'More Europe' is the only solution to the crisis - claim leaders
by Dean Carroll
Major political leaders on the centre-right have reaffirmed their commitment to further European Union integration, using the EU's Nobel Peace Prize as justification for fast-paced widening and deepening of the bloc's powers – at the European People's Party Congress in Bucharest, Romania. Under a congress slogan of "More Europe", leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told delegates that they would not falter when it came to supporting fellow member states.
Samaras admitted that Greece was "the weakest link" in the European project but insisted that the country would make a "spectacular comeback" if EU partners showed solidarity. "With your help, the weakest link can become a solid cornerstone of the European foundation," he said. "If Greece can make it, then all of Europe can come out of this crisis stronger. I can promise you that Greece will be a success story."
Backing Samaras, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told delegates at the Palace of the Parliament – the vanity project built by Communist dictator Nicolae CeCeausescu before his execution in 1989 - that there was no other option for tackling the crisis than "concerted action in the EU". He added: "We need 'more Europe' if we want to recover from the crisis. We have developed the most stable societies in the world. I am sure that we will live up to the challenge. We are taking bold reforms to modernise our economy as quickly as we can." And Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned hisácounterparts that the "hypocrisy" shown by some politicians in calling for "more Europe" one day and then demanding EU budget reductions the next had to end. "Our answer is 'more Europe' but never more hypocrisy," said Tusk.
Keeping with the theme of a unity – Merkel, who arrived to a frenzied media scrum which saw people violently pushed around in the corridors of the venue, applauded Tusk for his comments relating to hypocrisy among political leaders. But she insisted that winning back the trust of citizens – so badly damaged by the economic crisis – and enabling business enterprise would provideáthe real path out of recession rather than untrammelled EU spending. "Growth cannot be enshrined in legislation, it is linked to the freedom of people with ideas," said Merkel. Shying away from the idea of economies entirely propped up by supranationaláfinancial support, she added: "Only business leaders can create jobs so we have to ask ourselves – how can we cut red tape? There are political families out there who talk only about sharing before they even achieve anything."
Finally, European Commission President JosÚ Manuel Barroso spoke of the Nobel award being a signal that "the world wants a strong Europe". In one of his most assertive speeches to date where his voice was repeatedly raised in order to drive home the points, Barroso said: "We have to ensure that the Nobel Prize was not awarded to an idea of the past but for a project of the future." Answering Eurosceptic critics, who had suggested that the eurozone crisis was a result of the single currency and overzealous integration, the commission president angrily retorted: "The problem was not created by Europe but unsustainable debt in the public sector and irresponsible behaviour in the private sector. The EU is not the problem; it is part of the solution. Are we on track to create an ever-closer union? Yes, we are making progress but it is not enough.
"The lack of economic and social convergence is nourishing populist debates that want to put an end to the EU. We must not allow divisions, solutions must be found by the 27 EU countries wherever possible. We need more integration but the process has to be inclusive. We need to go further if we want Europe to count in a globalised world." In a telling symbolic gesture, all leaders in attendance at the congress stood as the first day concluded with a rendition of the EU anthem Ode to Joy.