27th Sep 2023

Ex-commissioner warns against Brussels 'federalism'

  • Frits Bolkestein suggests that 85 percent of the EU budget could be scrapped (Photo: European Commission)

Former Dutch member of the European Commission Frits Bolkestein has strongly criticised Brussels for meddling too much in national affairs, calling upon commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso to temper some of his "federal-minded" commissioners.

Mr Bolkestein, who served as the internal market commissioner from 1999 to 2004, on Tuesday (7 November) slammed his former work place for allegedly over-regulating in several policy areas ranging from obesity to energy efficiency, Dutch press agency ANP reports.

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Referring to commission plans to fight obesity, he said at a liberal meeting in Brussels "I also believe that people should watch their weight. But is this a European task?"

On commission legislation on energy-saving buildings, the Dutchman asked "Are these buildings cross-border ? They stand where they stand. That is none of Europe's business."

Mr Bolkestein, a free-market liberal, claimed that "such foolish plans" reflect a desire by some commissioners – who he characterised as "eager beavers" - to turn the EU into a federal state.

He called upon commission chief Barroso to intervene in his commissioners' tendency to interfere in member states' competencies.

"The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, should clearly speak out and state that he does not want a federal state. He has never done this as far as I know. This would temper the eager beavers," he said.

According to ANP, the outspoken Dutchman also suggested that 85 percent of the EU budget could be scrapped, referring to Brussels' agricultural and regional funds which according to the ex-commissioner do nothing but hinder the functioning of the bloc's internal market.

Mr Bolkestein further reiterated his scepticism for Turkish EU membership, having been the only commissioner who in October 2004 voted against Brussels' recommendation to open accession talks with Ankara.

He said Turkish accession would open the door to states such as Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan to join the union at a later stage. "Such an enlargement to 45 member states would fatally weaken the EU."

Mr Bolkestein, who is also a former leader of the Dutch Liberals, is known for his opposition to far-reaching political integration of the EU, but at the same time he has pushed closer economic integration.

As a commissioner he introduced the EU's controversial services directive – dubbed "Bolkestein directive" - designed to open up the bloc's services market.


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