cameron EU
Photo: Number 10 (Flickr); Licence:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the wake of last week's "Karlspreis" being awarded to Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, guest author Frank Burgdörfer reflects upon this predictable choice and suggests David Cameron as a better candidate given his European achievements.

The city of Aachen has awarded Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, with the "Karlspreis" – an annual prize named after the medieval emperor Charlemagne. It comes as no surprise at all, as the prize is usually given to people who hold key functions in European institutions. Thus the group of potential recipients is rather limited. Council president Donald Tusk and commission president Jean-Claude Juncker were already awarded the prize. As former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet got one previously, it will most likely be the turn of his successor Mario Draghi next year. Truly exciting...

Do not get me wrong: Schulz definitely has merits with regard to Europe. However, this is not exceptional because we as European tax payers remunerate him well for his work. He has indeed increased and consolidated the EP’s influence over the last years. Still, giving him an award for that is a bit like awarding the Pope for special achievements in the field of leading the Catholic Church. 

Are there no committed citizens, innovate business men, progressive researchers or clerics building bridges in Europe? Cartoonists, journalists, historians, teachers or doctors, who have used their positions to give "exceptional contributions in political, economic or spiritual regard for the unity of Europe", as a declaration from 1990 puts it? It seems that the Charlemagne Prize actually puts the city of Aachen more into the spotlight than the awardee – which is in fact often the case with other prizes too. 

Published in Brussels Bubble
Monday, 06 February 2012 15:13

Quite Simply Madness?

At the Davos economic forum, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron once again stated his lack of interest in an EU-wide financial transaction tax. But how crazy is the idea really?

For even a caring couple, close friends can sometimes be a challenge to the relationship. This happened once again to our favourite couple 'Merkozy' at the World Economic Forum in Davos where Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron publicly turned his back on their youngest baby: the introduction of an EU-wide tax on financial transactions.

As with most babies, you have to take a closer look to see why the parents love it so much: France and Germany have come a long way planning this child, starting in 2005 when Jacques Chirac and Gehard Schröder first considered putting charges on the sale of shares and derivates. The idea is not as complex as the tongue-twister might suggest.

There are no value-added taxes on securities, unlike for the trading of goods. So, while consumers pay an extra 15% to 27% on everything they buy within the EU, speculators get off at a rate of 0%. The introduction of a VAT-similar measure for financial transactions would eliminate these differences: each time a share, a bond or a derivate would be sold, a small percentage of the purchase price would go straight to the fiscal authorities. This would slow down short-term speculations: any good citizen tries to avoid taxes and the easiest thing to do would be to make more long term investments. That way, you would have to make less transactions and could avoid losing too much of your precious money to the state.

Published in Reader Submissions

Whilst you read this, there will be British and French planes flying over and bombing Libya. Last night alone 112 Tomahawk missiles were fired into Tripoli and surrounding targets. The UN has endorsed "all necessary measures short of an occupation force" to prevent Gaddafi's forces attacking civilian and rebel groups and this was officially supported by the EU's foreign affairs representative. Germany's abstention in the UN security council therefore represents a division in Europe's response and raises serious questions about how each of the three main states understand the Libyan case and what underlying domestic interests they have brought to their respective decisions.

The tyranny of definition

There is a small but significant distinction between Germany's understanding of Libya at the moment and that of France and Britain. The German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said in a telephone interview with a radio station on Thursday, "I do not want Germany to be part of a war in Libya, a permanent civil war in Libya." This civil war is a very different image to the one invoked by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who has described the conflict in terms of "the people" versus the regime and argued that the "people's will" resides in the rebels and by implication that there is no "legitimate" Gaddafi supporter, aside from regime "apparatchiks." This can be seen in Britain and France's highly symbolic and questionable recognition of the Libyan national council (the major opposition) as legitimate leaders in Libya.

Published in The Transnationalist
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