Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Prodi says countries have lost Euro-faith

The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, a former President of the European Commission, returned from the Brussels summit saying that, as a politician, he was happy with the outcome but that, as a European, he felt bitter about the spectacle he had witnessed. Speaking in Bologna the afternoon after the summit finished (in the early hours of Saturday morning, 23 June), Prodi attacked the Eurosceptic countries, by which he meant Poland and Britain. “Some people came to Brussels with a political mandate to put a brake on European integration and they fulfilled their mission,” he said. He added that he had never seen such an explicit and pre-meditated Euroscepticism. He said that in the past there had been foot-dragging on specific technical questions but that now hostility to integration had become “a doctrine”. “Many countries have lost the spirit of working together, they have lost the European spirit,” he said. Prodi said that Italy had been able to retain its own “red lines”, basic demands for further integration on which it was not prepared to compromise, but he said that he felt bitter that he had had to push this through in the teeth of opposition from countries which were against integration, led by Britain. These countries, said Prodi, “put forward a different conception of Europe with clarity and intellectual honesty” but that, while he did not regret EU enlargement, he felt that the time was coming when it would no longer be possible to allow countries to prevent others from going ahead further if they wanted. (This argument, in fact, is not new: Chancellor Kohl in the early 1990s, was always saying that the speed of the convoy should not be determined by the slowest.) [La Repubblica, Corriere della sera, 24 June 2007]

Prodi said that he greatly regretted the fact that some countries had attacked the EU anthem and flag, saying that these same governments – Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands – were also complaining that Europe was too far removed from its citizens. Evidently Mr Prodi thinks that the flag and the anthem can stir people’s pro-European emotions.

However, the thing which annoyed the Italians most was the removal from the reference to “free competition” from the first part of the treaty. “The main responsibility for this lies with Nicolas Sarkozy,” bemoaned an editorial in Corriere della sera entitled “Sarko retro” (Sarko reactionary). The newspaper said that the decision to remove the reference to free markets was “absurd” and that it demonstrated once again “the protectionist DNA of the French”.
Prodi therefore said that he was in favour of a two-speed Europe (which the old constitution in any case provided for), which would allow some countries to integrate more quickly than others. The Foreign Minister, Massimo D’Alema, said that Italy would put forward its vision at the intergovernmental conference which would open shortly to draw up the revised treaty. But he anticipated success. “We will have stronger institutions from 2009 and not 2017,” he said. [La Repubblica, 23 June 2007]

---- An excerpt from John Laughland's Intelligence Digest. For a free e-mail subscription to the Intelligence Digest, please click here. ----

No comments: