Thursday, October 28, 2004

Not a commissioner in sight

Entirely endorsing my colleague’s comments about the silliness of the games played in the EU parliament yesterday, the commission's trade spokeswoman, Arancha Gonzalez, in today’s International Herald Tribune, sums it all up in one pithy phrase. "Life goes on," she says.

In particular, the short term actions by the commission will continue as before. Just because Neelie Kroes is not in place to make a decision on the Microsoft case, that does not mean it will not be taken. Mario Monti will continue in his old job, and he will do the business.

Likewise, while Mandelson was due to fly to Washington next week to deal with the next instalment of the Boeing/Airbus dispute, his place will be taken by the man who would have stepped down, Pascal Lamy.

But if this is short-term stuff, no better indication of how little the individual matters in the great scheme of things – much less the posturing donkeys in the EU parliament – come from yet another conference on defence issues, this one in Brussels devoted to considering: "Is maritime Security Europe’s Achilles Heel?"

Amongst the offerings from the speakers was the view that "the EU needs a maritime security strategy, not one limited merely to the territory of member states, but something encomapssing the whole range of actors required to enforce it."

And, says DefenseNews - an increasingly invaluable source – in pursuit of this, next year EU officials are expected to offer a new proposal to trace shipments from their origins to their ports of destination – a plan which may include measures for the physical protection of the supply chain against terrorists.

Now, note the phraseology: not, "commissioner so-and-so", but "EU officials are…". The system goes marching on, no matter who is at the helm.

What particularly concerns the commission is that there are two many "actors" in the maritime security chain, and "too many national players who are monitoring the same maritime areas, independent (sic) of one another." So says Christian Dupont, head of maritime security at the commission’s Energy and transport directorate.

Note again, this is not a commissioner speaking, but a "lowly official". And did you know the EU had a "head of maritime security"?

Says another official, Ronal Vopel, at the commission’s enterprise DG,
We've established the EU’s right to define territorial waters for the purposes of ship pollution control, ship safety and fisheries policy. The next step is littoral security and that points to coastguard and naval issues.
Already, we have the prospect of EU fisheries enforcement vessels, and you can now see exactly where the commission is coming from, and what the eventual destination might be – the creation of a EuroNavy.

Of course, all this will be done, in tiny little steps, perhaps – if not certainly – over a period of decades - every one of them "deniable". But the writing is clearly on the wall, and there is not a commissioner in sight.

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