A call by German SPD leader Martin Schulz for a ‘United States of Europe’ is doomed to failure, a former senior UK government minister has said

Written by Martin Banks on 15 December 2017 in News
News

Former European Parliament president called for federal constitution for the EU by 2025.

 

Schulz’s appeal comes at a difficult moment for the defeated social democrat leader as his party has to decide whether to re-enter - as junior partner to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) - a new coalition government in Germany.

According to Denis MacShane, the former Minister of Europe under UK premier Tony Blair, the idea is laudable but unlikely to happen.

On Friday, he told this website: “So far there have been few if any takers for Schulz’s appeal for a United States of Europe, either inside Germany or in neighbouring countries.


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“European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has consistently said that the idea of a United States of Europe is not on the EU’s agenda. Predictably anti-European politicians and press in England have got excited at Schulz’s remarks as proof that EU member states are poised to abolish themselves and fold into a federal United States of Europe and therefore Britain was absolutely right to repudiate the EU in its Brexit vote.”

MacShane added: “As with Napoleon Bonaparte, Victor Hugo, Leon Trotsky and Winston Churchill, the use of grandiloquent words announcing the arrival of a United States of Europe makes good headlines but is not going to happen.”

UK Conservative MEP Charles Tannock told the Parliament Magazine: “Martin Schulz is clearly appealing to his own internal SPD gallery following the defeat of his party at the recent German federal elections and ahead of the resumption of negotiations aimed at forming another Grand Coalition between the SPD and the CDU."

He added, "It is anticipated in this scenario that Schulz will take the role of Vice Chancellor. I very much doubt that Angela Merkel would accept the term "United States of Europe" but given the reformist proposals made by French President Emmanuel Macron, I am sure that the new German Government will push for more Europe, particularly in the areas of economic and fiscal integration of the Eurozone.”

“As with Napoleon Bonaparte, Victor Hugo, Leon Trotsky and Winston Churchill, the use of grandiloquent words announcing the arrival of a United States of Europe makes good headlines but is not going to happen” Denis MacShane

Tannock went on: “Therefore, although to a British audience such statements seem inflammatory and act as a justification for Brexit by Eurosceptics, in reality it is not particularly surprising or any different from the inevitable consequence of Brexit that the Eurozone countries in particularly will have to integrate more to ensure growth and stability amongst the 19.

"It is worth noting that at the moment the Eurozone is growing faster than the United Kingdom and clearly the EU will do everything to preserve this for the future.”

More reaction came from SNP MEP Alyn Smith who told this website: “My starting point on any ideas on Europe’s future is to make sure that Scotland is still part of it. Before we get hung up on structures or titles I think we all need to remember that solidarity needs to be defended as an idea and in action, the ingredients of Brexit exist in all our countries.

“I’m open to and welcome any ideas to reform the EU, but if the EU does not get closer to its citizens then I don’t think any idea is long for this earth. Any ideas for a United States of Europe just do not have popular support, and are already in the UK being presented as a good reason to leave.

“Martin Schulz is clearly appealing to his own internal SPD gallery following the defeat of his party at the recent German federal elections and ahead of the resumption of negotiations aimed at forming another Grand Coalition between the SPD and the CDU" Charles Tannock MEP

Smith added: “To my mind we need to increase transparency in the Council, and make clear to citizens how the intergovernmental aspects of the EU work, and work for them. The EU is an incredible project, but we need to remember how fragile it is before building on further grandiose structures.”

Further comment came from the former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff who told The Parliament Magazine: “Schulz is characteristically blunt and impatient. That’s good when others are timid and plodding. But we need to work out the future constitution of the Union with meticulous care, and turn Martin’s aspirations into practicable and plausible politics.”

Elsewhere, UK Tory MEP Syed Kamall commented: “I always got on with Martin Schulz on a personal level and even though we disagreed on much, I admired the fact that he was always honest about the goal of the EU project.”

The call by Schulz, the defeated social democratic candidate in Germany is the latest in a long line of similar appeals for a United States of Europe.

"The EU is an incredible project, but we need to remember how fragile it is before building on further grandiose structures” Alyn Smith MEP

George Washington is said to have believed that a United States of Europe would be formed, inspired by the creation of the USA. Victor Hugo appealed for the creation of a United States of Europe as the answer to the rise of European nationalisms in the second half of the 19th century.

Leon Trotsky predicted that a United States of Europe was on the way after the Russian revolution in 1917 while current ALDE group leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, while Belgian prime minister, wrote a book in 2007 called the “United States of Europe” which won the first European Book Prize.

Schulz wants to position his party as the strongest advocate of European integration in contrast to what some see as Angela Merkel’s more cautious Germany-first conservatism.

However, senior figures in Merkel’s CDU party have dismissed Schulz’s call with the parliamentary group leader of Merkel’s CDU/CSU faction, Volker Kauder, saying Schulz’s European proposal posed “a danger to the EU and citizens’ approval of Europe.”

“Schulz is characteristically blunt and impatient. That’s good when others are timid and plodding. But we need to work out the future constitution of the Union with meticulous care, and turn Martin’s aspirations into practicable and plausible politics” Former MEP Andrew Duff

Kauder added: “The proposal would also jeopardise the work of unification because most member states certainly wouldn’t participate in creating a United States.”

Peter Altmaier, Germany’s acting finance minister said, “The United States of Europe would transfer sovereignty from the member states to Brussels. There will be no majority for that in many member states.”

An Emnid poll for Bild newspaper found less than 30 per cent supported Schulz’s idea while 48 per cent rejected it.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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