Ten EU Nations Set Precedent
The Trumpet (Link) - Ron Fraser (March 29, 2010)
With Europeans distracted by their continent seemingly riven by crisis wherever one looks, the European Commission is about to quietly set a precedent that could begin a trend toward the creation of a two-tier European Union. With governments in Germany, France and Italy in various degrees of disruption and division, a developing split building between France and Germany, lingering division over how to handle the Greek financial bind, plus all this driving an increase in German nationalism�not to mention Pope Benedict�s current priestly abuse problems�there�s more than enough to fill the headlines about happenings on the European continent.
Yet the most potent event of the moment in Europe is gaining little media coverage. It all has to do with an as-yet-unexercised provision of that which in reality has become the European constitution. That constitution has been built, clause by confusing clause, by a host of treaties dating back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, but especially the latter treaties that were created following the unification of Germany.
The 1992 Treaty on European Union, commonly referred to as the Maastricht Treaty, contained, under Title VII, certain provisions allowing for a limited number of EU members to band together and agree on a course of action without the support of the majority. This is termed �enhanced cooperation.� Subsequent treaties, namely the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Treaty of Nice, refined the processes by which such �enhanced cooperation� by a minority of EU member nations might proceed. At least eight member states must agree on a course of action so as to take advantage of this provision to act without the support of, and unimpeded by, any of the rest of the EU member states. Their actions may result in the precedent they set being enacted as law across the whole of the EU.
The provision for enhanced cooperation within the EU has remained dormant till very recently. A case has now arisen where it is putting it to the test.
EU Observer and
TheParliament.com have reported that 10 EU members are joining in enhanced
cooperation to subscribe to new guidelines proposed by the European Commission
to allow international couples to choose which EU country�s laws apply if they
want to get divorced. �Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy,
Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain are pushing ahead with the proposals� (EU
Observer, March 24).
Once this precedent is set�in particular if it then becomes EU law�it simply opens the way for a two-tier EU to proceed. As EU Observer indicates, �This may not be the only time this Commission makes a proposal based on a small group of member states. Commissioner Algirdas Semeta, in charge of taxation, recently indicated he may use the tool to push forward with proposals on a common corporate tax base, something vigorously opposed by countries such as Ireland� (ibid.).
Already we have the case of just one nation, Germany, being deferred to by the rest in the case of the Greek financial crisis. What would happen within the EU if eight member states, including the largest and most powerful, decide on a course of action that may well be in their own special interests but not in the interests of the majority?
Most particularly, if Germany gains control of the European Central Bank and France or Germany the top positions in the new EU foreign service, with Italian central banker Romano Dragi already chairing the developing global financial regulatory authority, the Financial Stability Board, all these three would need to do is coerce an additional five EU member states into joining them in any particular joint action under the enhanced cooperation provisions of the EU treaty and the two-tier EU would be home and hosed.