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More EU summit reactions

by Jerome a Paris Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:01:06 AM EST

This cartoon from Le Monde's Gorce:

we should rebuild our union on our fundamental shared value: selfishness

And this article highly critical of Blair in the Financial Times:

Wolfgang Munchau: Blair has damaged Europe

Taking a step back from the heat of last week’s gruelling two-day European Union summit, what is remarkable is how many political priorities some countries are willing to sacrifice in exchange for such a small sum of money.

For €2.5bn Mr Blair will be sacrificing at least four political goals that seemed to be important to the UK.

  • The first is future enlargement of the EU. (...) The extent of the continental European backlash against enlargement is still underestimated in the UK.

  • The second consequence of Mr Blair’s decision is a fundamental shift in political alliances within the EU. The east Europeans feel let down by Britain. (...)Mr Blair’s diplomacy has driven them into the arms of Jacques Chirac, the French president.

  • Third, Mr Blair’s agenda for economic reform in Europe is also likely to get derailed. (...) Mr Blair’s veto will not even accelerate reform of the Common Agricultural Policy;

  • Fourth, the decision makes it almost impossible for the next generation of political leaders in continental Europe – Angela Merkel in Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy in France – to form a strategic alliance with Mr Blair.


Blair had a unique opportunity to fill a political vacuum left by weak leadership in the EU. But Mr Blair has chosen to give up this chance in exchange for a paltry €2.5bn a year and a few cheers from the UK’s tabloid press.

I have no doubt that Europe will eventually heal the multiple wounds it has inflicted on itself in the last few weeks. The one good thing about this episode is that it has brought old and new Europe closer together. But no matter how the EU chooses to fix its deepest crisis ever – through a relaunch of the constitution, a redefinition of its policy priorities or through a move towards core Europe – it is difficult to see how the UK can play a central part in any solution now.

Wolfgang Munchau has been an astute observer and commenter of the EU scene, and he has not pulled his punches against the sclerotic French and German "leaders", so this carries some weight (as does, in a more arcane way, the fact that this is being promoted by the FT both on its paper edtition and on its website).

Yep, we have pathetic leaders all around.

But what would Blair have got in return for his freeze?

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying
by RogueTrooper on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:27:26 AM EST
the moral and political leadership of Europe?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 04:29:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but would he get that? Chirac started down this particularly well worn path of Brit-bashing when it looked like he was going to loose the referendum. Having lost the referendum he went after Britain's rebate full tilt.  If the Brits were to agree to a freezing of the rebate then it would look like Chirac had achieved a victory, abeit a small one, with conceeding nothing himself. It would not look like the the type of victory that gives one moral or political leadership in Europe.

If he had gone for the freeze, under those conditions, he would be being pilloried by British europhobic press. Both of the opposition parties would make mincemeat of him in the House of Commons.

The compromise is the sort of deal that would put a British Prime Minister out of a job. In this case it would mean his replacement with the more Europsceptic Gordon Brown.

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 06:05:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if Blair showed some flexibility, he would get a lot of allies from people that cannot stand France's pushy ways on this topic (and others, but this one especially). with a little something for the central europeans, some guarantees to Spain that they don't lose all help, and a nod the Germany to help them pay slightly less, suddenly you'd have a compromise where France is isolated behind an undefensible position.

with Chirac weakened at home and the common wisdom that France et al. are economic basket cases (which I dispute to some extent, but that's another topic - the perception is there anyway, both inside and outside France), the pressure on Chirac would be massive, and Blair would have the bases of a new coalition - to do something, if he only cared to do something.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I will have to jump to France's defence here, because there are plenty of very good things in your country. Obviously it's beautiful, and the people are actually perfectly friendly if you don't wear a baseball hat, Bermuda shorts, and white track shoes.

First, the ideal of self-sufficiency in food is admirable, because the entire free trade argument is based on the assumption that those external supplies will not be disrupted. But an overseas food supply might be disrupted, which would be a disaster, so there is nothing wrong with trying to keep your own agricultural system. (Although it must be, as you say elsewhere, kept from becoming a way to simply channel money into your friend's pocket.) America and Japan are notable followers of the same approach, although we don't have this very obvious CAP thing that makes everybody else uncomfortable.

Second, the use of nuclear power is an admirable way to avoid the many difficulties associated with burning coal--the American approach. There is huge risk to this approach, but by standardizing the designs and professionalizing the operators one can--as France has demonstrated--run a safe nuclear energy program.

Any by making conscious, rational decisions regarding energy use by adjusting tax rates and road use rates, one can for example encourage the use of small diesel cars. Americans have NO IDEA about diesels--this is probably one of the biggest day-to-day disconnects between the two continents.

