Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Bulgaria

Reconciliation in Cyprus

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday, 22 July 2012


In 1878 Britain was granted control of Cyprus in exchange for giving military support to the Ottoman Empire against Russia. The first British High Commissioner to Cyprus was Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley. The indigenous Greeks of the island in the 1881 census formed 73.9% of the population desired enosis to unite with Greece.

Cypriots believed British rule would bring prosperity, democracy and national liberation. However, the British levied severe taxes to cover the compensation they were paying to the Sultan. All powers were reserved to the High Commissioner and to London thwarting hopes of democracy for Cypriots.

The First World War ended protectorate status and Cyprus was annexed to the British Empire. Britain offered to cede Cyprus to Greece if they would fulfil treaty obligations to attack Bulgaria but Greece declined. Britain proclaimed Cyprus a Crown colony in 1925 under an undemocratic constitution.

Under the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 the new Turkish government formally recognised Britain’s sovereignty over Cyprus. Greek Cypriots continued to demand enosis achieved by many of the Aegean and Ionian islands following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The British opposed enosis and unrest developed during the 1930s. The 1931 riots in Nicosia burnt down Government House.

The Governor Sir Richmond Palmer took suppressive measures against the Greeks and prohibited trade unions and limited freedom of association. Yet more than 30,000 Cypriots joined the British during World War II. After the war, there was international pressure for enosis and a delegation from Cyprus submitted a demand to London. The demand was rejected but the British proposed a liberal constitution and a 10-year development programme.

When international pressure did not suffice to make Britain respond, violence escalated with a campaign against the colonial power by EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston). Its leader Colonel George Grivas created and directed a campaign in 1955. The first bombs were set off on April 1. Attacks on police started on June 19. The Governor proclaimed emergency on November 26.

For the next four years EOKA attacked British targets and British collaborative Cypriots. Archbishop Makarios and other Cypriot clergy and political leaders exiled. The Cyprus emergency cost the lives of 371 British servicemen – more than died in Afghanistan.

Turkish Cypriots in 1957 responded to the demand for enosis by calling for taksim partition. Taksim became the slogan used by the militant Turkish Cypriots to counter ‘enosis’. In 1957 Fazıl Küçük who represented Turkish Cypriots and later became vice-president of independent Cyprus, declared that Turkey would claim the northern half of the island.

The British were forced to take a different attitude after the Suez fiasco. They were no longer a convincing imperial power. Britain decided that independence was acceptable if military bases in Cyprus could be an alternative to Cyprus as a base. However Governor Sir Hugh Foot’s plan for self-government alarmed the Turkish community and violence between the two communities increased.

On August 16, 1960 Cyprus gained independence from Britain. Archbishop Makarios was elected the first president. In 1961 Cyprus became the 99th member of the UN. Independence did not bring reconciliation. Greek Cypriots argued that the complex mechanisms introduced to protect Turkish Cypriots’ interests were obstacles to efficient government and tried to exclude Turkish politicians. Both sides continued the violence. Turkish Cypriot participation in the central government ceased on December 23, 1963 when all Cypriot Turks from the lowest civil servants to ministers including the Turkish Vice-President Dr. Fazıl Küçük were out of the government. UN peacekeepers were deployed on the island in 1964 recognising the Greek Cypriots as the government. UK PM Sir Alec Douglas-Home said international intervention was essential.

In July 1974 Makarios was overthrown by a coup carried out by the Cypriot National Guard which supported the military dictators who had seized power in Athens. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20 and took control of 38% of the island. Greek Cypriots numbering 200,000 fled the northern areas and 60,000 Turkish Cypriots were transferred to northern occupied areas by the UN. Since then the southern part of the country has been under the control of the internationally recognised Cyprus government and the northern part occupied under a Turkish administration and the Turkish army. Turkey relocated 40,000 Turkish civilians to the occupied part of the island through coercive measures.

Historians such as Brendan O’Malley, Ian Craig, Lawrence Stern and  William Mallinson have argued that the US had a decade-long plan to partition Cyprus through external military intervention and that this plan was based on the strategic value of Cyprus as a military base and a source of intelligence.
When Cyprus applied to join the EU in May 2004 members of both communities (and citizens of EU) have been able to cross the buffer zone. An UN-sponsored referendum on reunification was held on April 21, 2004. Turkish Cypriots voted for UN plan as stated in the referendum but Greek Cypriots rejected it by a large majority.

