Tuesday, 29 September 2009

European Literary Prize: Everyone's a winner, so does anyone actually win?

The first ever EU literary prize was awarded yesterday, and everyone won. Well, 12 people from 12 participating countries won, and, over the next 2 years, all the other participating countries will each have their winner too. As the EUobserver comments, it's a bit:

"...like an elementary school sports day where every child wins a medal..."

There are apparently hopes that the award will become one of the most talked about literary awards, like "the Booker Prize, the Prix Goncourt or America's National Book Award", but there's not much to mark it out as special or "European". The procedure for picking winners reads like an attempt to give each individual country's publishing industry a bit of a boost by claiming that a local book won a European prize.

"The Prize consists of an award to a talent from each of the participating countries in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively. The 12 countries selected for the 2009 Awards were: Austria, Croatia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden. In 2010 Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Finland, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Spain will participate, followed by Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Malta, Serbia, The Netherlands, Turkey and United Kingdom in 2011.

The European Union Prize for Literature is co-financed by the Culture Programme and by the selected consortium composed of the European Booksellers Federation (EBF), the European Writers' Council (EWC) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP).

The consortium asked national bodies to establish a jury for the selection of this prize within their country.

The jury in each country followed a model that adapted to the national context." [Link, including the winners list]

...So national juries judging national books based on national contexts/traditions... Where exactly is the added "European" value? There is something to be said for trying to give a boost to national publishing industries, but it's unlikely that this will have much impact: after all, the more winners there are, the less exclusive and prestigious the prize becomes. A small number of prizes (or even just one prize) to the best books from across a continent could be a much sought-after award, if the literary standards were exacting. Henning Mankell, who presided over the award this year argued strongly for a more exclusive prize:

""Handing out a dozen or 34 prizes over three years is acceptable only for the first years. It makes no sense; it lessens its value," he told EUobserver.

"You cannot continue to have 12 prizes every year. Instead there should be just one or two prizes," he continued. "I don't honestly know how impressive it is. I think it is that Europe has a responsibility to do this sort of thing. This is the minimum of what has to be done. It's a small step.""

The promotion of "diversity" seems too often to focus on state sensitivities instead of real cultural diversity and ends up devaluing the celebration of whatever cultural form is taking its turn at being officially "celebrated" - after all when nationality takes such a central role, it distracts from what merits the winners might have. A good use of categories and a long and short list could draw attention to the range of good literate that is (hopefully) being produced across Europe while preserving the value of the prize itself.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Liveblogging: German Election Night

Deutschland hat gewaehlt! So here's the German election live blog (hashtag #germanelection):

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Doubling the Plastic Bag Tax

Yesterday I posted my second article on the Th!nk2 blogging platform: "Doubling the Plastic Bag Tax".

Small excerpt:

"What do you check for when leaving for the the shops? Keys? Wallet? Do you check that you've remembered to bring a few bags with you, or do you just accept free plastic bags when you reach the till? In 2002, Ireland introduced a plastic bag tax to make shoppers think about their plastic bag usage, and now there are now plans to make them think twice as hard by doubling the tax to 44 cents. The idea was to encourage people to either re-use the plastic bags that they had, or, better yet, to buy more durable, non-plastic alternatives. [...]"

Comments are blocked for this post, so any comments can be made on the Th!nk2 blog.

It's only been a few days, but it's great to see a lot of blogging activity going on already.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Copenhagen and my first Think2 Post

I've just taken part in the Th!nk2 launch event in Copenhagen, which was brilliant - talks, travel, discussing climate change, meeting fellow bloggers, and whiskey, all compressed into 2 and 1/2 days. The first day took place mainly in the Bella Centre, where the COP15 conference will take place in December, and the second took place in Dyssekilde, where there's an "eco-settlement", which has been gradually built up over 20 years to be as sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible - though they still have to pay tax, as some were disappointed to discover.

We also recorded the first official Th!nkCast, which I took part in, though it still has to go through the editing process.

So the new Th!nk blog is up, suitabily redesigned for the climate change theme, and I've entered my first post on the Emissions Trading Scheme and yesterday's court judgment. Link.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Chasing Brussels

I was a bit too slow to blog on Barroso's re-election to the post of Commission President, but it was covered well by Julien Frisch and he's also linked other election-related blogging.

