06 Feb 09 Eddie's Blog Global

Freedom and Europe

Continuing with the theme of freedom and Europe. 

Freedom as a concept is incredibly important to the human.  “The struggle for freedom begins in infancy, the urge behind the child striving to walk is an urge for freedom of movement.  Behind its efforts at articulation is the child’s urge for freedom of expression”.   From Manoj Das.

Freedom was one of the founding concepts of the democracy created in America.  But freedom is a relative concept, the freedom to bear arms as outlined in the American Constitution, is seen by many in the rest of the world as a distinct lack of freedom for those shot needlessly.

Freedom is a quintessentially political concept, it involves at its core a trade off between the limits imposed by society on its citizens in the interests of collective good and the freedom of the individual to do whatever he pleases.  For Vladimir Ilich Lenin “Freedom is such a precious item it has to be carefully rationed”.

Freedom has major technological components; the invention of the motor car freed up men, but in particular women, from the imprisonment of the home.  The contraceptive pill conferred on women the freedom to have the number of children that they chose to have.

National sovereignty is concerned with the freedom of Government from external control.  According to Wikipedia “sovereignty is the exclusive right to have control over an area of governance of people or oneself”.  Sovereignty concerns the ability of the state to make laws and control resources without any coercion from other nations.

Sovereignty can, according to Think Port, be thought of as “the supreme and absolute authority within the theoretical boundaries”. 

So what freedom is to the individual, sovereignty is to the Nation.

The anti European ones among us trumpet our loss of sovereignty as a telling reason to vote against Europe.  Let us examine this proposition.

There is no doubt that the personal freedom of every Irishman has been enhanced by the EU experience, for instance:

• Irish people are free to work anywhere in the EU;
• Irish goods and services can be sold anywhere in the EU without tariff barriers of any kind;
• The Irish customer of telecoms and electricity has seen their prices reduce and their green content increase on account of Europe;
• It now takes two and a half hours to drive to Sligo from Dublin over newly built bypasses and motorways (funded from Europe) when it used to take three and a half hours;
• Irish people no longer have to travel abroad for employment (at least for the last 20 years);
• Irish farmers have had their incomes dramatically increased by having direct access to the EU funded CAP ( they have received €40 bn in real terms since 1973);
• Irish workers have their rights protected by the social chapter;
• Irish women enjoy equality in the workplace, including equal pay as a result of EU law.

So, how can national sovereignty be compromised if the freedom of every individual has been enhanced?
When, with twenty six other member states of the EU, we make collective decisions that affect our future we pool rather than reduce our sovereignty.

In the energy field, this pooling is very like a collection of small retail outlets getting together to do joint purchasing.  Everybody knows that hundreds of little stores who appoint one purchasing manager will buy far cheaper products than what can be achieved by any one of those little stores acting by itself.

The pro-sovereignty camp would claim that each store had its freedom reduced.  What nonsense this is!  We need Europe, well organised with gross energy purchasing power, with a common positive attitude towards environmental sustainability and a single common voice representing all of us on a world stage.
The simple message is that the individual freedom of all is enhanced by pooling sovereignty.