March 1, 2009
Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer spoke twice in England this week – on the 24th at the London School of Economics (Asia and Russia in the Age of Globalisation: the impact for Europe’s future) and on the 25th at Oxford University (Dreams, Myth, Realities: Transatlantic Relations in the Obama Era).
In both speeches, he lamented the lack of European leadership and fears that the economic crisis could destroy EU integration and threaten the euro and the single market. The previous post praised Obama’s leadership and earlier posts have decried the failure of EU national leaders.
Fischer rightly worries about this lack of leadership, not just destroying solidarity, but leading to the rise of populist, nationalist politicians and resultant protectionist pressures. Examples are statements by President Sarkozy that French aid to automobile companies will be conditional on the cars being made in France, and Prime Minister Brown’s “British jobs for British workers”.
Fischer sees the threat as existential. The tragedy is that for eight George Bush years major countries wanted European leadership, but the opportunity was lost and the leadership is now coming from Washington and increasingly China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose Asia for her first overseas trip.
Fischer sees the Union neither as a superstate, nor a federation nor a traditional loose alliance: it is unique, but it has worked and delivered lasting peace. I still believe that Jacques Delors’ “Federation of nation states” is the most appropriate term.
The former German Foreign Minister rightly sees Europe’s position in the world as precarious. He fears that the present economic and financial crisis could destroy “the extraordinary achievement” of EU enlargement to join together the two halves of Europe. The governments of strongly intricated countries, are seeking national solutions as if the problem were national only. This is notwithstanding that the EU is a single market which is therefore threatened.
This week closed with today’s informal emergency summit in Brussels, convened by the Czech Presidency “to show clear and unequivocal unity in the fight against the impacts of the financial crisis“.
According to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, “There was consensus on the need to avoid any unilateral protectionist measures.” Let’s hope that this apparent consensus is honoured in practice.
Yesterday, the French government gave to the Commission a written undertaking,
“not to implement aid measures to the automotive sector that would contravene the principles of the internal market. In particular, the loan agreements with manufacturers would not contain any condition regarding either the location of their activities or a preference for France-based suppliers.”
Earlier in the week,The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank pledged a €24.5bn rescue package to support the banking sectors in Central and Eastern Europe. The funds are particularly aimed at helping small firms survive.
Author : Stanley Crossick