Why I intend to vote "no" in the referendum on EU entry - II.

Article published at "Neviditelny pes"

My efforts to ventilate my opinions in this way from time to time (despite my lack of training or education in this particular area) were inspired by three people..

The first of these is Ondřej Neff, whose publication Neviditelný pes makes an almost daily appearance on my computer screen and brings me much more reading pleasure than the press-agency-sourced news that show up in our printed newspapers.

The second is my father, who has been longing since the mid 1990s to have his own newspaper column titled "Another Thing that Made Me Mad Yesterday" (in fact he used a somewhat more colorful expression which probably is not suitable for publication). I am too lazy and too resigned to things to spend each day complaining about all the unfairness in the world, not the least because I have to earn a living somehow, so I will only be writing on an occasional basis.

The third is  (presumably Senator) Vízek, who publicized his views in Neviditelný pes on several occasions, immediately putting to rest any fears I may have had that no one would read or, God forbid, publish the  misguided ravings of an individual espousing opinions far outside the mainstream. 

 

            The main argument against EU entry that I presented in the previous article was based on the view that it is not right, and perhaps even immoral, to expect, let alone require, that EU citizens contribute towards our welfare without us having to do everything we can to raise our standard of living through our own efforts. Especially since no-one asks EU citizens whether they wish to pay money for such purposes and how much they are willing to pay.

            I also touched on agricultural subsidies, which are expected to be "unfairly"  reduced in the case of the new EU entrants.

            I can still remember when I first read (as a young and inexperienced lad) Josef Heller's Catch-22, and failed to understand how Major Major's father was able to get a farm subsidy for every crop of alfalfa that he does not grow with his farmland and use this money to buy more land to not grow alfalfa on and as he earns more and more from this scheme, he is able to keep buying more and more land for not growing crops on....

            I am not an expert on this area and am undoubtedly presenting a simplified version of the issue but I do recall newspaper articles stating that the majority of the EU budget is eaten up by the Common Agricultural Policy, money used to subsidize agricultural production and exports of surplus agricultural production outside the EU. I would be grateful if anyone is able to provide some statistical information on how much of the money designated for supporting agriculture is consumed by the redistribution bureaucracy (not just at the EU level but also within individual EU member countries!), or information on the preparation of various concepts or standards, as much as I tend not to place too much trust in most statistics. And only 5% of the EU's population is employed in agriculture!

Naturally, I do understand that a small-time European farmer raising his crops on an infertile, rocky plot of land somewhere in the mountains wants to earn a living just like anyone else. I do not understand, however, why such farmer so stubbornly insists that he must raise his crops on just such a field and I don't remember anyone asking the other 95%  representing the EU's non-agricultural population whether they are willing to support such farmer through their taxes. My feeling is that they have not been asked. I am convinced that (just like in our country) the politicians involved merely babble on about the strategic nature of agricultural production and its landscape-forming role, while their subordinates process applications for subsidies, distribute funds, conduct aerial surveillance to determine whether a farmer has planted more than he was supposed to under their approved plan, and finance heavily subsidized exports of surplus agricultural production to countries outside the EU. A flood of cheaper agricultural produce into the EU from other countries is ably prevented by EU authorities through customs duties and non-tariff barriers (Have a look at http://europa.eu.int/index_en.htm and look up the related documents for bananas, for example!).

And how does this affect my decision on whether EU entry is a good idea? The distasteful, spineless threats made by farmers from the candidate countries is a matter I already mentioned here on a previous occasion. However, what keeps me from voting in favor of EU entry is the fact that if I am against agricultural subsidies in the Czech Republic, such subsidies would not only become even less transparent at a European level but I would also lose what little ability a Czech voter has to influence the system for their distribution. Our politicians would undoubtedly ramble on about directives and the Common Agricultural Policy and try to placate us by saying that we will surely end up getting more than we have to contribute into the system. But I am against the principle itself! The production of bio-foods is another matter, this type of production would not be viable without subsidies, although even there if consumers had to "vote with their wallets", perhaps it would turn out that the demand for such produce is not as great as some would have us believe...

Naturally, you are not going to find a bureaucrat at the EU level protesting against agricultural subsidies, since this is the apparatus that also provides them with their gravy train jobs. Politicians will again tell you (especially during elections to the European Parliament) that they cannot go against the general consensus (and you are not likely to find a politician with the courage to make the abolition of agricultural subsidies part of his political program).

Ways out of this situation do exist.

One possibility is that the situation could become unsustainable from a financial point of view – there simply wouldn't be enough money to pay for the scheme.

There is also the possibility that certain populist politicians will appear who will make use of this issue for their rise to power. If such people end up congregating within the highest EU bodies, then I would really rather not be in the EU...

Or (and I fully realize that this will not win me any praise from farmers), agriculture could start to be treated as any other form of business activity. If anyone has analyzed this alternative at least at a theoretical level, I have not seen it. Forest land (I would be willing to accept a one-time subsidy for the reforestation of agricultural land) would fulfill the landscape-forming role at a substantially lower cost than land used for agriculture and would perhaps also be able to absorb a certain amount of water during the rainy season so as to reduce the risk of floods.

There are certain signs that the first alternative is the most probable. So far, it is being only gently hinted at, and I expect that when it comes to be considered seriously, the first truckloads of tomatoes dumped on highways and the first tractors blocking traffic in France will convince politicians to quickly abandon this alternative and to instead start looking for new funding sources, new cash cows to milk to keep the scheme going.

The above-described agricultural issues merely point out how problems are "addressed" at the European level (and on a smaller scale but unfortunately to the same degree in our country).

No thanks, this is not a Union that I want to join.