EU ambassador outlines plans to solve Brexit disputes
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Amid the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic, some European enthusiasts have been wondering whether this crisis might finally lead to a “fiscal union” of states — something similar to the US. The success of the bloc’s first social bond, issued to help fight off the recession, showed investors are eager to lend money to the EU as a whole. At the same time Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank, encouraged the bloc to consider turning the joint-debt instruments created during the pandemic into permanent tools.
This would move the EU a step closer to becoming a federation of states, since the European Commission would have a bigger budget to redistribute resources toward countries in need.
Europe, and the eurozone in particular, would gain a lot from a system of cross-border fiscal transfers, provided adequate Brussels checks on national budgets were in place to stop reckless spending.
However, for all the enthusiasm of investors and Ms Lagarde, the obstacles to a fiscal union remain above all political.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi claimed not even France and Germany want to push for a fiscal union, despite being indispensable for the future of the bloc.
The eurosceptic MEP explained: “The fiscal union is a necessary condition to be able to effectively create the single market.
‘But there is no will, not even from France or from Germany, to push for it.
“We discovered it with the pandemic, which was the first biggest problem the EU has had to face, that in the end everyone solves its issues at home.
“Look at the vaccination programme… in the end, all the member states started doing as they pleased.
“So it means that either the European Union project changes radically or it is destined to fail.
“It does not work like this. And it’s almost impossible to do a fiscal union right now, as there are too many conflicting interests…”
Ukip founder Alan Sked and German MEP Gunnar Beck told Express.co.uk that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have liked to establish a fiscal union before retiring, but suggested she might have her hands tied.
Prof Sked said: “Macron has been a great advocate for a federal Europe.
“He has made great speeches, calling for Europe to be united and having a fiscal union, a monetary union, which includes a bank, one treasury, one finance minister and some sort of financial parliament.
“Merkel and the Germans don’t actually believe in that.
“Having said that, Merkel is about to retire and the rumour is that she wants to have some kind of historical legacy because so far there is not very much she can claim as hers.
“There is this persistent rumour that she would like to go down with some positive legacy and that she will do something about the fiscal union.”
Mr Beck agreed with Prof Sked, saying: “She would quite like to establish a fiscal union, yes.
“I believe she has been thinking about it for quite some time.
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“I obviously think it will be wrong, and I do not share the same objective as her: European integration.
“European integration is not making us richer, it is making us poorer.”
However, Prof Sked warned the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, “will probably not accept it”.
Mrs Merkel might indeed not be able to achieve a fiscal union – as members of her parliament might react in the same way as they did with the Lisbon Treaty.
In 2009, the bloc agreed to the Lisbon Treaty, sparking a widespread debate in many European countries, including Germany – which is usually seen as Europe’s anchor.
Former German Conservative MP Peter Gauweiler and a number of left-wing deputies from Die Linke challenged the ratification of the Treaty before the Constitutional Court, saying that the proposed reforms of the EU would have undermined the independence of the German parliament and clashed with the German Constitution.
On June 30, 2009, the German Constitutional Court delivered its verdict stating that the Lisbon Treaty complied with German Basic Law.
However, the court also produced an unyielding defence of national sovereignty, which arguably put an end to the EU’s march towards statehood.
The German judges declared the EU is “an association of sovereign national states” that derives its democratic legitimacy from the member states and not from the European Parliament.
They also stated that Germany’s Basic Law, or constitution, promotes peaceful co-operation within the EU and the United Nations, but this is not “tantamount to submission to alien powers”.
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On the contrary: the Basic Law denies the German government the power “to abandon the right to self-determination of the German people”, which they exercise by voting for their own parliament, which in turn must not be denuded of powers because otherwise German democracy would become meaningless.
The judges added that measures of European integration “must, in principle, be revocable”, and declare that they themselves have the right to safeguard “the inviolable core content” of the German constitution: a process that “can result in Community law or Union law being declared inapplicable in Germany”.
In a 2009 Telegraph report, British journalist Andrew Gimson emphasised that the judgement did not actually prevent the German government from endorsing Lisbon, but the court insisted, as a condition of ratification, that certain measures had to be taken to strengthen the position of the German parliament.
He wrote: “Jan Techau, a brilliant young analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, questions whether the court will ever follow words with deeds: ‘The court has always barked but it has never bitten’.
“Mr Techau points out that ‘Germany has traditionally been very integrationist’ and believes that ‘the German people are not generally eurosceptic.’”
However, Mr Gimson noted the court’s verdict still induced apoplexy in the surviving members of the West German political class that committed itself to European integration.
Prof Michael Stürmer, who from 1981 was an adviser to Helmut Kohl on European policy, told the publication: “[The judgement] is an absolutely irresponsible decision.
“There will be a new generation without a sense of history, without that great project of Europe – it’s bizarre and it’s sad.”
Moreover, according to Prof Stürmer, the judgement meant that for the next 10 or 20 years, no German government “can really move forward on Europe” and “there cannot be a successor treaty to Lisbon”.
He reproached Mrs Merkel for having failed to begin at once “an open, principled conflict” with the court.
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