60+ Years of Brussels Bungled Transport Integration
We've all heard the "wrong shape" banana or cucumber law stories the UK media served up in their past love-to-hate-the-EU news [which was repeatedly belatedly rebuffed by Brussels].
This is different. This is about the height of stupidity especially if, with climate change and Australia on fire, one is concerned about a carbon neutral anywhere.
This is real Brussels bungling par excellence.
This is why the UK needs to keep the EU's undemocratic Eurocratic law-makers out of UK law-making for good. [Brexit is for life - not just last Christmas. We wish you a merry Brexmas every year.] If one wants to look at one area which exemplifies EU bungling, rail transport is a likely contender for the best. Be patient and read on. I'll get there soon. Enjoy a mild rant on the way.
A cynical reason for dumping the EU is we have enough trouble with one too many of our own politicians' antics to have to contend with those of EU politicians and Eurocrats as well - over whom there is negligible democratic control and accountability. [There are positives and many well-intentioned UK and EU politicians but there are fewer positives to find in the EU overall, so bear with this for the moment.]
EU Democracy in Action
Why involve the representatives of the people who have to live with Brussels law-making - that would be so burdensomely democratic that clearly Brussels and the EU word machines would have to start taking into account the views of real people who have to live in the Eurocracy they create. And of course which national state parliaments have debated any of the laws the EU has been making about the EU's heavily subsidised rail transport [or anything else for that matter]?
It's not just railways or laws.
The Coronation of Ursula von der Leyen as EU Commission President is a wonderful example of EU anti-democracy in action. Ursula, in the view of some, did such a fantastically poor job as Defence Minister for the German military that those unseen to the many - the EU Royalty - found her to be a suitable candidate [in fact the only candidate] for EU Commission President.
Yes, you have guessed I'm not Ursula's No 1 fan [me along with about half of the EU Parliament].
The Royalty submitted her for Coronation. The EU Parliament obliged and Crowned her [with a grudgingly narrow margin]. Clearly the Parliament saw sense - if Ursula was the best choice of candidate then she had to be better than the second best choice - so they probably thought it was better to elect her than face the second-best choice. [A democratic election would have been best but this is the EU so old habits die hard, along with democracy.]
Here is one opinion of Ursula quoted by Politico:
"Von der Leyen is our weakest minister. That's apparently enough to become Commission president," former European Parliament President Martin Schulz seethed in a tweet Tuesday evening.
Though Schulz is a Social Democrat, his analysis of the minister's record is shared by many of von der Leyen's fellow Christian Democrats, though most are reluctant to criticize her publicly. Instead, they point to the state of the German military.
"The Bundeswehr's condition is catastrophic," Rupert Scholz, who served as defense minister under Helmut Kohl, wrote last week before von der Leyen was nominated to the EU's top post. "The entire defense capability of the Federal Republic is suffering, which is totally irresponsible."
Irony - EU Vs. Hong Kong - Democracy
Ironically, the democracy protesters in Hong Kong have more democracy than the EU. They get 5 to 6 candidates nominated by Beijing for election as their local politicians. And the irony of all ironies is the people of Hong Kong also get the chance to vote for them unlike the 500 million people of the EU who have no chance to vote for the Presidents of the EU Commission, Parliament or Council.
Here is the EU approach to compare to Beijing's:
Next European Commission President: candidates and process
There is one process available called Spitzenkandidaten — which chooses the next president of the Commission based on the number of votes that each European political party receives. This means that the political family with the highest number of seats at the European Parliament nominates one of their members to take the role.
This happened at the last election in 2014, which saw the largest political party in the European Parliament — the conservative EPP (European People's Party) — appointing Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president.
However, some countries believe this process is a "democratic anomaly." The heads of state want to have the final say on who gets the most senior job in Brussels.
"The idea that the Spitzenkandidaten process is somehow more democratic is wrong," Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said last year.
I am sure Ursula is a fine woman who impresses many [but not that many in the European Parliament it seems].
Diane Abbott, political views notwithstanding, may not be good at math but the EU could do with a black woman politician as Commission President amongst the mass of all those white faces. She gets on well with Michael Portillo on the telly too so I am sure would be as just good as Ursula if not much better.
Cucumbers, Bananas and RailwaysNo wrong shape banana or cucumber laws here. This is about two fundamentals of the European Project's foundations: freedom of movement of labour and freedom of movement of goods. And how the Brussels bunglers have ensured these freedoms of movement are denied [by bungling]. The European project has existed for over 60 years but they cannot get the trains right despite the massive subsidies on travel in the EU.
Transport is not merely fundamental to free movement. An efficient effective transport infrastructure is vital to the economic well-being of any nation and especially a first world developed nation if it is to compete in an increasingly competitive world.
Let's us focus on a review of how well some of the European Project's lacklustre backroom boys and girls have been managing to cook up laws to improve transport.
To illustrate the issues I provide you with links to a blog by a British Europhile living in the EU.
If you want to go today from town A in one EU State to town B in another in C21 EU you can read of the impossibility of the task with the rampant lack of integration of European railways. This is illustrated by screen shot after screen shot of the morass of conflicting inadequate information available online. How to book Brussels-Amsterdam rail tickets – a further example of the absurdity of cross border rail in the EU
As the author writes: "The sad conclusion here: there is no booking website that does an adequate job even for cross-border routes from Belgium to its neighbouring countries. That there would be an adequate site for the whole of Western Europe, let alone the whole of the EU or the whole of Europe, remains a pipe dream. "
If free movement was so important in the EU one thing which would aid cross border transport is a simple online booking system for rail travel from one place in the EU to another. Instead of addressing that Brussels appears to have been more concerned about much more difficult issues like technical standardisation of railways across the EU - ignoring the needs of passengers for over 60 years and how to move freight with the rail systems that have existed for the past 63 years instead of writing laws about expensive upgrading which will take far longer to implement than making what already exists more accessible and adapted to inter-European rail travel.
These are links to EU efforts on rail travel.
What they have been doing for the last 25 years:
"What do we want to achieve ? Over the last 25 years the Commission has been very active in proposing restructuring the European rail transport market and in order to strengthen the position of railways vis-à-vis other transport modes. The Commission's efforts have concentrated on three major areas which are all crucial for developing a strong and competitive rail transport industry: (1) opening the rail transport market to competition, (2) improving the interoperability and safety of national networks and (3) developing rail transport infrastructure."Interoperability and Safety
Links to related posts on EU rail travel by the same author:
- The hypocrisy of Europe's railways: some observations after a journey from Brussels to Germany
- Topic 1 for NL-UK dialogue: rail tickets (London-Bruxelles-Rotterdam)
- Why securing Europe's railways against terrorism shouldn't be attempted
- The tricks of EU cross-border rail – Berlin-Bruxelles-St Gallen-Berlin