Saturday, 26 May 2007

Pro Europeans?

Compare this end-note of Ed Balls, MP and Economic Secretary to the Treasury, with some English tabloids and lobby groups:

“So we should reject ideological approaches to Europe, in favour of a pragmatic and hard-headed approach that reflects the reality of Britain, Europe and the world in the 21st century: a successful Britain strengthened by its membership of the EU, and an outward-looking globally-focussed EU strengthened by the UK’s active engagement.”

In “Britain and Europe: A City minister’s perspective” (published by the Centre for European Reform) Ed Balls presents his reasoning for constructive engagement for the United Kingdom within the European Union.

His essay deals with:

Financial services
The single market and beyond
Energy, climate change and the single market
Reforming the EU budget

Europe needs to take steps to ensure more outward-looking financial and other markets, ensuring Europe’s ability to compete in global markets.

The Lisbon Agenda should lead to a commitment to structural reforms matched with social policies to equip people for change: flexibility combined with fairness.

Full opening of European energy markets would lead to total savings running to tens of billions of euros.

The 2007 EU budget is outdated: 40 per cent of the total expenditure is still allocated to the Common Agricultural Policy, while more than 60 per cent of structural and cohesion fund expenditure is still transferred to rich member states.

For a European citizen interested in jobs, growth and prosperity, the economic reform agenda of Ed Balls sounds a lot more promising than a lot of what the “dynamic reformer”, the new French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said in the first days of his tenure.

But, European integration is more than enlargement and an ever wider internal market. The European Union needs effective institutions to enhance external and internal security, transparency, union level democracy for union level decisions, as well as legal protection for companies and individuals.

Hopefully the reform programme of Messrs Balls and Brown extends to overdue institutional reform of the European Union.

From a European citizen’s perspective each government defining its own “national interests” looks less convincing than the ones which would learn to ask: What is good for Europeans?

Ralf Grahn