Svetoslav Apostolov's blog

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.

Milton Friedman

People have long recognised the fact that it is neither guns nor balance of power but free trade that is the best means to preserve peace. Various unions and alliances at different levels have been formed, and various trade agreements and treaties easing trade between European nations have been signed over the centuries with the ultimate goal of sustaining peace on the continent. Trade agreements have been documented as early as 1496:

Henry VII refrained in general from foreign war, but sought by other means to promote the international welfare of his country. He negotiated several treaties by which English traders might buy and sell goods in other countries. One of the most famous of these commercial treaties was the Intercursus Magnus concluded in 1496 with the duke of Burgundy, admitting English goods into the Netherlands. He likewise encouraged English companies of merchants to engage in foreign trade…

(Hayes 1919)

More recently, the need for a speedy recovery from the devastating economic effects of World Word II led to the establishment of the Council of Europe in 1949 with the goal of facilitating the economic and social progress of its members through, amongst other, common action in economic matters (see Table 1 below for details). Having been founded by ten countries, today the Council of Europe includes 47 countries (Council of Europe web site).

About a decade later, in 1957, another union was established between six European states – the European Economic Community, with the goal of promoting amongst its members “a harmonious development of economic activities, … an increase in stability” (High Contracting Parties 1957). The European Economic Community evolved over the years and currently includes 27 member states (Gateway to the European Union web site).

While on the one hand this zeal for removing barriers to trade demonstrates the strong will of the Europeans to provide for peace and sustainable economic growth, on the other hand it is a serious reason for concern to the European taxpayer in view of the fact that all 27 members of the European Community (the new name of the European Economic Community, commonly known as the European Union) are also individual members of the Council of Europe and, respectively, pay membership fees for the two international organisations. The latter, in turn, results in the avoidable spending of hundred millions of euro every year (data from the Council of Europe web site, see also Table 1 below).

Table 1. Comparison between the most important aspects of the Council of Europe and the European Community.

Council of Europe

European Community

Goal

a. The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.

b. This aim shall be pursued through the organs of the Council by discussion of questions of common concern and by agreements and common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

c. Participation in the Council of Europe shall not affect the collaboration of its members in the work of the United Nations and of other international organisations or unions to which they are parties.

d. Matters relating to national defence do not fall within the scope of the Council of Europe.

(Article 1 of the Statute of the Council of Europe).

The Community shall have as its task, by establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of Member States, to promote throughout the Community a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between the States belonging to it.

(Article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community).

Organs (institutions)

1. Parliamentary Assembly.

2. Committee of Ministers.

1. European Parliament.

2. Council.

3. Commission.

4. Court of Justice.

5. Court of Auditors.

Europe Day

5 May (declared by the Committee of Ministers in 1964).

9 May (declared by the European Council in 1985).

Budget 2009

286 495 100 EUR (Council of Europe’s web site).

116 096 062 329 EUR (EUR-Lex Budget online).

Certainly, dealing with this financial mismanagement type provides an important opportunity to optimise European cooperation and integration; therefore further intensive studies are required to establish with greater confidence the potential for savings and to develop concrete proposals for actions.

REFERENCES

Council of Europe. 1949. Statute of the Council of Europe.

Available online: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/001.htm (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

Council of Europe web site: http://www.coe.int/ (site last accessed on 04.09.09).

EUR-Lex Budget online: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/budget/www/index-en.htm (site last accessed on 11.05.2009).

Gateway to the European Union web site: http://europa.eu/ (site last accessed on 04.09.09).

Hayes, C. 1919. A political and social history of modern Europe. Macmillan (New York).

Available online: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/7hsr110.txt (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

High Contracting Parties. 1957. Treaty establishing the European Economic Community.

Available online: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/index.htm#founding (page last accessed on 04.09.09).

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