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Posts tagged with: Nicolas Sarkozy

A simplified conversation between David Cameron, and Merkel and Sarkozy

Take a deep breath. Step aside from your preconceptions about the UK and the EU, and your views on David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sakozy. I’m trying to do that when writing this blog entry. Follow the steps of the simplified conversation below, and please comment if I am factually wrong.

Merkel & Sarkozy: To stabilise the Eurozone we want to agree a new EU Treaty among all 27 Member States.
David Cameron: I will agree to that only if you add a protocol to the Treaty protecting the City of London, changing some areas of financial service legislation to Unanimity rather than Qualified Majority Voting* (paper summarising Cameron’s proposals here).
Merkel & Sarkozy: But this Treaty is about the stability of the Eurozone, not about financial services. Why are you raising these issues now?
David Cameron: I am raising these issues because they are vital for the UK.
Merkel & Sarkozy: We know that. But we do not want to discuss financial services now. We need to stabilise the Eurozone. So will you help us?
David Cameron: Not without the protocol.
Merkel & Sarkozy:  OK, so we will go ahead in the Eurozone without you, because we can, and you knew that was the danger. And as there will be no protocol as a result of us doing this, then rules for regulating financial markets remain unchanged.

Result: Merkel & Sarkozy get the Eurozone integration that they want, albeit with legal complexity to make it work outside the EU treaties. David Cameron gets nothing, because without the protocol the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon apply.

* – whether this actually would have been achieved with Cameron’s protocol is another debate. Let’s assume it would do what he demanded.

The complicated balance between listening and leading, and how it applies to politics in Europe

Look across Europe, and think of the calibre of its leaders. Merkel, Sarkozy, Cameron. Zapatero, Berlusconi, Tusk. Reinfeldt, Løkke, Pahor. Brussels with Barroso and Van Rompuy. This is not a quality lineup, not what one would classically call a statesman or stateswoman among the lot of them. Not a Schuman, an Adenauer, even a Delors or Kohl. With the danger of a Greek default drawing ever closer it’s not as if we can do without determined leadership in Europe.

Stepping back for a moment, why are we in this predicament?

It starts, I think, with the nature of representative democracy in the era of the internet (building on the era of 24 hour news), and the way that political parties function internally.

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Will the politician ready to defend Schengen please stand up?

So started an interesting exchange of views about the future of Schengen yesterday – my tweet, and then a reply from European Commisson spokesperson Koen Doens:
[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/jonworth/status/64751179715969024″]
[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ECspokesKoen/status/64768441663492096″]

Subsequent to the Twitter discussion, I’ve had some time to digest the letter Barroso sent back to Berlusconi and Sarkozy (you can find the PDF here) and, frankly, it’s not bad at all, and indeed contains plenty of positive points about how Schengen needs to be improved, although the letter does admit that reimposition of borders may be considered. Continue Reading

Ashton: you are the weakest link. Goodbye.

Foreign Ministers of EU countries are meeting today in Brussels, while at the same time protests against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt enter their 7th day. On his way to the Brussels meeting Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/carlbildt/status/31952709766610944″]

The right question to pose – but what prospect for any answers?

For the EU reaction to developments in Egypt has been somewhere between bland and non-existent. EU High Rep Cathy Ashton released two statements on Thursday and Friday last week, and President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy released a statement on Saturday. More from Kosmopolit here. These public positions do not go beyond a basic iteration of the need for non-violent behaviour on both sides, and for respect for human rights. Importantly there’s no mention of what should happen in Egypt, no way forward. Let’s not forget: Egypt is very much within the EU’s sphere of influence.

Presumably due to the lack of any coherence from the EU, Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy did get together to release a statement on Saturday – it’s stronger in its tone, and calls on Mubarak to commit to the reforms he has promised. It also mentions the crucial issue of keeping communications routes open. These words from the leaders of Europe’s big three countries are similar in tone and direction to Obama’s statement on Friday.

So with three European leaders essentially jumping the gun and being more concrete in their demands, where does that leave the EU’s efforts to achieve a coherent voice in international affairs?

In all of this the vacuum at the very centre is deafening. Van Rompuy has many responsibilities, so the critique should not rest with him.

No, the buck stops with High Rep Ashton.

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The EU is a man sat in Princeton, NJ

This blog entry is a partial response to the Presseurop / The Guardian My Europe series

Andrew Moravcsik - photo Princeton UniversityThe man in question is Princeton Professor Andrew Moravcsik, mastermind of the theory of liberal intergovernmentalism, that goes further than any other to explain the EU’s current predicament. The three stages of the theory – domestic preference formation, followed by interstate bargaining and finally the creation of supranational institutions – are the mirror for today’s EU.

Of crucial importance just now is the matter of domestic preference formation, for this is the ingredient that has undergone most change in the last decade. The historical imperative of reunification of Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall was enough to keep a supranational EU on track until the end of the twentieth century; not so any longer.

