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Eurocrash: Barroso ? more power for all

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Eurocrash: Barroso ? more power for all
« on: September 17, 2012, 12:26:23 AM »
Eurocrash: Barroso ? more power for all
Richard North, 17/09/2012   293


Barroso may have been telling the truth, in his interview yesterday with FAZ, when he denied wanting a "super-state". Instead, as he did during his "state of the union" speech to the EU parliament, he promoted a "federation of nation states".

 What goes without saying though, and Barroso certainly isn't saying it, is that a federation needs a federal government. So it isn't a super-state the EU commission president wants - it's a super-government.

The interview, though, is about explaining his "vision" for a political union. And this sensitive soul fully "understands" that there is growing euroscepticism (in Germany) and that people are worried about their money - how kind. But he denies "absolutely" that there should be an increasing gap between policy makers and citizens.

This is a question of political leadership, he says. "Populists and extremists are exploiting the concerns of the people for themselves. It's so easy to say no. No to the euro, no to the European Union. Saying yes is more complex. Then you have to explain what is to be gained and what is lost otherwise".

 Asked to explain why there should be this dreadful euroscepticism, Barosso puts it down to "fear". It is "fear of globalization, fear of unemployment, fear of loss of welfare". But, despite this, he says, people realise that the national level is no longer equal to the challenges. The players in the financial markets operate across borders and they cannot be controlled by individual member states.

Thus, according to the commission president, "we need more Europe, not less". And he is in an optimistic mood. The pro-European parties have finally captured the initiative, he says. The example of the Netherlands is encouraging, since the populists have lost.

Furthermore, even if a growing number of Germans believe that the euro is to blame for the crisis, they are wrong. The crisis did not begin in the eurozone ? it was not because of the euro. The country that has spent the most to stabilise its financial system is the United Kingdom and even Iceland got into trouble.

The cause of the crisis, Barroso concludes, was irresponsible behaviour by some players in the financial sector, and some governments over-leveraging themselves. If there is a teeny, weeny smidgin of blame, it is because there was no European surveillance system ? and help is at hand. We're trying to build just that, he says.

As to the action of the German constitutional court, Barroso won't say anything against it. He is all for democracy, he says: "You will never hear a word from me against democracy".

If some MPs are demanding that Brussels returns competencies, this "democrat" is happy to talk about it. He is in favour of subsidiarity. The commission, he says, as no interest in controlling everything. What is important is that "we at the European level have authority for what no nation alone can regulate".

 Nor will he take the savings of the Germans and use it to protect the savings of Spaniards. "That is unthinkable!" he says. All we want to do is increase the stability of the entire banking sector in the eurozone. "I am sure", he purrs, "that it is in Germany's interest and in the interest of German savers".

 Then there is the little matter of strengthening the "democratic" control of the commission. To do that, every political party needs to put up candidates for a transnational programme in the European elections. Whichever of these transnational parties could then form the majority in parliament would be the natural candidate for nominating the President.

 This is Barroso's answer to democracy. In this way, he says, we gradually develop a "European public sphere", with elections which deal with the future of Europe instead of national issues.

He would also be happy to make the political side of the Commission's work stronger. But, he says, we must not abandon nations to the nationalists. In a federation, the national states still have sovereignty. For instance, he says, "If I give you a piece of information, I do not lose it". More shared sovereignty means more power for all.

In the 21st Century, he then concludes, everything depends on the size. No single European country can negotiate on an equal footing with the United States or China. Mid-century, according to some estimates, not a single European country will be among the ten largest economies in the world.

This may be a pessimistic estimate, says Barroso. But even in the optimistic variant, we will no longer be in the top five - unless we count ourselves as a union. That is where the European Union comes in.

And that is the face of our enemy: nations must be protected from nationalism ? populism cannot be allowed to prevail. The collective must win.


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