We’ve been here before; staring into the inky blackness of the precipice while Europe’s political leaders gather in Brussels, locked upstairs in the Justus Lipsius building, only to emerge, bleary-eyed, in the early hours of the morning. Just six months ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron had vetoed the EU fiscal compact (which then went ahead as an intergovernmental treaty, outside of the formal EU framework). Now, all eyes are on the new socialist French President, François Hollande. What sort of deal will he be able to work out with German Chancellor Angela Merkel? Will we see a banking union? A financial transactions tax? A roadmap towards eurobonds? Or will today’s Council be more of an interim “progress report”, with little firmly committed until further guarantees against “fiscal profligacy” have been secured?
We spoke to Sergei Stanishev, the Interim President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) - the umbrella party of social-democratic parties from across Europe – and asked him to react to some of your comments. What do the socialists hope to achieve through Hollande at this Council? First up, we had a comment sent in by Marcel that was highly critical of the idea of stronger European economies supporting their struggling neighbours. He left a comment saying:
My country, [the Netherlands], has pension fund assets totalling 130% of GDP. For the rest of the Eurozone on average this is 20-25%. Can you see why fiscal union would be a catastrophe for us? I don’t think you’ll find more than 1% [would] be willing to ‘share’ around, and those are the ones who can afford it. [Among] the lower middle class and lower incomes, who did not profit from the euro at all, you will find no such ‘European’ solidarity. It simply does not exist.
Here’s how Stanishev responded:
Next up, Protesilaos, a Greek blogger, sent us the following video comment about the fiscal compact (which was the result of the December EU Council):
Here’s Stanishev’s response:
Finally, one of the most high-profile policies of the socialists is a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT). You can read our infobox on the FTT here, and we’ve had several debates on the tax already (here and here, for example). Tim Worstall, a UK blogger, has several times argued that the burden of any FTT will fall onto consumers. How would you respond?
What do YOU think? Are you optimistic about today’s EU Council solving the eurocrisis? Will we see a banking union emerge? A financial transactions tax? A roadmap towards eurobonds? Or will this be an exercise in “kicking the can down the road”? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
Sergei Stanishev is the Interim President of the Party of European Socialists (PES). Previously, he was Prime Minister of Bulgaria (2005-2009).