Tired dogma of 'more Europe' from Barroso is dangerous
by Martin Callanan
Democracy at the national level is on the verge of being extinguished – if governments are not able to control their taxation and spending policies, people will have nothing to vote for - claims MEP
It is very easy for a politician to become characterised by their outbursts and their gaffes. The European Commission President risks becoming one of them. After I saw JosÚ Manuel Barroso's quite incredible assertion at the G20 that the euro crisis is the fault of north America, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and put it down to a bit of jetlag. Now, it seems that it was one of several public displays of annoyance that lift the lid on his frustration that Barroso II is frankly adrift with no direction and no leadership. His rather absurd claims against me in the chamber last Tuesday were the latest in a long line.
Of course, we do not agree with Barroso on the future direction of the European Union but we supported him for a second term - and our votes proved decisive - because we felt he was the best candidate available; particularly, considering the mischief being made by then socialist leader Martin Schulz. I had hoped that, now that the burden of re-election had been lifted, we might start to see some kind of a centre-right agenda from Barroso - focusing on reform of the EU rather than the same old tired dogma that only 'more Europe' is the answer.
Unfortunately, over recent months, we have seen the president go in quite the opposite direction. His closest ally in the European institutions is not German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the figurehead of his European People's Party family, but Martin Schulz - the man who so vociferously opposed him. Despite their personal history, it does seem that the old maxim 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' rings true. And Schulz and Barroso have teamed up to take on those wicked, self-interested, nationalistic relics of the 20th century that have brought us nothing but war and poverty: the 27 nation states.
It is no wonder then that he is frustrated. After all, the eurozone crisis has only served to exacerbate the differences between countries, between northern and southern Europe and between those countries that are in the euro - and those that made the decision to remain outside. Rather than bringing Europe closer together, the euro has acted like a wedge dividing the continent.
Last week, I set out the options as I see them for those in the single currency area. There are really only two choices: for the eurozone to integrate further economically with significant and permanent fiscal transfers from north to south; or for the single currency area to reduce in size so that some countries could devalue their way back to some kind of competitiveness. Neither option is easy in the short term. However, like everyone else, I am frustrated that EU leaders are unable to sit around the table and be honest with each other - and more importantly, themselves - about the options.
The European Union summit earlier this month took some steps forward by making further use of the, far from exhaustive, bail-out funds. However, they were nowhere near the decisive, significant or permanent actions that the markets require. It seems to me that instead of pushing towards fiscal union or preparing for a eurozone downsizing, the European Commission is preoccupied with pushing towards political union. You can understand why Germany wants to seize control of euro nations' budgetary policies. After all, it wants to ensure some countries do not drag them into this perilous situation again. But for the commission, the drive towards political union seems to be the only 'solution'.
This is where alarm bells should be ringing across the continent. Democracy at the national level is on the verge of being extinguished. After all, if national governments are not able to control their taxation and spending policies, what will people be voting for? National elections might as well be about who has the best policy for mowing the lawns as that will be about the limit of national parliamentary powers. This is a dangerous road to go down. People do not want it. They want to be able to influence their own destinies through the ballot box. We risk taking that chance away from them.
In a time when we all face our own economic mortality, the commission might be able to get away with it. But, in the future, we are cooking ourselves a recipe for considerable social unrest. I make no apologies for raising this alarm. In no way does that mean that I take any 'delight' at the situation in which we find ourselves. Quite the opposite; I have spent my life fighting for democratic self-determination, open markets and putting economic reality before political projects. The EU might succeed in ramming increasingly disparate countries together into a political super-state. But if they do, it will be the people of Europe erupting in frustration at their inability to control events, not Barroso.
Martin Callanan is chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament and leader of the British Conservative Party MEPs
An excellent article.
Pugg - Blighty
Excellent comment. Who voted for Barroso and Van Rompuy anyway? I do not wish my country and my taxes to be driven and controlled by bureaucrats, who not answerable directly to my personal vote. The UK is better off ou of the EU and with fully-restored national sovereignty.
Richard - London, UK