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Monday, June 30, 2014

Is Cameron the greatest pro-European of all EU heads of state and government?

As we've noted, the Juncker-hangover is already taking hold in parts of the German commentariat. In a hard-hitting piece, Lisa Nienhaus, the Economics Editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung argues that the EU "needs more Cameron, not less".
"Hang on a minute, how exactly [was Cameron's opposition to Juncker] a mistake? He only said publicly what many think. Juncker may well be a jovial, cheerful bloke, but he is also an example of political mediocrity, who represents more of the same, a lack of ideas. Whoever wants to change Europe, and above all the opaque, hyper-bureaucratic European Commission, needs someone else in that post."

"Cameron did exactly the right thing. He did not only win the hearts of Brits but also of citizens in many other countries who worry about what will ultimately remain of the European Union, a bureaucratic entity that offers occupational therapy and valediction opportunities for veteran politicians. In this sense, Cameron is the greatest pro-European of all the heads of state and government."
She continues that Juncker did not enjoy a democratic mandate from the German people, and that Angela Merkel made a mistake by backing him:
"The Germans, for example, did not vote for the European People’s Party (of whom Juncker was the leading candidate) but the CDU. Juncker did not feature on the posters, it was Merkel. It is not the case that voters would have driven crazy if Merkel had ultimately arranged that someone else would have become the Commission President. In doing so, she would have shown that she takes this post seriously. Now she has only shown that she doesn't really care who takes this job."
As we have been arguing as well, Nienhaus adds that the European Parliament (EP) does not have more democratic legitimacy than the European Council, and the appointment of Juncker is effectively a power grab by the Parliament. She calls on Germans who share this view to support the UK:
"The heads of state and government are ultimately at least as democratically legitimised as the European Parliament. After all, they won national elections in their respective countries." 
"We can only hope that Angela Merkel does not take offence at [Cameron's] 'No’. We need the Brits in Europe, also for other reasons. The belief of the Brits that freedom is good for the economy, and that not everything has to be regulated by the state, is exactly that what the EU is currently missing."
Nienhaus concludes that the UK is vital for the future of the EU, and that the EU debate is missing some of the UK's beliefs:
"The suspicion among the Brits that the powers that have won want to initiate a redistribution of powers and favour a super-powerful state is widespread. That does not appeal to the liberal Brits. Those in Germany who share this view – and there are many – has to support the UK playing a greater role in the EU. We need more Cameron, not less."
Neinhaus's line is not universally accepted in Germany of course. Others have been sticking the boot into Cameron. Nonetheless, Berlin will be aware that last week’s EU summit is a foretaste of what life in the EU could be if the UK were to leave. Without Britain in the EU, Germany would face a bigger risk of being cornered by a block of Southern eurozone countries lead by Italy and France: something that is absolutely not in its long-term interests.


Denis Cooper said...

"the appointment of Juncker is effectively a power grab by the Parliament"

No it isn't; it's MEPs making more effective use of the power freely granted to them through the Maastricht Treaty.

Look, suppose you voluntarily gave me the power to withdraw money from your bank account, but I didn't do so for some time; when I finally got round to making use of that power that you'd freely given me would you then say that I'd "grabbed" it?

If the EU leaders don't like the MEPs having that power then they should take it back; the MEPs could try to impede and delay the necessary treaty change, but they could not prevent it if all the EU leaders demanded it.

Hoover said...

Denis, I appreciate your point about article 158 Maastricht, but I believe it's open to interpretation.

To my mind, Parliament has imposed its wishes on EUCO, but I don't read that in either Maastricht or Lisbon.

Denis Cooper said...

Hoover - what is not open to interpretation is that Major agreed that in the future the EU Parliament would have the power of veto over the composition of the EU Commission. That was to start with the Commission whose term began in January 1995, while the Commission whose term began in January 1993 would be still appointed by the member state governments without the EU Parliament even being consulted, let alone having a veto, just as all previous Commissions had been appointed in that way right back to 1957. Of course the Parliament has imposed its wishes on the European Council, but it was only able to do that because it had the power of veto and the will to use it, and that power of veto was originally granted through the Maastricht Treaty with the agreement of Major and is nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty.