sexta-feira, 22 de julho de 2016

The future of Europe: new groups, divisions and fault lines

The future of Europe: new groups, divisions and fault lines

From integrationists calling for a European federation to populists arguing for mass exit, who’s who in the debate on the EU’s future?

Patrick Wintour
Saturday 23 July 2016 00.04 BST

In the debate on the future of Europe – too often boiled down to more or less Europe – new divisions, groups and fault lines are likely to emerge that will reveal differences not just between countries but within countries and between ideologies, too.

The German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has probably made the strongest case for more central control over national budgets – but does so on his terms, of rigid fiscal discipline to stabilise the euro.

Figures such as the former prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt call for a strong European federation to replace the “weak, incapacitated confederation of member states we have today”. Rules on unanimity “mean we move forward at the pace of the slowest member state and drag ourselves from standstill to standstill”, Verhofstadt has said. He wants a Europe with a united defence force, a common foreign policy, a small but powerful European government and a fully fledged European treasury with its own resources (instead of the current European budget of 1% of GDP funded by national contributions ). The Common European Army has support in Germany.


The stories you need to read, in one handy email
Read more
German chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out transformation through treaty change, saying instead that the EU needs to streamline, cut red tape and create jobs. “The objective has to be to convince citizens why we do certain things,” she has said. “The issue is not about more or less regulation, but to set objectives more precisely.”

Merkel is joined by the Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte, who said: “This is not a time to resort to extremist thinking or to get bogged down in ideological discussions about a superstate versus nation states.” Instead, he advocates the nation state where possible and Europe where necessary. “Our focus should be on practical cooperation that will lead to a stronger and better Europe,” he added.

The German SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel last week called for a slimming down of EU payments to agriculture and a more focused commission. A European commission in which 27 commissioners want to prove themselves makes no sense.

Leading figures are Italy, Spain, French Socialists, Greece and Portugal, who want less restrictive EU borrowing rules and greater flexibility to prop up their banks. “More growth and more investment, less austerity and less bureaucracy, this is the line we have proposed for two years, at the beginning in isolation,” Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said. The expansionists claim lack of economic growth is killing Europe. France’s economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, probably has the most developed expansionist plan for a new way of administering the euro area.

The more Eurosceptic Visegrád countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – are the most organised bloc. “We have to return to the thesis that the member states and not EU institutions form the basis of the EU. The democratic features of the EU can only be strengthened through member states,” Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said last Wednesday.

“The EU is not in Brussels, but in the 27 capitals,” Orbán said. He added that prior efforts to create democratic legitimacy for the EU institutions had failed, and called for the European parliament to include nationally elected politicians.


This group includes several populist Eurosceptic parties, including the far-right Front National (FN) in France and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), as well as figures associated with Italy’s 5 Star Movement. To varying degrees, these parties favour a mass EU exit.

Sem comentários: