• Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook
  • Facebook

Search This Blog

Visit our new website.

Friday, October 18, 2013

UK-German push for EU reform gathers pace as German SMEs call for return of powers from Brussels

Today's FAZ reports on a letter to German MPs from the German Association of Family Businesses (Die Familienunternehmer) which calls for “a fundamental re-calibration of the EU Treaties”. Crucially, this would entail a correction of the distribution of competencies, which in plain English (and German) would mean the possibility of some powers flowing back to member states from Brussels. The letter argues:
“A key element for the sustainable improvement of the situation [in the EU] is the principle of liability. The future of Europe cannot be jeopardised through the progressive pooling of debts with foreseeable cuts to the German budget or the disempowerment of national parliaments in favour of centralisation in Brussels.”
Given the economic and cultural importance of family run businesses/SMEs - the organisation's website notes that there are 180,000 such businesses in Germany employing around 8 million people - this is an important development and the first time a German business group has made such a demand. While it is important not to get carried away - some of the Association's previous calls, such as pushing for MPs to vote down the ESM, fell on deaf ears - it comes at a time when the concept of adjusting the balance of powers between the EU and member states is slowly gaining traction in Germany. Not that long ago the mere suggestion would have been shot down instantly, now even Chancellor Merkel has hinted that it could be a possibility.

As our recent joint opinion poll with Open Europe Berlin demonstrated, there is substantial support among the German public for the return of certain powers.

Source: YouGov Deutschland for Open Europe and Open Europe Berlin

Of course for Germany to support such transfers they must apply to the EU as a whole, which is why British proposals to give national parliaments a greater role in the EU policy-making process could gain support in Berlin, as could proposals to streamline EU legislation. The Sunday Telegraph recently reported that the UK’s CBI is working closely with its German counterpart, the BDI, in order to push through business friendly reforms in the EU which could include the repeal of some EU social and employment laws as well further liberalisation in areas including telecommunications and services.

The momentum for EU reform is definitely growing, and in an encouraging sign of UK-German co-operation (which we advocated before it became fashionable), Conservative MP Alok Sharma and German CDU MP Ralph Brinkhaus argue in a joint piece on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog that “There’s a historic opportunity for Britain and Germany to lead the work of improving the structures of the European Union, together with other like-minded countries. There are areas of common ground for discussion on budget discipline, free trade and efficiency in the public sector to name but a few."

We couldn't agree more.


Denis Cooper said...

Notwithstanding the views of any other groups in Germany, the basic fact remains that all the main political parties in Germany are eurofederalist parties; and so if the Tory party has been telling the British people the truth when it claims to be adamantly opposed to eurofederalism then there is limited scope for agreement on any real reforms which would take the EU in the direction that the Tory party says it wants.

If you recall this is precisely why the Tory MEPs were told to leave the overtly eurofederalist EPP grouping, while in contrast the eurofederalist CDU is content to remain a member of the EPP.

Rik said...

The problem in Germany is not that there is not like anywhere else enough grassroot support for change.
That is clearly there.

The issue is that this grassroot support is not reflected as pressure on the political system. At least not enough.

A thing that is imho very likely to change. With:
AfD; or
the FDP having the choice to become a EUfreetrade party or throw in the towel; or
a German LePen (Ms that is) or a Wilders rising.
Anyway it is totally unlikely that that will not change. You have a top of the agenda issue, with a lot of media coverage and playing over a (very) long term , without being represented in parliament.
Simply not sustainable.
However medium or longer term and datewise possibly not agreeing with Cameron's agenda.

This might however take some time to materialise.
Of course people like Merkel will see it coming (but this is her last term) but it will be a matter of priority setting.

In that respect my guess is that the pressure on Merkel has to be increased further and basically hard and direct.
Either locally by having AfD (or a rebranded FDP or both) on the map.
By the present Euro crisis catching fire again.
Or by the fall out of one of the main EU members and Germany's partners leaving.

On the last issue this would be a another unoverseeable with huge negative fall out potential like the Euro thing. Merkel has it in her genes to for safe in such situations. Furthermore as Jon has indicated in several comments logically that would not be giving much away for the EUrest while gaining alot. It is anyway easier than with the Euro.
At the end of the day changing the treaty is substantially easier than a 100 Bn annual transfer down South and solving nothing. The latter you simply cannot sell nationally as things look now.

Freedom Lover said...

We've heard this talk since the 1990s, when John Major spoke (ineffectually as it turned out) about subsidiarity. Tony Blair repeated the same sentiments at times, especially over de-regulation, during his premiership. At the net result? Instead constant EU centralization & federalization!

Will there be any change from that now? I'll only believe it when I see it!

Anonymous said...

There are EU treaty provisions now that are completely ignored. The EU is NOT a representative institution controlled by the people. As such it will continue to usurp power until there is a complete break, such as the success of UKIP or that of Marine Le Pen.