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Thursday, 28 April 2011 08:04

EU plus or minus part II : Currency and economy Franco-German duumvirate

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As I tried to point out in my previous post, the Eastern attitude to the Libyan Intervention was rather tepid. The East preferred to stay with generous EU budget contributor Germany and did not succumb to the Franco-British persuasion of "the necessary, legal and right intervention". The Polish prime minister stated "Not all of the arguments were convincing", underlining the ambiguity associated with the fact that the Franco-British coalition (or Western Europe in general) caught sight of Gaddafi's specific approach to human rights only when the Arab Spring started to flourish in the oil-bearing territories.

Conversely to the Libyan case in which the Eastern choice was rather simple, if not comfortable,  reminiscent of a cozy German milieu, the implementation of the new European Stability Mechanism and especially the Euro Plus Pact disturbed this almost idyllic image.

First of all, let's sum up some basic facts. The Euro Plus Pact aka the 'Euro Pact' aka  'Competitiveness Pact' is the Franco-German, ad hoc target coalition initiative to rescue the euro from the economic crisis or as some claim, the original sin of extending "a common market and currency without a common government".

The Euro Plus Pact may certainly be a noble and indispensable endeavour "to make Europe financially, and politically, viable in the longer run". Nevertheless, in the East there are certain doubts as to whether some attendees were not disqualified from that "longer run" and what is more, they are also asking themselves whether or not some of the runners are truly dope-free.

The only Eastern European countries that adopted the euro, and as a result joined the Pact, are Slovakia and Estonia. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania decided to accept the euro-zone countries' invitation to take part (without voting right during the Euro Plus summits), whereas Hungary and the Czech Republic remain outside the group. But to be perfectly honest, be it full member Slovakia, half member Lithuania or non-member Hungary, the implementation of the Pact embellished with the triumph of 'the ad hoc target coalition' decision-making mechanism puts the Eastern countries in “such an  uneuropean sounding" difficult geopolitical position.

Firstly, the Pact somehow bonded the East with the countries whose interests  do not actually match their  landscape, one which has benefited from EU. In particular I mean the UK, Denmark and Sweden. This exotic alliance which  may cause some lack of comfort for Easterners comfort in the EU budget negotiations achieved some victories such as support for deepening the single market and ensuring the non-euro states' participation in 'the Euro plus' formula.

Secondly, the two duumvirates' method of governing the EU is hotly debated. Both the Czech President and the Hungarian Prime minister underline that the Franco-German method of creating the Pact without the rest of Europe and then "ordering" them to accept it is, to put it gently, improper and threatens states' sovereignty. What is more, the states that decided to enter the Euro plus group, like Poland for example, are concerned about whether their 'voiceless' participation will not be limited to listening to the Franco-German duumvirate's directives, insensitive to their needs.
It is also significant that the President of the European Parliament is worried about the fact that the decision making processes have somehow moved from the common European institutions to the national, coalitionary level. "This is an undemocratic solution which will heat up mutual resentments between the European societies" Jürgen Habermas adds in his must read statement "A pact for or against Europe".

Nevertheless, in comparison to two duumvirates, the East on its own is probably too weak to change the ad hoc target coalition logic, so it has to adapt. The Pact doesn't make it any easier. For example the Visegrad Group, an old alliance based on the autumn of nations initiative of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, as a result of the Pact’s implementation became a group of two outsiders, one half- and one full-member. That causes concerns as to whether in the observed 'ad hoc target coalitions' period in the EU, such a division in the Visegrad group would not in fact damage its ability to articulate the common interests of the four states in the European Council.

The new Pact and  European Stabilisation Mechanism implies some financial obligations too. Even though the Eastern economies are not (relatively speaking) in a bad condition (in fact they are amongst the most competitive in Europe), meeting the demands of the Pact may cause some large extra expenses that could badly influence the modernisation processes which are absolutely crucial for post-soviet Eastern Europe.

Hmm… I hope that Eastern eyes see some current European affairs as a bit exaggerated. But still, it remains true that the language of European politics, according to this intriguing Chatham House publication, has become more Machiavellian than Kantian in recent times.
Hence, to satisfy the Florentine "Politics’ Hippocrates" I should say that the East 'is obliged to imitate the fox and the lion' and encourage the West to overcome the ad hoc target coalition or the duumvirates’ logic and make 'the longer run' together, the West plus - not the West minus - the East.

Last modified on Sunday, 01 May 2011 18:21
Ziemowit Jóźwik

Ziemowit Jóźwik is 23. Coming from Bieliny, a small village in the Holy Cross Mountains (Poland), he is now based in the more well known city of Krakow. Having written for Europe & Me since Issue 5 he will now take on the challenge of expanding our knowledge of the eastern borders of the European landscape. His blog will explore how European issues are understood 'under Eastern eyes.'

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