Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

June 6th, 2003

Implementing our own values

The relative importance, in a political versus an artistic case, of the right to freedom of expression is discussed in this short article in Lawyer News. In case you are wondering, no I don’t read Lawyer News, this link was brought to my attention by Junius. I don’t have anything to add to this interesting article, but it did get me thinking about one of the more appealing aspects of the EU.

The European Convention on Human Rights was ratified by the UK back in 1951, with private citizens being able to take cases to the European Court in Strasbourg from 1966 onward. In October 2000 the convention was finally brought into UK law (confusingly in the Human Rights Act 1998), against half-hearted opposition from the Conservatives, so allowing far easier access to redress for those who’s rights were violated.

The UK of course promotes the cause for human rights to be respected at the international level, including within the EU framework. It’s telling however that it’s only once an international agreement like the European Convention on Human Rights is agreed to that the UK actually addresses the issue domestically. Another example would be the promotion of free trade and competition, something the UK government is very keen on, except of course when it applies to postal services.

It seems that the EU has become a way of forcing ourselves to do what we think is right, but would otherwise be politically difficult to do domestically. The same thing can also be seen in the countries due to accede to the union, as demonstrated by this article in The Scotsman (via Europunditry). A choice quote:

Yet the social and economic costs of qualifying for membership have been heavy, from privatising energy to paying for water quality to be brought up to EU standards. “We are at the end of a very painful and difficult road to accession,” says Jiri Skalicky.

There is more pain to come. Outside Prague, in regions with high unemployment, people are fearful of change and competition from other countries. On the border with Germany, 3,000 customs officers stand to lose their jobs. That pensioner in Telc was right to be concerned: welfare reform is inevitable if the Czechs are to meet the Maastricht criteria to join the euro.

The Maastricht criteria means no unsustainable debt, energy privatisation reduces costs (see the UK market for a good example), and it’s hard to argue about water quality being a bad thing. All of these things are being introduced as part of the cost of joining the EU, and yet they are things that would have to be tackled eventually anyway.

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