Posted: Monday 15 Oct 2012
In his strategy to neutralise the threat of UKIP before the next election David Cameron will plan ‘veto moments’ in the coming months – ‘standing up to Europe’ to satisfy his backbenchers. This morning’s announcement by the Home Secretary on whether the UK will exercise its option (negotiated under the Lisbon Treaty) to opt out of most EU crime and policing policy (including the European Arrest Warrant (EAW)), is an issue of real substance which deeply affects our security, the protection of UK citizens’ and arguably our wider influence in the EU.
Posted: Sunday 27 May 2012
In Europe, matters are urgent. The Economist has put the question bluntly. "What will become of the European Union?" Equally blunt was the newspaper's answer; "separate or superstate: those seem to be the alternatives now".
But Europe is never that simple.
From my position in the European Parliament, I can see why this might be. There are simply too many complexities at play. For a start, while every Member State recognises the importance of the euro, none have yet defined the sort of further integration that saving the euro will entail. This has caused problems, but is also a perfectly natural position for a group of democracies working together on common issues. Whatever the pace of markets - no doubt a faster pace than that of democracies - markets must respect the way governments move, and not vice versa.
The key complexity, then, is how markets have misinterpreted a sometimes slow democratic process as no process at all in the eurozone crisis.
This is why I think Mr Hollande - the new French president - is so important.
Posted: Sunday 06 May 2012
President Francois Hollande is but the latest example of a recent, perhaps obvious phenomenon. As a long and painful recession has continued in Europe, voters have punished incumbent governments at the polls. In fact, nine major Europe countries have ousted leaders since the global financial crisis - ten if you include Britain in 2010 - and more often than not these toppled governments have been a direct result of the more specific branch of the world-wide down-turn: Europe's own Eurozone crisis.
The nine countries are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain - and now France. The latest French casualty is perhaps the most significant. The Eurozone crisis has been addressed by German and French leaders working closely together. Franco-German unity on the crisis was not always there, it took some time for the French to accept the German idea that debt - not growth - should be the focus, and that austerity - rather than stimulus - should be the solution. Stability has a quality all of its own, and although many stood opposed to the analysis, it produced a fiscal pact almost every European nation could agree on.
This is why Hollande is so important.
Posted: Monday 23 Apr 2012
The first round of voting in 2012’s French presidential election is over. Two outcomes proved both important and unprecedented. One, for the first time, an incumbent French President lost in the first round of votes. Sarkozy won 27.8% of the vote to Hollande’s 28.6%. Two, the fascist candidate – Marine Le Pen – secured a record 17.9% of all ballots cast. These two factors will combine to influence the second round of voting in significant ways. But what they say about the existing state of French politics, regardless of who wins the election, is more important still.