The first election was held in 2008 after Cyprus’s accession to the EU and the failed referendum. Dimitris Christofias of the communist party became president and started talks with on the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal federal state. His hopes for Greek Cypriot approval of such a plan were thwarted by the nationalists’ victory in the 2009 elections. Turkey’s own bid for EU membership has been thwarted and they may now have given up. EU membership was a strong factor in reconciliation Ireland but that avenue seems to have closed for Cyprus.

Although Northern Cyprus has been a de jure member of the EU since 2004, EU law is ‘suspended’ there. Cyprus currently holds the EU presidency for the first time. President Christofias has stressed that the Cyprus Presidency would be a European Presidency and that it would only promote the EU’s interests as a whole working as an honest broker. Cyprus is the fifth state to ask for an EU bailout. According to Standard and Poors 15 billion euros would be needed. There is fear that the main victim of the Cyprus EU Presidency will be the ongoing re-unification talks.

On July 19 2012 Christofias welcomed an agreement to identify missing persons who were believed to have been exhumed. The President announced that soon the first 280 samples of remains believed to belong to about 70 missing persons would be delivered to the International Commission on Missing Persons. He also said that the remains of 330 missing persons had been identified, 66 of whom were Turkish Cypriots and the rest Greek Cypriots. He stressed that the healing process for the families of missing persons would only end when the remains of the last victims was identified on the basis of international law. The European Court of Human Rights established that there had been continuing violations by Turkey of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention concerning the right to life, liberty and security and prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. Turkey was found to have failed to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of the Greek Cypriot missing persons disappeared in life-threatening circumstances or were in Turkish custody at the time of their disappearance.

Mehmet Ali Talat, a leftist like Christofias, was  president until 2010 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. He said he wanted a Cypriot federation with a central government and a shared flag but “the Greek Cypriots aren’t cooperating.” The north has increasingly attracted undesirable elements. Turkish Cyprus attracts fugitives seeking sanctuary in a territory without extradition arrangements, smugglers, human traffickers and gamblers. Electricians, plumbers and bricklayers crossed the border to work in EU territory. Some 80,000 Turkish Cypriots or about one-third of the population in the north now have EU passports.



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The Romanians Are Coming

Britain trembles before an invasion from Eastern Europe.

In January 2014, hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians will be swarming all over the UK, clogging up the NHS and defrauding the benefit system. At least, that is what the doomsayers foretell. Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but a number of countries, including Britain, imposed restrictions on the right of their nationals to work. These restrictions will expire at the end of 2013. Mainstream parties fear that the migration issue will give a boost to right-wing parties in the European parliament elections in spring 2014.

Since 2010, there has been a marked decline in non-EU net immigration. As a proportion of non-British immigration to the UK, it has dropped from 73% in June 2010 to 57% in June 2013. In the last year alone, it has fallen from 172,000 to 140,000. This year, net migration from the EU has gone up by 72,000 to 106,000. The recent increase in net EU migration has come from the older, more established (and traditionally more wealthy) EU member states, not the new member states from central and eastern Europe. It would seem that the crisis in the peripheral eurozone countries has made the UK a popular destination for migrants from countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 60 complaints expressing concerns about a high-profile van advertisement campaign. The adverts telling illegal immigrants to go home or not to come were “reminiscent of slogans used by racist groups to attack immigrants in the past”. Adverts displayed on billboards on vans in six London boroughs told overstaying migrants: “Go home, or you’ll be picked up and deported.”Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable has previously described the scheme as “stupid and offensive” and ­Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council in London, said it was “an act of desperation”. There was also a campaign telling Romanians how horrible Britain is. This investigation is in addition to one by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into a wave of immigration spot checks across the country.

I get a rather queasy feeling when I hear Sri Lankans who have settled in England complaining about Kosavars and Somalis swamping the country and indulging in crime. Migration is a contentious topic all over Europe now. Whenever cold winds blow through the economies of European nations, “natives” look to the incomers in their midst as scapegoats. Politicians take advantage of the fears of ordinary people in order to make political capital and to win cheap votes. Discontent about immigration often gives rise to racism and fascism. It is very difficult to have a rational debate on the subject, though some have tried.

Migration out of Britain

Romania is an increasingly attractive proposition for British people. Though some expats reported corruption and bureaucracy, that was outweighed by low cost of living-  £25 a year council tax, beer for £1 a pint, flat income tax of 16 per cent. They were warmly received by their hosts, albeit occasionally taken advantage of.

Chris Lawson is happy to live in Romania. He told me: “I may be something of a romantic, but it is broadly true that, in Transylvania, Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons, Armenians, Jews and Roma have been living peacefully with each other for centuries, a model for the rest of Europe.” Another Brit living in Romania, Paul Wood is in the recruitment business. He says:  “When I moved here in 1998 the Romanian standard of living was that of Britain in 1959 and many of the ways of thinking were late 1950’s too. Things have changed a lot since then, but by no means out of recognition. Romanians have virtues that some in Great Britain have lost. Romanian women are womanly (and very often beautiful), Romanian men are virile even if they seem quite otherwise at first sight. Romanians are family minded and esteem education. They are old-fashioned, clean-cut, self-reliant, sceptical of authority and they believe in freedom.“

UK Government Response

David Cameron proposed stopping new EU arrivals from receiving benefits for their first three months in Britain There are proposals in the new immigration bill to require EU migrants to pay for the use of the NHS. Cameron’s plans failed to placate Tory backbench critics who demanded more draconian restrictions.

Labour leader Ed Miliband jumped on the migrant-bashing bandwagon. He said that he thought the Labour government’s decision to permit the unlimited immigration of eastern European migrants had been a mistake. He claimed they had underestimated the potential number of migrants and that the scale of migration had had a negative impact on wages.

European Commissioners condemn Cameron’s measures, given that the Government has been a keen supporter of EU enlargement and British citizens take full advantage of freedom of movement. Laszlo Andor, the European Employment Commissioner, warned that the move risked showing  the UK as the  “nasty country” in the EU. Viviane Reding, the Justice Commissioner, said she did not understand the “political logic” of the moves, given that the Government has been a keen supporter of EU enlargement and British citizens take full advantage of freedom of movement, setting up homes and businesses overseas.

However, the new governing coalition formed by Angela Merkel in Germany had committed itself to “reducing incentives for migration” by amending its domestic laws on welfare. Downing Street said the development proved that Mr Cameron’s initiative was gaining wide support across the EU. President François Hollande’s government in France also called for tighter restrictions on EU migrants and Britain says its stance is also being backed by the Netherlands and Austria.

UKIP (UK Independence Party) hopes to become the largest British party in the European Parliament after next May’s elections. Nigel Farage claimed: “The whole political scene is changing because of the strength of UKIP.”

For and Against Immigration

There is a debate going on in Britain about whether mass immigration is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, there are those who argue that mass immigration has undermined the British economy and society. They argue that low-skilled immigrants have taken jobs from unskilled natives, while high-skilled immigration reduces opportunities for ambitious and talented Britons. On the other hand, some claim that there is little evidence that immigration has made more than a marginal contribution to reducing educational or labour market opportunities for less advantaged Britons.

Benefits of Migration

A study by University College London’s migration research unit, found that people from the European Economic Area (EEA) – the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – were most likely to make a positive contribution to the UK’s finances. Migrants from the EEA paid about 34 per cent more in taxes than they received in benefits over the ten years from 2001 to 2011.  The study found a positive and significant association between productivity growth and the increase in the employment of migrant workers between 1997 and 2007.

The European Commission published a report by consultancy firm ICF GHK as a response to concerns from some EU member states about the application of EU law on social security to migrants. The report concluded that, in most countries, immigrants do not claim more welfare benefits than nationals.

Even the Treasury’s official watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility extols the benefits of immigration.  Britain, it said, has no choice but to welcome hundreds of thousands of new migrant workers every year in order to stabilise public finances and to help pay the growing bills for the NHS and pensions. Migrants to the UK tend (at the moment) to be young, they pay a third more in tax than they receive in benefits, and fill tough jobs.

David Goodheart

David Goodheart is Editor-at-Large of Prospect magazine. He has published a book called The British Dream. He argues that low-skilled immigrants have taken jobs from unskilled natives, while high-skilled immigration reduces both the incentives and opportunities for ambitious and talented natives. He writes of a “Saudi Arabianisation” of the labour market where millions of long-standing residents sitting at home on benefit while poorer foreigners come in and take the sort of jobs they would have been doing.

Goodheart also claims that the failure of at least some immigrants to integrate has led to the decline of a shared sense of community.

Jonathan Portes is director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office. Reviewing Goodheart’s book, he claimed there was a contradiction between Goodheart’s reasonable discussion of the evidence on economics and integration and his unsubstantiated and alarmist talk. Portes argued that there is little or no evidence that immigration has made more than a marginal contribution to reducing educational or labour market opportunities for less advantaged Britons. Unemployment of native-born youth rose less in areas that experienced a larger change in the share of immigrants.

Paul Collier

Paul Collier an Oxford economist at Centre for the Study of African Economies, has published a book called Exodus. Collier says that when studying migration, he was struck by the gulf between the strength with which opinions were held and the depth of ignorance about the subject. On the left, “distaste and disdain for opponents of immigration have become differentiating tests of identity. Beneath the vitriol is the fear that any concession to popular prejudice risks unleashing anti-immigrant violence.”

“In high-income societies, the effect of immigration on the average incomes of the indigenous population is trivial. Economies are not damaged by immigration; nor do they need it. The distributional effects can be more substantial but they depend on the composition of immigration.”

A Mongrel Race

“Foreigners” have been settling in Britain for many centuries. In fact, the British themselves are a mongrel race. The Picts and Celts were colonised by the Romans who, in 250AD, brought a contingent of black legionnaires, drawn from the African part of the empire. When the Romans left in the fifth century, Germanic tribes, Jutes, Angles and Saxons, moved in, followed 400 years later by the Vikings. In 1066, the Normans brought the French language and many rules of governance that survive today. William the Conqueror brought in Jews to help develop commerce, finance and trade.

At the end of the Second World War, there were work shortages in Europe and labour shortages in Britain. The British government needed immigrants. On 22 June 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, delivering hundreds of men from the West Indies, encouraged by adverts for work. This was the start of mass immigration to the UK and the arrival of different cultures.

Racial tension seems to be the price Britain has to pay for once having an empire and for having labour shortages. There were race riots as far back as the 1950s. The 1981 riots, that started in Brixton and flared up all over the country, arose because of  resentment that the police were targeting young black men in the belief that it would stop street crime. The subsequent Scarman Report found that “racial disadvantage is a fact of current British life”.

Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell, as Minister for Health, had been responsible for recruiting thousands of black nurses to the NHS. Nevertheless, in the sixties, he became the unlikely spokesman for the beleaguered white working class, even winning the endorsement of Eric Clapton. Powell had dockers marching through the streets chanting his name after he made a speech warning of “rivers of blood”. He was sacked by prime minister Edward Heath, who said: “I have told Mr Powell that I consider the speech he made in Birmingham yesterday to have been racialist in tone and liable to exacerbate racial tensions. This is unacceptable from one of the leaders of the Conservative Party.”

David Frost interviewed Enoch Powell in 1968, soon after the  controversial speech. I watched it at the Pimlico family home of a university friend and flatmate. He was a middle-class Marxist who affected scruffy clothes and a disdain for personal hygiene. I recall that when I persistently complained about him leaving the bath in our home dirty he responded: “I thought you were supposed to be working class”.  My friend’s mother was very posh and worked with a writer connected to the BBC. The father was a liberal vicar with an independent income. Their house was very different from my parents’ council house. Despite feeling my social inferiority, I shared their middle class outrage that Frost was too soft on Powell.

Powell deployed anecdote and hearsay in a way that knowingly played to the prejudices of those of those who were more racist than he was. This austere and donnish classicist had dockers marching through the streets in his support. Because he was a contrarian and mischief-maker, it is likely that he took delight in raising issues that both parties shrouded in complicit silence. His speech raised matters of real concern. In particular, he was right to suggest that areas like Wolverhampton were experiencing acute problems in adjusting to the concentration of recent immigrants.

According to Paul Collier, Powell’s forecast of immigrant numbers was remarkably accurate but his forecast of their social consequences was “grotesquely wrong”. “All high-income societies have developed robust conventions against intergroup violence.”

Nevertheless, one can, without wanting to join a fascist party, empathise with those white working class people who feel in their gut that decisions that they were powerless to influence were made by people who were cushioned from the consequences of those decisions. Collier writes: “In these circumstances, liberal intellectuals who dismiss concerns about future migration, as distinct from the complaints about its past effects, are being cavalier at other people’s expense. It is the indigenous poor, existing immigrants and people left behind in the countries of origin who are potentially at risk, not the middle classes.”

