Cecilia Malmström Unchanged

Last Thursday (26.04.) I attended a meeting where Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for matters of trade, was taking one hour to answer questions which citizens might have.

The event took place in the so-called Europasali in Helsinki, and it provided already at the very beginning some surprises: it was demanded that one announce oneself by email beforehand (nothing surprising about that), and on arrival one had to identify oneself by an official document (KELA card or such) before one’s name was marked as ”present” on the list, after which one was still checked for weapons (airport style, by means of metal detectors) before one was allowed in … . And a few minutes after the appointed time there appeared Cecilia Malmström plus a minister of the Finnish government (who did not contribute much during the event).

Also I contributed a question, namely whether she was aware that the investor protection in the CETA agreement might, by Big Money, be developed into a new branch of business for the milking of governments for money. To which she responded that this was a question which he had already got some 200 times – and the rest of her answer made it abundantly clear that she was NOT taking this worry serious. Instead, she gave very much the same performance as on her previous visit to Helsinki (afterwards commented by me under the headline ”Cecilia Malmström and me” in this blog), radiating goodwill, eagerness and as-if competence (while not going into very much detail, but claiming and claiming more …) by means of an endless stream of eager talk. – Thinking about it afterwards it seems to me to fit extremely well with something which I found in today’s (Sö 29.04.) Hufvudstadsbladet (p.24): in a list of points about ”Industrins fyra revolutioner” there was the point ”2016 Tay” with the text ”Microsofts chatbox Tay skapas med en personlighet och talstil lik en 19-årig amerikansk flicka. Hon ska lära sig hur man interagerar med människor på Twitter. Tay började skriva rasistiska och sexistiska tweets. Tay togs bort 16 timmar och 96.000 tweets senare” – i.e. the program was VERY fast and efficient in picking up the ”culture” of Twitter. And I have VERY much the impression that Ceclia Malmström did learn really well to ”interagerar” with the people with whom she has to deal in Brussels (and who are seemingly not so very well aware of what Big Money is occasionally doing outside Brussels …). The result of it mught be called something like ”tunnel vision”, and I do not think it sufficiently critical for the dealing with Big Money.

Here anyway once more my worries concerning the investor protection in the CETA agreement: The idea is that there should be special courts to whom investors (NOT governments!) can turn if they think that a government has done something (e.g. introduced some new law) which decreases the investor’s chances to make previously expected profits. One aspect in this is that the complaint is about money which the investor never had in hand but which he has just been so-to-say ”dreaming about”. Which means that in the court the discussion will very much be about the question how realistic the investor’s expectations have been. In this situation the investor can turn to the buying of witnesses: (a) there are various international consulting-firms who will eagerly compete with each other which firm can produce the most optimistic estimates in support of their paying customer’s claims (cf. ”The new confessions of an economic hit man” by John Perkins), or, if that does not help, one can still try to buy a ”real expert” (we had in Helsinki around the year 2000 the case of the university’s professor of anatomy who certified in court that the connection between smoking and lung cancer were ”not scientifically established” – for which he was handsomely payed by the accused tobacco firm). And in addition an investor with sufficiently good contacts can use (b) lobbying: to mind comes of course the possibility to lobby the government from whom one wants to get money, but recently a more efficient way has been demonstrated: if one can recruit some, say, Anglo-Saxon government to make a fuss (say, Theresa May style) in support of the investor one can safely assume that the accused government will meekly agree to pay (this is anyway the glaringly obvious experience of very recent times; and Anglo-Saxon governments, at least if ”conservative”, tend to have VERY close contacts to Big Money). Altogether, the new ”branch of business” of milking governments for money would function that way that an investor invests some money and then goes to that investment court to sue the government for lost (expected) profits, while at the same time buying some ”expert witnesses” and/or using contacts to the investor’s own government to recruit it in support of the investor’s claims (and be it by making a huge fuss – one should in this context remember the support which the British government gave the British investors who had lost money via Icelandic banks in 2008; the matter became very expensive for Iceland …).

And finally: could somebody who has had the interest and the patience to read this text to an end PLEASE consider using these ideas for writing some letter to the editor of some Finnish paper! I cannot do it because letters in English are nowhere accepted, and neither my Finnish nor my Swedish is good enough for writing letters. But the topic is right now under political treatment, and certtainly not unimportant.

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3 Responses to Cecilia Malmström Unchanged

  1. a-k says:

    completely agree with your analysis, thanks!

  2. Ernst Mecke says:

    It came to my mind that it could be helpful to add stil one idea to my above text (helpful especially if somebody should have in mind to write a letter to some editor) – an idea which makes a central problem VERY clear. The idea is the concept of a ”premortem” as described in Daniel Kahneman’s book ”Thinking, Fast and Slow” on pages 264/5. It goes like this: In the situation of negotiating something complicated there will, with time, come the point when every negotiator at the table looks through her/his checklist and finds that all the points have in fact been dealt with to some (more or less – but anyway) satisfying degree and that one now could actually perhaps sign the agreement. To the very big relief of everybody at the table. And here it would be the job of the chairperson to interfere and and suggest a premortem. Saying that please everybody at the table should imagine that one were, say, three years in the future and that it had turned out that the carefully negotiated and signed agreement had turned out to be an abject failure, and could please everybody take a sheet of paper, a pen, and ten minutes to write down a few reasons why it could have been such a failure. This suggestion would be meant to break up the suggestive effect of the situation that one feels to ”have succeeded” (according to Napeleon the most dangerous moment of all in the course of a battle …). In politics the absence of a premortem has, e.g., resulted in European treaties which now turn out not to offer any possibility to intervene in the inner political development of Poland and Hungary. And when discussing CETA, we have at the moment a division of labour between people like Cecilia Malmström, who eagerly push for it, and various NGOs, who do provide a premortem (but are not listened to). But perhaps it could lead to a change in SOME heads if the matter were explained in the pages of some well-established media.

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