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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bonjour Monsieur Cameron, there are potential allies on EU reform on the other side of the Channel

Henri Guaino, a French MP from the centre-right UMP party and a former special advisor to President Nicolas Sarkozy, has an interesting interview on Europe in today's Le Figaro. Here are some key excerpts:
Q: What is the European Union, according to you?

A: The EU is France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium...The [European] Commission, Parliament, Court of Justice are just institutions at the service of the states and the peoples of Europe. It doesn't make sense to speak of a general interest of the EU that transcends the interests of these peoples and these states. Institutions never transcend anything.

Q: Europe is peace...

A: It's not the EU that created peace, it's peace that created the EU, and the idea that one guarantees peace on the continent by weakening the states is a dangerous one: for years, the weakening of states has been going hand-in-hand with the rise in Europe of populism, extremism and social tensions. Let's be wary that the federalist dream doesn't turn into a nightmare.

Q: Are the European institutions in need of reform?

A: The institutional Meccano has hit its limits: every reform has just given birth to a bit more bureaucratic monster. There are only two democratic institutions: the [European] Council of heads of state and government, and the [European] Parliament. The Council is more democratic than Parliament because heads of state are more accountable to their fellow citizens than MEPs. It is not certain that democracy has gained a lot from shifting from an assembly composed of delegations from national parliaments to a directly elected assembly. But if there were only one decisive reform to be made, it would be to eliminate the prerogatives of the European Commission and turn it into an administration under the authority of the Presidency of the Council.
On subsidiarity, Monsieur Guaino said:
[Subsidiarity] is working the wrong way round. The EU tends to leave to member states what it can't do. On the contrary, it needs to be asserted that the EU is only destined to do what member states can't do. This principle must allow member states to take competences back from the EU, which has too many.
He also suggested that the principle of 'variable geometry' (in plain English, different levels of integration within the EU) should be "applied systematically".       
 
Finally, asked whether the EU "contributes to making politicians look increasingly powerless", Guaino replied:
Yes...The EU has buried the historical, geographical, cultural and demographic realities underneath the rules, the bureaucracies and the procedures. But realities always avenge themselves when they are ignored.
To put this interview into context, Henri Guaino belongs to the same party as pro-integration MEPs such as Alain Lamassoure or Joseph Daul - which illustrates that 'Europe' is an issue that cuts across parties in a number of countries, not just the UK. Secondly, David Cameron may have allies in unlikely places, which if cultivated could prove helpful in a future negotiation.

3 comments:

Denis Cooper said...

And also there's a French lawyer helpfully saying that everything Cameron says he wants to get out a renegotiation could be fudged without any need for treaty change:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c1a650ee-d363-11e3-8d23-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=uk#axzz30ugY6APB

"Legal loopholes for David Cameron on EU treaty, says top lawyer"

Which would enable Cameron to do a Wilson on the British public.

He thinks even the knotty problem of "ever closer union" could be solved like that, with a "political declaration".

Not a legally binding treaty change, of course, but just a non-binding declaration, on a par with an election manifesto in terms of its legal value.

I guess that the eurofederalists on the ECJ would have to think hard for at least a millisecond before they decided that the solemn and legally binding commitment to a process of "ever closer union" enshrined in the preambles to the EU treaties as ratified by the member states carried a hundred times more weight that a subsequent non-binding declaration by politicians purporting to qualify and dilute that commitment, a declaration they only made for the sake of providing Cameron with a figleaf.

What do you think?

Rik said...

A more interesting question will be how the EU involvement in the Ukraine will play out re the "Provide peace in Europe for half a century now" slogan.
Will be a hardsell when associations are going to be made (even worse).

@Denis
Fully agree the EU needs a complete overhaul to make it viable for the future. As well as to give it a sustainable platform.
If that will not be possible the UK should seriously consider its options. Hard to see how being ever more integrated in an Euromess with all sorts of unexpected funny stuff popping up, can be positive for any country.
To begin with this should be the starting point in negotiations anyway. No further integration and definitely not having that as the preferred way of looking at the legal meaning of things.

Same with arguments 'that is not how the EU works'. Those are exactly the reasons as well why the EU has to change. To be useful and have that sustainable platform.

Anonymous said...

OE - you are kidding us about allies.

The impact of the EU has now descended beyond the point of acceptability and democratic accountability. Where were our allies over the last few years?

The simple answer is that we have no allies when it comes to looking after our national interest - only ourselves.

The ongoing scam/theft/act of war that has become the FTT highlights where we are.

When do we get our country back?

SC