Tag Archives: Czech Republic

Marginalised Cameron tries to defend his EU U-turn

“A veto is not for life, it’s just for Christmas.” Congratulations to Ed Miliband on this perfect one-liner. David Cameron was indeed on the back foot in the House of Commons yesterday answering questions on  the Brussels summit.

The reason – Cameron is trying to look both ways and utterly failing. Britain is a member of the European Union but opted out of, not vetoed, changes to the Lisbon Treaty in December last year. (Thanks to Labour MP Chris Bryant for this succinct wording).

Unable to sustain his threat to prevent the 26 EU member states that signed up to the “fiscal pact” in December from using the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to uphold their agreement, David Cameron was forced into an embarrassing U-turn. He now accepts that the “fiscal pact” countries can use the European institutions to make sure the treaty changes are upheld.  

Cameron is, however, trying to detract from the mess he has made of this whole saga by telling us he will jump on the 25 (the Czech Republic now appears to have joined the UK) if they do anything which harms the EU single market. If this happens, Cameron will attempt to take measures against the treaty signers.

This is yet another example of Cameron nonsense. No issues concerning the single market are related to the changes to the Lisbon Treaty put forward in December. They are separate matters.

Cameron is again coming up with smoke and mirrors just as he did over the repatriation of powers idea. It goes like this: Cameron, himself an arch-Eurosceptic, needs to keep his feral Eurosceptic backbenchers on board, not least because they were instrumental in securing his leadership of the Conservative Party. However, David Cameron is now the Prime Minister of Great Britain and has duties and obligations in the European Union, not to mention the need to maintain relationships with key EU players. Moreover, Conservative policy is to stay in the EU.

So Cameron is really in a bit of a fix. He cannot fulfil his obligations to all sides. So he’s doing a bit of both and being mightily unsuccessful in the process. The Eurosceptics are still not happy while Jack Straw echoed the feelings of many when he said yesterday that “outside the (EU) door is not a good place to be.”

Never underestimate the extent of  the UK’s marginalisation in the EU under David Cameron’s leadership. Taking the British Conservative MEPs out of the centre-right European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament massively annoyed Angela Merkel. The opt-out, not veto, in Brussels on December 9 caused French President Sarkozy to refuse to shake Cameron’s hand. Merkel and Sarkozy, always an intriguing double act, are growing ever closer with Merkel pledged to support Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign, according to the Financial Times.

 Being a member of an important organisation but not fully committed to it strikes me as a completely ridiculous position. Would David Cameron and William Hague take the same view on NATO? 

We are in the EU, and have been for nearly 40 years. While it is by no means perfect, Britain is surely better in the European Union than lost in the twilight zone outside, especially since the UK could take a leading role if our leaders wished to do so.

Other European countries see working together as a real advantage and many not yet in the EU are very keen to join.

The British idea that we are better off alone is a myth from a past imperial age. Yet even then, Britain itself was never really alone. Since the 18th century we had a world-wide empire to back us up. Now that is no longer there, our only tenable world role is to be a major player in the EU.

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The “veto” that never was and the ire of the Eurosceptics

Sometimes I almost feel sorry for David Cameron. He really seemed to believe that walking out of the Brussels summit in December would begin to end his EU troubles.

Far from it. As Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said in the Guardian this morning: “The unanswered question after this summit [the one which has just ended] remains what exactly David Cameron achieved by walking out of the EU negotiations last month? With the EU institutions now involved, it seems clear that all his earlier phantom veto achieved was to undermine British influence.”

The Brussels summit which ended yesterday endorsed the use of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to enforce the “fiscal pact”. Britain reserved its position, along with the Czech Republic, the only other EU member state to do so.

This latest climb-down by the British Prime Minister makes it even clearer that David Cameron achieved absolutely nothing by walking out of the last Brussels summit. He did not “veto” the treaty; he quite simply did not sign up to it. A veto implies preventing or stopping something happening. Cameron did not achieve this. Rather he took himself and the UK away from the agreement. “Refusal to agree” or “abnegation of responsibility” would be better terms for David Cameron’s antics.

However, this is not the view of the feral Tory Eurosceptics.

Cameron’s personal woes are at home while our country’s are in the EU. Losing influence and being marginalised in Europe do not help the UK. Because of our geographical size and proud history, we should be a major player at the heart of Europe, leading the EU, one of the world’s major power blocs, in the direction which would be best for Britain.

Meanwhile, unable to perform in any credible way in the EU, David Cameron is facing a  Eurosceptic backlash in the House of Commons as well as searing criticism from his own MEPs.            

