French President François Hollande speaks of “solidarity integration within the eurozone”. What does this expression really mean and is it more efficient than when Berlin speaks of federation?
Former French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine gives his opinion:
“In my opinion they aren’t opposed. When François Hollande talks about ‘solidarity integration’ what I understand is that he means that enhanced European integration is already underway. The eurozone is painfully giving birth in difficult circumstances to an economic government, and that means more than just punitive measures inflicted on different member states who break budget limits by a central authority, or by Germany acting alone.
There also needs to be solidarity where economic planning’s concerned, where growth or budgets are concerned. I think that lies at the heart of Hollande’s policies.
As for the words ‘federation’ or ‘federalism’, that’s what linguists call a ‘portmanteau word’, in other words, one that has many different meanings and should be used with care.
Germany was divided into a federation after WWII to weaken the state. When Jacques Delors talks of federalism he means subsidiarity, or doing from Brussels what can’t be done in individual capitals; it’s one of the best possible definitions.
At the start of the Greek crisis the French said ‘Germany must show solidarity, we need more federalism’, which meant Germany must pay up. Obviously the Germans didn’t want to blindly pay for everything, so they said, ‘You want federalism, so we’ll give it to you’, and they did. In the last two years they have proposed budget controls and checks on everything, imposed by the Bundestag and the Constitutional court, which isn’t satisfying either.
There’s no ready-made federal solution, no magic formula, so when you read in the papers ‘Europe must become federal or it’s
doomed’ , it’s meaningless.
The question that needs to asked is simple – who decides what in the end? I believe that the eurozone governments are putting an excellent system together, as long as it is more than just a watchdog regime; we need to look at economic policies as well, growth, the ‘greening’ of our economies in the long term, and exchange rates.”
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