EDITORIAL

Lasting realignment?

The European Council last week (February 7-8), took place under special circumstances. First of all, it was the first such European summit after British PM David Cameron’s announcement (23 January) about a referendum in the UK regarding the EU membership,  – planned for no sooner than 2017, indeed –in the meantime, Scotland will probably hold a different referendum on its independence). Secondly, but perhaps equally importantly, the previous summit expected to decide on the EU’s ardent financial issues, postponed the necessary decisions on the budget of the organisation until the following seven-year period and thee were observers who claimed such decisions would only be made after this autumn’s election in Germany. Finally, an event happened between the two summits – not yet completely finalised – the French anti-terrorist operation in Mali that generated a certain dynamism of cooperation in a much neglected domain of European policy to the detriment of financial aspects.
In order to understand how the works of the latest European Council unfolded, the atmosphere that dominated the conclave during two days and one night (Friday night), I will quote an informed blog, meaningfully called ‘Brussels Backstage: ‘David Cameron, the triumphant. He won by KO. The British PM has set his own red line: EUR 885 bn (for the budget of the 28 in 2014 – 2020): EUR 885 bn in payable credits (money actually paid) during the period. The figure is obtained by multiplying the 2011 budget by seven. (…).As soon as he ad got there, he warned: ‘Figures must be cut down and, unless that happens, there will be no agreement’. Eventually, after 30 hours of difficult negotiations, the 27 agreed on EUR 908.4 bn in payable credits.’ When he came there – the blog hosted by the prestigious Belgian ‘Liberation’ newspaper further notes – Cameron said he had been attacked from all sides, that France had not managed to isolate him and that ‘Holland, Sweden, Finland and Angela’ had been on his side.
So Cameron who, on January 23, less than a month before, had announced a British ‘in or out’ Europe referendum, was placing himself as a genuine winner of the summit, having managed to overcome the opposition of France and a few other South European members’. Or, as ‘The Daily Telegraph’ said after the European Council (under a headline that speaks volumes: ‘This week’s Brussels lesson for the UK: as Germany goes, so goes Europe’):’The UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, formed an alliance around a real-terms cut, outflanking France and Italy’.
First of all, there are two above quoted aspects that need to be observed: the first one is with regards to the fact that the extremely hard-bitten negotiation of the EU budget until 2020 was confined to not bringing grist to the mill of the eurosceptical line in the country, with the interlocutors trying to accommodate Cameron’s demands (however without compromising on anything without the grimmest fight). The second one, probably just as important as the former, is that Germany put its entire weight on the British pan of the scales, which eventually thickened the North-South division line that had become obvious a while before in the EU. A reader makes an acidic comment in a British newspaper:  ‘An understanding seems to have developed between Britain, Germany, and the Scandinavians. If this development should harden, we may see a real split along those lines — leaving France, Italy, Greece, and Spain (the FIGS) on the opposite side, just as George Soros had predicted a year ago.’ While we are on this point, we need to ask ourselves together with the leader of British Labour opposition, David Miliband, if we are facing a situation that could be defined as follows: ‘Britain’s relationship with Europe in the next few years is going to be defined by the danger of a potential exit, not the positive vision of reform. Also, in order to please his party, the prime minister has to demonize the current European Union.’ Meaning some sort of blackmail practices by Great Britain, threatening to pull out from the EU hoping to get continental concessions and at the same time weaken the eurosceptical current, which is quite a risky game to play.
If the unity of the EU turned the debates during the EU summit last week into a crucial factor – sources say the Netherlands and a Northern member states deliberately took Cameron’s side to prevent the further mounting of tension by leaving him on his own there – relations among the members of the bloc have acquired nuances worthy of being revealed. A daily newspaper quotes Latvian leader as having said: ‘Valdis Dombrovskis, the prime minister of Latvia, took the floor early Friday to address what, for his Baltic nation of around just two million people, is a vital question: Why should a Latvian cow deserve less money than a French, Dutch and even Romanian one?’ The quotation touches on the provision on the funds for agriculture laid down in the new budget framework and which were reduced to almost a half of the previous one (2007-2013), something France, being one of the biggest beneficiaries under that heading, but also some of the more recent members such as Romania and Poland, didn’t quite fancy. While we are speaking about this, it has to be noted that, while Poland gets some EUR 160 bn from the new financial framework, Romania, ranking right after Poland in terms of size, is getting about EUR 40 bn.
In particular, the above said as well as other hardships of the extended negotiations in Brussels develop further political trends on the Old Continent. For instance, it was shown that France had not received the expected support from Germany in opposing the British claims and Germany, on the other hand, doesn’t seem as attached to the position of a more deeply politically integrated, federal EU, as it is to the option of tailoring the lest expensive formula (the current budget is consistent with the German policy of not exceeding 1 per cent of the combined EU GDP during that period). In other words, Berlin seems to be more interested in a less costly EU than in a EU organised as a super-state.
The aspects shown above reveal another indubitable trend to be observed in the EU today, which is the major role played by its biggest actors (Germany, UK, France), virtually the architects of the future of the Old Continent, but also, in part, of global evolution, due to its specific weight in systemic affairs. These are all realities Romania ought to consider while articulating its own voice in the EU.

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