Saw this on Netvibes but I can`t find it on EU Ref so have posted it here instead
Last week’s European Council has been deconstructed by Le Monde, which is offering an article headed: “Angela Merkel: ‘Sooner or later, the money will explode without the necessary cohesion’”.
Although the piece is a couple of days old, it has enough depth to excite the interest of the Wall Street Journal which has its own analysis in today’s [print] edition, with the online version posted overnight. This English-language report takes as read the Le Monde feed, headlining, “Merkel Hits Wall With Europe Fix”, with the strap: “Angela Merkel’s Signature Project Is Floundering a Week Into the German Chancellor’s Third Term”.
That, then, is the theme, worth recording before it is lost in the black hole of Christmas – a vital “mood music” piece that maybe will set the tone for the next few months, or even longer. At issue was a proposal by Germany under which eurozone members enter binding contracts with the Commission over economic policy. Very much Merkel’s strategy, she wants to make it more difficult for countries to backtrack on labour-market overhauls and other unpopular steps, a changes she believes would help protect the euro from future crises. Now enter Le Monde. From conversations reconstituted by the paper, it is reporting that most of the heads of State and Government of the European Union have “conspired against” the contract idea. That much isn’t new, as it was anticipated before the Council.
As to the details, proceedings were opened Herman van Rompuy, Council President, who told the assembly that more pressure was needed on structural reforms, but he knew it was difficult. From the outset, though, even Germany’s traditional allies distanced themselves from Angela Merkel’s proposal. Austria’s Werner Faymann told the German chancellor that, “Any binding rule must be approved by national Parliaments”, saying that there was to be no surrender of sovereignty. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was “convinced” that the contracts would not help, suggesting that making the contracts legally binding would violate members’ sovereignty. Jyrki Katainen of Finland slammed “bailouts”, which he said, “fueled populism”, which had become a “cancer”. Spain’s Mariano Rajoy led the charge from the south. “Many of us have made reforms”, he said, but insisted that contracts must be “voluntary”. The only support – apart from Barroso – rather predictably came from Mario Draghi, ECB president, who took the contrary view, saying “If you do not reform, you lose national sovereignty”. And there it was, apparently, that Merkel lost her cool, coming up with the headline quote, “Sooner or later, the money will explode without the necessary cohesion”. When the Maltese leader then expressed strong reservations, Merkel retorted that, if the text was not acceptable for Spain, “let’s drop it and come back in ten years”. On the other hand, she said, “If everyone behaves like we could do under communism, then we are lost”.
Francois Hollande, the other half of the Franco-German motor, remained “rather discreet”. He avoided talking about “financial capacity”, code for having Germany pay more into the pot, which France wants in exchange for contracts. “There are those who do not want more discipline and fear that it is binding . And others who do not want to pay”, Hollande said. Both Hollande and the Belgian prime minister wanted to agree on the principles and decide the details after the euro-elections of May 2014. Europe should not be presented as “a big stick”. In the end, Merkel gave way and proposed that the issue should be held over for a year, with the “colleagues” coming back to it in December 2014. “I do not want someone to tell me that he lost the elections” because contracts, she said. For Barroso, December 2014 didn’t matter. “I will not be there”, he said. For Herman Van Rompuy, it did matter. Even if he decided, “I will not die for contracts”, he wanted to finish his work before leaving his post in November 2014. He agreed to postpone decisions from June to October 2014. This is a result which Le Monde described as “une très mauvaise soirée” for the German chancellor – a very bad night. “We will make progress millimeter by millimeter”, a rebuffed Mrs Merkel told reporters after the Council dinner, her face “drawn”.
The thing is, that’s how they always do it – millimetre by millimetre. Give them an inch and they’ll millimetre, one might say. But then they come back for more. October will do very nicely for the “colleagues”. That should rather conveniently coincide with the announcement of a treaty convention.
“We will make progress millimeter by millimeter”
via EU Politics (3603).