London Times Editorial Jun 24, 2007 5:22:01 GMT -7
Post by george on Jun 24, 2007 5:22:01 GMT -7
from the Times :
The Brits and the French know how to play the game, a German diplomat
embroiled in the European Union treaty negotiations told me last
week. "We know we can rely on them. But the Poles, they are something
else. I am not sure they understand the game at all."
Well, bravo for the Poles. They come fresh to the labyrinthine
process of EU negotiations with a firmer grasp of their national
interest than the current occupant of 10 Downing Street. Their
reluctance to let Germany grant itself significantly greater voting
power makes it Warsaw 1, Berlin 0, as today's EU summit kicks off.
Intransigent? Yes. Unacceptable? No.
Look at France's beloved Common Agricultural Policy. While EU leaders
congratulate themselves on creating a foreign aid programme, recently
branded one of the most wasteful and inefficient in the world, 40 per
cent of the EU's entire budget is still spent subsidising European
farmers to keep African food out of the market. What hypocrisy.
On Tuesday, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European
Commission, told Poland that it risked losing money and support if it
blocked a deal to reform the EU's institutions. What, for exercising
its democratic right to object? That is blackmail. Unlike Lech
Kaczynski, the President of Poland, Mr Barroso is not elected. The
money he threatens to remove belongs primarily to British, Dutch,
French, Italian and German taxpayers. What do those who foot the EU's
bills think about a new voting system that will not only change the
relative voting power of different countries, but also dramatically
reduce the power of individual nations to stop legislation, by
raising the threshold for a blocking coalition? Do they agree with
Brussels that we must make it easier for the EU to pass more laws?
The Dutch don't. Their perfectly reasonable "red card" proposal,
which would allow a majority of national parliaments to block
legislation that they did not like, has been dismissed out of
hand. "The Dutch climbed a few trees and we now have to get them back
down again," an EU ambassador in Brussels said this week.
That is how Europe's political elite views its citizens: they don't
know what's good for them. Best to keep them out of it. As Angela
Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said, better to use "different
terminology without changing the legal substance" of the old
constitution, then present it to the public as an "amending treaty"
that no longer requires a referendum.
What fools they take us for. Do they really think that they can
sustain the fiction that this "treaty" is essential for the EU to
function, and yet so unimportant as to not be worth us bothering our
little heads about? Do they expect us to believe that a document
cleansed of the word "constitution", but that still incorporates a
full-time EU president and foreign minister, gives the power to make
international treaties, and overrides national parliaments on
criminal law, employment law, social policy and immigration (to name
but a few), is so different from the one that Dutch and French voters
rejected two years ago?
Britain has pushed through the enlargement of the Union, it must
therefore accept a change in voting weights. But it need not accept
the higher thresholds for blocking legislation that could prevent us
keeping out measures such as the Working Time Directive.
Claims of gridlock are much exaggerated. Since the constitution was
voted down two years ago, the EU has created the world's first
emissions trading scheme and the European Defence Agency. Sciences
Po, the Paris institute, says that the EU has been adopting new rules
and regulations 25 per cent faster since enlargement. But clearly not
fast enough for those who fear that the federalist project may falter
if anyone has time to think.
In Britain, no one under 50 has had a chance to vote in a referendum
on the direction of the EU. Yet those whom we elect as temporary
holders of political office blithely continue to hand power
permanently to unelected institutions. Whether this treaty ends up
being a giant leap towards greater integration or just another step
on the way is a less important distinction than it may appear. Each
step hands power to the European Court of Justice, which seizes every
opportunity to expand its domain, including slowly eroding national
vetoes on tax. Our leaders give away more power then they realise.
Unlike most MPs, I read every page of the original constitution. The
loopholes are legion. Take the charter of fundamental rights, which
Tony Blair has said Britain will never sign up to. It enshrines
employment and social rights that would turn our clock back 30 years
and grant workers co-decision powers in the businesses that employ
them. Germany wants to leave the charter out of the new treaty but to
include a reference that will make it legally binding nevertheless.
Mr Blair wants a paragraph to exempt Britain. But lawyers tell me
that it would be almost impossible to make the wording watertight.
Oh, and the charter could come in by the back door, through powers to
coordinate member states' "economic and employment policies".
The EU should have grown out of trying to define national issues as
European. It should be focusing on the few big challenges, such as
climate change and trade, that are truly international. As Ed Balls,
Gordon Brown's confidant, put it in a recent pamphlet, we must stop
doing " `more EU' for the sake of it". Mr Brown himself must not
condone the arrogance of those who act as though the Dutch and French
had never voted. He must promise a referendum. It would not be a
referendum on his premiership, as he may fear, but a chance to
restrain an EU elite that has proved its total disregard for