Tuesday, March 06, 2007

David Cameron's Europe: Old, Boring, and Flawed

David Cameron, leader of the Tories in the UK, wrote a piece on his view of Europe together with Mirek Topolanek, prime minister of the Czech Republic.

The lack of ideas and projects of Mr Cameron is staggering. He claims he started a movement for european reform. He is probably unaware of the fact that there are thousand similar movements across Europe.

He makes three points as to where Europe should go. First, it should be committed to an open market. Second, it should be committed to a nationalist perspective. Third, it should be committed to a strong Transatlantic bond.

The third point is probably where we agree. It needs no commentary, if to say that he is stating the obvious. The second point goes backward instead of going forward. Europe was and is a succesfull project because it manages to go beyond national states. To fall back to that pre-WW2 position would be a dramatic failure. The first point is at best, and again, stating the obvious problem of competition in a globalized world. Everyone is aware of that. Cameron does not offer anything interesting or different or constructive.

Here's the text:

Fifty years ago this month, the post-war generation of mainland Europe came together to articulate a project conceived in hope and forged by necessity: the hope was for a peaceful and prosperous future; and the necessity was economic ruin and political division. In signing the Treaty of Rome, they laid the foundations of the European Union.

In 1973 Britain, at a time of its own economic weakness, joined what was then still a small club of nations. It was not an easy start. Britain already had strong links with strategic partners around the world through the Commonwealth, family ties and trade. And public and political opinion was split over the relative merits of membership.

This ambivalence was to characterise much of Britain’s relationship with the EU ever since. This is in stark contrast to the Czech experience. When the Iron Curtain came crashing down and a politically plural culture and free trade took root, there was little ambivalence towards the EU: joining it was a priority, not an afterthought It was necessary to entrench the new found freedoms which the Czechs fought so hard to win and the prosperity which they had so longed for.

Our countries joined the European Union for different reasons and with different enthusiasms. And we have had different experiences. But today, as leaders of our respective country’s leading centre-right political parties, we are united with a common purpose: to make the EU change so it can be a force for good in the twenty-first century.

Fifty years after the Treaty of Rome, we have a new Europe, facing new challenges and with a new generation of leaders. But we have the same EU, still too attached to the tenets of centralisation and regulation and still too interested in itself, rather than worldwide challenges such as globalisation, climate change and global poverty. A new, positive agenda for Europe means reconnecting it to these urgent priorities. It means moving towards a new flexibility and dynamism. And it means looking outwards to the world.

That is why we launched the Movement for European Reform. We will be carrying out a comprehensive review of the EU’s policies, priorities, institutional capabilities and budget, it is open to all those - public servants, professionals, diplomats, business-leaders and students - who share our determination to make the EU work better. We want to pioneer a new agenda for Europe, underpinned by what we believe to be the three key commitments for a forward-looking EU.

First, the EU should be clearly and unambiguously committed to open markets. With increased and fierce competition from countries such as India and China, Europe has to take the steps that make our economies both open and dynamic. Responding to this challenge means discarding the old habits of regulation and fighting for free trade both within and without.

But free trade must also be fair. As the world’s largest trading block, the EU has a responsibility to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared by everyone. We should use trade liberalisation at home to provide economic opportunities, and spur development, abroad. This EU must use its collective muscle to push the World Trade Organisation to reduce the tariffs which entrench poverty in the developing world.

Second, the EU should be committed to a Europe of nation states. This means matching the growing flexibility of the globalised economy with flexibility in the political compact between Brussels and member states. At the moment, the EU’s default response to the challenges of our times is always to reach for more power- not least through a new Constitution for Europe. There is a strong tendency to do this by debating the future of 500 million people behind closed doors. This is precisely why so many people feel disenfranchised by the European project. For the EU to be relevant in the 21st century, it must respect equal status for all EU members and, while maintaining the single market as the EU’s core, give more flexibility in areas where member states may want either closer or looser control.

A more flexible EU also means one that can continue to expand. The enlargement of the European Union – from just six in 1957 to 27 members today - has helped entrench democracy and stability from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. That is a marvellous achievement. But we cannot now allow arguments over institutional structures to block further enlargement. That means holding out a real prospect of membership to the Western Balkans, to Turkey, to the Ukraine.

Third, the EU should be committed to a strong transatlantic relationship. Europe and the United States have a deep and wide history of friendship based on shared objectives. That this remains the case today can be in no doubt. Whether it is in rising to the challenge of globalisation, articulating a coherent and progressive response to climate change, confronting the imperative of energy security, or advancing wealth creation and the principles of freedom across the world, EU member states must understand that we can achieve most by working with America, rather than against it.

Today, the Movement for European Reform is holding its inaugural conference in Brussels. A vast array of thought provoking policy-makers, thinkers and members of the public will outline how best they think Europe can marry these principles with the priorities of the 21st century: globalisation, global poverty, climate change and international security. After a year of consultation, it will publish its suggestions. Most importantly, we want to hear from you- visit our website and have your say on our shared future.

Our two countries came to the European project with different histories and motivations. But today, as a new generation of Europe’s leaders, we are committed not only to establishing a new political grouping in the European parliament, but also too making the EU fit for the 21st century: one that is a force for good in the world; one that leads by example; and one that delivers. Join us in building an EU that we can all be proud of.

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