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Political myopia at the European Commission

Despite perilous budget problems, rising youth unemployment and falling gross domestic product the European Commission is focused laser-like on harmonised toilet flushing volumes. Our secret columnist in Brussels Schadenfreude ponders the importance of this issue at a time of economic crisis

The European Commission needs to consult someone about political myopia. With eurozone unemployment at 22 per cent and youth unemployment much worse, and despite gross domestic product falling not to mention its negative budget balance – the commission has its mind on other matters.

It looks as if someone in the commission may have been driving past Waterloo towards Vlissingen. First, the member states have different rules – if any – about flushing public and private toilets. This must be an impediment to cross-border trade as well as an inconvenience (sorry) to travellers.

So the commission has proposed a harmonised flush volume. Whether or not there will be more or less water going down the drain is not clear. But market unity will be secured if the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament can only contain themselves and give the pressing problem the priority which is its due.

Second, Britain and Spain have been having a spat about long delays at crossing points into Gibraltar. The British complained. The commission decided that Spanish controls did not break any rules and gratuitously added that it would be different if Britain – and therefore Gibraltar – had joined the Schengen agreement for passport-free travel instead of standing aloof. Under the United Kingdom accession treaty, which Spain acknowledged when it joined, Gibraltar belongs to the European Union.

So much for ‘ever-closer union’. The dispute between the two member states is unresolved. The more obvious solution would have been to call the British and the Spaniards together with the commission, knock heads together and work out a deal – such as more crossing points, more Spanish border controllers and more Gibraltarian control over smuggling. The commission’s insensitive conclusion is a bonus to UK Europhobes. When will they learn?

  1. Poor reporting and even poorer analysis. It’s ok to make fun over the EC’s interest on flushing toilets, but basing the assumption that the commission has its priorities wrong on this single fact is just ludicrous.

    As regards the row between Spain and Gibraltar, that’s not really a thing for the EC to focus on. Gibraltar is out of both Schengen and the customs union, a decision Britain took to preserve their interest in having a ‘duty free area’ at the heart of the Iberic peninsula. This has plenty of advantages as it makes the tiny territory more competitive vis-a-vis the neighbouring Spanish region and attracts greater FDIs. Of course, it comes with some drawbacks in terms of stricter border controls and the risk of unnerving neighbouring authorities. I guess it’s part of the game. If Cameron and Rajoy can solve it between themselves, that would be a good thing. Otherwise, it remains a strictly inter-governmental matter the EC should not meddle with.

    Comment by Vincenzo Conforti on November 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm
  2. The commentator does not seem to know what satire is. Or how the union works. It is abundantly clear that Spain and the UK cannot sort themselves out by their own efforts – not with Spain wanting Gib back. It as a funny way of winning Gibraltarian hearts and minds.

    Comment by Schadenfreude on November 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm
  3. Lack of irony or knowledge of the EU, that is a classy reply. My deepest apologies for not being appreciative enough of your fine piece of satire. I also regret not seeing what is “abundantly clear” (sic).

    Comment by Vincenzo Conforti on November 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm
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