So, somebody has a brilliant idea to solve all Europe’s problems. What is it? It’s to set up a European economic government for the EU. It’s not exactly new – several people in the Jospin government thought so, including Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It might have something going for it.
But what is it? The EU already has – already is – an economic government, in that it handles trade negotiations, operates a single set of product standards, interworking arrangements between big networked systems, some social and environmental regulations, and even operates some fiscal rules. If you include the European Central Bank, and why not, it conducts monetary policy.
In some areas of the economy it has a positively dominating influence – agriculture, fisheries, and forestry being three, and a whole range of things through the enlargement process. It is quite heavily involved in big infrastructure projects, and in managing CO2 emissions controls. So in what way isn’t it an economic government already?
Two ways spring to mind. The federal budget is tiny, and a lot is still lashed to the CAP. Another one would be greater control over member state budgeting. But it’s hard to imagine that the French government would be over keen on a new Brussels competence area that dealt with the cost of their nuclear missiles, say, or that a Commission budget bureau would be particularly effective. So what is this thing?
One suggestion is that it would be intergovernmental rather than supranational, coming under Council of Ministers control rather than Commission control. That sounds a lot like a drive for greater member state control, rather than anything else. Alternatively, such a thing could be responsible to the European Parliament for the budget. That sounds like an improvement, but how it would shift the economy all on its own is a mystery. As Terry Eagleton’s priest said to the man who came to him with a sex problem, “It’s all a mystery! It’s all a mystery!”
What the hell is an economic government?