Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strains across Europe.

Sometimes I think of Europe as a cat's cradle of elastic bands, with each country (indeed each person) at the junctions of the bands.  The elastic bands are tensioned with political, social and financial forces.  The political forces of each nation are largely contrived and energised by people in power, which includes the higher echelon of 'civil servants'.  Change is not in their interest. Power feeds their spirits; their forces repulse the others.  The social forces of Europe, that is to say the people who oddly enough elect the politicians, nevertheless attract each other whilst the financial forces can twang the other forces and may well arise from powers beyond Europe.  
The unfortunate Briton in Europe has little, and most usually no, political power.  He is forbidden to vote after 15 years outside of his native land.  Socially, he binds with his community of residence but  yet retains strong bonds with his fellow countrymen and family at 'home'. Financially his income (if he is retired) comes from his native land and he may well be taxed there as well as in his land of residence. He may spend his money in several countries.  When he dies, his inheritance is likely to be in confusion.
It would seem that in the nascent power house of Europe someone thinks on these things. 
Eventually some cross-nation sense will need to arise, otherwise the three forces will cause such strains that the whole cat's cradle collapses.  
The nations must have taxes but across Europe taxation is an unholy mess.  This has also contributed to tensioning this cat's cradle of nations.  The social forces pull against the political  forces, and the external financial forces, as has recently been demonstrated is twanging the elastic bands of the PIGS  [Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain] nations and also Britain.
The linked document published on 20 December 2010 on Cross Border Taxation (click here to view)  by the EU outlines the mess.
This blog has elsewhere demonstrated the unfairness  of the Double Taxation Treaty between France and the UK.  The document surveys this as well as many other points.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How the British Government treats its citizens abroad!

The email below sent to the blog, displays the frustration ON THREE COUNTS OF a world weary aging lady.

"It is sods law. I did several years back tried to get a new bank account in the UK as I was not happy with Barclays. I tried HSBC, Co-op, and Nationwide. All of these I have had accounts with. [ 1. Cannot open a bank account in the UK]
I was told that 'you can not open an account without a UK address’, by all of them.
I was astounded as my brother in law had his accounts in Ireland when he lived in the UK and the reverse when he moved to Ireland. It was so long ago I threw the paperwork.
The MP for my old UK constituency is Desmond Swayne.
I don’t suppose he's much interested as I do not live in the UK and cannot vote as I left in 1987. [2. Cannot get proper representation – NO VOTE!]
I find it amazing actually that here, in my immediate area, there are people who get the WFP.
I was told I could not get it.
Funny thing is that the people who do get it, do not have to survive just on the state pension!!!!! [3. NO justice over the WINTER FUEL PAYMENT!]
My bank here previously told me that if I brought my money in by direct debit; I would have no charges.
This turned out to be untrue. One has to have your pension sent direct to your bank here to have no charges. BUT my pension is not enough. You have to have £400 to qualify (per month)
They get you every which way!!!"

Is it not utterly deplorable that the British Government allows this to come about, connives at such disregard for, treats so – an ageing British citizen within EUROPE!
 (Gordon Brown - had he a conscience?  David Cameron - do you care?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bank Accounts

A correspondent has drawn attention to the following link.

This ‘forum’ location deals with money matters and it has the headline that if you can, in 50 words, state some improvement in money matters for the British Consumer then the three leaders of the main British political parties have promised to consider such proposals.

I have written the following:-

“It should be illegal for any UK based financial institution to refuse to open an account for any British Citizen resident in the European Economic Area on the basis of non-residence in the UK.
The banks impose this restriction giving problems for expatriate pensioners dependent on income in sterling.”

It would be possible for anyone else to add some proposals relating for example to the non-payment of the Winter Fuel Payment to certain expatriates, or to question a review of the payment for health costs for expatriates, or a review of the Double Taxation Convention with France. I fear all these are complicated matters, but it might draw the attention of the politicians to these issues – maybe.

The topic I raise here has been raised before several times. [See Concern 1 via the Index.] Briefly.. British banks will not open an account for you if you do not live in the UK. If you need an account, as you almost certainly do if your income originates in the UK then you are ‘up a gum tree’. It could be that your existing bank has gone bust or it is non-competitive - and therefore you need one!
On a related but somewhat different matter, I have recently been informed that Lloyds TSB wishes to close Bank of Scotland offshore accounts in Jersey. This is a cussed bind for those who have such accounts. It makes movement of monies between on-shore and offshore accounts more tiresome. One may wish to change all accounts to another bank to smooth this procedure. You would not be able to do this because the UK based banks will not open an UK based account for non-residents.
Further, it is not easy for British citizens returning to the UK to open a fully functional account because they cannot demonstrate that they have been resident for some length of time. This even happened to an ex-bank manager!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cold Weather in November

To go to the start and the indices click here

The cold weather in November in the UK possibly may once again give rise to the opinion that it is so much warmer in France and it is not warranted for pensioners in France to receive the Winter Fuel Payment.
[note added December 10th 2010... On 9th December 8,000  people in vehicles were stranded in snow in the suburb of Paris called Vezily.  Large establishments and gyms were opened to shelter them overnight.]

[Note added December 18th - copied from France Meteo.]
Peut-il neiger sur les côtes méditerranéennes? Absolument. Contrairement aux idées reçues, la neige n'est pas rare en région méditerranéenne. On relève 25 épisodes majeurs sur 32 hivers (1970-71 à 2001-2002) avec une hauteur de neige au sol supérieure à 10 cm à basse altitude sur le Languedoc-Roussillon et Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. On a également enregistré des hauteurs de neige au sol supérieures à 50 cm à moins de 500 m d'altitude en 1970, 1981, 1986, 1992 et 2001.
La neige, souvent de type mouillée dans ces régions, peut ainsi paralyser ces départements peu acclimatés. Le mistral favorise de plus la formation de congères, catastrophiques pour le réseau routier.
  Part translation - Can it snow on the Mediterranean coast? Absolutely. Contrary to received ideas, snow is not rare.. There were 25 episodes in 32 winters (1970-71 to 2001-2002) with depths of snow above 10cm...  There were depths of snow above 50 cm below 500 metres in 1970,1981,1986,1992, and 2002.  
The soft snow can paralyse these departments less used to it. The mistral can cause snowdrifts catastrophic for the lorry routes.

On November 29th 2010 in the area of Cahors it was about 2 degrees and the overnight temperature was minus 2.  Periods of cold and snow also occur in November in France.  Some of the figures below would be normal for December and January to February, but not for November. Near Cahors it is normally about minus 8 at nights just before Christmas. Below is a translation from  the French official Meteorology site.
Episodes of snow at low altitudes  with  freezing temperatures are not exceptional in November, notably during the last ten days of the month.  They arrive often enough.

Exceptional winter episodes occurring in France in November in the last 30 years:

-- from 24th to  27th November 2005 : 15 cm of snow  at Grenoble and Maubeuge, 5 cm at Saint-Quentin (02) and 2 cm at Nantes (both November records). It was  minus 11°C at Grenoble on the 27th.
--  20th November 1999 : snow abundant in Provence. There was 23 cm at Montélimar, 15 cm at Aix-en-Provence, 23 cm at Orange.
--  November 1998 : Extreme cold occurred this month and made it the third coldest November since 1890. On the 23rd, it was minus14°C at Epinal, minus13°C at Nancy, minus12°C at Reims, minus10°C at Strasbourg, minus 8°C at Rouen. Some centimeters of snow covered the lower areas of  Lorraine to about 20 cms.
--  November 1996 : 20 cm at Besançon, 8cm at Auxerre, 95 cm at Bourg-Saint-Maurice (73).
--  November 1993 : The second coldest month of November since 1980. There was minus12°C at Clermont-Ferrand on the 23rd and a maximum of minus 4°C at Bourges on the 22nd.  An episode of snow and of freezing rain in the North : 7 cm fell at Dunkerque (record in November).
--  November 1988 : it snowed on the Côte d'Azur and also at Boulogne-sur-Mer (15cm) and at Touquand (10 cm). It was  minus 10°C at Mont-de-Marsan, minus 8°C at Toulouse and St-Nazaire, minus 7°C at Bordeaux.
--  end of November 1987 : snow to the North-East and on the Auvergne. 7 cm at Château-Chinon (58)on the 25th.
--  November 1985 : the coldest month of November ever recorded, practically no region was spared the snow. On the 24th 15 cm fell at Cherbourg, 12 cm at Strasbourg (record in November), 6 cm at Poitiers, 1 cm at Carcassonne and at Bordeaux.
--  end November 1982 : Snow periods in the Auvergne. 41 cm were measured  at Saint-Andienne (42) which was a record for the month of November.
-- fin November 1981 : Snowy period in the Auvergne, to the north of the Alps and up to the North-East giving 30 cm at Bourg- Saint- Maurice on the  30th  and some centimeters in the lower areas to the  North-East.

A comparison of the climate of Toulouse and London is viewable via the following link. It shows that Toulouse has slightly lower night-time temperatures in December and January, although day time winter temperatures are slightly higher.
click here to view.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Health Care in Europe

On the 27th October 2010 the European Parliament voted to ease the way for a more unified system of health care costing across Europe.  I quote  from the EU announcement..  "The new rules would especially help retirees living abroad, people with rare diseases and those living near borders to get the best health care. Currently, only about 1%, or €10 billion, of public health budgets are spent on cross-border health care yearly, although that figure could rise with standardised rules for authorisation and reimbursement."
To read the full announcement click on the following item
 It would seem that the matter is not finally agreed until next June.  
Last May 1st there were new Regulations which came into force which appear to make it necessary for British expatriate pensioners to have their health costs fully paid 100% by the UK NHS.   The UK [your home country] is under European Law the 'competent State' for the health care support of all those persons who are the titular holder of an 'S1' or 'E121'.   If you receive a full Old Age Pension from the UK it is desirable that you ensure that the DWP in Newcastle recognise that you have this cover, and that the CPAM in France are aware of your possession of such a cover.
I quote again from the announcement " Under the proposal, patients are to be reimbursed up to the level they would have received in their home country."
The EU Regulations are not straightforward and I fear the UK Whitehall bureaucracy does not aid the expatriates. 
If the pensioner expatriate does possess the entitlement of an S1-or E121- then under these new rules it seems very likely that the NHS will pick up the whole cost of approved treatment.  If you are not entitled then the situation is confused and you may need to maintain a full mutuelle cover.  We need anyway, further information.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brits who go home. What do they find?

To go to the start of the blog and the Index - click here

The information in the item below is largely borrowed from the newspaper – The French Week of Oct 29- Nov 4 - 2010.
The paper had asked British people who had returned to the UK for their experiences about what they found when they arrived. Here are some extracts:-
‘A common problem is lack of proof of residence. Many doors do not open until one has utility bills, or other proof for the required length of time, even up to two years in some cases.’
A retired bank manager (a touch of irony here) could not easily open a bank account in England. He had kept a sterling account in Jersey but that bank would not transfer this account to England! ‘We have tried to open a normal current account with a high street bank in our home town but this was refused as we have to be on the electoral role for two years before we could be allowed a bank guarantee card.’
‘One or two financial institutions did not take lump sum investments from us unless we had a UK address for at least a year.’
It takes time to exchange the driver’s licence. ‘I did eventually manage to exchange my French driving licence back to the UK , partly as I had kept a photocopy of the old UK one with my driver number.’
Another writer says that she was not allowed to open an ISA or any other special investments because she had been living in France.
Insuring a car in the UK was also a problem. ‘None of the companies would take our French no-claims record into account’.
None of the contacts found that getting back into the NHS was a problem.
The reasons why the Britons returned were various. The lack of money because of the fall in the value of the £ was at the heart of many. The French removal of health cover in 2007 for young retirees, promoted many a move.
These are all matters which have been raised in this blogsite. Almost certainly many infringe the ‘right of free movement’ within the European Union.
Many of us, myself included, know how easy it is to open a bank account in France. I did so myself before being resident here. It was very easy to change my driving licence to a French one, and the French accepted the no-claims record in England.
Britain should change the law to remove these hidden discriminations against British Citizens returning to live in Britain.
This blog has long campaigned for political recognition of the needs of British expatriates in Europe. That is to say, we need some kind of Minister for British European residents.
The French Week  newspaper has unfortunately folded.  It had an excellent digest of French political and social affairs and items of interest to British residents in France. (Note added February 2011)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Strange Case of M. Chollet

To go to the start of the blog and the Index, click here
Those who follow this blog site will be aware that  recently I wrote and soon after scrapped the story of Monsieur Chollet. Why? How I wish that one could have a civilised dialogue with the Department of Health! We really do need a Minister for the Expatriate in Europe. There is no-one to whom one can turn in the British Government to discuss our problems. We are sidestepped and ignored. The case of M. Chollet has been placed before the European Court of Justice ever since 2006.
The case has some bizarre features. M. Chollet is a French citizen who was resident in Spain and therefore came under the Spanish regulations relating to Health Care. He was entitled to 100% of the cost in Spain.  He went on holiday to France and fell ill. In France the CPAM charged him approximately 20% of the cost of treatment. M. Chollet considered that this went against the principle of free movement and petitioned the European Commission.
The EC eventually took the matter to the European Court of Justice [ECJ]. In February 2010 the Advocate General (M. Mengozzi) gave an opinion in favour of the EC (and M. Chollet) against Spain.
Spain sought the support of the UK, Belgium, Finland and Denmark in this matter. This was my state of knowledge until recently. I had stated this case with the Department of Health [one cannot discuss!] and their reply gave me no indication that anything else had occurred. Unfortunately I have learned that the case has changed again. It is the normal circumstance that the Advocate General’s opinion is accepted in a full hearing of the ECJ. He is, after all, a learned judge of high reputation. I have recently received the account of the full hearing of the ECJ which happened in June. Once again, the Governments of the UK, Belgium, Finland and Denmark have intervened. This time the decision was reversed. The Advocate General’s opinion was rejected and the European Commission lost the case.
Why is this important? If the original opinion of M. Mengozzi were upheld then the health costs of all British Citizens visiting France would have been paid 100%. By extension one might suppose the situation of British residents in France whose competent State for health care is the UK, would have improved.
The Future? The above case was brought under the EU Regulation 1408/1971. Since then in May 2010 the Regulations have changed. This gives us hope.
The new Regulation 883/2004 seems to indicate a much stronger support in health care for pensioners who are titular holders of the form S1 (E121).  It would seem that the European Commission are inclined to support our needs.  But there remain difficulties which one suspects the UK Government will make sure are brought to the fore.

The above indicates the power of the State against the individual. We pensioners have, after 15 years non-residence in the UK, no democratic say at all in the way the British Government acts. It acts in its own interest, not in the interest of the citizen. We citizens in Europe are profoundly affected by treaties and discussions held in our name, but cannot ourselves intervene in such discussions in any manner whatsoever. There is no-one to represent us!  Unless it is the EU!  Few are interested in us.
The UK Government [Whitehall?] seems to imagine that if it had to pay 100% of the health care costs in France for us, that a bottomless pit of costs would open. This is just not true. But it seems that it is impossible to argue the case with any informed person in Whitehall.
One remains frustrated and ignored.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Weird World of Government Pensions

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs [HMRC] publish ‘A listof Double Taxation Agreements [DTAs].’
There is also a link to guidance on whether a particular pension is treated as being a ‘Government’ type pension in the HM Revenue & Customs International Manual. This is available at :--

The reading of these documents gives rise to several mysteries.

In relation to the DTA France/UK, we read under the column concerning Government Pensions that ‘full relief’ from taxation is available. This would mean full relief from taxation in France of this revenue for British Citizens resident in France. To this statement is attached a ‘Note’ . This note reads ‘Under new treaty, for income paid on or after 6 April 2010. No relief prior to that date.’
This is a mystery! Pensioners receiving a Government Pension (Teachers, Police, Firemen etc.) have had relief from French taxation for years. However, in a certain sense it has not been ‘full relief’. One has had to declare this revenue on the tax forms. This has affected any tax or relief (fairly or not!) on any other revenue, including the Old Age Pension which is taxable in France, by indicating a threshold of world-wide income. Thus the note seems odd.  Have I missed something?
A new DTA did come into operation this year. I have both the old and the new and cannot see any material difference between them with respect to Government Pensions. I have written to HMRC asking what has materially changed on April 6th 2010. If the declaration of this tax on the French tax forms has changed, then this would bring France into alignment with the situation in Spain and indeed it would be a very important change.

Concerning Government Pensions. Perusal of the second document shows some weird bureaucratic situations. NHS pensions are largely deemed to be ‘non-government’ pensions.
But if an NHS pensioner moved to Germany it becomes a ‘government’ pension.
A policeman's or a fireman’s UK pension in France is a ‘UK government’ pension. In Greece , Israel and quite a few other odd countries it is deemed a ‘non-government pension'!
One also notes that this table of information is a good deal out of date, since it refers to ‘Yugoslavia’! But no doubt it is still ‘legal’!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Minister for European British Expatriates

Correspondence with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been continuing.
Their reply to this this blog has been quite inadequate.
A long letter constructed after much thought was been posted by normal mail to David Lidington of the FCO and copied to Mark Harper MP Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform.  Mark Harper is also my own representative in Parliament.  The letter is long but can be viewed here - click.
(postscript) This letter had attached to it representations from expatriates relating to the manner in which they had been snubbed by British Members of Parliament.
This letter has not been answered nor even acknowledged.  This was drawn to the attention of my own MP again,  Still, it receives no answer (April 2011).

This correspondence is running parallel with that concerning health costs for pensioner expatriates in France to the Department of Health. q.v. here

Your comments on these matters are welcome
email  francepensions@orange.fr

Monday, September 6, 2010

Health Costs (3) The legal position

To go to INDEX and the introduction to the blog click here

British Old Age Pensioners living in France should find the following correspondence on Health Costs interesting.

Here is the exchange of correspondence in August between 'Pensioners Debout' and the Department of Health London.

1, Letter from Pensioners Debout to DoH August 20th  2010.
view here.  This letter is of major significance. 
It states the full significance of European law which appears to make payments to 'mutuelles' in France unnecessary.
2. The above was in reply to a letter from the DoH of August 6th.
view here. 

You should understand that this correspondence is likely to go on for some time and could involve the EU Commission and even the European Court of Justice.  Clearly it is necessary that able legally trained people should pay attention to it.  It is probably beyond the competence of the junior civil servants of the DoH to tackle it. 
An instance like this demonstrates the necessity for a Minister for the British Citizen in Europe and for the ordinary citizen to exercise their political voice. Correspondence on this subject can be viewed via this link!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Restoration of Benefits (DLA,AA,CA)

 A letter has been received by David Burrage, legal advisor to the Association of British Expatriates in Spain, who is an expert in European Law, from the EU Commission on the subject of the repayment of suspended benefits – Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carers Allowance.

Some people, entitled to one or other of these allowances, have had them discontinued when they emigrated from the UK to another EEA country. After a legal battle the UK had consented to pay these allowances back to October 2007.
Now the EU has said that they should be paid in arrears back to the time of departure from the UK.
Those who appealed against this suspension of benefit have the right to have this earlier disallowed decision set aside and remade, with an entitlement to a full recover of your benefit from the day following its withdrawal.

The final part of the letter from the EU Commission of 20/08/2010 indicates:-
That judgement is, in the light of a decision given by the Court subsequent to it, based on a misinterpretation of Community law which was adopted without a question being referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling; and
The national competent institutions (i.e the UK Dept of Work and Pensions) therefore have an obligation under EU law to review their initial decisions on the suspension of Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance, to reopen that decision if necessary and pay the benefits in arrears for the whole period of unjustified suspension of those benefits.
From this judgement it is also clear that it is important for the EU citizens to appeal any decision with which they are not satisfied.

Some people get ‘warmed up’ about the payment of these benefits. The scenarios below puts this in perspective.
1. Let us suppose that a young couple has moved to France leaving elderly parents in the UK. Eventually one parent is left, with some increasingly disabling malady. In the UK she/he would receive an allowance to help with the difficulties of life. If she/he moved to France a few years ago to live with their children, such allowances would have been stopped.
2. An elderly couple decide to move to France for the improved quality of life. One of them is crippled and receives an attendance allowance. Their income dropped because the allowance was suspended.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Political Representation for Expatriates in Europe.

A Plea for information 
Representation of British Citizens in Europe at Westminster
If any readers have tried to contact  any  MP or Government Office at any time and have not had any satisfactory response, can they please contact me?.  You may even have had a brush-off with such a retort as 'I/we only deal with problems from constituents resident in Britain'.
The organiser of this blog site is in correspondence with David Lidington, Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on this matter.
He wrote to me in the following terms:-
"Expatriate citizens contact government about a wide range of issues covering the responsibilities of different government departments and agencies and I think that it is both fair and logical to treat representatives from expatriates in exactly the same way that we do those from people resident in the UK, where it is the constituency MP who takes the case up with the appropriate Minister.”

This comment is, as someone commented to me, baloney.  After 15 years out of Britain no expatriate has a representative MP, some never have had.  You cannot then discuss your pension, your taxation (yes- quite a few expatriates are taxed in the UK) or your welfare problems, if there is no-one there to whom you can write!  Hardly 'fair and logical' . The reasons why the British Citizen in Europe should have representation in Westminster are quite varied.  They are laid out in this blogsite - please view Concern 2 (see Index)  Over many years others have written about this matter, I note particularly the Var Village Voice in Provence, and the Riviera Reporter.  It is time to put the pressure on again.  With your help!
The UK is out of line with most other major European countries. France has recently declared its intention to allow French residents in the UK to have an elected representative in the Assembly.
As a first stage towards appropriate representation,  I am supporting the notion of a Minister for the British Citizen in Europe.  Such a person could get to grips with the intricate issues that face various British expatriates.  You may not realise, for instance,  that under European Law, if you receive the British Old Age Pension, then the United Kingdom is responsible (the 'competent' State, as they say) for the support of your social welfare - it is not France! (or any other EU State).  France is not responsible for paying for your welfare.  There are 400,000 British OAPs in Europe beyond the UK.  Does the UK Government have your interests at heart?  There are many more younger British people.  Their situation in the developing social structure of  Europe should also be a concern for the UK  Government.
This issue is not just about 'the vote'.  If you do not want a vote, then you need not bother to exercise it.  It is about having politicians in Westminster who care about the needs of the British Citizen in the European Community.  Who ensure for example that we are not ignored when treaties are arranged.  Who demonstrate that the British Government  values our contribution to the European culture.
A dossier of poor dealing would be helpful.  Please send to me at francepensions@orange.fr
Items from residents in Spain, Italy and Germany and elsewhere are as welcome as from France.
or if you do not possess email then post to le Fourquet, 46300, Gourdon, France.
So please report your experiences with UK politicians and bureaucrats,  including favourable ones.
Brian Cave

Friday, August 13, 2010

2010 OAPs migration (also see updates- via Index)

To return to start of the blog and Index click here.

British Old Age Pensioner Statistics for February 2010 have been published (August 2010).
The inexorable proportional rise continues.
The  % of OAPs living outside the UK world wide has risen to about 10% from 9.3% in 2009. [1,163,480 out of 12,487,070]
0.79% of all OAPs live in Spain, where there are now over 99,000.
France has now over 51,000.
Now over 9.3% of all OAPs live in Europe beyond the UK.
These demographic changes must surely bring about political changes. 
The link to this heading  gives access to the latest circular from the Public Services Pensioners Council about reduced future increases in public pensions as a consequence of the emergency budget of June 2010.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Department of Health, London

To go to the start of the Blog and Index - click here. 

An exchange of letters is occurring between myself and the Department of Health. A major problem is fighting past 'the front desk' to get to talk with someone who actually can take decisions.  [Past the doorman to the head waiter!]  My letters have been answered by the Customer Services Centre (!).  Following the presentation of my 7 page document (which see-click),  it was kicked into the long grass of this 'Centre' and a reply came from that direction.  I replied in turn with a letter somewhat written in lemon juice (though courteously) and copied this in to two MPs.  One of them intervened directly with  Andrew Lansley (The Secretary of State for Health)  suggesting that my efforts 'deserved more consideration'. I cannot say whether any activity has taken place as a result of that intervention.
However, I have had another reply from the said 'Centre' and here is an extract....

Extract of letter from the Dept. of Health, 79,Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS, 15th July 2010-07-25
Nicolette Hartnell (Customer Service Centre)

"Further advice from policy officials states that updated EU regulations (EC) 883/2004 and its implementing regulation (EC) 987/2009, which entered into force on 1 May 2010, have introduced the facility for member states to claim reimbursement for the actual cost of the treatment provided to citizens from another member state. France has decided that this is the method by which it will now make claims for the cost of treatment provided to residents, including state pensioners from other member states. The updated regulations also introduce the requirement that, after a transition period to allow for the creation
of a new system, all information will be exchanged electronically between the authorities in all member states. However, the UK already receives claims from France, and some other member states, electronically, which facilitates efficient claims processing."
This paragraph contains a spark of hope! I have italicised the important bit!  The devil however, is in the detail.  I have replied (again) asking for clarification of the phrase 'actual cost'.  For example :- Does it really mean the cost upfront of 22 euros on a doctor's visit? and the total cost upfront of a hospital visit?  That would mean - bye bye to mutuelle insurance!   Such a system would be easy to facilitate.  It would mean that the Carte Vitale carries a message of 100% cover and all charges are transmitted (electronically) to the NHS. 
In my reply I wrote.... 

When, eventually, the French State asks that such actual costs be transmitted from the UK then that action will be in agreement with the words of Article 24 of regulation 883/2004 which I repeat here.
A person who receives a pension or pensions under the legislation of one or more Member States and who is not entitled to benefits in kind under the legislation of the Member State of residence shall nevertheless receive such benefits for himself and the members of his family, insofar as he would be entitled thereto under the legislation of the Member State or of at least one of the Member States competent in respect of his pensions, if he resided in that Member State.
This paragraph is saying, in plain speaking, that a British pensioner residing in France, shall receive health care benefits, insofar as he would be entitled to if he resided in Britain.

The following paragraph of this Article observes (again in plain speaking) that the costs shall be borne by Britain.

Finally I emphasise again, that it is necessary that the French Social Security asks the UK for both items of costs which arise within the French system and which together comprise the full actual costs, in order to satisfy the wording of Article 24 of Regulation 883/2004

I and other British pensioners in France await with great interest a detailed reply from the DoH .

[postscript-- It is necessary that the concept of provision of health care is distinguished from the process of costing for it.  EU law states that the provision is the responsibility of the State of residence, and the costing is the responsibility of the State competent for the pensioner. Moreover the provision should be as far as is possible similar to that provided by the 'competent State'.]

For your interest the address of the Department of Health is given.  You may feel that you can add something to my own efforts. You will probably need to refer to my 7 page document.  I am very conscious that it is difficult to construct a complicated letter, but a simple one of support would help a lot.  We are, in France, treated differently from other E121 (or S1) holders in Europe and if these efforts succeed we will be all treated equally.
If you do write then please notify me (click here for the email address.)
Please also remember that many British pensioners in France (49,000 of them in total) are perhaps unaware of this campaign.  One could tell those you know?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Civil Liberties (two)

To return to the introduction and the INDEX to this blog-site click here
This posting is now only of archival interest

July 2010
This concerns the UK Government new web site.
To visit it go to….
The new coalition government has instituted this site to glean the thoughts of the public. It is a kind of follow on from the Blair government petition site. No doubt it has much the same defects… quite a few idiotic ideas and quite a few which have not been thought through clearly. Nevertheless it shows a good intent! 

1. As I reported in an earlier posting, one of the readers of this blog-site has put forward thoughts on the Double Taxation Convention. It expresses the concerns indicated on this site. It signposts the concern but it needs clarification. There are many dozens of Double Taxation Conventions between the UK and all kinds of nations. It is not clear that the posted item refers to the France/UK Convention. But I have given it a 5 star rating.
2. More recently I have myself also mounted an item. This relates to the issue of the lack of expat voting for the UK parliament. There are several other items posted by others with a similar theme. It is clearly a nagging issue for quite a few people.

Observations can be added to the posted items on the Government web-site. One must suppose that the Government Ministers will take serious comments seriously. Supportive comments would be welcome.

I can report that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Health are, at a senior level, examining the ideas put forward on this blog-site. These ideas concern Health costings and the possibility of a Minister for the Expatriate Citizens in Europe.

Friday, July 2, 2010


TO VIEW INDEX to this blog click here 
  This item is now only of archival interest

A reader of this Blog has mounted on the Government website "RESTORING BRITISH LIBERTIES" the following request to repeal aspects of the Double Taxation Treaty between France and the UK which are not in our interests as pensioners resident in France who have ex-government pensions.  You can view his entry via this link following.


You can 'rate' the item and as I have,  you can add a comment to the site. You could add a comment about the absurdity of filling in tax forms for two countries! The loss of income because of it.  The unfair discrimination compared with others....   You need to 'register' on the site, and then 'log-in'. This is an easy process.  It asks for a part postcode Use part of your last postcode in the UKThis will be the location of your M.P.!
The statement unfortunately does not indicate that it is the Double Taxation convention between France and the UK which is the offending agreement.  Confusion has already occurred with the Spanish agreement. It is on the whole the implementation of the convention by the French which is the cause of the problem.  Article 19 is at the root of it all.  EITHER this article should be abolished OR the French forced to accept that no  mention of Government Pensions is made on any tax return.  Any comments you make can refer to these points.

The statement by the reader 'rodcreuse' reads:-

Under the Double Taxation Agreement, UK Public service Pensioners - teachers, nurses, police officers, are forced to pay UK tax on their pensions, irrespective of where they live in the EU. Private pensioners pay tax in the country they live in, usually at lower tax rates.

This is unfair discrimination and is a limit on the freedom to move within the EU
Why the contribution is important

The EU consitution guarantees freedom of movement for citizens in the EU. This Agreement limits that movement by making it financially less attractive for UK Public Service pensioners to move within the EU compared with private pensioners.

It is also contary to natural justice. Why should one's tax liablity depend on one's previous employer?

Monday, June 28, 2010

EU Petition reply

To view Index of postings on this blog....
27th June 2010
A reply from the EU Commission for Petitions was received.
The Petition was on the basis that the Double Taxation Convention France/UK discriminates between persons based on......
a. the origin of the income and b. the nationality of the person.   
The reply quotes a case-law of the Court of Justice which in effect says that nations can determine taxation on the basis of the national origin and form of the income.  
It would seem to be ignored that this results in a differential of taxation load!
The reply can be viewed at.   Reply from EU.
This is of course disappointing.  One must remember that even if such discrimination does not contravene EU law, a contravention occurs internally  within the Double Taxation Convention. Article 25 of the DTC states "Individuals of a contracting State shall not be subjected .... to any taxation or requirement .. which is more burdensome than the taxation .. to which nationals of that other State in the same circumstances, in particular with regard to residence, are or may be subjected."  - In short a British National resident in France should not have a greater tax burden than his French neighbour with the same source and amount of income.
It is as plain as day to me that this article is infringed.
Unless some lawyer who will act 'pro bono publico' will step in, perhaps we run into a sand bank on this.  Yet a reply is still awaited from Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue on this matter.  Yet I fear the Civil Service runs the country, and no Civil Servant welcomes change! 
If ever a 'Minister for the Expatriate' is appointed,  such a person could take up the cudgel.
As I say "If one does nothing - nothing gets done."  One must fight for a just cause or else live with a conscience that one did not try.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Benefits Paid Abroad

The Blog site (Brian Cave, organiser) is most grateful to David Burrage legal advisor to the Association for the British Expatriates in Spain for distributing the following information.

This is a Legal Statement from the EU threatening Britain with action before the European Court of Justice if Britain does not comply with the law to pay the sickness benefits to expatriates.

PRESS RELEASE from BRUSSELS. 24th June 2010
View here

Explanation of the Press Release from the Spanish Association document:-

Social security: EU takes action to guarantee care benefits for Britons abroad

The European Commission has sent a formal request to the United Kingdom to pay care benefits to Britons – often pensioners – residing abroad in accordance with its obligations under EU law. Under EU rules, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance are considered 'sickness cash benefits', which UK citizens resident in another EU country are also entitled to receive. The UK authorities now have two months to respond to the request, which takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. In the absence of a satisfactory response from the UK authorities, the Commission may refer the matter to the EU's Court of Justice.

The right to live and work in any other European country is a fundamental right of the EU. As part of this, the EU guarantees people the right to social security coverage if they move elsewhere in Europe.

In the UK system, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Career's Allowance are benefits which provide protection for people in need of personal care and people who look after them. Under EU rules on coordination of social security, UK citizens are entitled to receive these benefits when they are resident in another EU country.

However, in some cases, and contrary to the principle of free movement, the UK applies conditions on residence for the three benefits. In particular, among other requirements, the benefits can be conditional on the claimant having spent 26 of the previous 52 weeks in the UK (past presence test). This effectively contravenes the provisions of the EU system for coordinating social security benefits and infringes the rights of citizens living in another EU country.


The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled (in case C-299/05 on 18 October 2007) that Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Career's Allowance count as sickness cash benefits. They are therefore exportable according to EU provisions on coordination of social security (EU Regulation 1408/71 and Regulation 883/04).

Further information

Your social security rights in the EU
View here

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Health Care costs - The Dutch

The Dutch pensioner in France, Spain, and elsewhere are hit even worse than the Brits in France.
Read this article  written by the Dutch on the subject!

The European Commission must wake up to this situation.

Health Care Costs in France for Pensioners

Follow -up to posting of April 2010.
A seven page document has been sent to the new Minister of Health, Andrew Lansley. [Acknowledgement of receipt from Dept. of Health received 4th June]
I am satisfied that the OAPs in France should have no need to pay for a top-up mutuelle health insurance. By definition in European law, the Department of Health of the UK is the competent institution within the EEA to cover the social security of those who hold an E121- that is to say the needs of British OAPs resident in Europe.
It has taken me some months to gather the information on this matter!
If the UK Government would wake up to the scandal of this system, I believe that it could save more than 50 million pounds and the OAP in France the costs of the mutuelle insurance of about £550 or 630euros  (some people in their 80s are paying, for a couple, towards 3,000 euros a year!) per year per person.
The covering letter to Mr. Lansley also says:-
The above statement seems extraordinary and the situation has arisen, I am sure, without malicious intent.
The Regulations on which these payments are based are complicated and overly bureaucratic. They are based upon a system which pre-existed the accession of the United Kingdom to the EU in 1973.
In this electronic age the existing hugely inaccurate system could be replaced by another whereby the actual payments could be transmitted by electronic means, eliminating a great deal of waste.
The document is viewable at
http://lefourquet.net/Healthcosts.html or
Please read it. It is not light reading. There are references to all the EU regulations which touch on this matter.
I will be happy to receive your observations.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HEALTH MATTERS - Monthly Comment April 2010

A further item has been posted on this subject - Refer to the INDEX for developments.
Few expatriate OAPs in Europe realise that they enjoy health-care support because of EU agreements and THAT THE FINANCE COMES FROM THE UK – in effect from the NHS.

The EU Regulations (essentially 1408/1971 and 883/2004) state that the costs of health care for the Old Age Pensioner is the responsibility of the State to whom the OAP has paid his/her social security contributions. That State will pay your Old Age Pension and support your old age health care! This State is defined as the ‘competent State’ - For almost all expatriate elderly Britons this competent State is The United Kingdom.
Clearly it must be understood that if you have not paid into the Social Security regime of France (or other country) because you had not lived there in an employed category, there is no logical reason why you should be supported under the health-care system of France (or other country)! Only an EU agreement gives you this support. And someone must pay for it! Let us look more closely….

A quote from Article 24 of EU Regulation 883/2004….
“1. A person who receives a pension or pensions under the legislation of one or more Member States and who is not entitled to benefits in kind under the legislation of the Member State of residence shall nevertheless receive such benefits for himself and the members of his family, insofar as he would be entitled thereto under the legislation of the Member State or of at least one of the Member States competent in respect of his pensions, if he resided in that Member State. The benefits in kind shall be provided at the expense of the institution referred to in paragraph 2 by the institution of the place of residence, as though the person concerned were entitled to a pension and benefits in kind under the legislation of that Member State.”
The institution referred to in the following paragraph 2 is indicated as the “competent institution of the Member State” in effect - the NHS. In other words: - you should be treated by the health system of France (your place of residence) and charged to the institution of your competent State (the UK).

Read the highlighted parts again --- It says that you will receive benefits insofar as you would be entitled under the legislation of the competent State (the UK) as if you resided in that Member State (the UK).
That says that if you get 100% cover in the UK you should also get it in France! Or anywhere else in the EEA.
Under the above Article it would seem that we have two situations – firstly The State of Residence is obliged to treat you as though you come under the social care legislation of that State, but the competent State should also ensure that you have the benefits as though you were resident in the competent State. The only way to resolve this is in France to be treated as a French citizen would be (which one is), but that the full cost is picked up by the UK. I have an uncomfortable feeling that the UK is being charged by France at somewhere about the full cost and that the British OAP resident in France is being asked to find up to 30% of the cost as well - via a ‘mutuelle’ or his pocket! This 30% (approx) should not be necessary.

To the current date every EEA country has transferred grants between themselves of a sum of money to cover the health costs of their expatriate OAPs. (Regulation 574/1972 Article 95 – now 38 years old and before the time of electronic data  transmission! And before the UK joined the EU in 1973!) The calculation of these grants are somewhat convoluted.

Two supplementary articles are in consequence appended to this introduction.
Click on a title to view.
2. The costing of the health support of the expatriate OAP in Europe.
This item is updated with additional statistics from the Dept of Health London April 14th. 2010
Is the UK and the British Citizen being ripped off by France? The charge to the UK for pensioners in France is 192% higher than for pensioners in Italy and healthcare in Italy is totally free. This link also links in turn to all the relevant legal extracts. It also indicates the way forward.  

You may well find these items interesting reading.
The whole sorry affair indicates that we need a Minister for the European Expatriate in Westminster. After the general election it will be necessary to write to the Minister of Health.  If necessary a draft letter will be published next month.  In the meanwhile... You may wish to report this matter to your MP or send a petition to the EU Commission.  For  ideas contact me DEBOUTclick
In the meanwhile if you live in France you  must follow the French law and pay up!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Double Taxation again -updated 10/03/2011

UPDATED 12th March 2011   ----- of individuals and companies in Europe.
This includes many British pensioners who have ‘UK Government Pensions’! Teachers, Fire and Police, Military, LGOs and so on in France.
At the end of April 2010 The European Commission launched an online public consultation to ask anyone for information on double taxation problems that they have encountered within the EU. The consultation ran until 30 June 2010.
EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, Algirdas Šemeta, said: “Double taxation can deter cross-border activity in the EU and the functioning of the Internal Market. I am determined to tackle this obstacle. This consultation will help us to assess the real scale and financial impact of double taxation for citizens and businesses. I will then work towards finding the most appropriate and effective solutions."
The aim of the public consultation was to identify clearly the nature of the problems that EU taxpayers are facing and the extend to which many individuals and companies are encountering the problem of being taxed on the same income or profits in two or more different Member States.
Mr. Semeta indicated areas of difficulty for all kinds of taxpayers. This Blog has demonstrated clearly that for the British pensioner in France it means that they cannot benefit from tax rebates on tax paid to the UK.   Mr Semeta said ‘it is not clear how well the Double Taxation Conventions work’. This blog knows they do not! Look at Spreadsheet (click) –If your income is middling and you need a home-help it affects you.
The EU consultation concerns all direct taxes – The Commission is also inviting suggestions on how to effectively and rapidly remedy the double taxation identified.
Following the end of the consultation period [JUNE 30th 2010], the Commission published a summary of all contributions received. It analysed the replies in detail and used them in preparing possible initiatives for EU action in the field of direct taxation.
Anyone was invited to reply to the consultation by completing the questionnaire online
The Blog’s author completed a personal questionnaire . SEE Concern3 (click) on this site. The published report was linked here -
[UPDATE - April 2013 - The report seems to have been taken down. - The following link may give some guidance?]

I have to say - It doesn't get one very far! My comments were noted and shared I see by a Belgian.
Further recommendations are promised!

Postal address: European Commission
Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union
Rue de Spa 3, Office 8/007
B-1049 Brussels
Fax: +32-2-29 56377

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Winter Fuel Payment

Quite a number of OAP expatriates in Europe do not receive this payment because the British Government have claimed that they should not receive it unless they received it before leaving Britain.  The legal position has been investigated by the Spanish Expatriates Association and the legal advisor (David Burrage) is satisfied that the position of the British Government is illegal in European Law.  
The blog author (Brian Cave) has read the detail and made reference to the relevant EU regulations as published on the internet and is equally satisfied as to this stance.
An outline letter to the relevant section of the Department of Works and Pensions has been complied for you to follow in order for you to apply for the WFP. follow this link.  And claim arrears!
If, as one supposes, the DWP will do all it can to oppose such applications, a personal petition will be placed before the EU.  So please retain any correspondence to aid in this and keep in touch.
It could well be that the general election will change the landscape and  it could just be that a new government will bring justice to all. 
A letter to all three political parties has been posted.  It does not draw specific attention to the WFP, but has a more general tenor. View the INDEX (on left) to find it.  [November 2010- No news,  All three parties are oblivious to pensioners on the Continent.]

p.s. the address for the appeal letter is
http://lefourquet.net/RdrsubWFP042010.doc   (no final dot!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

2010 March letter to Political Parties - click!
March  27th postcard acknowledgement received from The Conservatives. 'contents noted'.  Umph!
March 29th Nick Clegg (LibDems) report in The Telegraph says he does NOT support the vote for expats. Can this really be true?
No reply from the Labour or LibDem parties.
Previously in February 2009 (a year ago!)  an open letter was posted to all three Political Parties
The replies 
March 6th 2009- first reply Labour Party (click) - Oh dear!.
March 28th 2009 from   LibDems.
(click) - This reply does not answer any of the points presented. It confuses the issue of frozen pensions which applies to pensioners in Australia etc. It displays a lack of knowledge and real interest in the expatriate European British citizens. Sad!
April 1st 2009 (acknowledgement) from the Conservative party. Oh dear!
However, the Conservative view on Voting problems - See article under Concern Two.
At heart, do any give a damn?
Please write yourselves - the addresses are on the recent letter.  
You can copy the open letter given here if  you wish and/or refer to the blog-site.

To return or go to the start of the blog click here

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monthly Comment March 2010 One Accuses - Lack of Fairness?

These are legal arguments and papers exposing the Dishonourable Position of the United Kingdom and its infringement of EU Community Law with respect to non-payment of benefits to disadvantaged British expatriates in Europe.. Prepared by David Burrage - legal advisor to the Spanish Expatriate Association.
1. An abridged version of the major document . (3 pages html file)- largely prepared by Brian Cave.
2. A full version of the document (40 pages pdf file).
3. Letter from the EU Commission to The Spanish Expatriate Association.  This letter refers to two instances of case law before the European Court of Justice. The judgements on these two cases are linked below.
4. Case Law 'Duchon'.  
5. Case Law 'Larsy'. 
6. The EU Regulations covering the point at law of the exportability of benefits.

One accuses the United Kingdom Government of ............
Lack of Fairness.
Dishonour towards its Elderly People
Lack of Statesmanship and Leadership.
The elderly citizens of Britain move to France, or Spain, or wherever in Europe for good reasons.. to join their families, for their health, to explore new environments, or to enjoy a way of life not to be found in Britain.  The EU offers opportunities in living not known to earlier generations.  Their income comes entirely from Britain.  They have all their working lives paid into a social system of support (as Clement Attlee would have said from 'cradle to grave').  They have given service to the Nation in peace and war.  Many have added to the wealth of the Nation.  Now, in their years of retirement, instead of retiring to Bexhill or Morecambe, they choose to take advantage of the possibility, achieved and signed under treaty obligations by the British Government to live in the wider Europe - to be free to move and live as free citizens within this great spreading of the peoples of the Continent.
The British Government treats this diaspora of British Citizens as second class compared to those who remain in the British Isles.  We who have been proud to be British and still wish to to be proud to be British are treated unfairly by the Government of our own Nation.
A proportion of  we elderly citizens became disabled before moving into the wider Europe.  Some, few they may be, left to join their families who have already moved, but suffer from illnesses requiring care. They received financial support to help in that care.  Some  have since been deprived of this support by the British Government, who illegally have ceased payment.  The British Government are dishonourable in their position towards these people. The legal exposition of the dishonourable nature of the British Government is fully developed in the links indicated above.
The British Government signed to treaties to enable people to move freely without suffering financial hardship.  It does not honour its word.
The British Nation, once a leader amongst Nations, has in the context of Europe, shown itself to be small minded, narrow in thought and deed.  It does not display the Statesmanlike leadership which we, who are in our seventieth or eightieth decades would expect.  It is weak and shallow and leaderless.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The monthly comment - The Migration of the OAPs

The UK Government statistics on benefits reveal a wealth of information about the payments to Old Age Pensioners across the World. You can access it via the following link......
You need to click onto the line Benefits/Scheme and select. With a little practice you can get the hang of how to use this ‘Tabulation Tool’. Although the information is fascinatingly extensive, the Winter Fuel Payments are absent.  Further the information only exists since 2002.

Since 2002 the proportion of OAPs leaving the UK has increased year by year so that the total % living abroad has risen from 8.2% in 2002 to 9.3% in 2009. In all 31,660 OAPs moved abroad in 2008/9. About 57% of those migrating last year went to live in Europe, and there were fairly large contingents also to the expected English speaking countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA (which at 3,260 was the largest receiver of all in the world outside Europe). One thousand more was added to the statistic of ‘Abroad – not known’ location.
Within Europe the number moving to Spain averages about 6,700 a year [see further note below]. To France about 4,300 a year. The number in both countries has more than doubled in seven years. The greatest annual % increase is to Bulgaria and also Greece (but since numbers are low such a statistic is unhelpful in any analysis).
The number of male and female OAPs in each country reveals some interesting figures (see further below). In Spain in 2009 there were 16,110 more females receiving the OAP than males. In France the figure is 9,550. The proportion of women to men is however lower than in the UK, though quite extraordinarily it is much higher in Germany where there are more female British OAPs as male in every age group and twice as many overall!

Click on the images to enlatge them.
 What do these figures tell us?
1. That increasingly, little by little, the elderly population prefer not to live in the UK.
Why? This ought to be an issue discussed by the politicians.
2. The excess of women over men is largely explained by the fact that the age group of men between 60 - 64 is not recorded. Over the age of 80 there is a increasing excess of females. There is a considerable number of very elderly women probably living alone amongst the OAPs in France and Spain. These women are less likely to be ‘worldly-wise’. They are probably not computer literate. This group is most likely not to bother with the issues of the Winter Fuel Payment (and almost certainly do not receive it!), or the vote, or be aware of this blog site.
There are 32,320 OAPs over eighty in Europe excluding the UK and Ireland. 
Over ninety there are 3,430.
Excess of very elderly women v. men:-  over eighty, by 10,760 - over ninety  by 1,270 (37%).
If we add in an equal number of men as there are of women in the 60-64 age bracket, then the numbers of elderly over 60 for France increase by 10,000 and the numbers for Spain 16,000.
FURTHER:- anecdotal evidence supported by unofficial estimates would suggest that in Spain and France there are large numbers of OAPs who spend the winter in those countries.  Probably some numbers spend more than 6 months a year outside the UK, though claiming permanent residence in the UK.  In the Alicante region alone it is claimed that the true  "winter" resident numbers of UK OAPs is about 180,000, vastly in excess of the official count. This practice is driving a cart through the regulations. These quasi residents are probably receiving the WFP ; paying taxes in the UK; and perhaps saving the UK some funding on the NHS.  This is a muddle which needs attention - but NOT the clunking iron fist of regulatory power!

Please write to your MP or a Minister or any political leader or otherwise and ask......
"What interest is your next Government going to take in the Welfare of the British pensioner who lives in the European Union." [The wider EU is today a new political force which enfolds the diffuse responsibilities of all its member States. Any citizen of any State should have the continuing respect and oversight of the member State of which they are a birthright national. The right to representation. The right to enjoy the privileges of their national state. The right to be free from discrimination in any form. A further posting exists discussing this point. click to view.Please use your vote (if you can have one!)
You might well refer to this blog and add anything else that is personally relevant to yourself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What is Europe? An Essay

There has never before been a political structure like Europe. You reply – What about the USA? But the USA grew by conquest, western expansion and purchase. The original thirteen colonies united together to throw off the British yoke, yet barely eighty years later tore themselves apart in a bloody civil war and then united again, tied together with bloody bandages. Before and after the civil war, new States were carved out of the new territories to the west of the Eastern thirteen. In Australia, which is another federation, various States came to be established, each in its way going back to British colonial settlements.
Europe is not like that. It consists of ancient States, most with their own language and some with several languages. Each has its own variation on the European culture, which has as a base the Christian ethic. Each has it own slant on the intra-European wars and conflicts (frequently religious!) and intra-European trade which have shaped these countries through the past centuries and which have culminated, after the disastrous conflicts of the first half of the 20th century in the desire to associate to end these conflicts for ever.
Still in Europe each country looks warily at the others with some mistrust. The various governments and political parties of Britain, more than any other, mistrust the rest.
The political structures which bind the nations of Europe together are considered as much chains of imprisonment as they are links of friendship and co-operation. Our minds are not tuned in to this new concept of political association. The political mind either goes down the line of fusion or the line of confrontation. The result is a mind full of confusion. Our thinking needs to become accustomed to a new condition.
We need a new term and a new concept in the mind for this relationship. Let us call it an Association. It is a network of nations. As with a railway network each town is independent but depends on the others. As with the nervous system, each part functions in relation to the other parts. There are nodal masses of cells and each node relates to other nodes via the nerves. In the network of nations which is Europe each depends on the others and yet retains its identity. Vibrant impulses throughout the network would energise the whole.
As the network develops there is movement of the peoples from one node or nation to the others. Here we must move away from our analogy. Each person retains some relationship to his nation of origin and the government of the nation of his origin should acknowledge some link to the diaspora of its people throughout the network.
Most of the nations of Europe maintain this two-way link between the country of origin and its dispersed nationals. But the link is indeed a two-way function. The individual is a human being with the power of choice and freedom of action. The National Government is not however a sentient being, it is an organisation which exists for the benefit of its citizens. The citizens are not servants of the State Government…The Government is the servant of the citizens. The individual is free to separate himself from his Nationality of birth but the National Government cannot, without good moral cause, separate itself from the citizen. So if an individual chooses to cut the bonds of citizenship and link himself to another Nation (or indeed becomes Stateless, with no doubt rather severe consequences) then he perhaps has the right to do so. Until an individual does that, then the Government of the people has a duty to care for and to listen to the citizen wherever he may live. The British Government morally, on the one hand, cannot disenfranchise or ignore its citizens because they have moved within Europe, and on the other hand maintain that it is playing its part within the European Association.
In this ever widening network of Europe the links to the citizen of any Nation State should be maintained. Each Nation State has a duty to represent its citizens in all the other States of the network and each citizen should be represented in his own Nation State. It is the citizens who are the nerve pulses of the network. But one’s experience tells us that the British State adopts a ‘fortress Britain’ attitude and has no interest in the nerve network through the Association. None of the British political parties expresses any true interest in the citizen in Europe. The political elite of Britain alone in Europe among the larger nations, treats its European diaspora as self-imposed outcasts, rather than as witnesses to British culture and ambassadors of the nation. Yet at the level of human contact, the interplay  between  individuals cements and enhances Europe.  We who live in Europe know this to be a self-evident truth.
[This item is frequently visited from all parts of the World - interestingly large numbers of people living in Kiev, Ukraine have visited it. Another large number live in the Philippines.  I would be delighted to know the reason,  contact   lefourquet@gmail.com]