La Treizième Étoile: 16/05/10 - 23/05/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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David Cameron 'will end up a pro-European, like the others' - Sarkozy

Friday, 21 May 2010
The new British Prime Minister David Cameron made his first official trip abroad in his new position and was hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace where after the meeting the French Premier revealed he believed he can transform the Eurosceptic British PM’s views on the EU.

He'll start out Eurosceptic and finish up pro-European. It's the rule. He'll be like all the others,” he said.

David Cameron (left) and Nicolas Sarkozy meet in Paris (Photo: Independent)According to the Reuters news agency, Mr Sarkozy, already “very disappointed” when his British counterpart Cameron’s party withdrawing its MEPs from the majority centre-right party group in the European Parliament, confessed that at first he was less European at the beginning of his political career and "became gradually more and more European. Why do I say so? Because I have understood one thing, which is that, if you want to change things, you cannot do so alone.

"In terms of Europe, I do not want to judge David Cameron or anyone else," Mr Sarkozy said during a later press conference after a bilateral meeting, adding however that "to turn things around, Britain is needed".

The French president stressed that "I have always developed the idea that the 'Entente Cordiale' was not enough. It fell short of the mark, and that we needed to do things differently that would bring our countries closer, that go way beyond what I can do, or what whoever is in Downing Street could do."

And someone versed in European history can understand why Mr Sarkozy is so confident. After all, it was a Conservative Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher) who signed the Single European Act in 1986 and it was a Conservative Prime Minister (John Major) who agreed to the Maastricht Treaty

'No Chance' of British Conservative MEPs rejoining EPP group

Tuesday, 18 May 2010
With the Conservatives now back in power in the UK, there were a few in Brussels wondering whether the Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament will now seek to rejoin the majority centre-right EPP grouping to regain some clout in the chamber. However, this scenario has today been venomously dismissed by one such MEP.

The larger EPP group logo on the left with the smaller ECR group on the sidelines (Photo: Me)Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, who represents Scotland in the parliament, has been quoted by as saying there is "no chance" of his fellow Tory MEPs rejoining or seeking to rejoin the EPP group which it left to form the European Conservatives and Reformists group in June 2009.

Mr Stevenson was responding to speculation that Britain’s new PM David Cameron is under pressure to rejoin parliament's biggest political group from French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel, both of whom he is planning to visit later this week. Indeed his party’s decision to leave the group has been publicly criticised by the pair, with Mr Sarkozy stating in a March press conference with Gordon Brown in Downing Street "if you want to me to say that I regret his (Cameron's) decision on the EPP, my answer is yes.

Also questioned on whether the appointment of the ‘moderate’ David Lidington as Britain's new Europe minister is indeed a sign of an end to Tory hostility to the EU, Mr Stevenson reminded that he had "stood shoulder to shoulder" alongside the last Tory PM John Major as he fought a raging battle with his party's eurosceptics.

Even so, Mr Stevenson said the chances of his group rejoining the centre-right EPP alliance was "definitely not on the agenda". “There is no doubt that [David] Lidington is more Euro-centrist than [Mark] Francois and that his appointment is welcome,” he said.

But us rejoining the EPP is not going to happen. I am not even sure the EPP would want that. They still feel a lot of frustration and anger about us leaving and would be in no hurry to welcome us back."

So what does he believe the future will hold for his group in Parliament? "I think you will see the ECR actually expand in the coming legislature with us recruiting more allies," he said.

Hague seeks to reassure European leaders that UK 'will engage with EU'

The United Kingdom’s new Conservative Foreign Secretary, William Hague has this week attempted to reassure European leaders that the incoming government will engage fully with the EU and play a leading role in talks on a common foreign policy, in an article appearing in a Brussels-based political journal.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague MP (Photo: BBC)In the article pre-published yesterday by Europe's World, Mr Hague continues the recent Conservative strategy of employing vast amounts of unusually positive language about the EU, even describing it as "an institution of enormous importance to the United Kingdom and to British foreign policy".

While placing particular emphasis on noting that the Conservative Party has taken "a particular view" on the utility and purpose of EU institutions, Mr Hague writes that "we have always argued that it is in the common interests of the nations of Europe that we should use our collective weight in the world to mutual advantage and to promote our shared values".

He then proceeds to outline the government's backing for efficiency measures to improve competitiveness across Europe, but adds: "just as the Conservative-led government in the UK will be active in all these areas of internal EU policy, so will we be energetically involved from the outset in the EU's external policy challenges."

The new Foreign Secretary, known for this anti-EU views, argues the EU has not shown enough determination and consistency in foreign policy and should be "more muscular and demanding" in Bosnia, pushing for a stronger central government, as a demonstration to the world "of the EU's seriousness as a regional actor".

Interestingly enough, Mr Hague also writes that the new government will work closely with the Labour-appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, who already heavily criticised could have fallen victim to inter-party political tactics.

It is however evident that the Conservatives have watered down the Euroscepticism embedded in every page of its manifesto like a watermark, in light of their coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats. A UK sovereignty bill, which could be used to overturn European laws, is now seen as unlikely under a coalition government.

However since assuming office the new Prime Minister David Cameron has repeated his intention to try to repatriate some powers previously transferred to Brussels through a new bill in the upcoming Queen’s Speech in which any new transfer of power to the EU will be subject to a referendum. Mr Hague sought to defend these plans in the article saying they are "to reassure people that the European Union can be responsive to people's concerns".

