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The intriguing Holliband possibility created by Cameron’s EU stupidity

When Cameron vetoed the ‘Merkozy treaty’ in early December, it meant that the deal could not be signed off as a variation to the Lisbon Treaty, and that any deal would need to be an intergovernmental treaty of the 26 participating countries.  As such, any deal is separate from the workings of the European Union.

This threw into doubt whether the 26 countries signing up to the Merkozy “non-EU” treaty could legitimately use the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) to police the deal and punish states which failed to abide by the proposed fiscal rules.  At the time, Cameron threatened legal action to stop the other 26 governments trying to use the ECJ in this way.

Unsurprisingly, now that he’s gained cheap political brownie points from using the veto, Cameron’s not bothered about pursuing this threat.  Diplomats are calling it a “heat of the moment” thing, and it’s being dropped as quietly as possible. 

This does, however, raise an intriguing possibility.

If the 26 member states now do go ahead uninterrupted and sign offtheir economically absurd pact, and include within it provision for ECJ ruling authority, it sets an important precedent for any set of European countries to come together, bash out a deal, and then call on the ECJ to do its thing.

Logically and legally, what could stop Francois Hollande, coming together with other like-minded European countries to sign a pact running entirely counter to the Merkozy pact, and asking the ECJ to be the binding arbiter on that too? 

After all, Hollande has already set out a clear manifesto promise around the need for a new ‘pact’.

Je proposerai à nos partenaires un pacte de responsabilité,de gouvernance et de croissance [growth] pour sortir de la crise et de la spirale d’austérité qui l’aggrave. Je renégocierai le traité européen issu de l’accord du 9 décembre 2011 en privilégiant la croissance et l’emploi, et en réorientant le rôle de la Banque centrale européenne dans cette direction. Je proposerai de créer des euro-obligations [Euro-bonds]. Je défendrai une association pleine et entière des parlements nationaux et européen à ces décisions. Cinquante ans après le traité de l’Élysée, je proposerai à notre partenaire l’élaboration d’ un nouveau traité franco-allemand.

Why would this new pact have any less legal weight than the one now being rushed through before Sarkozy is sent packing?

The  like-minded countries Hollande needs for such a scheme might include Spain, whose (rightwing) government is now calling for a ‘new realism’ about how to manage the economic crisis in light of its descent into economic chaos, and Greece,  fuming at Germany’s proposal to make its government subservient to an EU budget commissioner. 

It might, in 2015, also include Britain (or England/Wales/NI & Scotland) if Labour were minded to push for an entirely new approach to the European economy, something Ed Miliband at least hinted at in Davos this week (though clearly ideas on what to do are not yet formed).  If Labour has its wits about it, it should see jumping on the Hollande bandwagon, in a common drive to reorientate the EU towards the welfare of its people, as a very attractive proposition.

The alternative ‘Holliband’ pact might include shared commitments to investment in jobs, with targets for the reduction in unemployment levels, as a mirror to the stupid fiscal targets advocated by Merkozy, and call on the sanction of the ECJ for countries that failed to meet the employment and other needs of its citizens.

Clearly, two diametrically opposed  intergovernmental pacts, formed outside the EU but calling on the same EU institution for their operative legitimacy, would create a legal and institutional crisis at the heart of the EU that Cameron could never possibly have dreamed of when he stook his foot in his mouth in December, but that might well be better than simply allowing the current rightwingers in France and Germany to carry through their plans for the outlawing of  socialist econmics in Europe.

And what better payback for Cameron’s arrogant but wholly ignorant politicking with the EU than for him, in time, to see it used as the opening for a few Left front for a new Left ascent in Europe.


  1. Lethe
    January 30, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    How about no treaties at all and no attempt to enshrine uncertain economic theories in law? Requiring states to meet targets they only have a limited control over makes a mockery of the law.

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