The Economist: Stonehenge offers lessons for Eurosceptics

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 22/04/14

“Excavations of a neolithic village close to Stonehenge have provided new explanations of its origins. It was not made by aliens or foreigners. It was built by Britons at a time of remarkable cultural interconnectedness. Shards of 4,500-year-old pottery excavated in Wiltshire follow a pattern originating in Orkney, a Scottish archipelago; the bones of animals slaughtered at Stonehenge carry traces of Scottish water.
Scottish nationalists should mull that. There are lessons for Eurosceptics, too. Shortly after Stonehenge’s construction — even because of it — Britain saw a rush of continental influence, including the first metal tools from what is now France and amber from the Baltic. Written in stones, then, is this portrait: of an ingenious island country, most prosperous when most open to the world, and with a mysterious concentration of eccentrics.”
– Bagehot | Written in the stones — An eternal squabble over Stonehenge has wider lessons for the British state, The Economist, December 21st 2013.


Stientje van Veldhoven: EU should free up public transport data for development of EU-wide travel planning app

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 18/04/14

Dutch MP Stientje van Veldhoven has urged the European Commission to make the data of Europe’s railway companies freely available (“open data”) so that app developers can start creating a Europe-wide travel planning app. “A European-wide travel app will make international travel by rail more accessible and customer-friendly,” she told the Dutch lower house of parliament on Tuesday (15 April 2014). “At present, you cannot plan your onward connection to Paris while on the train to Brussels,” Van Veldhoven, a member of the “Democrats 66” party (the Dutch “LibDems”), said. The EU comprises some 2700 destinations which can be reached by rail but anyone who’s ever tried knows from experience that planning a railway trip is far from easy, she said, noting available websites are complicated and anything but user-friendly.



Ronald Duong: the silent majority wants to hear the true story about Brussels

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 08/04/14

“The country benefits when key aspects of economic and financial affairs and the single market are dealt with properly in Brussels. But our politicians look at such joint (EU; rg) agreements as infected, europhile dossiers that they’d rather not be seen with in public. As soon as yet another European agreement has been reached, they dash to the national tv cameras and proudly detail everything they’ve managed to block in Brussels.
Former Italian prime minister (Mario; rg) Monti, astounded over this dynamic, once suggested introducing a code of conduct requiring government leaders to tell their domestic audiences about the agreements reached in Brussels instead. It wasn’t to be. Many government leaders are too fond of lashing out at Brussels in order to divert public attention from domestic issues. The low point in this respect is our own prime minister (Mark Rutte; rg) who is fond of saying he always takes a loaded pistol with him when leaving for Brussels. This is defeatism in the face of the cheap populism of a boisterous minority. Luckily, most people in this country understand very well that we owe the buttter on our bread to a trade and business climate shaped in part by our politicians and civil servants who managed to get our national policy objectives enshrined into EU internal market directives.
Surveys again and again arrive at the same conclusion: in this country, EU supporters continue to outnumber its opponents by a large margin. The outspoken minority may have hijacked the debate about Europe, but the silent majority understands that Europe is vitally imporant to this country’s prosperity.
But as major centrist parties have also started catering to that vocal minority, the voters risk being wrongfooted. Politicians are pretending we could do without Brussels. (…) The achievements of our EU membership are being smothered in political rethoric which is out of wack with the facts. (…) The silent majority wants to hear the true story about Brussels, rather than cheap scepticism in front of the cameras.”
– Roland Duong, tv journalist, who made a series of documentaries for VPRO television in the Netherlands entitled The Battle for Europe (De Slag om Europa), in a comment published in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, 7/8 December 2013.

(Source: Roland Duong, ‘EU-voorstanders zijn zwijgende meerderheid’, NRC Handelsblad, 7/8 December 2013, O&D2)



Ed Berrevoets: the EU should create a level playing field for SMEs

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 31/03/14

“If we all agree that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the first and foremost engine of the national economy, we should ensure a level playing field that allows SMEs to play that role. There is no such level playing field when governments or major market players are at liberty to defer payment to suppliers for 90 days. (…) I think 30 days would be very reasonable term of payment for everyone, providing enough time to process and pay incoming invoices. Companies forcing SME suppliers to extend the term of payment are financing their business this way. (…) This should be regulated in European legislation. [Interviewer: Brussels is often told not to interfere, but you are saying this is one area where it would be beneficial for industry if Brussels stepped in?] Yes, absolutely.”
– Ed Berrevoets, Managing Director of Dutch business travel agency VCK Travel, in an interview on the Dutch station Business Nieuws Radio on 19 February 2014.

Transcript  in Dutch:

BNRadio, 19 februari 2014

Inleiding van radiostation BNR: Ed Berrevoets (54). Functie volgens visitiekaartje: Managing Director van VCK Travel. (…) Zei eens in een interview: ‘De EU moet een gelijk speelveld creëren om het MKB te helpen.’

