Martin Callanan MEP is Chairman of the European Conservatives. Follow the ECR Group on Twitter.
Despite a pointless fiscal compact treaty, bailouts for Spain, Portugal and Ireland, cheap ECB money being pumped into Italian banks, and deeply unpopular cuts across much of the EU, very little has changed in the eurozone. The single currency is still in freefall. The markets have not seen anything like the permanent solution that they demand. Our political leaders are still vacillating, issuing statements saying that they stand behind their currency yet not moving from their entrenched positions to take some definitive action. In the European Parliament, people are becoming more frustrated with every non-decision taken.
I don't think that nearly enough credit has been given to William Hague. Had he not led such a spirited campaign as Leader of the Opposition, there is a strong possibility that we would also be entangled in this wicked web, facing Hobson's choice of giving away the remainder of our economic sovereignty to European bodies, and sending money that we don't ourselves have to our eurozone partners.
The EU summit two weeks ago was billed as a "make or break" meeting. The first such meeting since the last one. A few days before it the Presidents of the ECB, Commission and Council published a set of ideas to create a "genuine" Economic and Monetary Union. Southern Europe warned that it focused too little on mutualisation of debt. Northern Europe (in particular Germany) criticised the proposals for not containing strong enough provisions allowing Brussels to rewrite national budgets.
Out of the summit came what seemed like some positive news. Merkel had caved, Rajoy and Monti had won concessions. The markets rose slightly. Was this a sign that we might finally get some decisive action from our leaders? Not really. When the dust settled it soon became clear that there were no immediate solutions agreed. Bank recapitalisation from the ESM and EFSF bailout mechanisms would not happen until there is a new bank supervisory authority created, which will take months. And the EFSF and its successor ESM are so depleted that at best they might buy a country like Italy some time — as was the case when the ECB pumped cheap credit into its banks. Some eurozone members such as Finland also started to backtrack on the agreement.
At best, EU leaders agreed to replace the sticking plasters with a slightly bigger bandage — some time next year. It might help a bit but it won't stop the bleeding in the euro zone.
The following week in the European Parliament, this was the message I delivered in a debate with Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy on the summit's outcomes. You can watch my speech here.
Despite it being, I thought, fairly reasonable, I attracted an extraordinary outburst from Barroso who railed against the British Conservatives. You can see his speech here.
After this, I wrote to President Barroso, saying:
"In the chamber this morning, you accused me of taking 'delight' at the difficulties of the euro area. This may get you a cheap laugh amongst the federalists of the European Parliament but it categorically and deliberately misrepresents me.
If you actually listen to what I have said, I said no such thing. It is clear that I take absolutely no pleasure in the substantial loss of national democracy being forced upon euro zone countries. I take no comfort in the fact that northern Europe will inevitably be forced into whole scale fiscal transfers to less competitive countries. It gives me no delight that the United Kingdom – which foresaw these eventualities many years ago and retained its currency – risks being dragged down by the naivety of other European leaders in the 1990s."
I later drafted an article for the Brussels-based news website Public Service Europe. You can read it here. It seems clear that Barroso is becoming increasingly frustrated by the whole scale inability of his commission to shape events, and the retrenchment to national interests in the place of what is known in Brussels as the 'Community Method' — i.e. that decisions should be taken through the European institutions, rather than those wicked, self-interested, nationalistic relics of the 20th century that have brought us nothing but war and poverty: the 27 nation states. But in the article I warn that, if Barroso gets his way, all significant economic decision-making powers will be handed over from euro countries to EU institutions. In that eventuality Barroso's continued outbursts will be nothing compared to the uproar we will see from a people enraged at their inability to control their destinies through the ballot box.
The day after Barroso's "intervention" we held a debate with the President of Cyprus, who had just assumed the six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Before the debate started, Barroso came over to me, shook my hand and asked if I was angry with him. "Yes," was my reply. In my speech I responded to the points that he had made the day before. The speech is here.
The President of Cyprus is the only communist leader in Europe. The day before his speech, I had a meeting with him in which he expressed the need for more solidarity across Europe. "By that, do you just mean you want a bailout for Cyprus?" was my — perhaps undiplomatic — reply.
As Cyprus enters the Chair, Denmark leaves it. On Tuesday we held an end of Presidency debate with the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law). In my speech I congratulated the Presidency for its characteristically Scandinavian efficiency. I also noted that, considering her government is socialist, we were surprised to see some very sensible results from its time at the helm. These include the burial of an EU-wide Financial Transaction Tax, a refusal to restart negotiations on harmful plans to extend fully-paid maternity leave, and a perspective on the EU budget that you would expect from a contributor country. I also pointed out that she could teach the socialists in the parliament a lesson or two about responsibility. Watch the speech here. I also referred back to the council's decision to change the legal base on the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism. I wrote about this row in my last report but suffice it to say that tempers are still very frayed in the parliament, and the Danes quite unfairly took all of the flak.
One big vote happened in the chamber on the "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement" (ACTA). You'd be forgiven for having never heard of it in the UK. Our media hasn't been moved by it. But in other EU countries such as Poland, it has caused a gigantic storm with people out in the streets, media covering it daily, and emails, tweets and telephone calls being made to MEPs in their droves.
Essentially ACTA is a treaty signed by, inter alia, the USA, Australia, Japan and the EU (which was given a legal personality in the Lisbon Treaty, enabling it to sign treaties in its own right). It aimed to set out an international framework to target counterfeit goods, medicines and internet infringement. Even before the accord was signed there was a widespread misinformation campaign about what it might mean: for example that people in Africa wouldn't have access to seeds and medicines.
We had our own concerns about certain elements of it, in particular the so-called "digital chapter". However, the European Commission had decided to refer the agreement to the European Court of Justice for a ruling on its compatibility with European law. We felt it was only appropriate to wait until we had that ruling before pushing ahead with the ratification vote in the European Parliament. Unfortunately, left-wing groups had already decided to kill it off quickly so they pushed ahead before the ECJ had given its opinion. As Syed Kamall said in his excellent speech, it was rather dishonourable behaviour. However, he also stressed that, as an opponent of further EU integration, he should be happy that the parliament is undermining the integrationist ECJ in such a way.
The result was perhaps the most convincing rejection I have ever seen in the European Parliament: 478 MEPs voted against, 39 in favour, and 165 MEPs abstained. At the EU level at least, it seems the treaty has been torpedoed.
That's it for the sum
mer. The parliament will reconvene at the start of September when my reports back will recommence. I've really enjoyed doing them and I appreciate all of your comments. Please do keep them coming.