Small-mindedness pays dear

Mladá fronta DNES | 15.12.2005 | section: Názory | page: 7 | author: JOSEF ZIELENIEC

The European Council, the institution formed by Prime ministers and presidents of all member states, is meeting today. This summit is extremely important in the history of European integration.

The Union is not a machine     


The failure to ratify the Constitutional treaty of the EU caused not only an institutional crisis within the EU, but it also broke trust among member states, mainly among the key ones – Great Britain, France and Germany. The EU is not a machine but a political community and a common vision and mutual trust are the basis to its functioning since its early beginnings in the 1950’s. This break of trust has brought up old and unsolved problems and conflicts. The consequence is a contention about the financial perspective for 2007 – 2013. The trouble is not only on its income – expenditure side, as we know from the budget debates.

The roots lie in the archaic common agricultural policy (CAP) which is burdening not only Europe but the whole world. Nearly half of EU budget is spent on agriculture, what lacks economic sense and is inacceptable not only within the Union but also in relation to others, mainly to third world countries. Leaving the CAP unchanged means a no to any reform of EU market and world trade liberalization. Great Britain has been pushing the Union for a change since Prime Minister Thatcher”s times. The only thing she pushed through was the famous reduction to the EU budget. Prime Minister Blair hoped that modernization of the EU will be easier after the failure to ratify the constitutional treaty. I presume that he had also the support of new members on his mind.

Status quo


These ten new members are paying dearly for the tendency to keep status quo in socially rampant economies without growth of the old fifteen member states. These countries, instead of introducing reforms to support their competitiveness and get a new dynamic in their economies, are doing all they can to prevent further stagnation by protecting themselves against competition. This began by introducing barriers to the free movement of workers, went on by chancellor Schröder’s and president Chirac’s pressure to augment taxes to companies in the new member states and culminates in the rejection of liberalization of services.

To stop this evolution, which is disadvantaging and slowing down new members, the Union must be reformed. New member states, unfortunately like the Czech Republic, did all they could to stay out of the Blair initiative. They concentrated only on getting the maximum out of the EU budget. Six months later, the British Prime Minister found himself all alone and France forced him into the debate on the British contribution to the common budget. What happened at the end was what the new members feared the most: others basically defended their budgetary demands and the final reduction will not touch neither the CAP, nor the British contribution, but the resources for the new member states. We are paying for careful politics, for the conviction that the future of the integration process lies in the hands of others and that out only task is to keep an eye on the flow of finances from Brussels. Small-mindedness as a program pays dear. Let this be a lesson for the governments of all new member states for the future and let’s hope especially this be a lesson for the Czech government as well.

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