Friday, 16 October 2015

Europe needs us, but we don't need the EU

We have a bit of a nautical theme on the blog today, me hearties! We're still on the matter of the International Maritime Organisation. Specifically the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978- and subsequent negotiated revisions.

It turns out that it is Norway's observance of this convention that gives it the mutual recognition of standards with the EU so that Norwegian seafarers can work on EU registered ships. Why is that? Because if we look at EU Directive 2008/106 it says "It is therefore essential to define a minimum level of training for seafarers in the Community. That level should be based on the standards of training already agreed at international level, namely the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (STCW Convention), as revised in 1995. All Member States are Parties to that Convention."

Norway is able to independently negotiate the regulations of the STCW by way of its IMO membership. It is presupposed that Norwegian seafarers will be permitted to serve on ships registered in EU member States and thus be issued with an endorsement in accordance with regulation I/10 of the STCW Convention and Directive 2008/106 (125) on the minimum level of training of seafarers.

In addition, Norway has entered into agreements with the flag States of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Hong Kong, Panama, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore and Vanuatu.

Australia is also able to participate by way of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority agreement with the IMO, by way of subscribing to STCW creating mutual recognition of qualifications. It is by far from reciprocal in that some other Countries recognise AMSA Certificates, but AMSA does not recognise theirs. This means that these countries can issue a Certificate of Recognition for an Australian qualification, but AMSA cannot recognise their Certificates.

At this point my regular readers should be hearing pennies drop. This is what we've been talking about when we speak of an emerging global single market based on international conventions, hammered out through inter-governmentalism at the top tables. Regulatory convergence.

In this sector we see multilateral and bilateral agreements not between nations but standards and qualifications boards, working to the STCW convention. A level of global parity has been achieved without either Norway or Australia being asked to surrender their sovereignty or their seats at the top table. We find similar with the Memorandum of Cooperation on Development of Asian Seafarers Between the Department of Labor of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan.

Thus far on this blog we have focussed on the emerging global single market in automotive components driven by UNECE but for every imaginable aspect of trade there is a top level convention with various bilateral agreements with other national and regional bodies that bypass nations and surpranational blocs entirely. These are lodged with the WTO as readily replicated agreements.

If you're not clear on exactly how it all works, that's actually ok. Nobody does. If you're aware such exists, you're way ahead of the curve. Many of the organisations at the global level are formed for specific purposes, with different origins, endowed with different powers and different responsibilities acting on behalf of amalgamated parties comprising of industry groups, NGOs and nations. Cairns Group is but one of them in Agriculture, but there are many smaller, subregional ones globally in all sectors.

You may be thinking that this all sounds a bit messy with multiple overlaps that are nearly impossible to keep track of. You'd be right, which is why we have a legion of international lawyers and dispute resolutions systems in place of a supranational authority. But what it does do is shorten the chain of accountability for nation states and the organisations acting on their behalf and it gives nations a veto, or right of reservation over measures they do not wish to recognise in the national interest.

You might be thinking that this doesn't make for a particularly good single regulatory framework for a global single market. Well, it doesn't, which is why we see international bodies in negotiations to merge as logic and globalisation and technology leads to natural convergence anyway. The only real benefit to the EU is that by contrast to the global aquis of regulation, the EU is fairly straight forward and transparent.

What it is not is agile, democratic not fast. After the global mechanisms have hammered out what the international standards are, it must spend many years then going through the repeat cycle of the European law making process. This is not great news for those industries where the pace of technology outpaces their law making abilities and certainly useless to emerging markets where the regulatory standards can be inhibitors of growth. When all it is doing is replicating that which already exists, you might wonder if there is any point at all in the EU since plenty nations get along fine without creating their own versions of it. In fact, if the EU did not exist today, even we wouldn't bother to invent it. It's hangover from WW2 war guilt and it's advocates, being only dimly aware of the global frameworks can't see just how redundant it is.

The EU would be far more forgiveable as supranational entity were it actually good at what it does in terms of creating an effective single market internally, but as we can see from this link, it does no such thing, allowing large Eurozone members (France) to get away with murder in not implementing core EU demands. France and Italy both have a poor record when it comes to implementing Single Market governance tools. Meanwhile, the EU makes deep and comprehensive agreements as part of its neighbourhood policy but dds no real pressure to Croatia or Ukraine in modernising their systems and is not forthcoming with the cash so that they can now that Greece is the centre of attention.

In that regard, the EU is just as chaotic, divergent and bureaucratic as the rest of the world and single markets in banking and money transfer exist in name only in Poland and Eastern Europe. As with trade negotiations with the rest of the world, the EU is not that good at what it claims to do best and only a crisis of Greek proportions can bring its best talents to bear.

The bottom line is that the EU has reached its high water mark in what it can achieve by way of treaty internally, except for the obvious next step of improving eurozone governance, and affording itself the powers it needs to bring order to its own chaos. As far as everything else is concerned, we might actually be doing Europe a favour by letting it get on with that while we focus on building and joining alliances, associations and coalitions at the top tables. What is best for Britain is best for Europe, and Britain being a subjugated voice waiting for its agenda to be recognised with in the EU serves nobody. Nor so for Spain in pursuing its potential interests in Spanish speaking South America.

The real question here is whether the EU is relevant to the modern world, whether it is fit for purpose and whether what it will morph into will be something we want to be part of. We can be a second rate voice in a two tier Europe or we can be like any number of freely trading nations participating in all of the global single markets as well as the European single market and nurturing those industries that will best help Europe compete and grow. Europe needs us, but it needs us to be free, doing what Britain has always done - influencing the world.

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