Tuesday 9 September 2008

VGE and the grand UK opt-out (Updated)

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who chaired the European Convention, has given his views on the grand opt-out by the United Kingdom at a conference titled ‘Britain with the EU: a special status’. How much of a loss would it be for the citizens of the European Union if Britain, already outside core areas and a consistent brake on institutional reform, opted for a special status roughly corresponding to a second-tier membership?

Is VGE just stating the obvious: Britain’s accentuated estrangement from Europe under a coming Conservative government?


As the father of the draft Constitution, VGE has repeatedly pointed out the substantial similarities between the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, although the later stages have each diluted proposals by the European Convention.

But ‘Le blog de Valéry Giscard d’Estaing pour la démocratie en Europe’ has failed to live up to its motto ‘for democracy in Europe’. If VGE wants a strong and coherent Europe on the international scene, he should rethink the premises of the European project. Without democratic legitimacy the European Union is going to remain a soft power in a world of assertive hard powers.

The way forward lies well beyond the Lisbon Treaty: Security and prosperity, based on government of the EU citizens, by the EU citizens, and for the EU citizens.

With or without the United Kingdom, at least an advance group has to embrace the EU’s membership criteria for the European Union itself.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. 9 September 2008: Global Vision has the text of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's speech available at http://www.global-vision.net/files/downloads/download547.pdf (in French).
An English version is promised soon.


  1. > " ... la Grande-Bretagne... dispensée de participer aux avancées... "

    De quelles "avancées" parle Monsieur le Président Giscard d'Estaing ?
    Avancées dans... le mûr ?.. Avancées dans... le précipice ?.. où nous mènent les européistes...
    Personne n'en veut des... "avancées" ! Ni les Français, ni les Néerlandais, ni les Irlandais, ni bien sûr... le Président VGE le sait... les Britanniques !

    > " ...l'Europe déjà unie... poursuivre son intégration, à un rythme réaliste... "

    Le Président VGE rêve-t-il en couleurs ou en noir et blanc ?...
    L'union européenne est MORTE... et il le sait... mieux que quiconque !
    Que reste-t-il de ce début d'Europe qu'était la C.E.C.A. ? Rien... Un charbon européen dévasté... Un acier européen ruiné... Vive le charbon chinois... coûteux... Vive l'acier indien... à grand prix...
    Ont ruiné l'Europe... les EUROPEISTES... les eurocrates... les mondialistes...
    Ont mené les peuples européens à... la misère !

  2. PauLo,

    The European Union becomes ever more necessary for the security and the prosperity of EU citizens in the 21st century, and even if the structures of the EU are far from prefect, the union undeniably exists.

    Accept a few preliminary facts, and your wishes might start to look a little bit more credible.

  3. @ Grahnlaw,

    Acceptez... la démocratie... le NON français à l'union eur... le NON néerlandais à l'UE... le NON irlandais... et même... le "NO" British...

    Vous êtes des TOTALITAIRES... les européistes... Vous refusez les "NON" des peuples...

    Votre modèle c'est... l'Union Soviétique... vous les europhiles...

    Les peuples européens... vous chasseront... du Parlement de Strasbourg... lors des élections européennes de 2009 !

    Votre totalitarisme... soviétique... sera chassé... n'en doutez pas... par les PATRIOTES européens !

  4. PauLo,

    Your allegation is patently false, because I write for a democratic European Union, as you should have understood by reading this blog in general, including the post you 'commented' on.

  5. Glad to see that you picked up this important address. It has had little or no real media coverage in the UK, almost certainly because the message is a little too blunt. Global Vision does not seem to be in any hurry to produce an English translation which would give the speech a higher prominence. What is truly fascinating is the history of the UK's relationship with the EU by one of the main players.

    Giscard is intent on making the Lisbon Treaty part of his political heritage. His contention that the Lisbon Treaty is simply a legal re-drafting of the Constitutional Treaty is not correct. But the public battle of perception on this is already lost.

    I doubt if even the Conservatives will be taking up his offer. Sterling is down around 20% vis-a-vis the euro since the preparations for the Global Vision event probably began. Two more countries have joined (Cyprus and Malta) and Slovakia is on target to join on 1 January 2009. The Polish PM has now indicated a target date of 2011 for entry. It will be interesting to see whether Sterling stays in the 80 cents range. It would indicate that the markets may think that the game is up.

  6. Dagny,

    I agree that VGE simplifies the similarities between the draft Constitution, the Constitutional Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, and I suspect that you are correct as to his motives.

    In spite of, for example, the super simplifiers at the Open Europe blog, the different treaty stages are not identical.

    A better comparison would be a family portrait: you notice many family traits (most of them from the current treaties, outside the picture), but each draft and treaty is an individual with his/her own properties.

  7. I truly confirm that UK's position on Europe clearly doesn't help EU's citizens!

    Please start thinking outside the "island" and consider that we as people from EU, are really suffering from the lack of consideration the Union is giving us.
    All of what you are about to end with would be social fights ON UK's territory and with the growing up of muslim's faith in Europe, fighting-spirit wouldn't be productive enough in order to get you out of the mess....

    Please reconsider!

  8. Mr Grahn,

    I feel that two points have been avoided in President Giscard D'Estaing's speech, perhaps on purpose not to offend the host.

    Offering Britain a "status aparte" inside the union doesn't really match the British position on Europe. In my understanding, Britain seek what you have rightly labelled none-speed Europe, the ability to prevent or at least to water it down further integration. Only when this fail opt outs are sought. Accepting to leave the button room would contraddict their grand strategy, consistently implemented by both conservatives and labour governments, for no sensible gain.

    The other point concerns the lack of commitment in the allegedly integrationist governments, in particular the six founders.
    At the end of the day, the greatest defeats of integration (EDC, empty chair crisis, Constitutional Treaty ecc) have always come from mainland Europe, while "perfidious Albion" has been sidelined on fundamental issues (Single European Act, the Euro ecc.).
    A British "grand opt out" wouldn't resolve the fundamental issue of mainland schizophrenia on Eu.

  9. Igor, Italy,

    I am with you on both points. I guess that the anti-European crowd is going to be disappointed if and when the Tories enter government. Secession or serious renegotiation leading to an EEA-like status would diminish the UK's influence within the EU and the world.

    You are right about the founding member states, too. The European Union is not going to become legitimate in the eyes of the citizens before it becomes democratic, but the national leaders seem to be ready to proceed with the project as an elitist one for as long as they can, and probably they will sooner abandon their European pretensions than their grip on the levers of power.

    My simple view is different. We need a stronger Europe, and an EU with real powers internationally needs to be democratic.


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