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Monday, February 03, 2014

German Foreign Minister welcomes discussion on EU Treaty Change

German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is visiting his counterpart, William Hague, in London today. Although the visit doesn't seem to have received much media coverage, we've just been at the press conference, and Herr Steinmeier had some interesting things to say. Unsurprisingly, Steinmeier said he wanted the UK in the EU.

Further Eurozone integration

Steinmeier said that the UK could play a pivotal role in making the EU more effective and competitive, but he also said that it was important not to "backtrack on European integration", but it was not clear if he was referring to Eurozone integration – which the UK actually isn’t against. Hague opened the press conference, saying that both government agreed to work together to ensure a "fairer system" to all Member States in the EU.

Repatriation of Powers 

Steinmeier also made clear that the EU should govern on the "big questions" - that it should rule where it is most effective. In this context, then, he said that there should be a further discussion on which competences would be best regulated on the national level. It was unfortunate that we didn't get a chance to ask Herr Steinmeier to comment on CDU's draft European Parliament election manifesto, which Handelsblatt reported on today as explicitly saying:
“A repatriation of competences to the national level should be possible.” 
Treaty change

The German government – particularly the CDU/CSU wing continue to insist on Treaty Change in some form to provide more central control in the eurozone over spending. At the same time, Cameron wants a Treaty Change to institutionalise flexible integration including the possibility to pursue “less Europe”. The idea is to combine the two in a new grand bargain. Remember, last week French President Francois Hollande restated that Paris didn’t see Treaty Change as a “priority” for fear of a referendum (which would be politically hard to avoid due to the German-style Treaty Change, not the British one). This created headlines in the UK.

Steinmeier said that discussions over Treaty Change are far more nuanced than a polarised vision of Britain on one side asking for the all the Treaties to be opened up, and France on the other, resisting any such discussion – which is exactly what we’ve said. In fact, Steinmeier said he "welcomes a debate" and is "not against discussing an adaptation of the Treaties." He added that there’s a debate raging in Germany at the moment over how to put Eurozone integration on a constitutionally and politically sound footing.

However, he also said that Germany and Britain aren’t completely aligned over Treaty Change, and, somewhat uncomfortably for Hague et al, argued that any major revision to the Treaties along the lines of what the UK is calling for, should perhaps be deferred until the eurozone stabilises further.  "It's not just to do with the UK and Germany that some things are stalling," said Steinmeier.

When asked the crucial question whether he believed that Treaty Change would coincide with David Cameron's 2017 timeline, Steinmeier said it "was too complicated a prognosis" to be able to give a straight answer.

Free movement 

Steinmeier said that the Bundestag has set up a working group to present solutions on how square sensible rules on access to benefits with free movement. He said that the debate in Germany on free movement – while it was definitely was an intense debate - was in "sensible boundaries", a nod to the UK press and its handling of Romania and Bulgaria.


Denis Cooper said...

What has happened to the comments on the previous article, the one for which your link:


no longer works at the moment?

Open Europe blog team said...

@ Denis

Thanks Denis, we're not quite sure what happened, we're having technical issues with that specific blog.

We have reposted it here:

We are trying to salvage the previous comments and post them to the new blog but its not yet clear if that will be possible.

johnlandseer said...

Sometimes I wonder if people live in parallel universe's even when they attend the same meeting.


The rise of Eurosceptic groups such as the UK Independence Party hampers the cooperation that has kept the continent at peace for decades, Germany’s foreign minister said.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier also dealt a blow to David Cameron’s attempt to recast the European Union membership deal, suggesting Germany and Britain were not “pulling in exactly the same direction”.

Speaking on a visit to London for talks with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Steinmeier said he was concerned about a drift towards scepticism that has aided parties such as Ukip, Germany’s AfD and the French Front National, and led Mr Cameron to offer an in/out referendum

This from today's Telegraph.

Full article here:

UKIP is a threat to peace in Europe:

I guess it's the way you tell it Open Europe.