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The EU’s merry budget dance

EU Flag - CC / Flickr

EU Flag - CC / Flickr

The British press has been making a big thing of negotiations on the 2011 EU budget for the past couple of days. David Cameron was apparently telephoning EU leaders yesterday, and on the eve of today’s summit claimed victory that the budget would rise 2.9% rather than the 5.9% proposed. About the lower increase Cameron said “the key point is, it wouldn’t have happened without our action”. Not so.

Anyone who has ever looked at how the EU’s annual budget has been negotiated would have seen this pattern replicated loads of times. It’s a merry dance conducted between the institutions, and everyone knows the steps and the rhythm.

The European Commission proposes the budget for the coming year, and deliberately sets it high. The European Parliament likes to see the EU doing things, to generally agrees with the Commission. Then the Member States – the ones who pay 75% of the budget directly as contributions from national finance ministries – step in, and knock down the percentage rise. So everyone gets what they want, give or take a bit. Commission and Parliament get a bit more cash. Member States look like they are reigning in the Commission and Parliament.

And Cameron claims he managed that all on his own? Rubbish.

Merkel and Sarkozy have precisely the same incentives Cameron does and, you could indeed argue, incentives three times as high as Cameron’s. For 2/3 of any extra money the UK puts into the budget is going to come back to the UK in the form of the UK budget rebate anyway, and it’s not clear whether all the numbers Cameron and co are banding around take account of the rebate or not.

As for the crux of the issue – the EU budget itself – then there is a good case for proper reform, but that will all happen when the financial perspectives are negotiated for the years beyond 2013. There some sparks are going to fly for sure.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s hair

Screen shot of New Year Message - elysee.fr

Screen shot of New Year Message - elysee.fr

Nicolas Sarkozy has released his message for 2010. Apart from the rather smug line that France has coped better with the economic crisis than other countries, one thing rather struck me: Sarko’s hair, which looks even more of a perfect dark brown buffon than normal. Remember that Sarko was born in 1955, making him almost 55 years old. How many men aged 55 have no signs of grey? I wonder whether he’s following Gerhard Schröder’s lead?

British press in petulant Frenchman controls the city shocker

Nicolas Sarkozy - CC / Flickr

Nicolas Sarkozy - CC / Flickr

The French President can behave like a petulant teenager, yet the British press (and the British Bankers’ Association) seem to not understand that the best thing to do with a petulant teenager is to ignore it.

The Times led today with the headline “Banks blast ‘hostile’ Sarkozy over City rule gibe” and followed it up with “We are in charge now, Sarkozy tells the City” and “It’s déjà vu all over again as Sarkozy takes aim at City of London“. The Evening Standard went with “Darling in rearguard action to stop French pulling City strings“. The BBA’s press release on the matter is equally inflammatory, starting with these words:

The hostile comments of French President Sarkozy have damaged public confidence in the EUs new institutions and raise serious questions about the impartiality of the French nominee to the European Commission, the British Bankers Association said today

Just calm down folks, seriously calm down. And what are those new institutions exactly? OK, the Treaty of Lisbon makes the European Council an institution formally, but they can’t mean that can they?

But I digress… why is all of this a storm in a glass of Bourgogne?

Firstly, Sarko is a loose cannon. What he says does not even represent France, let alone come close to being adopted by the European Union.

Secondly, Michel Barnier, the nominee in question, has been a Member of the European Commission before (Regional Affairs – 1999-2004). I don’t think he was stellar, but he was one of the better members of the Prodi Commission. Why should he be any more partial this time around?

Thirdly the notion that the Commissioners are impartial is rubbish, and the BBA knows that very well. Was Peter Mandelson, Trade Commissioner until 2008, impartial in the way the BBA claims Barnier should be? Of course not. In fact I would bet that they organised meetings with Mandelson during his term to get fellow Commissioners to back policies favourable to UK banks.

Fourth, the Times and Evening Standard articles completely ignore the other appointment in Directorate General Internal Market (DGs are like ministries), that of Brit Jonathan Faull to be Director General – the highest ranking civil servant in the DG. Reuters confirms that news here. So the top politician is French and the top civil servant English. Perhaps not equal, but a fact to consider before having a mis-guided rant.

Fifth, the notion implied by the Evening Standard that Alistair Darling is mounting a rearguard action is untrue. If anything it’s an initiative on the front foot. No legislation has been drafted yet, that is going to take months, and then it will go through the codecision process and be subject to amendment by the European Parliament. Yes, agreed, the UK does not have a veto as QMV will apply, but there are 27 Member States and 736 MEPs in this game, a fact that the UK newspapers have conveniently neglected.

Sixth, why do all the newspapers buy all this pro-City of London crap anyway? Has no-one actually realised that it was the British banking sector that landed us in large part in this mess (or at least exacerbated the mess) and actually legislation to make banks serve the people, rather than the other way around, might not be a bad idea? Or is that about as naive as to hope that the British press might have a go at accurately reporting the EU?

So – in conclusion if you’ve got this far – what now? For sure there will be regulation of some sort. For sure it will have an impact on the City of London. But the UK government, UK banks and anyone else implication should be working diligently, preparing a lobby strategy, and getting ready to make their case in Brussels, just like any sensible people do about any legislation that could be brought up (handy therefore that the Mayor is not closing the London Office in Brussels).