So you'll have to make do with what will be the first of (hopefully) many podcasts on European politics: Chasing Brussels. We're aiming to produce the podcasts in a way that makes European politics a bit more conversational and accessable (the idea being that it would be easier to listen to a 20-30 minute chat about EU politics than read a lot of (usually detailed) blogs and news-websites for some - well, ok, most - people).

The first episode is (naturally) on Barroso's re-election, with Joe Litobarski and I. Thanks to Joe for his work on the editing! We hope to have another one out next week (or week-and-a-half), and with more podcasters.

I hope you enjoy it, and comments are welcome!

Short Update

Things haven't quite picked up again on The European Citizen since the European Parliament started up again; things will hopefully get back on track again in October. Time has been taken up recently with sorting out university matters, doing some reading for Bloggers For Europe, and doing some research and preparation for the Copenhagen launch of the Th!nk2 competition (the launch event starts on Monday).

Don't worry: I'll still be posting, but travel and various bits of work will slow down the post rate for the rest of the month.

So don't get into too much trouble until then.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Ganley's Back

A few days ago, @stevenconlon found some indications in the Wall Street Journal that Declan Ganley would return to the referendum debate on Lisbon despite saying that he would not campaign if he wasn't elected to the European Parliament in June (and since he wasn't elected...).

"His name is Declan Ganley. He was one of the driving forces behind the No campaign the last time around, and he's back to do it again. Your correspondent recently sat down with him to find out what he's fighting for in trying to see to it that Ireland once again votes No to Lisbon"

And yesterday he announced his return to the campaign:

"“It’s anybody’s right and privilege to change their mind,” he said yesterday. The Yes side were asking the Irish people to change their mind on Lisbon. “I didn’t want to re-engage in this debate. It wasn’t something that I relished.”

But he continued: “This isn’t about me, I’m not important in this. This is about Ireland’s place in the European Union . . . it’s about my country, a country that I love and it’s about standing up for the truth when people are telling huge lies, and the truth does not require a mandate.”

He said that “listening to this cacophony of half-truths and misleading campaigning – it’s just become unbearable”. He said the European Commission had “crossed a line that should never have been crossed and started to interfere in a constitutional debate in a member state”."

"The truth does not require a mandate"* - a fun line that simultaneously tries to reverse the relevance of his electoral defeat, while also claiming legitimacy from an abstract value. Ganley mandated by truth to campaign for a No? Well, it's good to know that someone has access to universal truths (well, treaty-related ones anyway).

Hopefully he won't be too adverse to the Referendum Commission answering questions.

*Sadly unlikely to work in everyday life situations.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Bloggers For Europe

A new website has started up this week focusing on the Lisbon Referendum: Bloggers For Europe. It's a pro-Lisbon blogging group, that will be blogging about the referendum campaign and Lisbon news. You can visit it here.

I've been invited to be part of the group, and I've just posted my first article on the Charter of Fundamental Rights - here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Barroso's Green Grilling

Today Barroso was grilled by the Liberals and the Greens. The Greens broadcast their hearing live on their website (from 16:30-18:30 Brussels time). I watched most of it, but the connection wasn't great, and at time the speakers' voices were echoed. It was also untranslated, so those who couldn't speak English, German or (especially) French would have been at a disadvantage; but it was good to see a live hearing.

[Note: My bad French the bad connection means that I may end up leaving some stuff out, so update me in the comments if you notice anything]

Barroso didn't give much away that he didn't say in his Political Guidelines for the next Commission (and that didn't reveal anything new either), but it was useful to see Barroso answering questions under some pressure (there were several shouting matches in French; a language in which Barroso speaks a lot more passionately than in English).

The main topic was, of course, the environment. Questions were raised over agriculture policy (particularlly on GM foods and the question of restrictions on protein production), over the Commission's commitment to tackle climate change and to ensure that the EU remains a leader in this area (especially since Japan unilaterally decided to cut emissions by 25%) and on global climate deals. Barroso's answers reflected how much he values the single market and liberalised trade (as his answers throughout did). He repeated his policy that GM foods remain a national decision, and he defended the EU's climate policy, saying that Japan had not yet legislated for that promise (the promise was made by the new incoming government). He also stressed the value of consensus, and that the role of the Commission President was to find consensus over issues - member states with different main energy sources and policies needed to be brought together. I've some sympathy for the last point, but Barroso's last 5 years have hardly come across as ambitious either. He also repeated his idea of a "climate test" for Commission policies and proposals, to ensure that they would be in line with the policy on climate change.

An excellent question was raised over the Commission's record of enforcing the correct application of environmental law that already exists. Hoever, to me the anser to this seemed to get lost in his reply to the questions generally (3 questions would be asked each time before he would answer).

Poverty and social policy came up as well. Barroso's stance on market liberalisation as characterised as the "Death of Social Europe" at one point (at least, that what I picked up - it was in French). On poverty, Barroso spoke about using the Social Fund, but also said that some states had asserted subsidiarity in some cases to prevent EU involvement in those areas. On social Europe, he said he wanted to introduce legislation on posted workers to plug the gap in the single market, but that he'd ensure that social rights are protected - Barroso pointed to the Charater of Fundamental Rights and asserted that these rights would be ensured generally.

The European Free Alliance (the regionalist wing of the group) asked a few questions as well; on the EU supporting regional languages financially as co-official in the EU institutions (if I've remembered that correctly), and on the inclusion of regions in decision-making. Barroso gave some vague statement of support for non-official languages and said that he supported regionalism, but that it was up to the member states in the Council to decide how much input their regions have.

On Human Rights, the Greens wanted more action on the issue of CIA rendition flights and for human rights to be linked with trade agreements more. Barroso said that he give political support to the cause of human rights by speaking out and by questioning leaders like Putin on it, but he rejected the idea of linking human rights ith trade too closely as impractical. He pointed to his the directive on non-discrimination in his first term as proof of his commitment to human rights (saying that it had faced some opposition in the EP), and said his next Commission would have a Commissioner with a portfolio on human rights.

Throughout the hearing, Barroso's belief in market liberalisation was clear, but so was a strange view on the role of the Commission. "Consensus" came up again and again: he tried to characterise the Commission as a bastion of unpolitical consensus, and accussed the Greens of excluding themselves from the "European Consensus". The denial of normal politics and replacing it with a grand European Alliance is simply the wrong strategy, even for its own cause. After a rambling speech on consensual Commissions and pro-European alliances, Barroso tried to characterise himself as not being conservative, but instead as a centre-right reformer. To which came the reply from an off-screen Green - and my favourite line of the hearing - "Would you not rather the support of the Greens instead of the support of the conservative group?".

I've a feeling that Barroso is more the ECR's candidate than the EPP's...

My Tweets:

Barroso is being questioned by the Greens - you can watch it live now: http://bit.ly/1gHAdm (it's 45min in) #eu

Barroso accuses Greens of excluding themselves from the European consensus #eu

Barroso and Red Danny shouting over each other. Barroso sounds more passionate in French (!) #eu #eugreenhearing

Barroso trying to defend the idea of an unpartisan Commission. And unpolitical Commission? #eu #eugreenhearing

"Death of Social Europe" - more criticism of #Barroso's market-focus and of social rhetoric as election rhetoric #eugreenhearing #eu

#Barroso talking about a "climate test" for all #Commission proposals. #eu #eugreenhearing

Criticising #Barroso over ensuring the application of #eu environmental law. #eugreenhearing

Consensus must be #Barroso's favourite word. Getting coal-using countries on board is an issue #eu #eugreenhearing

#Barroso blames member states using subsidiarity against poverty-fighting measures #eu #eugreenhearing

#Barroso wants to intro legislation on posted workers that extends market freedom, but says social rights will be protected #eu #hearing

I wonder if the EFA wing will attack #Barroso for his slap on the effect of subsidiarity? #eu #eugreenhearing

EFA issues: will #eu financially support the co-official languages in the EU & representation of regions in decision-making #eugreenhearing

#Barroso: regions' participation is supported, but it's member states' decision #eu #eugreenhearing

#Barroso's been asked if he'll limit protein production; and if agricult. policy is liberalisation & export orientated #eu #eugreenhearing

Some anger over the different treatment of the epot of GM foods #eu #eugreenhearing

It must be annoying having Danny sit right next to you and for him to be shouting that loud #eu #eugreenhearing

Question: should there be a Human Rights Commissioner & more HR in trade deals? #eu #eugreenhearing #Barroso

Greens pushing for more action over the CIA rendition flights & Guantamino #Barroso #eu #eugreenhearing

#Barroso: points to horizontal non-discrim. directive against some EP opposition. Next #Commission will have a HR Commissioner #eu

#Barroso: impossible to subordinate trade to HR concerns #eu #eugreehearing

#Barroso: integration of Africa in global trade will aid development #eu #eugreenhearing

#Danny ends ith a friendly question on Iraq. #Barroso #eu #eugreenhearing

Question time's over, and #Barroso's out like a shot! #eu #eugreenhearing Spent last 2 hrs wanting to get away from Danny, no doubt.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The 26+1 Formula

In an interview with the Irish Times, the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt floated the idea of a 26+1 solution to the legal problem of the Commission's size if Lisbon was voted down in the Irish referendum on October 2nd. Though he warned against a No vote, Reinfeldt said that the Swedish presidency was thinking of a back-up plan in the case that the Treaty is rejected:

"Mr Reinfeldt said talks have been held about what to do if there is a No vote, particularly on how to comply with the Nice treaty provision that mandates an immediate reduction in size of the next European Commission.


Mr Reinfeldt said a “26 plus one option” was probably the best solution, whereby 26 states retain their commissioner and the 27th state is offered the post of high representative for foreign affairs instead. This would give all 27 countries a top EU job, while complying with the legal condition for an EU executive of less than 27 members, which is stipulated in the Nice treaty."

However, he also said that the time could come when the Commission needs to be reduced:

"But he said was still a question about the efficiency of having up to 30 commissioners in an EU executive if further enlargement occurred. “We might in the future get back to this discussion. What if we keep on enlarging? But for now it’s very important that this was a call from the Irish people and we have met it. I know this was a factor in the Irish referendum.”"

It's an issue that I've argued we can't duck forever, but it's clear that for the foreseeable future there will be attempts to keep the Commission as big as possible. That's not to say that this is a definite Plan B - Reinfeldt has only described it as an "option", and there's no written political commitment from the entire Council, in comparison with the Lisbon Treaty guarantees. Since the No side rejects the validity or trustworthiness of these guarantees, it's hard to see how they could (honestly) capitalise on this statement as a "guarantee" for the No side. There are still some states in favour of slimming down the Commission (particularly Germany), and the original Lisbon system of a member state having a Commissioner for 10 out of every 15 years could be revived in some form in the case of a No vote.

Still, a No vote represents political uncertainty when it comes to European constitutional reform. Even though amendments to the Treaties must be unanimously passed, the fact remains that the member states are still sovereign states who can decide to carry on in a different direction if need be. The idea of a multi-speed or two-tier Europe isn't a fanciful idea, especially given the range of opt-outs and opt-ins there are already. Since the last 9 years have been focused on achieving a common agreement; if Lisbon is rejected without any clear path or solution for the way forward (i.e. do we know what we would want changed, and is it possible politically to change it?), then a multi-speed Europe can't be ruled out.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Barroso's EU2020

After being critised and pressed to come up with a clear programme for a second Commission term, Barroso has proudly presented his "Political guidelines for the next Commission". Compared to his 2-page letter to the Council when seeking re-nomination, this document stands at 41 pages. Possibly stung by the charge that Barroso had no vision for the next 5 years, he claim to have not only that, but a vision for the next 10 years - insisting that there needs to be a clear direction for Europe up to 2020.

Sadly, there's not much content in Barroso's EU2020 plan - Barroso claims that he can't go into too much detail until he knows what the shape of his Commission would be. This strikes me as a cop-out: Barroso has already been nominated, and now it's up to the Parliament to elect or reject him. Though the member states have the most control over the shape of the Commission he would present to the Parliament, the post of Commission President has become, well, more presidential - Barroso will have a decisive say in setting Commission policy.

Barroso may be holding back for three reasons: 1. Parliament won't like what he has to say; naturally the PASD and Greens aren't as free market as he is, but the EPP have also shifted towards favouring greater financial regulation, whereas Barroso would come from the economic right of the EPP. 2. Caution - the EP still might decide to put his vote off, and a vague programme wouldn't offend national governments in case he has to depend on their continued goodwill if there's another scramble for the top jobs. 3. He doesn't really have much or any vision at all.

So what did he say? Julien Frisch has a sharp and very critical article here, which also gives a list of quotes. (He's also got a round up of blogging opinion on Barroso's EU2020 here). On page 7 (the PDF page 7) of the "Political guidelines" there's a handy buzzword diagram that sums up the vague positivity he's aiming at, and he pretty much sticks to it throughout.

It reads like a name-dropping checklist:
Saying you're passionate about Europe and have a vision? Check.
Emphasise the value of the single market? Check.
Furthering the single market? Check.
Green economy and climate change? Check. (Reference to green technology + jobs = :-) ).
Concern over unemployment? Check.
Immigration and security? Check. (He wants a "true common immigration policy", though he stops short of telling us anything about it whatsoever).
Praising the role of Parliament? Check, check and check again. Oh, and check, just to be safe.

While there is very little content (the closest he comes is talking about a marine observation and data network, and ambitions to free up the broadband market [and also financial services markets]), Barroso made much of a "special partnership" between the Commission and the Parliament; mentioning the prospect of more meetings with the EP's Conference of Presidents and having a kind of Commission President's Questions on a regular basis.

The question of when the EP will vote on Barroso's second term still hasn't been settled - some want to postpone it until after the Lisbon Referendum vote in Ireland on October 2nd, though the EPP are naturally pushing for the sooner September 16th. Barroso will meet with the leaderships of the various political groups over the next few days. The far-left GUE-NGL will definitely oppose him, while the right-wing ECR, despite styling itself as the "official opposition", will back Barroso (see EurActiv for the detailed positions). Given that Barroso is more to the economic right than the Parliament, I (still) think that the ECR will end up being one of the most pro-Commission/establishment groups in Parliament.

On the bright side, Barroso managed to throw in a few phrases about global governance and new orders, so it should keep conspiracy theorists entertained, if no-one else.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The 6-point Pro-Lisbon Argument on Workers' Rights

RTÉ's Prime Time tonight hosted a debate on workers' rights between Pat Cox and Joe Higgins. There wasn't a lot of time for a detailed debate, and, though Cox did better than many Pro-Lisbon spokespeople to state the Yes side's case, he was unable to land a killer blow - the argument is just too technical to do that.

I've already argued that the Lisbon Treaty is the best possible strengthening of workers' rights that can be achieved at this time (no matter what your stance on how far workers should have legally enshrined rights). Still, my argument was a lot one, and not really light reading, never mind being suited to a 10 minute TV debate or conversation.

So here's a 6-point Pro-Lisbon Argument on workers' rights:

1. Before Lisbon, under the current (Nice) status quo, the Charter of Fundamental Rights had no legal status, so it has no real bearing on the ECJ cases being quoted by the No side.

2. Ratifying the Lisbon Treaty will make the Charter part of Treaty law: in other words, part of the EU's fundamental law. Then they can be used in court cases (to do with EU law, not national law).

3. It doesn't matter that there's only going to be a Solemn Declaration supporting the Charter rather than a protocol - the Treaty gives the Charter direct legal effect in the first place!

4. If we vote No, this won't happen, and the status quo will continue. The ECJ's behaviour won't change, as the law will remain the same.

5. With the European Parliament dominated by the right after the elections in June, and with the vast majority of EU governments being right wing, there is no short-to-mid-term realistic chance of coming up with a stronger, legally binding Charter on workers' rights. Especially since the UK would block any such attempt, even under a Labour government.

6. In any case, secondary legislation could give extra rights; however, this requires that you can get enough votes and MPs/MEPs on a left-wing political programme to legislate in that way. Like, you know, parliamentary democracy?

So there's a 6-point argument that you can make that's relatively short and (hopefully) understandable enough without going into too much detail. You can even shorten it further if you need to.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

You've gotta fight, for your right, to... have your Charter Rights applied by the ECJ (?)

Workers rights is an important issue in the politics of the anti-Lisbon party Sinn Féin (the only anti-Treaty party in the Dáil), and of Joe Higgins, the leader of the Socialist Party, and Ireland's only anti-Lisbon MEP since the European elections in June. It's also an issue in the upcoming referendum, with Pat Cox and Joe Higgins arguing across the pages of the Irish Times, and with the second largest union in Ireland, Unite, calling for a No vote on October 2nd.

The argument against the Treaty when it comes to workers rights is based on recent ECJ case law that has favoured employers over employees (Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg), and the weakness of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would become part of the EU's primary law should Lisbon come into force. While the Charter would mean that weight needs to be given to the rights it contains when applying EU law, it is argued that it doesn't go far enough, and that it will affect national law adversely by weakening existing national workers' rights/it won't affect national law enough, leaving workers with weak national law workers' rights.

Bernard Harbor, of the trade union Impact, countered that, by ratifying Lisbon and by making the Charter part of the EU's primary law, workers' rights would be strengthened. In his article he makes the common sense argument that if workers' rights aren't well enough protected under Treaty law, then surely making the Charter part of the primary law is a concrete step in the right direction, even if it doesn't tick every box on your wish list. And from the point of view that European market law has been anti-worker, the opportunity to enshrine social and workers' rights in Treaty law is (or should be) one to be taken.

Rejecting the Lisbon Treaty would just ensure that the status quo continues - and it's hard to see how a No result will advance the cause of workers' rights. It won't rid the single market of its four guiding legal freedoms that inform the ECJ's judgments: of goods, services, workers and capital; and it won't add to the rights of workers.

Is a stronger Charter possible? It's hard to see how the far left can seriously believe so.

First, it's always easier to water reform down than to force greater change, especially if you hope to force greater reform by obstructing a reform package.

Second, it's hard to force greater reform when it effects the basic legal make-up of the EU, when you've pushed for guarantees and opt-outs in other areas. Does Sinn Féin really believe that it will get the UK (among others) to agree to more workers' rights across the single market when Sinn Féin has strongly promoted the idea of sovereignty and veto rights in its rhetoric, and when Ireland has negotiated guarantees and protections against the extent (real and imagined) of EU law?

While the guarantees were negotiated by the government and not Sinn Féin (and Sinn Féin finds the guarantees unacceptable), they did want the treaty to be re-negotiated. In such circumstances it would be strange to see Sinn Féin defending sovereignty on tax matters in the face of the French government on the basis that it would adversely affect the Irish economy to have tax harmonisation, while at the same time arguing that the UK is wrong to reject a stronger binding Charter for economic reasons.

Which brings us to three: there simply isn't the political support for stronger/more detailed workers' rights to be enshrined in the treaty beyond the Lisbon Treaty reforms. Indeed, at the last European elections the cente-left PASD did badly across Europe while the conservative EPP remained in top position. And Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party belong to the much, much smaller far-left group GUE-NGL group. Both the European Parliament and the Council have right-wing majorities: indeed, the composition of the Council is especially important, given that it consists of the governments who would negotiate a new treaty. The Council has a massive right-wing majority with 18 EPP and Liberal governments to 7 PASD and European Left governments (with 2 independent governments that aren't likely to swing leftwards). In addition, the UK, Spanish and Portugese PASD governments support a second Barroso Commission Presidency - as Barroso is from the EPP political family, this doesn't bode well for the support a stronger treaty on workers' rights would receive from even the left-lending governments in the Council. And that's before considering the likihood of a Tory government in the UK during a re-negotiation, who are strongly against the Lisbon treaty, arguing that it goes too far - could the Irish far-left convince them to vote their way?

In short, the idea that Ireland, where the far left parties are a small minority, could force through such a reform through a No vote is fantasy.

Voting against the Lisbon Treaty because it isn't 100% perfect is a strange political position to take. The Treaty is a compromise between 27 states. As with any compromise we must ask ourselves: does it improve things, and does it represent the best improvement that can be achieved through compromise? So far the far-left have failed in putting forward any positive, pragmatic and achievable alternative vision.