Tuesday

26th Sep 2017

Lukewarm support for EU super-president

  • Westerwelle. The group is to publish its final manifesto in September (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

A German-led report shows lacklustre support for the creation of a powerful new EU leader.

The eight-page paper - circulated to press on Wednesday (20 June) - is a snapshot of current thinking in German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle's reflection group on the future of the Union.

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It says that: "Some foreign ministers suggested to examine the creation of a double-hatted post of President of the [European] Commission and President of the European Council."

It also describes as an "important step" the potential "nomination of a top candidate for the next European elections that could also be a candidate for the position of commission President."

It adds that "in the long term" there "could" be "a directly elected commission President who chooses the members of his 'European Government'."

The hodge-podge of remarks pointing toward the new post reflects member states' mixed emotions about giving more power to Brussels in order to fight the crisis.

The "Future of Europe Group" has been meeting since March and is to produce a final manifesto in September.

Besides Westerwelle, it includes foreign ministers from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

France - which changed foreign ministers after elections in May - has missed some meetings and was not on Westerwelle's list of countries which endorsed Wednesday's report.

Denmark also skipped meetings out of solidarity with countries, such as Sweden, who were not invited in the first place.

The foreign ministers of Austria and the Netherlands in April publicly distanced themselves from the super-president idea when news of it came out in EUobserver.

Meanwhile, the UK is out of the group amid even deeper misgivings about national sovereignty in London.

The report notes that further integration should "preferably" include all 27 EU countries. But "if need be" the Union should rely on "enhanced co-operation" by subsets of member states.

Among other ideas, it speaks of a future "European Army," a "European Border Police" and giving the European Parliament "the ability to initiate legislation" alongside the commission.

The proposals are also hedged in the vocabulary of could, should and maybe.

The paper notes that eurobonds, or "the question of mutualisation of sovereign risk," is a no-go area for now.

"There were differing views expressed [on the question]," it says, with Germany the principal opponent of the scheme.

Analysis

Eurozone crisis tests the Merkel method

The daughter of a protestant pastor, Germany's Merkel has a near-religious conviction that by cutting debt, European economies will be cured of all ills.

Germany's free borrowing is 'destroying Europe'

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has launched a scathing attack on the German chancellor for promoting policies he says drive the borrowing costs of other euro-countries up, while Germany has just hit a record zero-percent interest rate on its bonds.

Bank agency shuns EU invitations

The EU's banking agency is not visiting cities that want to host the agency post-Brexit "to ensure objectivity". The medicines agency has no such qualms.

May seeks EU grace period

Eagerly awaited Brexit speech was short on details, but May pledged to honour financial commitments while calling for a two-year transition deal after the UK left.

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