I went along to the 2nd annual UACES lecture this evening, with Lord Chris Haskins, Chair of the European Movement. The title of the lecture was “CAP Reform: A Watershed for the European Union?” and details of the lecture can be found here.

To be honest, while there was little that I strongly disagreed with in what Haskins said, I was left feeling distinctly unimpressed by his approach. Haskins is a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords and has had a successful career in industry and farming. His argument was – predicatbly enough – that the CAP was outdated, no longer did what it needed to do, and that we should aim to abolish it progressively, looking towards 2013 when these matters are up for debate. Yet almost everyone in the audience was well versed in the arguments about the weaknesses of the CAP – it was without doubt preaching to the convered.

However, there were plenty of issues that Haskins just did not touch on. He fell into the typical trap of looking at CAP funding as a part of the total EU budget. I think this is the wrong way to look at it – if CAP is a decreasing percentage of the total budget, that does not really tell us anything especially useful. There was also little explanation of how CAP reform could viably be explained to the French, among others.

Further, Haskins continually talked of a growing ‘pragmatic consensus’, which actually seemed to be a proxy for a business friendly Europe that eschews grand political projects, and not once did he mention democracy as an element of the future Europe he sketched out.

Clearly Haskins has some useful ideas, and his knowledge of CAP is considerable. But he is neither an academic nor a politician, and this showed in his somewhat incomplete presentation.

7 Comments

  1. Well, it’s perhaps a too common phenomena of different pro-European organisations and EU institutions. The permissive consensus that was once “granted” to the EU leaders to build the EU has progressively vanished and now these same people or structures are faced with a change in the public mood…How to deal with it? I think there should be more space for people with different opinions, like Moravscik perhaps, to advance their ideas for the future of the EU.

    Saray, yes. Indeed, the Commission looks quite scarry from the close-up. It’s also in there that the lack of “feel right” is noticeable:)

  2. Jon, I absolutely agree with you. The more you listen to the same people saying the same things, the tiring it gets.
    Not very long time ago, while walking home in Brussels towards the European Commission building I thought: The longer I stay in Brussels, the more eurosceptic I become 🙁

  3. I think you are a bit harsh on Moravcsik. While the ‘I am different’ thing is a bit annoying, and may or not be true, he speaks quite eloquently and logically to explain what he stands for. In short he tries to put himself in the shoes of the audience and make them understand his point.

    The problem with Haskins (or indeed plenty of others) is that they give an analysis of the present that may or may not be right, but it ends up being quite a bland presentation of the problems, rather than an effort to explain what might be relevant for the future…

    At heart I just think I have heard too many bland speeches, and I am sold on anyone who is capable of saying something interesting and coherent. Maybe I should listen to more academics, rather than my usual fare of listening to politicians and administrators!

  4. I’ve not heard Mark Leonard although I have read bits and pieces most of which I quite like, but I have heard and read Andrew Moravcsik many, many times, and I don’t find anything particularly constructive in his framework for Europe as it stands. “It works. So don’t break it. It doesn’t need fixing.” Moreover, Moravcsik’s famed differences with other scholars of EU politics such as Simon Hix are becoming differences without a distinction, or perhaps better distinctions without a difference. I saw them both on the same roundtable at a conference last year where you could not get a cigarette paper between them in terms of them saying “let the EU get on with normal politics and bugger the constitution” (this was before it was buggered), and yet to all intents and purposes (e.g. body language) they appeared to be vehemently disagreeing.

  5. Perhaps my comments here were a bit harsh. I just feel that I am tiring of debates about Europe, and it is now very rare that I hear anything that is especially new, or indeed anything that I like very much!

    I find myself liking speeches my Mark Leonard or Andrew Moravcsik – quite odd as I disagree with their vision of what the European Union should be, but I appreciate that they are coherent and do have a vision. They do try to put their thinking into a framework.

    If Haskins did have a framework, I don’t know what it was. The same can be said for most UK politicians, and indeed most politicians in most EU member states. While ‘making it all work’ might be the everyday reality, it does make speeches about the EU horribly dull.

  6. You weren’t that keen then I gather…

  7. Intersting BondWoman was there also…

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