That said, the overall tone of his article was somewhat conciliatory, and makes nice reading for Europhiles and no doubt other European political leaders worried that the UK will withdraw from its role in Europe.

After all, Mr Hague wrote that the new government's policies were intended "not to frustrate or sabotage the operation of the European Union but to put Britain's role in the EU on a more positive footing". Only time will tell if this is indeed the case…

Quelle Horreur! A Dutch-speaking Eurocrat in Number 10!?

The following video clip is enough to confirm what the British right-wing newspapers have long feared since Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was announced as Deputy PM - yes, there is a foreign language-speaking europhile in a high office of British politics.

The video clip, filmed on the campaign trail for a Dutch TV station NOVA, shows around the two-minute mark Mr Clegg conducting an interview speaking fluent Dutch (hardly a surprise considering his mother is Dutch).

Although I unfortunately do not understand what he is saying (anyone care to provide a translation?), it is really refreshing to see a politician able to converse in another foreign language. (Mr Clegg is apparently also fluent in French, German, and Spanish...)

Expelled Tory MEP McMillan-Scott officially joins the liberal ALDE group

Monday, 17 May 2010
Edward McMillan-Scott, a British Vice-President of the European Parliament and former leader of the Conservatives in the chamber before being expelled from the party last year, officially joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group today.

He will continue to sit in the parliament’s Bureau, as an independent Vice-President.

Edward McMillan-Scott MEP, right, receives his Liberal Democrat membership card from leader Nick CleggMr McMillan-Scott was expelled and had the party whip removed from him last July after he broke party orders and stood for re-election as vice- president against Michał Kamiński, the Polish MEP and leader of the new alliance of which the UK Conservatives are a part of because of what he called his "anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links".

Mr McMillan-Scott made a stand against the Conservatives’ controversial new ECR group last July and was welcomed today by the ALDE group’s leader, Guy Verhofstadt: "Edward McMillan Scott is a principled pro-European. He has a great deal of parliamentary experience and a strong record of defending human rights across the globe. The Conservative's loss is our gain."

In a statement today, Mr McMillan-Scott expressed his delight at the move and praised the UK’s new coalition government commenting that “Britain has become a more European nation with the advent of national coalition politics, fixed-term parliaments and the real prospect of a fairer electoral system.

The creation of the Conservative/LibDem coalition was the best day of my political life since my first election,” he said. “I was a liberal Conservative and am now a conservative Liberal. This government represents the best of both traditions and will be moderate on Europe.

The liberal group, ALDE, is on the winning side in 90 per cent of the votes: it is having a pivotal, principled influence on the way the EU develops. The liberal family has ministers in 10 EU governments and eight EU Commissioners in Brussels."

Eurozone may 'disintegrate' after crisis, ex-Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker warns‎

Europe's underlying debt troubles could undermine its currency’ was the stark warning delivered by the American White House’s Economic adviser Paul Volcker last Thursday as he made an appearance at London’s School of Economics.

Paul VolckerMr Volcker, left, himself a former chairman of the US Federal Reserve and a widely respected economist, told those in attendance that it was difficult to have a common currency without a common government, admitting that “initially I thought the Euro was a good idea”.

"I think Europe is going to have to decide in the end whether to get more integrated or get less integrated, in which case the Euro comes into question," Volcker said, before repeating that there is in his opinion still a threat of the Euro disintegrating.

He made repeated references to the “inherent problem” of trying to manage a common currency that's not tied to one government or fiscal policy while adding that the bailout deal reached over the weekend is not a long-term solution.

"Europe was forced to react, and their first reaction was to buy time," he said. "If the time isn't used very constructively, it doesn't cure the problem."

His damning comments came just days after European officials announced they had reached an agreement on a rescue package worth €750 billion to prevent Greece's debt crisis from spilling over into other vulnerable European economies.

The Way / Cesta (Photo: EuroinPhoto.euWhile the plan’s announcement initially sparked a powerful global stock market rally, doubts still remain as to whether countries can successfully cut their borrowing and spending and raise taxes enough to put public finances back on a sustainable path.

Countries that have switched to the single currency have enjoyed lowered borrowing costs, which left unmonitored has allowed some to build up what are increasingly becoming unmanageable levels of debt.

Since Eurozone countries are no longer able to devalue their own currency to control the debt, those in such financial trouble as Greece, have instead been forced to impose harsh and very unpopular, but necessary, austerity measures.

While protesters have hit the streets of Athens and spurred violence in objection to the austerity measurers, there is also a growing backlash against the deal in richer countries like Germany, where taxpayers resent having to foot the bill.

But despite this, no countries are fleeing the Eurozone just yet.

In fact, this week the European Commission took another step towards adding a 17th member state to the Eurozone when it ruled that Estonia had met the necessary financial conditions for inclusion.

Eight other European Union countries are workings toward joining the Eurozone with only two members of the European Union (United Kingdom and Denmark) declining to join.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in his announcement about Estonia's upcoming addition to the Eurozone, referred to the recent worries about the future of the currency stating that “in all this debate, let's remember: nobody wants to leave the Euro, and others are seeking to join."

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