Future of the Euro 4: Seven summits at the crossroads

Kay Swinburne says our politicians should work together to ensure Welsh voice is heard in Brussels

It is no exaggeration to say that the EU is at a crossroads. The Eurozone crisis has brought many to question the fundamental basis that the European Union was constructed upon.

EU institutions like the European Commission, Europe’s civil service, are evaluating their role and pushing their powers to the limits. Many Member States, not just the UK, are questioning the relationship that they need to have with those with whom they share a common currency and a free trade area. The European Central Bank is coming under huge political pressure. It has either to prove its independence from national governments, or step outside of its mandate and act as a lender of last resort to the euro zone by directly offering funding to countries that are currently facing difficulties. Perhaps most importantly, citizens across the EU are becoming more aware of what the EU actually means for them and are questioning what its legitimate role should be.

As with all things related to the EU, there are no easy answers to the current crisis. When the euro was created, it was without precedent, and while many predicted the problems that have emerged with regards to the differences in economic fundamentals between southern and northern European Member states, it is not clear that anyone has a real way out of the crisis.

While it was an historic moment when the British Prime Minster stood up and said very clearly that there were certain powers that the UK, as a non-Eurozone country, could not accept being transferred to Brussels, the more worrying thing that took place was the lack of a solution to the crisis in front of us. While the UK said it couldn’t accept powers over tax policy and national budgets going to the EU, most other Member States did not put forward clear positions. Even those who said they could agree to the intergovernmental pact that was being discussed have since come back and said that they don’t know enough of the detail to even consult their parliaments, let alone give a firm commitment. In most respects this kind of indecisiveness is what has exasperated the Eurozone crisis for the past year. I believe there have been seven summits this year that were billed as being necessary to save the Euro.

Investors demand some level of stability and decisiveness in economic policy making before they will invest in countries. This is why the UK continues to have a triple A credit rating and easy access to the international bond markets. Investors have been told clearly what the Government’s economic policy is and have confidence that we will be able to deliver it. Sadly this is not at all evident in Eurozone decision-making processes.

For Wales it is this continued uncertainty within the Eurozone that will have a much larger impact upon people than the UK’s relationship with the EU. Ultimately our ability to weather the economic crisis is based upon the continued ability of our businesses to export goods – and as the EU is our largest trading partner the two are intimately intertwined.

Preserving the ability of Wales and the whole of the UK to play a full role in completing and accessing the single market within the EU should be at the forefront of our involvement in European affairs. By refusing to join a fiscal union, which would dictate things like tax, policy we need not to put that in jeopardy. In accepting observer status within any new structures that come about, the UK government has further safeguarded its position that single market issues can only be dealt with by all 27 EU Member States.

Ultimately, the most important thing we should be doing for Wales is ensuring that connections remain strong between Assembly politicians, Westminster politicians and MEPs in Brussels. The best way to be effective is to work together for the good of the whole of Wales and ensure that we are doing all we can to have as much communication and accountability between the different layers of government as possible.

When there is so much turmoil all around us, it is imperative that we work on the things that are within our power to change. Wales is more than capable of having its voice heard if we are all willing to work together.

Kay Swinburne is Conservative MEP for Wales

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