Category Archives: Europe

Blair and Cameron: Two Peas in a European Pod

A Personal View from Brendan Donnelly

It is sometimes said that David Cameron regards Tony Blair as his political model. The European policies of the two Prime Ministers may appear superficially very different. Mr. Blair presented himself as fundamentally favourable to the European Union, and Mr. Cameron is at best unenthusiastically and conditionally acquiescent in continued British membership of the Union. But the underlying similarities of their approach to the Union, both in public presentation and in long term outcomes are undeniable. Both have framed their European policies almost exclusively in terms of a tactically convenient “triangulation” between two rejected extremes of European policy. In both cases this contentless “triangulation” led to an inevitably unstable European policy, tending remorselessly towards greater British hostility towards the European Union.

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Book Review: “Is the EU Doomed?” by Jan Zielonka

Review by Brendan Donnelly

Much of this short book by Professor Jan Zielonka of Oxford University is rightly devoted to the euro. It is on the success or failure of the single European currency that the answer to the question of the book’s title “Is the EU doomed?” will essentially depend. Zielonka’s belief that the EU may well be doomed is summarized in the words “interdependence no longer generates integration but instead prompts disintegration.” On this analysis, the single European currency will prove to have been an error of historic proportions, achieving precisely the opposite of what its founders intended.

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Learning Through Suffering: European Lessons for the British Government

by Brendan Donnelly

A number of lessons can be learned from the diplomatic reverse suffered by the British government in its attempts to prevent Mr. Juncker from becoming President of the European Commission.

1. British governments are prone grossly to exaggerate the extent of support they enjoy for their political attitudes and choices within the European Union. In this respect, Mr. Cameron’s attempt to thwart Mr. Juncker’s candidature was entirely similar to his unsuccessful attempt to prevent the adoption of the Fiscal Compact in 2011. British diplomats and politicians are altogether too willing to interpret vague expressions of goodwill from their European colleagues as firm endorsement of idiosyncratic British views about the Union and its future. This over-interpretation of what is often little more than conventional politeness leads British officials and politicians to misperception of the real alignment of forces within the Union and unseemly petulance toward their colleagues when this misperception is later revealed in its full futility.

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Three Cheers for European Democracy

by Brendan Donnelly

If Jean-Claude Juncker becomes the next President of the European Commission, it will mark an important development in the democratic life of the European Union. Millions of voters in the recent European Elections will see their favoured candidate take on one of the most important posts in the Union. Millions of other voters who preferred unsuccessful candidates such as Mr. Schulz and Mr. Verhofstadt will be aware that they have participated in a transparent and democratic election, in which their views have not prevailed on this occasion, but may well do so at the next European Elections. It is a strange paradox that precisely in this country, where criticism of the European Union’s supposed democratic inadequacies is widespread, politicians and commentators have been so reluctant to recognize this qualitative change for the democratic betterment of the Union. It has long been a reasonable complaint about the European Elections that the electors did not know for what they were voting. The linking of the European Elections of 2014 to the Presidency of the Commission was a powerful response to this criticism.

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What do the European Election results really mean?

by Brendan Donnelly
First published on the European Movement Blog
Predictably, many commentaries in the British mass media have gloatingly presented the European Elections as a continent-wide reject ion of the process of European integration, as the long-ignored peoples of Europe rising up in democratic wrath against their oppressors in Brussels. The results of the European Elections are however much more ambiguous and mixed than that. It is true that just over a quarter of the French and British electorates voted respectively for the Front National and UKIP and extremist parties of right and left did well in Greece, while Denmark saw success  for the anti-immigrant party of Mr. Messerschmidt. But against this must be set the 93% of the German electorate who voted for pro-EU parties, the victories for pro-EU governing parties in Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic and the poor result of the Eurosceptic Mr. Wilders in the Netherlands. The European Elections certainly demonstrate that there are deep-rooted economic problems within a number of European countries.  But these problems are essentially national rather than European problems. France and the United Kingdom well illustrate this point.

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There may be trouble ahead

by Brendan Donnelly

First published on the European Movement Blog

The European Elections are sometimes described by academics and other observers as “secondary” elections, in which the electorate take little notice of the European policies or claimed achievements of those standing for election, but simply express their (often unfavourable) judgements on the domestic policies of the parties contesting the European Elections. That may well be an accurate description of the frame of mind in which many British electors approach the Elections. But this year’s European Elections will nevertheless have considerable implications for the way in which the European Union will be governed over the next five years; and similarly important implications for British domestic politics.

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The Wheels Fall Off

by Brendan Donnelly

Until shortly before Christmas, the Prime Minister would have been entitled to congratulate himself on the success of his important speech about Europe on 23rd January 2013 in quieting Conservative controversy and divisions on this subject. The compromise he proposed in it, of a radical renegotiation in the next Parliament of the terms of British membership of the European Union, followed by a referendum, was one which seemed to have satisfied all wings of his fractious party. It was not unreasonable to believe that this truce would last at least until the European Elections of May 2014 and possibly beyond.

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Britain’s EU Referendum

by Brendan Donnelly

First published on the European Movement Blog

In public commentaries on Britain’s position in the European Union, reference is often made to the possibility of a European referendum for the UK in 2017. But it is worth stressing that a European referendum for this country in 2017 is only one of a range of possibilities, including earlier or later dates for this referendum, or even its not being held at all.

When the date of 2017 is mentioned for a possible European referendum in the United Kingdom, it is usually based upon Mr. Cameron’s proposal that a Conservative government elected in 2015 would as one of its first tasks restructure or “renegotiate” the terms of British membership of the European Union.  These new terms of membership of the European Union would then be put to a referendum in or before 2017, a referendum in which presumably Mr. Cameron would urge a “yes” vote. This proposal has attracted a wide but not universal measure of support within the Conservative Party. A number of question marks nevertheless hang over its implementation.

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