The boot is on the other foot, M. Chirac
There are two halfs to each side in the debate over the future of the EU. Those in favour of greater integration, although, obviously, in some disagreement over the precise final form of the EU are largely in favour of a federal state. Those against want less supranationalism and more of a co-operative union. However, what the news from this week's summit makes quite clear is that on both sides there is a tension between those who have a principled vision of the EU and those who wish to hijack principle purely for national interest on individual issues. The purported division between good "Europeans" in central Europe and selfish trouble-makers on the fringes may not be entirely fair.
I've been prompted to this post by the words used by beleaguered/embattled/nervous (insert suitable choice) French President, Jacques Chirac, in response to the relaxation of the rules of the Growth and Stability Pact. He said that the new draft included "more intelligent" monetary rules that will be "more accepted and more respected" because they are "more flexible". He stressed that it was important that the people of the EU didn't feel unreasonably bound by rules imposed for an earlier (read different) climate.
What so enraged me was that had I made a similar comment about any other aspect of EU governance then I would have been denounced as being an anti-European, small-minded, little Englander for allowing Britain, individually, to factor into my concerns. Yet, the only reason these rules are being relaxed now is for the (in the minds of their leaders) good of the French and German economies which won't stick within the original agreement, which was, after all, drawn up for a reason in dispassionate times. The hypocrisy. Now it is the Germans and the French who want flexibility and want get-outs to benefit their own interests then responsible Europeans have to support a change in the rules. Large German and French investment is for the "European" good and therefore the rules should be changed.
I say balls. The pact was so strict on deficit spending in the first place (in my view possibly too strict - but a rule is a rule, and the lack of adherence to the G&SP is the single biggest argument for me against British euro-entry) because the Germans feared abandonment of the mark being accompanied by profligate spending-out-of-trouble by southern Europeans. Oh, how things change. Would it be too cynical of me to suggest that much of the opposition to British concerns about unnecessary and poor centralisation comes not from genuine principled desire for a United States of Europe, but rather from a fear that such voices may lead to a European Union which doesn't give the impression of having German and French prosperity as its unspoken raison d'etre. Remind me, though, why was it first conceived?