Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

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.

MEPs to keep 28 UK seats after Brexit

The number of French MEPs will grow from 74 to 79, while Spanish MEPs will increase in number from 54 to 59. Italy, the Netherlands, and Ireland will also get more MEPs, but Germany is already at the maximum allowed.

MEPs may bar killer drones from EU research cash

EU defence fund is expected to hand out €500m to companies across the EU if they work together on 'defence products'. Under the current proposal, the development of weapons of mass destruction would not be excluded.

EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate

The president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, said the bank had high standards - but did not explain why an anti-fraud report on a loan to Volkswagen was being kept secret.

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