Speaking about Cameron’s volte-face on the use of the EU institutions to enforce the fiscal pact, Martin Callanan, Leader of the ECR Group, largely made up of British Tories, is quoted in the Guardian this morning as saying, “I blame a combination of appeasing Nick Clegg, who is desperate to sign up to anything the EU puts in front of him, and the practical reality that the pact is actually quite hard to prevent.”

Leading feral Eurosceptic backbencher Bernard Jenkin said, “The government cannot retreat from that [not agreeing to the treaty changes last month], or they will refuel demands for a referendum on the UK’s present terms of membership of the EU.”

So Cameron’s attempts to pacify his Eurosceptics at the expense of Britain being able to take its rightful place in the EU are failing miserably.

The embattled Mr Cameron is also facing criticism from the backbench mob for doing what Nick Clegg wants.

I always thought coalitions were about agreeing joint policies and taking them forward together. Not, it appears, in the modern Conservative Party who are behaving as if they won the last general election with an overall majority. They did not, and would do well to remember it.

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I support Tony Blair for President (even though I was against the Iraq War)

Blair at the European Parliament

Now is the time, I believe, for all good men and women to stand up and be counted.  I believe Tony Blair is not only the right person to be the new President of the European Council, but the only possible choice.

 It all comes down to how we see the EU and where we want Europe to go in the future.  While I am not a European integrationist as far as domestic policy is concerned, I do believe the EU’s presence on the world stage needs to be strengthened.  The EU should be able to rise to what we may now call the “Obama challenge”, an idea first articulated by Henry Kissinger when he asked, “If I want to talk to Europe, who do I ring?” 

 The two new posts (a President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs, both to serve a minimum of two and a half years), to be created under the Lisbon Treaty will go some way towards answering this question.  Answering this question becomes ever more crucial as the years go by and both Europe and the world change.  Indeed, the environment in which Kissinger operated over thirty years ago is almost unrecognisable today.

 One of the ways to deal with the Kissinger question is, I believe, to have a strong and experienced President of the European Council, a charismatic leader who will be President Obama’s equal, a real player on the international stage.  In short, the EU needs a credible leader to execute its external relations policy. 

 Foreign affairs and defence have moved beyond the realm of individual nation states.  The EU itself now has a developed common security policy and speaks as one voice on very many external matters.  The only time in the recent past when this did not happen was the Iraq War when Britain went out on a limb with the United States.  I opposed the Iraq War all the way through, spoke against it in public and voted for the resolutions in the European Parliament condemning the war.

 I am not, therefore, a blind Blair loyalist.  But I do believe he is the man to be President of Europe.  He is also an ex-Labour Prime Minister, and hence our, the Labour, candidate.  I have never had much time for those Labour Party members who were against Blair because they viewed him as not “old Labour” and not left wing enough.  Tony Blair is Labour. End of story.

 Tony Blair’s record as Labour Prime Minister speaks for itself – the national minimum wage, Sure Start, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, a massive reduction in NHS waiting lists, a huge hospital building programme, a reduction in class sizes, peace in Northern Ireland, tripling overseas aid, establishing devolved government in Scotland and Wales and setting up the London Assembly, to name but a few.  You will all, I am sure, be able to add to this list.     

 Given that it is now almost certain that Czech Republic President Klaus will sign the Lisbon Treaty, it will probably come into force towards the end of November.  The EU therefore has less than two months to shape its future.  Let’s hope it takes the bold decision and appoints the man who once affirmed that “We are at our best when we are at our boldest”.

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Czech President Klaus’ Civic Democrat Party is a Member of ECR Tory Group

Pres Vaclav Klaus

In 2009 prima donna President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic founded the Czech Civic Democratic Party (Obcanska demokraticka strana, abbreviated to ODS), which vies for the title of the most right-wing political party in the Czech Republic.

The ODS, you may be aware, is one of the parties which make up the Tory group in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists.  Again we see the Tories true colours in the people they choose to work with.    

Most of us would, I think, agree that Vaclav Klaus is a most unpleasant man.  According to the weighty press coverage he has received over the past couple of weeks he is revelling in every minute of his show stopping performance on the Lisbon Treaty.  Acting like some tin pot dictator, he is going against the wishes of the two houses of parliament in the country of which he is President and the constitutional court there, not to mention the other 26 EU countries which have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

President Klaus is also, according to today’s Guardian, a womaniser who despises feminists and mocks environmentalists.  He is also a climate change denier.

Quite a dossier!  We are now seeing what David Cameron is really about.

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