Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 20th August, 2013
This evening I’ll be on a live current affairs programme on the English language service of the Iranian broadcaster PressTV, defending the British position on Gibraltar. By coincidence I sailed past Gibraltar last Wednesday (and got some very friendly waves from Spanish fishermen as they came up close, maybe partly because we were flying a Maltese flag, the ship being registered in Valetta). Anyway, I have been to the Rock on a number of occasions, including an Executive of Liberal International some years ago, when Liberal Democrats from around the world were able to get an insight into this odd little place, with a population of under 30,000. That population is very mixed; a sizable minority has Spanish origins and some British, but many hark back to Malta, Morocco, Portugal and other places in the Western Mediterranean region. The territory is British, having been ceded in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht, 300 years ago, but it is self-governing. Moreover, as regular intervals the Gibraltarians have been asked in a referendum whether they wish to join Spain or stay British, and the answer each time has been a resounding “British!”. There have often been spats between London and Madrid over the status of Gibraltar. General Franco, the dictator who ousted the Republican government in Spain in the late 1930s, actually closed the border to the colony in 1969. And at various times Spain has imposed restrictions on traffic. That’s what is happening at the moment, with some vehicles taking three hours or more to get across. Moreover, the Spanish have threatened to impose a €50 fee for entry into Spain from Gibraltar, which would be in complete contravention of the principle of free movement within the European single market. The official cause of the current dispute is the construction of an artificial reef off the shore of Gibraltar, which Spanish fishermen say will harm the environment and fish stocks, claims the Gibraltarians refute. But the matter has now been handed over to the European Commission to examine the claims and counter-claims. As Britain and Spain are both members of the EU (and Gibraltarians vote in European elections as part of the South West England constituency) this is the sensible way forward. The Commission President, José Manuel Barroso is Portuguese, so ideal as a peacebroker. But there will doubtless be much posturing by both sides until the matter is resolved.
Link to the PressTV debate: http://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/08/21/319752/gibraltar-reef-rift-deflects-to-sovereignty/&ct=ga&cd=MTAwMDgzMDgxNDAzNTY0MDM0MjE&cad=CAEYAA&usg=AFQjCNEvluErVkKpwOKpitFhMlKz4kiswQ
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Britain, General Franco, Gibraltar, José Manuel Barroso, Spain | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd January, 2013
It’s 40 years since Britain joined the EU and siren voices among UKIP and the Tory right are arguing that it’s time to turn the clock back and pull out. They couldn’t be more wrong. On the contrary, this is the time for the EU to integrate more — as the eurozone now seems destined to do — and Britain should be an enthusiastic participant. In the 1950s it was clear to the Founding Fathers (sorry, ladies, they were all men) of what developed into the EU that a degree of economic integration, notably between France and Germany, was necessary to make wars between western European states impossible. That goal was so smoothly achieved that European peace is taken for granted, especially by the young. A second huge victory since 1989 has been the absorption of formerly Communist states of central and eastern Europe ino the EU. This year, Croatia will be the next. But there is an urgent reason why EU integration should move ahead, namely the way that the global economy is developing, with the rise of new heavyweights including Brazil, Russia, India and China — the BRICs. As EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso has rightly pointed out, by 2050 not a single individual European country will be among the world’s top 10 economies* — not even Germany. So in order to compete — indeed, to survive as an economic force — Europe must unite further and start operating more as not just a single market but also a single economic force. It would be madness for Britain to stay out of that, condemning itself to a form of offshore irrelevance. It is not the Europhiles in Britain who are unpatriotic, as some of our critics allege, but rather UKIP and the Europhobic Tory right who want to consign us to the role of an historical theme park.
*A new entry at number 10, however, could well be Turkey, which makes it all the more important that Turkey be embraced into the European family.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Brazil, BRICs, China, Croatia, EU, EU enlargement, eurozone, France, Germany, India, José Manuel Barroso, Russia, Turkey, UK, UKIP | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 7th December, 2010
I managed to squeeze 20 minutes in at the official opening of the new London offices of the European Commission and European Parliament at 32 Smith Square last night, before having to rush off to chair the Executive of London Liberal Democrats at Cowley Street just a short walk away. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission, had originally been billed to appear, but in fact was detained by business in Brussels, presumably helping save various EU members from bankruptcy, including his native Portugal. However, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, did attend, despite being urged to stay away by Conservative bloggers such as Jonathan Isaby. Mr Hague — who brought a portrait of Winston Churchill to grace the room in the refurbished building that will be named after the war-time Prime Minister, who spoke up for European union before deciding to distance Britain from the nascent institutions that would eventually become the EU. The fact that William Hague was there is a tribute to the way that the Liberal Democrat partners in the Coalition government in London have softened the Tories Euro-scepticism. Nonetheless, Mr Hague did have a stern message of belt-tightening for the Eurocrats and MEPs present: ‘Just as this Government is bringing excessive spending under control here in Britain — control that has required some very difficult decisions — so we look to all EU institutions to join us in effective and rigorous control of spending.’ The irony was not lost on those present that 32 Smith Square used to be the Conservative Party headquarters and is perhaps most famous as being the backdrop for Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 victory celebrations. As one mischievous wag commented, ‘Lady Thatcher would turn in her grave, were she dead.’
