The Great Debate UK
from Anatole Kaletsky:
An “atomic bomb” is about to blow up in “the confrontation between Paris and Brussels.”
It was in these terms that Le Figaro, perhaps the most influential French newspaper, reported the European Commission’s near-certain rejection of President Francois Hollande’s 2015 budget on Oct. 29. That is the date the commission must issue a judgment on the French budget, which proposes a two-year delay in reducing the budget deficit to the EU-mandated maximum of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has insisted that she will not tolerate any such relaxation of the European Union’s new, toughened budget rules. Meanwhile, Hollande has stated repeatedly that France will refuse any demands from Brussels for more cuts.
A full-scale budget war between Paris and Berlin/Brussels looks inevitable, with catastrophic effects on the European economy and markets. But on closer inspection, this impending budget battle is no more lethal than the fiscal shadow-boxing in Washington last year.
Who will be the first president of the European Council of EU leaders? Anyone but Tony Blair. That is the only clear message to emerge from a European Union summit, where the appointments of the EU's two new senior office-holders is not on the agenda but is on everyone's mind.
The appointment process is typical of the surreal way in which the 27-nation bloc does business. The job is poorly defined in the Lisbon treaty reforming the EU's institutions, which is expected to come into force in the next few weeks. But it is clear that most leaders are looking for a consensus-building summit chairman rather than a high-profile president of Europe.