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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

State of the (same old) European Union

It’s that time of year again, when European Commission President José Manuel Barroso delivers his ‘State of the European Union’ speech, laying out all his hopes and dreams for the coming year – few of which make it through the decision making gauntlet.

This year’s speech seems little different and, frankly, was a bit all over the place.

Barroso talked up the prospect of greater national flexibility, but, as always, within the end-goal of ever closer "political union". He said:
"The EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things - something we may occasionally have neglected in the past. The EU needs to show it has the capacity to set both positive and negative priorities."

"I value subsidiarity highly. For me, subsidiarity is not a technical concept. It is a fundamental democratic principle. An ever closer union among the citizens of Europe demands that decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely to the people as possible.

"The European Union must remain a project for all members, a community of equals."

"I believe a political union needs to be our political horizon, as I stressed in last year's State of the Union. This is not just the demand of a passionate European. This is the indispensable way forward to consolidate our progress and ensure the future."
Therefore, despite mentioning subsidiarity, Barroso's end goal remains clear – full political union. A feature of the eurozone crisis has been that Barroso and the Commission have been increasingly sidelined when setting the agenda (which member states now dominate). This is also due to the fact that there will be a new Commission in place soon.

The Q&A session revealed that, despite Barroso's professed desire to "find ways" to "make Europe stronger", he is rather less open in practice.

In response to Conservative MEP Martin Callanan (who had said he had no interest in being European Commission President) he said:
"Let me tell you very frankly, I think that even if you were interested you would not have a chance to be elected as President of the Commission. And do you know why? I’m not saying that happily. Because I think your party, and your group, is increasingly looking like UKIP and the eurosceptic, anti-European group. And I start to have some doubts that you’re going to be elected in Britain yourself, and if it’s not UKIP that is going to be the first force in the British [European] elections. Because when it comes to being against Europe, between the original and the copy, people prefer the original. That’s probably why they’re going to vote more for Mr Farage than for Mr Callanan. And I don’t say this with any kind of satisfaction, because even if we have some differences, we have worked very constructively with the Conservatives – the British Conservatives and the Conservative group – in many areas."
Once again, it seems the Commission would rather help UKIP rather than work for reformers who don't share a belief in 'ever closer union'.

Barroso's analysis of the crisis hinted at his on-going denial of the role of the euro in causing the crisis:
"We can remind people that Europe was not at the origin of this crisis. It resulted from mismanagement of public finances by national governments and irresponsible behaviour in financial markets."

"What I tell people is: when you are in the same boat, one cannot say: 'your end of the boat is sinking.' We were in the same boat when things went well, and we are in it together when things are difficult."
There is still a sign that Barroso believes that all eurozone woes were caused by the financial crisis – though it may have been a trigger and there is no doubt that national finances were mismanaged, there can (or should) also be no denying that the structural flaws of the euro are what have caused the crisis to be as long and deep as it has been.

The Commission's hope that banking union is the eurozone cure has already come up against resistance from Germany, which is deeply sceptical of the Commission's desire to increase its own power. Barroso's insistence that the proposal be implemented in full before next year's elections will not have helped much on this front and simply highlighted how out of touch he remains with the concerns of even core eurozone countries.

So, despite some lip-service to greater flexibility, reform and acceptance of the shortcomings in the EU and the eurozone, the solutions presented by Barroso remain the same – greater political integration. Fortunately, this is very likely to be Barroso's last 'State of the Union' speech, while member states such as Germany and the Netherlands have shown themselves more open to reform.


Anonymous said...

The words about going back to the days of the 1st World World should the EU dissolve are preposterous.

Continually denying citizens their own freedom and democracy will indeed cause the next war.

Barosso resembles Jabba The Hut every time he speaks - and we all know what happened to Jabba.


Rik said...

The only thing not mediocre about the guy is his ego.

Seen the state the EU is in a 'strategic reorientation' is long overdue. Iso that they already are looking for scapegoats.
As such a good sign for Dave when you know you will win who gives a %&*% about a scapegoat.
Looks like when pressure is kept up on them they are close to cracking.

jon livesey said...

"An ever closer union among the citizens of Europe demands that decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely to the people as possible."

