Is the “European Endgame” upon us? The tone has certainly intensified ever since the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski stirred some fervor with his Berlin speech, which pointed many fingers yet put many viable solutions on the table.
Sikorski’s comments on the EU’s lack of financial discipline were echoed later that week by Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. FrumForum reported on Delors interview with the British Telegraph.
In its December 2nd online edition the former European Commission president goes on to defend his birth child, the Euro by stressing that the current crisis is due to, “a fault in the execution, not of the architects.”
Delors analysis certainly holds a grain of truth as it looks at the general problem of “surveillance”, which haunted the EU since its Maastricht inception. A majority of European media outlets overlook the fact that the treaty of Maastricht included thorough and sound budgetary limits, which were blatantly ignored over the past decade.
Article two of the Maastricht treaty limits the deficit in general government finances to 3% of GDP in any year and the public debt-to-GDP ratio to 60%.
However just like with the debt ceiling issue within the US, the EU upped its limits, issued exemptions on the way or simply turned a blind eye to the fiscally irresponsible nations within its union.
With the French presidential elections coming up in April 2012 and with Angela Merkel invested in the revamp of her Christian Democratic Union party, many nations fear that apathy is encroaching on Germany. Sikorski echoed these concerns by calling upon, “Europe’s indispensable nation” to act according to its weight.
The German Marshall Fund and its fellows analyzed Sikorski’s speech. Below is a condensed summary of their findings.
Michael Leigh, senior adviser to the GMF in Brussels argues that the speech underlines Sikorski’s long-term federalist goals, since his speech debunks the viability of the Cameron bloc plan. David Cameron was seeking to rally the 10 EU countries not in the euro to British positions at the upcoming EU summit, but that won’t be possible without Polish support.
The EU remains a hot button issue in the UK especially as David Cameron finds himself under increasing domestic pressure to bring back home sufficient concessions to British demands such as the upholding of the financial competitiveness of the City of London by renouncing the EU financial transactions tax.
Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Senior Transatlantic Fellow and Senior Director for Strategy of the GMF suggests that Sikorski remarks sound both “alarmist” and exaggerated to a lot of German locals who are increasingly asking themselves, “Is it really that bad?.”
In spite of the potential “crisis of apocalyptic proportions”, which the breakup of the Eurozone would call upon a lot of Germans seem to be very Zen when it comes to the current EU crisis. Der Spiegel in a recent online issue suggested that the German have remained unflappable throughout the Euro crisis. A recent poll showed that 55% of Germans admit that they are not personally affected by the crisis.
Andrew A. Michita, director of the GMF Warsaw office even goes further to suggest that the tenor of Sikorski’s speech, could be understood as a direct Polish message to to either act or step aside.
Sirkorski amongst others stresses the European need for democratic accountability. Effective enforcement of sound fiscal policies can only work if the European electorate has a say in who it votes to Brussels, a very valid point made my FrumForum editor David Frum in his recent The Week column.
John Richardson, senior resident fellow with the GMF in Brussels touches upon Sirkorski’s reformist proposal and stresses correctly that it is here that Sikorski is in line with Angela Merkel who has also come out to propose the European electorate to be able to vote the president of the Council directly.
Ultimately a real sustainable approach needs to be drafted in Brussels this week, which enables amongst others the Commission, the Council and the Court of Justice powers to enforce the 3% ceiling on deficit and 60% ceiling on debt.
The EU does not have to re-invent the wheel but rather tackle its problem of surveillance and enforcement.