Saturday, 29 June 2013

Opening the European Treaties; The Union Needs Refounding

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.


dearieme said...

I learnt a fascinating thing yesterday.

You'll remember that in January the Bundesbank announced that it was going to repatriate the gold it held in Paris, and part of its gold in New York. (This followed the repatriation of part of its gold from London back at the time of Brown's Bottom.)

But what I hadn't known until yesterday was the reply that the New York Fed gave to the Bundesbank. It was, in short, "no". In long it was that they'd give it back in 2020 and not before.

What the Hell is going on? Is that gold being kept until Germany does the USA's bidding for seven years?

hatfield girl said...

You know more than I do, Dearieme, apart from knowing that Germany had shipped back its gold (or wanted to ship back its gold). Perhaps another reader can answer.

What is emerging is that the post-War Project monolith is breaking up. And can no longer dismiss those nation states rejecting it yet who might like a different sort of European co-operative system.

Jeff Wood said...

Dearieme, the word is that the gold is no longer held by the Fed, though there are different explanations as to where it has gone.

Empty vaults (and rumoured bars of tungsten wrapped in the real gold. seem sufficient to explain the delay.

Note that the German government is not loudly protesting. If they know the score, they will simply have to wait for future production, keep quiet, and hold the missing gold on their balance sheet. Any other response would be catastrophic.

hatfield girl said...

On friendly advice I typed

fed refuses to send back gold reserves to Germany

into google.

Not being a tinfoil HG I still can't make anything of it. But it's a diverting read (for a bit).