Anger in the EU

But it’s misplaced, and perhaps driven by embarrassment.  Great Britain refused, a few days ago, to go along with a proposal to alter the fundamental European Union treaty to allow for the creation of a fiscal union, touted as a solution to the existing EU sovereign debt crisis.

The petulance of others of the EU leadership is illustrated with these examples:

Le Canard Enchaine (The Chained Duck) reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Great Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, a “stubborn child.”  Apparently, Sarkozy went on: Cameron had only one goal, that of “protecting the (London) City, which wants to continue to behave like a tax oasis.”  As if either of these—protecting his capital city, and maintaining a tax oasis (if that’s what he was doing)—were a bad thing.

And this: Guy Verhofstadt, the head of ALDE (Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe), a liberal group in the European Parliament, spoke on the matter in his native Flemish Wednesday: he didn’t think English would be an “appropriate language.”

Others have insisted that Great Britain now must quit the EU.

But Cameron isn’t so alone (at least not yet) as his detractors insist.  Ireland has said that it must submit the matter to a national referendum.  Recall that the continent had a negative attitude toward the Greek government’s attempt to refer bailout terms to their people for consent or rejection.  Similarly, the Czech Republic and Sweden now insist on involving their respective parliaments in any decision to go along with a fiscal union.  Indeed, the Czech Republic has gone further, insisting that any union should apply only to members of the euro zone, and Hungary has joined them in this assessment.  Both the Czechs and the Hungarians also are on record as rejecting coordinating—”harmonizing”—national tax policies, a key parameter of a fiscal union.  Such a thing, they say, can “bring nothing positive, nothing good.”  The Czech Republic has gone yet further: they will discuss the matter, but they will take no decision for or against the union until they know the details of the pact—including those heretofore undefined “sanctions.”

Given that the proposed fiscal union cannot succeed and does not actually address the present crisis (it can only face the inevitable next one), and given that part of the demand for the treaty change involved demands for tax changes that would have hit Great Britain disproportionately, Prime Minister David Cameron was right to make the moves he did.

And given that the proposed fiscal union cannot succeed and does not actually address the present crisis, and these are becoming increasingly clear as other members of the EU share British concerns about the efficacy of the pact, the detractors are beginning to see the blunder they’ve committed with this “union.”  They’re expressing their embarrassment as anger and frustration—a sign, not of their obstinacy, but of their continued failure fully to realize their error.  That realization is only just beginning.

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