Strikes me, that whilst be professing to be Eurosceptic/realistic in tenor, there is a large tendency to see the bright side of all things European.

I genuinely think that if OpenEurope is going to play with the big boys, it oght really to report, as do the big boys. By leaving little gems like the above out, you leave yourself open to bias and, in the limit...er.....derision.

Rik said...

Last week my virusscan gave with 1 or 2 posts (most had no problem) the allertmessage that unsecure data was going to be delivered.
Likely/possibly these 2 things are related.

Peil.nl has been doing a survey.
It was sumarized in the media as more than half of the Dutch want to leave the EU.
Which was strictly not correct. It was asked with the condition that stopping EU membership would give the country more jobs etc.
Anyway Holland seems to be moving quickly in very EU-sceptic territory. Especially relevant as the political climate is rapidly following it as it seems.

Might be that it is simply papers taking over a pressrelease (Wilders ordered it, but looks pretty objective seen the question, a lot more objective than a lot of EU surveys anyway).

More important could be the point where the Dutch media makes its u-turn on the EU (A thing to watch)? A few years ago it is hard to see that such a headline would have been possible.
It looks clearly anyway that media (not only in Holland) are rapidly moving. From EU-positive a few years ago to more EU-neutral and this might be an indication of a further move (from neutral to critical).
Not sure it is publisized yet on their webside.

Also nice to see the reactions. A lot and fully focussing on the fact that it is Wilders paid, is a good indication that that side is getting pretty nervous. Which would be great. As appaling leaders they crumble under pressure and do exactly the wrong things. Start shouting and that kind of stuff.
The more pressure the better as said they completely failed the 'proper leader test' and iso stepping up and change continue and start to shout (especially the shouting and racist/fascist calling looks to be at a stage now where it works completly negative). But they act a bit like Britishers when some Johny Foreigner doesnot understand them simply speak louder or if necessary start to shout.

Anyway totally unproductive. A bit like Gabriel in Germany at the moment The guy is so full of himself in relation to the AfD economists that he completely misses that his and his party public disapproval is simply the best advertising for AfD. Traditional parties still think in marketing concepts of the 70s and 80s (aka the stoneage) and for the middlegroups. The best PR for people like Wilders and LePen is having somebody that 10s% of people truly dislike (a boring, no-everything-better lefty like Gabriel) showing his disapproval.
Completely different dynamic from the middlegroups. Largely the same btw for UKip. Which makes all these Tory turbo fruitcakes that keep calling IP voters fruitcakes completely counterproductive. Even so far that now when the word fruitcake is used in a much more nuanced way the part that gets to the public is only the fruitcake link with UKIP part.

christina speight said...


Front page of Telegraph today = Open Europe had its eyes shut.

Coming from a lefty German this is worth 2 percentage points to UKIP!!!

Rise of UK Independence Party hampers cooperation that has kept the continent at peace, Germany’s foreign minister says

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks during a news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague Photo:
The rise of Eurosceptic groups such as the UK Independence Party hampers the cooperation that has kept the continent at peace for decades, Germany’s foreign minister said.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier also dealt a blow to David Cameron’s attempt to recast the European Union membership deal, suggesting Germany and Britain were not “pulling in exactly the same direction”.

Speaking on a visit to London for talks with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Steinmeier said he was concerned about a drift towards scepticism that has aided parties such as Ukip, Germany’s AfD and the French Front National, and led Mr Cameron to offer an in/out referendum.
Instead of moving further apart,

European nations should cooperate ever more closely, he said, adding that history has shown that when European countries do not have close relations, military conflict can arise. “History before the First World War was a history of not talking to each other, of nationalisms which could no longer be [tamed] by reason,” Mr Steinmeier said. “These dangers have to be forever banned.”
The trend towards political scepticism hampers that common work, he suggested.
The minister was cool about Mr Cameron’s attempt to rewrite EU treaties in time for the 2017 promised referendum. Mr Steinmeier said that because European leaders were divided about treaty change, “I really can’t dare to predict anything”.

Anonymous said...

The UK does not need to be aligned with anyone with respect to Treaty Change.

