Saturday

3rd Dec 2022

Europe divided by two opposing philosophies

  • Not much to smile about (Photo: eu2005.lu)

Following a bitter and failed summit on the future funding of the EU, veteran politician and current head of the EU Jean-Claude Juncker has concluded that Europe is divided into two opposing camps - a free trade camp and a political Europe camp.

Sounding an extremely pessimistic note after a meeting of EU leaders that left the constitution's future uncertain and no agreement on money, Mr Juncker said that some member states want a free trade Europe and nothing else while others want a "politically integrated Europe".

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He added that only political integration would allow Europe to overcome the challenges facing it.

Speaking of the "two philosophies" Mr Juncker said "I knew the time would come when all of this would come out".

His words came as Britain held out on its annual rebate, the Netherlands pushed to pay 1.5bn euro less into the coffers and Sweden criticised the budget as not being modern enough.

But the opposing philosophies have been simmering for the last months - particularly in the run up to the French referendum on the constitution.

A large part of the reason that the French voted No was fears of a free-market Anglo-Saxon model of Europe, which they felt would cost jobs and social security.

French and UK social models

President Chirac did little to quell these fears and directly after the referendum pointedly said that the French social model was not the Anglo-Saxon model.

British prime minister Tony Blair, on the other hand, was then heard to stress how important it was to reform Europe and make it more pro-business and less regulated.

By the time the summit came around, both sides were spoiling for a fight with the British rebate and French farm subsidies taking the foreground but an ideological divide providing the background.

Their positions were captured in their statements to press after the summit ended. Mr Chirac defended the Common Agriculture Policy as being "modern" and "dynamic" while Mr Blair asked "are we going to become the most competitive economy in the world"?

The British prime minister summed up by saying that he had nothing personal against Mr Chirac it was just that "these are different visions".

Keeping up appearances

Mr Juncker, who was plainly angry after the meeting, said that EU would be damaged by its failure to reach an agreement on the budget.

He said the "people need to realise that we're being watched [from the outside]".

The Luxembourg leader also said that he did not think the failure to reach an agreement would have an "immediate effect" but that it would be a "slower" and "almost unnoticeable" effect.

Those on the outside, however, will notice it quickly.

President Chirac also indicated he believed EU had been damaged saying a "weakened vision" of Europe had emerged.

But those who blocked the final agreement on the budget - like the UK and Spain - downplayed any talk of crisis in the 25-nation bloc.

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