Let Battle Be Joined

Well, things are shaping up nicely for a ‘healthy debate of the underlying issues’ on 16/17 June. Chirac and Schr?der have pronounced: the ratification process must continue, Jean-Claude Juncker is warning that failure to reach a budget deal at the summit would “turn the big European difficulties into a big European crisis“, and Peter Mandelson forsees a historic opportunity for Tony Blair. Mandelson is quoted as saying:

Tony Blair could carry on for another three years now that he has been given a “fresh calling” to resolve Europe’s crisis, his old ally Peter Mandelson claimed last night.

Mr Mandelson said the French and Dutch rejection of the European Union constitution handed Mr Blair another chance to secure his legacy as Prime Minister“.

What does all this mean? Well, according to France’s Le Figaro:

Si Londres gagne, c’est la victoire de l’Europe lib?rale, ? l’anglo-saxonne, aussi ?largie que possible, un grand march? contr?l? au strict minimum par Bruxelles. Si Berlin l’emporte, c’est la victoire de l’Europe politique, libre-?changiste, mais surtout f?d?rale, avec une d?fense, une diplomatie, et une monnaie commune. Dans l’Europe b?tarde du trait? de Nice, tous les Etats membres n’ont pas encore choisi leur camp. La crise va les obliger ? tomber les masques.”

“”If London wins [the ratification dispute] it is a victory for liberal, Anglo-Saxon Europe, enlarged as much as possible, a giant market, with regulation from Brussels kept to a strict minimum. If It is Berlin that carries the day, it’s victory for the Political vision of Europe, free-trade, but especially federal, with a common defence, diplomacy, and a common money. In the ‘bastard’ Europe born of Nice treaty, all members states have not yet chosen their camp. The crisis will force everyone to take off their masks.”

Of course there is a third party here: the Commission. What Barroso will undoubtedly be working for is a pragmatic, workable compromise.

Mr Barroso urged the French leader and his colleagues to “turn a crisis into an opportunity” and argued: “It is vital that we use the present moment to forge a new consensus.”

He warned Europe not to indulge in a “blame game” or an “ideological rift” between supporters of free markets and those who believe in government intervention. What was needed, Mr Barroso said, was “an intelligent synthesis between the market and the state, which can help Europe win and not lose in the face of globalisation”.”

Mandelson Calls For Reflection

Wow, I seem to be agreeing with Mandelson. Hardly surprising, apart from all the sleeze rows, I have the feeling he is the most competent politician working out of Brussels:

Striking a different tone from European Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso, Mandelson appears to be suggesting a ?plan B?.

He argues that should the French ?non? be an obstacle to the EU constitution Europe should seek a ?new consensus?.

EU leaders could set out a vision of Europe?s policy direction and then draw up a fresh institutional blueprint.

?I think that consensus on the centre ground is there to be mobilised. One that rejects the populism of left and right,? he said.

Mandelson noted that future ratifications ? including a British vote ? would depend on whether the EU constitution was still viable.

?There will be a period of reflection,? he said early on Monday morning.

?If there is a constitutional treaty to ratify, I am confident it will be put to British people in a referendum.?