I have commented before (for instance here, and here) on how the EU pays lip service to the principle of subsidiarity, while in practice it seeks to expand continuously the range of areas over which it takes action.  Almost every month there are fresh examples of matters that should be dealt with at national level, but on which the EU sees fit to initiate legislation.  A good example surfaced today.

Belgium wants to use its EU presidency to underline the key societal role played by companion animals like dogs and cats, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister for Health and Social Affairs Laurette Onkelinx announced yesterday (9 September)…… “During our country’s presidency of the Council, we are underlining the important role of companion animals in civil society,” said Onkelinx, speaking at the launch of a website on dog welfare in Brussels.  “Dog and cat overpopulation creates a lot of suffering for unwanted animals,” she added, explaining that “sharing information and experience is the basis for every development in animal welfare, and here, for a Europe-wide solution and strategy to create an appropriate and responsible attitude by us humans towards animals”.  Onkelinx pointed to the Treaty of Lisbon, Article 13 of which reads “the [European] Union and the member states shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals,” as a possible basis for further EU action in this area.

It’s no wonder that EU citizens have to stump up €8 billion a year (out of a total EU budget of €130 billion) to pay for the cost of administration – it must take a lot of Commission officials to look after Fido’s welfare.

Disclaimer follows …..  In citing the above example, I am making no statement as to whether or not I think the effect of any proposed legislation is good or bad (it would presumably be good, on balance); only that I think national legislatures should be responsible for enacting it (or not enacting it).   So please don’t attack me, dog-lovers and cat-lovers!

Canada has filed an official complaint at the World Trade Organisation against a European Union ban on imported seal products, saying it violated trade rules. Foreign ministers in Brussels adopted in July a ban on seal products from Canada, ruling the goods could not be marketed in the 27 EU nations. In a letter sent to the European Union and the WTO, Canada said the move was inconsistent with the EU’s obligations under international trade rules.

Now I’m not necessarily in favour of allowing seal products be sold in Ireland.  Frankly I don’t know enough about Canadian seals, how they are killed and processed, the Inuits who depend on them for a living, whether seals are an endangered species, or any of the other issues relevant to deciding on this particular matter.

But I am puzzled as to why this was decided in Brussels and not separately in Dublin, London, Paris etc etc.  Read the rest of this entry »

Perhaps the juggernaut of  EU integration (and the centralisation of law-making authority)  has had some sand thrown into its machinery.  From what might be thought a surprising source as well.

 Germany’s constitutional court ruled on 30 June that, while the proposed Lisbon Treaty is compatible with the country’s constitution, the German parliament should have the final say if the EU wanted to extend the competences beyond what is contained in the treaty.  In addition, the judges ruled that Germany’s highest court should have final say on interpretation of EU law, allowing it to overturn judgements by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).  The 147 page-long ruling suspended the ratification process of the treaty until the new provisions requested by the court come into force.

Der Spiegel has some interesting background and comments :  “In essence, the court ruled that by passing the so-called ‘accompanying law’ to the Lisbon Treaty, which determines the rights of German parliament to participate in European legislation, the representatives had relinquished significant monitoring rights to Brussels. According to the judges, this unconstitutionally subjects the people that they represent to the whims of a bureaucracy that lacks sufficient democratic legitimacy.”   Ouch.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland has benefited greatly from membership of the EU, and hopefully it will continue to do so as a full and commited member.  However, to be deeply involved in and to respect an institution of which one is a member does not mean that one suspends one’s critical facilities or simply stands back when one believes that the instution is heading in the wrong direction with its policies.

This is what has been happening for many years with the EU, which has been engaged in a centralisation of power and legislative capacity towards its own institutions at the expense of lawmakers and citizens in individual member states.  What is most difficult to cope with is that there does not seem to be a coherent philosophy which underpins this drift towards the centre; rather there is just an inexorable process which is driven mainly by the self-interest of the Commission, the Parliament and the European Court of Justice.   A recent report by the Institute of Economic Affairs has an excellent overview of this topic.

Thre are many areas of law-making which can undeniably be more effectively and coherently implemented at the EU level, but at present there is no simple way ensuring that the principle of Subsidiarity is adhered to (and the related proposals in the Lisbon Treaty are fairly toothless).  Read the rest of this entry »

The European Commission on 30 June called on member states to boost their non-smoking legislation in order to move towards a “smoke free” EU by 2012.  The Commission is suggesting that smoking in “enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport” be banned by 2012, while children’s exposure to tobacco should be specifically tackled and “efforts to give up tobacco use and pictorial warnings on tobacco packages” should be encouraged.

Now I think the objective here is a good one, and Ireland already is well advanced in the area of anti-smoking legislation.  But that’s not the point.   The point is that I can’t see why, following the principle of Subsidiarity, the Commission cannot leave it to each member state to decide how far to go in combating smoking under its laws.  Read the rest of this entry »