David Cameron (with more than a little help from the Germans) has also done more than is obvious at first glance in pressing a north European take onto the European Union. Between his efforts last February and his efforts in the last week he has reduced the EU budget (for the first time ever) and resisted attempts to alter the basis upon which budget calculations are made (and not just for calculating the UK rebate) as well as using the threat of a veto (but not a veto itself) to ensure that the budget is put in place for the full period and there is no reversion to a much more expansive year by year fall-back if the full term budget had not been approved.
France and particularly Italy are making the best of a bad job by talking up the allocations from the budget for alleviating youth unemployment and the further direction of resources to this end from the European Investment Bank (though this last is purely speculative and has no German assent) but the sums are trivial and need support from unspent and unallocated budget resources every year. All in all the main objective, to make nebulous the basis for budgetary calculations co-opting the unpopularity of the UK's rebate as a vehicle, has failed.
Germany has seen off any advance in centralising bank resolution, direct EU bank recapitalisation and the use of these means for legacy debt redistribution which is sought by the debtor member states (again particularly Italy). The cover explanation is that the German elections preclude any threats to German taxpayers for the moment, but the underlying obstacle is Germany's insistence on re-opening the treaties if a redistributive Union, by any means, is to be installed; at the very least their insistence that legacy debt must be cleared up at a national level before any progress in bank supervision, recapitalisation, and resolution is really installed.
If threat of veto-use is a powerful weapon, threat of treaty-opening is nuclear. Mutatis mutandis opening the treaties is like holding a general election. Difficult as it may be to achieve against vested interests these occasions (and it could be argued these occasions alone) can inflict a sea change on embedded elites, ideologies and interest. Both Germany and the UK now have limited any further use of the under-definition of treaty provisions to achieve meta-policy ends.
Doubt is creeping in that the German elections will end German determination to re-open the treaties, to recast the European Union and free it from its 20th century objectives; that the UK too is not going away but means to reopen the treaties, change the existing Union template, and then vote on what is put in its place has just been demonstrated vividly. And this policy may well be more to the UK and Europe's advantage than a simple In or Out UKIP-style referendum and abandonment of the field by the UK.
Geneva's Pascal Engel interviewed...
2 hours ago