Franco Frattini, Former Foreign Minister of Italy, recently in Belgrade for the Belgrade Security Forum, talks with the serbian newspaper Politika.
There have been a lot of comments in recent years complaining about the lack of a powerful leader in the European politics. Now there is one. With the election triumph of her conservative demochristians, Angela Merkel ensured position of a unchellenged European boss. That can lead toward the vacuum of leader’s power across the Union. Is that bad news for Europe?Definitely not. Germany’s role in Europe is very important and the fact that a German leader receives a clear mandate by its electors is a good news for everybody. Then, we all know that a coalition Government will have to be formed in Germany. And all potential partners are pro-European. This means that we shall have a broad base for pro-European policies. We expect those policies to be consistent with two parallel and equally relevant tasks: promote growth and protect stability.
It seems that if leaders of the U.S., Russia or China want to telephone „Europe“, one have to call Angela Merkel. Are we heading to the EU of Germany plus Europe A and Europe B?I do not think that the German political élite or the German public opinion want to have Berlin plus the rest of Europe. My understanding is that they want a strong and competitive Europe. We might disagree with some of the tools to reach this aim, but we absolutely subscribe to the aim.
Europe is divided after the German elections. Some expect new push toward European integrations, especially in case of German’s Great coalition, others are rather skeptical and do not think any change in rigorous policies of Super Angela is possible. What do you say.I think that it is in nobody’s interest to draw a caricature picture of Germany. Germany has been understanding for some time now that fiscal consolidation alone is not the solution to all the current problems in Europe and is slowly adjusting its policies and its inputs to EU partners. We should not of course expect dramatic changes but I am very much convinced that this adjustment process will continue and probably get some impetus from the perspective of a new four year term of coalition Government.
Germany, Eurozone crisis teaches us, became the dictating power in Eurozone. The election results show that Merkel’s current policies will continue with a special emphasis on the European Union. What do you expect?Germany is not the dictating power in the Eurozone. It has sensitivities (sometimes oversensitivities) and it has a demographic and economic weight which cannot be ignored and which helped it to advance its solutions to the crisis. While pursuing of course its national interests Germany was able to display solidarity and from a financial point of view a great amount of it. A further integration of the European Union – which would be beneficial to everybody – can be pursued only in partnership with Berlin. I know this is possible and I am convinced that it remains an important goal for decision makers and public opinion in Germany.
Merkel’s Germany is not against further European integrations, but wants the European problems be solved on state levels. How do you evaluate this „less Brussels“ concept?Less Brussels concept can mean everything. It depends on how you decline it. If it means less political power to Europe and its institutions (first and foremost the European Parliament and the Commission), of course I do not share it. If it means that overregulation has to be avoided and that every decision has to be taken at the level at which it is more effective, well this is the principle of subsidiarity on which the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany are based. I tend to believe that our friends in Germany think of the subsidiarity issue when they refer to less Brussels.
European politicians, economists and central bankers are very much debating economic and financial crises, but discusions about the institutional aspect of crises are put aside. The result is that the single currency is becoming the essence of the Union – not an instrument, but its raison d’être, its sole purpose. Do you agree?Yes and no. It is true that the discussion on the financial crisis seemed somehow disproportionate if compared to other important policy issues, but this was justified by the dramatic impact which the financial crisis was having. This impact, not many months ago, might have been incredibly multiplied by an Euro break up. We should also keep in mind that institutional aspects of the crisis were not put aside: a political institutional reply was agreed, the deepening of the European Economic and Monetary Union, with the creation of the Banking Union as one of its central elements. The political response was there: you might object to the timing of its implementation, that is a point, but we are still in the process and I am confident that we shall get the results we need.
The EU, hobbled by its euro crisis and the debt of its southern members, requires some radical changes if it hopes to survive. The EU needs to undergo either a general or a local fiscal and constitutional surgery. Both options would be very painful, but are they realistic?I am a little bit scared by the terms „fiscal or constitutional surgery“. If that would mean less Europe and uncontrolled budget cuts leading to further massive unemployment, of course that would not be a politically sound option. I think we need more and not less on many respects in Europe: more competitiveness, more efficiency, more solidarity and more economic and political integration.
Europe is capable of doing what faraway America cannot: it could dominate events, set new priorities, and identify opportunities based on organized cooperation and not just on hawkish words and deeds. But, regardless its global potential, it seems Europe is ready to play the role of local power?As far as the role of the united Europe on enlargement is concerned, for example, you are right. Here Europe plays the role of local Power quite efficiently. Let’s look at the integration of Serbia, just to mention the most important player in the Western Balkans. Europe has always succeeded in the end in finding a common and shared position, which has enabled the European process of Belgrade. It hasn’t been an easy job for the European Partners, just as it hasn’t been an easy job for the Serbian Governments during the past years. Nevertheless, as you can observe, perspectives are today considerable different, I’d rather say better, than only five years ago.
Would the things change if Europe had its own foreign policy?This brings us back to the role of Europe as a global player. On trade issues Europe has long established itself a player. Look at China, Russia and the transatlantic trade with the US and Canada. The European Union is the counterpart of these big economic Powers on economic policies, no doubt about it.As for the political role of Europe as a global player, it’s a more difficult road to go, due to different political cultures that are still alive within the European family. Nobody can deny today that great efforts are being done to overcome differences which have existed for centuries among European Countries in the foreign policy. The process is long and not finished, but it is going in the right direction.
It’s hard to expect that by the end of 2013 Europe will be more unite, integrated and recovered. It still more resamble of Union of two speeds, big and small, north and south. Europe Angela Merkel once was trying to establish with former President Nicola Sarkozy, and now will persue making alone.At a rational glance, a two speed Europe is in the interest of nobody: Northern Europe would lose a substantial part of its market and face long and deep recession; Southern Europe would lose its link to economic dynamism and incentive to reform; the whole European Union would fall in irrelevance. I am sure that the objectives in Berlin are quite different, I would say opposite.