Friday 23 March 2018

Weekend Read: Defining "Solidarity" in Law

How do you define a fuzzy, abstract concept into law?

Some while ago I wrote about the European "Energy Union", a classic piece of acquis-grabbing-by-stealth from the EC.  There were follow-ups here, here and here.  For what it is worth, the Energy Union was one of the straws that broke this particular camel's back as regards Brexit.

Anyhow, while it may be of diminishing future significance for the UK, something moderately interesting has come of all this.  Because it is now compulsory for EU nations to render "solidarity" to each other in times of dire shortage of natural gas - I think we know where this finger is pointing ... yes, you over there in the East! - and because actually it's just a warm word (for all the euro-wallahs bandy it around like a comfort blanket), the EC is trying to define what "solidarity" might mean in law.

And very necessary, too! - if you insist on this type of prescriptive Civil-Code stuff.   Although these rules aren't yet in force (so the UK made no call on solidarity back at the cold end of February, relying instead on the market) we recall that gas didn't flow our way as one would ordinarily expect when quite exceptional prices were on offer.  Yes, those Good Europeans are - of course - self-interested bastards who need to be dragged by lawyers and regulators to carry through on their hallowed *principles*.

I realise this EC doument's earnest word-smithery may be of limited interest to many readers but personally, though not a lawyer, I enjoy such sub-philosophical endeavours.  It's all in the small print.  And below are some of the things we find amongst this new euro-babble:
  • You'll have to pay "fairly and promptly" for any "solidarity" (i.e. gas!) received;
  • The "fair" price is assumed to be "not lower than market price (+ costs)", for fear of "perverse incentives" (see, they have been listening to 20 years of the UK telling them what can go wrong with interventionist energy policies);
  • All market mechanisms need to have been deployed first (ditto); 
  • Solidarity doesn't give one state any authority over another; 
  • All subject to Fundamental Rights (which I take to be a get-out clause).
What might this remind you of - if you were German?
I have a feeling certain eastern euro-nations might have been hoping for something a bit less mercenary than this.  And, needless to say, if the market mechanisms are working properly, none of it should really be required at all.

Unless, that is, Russia cuts up really rough.  In which case, (a) frankly, all bets are off.

But ...  (b) those of us *ahem* old enough to remember the 1973-74 oil crisis will recall OPEC cutting up really rough.  On that occasion a rather effective ad hoc intervention swung into place.  The forerunner of the IEA was told by the OECD to sort it out and, adroitly commandeering a powerful linear programming tool sitting in Exxon's HQ in New Jersey, this team allocated the whole Free World's available stock of crude oil based on whatever principles it deemed appropriate.  Oil was tight, but it all sort-of worked.   

See, even avowed free-marketeers can allow for state / super-state interventions when the chips are down ... preferably by people who are competent - which, as well as technical capabilities, includes having market instincts that are strong!  

By now you'll have decided whether the EC document is of interest to you ...  A pleasant weekend to all, whatever you're reading.



James Higham said...

Solidarity always had the connotations of leftism, whereas we might speak of alliances.

Electro-Kevin said...

So are we leaving a free market or are we leaving a communist bloc ?

Electro-Kevin said...

Tried to contact via Penxo but pinged back. I expect she still has mine.

Nick Drew said...

are we leaving a free market or are we leaving a communist bloc ?

we are leaving a creaking construct run by a self-appointed priesthood with dangerous proclivities, addled doctrines, but 100% confidence in its own arrogance

Anonymous said...

Nice map!