France wants to continue holding the European Union presidency beyond the end of its six month term. Next up for the office is the Czech Republic, and then Sweden, neither of which are members of the eurozone. While they would run most of the activities the rotating presidency undertakes, (not negligible, as President Sarkozy's success in negotiating a resolution to the Russia/Georgia conflict shows), the eurozone countries would have a formal recognition of their closer alliance and interest. The two speed Europe would be openly acknowledged as extant, rather than presented as a Lisbon Treaty substitute for the future.
The eurozone countries have acted as a core group for a long time but the current levels of co-ordination demanded by coping with Europe's financial problems and now economic recession require more institutionalised arrangements. The ad hoc pressures and contortions France had to go through to agree to Brown's pleas to be allowed into a eurozone summit and be permitted to speak were not truthfully reported in the press, instead the 'saviour of the world as we know it' narrative was sung in the anglosphere. And what the eurozone governments have done is very different from what our Leader is fiddling with in the poor United Kingdom.
Wolfgang Münchau, in the Financial Times, gives a fine analysis of the factors pushing Mrs Merkel to accept the importance of eurozone-wide economic governance - something strongly resisted by Germany. The political significance of a permanent eurozone president chosen from within an inner core of member states, and the effective as well as formal powers of such an office, the relations that would need to be defined with the larger Union's six-month president, and the relations of such a permanent president with the financial administrations of member-states both within and outside the eurozone, is enormous.
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