Bucharest, Romania. 25 June. Europe from the other end. My reason for coming to Bucharest is to address the 16th Partnership for Peace Conference. One gets a different perspective of European security from Romania.,,and a different perspective of the EU.
EU leaders will tomorrow gather for a very tetchy meeting in Ypres during which they will appoint Jean Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. I am not one of those hoping for a Juncker appointment because it will make a bad situation worse. My instinct is always to try and make things work. However, it is now clear that Juncker’s appointment will lay the ground for Britain’s historic and pending departure from the EU. Given that two things are now clear. First, the EU needs a new political settlement. Second, Europeans must somehow separate the dispute over the future governance of Europe (for that is what it is) from the security and defence of Europe, hard though that will be.
The Juncker Affair reflects a structural split between those in the Eurozone who by joining the single currency wittingly or unwittingly signed up for some form of European Government and those who did not. The seeming principle (as much as it exists) behind those supporting Juncker who are not die-hard Euro-federalists is they accept the loss of national sovereignty necessary to make the Euro work. What this group seemingly fail to see is that inevitably means some form of European Government.
For the British (and all those not yet in the Euro) this dawning reality is simply recognition that the EU and the Eurozone are one and the same thing. Henceforth it will no longer be possible to be in the EU but outside the Eurozone unless a state is willing to bear a disproportionate cost. In reality Britain left the EU the moment it rejected membership of the Euro. Indeed, as Churchill might have said; we have established where we are now all that is left is to decide where next to go.
Therefore, Britain’s pending ‘defeat’ in Ypres will mark an irreparable breach with the Eurozone countries that will inevitably lead to some form of Brexit. It might be delayed for a time by a Labour Government but the destiny is set because the British people will never accept a European Government.
Which is why EU leaders must find a political settlement before the crisis (for that is what it is) pollutes further Europe’s security and defence. Without such a settlement Europe could remain trapped in its own eternal, internal debate as the world around the EU (and NATO) becomes steadily more dangerous. Therefore, it is far better to start thinking now about an equitable relationship between Britain and the German-led EU. If not the Fourth Battle of Ypres will be re-fought over and over again as it is one about structure and principle, rather than personality.
The huge ramifications of permitting the European Parliament to dictate to the elected political leaders of the EU’s member-states are becoming clearer by the hour. Social-democrats in the European Parliament are already using the precedent the Juncker appointment will set to demand the right in November to replace the European Council President Herman van Rompuy and High Representative Cathy Ashton with their own appointees. Hitherto these appointments have been the strict preserve of national leaders.
Which brings me to Partnership for Peace or PfP. PfP was a 1990s NATO initiative designed to help stabilise Europe in the post-Cold War period. As evident from the tragedy in Ukraine Europe is still not “whole and free” in the then words of President George H.W. Bush. Many today equate “whole and free” with the EU and “ever closer union”. However, it is now clear a new way must be found and fast. Indeed, with Islamism marching across the Levant and the entire Sykes-Picot system of Middle Eastern states tottering between autocracy and fundamentalism on Europe’s doorstep a new big picture strategy is urgently needed. That will mean nothing less than a Strategic Partnership for Regional and Global Peace.
However, that will only happen when and if a new EU political settlement is reached. Therefore, it is time for a pan-EU conference to enable leaders to establish a new European political order that offers an alternative to “ever closer union”. Yes, that will mean a new treaty and yes that will mean several ‘Europes’. However, a new treaty be needed in any case for the Eurozone to move towards the deeper political integration necessary to save the benighted currency.
The cost to individual liberty will be high and the gap between the citizen and power will increase which is precisely why deeper political integration is unacceptable to the British. However, only with a new political settlement will current pressures be eased and order restored to an EU political system that is under intense, growing and paralyzing pressure. And only then will proper consideration begin of Europe’s place in the world and its future security.
We simply cannot go on like this.