So much time has been wasted since 2008 watching the EU/MananaZone faff about doing nothing. It is now abundantly clear to all concerned that the EU and the UK's interests are completely different. The respective differences have diverged to such an extent that it is time to put it to the UK's electorate.

Failure to do so will, no doubt, further undermine trust in the UK's MPs and Lords.

Shame on Labour and the Lib Dems for blocking the EU Referendum last week.

EU :
"YES" to Free trade.
"NO" to servitude and "NO" to the ongoing lack of democratic accountability.


Rik said...

Why are you complaining these kind of remarks is rapidly creating a climate that will make change a real possibility, probably even a necessity.
As you say 2% extra for IP, well something like that.

The EU has a real problem: support for it is eroding rapidly. And the trend is simply further South. Supported by the fact that no real solution for the Euro mess is in sight. And people like Steinmeier that are probably thinking that they defend the EU, shooting themselves in the foot time and time again.
Look at the vast majority of this kind of reactions it is simply almost all counterproductive. Do these guys ever evaluate polls and surveys.
And they keep coming with these PR jokers look at the candidates (leaders) for the EP election. All for big parts of the population undigestible figures. And it seems the less brain the better.
It is simply more or less guaranteed to continue this way.
As said it will create an ideal climate for change.

Apparently Wilders is starting to make some noise. The survey I referred to earlier is on the PVV (his party's) webside btw.
But next Thursday a report will be presented on his behalve (on basically Nexit).
He did that one time earlier. The report itself was not bad at all imho. Only they completely messed the defence thereof up. Looked like simply a complete lack of quality people there. The attacks were pretty poor but still they managed to make themselves look like a bunch of idiots.
Furthermore big reports are a poor tool to reach his own audience which is largely not very well educated.

Outcome rather uncertain of the discussion, therefor.
Wilders however always learns from his mistakes. My guess seen the early pressreleases is that he simply will go for percentages in surveys. Hard to deny those in a discussion. The survey as such looks simply impartial (and the guys who have done it, earlier also did stuff for lefties (the Greens if I am not mistaken)).

Probably best for him to create as much as possible noise over the issue.
The other side simply looks bad on the issue itself. As Steinmeier here shows a lot of EU-supporters will react that way which is simply completely counterproductive. At the right, the part where Wilders is playing an enemy of a know-it-all-better lefty is simply considered as perfect candidate.
What the survey is showing that also the middle groups are moving now and in large numbers. Simply the only way he could get those percentages.
But as said hard to see they have anybody who can properly defend the report. Which is a pitty in the way that it would have enabled Holland to get a proper discussion on its EU membership and for the first time.
Or maybe he uses the UK guys who made the report as know how centre for the defence.
Anyway just the involvement of Wilders will give a few proper headlines on the issue. He is simply a sort of rockstar populist. No better person to put it in Holland high on the agenda. Only unlikely to make a proper agenda for reform his party simply hasnot the quality manpower to come up with that.

Rik said...


The electorates will decide when and what gets on the agenda and politics will simply follow.
It is fully clear that nobody continental really likes a reform when the EZ crisis is simply only dormant, but anyway there never was much animo for change they simply always would have to be pushed.
And this is exactly the right climate for that. Approval tanking, trend further down and no end in sight and very vulnerable on the Euro flank and nearly certain needing a treaty change themselves.
No EZ country can afford trouble in the form of questions about the stability of the EZ and/or EU. The South would be dumped and so very likely would France and Belgium. And the North would hang for all the guarantees they have given and that have not yet seen a budget.
This is simply get it on the agenda and pre-cook a bit time.

The SPD is rapidly becoming the face of Merkel's cabinet and that won't do her much good. She has simply moved way too much to the middle. Opening a right flank for basically AfD.
FDP looks to continue its suicide mission. It didnot work last time so we keep doing the same thing only now with the blondish Rosler, called Lindner. Hard to see that will make the difference not a positive difference at least.
Also shows that Merky's cabinet is very likely to become unstable.