Social Europe Journal 6 Sept 2013
Is Mrs Merkel About To Sign Up to David Cameron’s EU Dreams?
06/09/2013 BY DENIS MCSHANE LEAVE A COMMENT
Wishful thinking over Angela Merkel’s policy on Europe and David Cameron’s 2017 In-Out referendum still continues to surface pushed by anti-EU political forces in London.
Two weeks ago, Mrs Merkel’s spokesman declared the “astonishment” of her office at the interpretation UK Eurosceptics placed in an anodyne summer interview. She said, as she always says, that more Europe does not mean more power for the EU Commission and that more could be done by national governments coordinating their policies.
Open Europe, Britain’s main City-financed Eurosceptic think tank, and anti-EU Conservatives briefed that Mrs Merkel’s interview was a massive change of policy in favour of Cameron’s renegotiation and repatriation policy aimed at helping the British prime minister.
Naturally the Eurosceptic press picked this up but it was a story in London and appeared nowhere in Germany save in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which comprehensively rubbished the report. The FAZ is leading the German charge in favour of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and its anti-Euro line. But FAZ is too good a paper to buy London Eurosceptic spin in favour of the Tory hardline anti-Europeans.
Now the story has been repackaged in a Bloomberg story. It contains a quote from an FDP junior minister and one CSU spokesman as well as Open Europe, a Cameron press officer, and one of the leading anti-EU British Tory MPs. The story is perfectly accurate in terms of quotes cited and underlines Bloomberg’s reputation as a first class news agency.
But a quick check on the German media for what appears like a very major new German policy – namely Mrs Merkel putting her weight behind Cameron’s renegotiation and repatriation demands – shows it doesn’t feature. Try Google.de, type in Merkel, Cameron, EU and all the stories are from British Eurosceptic press outlets. Indeed with just two weeks before the German election it is unlikely that Mrs Merkel would want to start such Euroscpetic hares running.
So what is going on? What Mrs Merkel is saying is that she wants no NEW powers for the EU Commission. That is not the same as the massive repatriation of powers Tory MPs and UKIP are demanding.
Mrs Merkel is keen on the EU Commission having more power to pull into line what Berlin sees as recalcitrant spendthrift southern EU member states. But she does not want EU supervision of Germany’s shaky regional banks with their close ties to local politicians. She got cross with EU proposals on ecological grounds that would change the coolant systems in high power 250 kph German automobiles.
So Nein Danke to more EU interference in the German way of doing things but Ja Bitte to the Commission and ECB dictating German terms to Greece, Spain or Portugal.
Of course Mrs Merkel wants the UK to stay in the EU. So do all EU member states. But not at any price.
It is easy to find an FDP spokesperson to utter vague statements calling for Brussels to be curbed. But if – as may well be the case – Mrs Merkel enters a Grand Coalition with the social democratic SPD the hopes of Open Europe, Conservatives and UKIP for a massive repatriation of EU powers will evaporate.
A further factor that should feature in any of these stories is that the repatriation of powers London Eurosceptics seek would mean re-writing EU rules which are set as legally binding in an international treaty. Any new treaty would have to be submitted to a referendum in France, Ireland, Denmark with even German voices calling for referendums on future EU treaties, especially any that might involve admitting Turkey – a declared policy objective of the Cameron administration.
The idea that Francois Hollande would countenance an EU referendum ahead of his 2017 re-election campaign is fanciful.
In addition, there are many in Germany who think Mrs Merkel will bow out in 2015 after a decade in office rather than go on and on and on like Helmut Kohl or Margaret Thatcher who were humiliated by their parties and the public as they clung to office.
So while London Eurosceptics seek to enroll Mrs Merkel as their chief ally in their desire to see the EU changed into a loose federation of nation states all deciding their own rules and regulations on the basis of domestic politics they are taking their wishes for reality.
Mrs Merkel is no cheerleader for Brussels – no-one is – but she has not yet applied to join UKIP or even seek to initiate major EU Treaty change to placate Mr Cameron as he tries to appease anti-European passions in his own party.