Stanley's blog

Published: October 17 2008 Financial Times

Sir, John Thornhill’s article “Brussels looks like bewildered bystander amid turmoil” (October 15) deeply disappoints me in its misinterpretation of the EuroGroup decision on Sunday in Paris. It was a triumph for Europe. Of course it was driven by national governments – the Commission can play no more than a co-ordinating role, which it did effectively – note that only Nicolas Sarkozy and José Manuel Barroso are going to Camp David this weekend. The Commission’s role is limited by the treaties and member states (such as the UK). It has been in contact with the EuroGroup and the European Central Bank throughout: hardly a “bewildered bystander”. And I have not come across on this issue the “theological debates about divisions of institutional powers”, which I agree does not matter to ordinary Europeans.

Mr Thornhill rightly questions what would have happened if the presidency were in the hands of a smaller state. He might also question what would have happened if Jacques Chirac occupied the Elysée palace, not Mr Sarkozy; and that the Lisbon treaty introduces a “permanent” European Council presidency.

We are all agreed that the EU’s regulatory structure needs strengthening. The unexpected hero of the hour, Gordon Brown, now has the confidence, ability and political will to lead the EU to the next stage of reform on this issue, and for the first time, the UK is at the heart of Europe. Long may this last. Both need each other. But, I repeat, this has been a triumph for Europe as well as for the British prime minister.

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