“Any speed, one direction. Britain in the rear view mirror, French elections and Turkish hostility looming on the horizon ahead.”
That’s how Pat Harrington, Director of the Third Way thinktank, described the meeting of European Union leaders who descended on Rome to reaffirm their vows to the project that began there 60 years ago.
In his speech European Council President Donald Tusk said
“Today in Rome we are renewing the unique alliance of free nations that was initiated 60 years ago by our great predecessors. At that time they did not discuss multiple speeds, they did not devise exits, but despite all the tragic circumstances of the recent history, they placed all their faith in the unity of Europe,”
“Europe as a political entity will either be united, or will not be at all. Only a united Europe can be a sovereign Europe in relation to the rest of the world. And only a sovereign Europe guarantees independence for its nations, guarantees freedom for its citizens,” he said.
“Today it is not enough to call for unity and to protest against multiple speeds. It is much more important that we all respect our common rules such as human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, checks and balances, and the rule of law. This is the true foundation of our unity,”
A press statement by the European Commission cited four main ideals but no substance or strategies as how these could be achieved.:
Security, external borders, sustainable immigration and determination to fight terrorism and organised crime.
Job creation. More help for small to medium sized companies.
A “Social Europe” that respects cultural diversity. Education improvements and finding work for young people across the continent.
Strengthening the EU on the global scene.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is talking of holding a referendum in Turkey on EU ascension, presuming he gets sweeping new powers from the current constitutional referendum. This places the proposed Eastern expansion of the EU in doubt.
The presidential election being held in France next month, where the eurosceptic and France first candidate Marine Le Pen is expected to at least make the second round could also be a game changer. People in many European countries are backing anti-EU and anti-establishment parties.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that the EU is in no danger of fracturing, it’s hard to see the EU being united for many reasons. Not least as the southern countries will inevitably be left behind as the Eastern countries piggy-back onto a faster ride with Germany, helping the Germans manufacture and export goods out of the bloc.
Pat Harrington commented: “Had the Germans and French, amonsgst others, heeded what the UK had to say about immigration, about the Euro and respect for national sovereignty what a different world we would be in today. Sadly the meeting in Rome indicates that a poltical agenda is being put above economic realities and legitimate national interests. The aim remains the creation of a United States of Europe. As someone who feels both British and European I am saddened by the fact that the EU establishment has learned nothing from the Brexit vote.”