Posts tagged ‘Treaty Law’

10/26/2011

Greece Limited By Euro Monetary Union

Although the U.S. Congress controls Fiscal Policy under an unlimited Constitutional power to tax and spend, and Monetary Policy through the Federal Reserve Bank and the ability to “coin money,” European Union states, such as Greece, who elected by treaty to adopt the Euro currency, are no longer able to use a national Monetary Policy to print money, or a Fiscal Policy to spend in excess of limits set by the European Central Bank.

European unification has been a work in progress since the 1950s when certain European states created a Common Market for the purpose of trading, under a system that allowed them to maintain their control of over national economics. A Customs Union was added in 1968 to abolish tariffs between the member states, and to establish a common tariff as against goods from the outside.

The existence of several currencies and a desire for a easier flow of capital led to a Monetary Union, which created a European Central Bank in Frankfurt, abolished German Marks, French Francs, and other currencies, and replaced them with the Euro in 2002, by making it the exclusive legal tender in Euro Zone states.

The problem with the Monetary Union is the lack of a Political Union to oversee it. Unlike the U.S., where all 50 states obey Washington DC on national matters, the EU is a collection of independent countries that happen to have a Central Bank. The EU Parliament cannot pass national legislation, like the Congress; they can only follow existing treaties, or propose new ones.

It is doubtful the recent European Monetary Union financial crisis will cause the independent countries of the EU to form one Political Union. It is more likely to have the opposite effect.

The problem is national governments like Greece already gave up aspects of national control under prior EU Treaties. When the Monetary Union was made, the EU Framers required the various national governments to coordinate their economies. National Debt, for example, was not to exceed 60% of GDP. Countries that previously used Monetary Policy were no longer able to do so, since these powers were transferred by treaty to the Central Bank.

National governments that previously spent their way out of recession, now had their Fiscal Policies controlled by the EU Central Bank, which imposed spending caps. Their Stability and Growth Pact (1997) required states to pursue balanced budgetary policies, and imposed sanctions against those that failed to adjust.

The European Central Bank has the authority under treaty law to restrict the democratic wishes of the Greek people and to operate without regard to political pressures. The risk is a renunciation of the EU Treaty by Greece, which may trigger others to follow, in a manner like South Carolina’s secession from the U.S. in 1861.

While the EU is not going to allow member states to default, the question is whether the Greeks will allow the Central Bank to reduce their jobs and pensions without a secessionist revolt, which Greeks may feel is their only option, since the Bank now controls their national Monetary and Fiscal policies, under the EU Treaty.

04/14/2011

French Ban On Veils Violates Treaty

Although France historically separated church and state, they are now fighting a growing Muslim influence, by banning women from wearing veils in public places. The new law may violate not only the French Constitution, but also Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) (1950), and the European Union Treaty (EU) (1992).

A Muslim woman could challenge the French law in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. This is the tribunal for the 46 countries that signed the ECHR. The treaty provides: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” including the right “to manifest his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The treaty also says: “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations, as are prescribed by law, and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others” (Art. 9). The treaty issue would be whether the law is needed for public safety?

The law could also be challenged in the national courts of France. French courts are not however like their American counterparts, where a judge may declare a law unconstitutional. French judges do not have the power to overturn a legislative act. The French do, however, have a Constitutional Council, that reviews legislation to determine if it conforms to their constitution. If the Council deems the law constitutional, and a court then finds the defendant guilty of violating it, there is still another court that may review it.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg serves as the tribunal for the 27-member European Union. For the case to be reviewed there, the defendant would have to ask the French court to submit the issue to the ECJ. They have no obligation to do so. While some European high courts have referred cases to the ECJ, France has not been one of them. If France referred the issue, the ECJ could declare the French law incompatible with the EU treaty, which is partly based on respect for fundamental rights.

This issue reminds me of Catholic nuns in the U.S. who would cover their bodies in black robes. We in America could never tell them how to dress. France needs to treat the Muslim veil issue the same way.

03/25/2011

Term-Limit Treaty Is A Global Need

Recently, the world witnessed several uprisings in North Africa and the Mideast. The common denominator in many of them was a leader who had been in power for decades. Ben Ali was driven from Tunisia after 24 years. Hosni Mubarak governed Egypt for 30 years. Rebels in Yemen are fighting Ali Saleh, who has served for 32 years, and Col. Qaddafi in Libya, is trying to hold on after 42years.

While long-term service does necessarily make a leader ineffective, history has had its fill of tyrants. For 45 years in North Korea, Kim prohibited dissent. Gen. Suharto of Indonesia brutally suppressed opponents for 31 years. Joseph Stalin killed millions in the USSR, during his 30 years. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who started out on the right track, lost his way after 31 years.

The U.S. should introduce a Term-Limit Treaty in the UN, which could be co-sponsored by Tunisia and Egypt. People should no longer be subjected to the rule of men who refuse to leave office. The treaty should establish a fundamental right to live in a political system that limits a leader to no more than 10 years in office. The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands should make it a crime to remain more than 10 years, or to suspend a constitution that limits terms. Obtaining office through a coup or military junta, and not through normal electoral means, should also become criminal.

Currently a majority of countries have some term-limits. Some limit their leaders to one term of 4, 5, 6 or 7 years. Others allow two 4-year terms, like the U.S. The most common however is a limit of two 5-year terms. Those that currently have no limit would need to adopt one. Those whose limits in excess of 10 years would need to amend their constitutions to conform to the new international standard. While absolute monarchs and some constitutional monarchies like Britain would most likely resist, this is no reason not to get started with the majority of countries who would probably sign on.