Let's talk about Europe

Clashes and disagreements

As it was expected, the European Council failed to get an agreement on the 2014 – 2020 EU Budget.

The EU-27 leaders during the first day of the European Council (Brussels, the 22nd of November)

The EU-27, gathered on the last Thursday and Friday in Brussels, failed to agree on some points as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU civil servants’ salaries or the future of the R&D policy. In these positions, the EU member States interest was very present and even essential to the detriment of the EU and Europeans interests.

Indeed, the latest European Council looked like a festival of national interests and selfishness in a context dominated by an endless Eurozone crisis. For instance, the clash between UK and France regarding the priorities of the EU Budget: a hushed clash between two countries, two visions of the EU in which there was finally no winner, everyone considering the claims of the other unrealistic and unacceptable. Thus, when David Cameron, the UK Prime minister, demands deep cuts on the budget and to keep his rebate and criticize the CAP both, François Hollande, the French head of State, did a flat-refusal to isolate an UK which does not know where it goes and its place within the UK anymore better. On its side, the European Commission seems to be offside insofar as it made no major proposal whereas it gets the power of initiative, letting it to the Member States and despairing some experts as Jean Quatremer, French journalist and blogger, who strongly criticizes the José Manuel Barraso’s inaction.

David Cameron, UK Prime minister, during his arrival at the European Council, the 22nd of November

It’s not the first time Member States and the same protagonists have an opposition on the EU budget and almost on the same points. In June 2005, Tony Blair, UK Prime minister and Jacques Chirac, French president, had a clash on the amount of the UK rebate and the future of the CAP. This clash drove on a resounding failure and a new European Council meeting in which the Labour Leader made important concession on the rebate (he accepted a 20%-reducing) and a maintain of the CAP till 2013. This concession was very criticized by the tabloids considering Great Britain has been too much conciliating with EU and France.

This failure, predictable, is not a good signal sent by the EU and the head of State and government however. In the current context of crisis, and at the moment the EU member States should put forward some solidarity and ensure citizens, the most recent European Council showed national interests and selfishness instead of drawing a road map, a direction for the European Integration. It’s not compulsory dramatic insofar as Member States (via the Committee of Permanent Representatives, COREPER) are still going to keep negotiating to reach an agreement, even if it is means minima. Nonetheless, it gives a clear indication on the lack of inspiration and ambition coming from our national rulers vis-à-vis the EU at the moment Europe should be strong and in capacity to give the best image of itself face to citizens who have more and more interrogations regarding its efficiency and its utility.

As in 2005, the heads of State and government planned a new meeting at the beginning of 2013 to get a compromise which will be probably reached, because of the international economic context. The remaining question is how and at what price.