor, Irish Times. The realities of forming a government

Sir, - If we are to believe Fintan O'Toole and Una Mullally, nirvana is just around the corner and all we have to do is boot Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael out of power (Fintan O'Toole, "FF and FG have produced a colouring book for adults", Opinion & Analysis, April 21st; Una Mullally, "Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael exposed as intellectually dead", Opinion & Analysis, April 20th).

There is no mention, never mind analysis, of the alternative policies on offer from the vast majority of TDs who were elected in February on a platform of booting Fine Gael out of office, and who have as yet, unaccountably, failed to form an alternative government.

Could it be that these change- supporting TDs are all clamouring to join the opposition because they realise that anything but nirvana is likely to be on offer over the next few years?

Not only will the economy have to be rebuilt from a base at least 10 per cent lower than we achieved in 2019, but the costs of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, together with the costs of Brexit, global corporate tax reform, global trade wars, and combating climate change will have to be borne before we can even think of regaining the average standard of living we enjoyed in 2019.

Certainly we can address issues such as income inequality, housing, healthcare, childcare and care of the elderly, but we will be doing so, in all likelihood, out of an economy and tax base far smaller than we enjoyed in 2019. The notion that some of us are not going to have to pay a lot more tax so that more of us can benefit is fanciful. We will be lucky to retain existing benefits even if we all pay a lot more tax.

Certainly, in the short term, we can borrow more to ease the pain. [Last Monday] We paid off a €10.6 billion debt taken out in 2004 which was costing us €450 million a year in real money ("State will save close to €450 million a year as it redeems a €10.6 billion bond", Business, April 20th). Right now we can replace that borrowing at near 0 per cent interest rates, but how long will that last when almost every nation on earth tries to tap the debt markets on a vast scale?

And with Italy on the verge of bankruptcy, I wouldn't be counting on the EU and ECB to come running to our rescue.

As the Chinese curse would have it, we live in interesting times. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

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Comparing different approaches to Covid-19 containment

by Frank Schnittger Wed Apr 22nd, 2020 at 01:05:52 AM EST


Table 1 - countries listed in order of cases per million people (Source Real Clear Politics). All data taken at midnight GMT 21/22 April.

We are used to seeing these league tables with the USA, Italy, Spain, France and the UK on top, but when you adjust the data for population size, it turns out that Luxembourg, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and Switzerland are the hardest hit so far. Of course that may also be due to the fact that these countries have tested more than others - see table 4 below.

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Political passengers looking for an easy ride...

by Frank Schnittger Sun Apr 19th, 2020 at 01:24:29 AM EST

Irish Independent: We need another election when normal life resumes (second letter down)

Fine Gael campaigned to remain in office and won 35 seats, a loss of 15 seats. All the other parties and candidates campaigned for a change of government, and succeeded in wining 125 seats. A decisive victory, well done.


Now, somehow, many of those 125 TDs find themselves unable or unwilling to form a government and the responsibility is said to fall, once again, on Fine Gael to form one. Where is the logic in that?

Cobbling together a government of two or more parties that promised not to coalesce with each other is no way to honour the will of the people. It can only end badly.

If those 125 TDs want to be true to their mandate, let them deliver a government. If not, we have no option but to have another general election to give a mandate to TDs and parties who are actually prepared to form a government and who have campaigned on that basis.

Any party programmes put forward will then also have to explain how they will deal with the realities of post-coronavirus Ireland and the world. That debate will, in and of itself, be a good and necessary thing.

The election can be held just as soon as "normal" life resumes. In the meantime, the current "caretaker" government should just get on with the job of managing the crisis as best as it can. That should be its sole focus until the election is called.

Frank Schnittger

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A Disgraceful Slur

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 16th, 2020 at 10:20:40 AM EST


Press reader image of Belfast Telegraph page - that newspaper doesn't publish letters online, and is not available where I live

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News and Views

 July 2020

by Bernard - Jul 5, 17 comments

Your take on this month's news

 June 2020

by Oui - May 22, 130 comments

Your take on this month's news


 Midsummer Open Thread

by Bernard - Jun 19, 42 comments

It's been a while we haven't had one of these.

Occasional Series
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