Interviewer: ‘De EU moet een gelijk speelveld creëren om het MKB te helpen.’ Wat bedoelde u daar precies mee?

Berrevoets: Deze uitspraak, die heb ik gedaan in de context van aanbestedingen en betalingstermijnen die overheden creëren naar MKB. Als wij met zijn allen stellen dat het MKB dé motor van de Nederlandse economie is, dan moeten je zorgen dat er een gelijk speelveld is voor die partijen om daaraan te voldoen. Op het moment dat bijvoorbeeld een overheid of een grote marktpartij eenzijdig tegen zijn leverancier kan zeggen ‘voortaan betaal ik jou op 90 dagen’, dan is dat speelveld, is niet meer aanwezig.

Interviewer: Dat speelveld is er dus niet. Wat moet er gebeuren?

Berrevoets: Ik vind dat daar regelgeving op zou moeten komen. Ik vind primair dat een betalingstermijn van 30 dagen zou heel redelijk voor iedereen moeten zijn. Dat is een termijn waarbinnen elke inkomende factuur geprocessed kan worden, betaald kan worden, dus dat je daar 30 dagen voor hanteert is okay. Maar op het moment dat je zelf je bedrijf gaat financieren door je toeleverancier vanuit het MKB een langere betalingstermijn te verplichten toe te passen voor jou, dan heb je het dus gewoon over jouw bedrijfsfinanciering.

Interviewer: Ik hoor dit al heel lang, en inderdaad, het klopt. Maar het blijft hetzelfde. Dus, ja, ik weet niet wat ik moet doen.

Berrevoets: Nou, dat kan ik me voorstellen.  (…)


Interviewer: Wat stelt u voor?

Berrevoets: Ik vind dat daar wetgeving op Europees niveau op zou moeten komen.

Interviewer: Heel vaak horen we natuurlijk over van alles en nog wat: ‘Brussel, bemoei je er niet mee.’ Maar dit zou dus juist iets zijn waarvan u zegt: hier zouden ondernemers bij gebaat zijn op het moment dat Brussel zou ingrijpen?

Berrevoets: Ja, absoluut. En niet alleen de ondernemers in het MKB, maar ook de overheid zelf, omdat daar precies hetzelfde geldt.






Mark Boleat: City consensus — the UK belongs in the EU, with or without EU reforms

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 29/03/14

“The consensus in the City is that the United Kingdom belongs in the EU. Period. End of story. Even if we do not get reforms, we must remain in the EU. (…) We have made it clear to the government that as far as the City is concerned, there is no need to reclaim powers [from Brussels; rg]. We want one internal market for financial services, which means more will have to be done at the European level.”
– Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London, quoted in a Dutch newspaper article (Titia Ketelaar, ‘Britse euroscepsis schaadt positie van Londense City’, NRC Handelsblad, 24 March 2014, Economy section, p. S10).

Dutch original:
“De consensus in de City is dat het Verenigd Koninkrijk in de EU hoort. Punt. Einde verhaal. Zelfs als we geen hervormingen krijgen [in de EU; rg], moeten we in de EU blijven. (…) We hebben de [Britse; rg] regering duidelijk gemaakt dat wat de City betreft er geen bevoegdheden hoeven te worden teruggehaald. We willen één interne markt voor financiële diensten, en dat betekent dat er meer op Europees niveau moet worden gedaan.”
– Mark Boleat, voorzitter van de Commissie Beleid en Middelen van de City [= het financiële centrum] van London, geciteerd in Titia Ketelaar, ‘Britse euroscepsis schaadt positie van Londense City’, NRC Handelsblad, 24 maart, katern Economie, p. S10).

Jordi Vaquer: Putin’s stance may induce others to warm toward Europe

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 27/03/14

“Many proponents of traditional values across Europe have started feeling uneasy about finding themselves in Putin’s camp ideologically. In Lithuania, for example, the Christian Democrats abstained from voting, thereby blocking a proposed law against ‘gay propaganda’ similar to the one introduced in Russia, while the Catholic hierarchy swapped its usual nationalist stance for an enthusiastic pro-European statement.
Facing a cowardly Europe while the US is focusing more on the Pacific, Putin has found it easy to win the geopolitical game. But by positioning himself as the ultimate defender of traditional values, he risks discrediting a reactionary trend in central and Eastern Europe which had seemed unstoppable. Thus he may, unwillingly, be strengthening the very democracy which he holds in such contempt.”
– Jordi Vaquer, in the Spanish daily El Pais, 24 March 2014.

In Spanish:

“ … En el resto de Europa, muchos defensores de los valores tradicionales han empezado a sentirse incómodos al verse en el mismo bando que Putin. En Lituania, por ejemplo, los democristianos impidieron con su abstención una legislación contra la propaganda gay de reminiscencias putinistas y la jerarquía católica ha trocado su habitual tono nacionalista por una entusiasta declaración pro Europa.

Ante una UE pusilánime y unos Estados Unidos girados hacia el Pacífico, a Putin le resulta fácil ganar la partida geopolítica. Pero, apostando por el conservadurismo esencialista, Putin puede desprestigiar en muchos lugares del centro y del este de Europa un impulso reaccionario que parecía imparable. Y así, sin quererlo, reforzar la democracia a la que tanto menosprecia.”
– Jordi Vaquer, ‘Putin y los valores tradictionales – El presidente ruso puede desprestigiar un impulso reaccionario que parecía imparable en Europa’, El Pais, 24 Marzo 2014.


Groningen tourist guide: Hanseatic League precursor of EU

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 24/03/14

“The Hanseatic League was a precursor of the European Union.”
– Comment by a tourist guide in the town of Groningen in the north-east of the Netherlands, 1 March 2014.  

From the Wikipedia page on the Hanseatic League ( ) :
The Hanseatic league (a.k.a. Hansa, among others) was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea, and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries).
    The League was created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid. Despite this, the organization was not a city-state, nor can it be called a confederation of city-states; (…)
    The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names, for example the German airline Lufthansa, F.C. Hansa Rostock, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, …
    [End of citation, dated 24 March 2014]

Jean-Luc Biacabe: This is Europe in the making

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 18/03/14

“This is Europe in the making! Half of all those who are leaving the country are moving to other European countries. Should we still call this emigration? Shouldn’t we, in fact, be pleased about this development and view it as a manifestation of an emerging European citizenry?”
– Jean-Luc Biacabe, economist at the Chamber of Commerce of Paris, in the French daily Le Monde, 11 March 2014.

This article reports growing concerns in France about the rising numbers of young people leaving the country to work abroad — the number of French citizens formally registered in the UK, for example, having trebled over the past 20 years to 126,000 (the actual figure probably being somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000). Mr. Biacabe, who was in charge of a study on French professionals moving abroad, notes in the same article that the numbers of young Britons, Italians or Germans leaving their respective home countries to work abroad are much higher — the UN estimating, for example, that some 4.7 million Britons currently live outside the UK.

In French:
«On fait l’Europe! La moitié des départs se fait vers des pays européens. Peut-on encore parler d’expatriation? Ne faudrait-il pas plutôt s’en rejouir et y voir une forme d’emergence de citoyenneté européenne?»
– Jean-Luc Biacabe, directeur des politiques économiques à la CCIP
Source: Benoît Floc’h, ‘De plus en plus de jeunes quittent la France — Les entreprises parlent de «fuite de cerveaux». Au Royaume-Uni, en Italie, en Allemagne, le mouvement est plus fort’, Le Monde, Mardi 11 mars 2014, ÉCONOMIE & ENTREPRISE, p.3.

Nout Wellink: The euro is reshaping Europe

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 14/03/14

The euro is reshaping Europe. It is a costly, painful exercise. We should have approached it in a different way. But the euro is forcing several countries in Europe to address problems which otherwise would have taken decades to be resolved. The euro is forcing through what governments can’t, such as labour market reform.”
– Nout Wellink, former president of the Dutch central bank (1997-2011), non-executive board member of the Bank of China (October 2012 – present), interview in Maarten!, a Dutch magazine, February-April 2014 edition, pp. 56-64 (quote taken from p. 63).

Dutch original (including the interviewer’s question):
Maarten!: “… Maar stelt u zich voor: ik ben Geert Wilders, en u moet mij uitleggen waarom de euro een voordelige zaak is.”
Wellink: “The euro is reshaping Europe. Het is een kostbare, pijnlijke exercitie. We hadden het anders moeten doen, maar onder de druk van de euro wordt een aantal landen in Europa zeer hardhandig gedwongen om problemen op te lossen waar ze anders decennia over hadden gedaan. De euro dwingt af wat overheden niet kunnen afdwingen, zoals hervormingen van de arbeidsmarkt.”
– Maarten van Rossem en Alies Pegtel, ‘Je doet het altijd fout’, Maarten!, februari-april 2014, pp. 56-64, citaat ontleend aan p. 63.

Bono: “Extreme nationalism is … an equal-opportunity hater … Europe … must become the passionate alternative.”

Posted by Raymond Gijsen on 07/03/14

“Extreme nationalism is not choosy; it is an equal-opportunity hater. Its real victim is Europe and the idea of Europe,” Bono said. “Europe cannot just be the legal alternative to extreme nationalism; it must become the passionate alternative.”
– Bono, lead singer of U2, at the meeting of the European People’s party in Dublin, Thursday 6 March 2014 (Source:… — article by Vincent Boland)