Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

France and Germany head into summit divided, UK seen as sidelining itself

  • David Cameron (second from left, front row) - slowly saying 'bye bye' to the EU? (Photo: ecrgroup.eu)

The EU summit kicked off on Thursday (18 October) amid a public stand off between France and Germany on what should be discussed at the meeting and how to proceed with a banking union.

French President Francois Hollande arrived at the summit - having given a combative Berlin-critical interview to several European newspapers the day before - saying the only decision needed at the summit was on having a banking union by the end of the year.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It was a direct challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel who has indicated she wants to move more slowly on the creation of banking union, which entails setting up a European bank supervisor.

But Merkel also came to the summit well-armed.

In an address to the Bundestag on Thursday morning she said the European Commission should have far-reaching powers to challenge national budgets.

She noted that even though the idea would be unpopular in some quarters - with France keen on retaining sovereignty in this area - Germany would "make the case" anyway.

The two leaders had a brief meeting before the summit. A German delegation source said it took place in a "good atmosphere" and that the summit programme for further development of economic and monetary union was discussed. French diplomats, according to Reuters, briefed that the two leaders agreed on the need for a tight timetable for a banking union.

The banking union - meant to prevent banks building up dangerous debt holes - has become the symbolic battle ground for the different stands of thinking in Berlin and Paris.

While Berlin wants fiscal discipline and centralised budgetary oversight before it will open its coffers, Paris wants more solidarity, particularly towards struggling countries - before committing to such ideas.

Both sides are increasingly frowning at one another in self-righteous incomprehension.

Adding to the strained dynamic of the summit - meant to be a no-decisions affair on how to further political integration - is the relation between euro and non-euro countries.

The UK

The eight mainly eastern non-euro countries that are obliged to join the single currency want to make sure that eurozone area decisions do not adversely affect them.

But one non-euro country in particular is stealing the limelight. Britain, which has no obligation to join the euro, is increasingly being seen as slowly disengaging itself from the EU.

Its notoriously lukewarm stance towards the Union was underlined when it refused to take part in a fiscal discipline treaty late last year and further emphasized when earlier this week announced it intended to opt out of 130 pieces of EU justice and home affairs legislation.

And in a symbolic move Prime Minister David Cameron for the first time since he became UK leader attended a pre-summit meeting with politicians from the anti-federalist Conservatives and Reformists faction that his Conservative Party aligns itself with in the European Parliament.

A post-meeting photo makes it clear, Cameron is not sitting with the power-wielders of Europe.

Remarking on the development, Finnish Europe minister Alex Stubb said Britain appeared to be slowly saying "bye bye" to the EU.

"I think Britain is right now, voluntarily, by its own will, putting itself in the margins," he told Reuters news agency.

Discord simmers ahead of EU summit

It is being billed - by the Germans at least - as a "stepping stone" summit leading to firm decisions on further EU integration in December. But others want answers now.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  2. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  3. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  4. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  5. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms
  6. EU commission denies Juncker resignation rumour
  7. US "strongly committed" to cooperation with EU, says vice-president
  8. Wilders pulls out of second Dutch election TV debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  5. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  8. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  9. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  10. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  11. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  12. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty

Latest News

  1. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  2. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  3. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  4. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  5. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  6. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  7. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news
  8. Nordstream 2: Alternative pipeline facts