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: 32 Smith Square, Europe House, Jonathan Isaby, José Manuel Barroso, Margaret Thatcher, William Hague, Winston Churchill | 4 Comments »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 4th December, 2009
The European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, had some frank words for his host, President Victor Yushchenko, in Kiev today at an EU-Ukraine Summit that was dominated by fears over possible new disruption to European gas supplies via Ukraine, the former Soviet Republic’s economic decline and its ongoing political turmoil. As Mr Barroso declared starkly, ‘it often seems to us that commitments to reform are only partly implemented and words are not always accompanied by action. Reforms are the only way to establish stability[and] closer ties to the EU.’ Mr Yushchenko is determined to pursue the eventual goals of Ukraine’s membership of both the European Union and NATO, to the concern of the largely ethnic Russian inhabitants of the Crimea, and it is by no means certain that he will win presidential elections next month against his bitter rival, the Prime Minister, Yulia Timoshenko, or his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich (and nearly a dozen other, lesser contenders).
While the Summit was on in Kiev, I was attending a seminar on Social and Economic Developments in Ukraine at the ING (Bank) headquarters in the City of London, organised by International Financial Services London (IFSL). As Chatham House rules were in force, I shall not reveal who said what, but suffice it to say that the main presentation was almost brutally honest about the economic problems that Ukraine has been going through over the past 18 months, though there have been recent signs of a recovery. Manufacturing ouput, in particular, has slumped, though agriculture (including agricultural exports) has done well, and there are some sectors attracting inward investment, including telecoms. Apparently, there are more phone subscribers than inhabitants in Ukraine, which shows that it is not only in the Arabian Gulf that people like to have two or more mobile phones.
The Ukrainians present stressed the importance for them of the strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United Kingdom, while several of the Brits highlighted their goodwill towards Ukraine. But it seems clear that concrete cooperation is largely on hold until the political situation is clarified. The first round of the presidential election is scheduled for 17 January, with a run-off (if necessary) on 7 February.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: EU-Ukraine summit, IFSL, ING, International Financial Services London, José Manuel Barroso, Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, Viktor Yanukovich, Yulia Timoshenko | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008
‘Are you happy, Peter?’ Gordon Brown asked Lord Mandelson the other day. ‘If you are happy, then I am happy,’ the Prince of Darkness replied. Rather an odd exchange, one might think. But even odder was the fact that Peter Mandelson began his Hugo Young Lecture at Chatham House this evening with this anecdote. Some politicians effectively do self-deprecation. But Peter Mandelson flirts with an audience. Some of the ladies present, their heads perhaps lightened by a quickly-downed glass of wine at the pre-lecture reception, purred appreciatively. Several of the gentlemen scowled.
Mandelson’s subject was ‘Globalisation and the Crunch: What Lessons for Politics in Europe?’, a title that reflected not only the financial concerns of the day, but also the fact that the speaker was still European Commissioner for Trade when he was invited. One might have imagined that he would give a speech worthy of a European Commisioner, but not a bit of it. It was New Labour this and New Labour that; the Spin-meister is back with a vengeance. New Labour is not in favour of big government or small government (unlike the wicked Tories), the gist of what he said went. Instead, it is promoting ‘smart government’. He obviously cherishes this term — indeed, he may well have invented it himself — as he repeated it several times. ‘Smart government means using our existing resources better,’ he intoned.
Things perked up at question time. He was asked if EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso was correct when he declared the other day that several senior people in the British government were starting to think about euro membership once again. Out came the pat response that the government is still in favour of joining the euro at some stage, ‘but it’s not on the radar screen, and the radar screen is very crowded at present’. When my old Brussels colleague John Palmer pressed him on whether he thought that Gordon Brown’s famous five tests for Britain’s joining the euro had been met, Mandelson flatly refused to reply. Typical New Labour, unwilling to nail its Euro-colours to the mast.
Peter Preston, who was chairing, was obliged to gush the meeting’s thanks, and he said that Hugo Young would have savoured the presentation. I doubt it. It was so partisan that frankly, it stank.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Chatham House, globalisation, Gordon Brown, Hugo Young, John Palmer, José Manuel Barroso, New Labour, Peter Mandelson, Peter Preston, Prince of Darkness, Smart Government | 1 Comment »