The whole idea of an ever-closer Europe has gone, it’s buried,” said Dutch premier Mark Rutte, dismissing calls for full political union as a dangerous romantic fantasy.
“The fastest way to dismantle the EU is to continue talking about a step-by-step move towards some sort of superstate,” he said at the World Economic Forum.
His comments went to the heart of a fierce battle under way for control over the EU project, and provoked an impassioned counter-attack from Martin Schulz, the European Parliament’s president.
Mr Schulz called it profoundly misguided to give up the dream of political union and retreat to the nation state. “If it’s Angela Merkel, or Mark Rutte, or whoever else, they must have the courage to say that we need ever-closer union more than ever in the 21st century, and without it the EU has no future,” he said.
“We have some members sitting inside the European Parliament trying to destroy the EU from within. They are drawing EU salaries, and one of them is running for the presidency of France,” he said.
Professor Hans-Werner Muller from Princeton University said the EU was unlikely to disintegrate in any formal sense but there was a real risk that it will instead dissolve from within. “We will still have the Treaties, but they will not be observed,” he said.
He accused Hungary and Poland of acting like rogue states inside the EU, abusing the rule of the law with a “brutality” not seen in democratic Europe since the Second World War. “For them it is even better than Brexit. They get all the money, but they don’t obey the rules. If the EU does not do anything about it, trust is going to break down,” he said.
Italy’s finance minister Carlo Pier Padoan has repeatedly blamed the EU authorities for pushing Italy into a banking crisis that could easily have been avoided. “The problem with Europe, is Europe,” he told Davos earlier this week.
Emma Marcegaglia, head of the pan-EU federation BusinessEurope, told the Telegraph that it sticks in the craw to hear some countries talk about EU rules. Germany has been running a chronic current account surplus of 9pc of GDP in open breach of the EU’s ‘macro-imbalances’ edict, damaging to the cohesion of monetary union. Nothing is ever done.
Why isn’t Germany being punished? We can’t go on like this, it’s not sustainable. Some people say Germany should leave the euro,” she said.
How Much Did Davos Cost?
How much did this summit cost? Perhaps at its end we will have an accounting.
The conference wasn’t entirely useless. It did provide this bit of entertainment.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock