23 October 2021: Madrid’s sheep; Monarchical sex; Spain’s ‘brand’; Albariño v Chablis; & The imperialist ECJ.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza 

This weekend, the streets of Madrid will see villagers in traditional dress marching along in wooden clogs, traditional horns being blown and, possibly shepherds, singing and dancing alongside huge mastiffs. Oh, yes, and lots and lots of sheep. For the trashumancia has come to town.

Our ex king’s sex-drive was frightening, it’s said. Especially for women, I suppose. It’s even alleged he had injections of female hormones to curb his desires/tendencies. Well, they say power is the best aphrodisiac. And he wouldn’t be the first ruler to massively abuse it.

I have no idea what it really means but I guess it’s good news that Spain’s brand value has grown by 4% this year. On the other hand: While the top 10 most valuable country brands in the world maintained their positions compared to 2020, Spain slipped one place from 11th to 12th in the overall ranking. Perhaps enlightenment lies here:-

It’s said that devastating frosts have driven up the price of Chablis wines. So, it’s good to know that: Tasty options include Spain’s floral, sea-spray[???] Albariños. Because: They have the same tongue-tingling acidity as Chablis and Galicia’s granite soil helps to give the wine a steely edge. The best choice?  . . . Marks & Spencer, 2020 Classics Albariño at £9. This is a: Sea-breezy[???] old-vine, un-oaked Albariño with lots of zesty stone fruit. But: Even Aldi’s elegant, zesty 2019 Baron Amarillo Rias Baixas Albariño, £6.99, has a satisfying saline[???] finish. What an inventive place the world of wine is.

The UK 

Does the government’s 368-page Net Zero plan bespoke a fantasy world? See here for evidence that it might well do. At its worst, Boris the Clown’s unrealistic fantasy of “leading global action”, despite the UK accounting for less than 1% of global emissions, will wreck the UK economy in pursuit of bolstering his already over-mighty ego. Surely not. Wisdom must prevail . . .

Just in case you need it, this is what a heat pump looks like and what it does. I’m now wondering if a ground-source heat pump drilled into a Galician radon-rich granite substratum will have a higher COP that one in, say, Andalucia. Which proves that I, at least, have read the article. Well, bits of it.

The EU

Irritated by Poland, the VP of the European Commission has stressed that  that the bottom line is that the single market is governed by the European Court of justice. Which is, of course, true. And which rather points up the criticism that this is a unique politically-oriented, rule-breaking institution subject to no democratic oversight whatsoever. With a very questionable constitution and composition. Which is at least odd for a political set-up – the EU – obsessed with the rule-of-law. Or rather, rules of law – one for Germany and France and one for smaller members. Not everyone, of course – most obviously the Brits and the Poles – wants to live under this form of government, even if it has splendid social goals and makes for easier travel.

See the article below on how the spat with Poland reveals Europe’s fundamental flaws: Final para: The EU could take note of how its top court has for years – because of its imperialist mindset – aggravated Europe’s nations and could conclude that perhaps a rethink is required. But anyone waiting for such sense to prevail will be waiting a long time.

The Way of the World/Quotes of the Day

This Cop26 fiasco threatens to leave Britain humiliated. Any summit that doesn’t include credible commitments from the main sinner, China’s Xi Jinping, is going to be a largely pointless affair

There’s a Korean guy who can sex chicks at lightening speed. I wonder how fast he’d be at gendering them. 

Finally  . . .  

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Poland’s battle against the EU’s imperial court reveals Europe’s fundamental flaws. The Polish government is hardly an appealing champion for the cause, but its critique of the extension of EU law is a sound one: Juliet Samuel, The Telegraph

In a parallel universe, the UK would never have left the EU and would instead have adopted the strategy now being tried by Poland. A couple of weeks ago, Warsaw cemented its position as Brussels’ top whipping boy when its highest court declared that the Polish constitution has supremacy over EU law.

In a speech to the European Parliament this week, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made it clear that the ruling has one clear aim: to stop the superstate project in its tracks. Amid a lot of nonsense being hurled around on both sides, this claim deserves to be taken seriously.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Poland, after centuries of domination and dismemberment by foreign states, is deeply resistant to the project of “ever closer union” pursued by Euro-enthusiasts. This was, indeed, one of the main reasons why the UK strongly supported Poland’s accession to the bloc in 2004.

Fearing perpetual control by the Franco-German axis, British diplomats calculated that the best way to stop the EU deepening its union too much would be to widen it. Breadth and depth together would become impossible – and so it is proving. Unfortunately, the result is a bloc unable to take critical strategic decisions.

The judgment by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal concluded that several key articles of the EU’s main treaties contradict Poland’s own constitution and are therefore void, because the Polish constitution is the supreme arbiter of the country’s law. The judgment, Mr Morawiecki stated in Strasbourg, is about pushing back against the constant expansion of legal meddling by EU courts in defiance of democratic consent, a phenomenon with which Britain is sadly familiar. Nor is Poland’s tribunal the first European court to reach such a conclusion.

Most notably, Germany’s constitutional court has always reserved the right to nullify EU activities if it doesn’t like them and has done so repeatedly, most recently last year when it stated that the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme is illegal. The main difference is that Berlin has always opted not to act on its domestic court’s judgments.

So Poland can justifiably complain that it is being singled out for unfair treatment. Since the court ruling, EU leaders have lined up to condemn Warsaw. There is not a lot they can do except harangue its government, because suspending Poland’s EU political rights requires unanimity among member states, something Viktor Orban’s Hungary would never support. But the creation of an €800 billion (£677 billion) EU Covid rescue package has given Brussels a stock of goodies it can withhold on the basis that Poland is not respecting EU values such as the rule of law.

There are two reasons why this row is far more venomous than the legal facts alone justify. The first is that Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (“PiS” in Polish), has conducted a much broader assault on democratic norms since winning power in 2015. Under PiS, the government has begun to censor criticism by Poland’s state broadcaster; used arms of the state to buy up independent, private media and stifle scrutiny; ignored the proper procedures for selecting judges for the constitutional tribunal, instead packing it with supporters; and whipped up a campaign of hate against gay people and immigrants.

In 2015, I met the man who later became PiS’s first agriculture minister and listened to him explain that every region of Poland ought to operate on the basis of autarky, feeding itself and using goods only from its own factories. All in all, there are good reasons to feel queasy about PiS and its plans for Poland. It’s just that the recent legal judgment isn’t, in itself, one of them.

The second aggravating factor is that Warsaw is consciously taking aim at one of the EU’s most sensitive subjects: its obsession with the supremacy of its own law over everything. The EU has pursued this issue to extreme lengths even by its own standards.

In 2014, for example, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that the EU’s agreement to accede to the European Court of Human Rights was invalid because it gave a rival court jurisdiction over an area not covered by EU law. In other words, the EU could not possibly subject itself to international judgment on human rights, because this might limit the power of EU law.

A more recent series of cases has forcibly inserted the ECJ into treaties that have nothing to do with the EU. The cases relate to investment agreements between EU member states or between EU states and third parties.

The European Court has essentially ruled that international agreements simply cannot exist without being subordinate to its rule wherever there is a tenuous link to an EU member state, because the EU has some sort of jurisdiction over matters like foreign direct investment. This means international arbitration mechanisms cease to be independent of the EU.

Taken together, these rulings and the 2014 ECHR judgment are a direct assault on any international law outside the EU and display the imperialist mindset of Europe’s top court. Incidentally, they bode rather ill for the Northern Ireland Protocol, which supposedly gives only a limited role to the ECJ in arbitrating any disputes.

Alas, Poland’s dubious ruling party is an unappealing hero in the fight to contain the spread of EU law. The problem is that PiS is clearly intent on pushing back European law not in order to protect Poland’s freedoms, but in order to implement an illiberal order of its own. It would have been better for everyone if a British government had stood up to Europe’s legal meddling back in the day – and if Brussels had listened.

Instead, Brussels is left with a set of deeply flawed alternatives. The EU could stand by and let Poland carry on – the likeliest outcome – effectively allowing the creation of a new category of European state where fundamental freedoms do not exist in full.

It could unleash the wrath of its legal order on Poland, perhaps eventually forcing Warsaw out of the bloc. Or it may subdue Poland and win the legal tussle, allowing its courts to continue expanding unchecked.

There is a fourth option, of course, which is that the EU takes note of how its top court has for years aggravated Europe’s nations and concludes that perhaps a rethink is required. But anyone waiting for such sense to prevail will be waiting a long time.