Wednesday, December 24, 2003
From Stasis to Stagnation?

The record of fraud that has dogged the budget of the European Commission for many years had little effect upon the well paid MEPs approving expenditure for 2004. The budget of €99.7bn was approved by a majority of 345 with 10 abstentions. Despite the greater publicity given to the issue of fraud within the European Union, accountability has not developed within its parliamentary institutions. Perhaps the recent breakdown in negotiations over the European Constitution have engendered a cautious culture of "business as usual" and an unwillingness to rock the boat at a time when public disillusion with the European Union is increasing.

This has also resulted in the rejection, even on the part of the original six, of the Franco-German project of a "hard core" integrating their state structures. italy and Luxembourg have both rejected these proposals. Whilst Martin Walker has described this as a legacy of Thatcher's view of Europe, a simpler and more truthful explanation is that most European politicians do not wish to abandon the draft Constitution or embark upon even more radical institutional transformations.

The incoming Irish Presidency is setting out a programme of accepting the reforms laid down by the Nice Treaty. However Bertie Ahern, Irish Tiaoseach, has condemned the proposal for a "hard core" an un-European:

In an interview published in the French daily Le Monde, Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern said, "The idea of a 'two-speed Europe' or of a 'hard core,' where certain countries would try to implement their agenda separately from the others, does not correspond to the common philosophy of the union."

He continued, "I really do not see what would justify a two-speed Europe and I am not convinced of its eventual advantages."

The European ideology was always a tool of the political elites, designed to reflect the positive and consensual benefits of integration. Values of harmonisation and solidarity were written into treaties and the draft Constitution. Now, there is a far more visible tension within this ideology between those who champion the existing consensus and argue that all reforms should be carried out, taking the interests of other Member States into account, whilst the call of further integration between a smaller group becomes a divisive objective that places the goals of particular countries for a state above the perceived needs of the Union as a whole.

This does not undermine the points of my previous post. 'Variable geometry' is viewed as a useful strategy because it cannot take effect without the agreement of most Member States. The current conservative reaction for the status quo amongst the political classes in Europe ensures that projects in this area are likely to remain dormant until jaded pols reacquire an appetite for further negotiation.

(23.02, 24th December 2003)


Post a Comment

Blog Archive