Did everyone catch the clever rhetorical trickery here? Subsidiarity doesn't just mean that decisions are taken close to the citizen, but that different groups of citizens can take *different* decisions.

Subsidiarity means that one member state can vote one way and another a different way. It doesn't just mean pan-European decisions voted on at a lower level.

jon livesey said...

Barroso's remarks are revealing in a couple of ways. In the first place, they show Barroso as someone with an intense commitment to the EU. That's not surprising, since only someone with an intense commitment could put up with the endless meetings that a post like his involves, but it is a little surprising that he is also a bit delusional. Only someone delusional could stand up and declare that the crisis is almost over. With 12% unemployment EU-wide, the crisis is anything but almost over. the only non-delusional thing a reasonable person would venture is that the situation could have bottomed out - maybe.

But an even stranger thing is that Barroso's own psychology doesn't seem to be totally normal. To suggest that the alternative to the EU and political union is a return to the First World War and trench warfare is just bizarre. It's not just a question of opinion. Any normal person would find that proposition completely out of place and a bit tasteless.

In fact, Barroso's suggestion is completely insulting to Euroepans, because it suggests that if they are not constrained by political union, they are fated to go to War.

That's a pretty amazing proposition. During the Cold War, the US and USSR could decide not to attack one another. China can decide not to go to war with Taiwan. The UK and Ireland can live side by side.

But Europeans have to be constrained by Brussels, otherwise its bayonets at dawn.

Seriously, who could be quite in their right mind and yet stand up in front of an audience and suggest such a thing?

Anonymous said...

the state of the eunion snafubab, it is in very deep do do.

Freedom Lover said...

If Barroso is such "a passionate European", how does he justify Portugal's lack of European spirit in WWI & WWII? While Britain was fighting to save Europe from tyranny, Portugal did not fully enter WWI until one & a half years had passed, & four in WWII! Such hypocrisy. So typical of the self-righteous modern elite whose only interest is their own aggrandizement‎, & only skills are deception & falsehoods!

Rollo said...

Barroso is in cloud cuckoo land. All in the same boat, indeed! He is in a small boat which would have already sunk were it not for being bailed out by others. And others are in a big boat, whose crew is sick of bailing out countries whose hulls are full of holes and getting more holey as they carry on in the Eurozone.

Anonymous said...

If Barroso was a CEO of any company he would have been sacked by now for gross incompetence and poor performance.

And if he had performance critieria linked to his pay he would be paying his employer, the EU, all of his pay back plus more besides.

Barroso - in your tenure why have you not sorted out the EU's 19 years+ of unaudited accounts?!

Denis Cooper said...

"I value subsidiarity highly. For me, subsidiarity is not a technical concept. It is a fundamental democratic principle."

Ah, but if anything that would be transnational democracy, which is no democracy at all.

This is what would happen if it was real democracy: when the UK Parliament debated the matter and agreed with the UK government that there should be no EU law imposing gender quotas on all member states then that would be the end of the matter, there would be no such EU law.

Instead what happens is that the UK Parliament is outvoted by other national parliaments and Reding goes ahead over its objections.

During one of the debates on the EU Constitution back in 2005 a Tory MP summed up the nonsense being talked about "subsidiarity" in these words:

"We heard again the tired argument about this new power for national Parliaments over subsidiarity. That is not new; we can object already. It is certainly not a power, as we can object all we like, and the Commission can go on ignoring us. All that we get in this constitution is a new right to be ignored."

AuntyEUnice said...

"The EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things -

This quite simply means that when the federalists get their way and we have a one nation of regions and cities the big boys will make all the major decisions and the regions and cities under the guise of bringing democracy down to the people will be responsible for policing the big boys decisions to ensure some region doesn't bend the rules, and deciding where the no parking lines go, so long as they adhere to the EU traffic strategy, (so in reality there will be no small things)in other words he wants fewer people making the decisions with a house of nodding dog representatives from the regions and cities all shouting yes to every thing put before them lest their region doesn't get its good boy points and be refused a grant or two. You can read these petty commies like a book.

Anonymous said...

Judging by that picture barroso is hearing the "voices" maybe that is why he has such mad ideas about the great job he is doing the people in his head are telling him what to do.