Thursday, June 7, 2012
Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand had a vision for Europe, 2012 their vision of a united Europe stands on the brink, major reform needed
I am a big fan of the European Union, always have been, having been to Europe in my youth, I loved the place.
Germany is fantastic.
Belgium is another great place which I thoroughly enjoyed; the people I met were brilliant, I even got an invite to a BBQ held by members of the Belgium Air force and still have the baseball cap as a memento.
So, I am pro Europe.
The European Union project has run into problems, many people will no doubt have an opinion where it went wrong, but for me we have to go back to the ideas of Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand.
Their vision after surviving WW2 was for a Europe that would never go to war with its neighbours.
To that end they believed that closer links were inevitable and so began the slow movement towards integration and the Euro.
The real strength of Europe is unity but it also sovereignty of individual states.
Can you have both?
Yes, but the current set up shows the Eurozone isn’t up to the challenges of monetary union without political and fiscal union.
Because of the imbalance, Greece, Spain and many others are suffering tremendously.
On a paper a single currency is a good idea, but the details show ingrained problems, details matter and the ability to recognise them ahead of time.
The Euro cannot be fixed without political union, and that won’t happen, it can’t, sovereign governments are too important to be swept aside by unelected technocrats.
Something which I think may help is splitting the Eurozone in two distinct currency regions.
Euro North and Euro South, the names aren’t important but they do take into account the financial situations of less industrialised countries.
This doesn’t mean the break up of the European project but recognition of practicalities on the ground.
As well as splitting the Eurozone, a new Marshall plan for Europe is needed and it has to be Europe wide.
In the UK, many people are euro septic in nature; many of these people are in the Tory party and of course UKIP.
UKIP want Britain out of Europe, but the reality is, we are in and we are staying in, because the European project can be saved, it just needs new leadership and direction.
Former Labour Foreign Secretary Lord Owen says UK has the perfect opportunity to break from the 'shackles' imposed by Brussels as members like Germany are closing ranks to form a 'single country called Europe'.
Lord Owen wants the electorate to be asked two simple questions, would the UK be better off leaving the EU, or staying and joining the euro.
Or maintaining the status quo which must be a third option!
Owen believes that the eurozone faces its biggest ever crisis, I agree but it hasn’t reached a tipping point that shows the project isn’t viable.
In The Times, he wrote:
“A referendum on the future of Europe is inevitable at some point between 2013 and 2016 at the latest.”
I would disagree; recognition of major overhaul is needed which Britain must be at the heart of.
Owen thinks that the UK would be better off cutting links with Brussels and join a wider single market to include non-EU members like Turkey and Iceland, which he calls the 'European Community'.
That is nonsense.
I do however agree with him that some Eurozone members are squeezing together to form a group that is 'to all intents and purposes, though not in name, a single government.'
They won’t succeed because the concept is wrong, it may have been workable in the early days of the EU, but not with 27 members states.
Too big to succeed!
Down the road at Westminster, Tory Douglas Carswell will attempt to use a private member’s bill to repeal the legislation which led to the UK joining the European Union.
“Getting Britain out of the EU is legally straightforward. Economically, it is increasingly desirable. Politically, it is no longer easy to dismiss as pie-in-the-sky.”
That Bill will not pass, I don’t believe there will be enough support to gain a majority at Westminster, and if it did, it would also leave the SNP ‘high and dry’ because if Britain leaves, Scotland leaves.
And on that scenario, if Scotland leaves Britain, it also leaves the EU, because there is no contract between the Scottish Government and the EU.
Anyway, Lord Owen is right to highlight the crisis, but his solution is a nonstarter.
It’s a total overhaul of principles that is needed to save the Eurozone, I am sure that Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand were sincere in their intentions for lasting peace in Europe, but they didn’t think everything through to its logical conclusion.
The solution to a problem isn’t the creation of another problem.
And that is why a major overhaul is needed, it cannot just be the Euro problem, it has to go deeper than that, right to the heart of the European Union itself and what it stands for.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University