Institutions : Barroso utters the dreaded word

13 September 2012 – Presseurop

In proposing a federation of nation states, the President of the European Commission has outlined an ambitious course of development for the EU. For the European press, however, such an initiative inevitably raises questions about the role of Brussels and the role of member states.

At a critical moment for the European Union which is struggling to emerge from crisis, José Manuel Barroso set out to mobilise hearts and minds. In his 12 September State of the Union Address the European Commission President formulated several proposals, chief among them a plan for a “democratic federation of nation states” to be established by a new European treaty.

“Barroso did not mince his words”, announces Svenska Dagbladet. The Swedish daily notes that —


... the proposal for a banking union to reinforce supervision was expected. But he went much further by affirming that the EU “must” set its sights on a fiscal union that will ultimately lead to the formation of a federation. There is apparently no limit to what Barroso believes should reasonably be managed by he and his colleagues. […] Barroso’s idea is neither reasonable nor desirable to the point where one wonders if he himself can think it is realistic. The proposal may be a means to test how far the EU can go in proposing measures to increase its own power. And although this sounds like a conspiracy theory, it is not necessarily the case. There is a great love for the European project in Brussels, where there is a romantic belief in the positive aspects of a union that constantly brings countries closer together. However, that does not mean that this idea is rooted in reality. [...] If countries at the heart of the EU are increasingly oriented towards a tightly knit federation, the outcome of a multi-speed union will be the most likely result.

Adopting a more indulgent tone, Der Standard remarks on the emergence of a new Barroso, a “type of politician that we looked for in vain over the last eight years: a real fighter”. For the Viennese daily, the Commission President has presented —


... a good plan. What has happened? For years, Barroso was notorious for sticking to his notes. The reason for the transformation becomes clear when analysis takes into account the fact that when he was a student, the Portuguese conservative fought the dictatorship in his country. He is worried about the possible collapse of the European project if does not move forward — with the attendant risk of the dismantling of democracy that can be observed in several crisis stricken states in the EU.

As described in his address to the members of the European parliament, the Commission President’s vision “is blatantly modeled on Germany’s vision for a united Europe”, announces România Liberă in Bucharest. It is a vision —

... that assumes there will be responsible fiscal and budgetary management, a reduction in the competitiveness and productivity gap between North and South, and prudent political integration that does not erase national differences. [The German constitutional court ruling on the euro rescue fund shows that] Berlin is keen to avoid transforming the European federation into a superstate. [...] The victory of the German project has wiped out virtually any possibility of an alternative vision.

Perhaps this is the only way to save the euro, concedes The Times in London, which has traditionally opposed further European integration —

In decades of EU opinion polling, citizens across the Continent have never been so resistant to the founding fathers’ dream of ever-closer union [...] The idea of restarting the torture machine of treaty negotiation is the last thing most politicians want. But it is the big paradox of the euro emergency that, despite the Union’s unpopularity, most governments — including Britain’s — now agree that the currency can be saved only by its member states giving up more sovereignty. In French, this is called la fuite en avant — running away forwards.

This development, notes the Daily Telegraph, will boost the demand for a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU. The daily even affirms that government officials have set to work on a “recommendation that Britain stays in the EU without joining a political union”, which will be delivered in the event of a referendum. However, the timing of a debate on Europe “could not be worse for David Cameron” —


... as it would come in the run-up to a general election in 2015 and put the deeply divisive issue of Europe at the top of the political agenda.

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