European Integration

 

WEEKLY COMMENT 4-06-2015

By Barry Edwards

European Integration

The German Social Democrat Emmanuel Macron and the French Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel have written a short paper which was published in the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday this week. They are pressing for better integration for the Eurozone and a freer relationship for those outside the zone. This is building on the realisation of the dissension within the EU since the financial crisis which was expressed in the elections last year, the forthcoming British referendum and the Greek problem in discussions at the moment.

When senior politicians such as these two go public with thinking along these lines, it is fairly certain that the majority of the underlying opinion of EU leaders is firmly behind this approach. The ever closer union has been the main reason for discontent amongst the non-Euro member countries since they all believe that more power should remain at the national level (subsidiarity) and the rules should be concentrated on making the EU market truly open for all members.

If you would like to read the article, click on the link below. It is about two pages long;

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/europe-france-germany-eu-eurozone-future-integrate

The relevant paragraph on this point in the article is below;

“Strengthening the euro is not only about the Eurozone. It cannot be isolated from a broader rethinking of the EU, not least because we need to be able to answer the key question: what about the other member states? A stronger Eurozone should be the core of a deepened EU. We need a simpler and more efficient union, with more subsidiarity and streamlined governance. The fundamental instrument of EU integration is the single market; we should therefore make a new step towards a better-integrated internal market, with a targeted approach on key sectors like energy and digital economy.”

From another article in the Guardian, the following points were highlighted;

“Angela Merkel and François Hollande say there should be no reopening of the EU treaties for the foreseeable future: however the blueprint published in the Guardian would require a total overhaul of the EU treaties.

As part of their campaign to rewrite the terms of Britain’s membership of the EU, David Cameron and especially George Osborne have been urging the Eurozone to embark on such integration, hoping to exploit the renegotiation of the EU treaties to obtain a more far-reaching deal for the UK.”

It would seem there is a conflict between the German and French leaders and the respective members of their governments who appear to be moving towards the ambitions of the British. Whether this will be a stumbling block, we will have to wait and see, but the main point is that finally a proper discussion is opening up about the relationship between the Eurozone and non-members which has always been hovering in the background and never mentioned in announcements or discussions previously.

The UK and the other non-Eurozone countries are beginning to work together to negotiate a new kind of relationship within the EU which allows for a more flexible involvement. The Eurozone itself has to become much more closely financially connected if the currency is to survive and flourish. Therefore, there must be different rules for those countries outside the Eurozone if the EU is going to survive as a common market that most members signed up to when they joined. The Macro-Gabriel paper does refer to this arrangement which suggests some serious thought has been given to finding a satisfactory proposal that would be acceptable to all members.

The summit meeting of all EU members later this month should start the process of putting forward proposals that can be considered by all countries as the basis for agreement. Whether this will be strong enough to satisfy the UK, we will have to wait and see but it is clear that the EU leaders are trying their best to make sure the union holds together with the UK being a major player in the future.

The debate about the future of the EU is becoming the major political topic throughout the union and the acceptance that change is required to bring the countries and the people together does seem to be occurring. The UK is definitely not the only country with reservations about the EU, most of the other countries want to slow down the ever closer union but understand that over time a more federal union will evolve but it must move at a pace that makes the people feel their wishes are being respected.

Europe is made up of small countries compared to Russia, America, China and India. It is inevitable that the EU can only compete with these large blocs if it unites and holds together which is the real reason for all the effort put in to make this happen. The process is partially complete but it did take those large countries centuries to become the nations they are now. The EU has a big influence around the world and apart from Russia; the other blocs would prefer it to succeed and prosper to balance the economic and political influence among the large nations of the world.

That’s all for this week, more observations next week.