Watching the news tonight, this occurred…
One EU leader was nakedly pursuing their national interest at the press conference today. And that leader is increasingly reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher demanding her money back.
But that leader is not David Cameron.
Cameron’s speech, however unpalatable to his host, was actually very pragmatic and sensible.
Consider an analogy put to me today.
Say I have some friends who like skydiving. They invite me to join in, but I decline. And then one of them breaks her leg having jumped out that aeroplane. Should I then have to pick up her healthcare bills, and agree to change the terms of everyone’s holiday insurance policies to do so?
In any case, Treaty amendment can surely not be the most popular proposal that could be made just at the moment.
The Lisbon Treaty may not have been perfect. Like all Treaties, now it has been ratified it needs a bit of bedding down, a bit of implementing to see how that carefully compromised document actually works in practice.
After the Convention on the Future of Europe was first convened in February 2002, it took 7 long painful years to finally get a Treaty that could be ratified by all.
Surely the last thing anyone is likely to want is to have to reopen that process so soon?
And you don’t have to be that interested in politics to realise that the leader of a new type of British government, a coalition only weeks in place, with an overall Eurosceptic party behind him is highly unlikely to want to risk the whole thing falling apart over Europe.
Talking about a veto plays to Cameron’s domestic audience, true, but what he said in essence may well turn out to be what others are thinking too if they’ve been through the Treaty-making process.
As for Merckel taking a role like Thatcher, well, she does seem to be asserting an increasingly nationalistic agenda, acting unilaterally on issues that have repercussions for not just the Eurozone but the whole EU – for example the banning of shortselling yesterday.
(And the consquences of that announcement impacted more widely than that, hitting the US stock markets).
In times past, to make a big statement like “to save the Euro we need Treaty change”, you used to get the French and German leaders together, speaking as if they were truly the heart of the EU – the Franco-German motor powering the project.
Not this time.
Merckel was speaking as Germany, as the piggybank of Europe.
And going it alone is very Thatcher indeed.
Is there any likelihood that Germany might actually get that chance for Treaty change?
Well according to the press, there’s already a miniature IGC planned for June (without a Convention) to sort out the European Parliament which has a bit of a mess over voting.
If a Treaty amendment were to be opened for “economic government” arrangements, that would presumably be the window?
But it’s not that simple. Change like that would mean prices would be extracted, whether CAP reform, power repatriation, a single seat for the European Parliament at Brussels… and that’s several years of negotiation, let alone vetoes and referendums.
It may of course be the case that enough can be done without Treaty change.
But proposals for “economic government” are likely to be contentious even if Treaty change was not a factor. Even the spring European Council steered clear of that language, instead using “economic governance” to bee clear this is not supranational government that is under discussion.
PS kudos to Christine LaGuarde for co-opting the phrase “we’re all in this together” in making her point to the BBC this evening. After the seemingly far more cordiale visit to Paris yesterday, she’s talking to the British government in its own language. Very neat.