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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Miliband at Bruges

His speech is up on PA - and it appears to be lots and lots of yada yada held loosely together with the rather threadbare idea that the EU - even if it is demographically doomed - can at least be a "model power" blazing a trail for regional integration elsewhere in the world.

"The EU is not and never will be a superpower. An EU of 27 nation states or more is never going to have the fleetness of foot or the fiscal base to dominate. In fact economically and demographically Europe will be less important in the world of 2050 that it was in the world of 1950.

Our opportunity is different. The EU has the opportunity to be a model power. It can chart a course for regional cooperation between medium-sized and small countries."

Never mind that African countries don't really want to have the EU "model" imposed on them through EPAs, or that the rising powers of the future are not regions but really big single states. Nonetheless, the EU needs a new "narrative" and today being a "model power" seems to be it.

Is it just us or is there also an echo here of British politicians after 1945 talking about "the moral leadership of the world" to replace its fading capacity for real leadership? Do all declining blocs grasp at these kind of straws?

One interesting irony that Miliband's main example of how the EU is supposed to become a "model power" is the environment:

"In the decisions made at the Spring Council last year, the EU showed its ambitions to be model power on climate change."

Um... you mean the targets that the UK is already trying to back out of...? Hardly "model" behaviour.

In fairness there is one new idea in the speech - again connected with the environment. But its a stinker.

We have already agreed to extend the EU ETS to include aviation, but we must also consider the case for surface transport. And we should consider moving from individual countries setting their own allocation to harmonised allocations on the road to cap-setting done centrally. As the European Central Bank regulates money supply for the eurozone, it is worth thinking whether the idea of a European Carbon Bank could in future set limits on the production of carbon across Europe.

Hmmm. A single cap is bad not just because it's a tax, and taxes should be democratically controlled.

Realistically, it is also not going to happen. Many of the other member states are only taking part in ETS on the understanding that they will be given more permits than they need and can make money out of the scheme. So any "EU carbon bank" is likely to go the way of Northern Rock - with plenty of people keen to take out, but very few willing to put anything in...

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