March 18, 2009
An increasing number of voices are speaking out in the UK in favour of the EU, including those of hitherto eurosceptics (as reported in previous posts).
The latest is Foreign Minister David Miliband in a speech in London on 9 March. He sees the economic crisis as challenging the EU’s core values and institutions, the sense of solidarity within Europe being under strain. “The achievements of the last thirty years – from the single market and enlargement to the euro – are being tested as never before”.
Although the crisis calls for a global response, the minister believes that European action also needs to be part of the response. The single market, enlargement and the creation of the euro have, according to him, made Europe more effective not less – and the way to preserve these gains and to defend them is to build on them. He believes that to defend and advance the European project, progress needs to be made in three areas:
The European added value here is at least three fold:
· bringing the weight of coordinated action to macroeconomic need; which has been done through successive European decisions, notably in respect of the necessary fiscal stimulus across Europe
· upholding and aligning national financial regulation and infrastructure, and
· using European budgets to promote the skills and science of the future.
Milliband reminds us that finance minister Alastair Darling has proposed:
· a new, independent European early warning body bringing together macro economic and financial market issues
· a single independent body to become the source of technical financial rules, ironing out national divergences
· EU single market rules to deliver a legislative framework for closer integration and consolidation of EU financial infrastructure, and a fundamental review of the safeguards for cross-border banking models in the single market.
Energy and Climate Change and security
Last December, the EU adopted a bold energy and climate package to cut greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, or 30% if other developed countries adopt similar reductions. This year we need a similar level of ambition at a global scale at the summit in Copenhagen.
The transition to a low-carbon economy is not just an environmental issue but is the core to European security and prosperity.
· As we face rising unemployment, investment in new energy infrastructure could be a major source of new jobs.
· The EU Emissions Trading Scheme and EU regulation must be used to push forward technologies such as carbon capture and storage and electric cars.
· Open and transparent energy markets – critical to ensure more solidarity between Member States and to effective competition that will benefit consumers – must be rapidly taken forward.
· The EU budget will need to be aligned with today’s problems of energy and climate security, rather than the post-war problem of food security.
The last year has shown the interdependence between EU Member States and those on our periphery. Understandably, problems spill over, they are not bounded by geography, but solidarity and support between nations is a vital part of the European compact. We have seen how the prospect of EU membership can transform countries, and embed both peace and stability – the Western Balkans being the best example.
Test for Eurosceptics and Europhiles
“To eurosceptics, to those who feared ‘too much Europe’, who argued that the EU should be a single-market or trading block and no more, I have a simple message. Instead of beating up the straw man of a federal-state, I would urge eurosceptics to defend Europe against the real threats we face – for example the fragmentation of the single market, which would have a devastating affect on the UK economy. But today, the best defence against encroaching protectionism is an effective European Commission. You cannot be in favour of the single market, but against the very institutions that preserve the rules of the game. This is the fundamental contradiction at the heart of the eurosceptic position.”
“Over the next year, we need to defend the political institutions in Europe, if we want to maintain our economic freedoms.”
David Miliband concludes that, “The economic crisis is a reminder that the historic successes of the EU – the single market, the euro, enlargement – cannot be taken for granted.”
“The EU – for all its faults – is the best way of bridging the gap between a globally interdependent economy, and strong national political identities. That is the case we must make to our citizens in the next year.”
This speech of the British foreign secretary is to be welcomed. There are those who are viscerally opposed to the EU and reject anything positive. But the message for other eurosceptics is clear: you cannot maintain a single market without a strong European Union.Author : Stanley Crossick