Powell’s memory is alive today. Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Vince Cable likened Conservative “panic” about Romanian and Bulgarian migration to Powell’s speech. “We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK. I remember going back to Enoch Powell and ‘rivers of blood’ and all that. If you go back a century it was panics over Jewish immigrants coming from Eastern Europe,” Mr Cable told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.



According to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the relaxed EU work regulations due to take effect on January 1 2014 will change the very infrastructure of London and other British cities. London has already changed irreparably. Rich financiers have made it unaffordable for the working class. The real threat to British stability comes from governments giving incentives to wealthy elites to take up residence. Russians receive a quarter of the ‘investor visas’ that the UK gives to those who can pay a million pounds. The proprietor of the London Evening Standard is  Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, a Russian oligarch and former officer of the foreign intelligence directorate of the KGB.

It seems unlikely, that there will be a huge influx of Romanians and Bulgarians. Many believe it  improbable that those who do try Britain will stay permanently. Indications are that young people will try to make some money in the UK doing jobs for which they are over-qualified and then return to Romania using their savings to establish a family back home.

Paul Wood says: “If Britain and other Western European countries have decided that they need immigrants, and they have, they should be very grateful that the EU has a supply on hand of Romanian immigrants who share a European culture and will fit in easily. Probably no immigrants in the world assimilate as quickly as Romanians who seem not to stay together in clusters like other immigrant groups.”

In The Week, Nigel Horne interviewed some Romanians already in Britain. Andrea has a degree in accountancy from Bucharest and works as a cleaner in London. “It’s just… it is not a real life. It is only about making money so we can go home with the deposit to buy a place to live. I miss my family and friends – and the fresh air…We don’t want to come here NOT to work – we want to work and make money. If there was no job I would go home.” Romanian labour minister, Mariana Campenau, said it is the British, who exploit the welfare system, shunning jobs in favour of living on benefits. “If Romanians are happy to take up those vacancies, why should they be blamed?”

Between May 2004 and September 2009, 1.5 million workers migrated from the new EU member states to the UK. Many have returned home. Migration from Poland in particular has become temporary and circular in nature. In 2009, for the first time since the enlargement, more nationals of the eight Central and Eastern European states that joined the EU in 2004 left the UK than arrived.

Paul Wood thinks differently. “The Romanians who return to Romania after working abroad will create the Romania of the future. They are the candidates I most value as a recruiter. On the other hand, inevitably, the great majority will not return and this is a huge, irreparable loss to Romania.”

Even if large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians do descend on the UK, ordinary people will probably get along fine as they have mostly done with previous waves of immigrants. Nevertheless, there will always be those who resent immigrants. There is legitimacy to the fears of working class people having their neighbourhoods changing around them. However, it is evil and dangerous for politicians to exploit this.

Something Rotten in the EU

The EU’s democratic deficit oils the wheels of the gravy train and encourages corruption.

Hamlet spoke of “something rotten in the state of Denmark”. Today Denmark serves as a benchmark for low corruption compared to the rest of the EU. The view from Europe used to be that corruption was a problem in developing countries, while the EU set a model of the rule of law and had a mission to export good governance. A recent report indicates that this is not so, and has probably never been the case. The estimated cost of corruption cited in that report, published on 9 April 2013 by the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, amounts to nearly one-third the proposed EU budget for 2014-2020.

Tobacco Poison

Tobacco is a poisonous substance that has a corrupting effect, physically and morally. Dealing in this deadly drug has highlighted the potential for corruption in the EU. Health Commissioner John Dalli resigned in October 2012, but the ‘Dalligate’ affair rumbles on in Dalli’s native Malta.

John Dalli left his post after a report from OLAF (Office de Lutte Anti-fraude) accused him of taking bribes from the tobacco lobby. The tobacco firm Swedish Match alleged that Dalli solicited a €60 million bribe to alter the tobacco directive for which he was responsible. The company manufactures Snus, a tobacco product consumed by placing it under the lip for extended periods. The sale of snus is illegal in the EU.

MEP Jose Bové alleged that Swedish Match’s lawyer lied about a crucial meeting during which Dalli’s agent allegedly solicited the bribe. Bové said company officials told him that that a meeting described by the lawyer never took place.

Where Is the Money Going?

There were concerns that the Dalli imbroglio might undermine OLAF. A House of Lords report accused EU member states, which are responsible for administering 80 per cent of EU funds, of being unenthusiastic about assessing fraud. The report criticised OLAF’s ineffectiveness; budgetary restrictions limited the number of cases investigated; there was little coordination with other EU agencies such as Europol and Eurojust.

Enlargement Fatigue

There is a tendency to blame corruption on the newcomers to the EU gravy train. Older member states felt that Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007 without resolving organised crime and corruption issues. The downturn eroded the principles of European solidarity, and boosted support for nationalism and immigration control. Some of the former Yugoslav republics attracted investment and began growing strongly in the credit boom before 2008, but they have been slow to emerge from the recession. There is fear that disappointment of their EU hopes could weaken the desire for reform and the region could, not merely sink into financial corruption, but explode into violence again.

Romania’s relations with the EU are at their lowest ebb.  The EC published a scathing report on judicial reform and corruption. Austerity measures designed to please the EU are causing poverty and chaos and creating room for extremism in Romania. The EC published a wounding report on Bulgaria’s efforts to tackle corruption and organised crime.

Hertie School of Governance Report

The Hertie School of Governance report questioned the assumption that EU membership had a positive impact on corruption levels. Spain, Greece and Italy show a clear regression in the corruption index, despite being long-standing EU members.

The study puts EU nations into four groups.

Group A nations display high deterrents and low opportunities. This group includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. These countries control opportunities for corruption through transparent administration, reduced officialdom and few opportunities for discretionary spending.


Group B includes countries that have managed to create significant deterrents but still struggle with important challenges due to high resources available for corruption. This group includes Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary and Cyprus.


Group C includes Italy, Spain and Portugal, plus Slovenia and Slovakia. These are countries with relatively low resources, but also low constraints. The crisis itself has acted as a strong anticorruption agent in these countries, because of diminished resources and opportunities. They remain at risk because of insufficient normative and social constraints through civil society and media as well as legal deterrents.


Group D includes the five worst EU performers. Greece from the old member states and five newer members: Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania. Excessive bureaucracy poorly developed civil society and lack of media freedom is common to all of them. Bulgaria scores lowest on audit capacity and judicial independence. Greece has internet access at the level of an undeveloped country, which leads to poor controls and lack of transparency.


Democratic Deficit


The Commissioner in charge of the Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs is Olli Rehn. The Finnish electorate convincingly rejected Rehn – think of Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten in the UK. Imagine Ranil Wickremesinghe as a European Commissioner. After Rehn’s party was defeated in Finland, he went on Brussels where his effortless rise was disproportionate to his competence. His first brief was EU Enlargement; despite evidence of massive political and economic corruption, Romania and Bulgaria became EU members on his watch.


Turnout at European Parliamentary elections is consistently low. Why should voters bother when they know that real power lies with un-elected has-beens and faceless bureaucrats? In the light of this democratic deficit, does the EU have the systemic capacity to deal with the corruption eating away at it? The new powers of the European Commission and the Troika mark a further diminution of democratic control. The response of Brussels to the curtailment of democracy has been to propose a “commensurate increase” in the role of the European Parliament, to lend democratic legitimacy to the Commission’s expanded powers. The Parliament is constitutionally incapable of that. The EU electoral process cannot do what voters expect of parliamentary elections – i.e., determine the make-up of the ensuing government. EC president Manuel Barroso simply brushed aside MEPS’ concerns in the Dalli case.


Two years after the launch of the European Citizens’ Initiative, aimed at increasing direct democracy in the EU, not one of the 25 proposals has been implemented.



Although the nature and scope of corruption may differ from one EU State to another, it harms the EU as a whole by lowering investment levels, hampering the fair operation of the Internal Market and straining public finances. On the global Corruption Perception Index, Sri Lanka ranks 79th out of 176 countries. The nation badly wants foreign investment but investors will be wary of investing in a country widely regarded as corrupt. COPE could learn some lessons from the Hertie report on how to address corruption in Sri Lanka. The report recommends transparent administration and economy, reduced officialdom and limited opportunities for discretionary spending. Other essential assets required are an independent judiciary, free media (including an unfettered internet), and a healthy civil society. The capacity to audit and control is essential. The report indicates that nations with the least risk of corruption have high deterrents and low opportunities. The most at risk combine many opportunities with few deterrents. Which category will Sri Lanka choose to occupy?



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