Also, there is nothing wrong with formalizing the system of having an educated elite that mostly runs things. We have a similar system in the US, although it's not quite as obvious. Partly that's because we are so much bigger, so it's hard to know what are the elite schools from different areas. For example, in Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines is the elite public university--but who knows that in California?

And it is probably not bad to try to keep your language alive, although this is a lost cause. Everyone will speak either Spanglish or Chinese in a few decades.

Certainly France's leadership in railroad technology, aircraft, nuclear power, food, fashion, etc. are beyond debate. What remains is a set of problems related to expectations of world influence, some rather nasty class issues related to immigration, and a pretty tough situation right now with regards to the EU and the Euro. (The Euro is a dead duck: You'll all be using dollars soon. But I digress...) Also, you seriously need to dump Formula One and get NASCAR over there--everybody would be so much happier.

Overall, I suspect that even the most enthusiastic France-bashers over here in 'merican would not object to a holiday in the French Alps, a trip to the Cannes film week, or a tour of some vineyards. Just keep them away from Chirac and Villepin--but that probably applies to plenty of Frenchmen, too...  :-)

by asdf on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we don't have this very obvious CAP thing that makes everybody else uncomfortable.

US farmers don't receive subsidies? Since when?

In fact, both North America and Europe run rival agricultural systems that are heavily subsidized so as to permit massive low-price exports to Third World countries.

Personally, I'm agin it, but there's no sense in looking at it in a one-sided way. If Europe should reduce CAP subsidies, the US should reduce its own farm subsidies.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:51:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right, my phrasing was poor. The problem with CAP is that it is so obvious, and called out as a specific identifiable program. The US has all sorts of comparable subsidies, but they're not all grouped together under a single title that can be pointed at.

I would argue that if CAP is really about keeping France pastoral, then there could be a comparable program to keep, say, the Lake District of England pastoral. Maybe it could be the "keep Europe pretty and rural for the rich American and Japanese tourists."

by asdf on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 04:09:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the States, I think it's the Farm Subsidies Act. Dubya himself put one through in 2002, pigeon-holing $190bn over ten years.

I wish the CAP was just about keeping rural France bucolic... In fact it's about agribusiness and exports that hurt Third World farming.

There's a very good discussion on this in Jérôme A Paris's post President Chirac, I beg you

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 05:05:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair to me is no moral leader, he is a warmonger and responsible for Iraq too. I think in a way it is a disgrace that someone who starts a war on lying can become president of the EU. I think if he had had some moral integrity and would not have joint Bush in his lying, the war maybe could have been avoided. But his lying delivered the fig leave for Bush. I have lost all respect for Blair.
by Fran on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 09:15:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
something about Chirac and Schroeder, that they cannot compare favorably to him, then.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:35:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry that should read:

"What would Blair got in return for accepting the budget freeze?".

Money is a sign of Poverty - Culture Saying

by RogueTrooper on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:28:25 AM EST
Even Blair's cheerleaders are upset with him. How very charming.

When I get a chance I'm going to have to work out how much of the free-market crowd's whining about Old Europe is justified. Currently the commentary in the FT is annoying me but I can't disentangle the bias from the facts.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:28:36 AM EST
Good idea -- a diary?

In fact it is very hard to separate bias from facts in the entire English-language press. Even papers like the Guardian have a slant on "Old Europe" that leaves me unconvinced after each article.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:59:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A diary I just don't have time to do the research for at the moment.  I don't think it's just the English language press.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 11:36:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What others are you thinking of? The only non-English press I read is French, obviously "old" European.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 01:38:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Europe should have a continent-wide referendum on what to do next. The leadership sure doesn't seem to have a clue.

If things keep on going as they are, protectionism and nationalism will rise, leading to you-know-what.

by asdf on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 08:36:18 AM EST
The EU summit even warranted an editorial in today's New York Times, "Missing the Big Picture in Brussels".  After saluting EU leaders for putting aside debates over the constitution, the editorial then notes that "European Union leaders then promptly descended into a tawdry dispute over the next budget."

But instead of focusing on the big picture, France's Jacques Chirac and Britain's Tony Blair chose to revive a perennial dispute over budget rebates to Britain. While the issue is real, there are far bigger issues that need to be discussed. Instead of squabbling about the budget, the leaders should have been talking about, for one thing, the huge amount the E.U. spends on agricultural subsidies. This is a serious issue, especially when it is African farmers who end up paying because they are priced out of competition in European markets. E.U. leaders also need to decide whether the union should pursue an economically liberal or a "social" economic model.

Looking at Tony Blair, the editorial concludes by saying, "Let us hope that during his six months at the helm, he succeeds in setting Europe's eyes beyond divisive squabbles, and starts a critically needed debate on where the European Union is headed."

It's hard to say, however, whether any of these issues will have much penetration in the U.S. beyond New York City and Washington, D.C.

by The Maven on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 09:06:37 AM EST

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