WELLE, WELLE, WELLE...
Some Conservatives are amazed at their party's near silence on 'Europe' at the top, the 'voluntary' suspension of Conservatives Against a Federal Europe (CAFE); and some of the new 'policy language' used.
Welle's website article, seen 2.7.02: "The EPP - a political family reinvents itself" opens our eyes:
Former Conservative leader William Hague was praised for bringing together the 'EPP' (core federalists) & others; in particular attending the summits of party leaders from the EPP.
"The picture painted for many years of the British as being allied with the group but having nothing in common with the trans-national party is no longer accurate"... "All the signs suggest... that the Conservatives... are not just in favour of the existing alliance, but are even trying to deepen it"
The EPP claim "...what unites us is more than power, both at national level in the wider Europe and in the now 233-strong 'EPP Group' in the European Parliament".... We above all share a common commitment to a... united federal Europe..
The EPP-ED group claim the 37 Conservative MEPs in its 234 members - the slight discrepancy may be due to the recent defection of Richard Balfe MEP needing to be added. (See 'Group Structure' page, both websites seen 1.9.02). No claims of misreporting have yet been heard against the EPP.
HOB-NOBBING WITH FEDERALISTS
The Presidencies of the EPP and the EDU (Tories' separate European group) met for the first time in 1998 and confirmed their aim of "a single organisation". Further integration [absorption into a full Europe-wide political party read] depends on future UK political developments.
Interesting that Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith attended the EPP summit on 13.12.01 in Meise, Belgium.
A main agenda item was debate on "A Constitution for a Europe that works" - the agreed text declared to create "a close and federal EU" and that it was 'their duty' to give it a Constitution. If IDS did not agree, why did he attend?
After tensions in the ranks of Conservative MEPs, Duncan Smith had sought guarantees that the EPP-ED group would not spend 'Conservative funds' on Europhile causes while giving official recognition to Eurosceptic views, but this was rejected by EPP-ED leader Hans-Gert Poettering (Times, 4.1.2002)
On 20.6.02, IDS was invited to Madrid to discuss the reworked "A Constitution for a strong Europe" that proposed "Sovereignty can only be exercised on a larger scale [than the nation state]" and that the EU should run national defence!.
"European Political parties" were to have a role in influencing public opinion. A federalist MEP in the group, Maria Martens, calls for the EU actively involving 'citizens' in European integration', as tasked at Amsterdam. She wants to target youth to prepare them for their "responsibilities" in "the further construction of Europe". (2.7.02)
Four days later, IDS effectively co-hosted two Edinburgh 'Study Days' for the federalist-dominated EPP-ED group; the audience received presentations promoting 'A Europe of Regions'.
The notes (mysteriously available only in French on the EPP-ED group's website!) showed protests from MEPs Bradbourn & Helmer.
The Tory website plug for the event was "European 'Conservative' parties meet in major policy summit"!!
The federalist EPP party will review its relationship with the Conservative Party at its summit in June 2003. (EPP website, 14.12.01). Watch out for developments!
WORDS AND ACTIONS
There is disquiet amongst some Conservatives (male and female) at plans to have quotas for women candidates, rather than selecting candidates totally on merit. Party Chairman Teresa May has refused to rule out imposing such a scheme (BBC Online, Politics, 5.10.02). Some will see the translation of a European agenda - EPP-ED Equal Opportunities Co-ordinator Rodi Kratsa MEP spoke of the need for "gender mainstreaming" in all policies and activities (EPP-ED website, Theme, 30.4.02).
The Conservatives' website also features a quote: "Only Conservative MEPs can be trusted to promote Britain's national interest in Europe" from Jonathan Evans, the MEPs' new leader: Christopher Booker saw differently - he slated Evans for proposing legislation giving the European Commission powers to direct national civil servants to do its work! (Sunday Telegraph, 9.9.01).
On 14.5.02, Alexander Stockton MEP voted for the Lamassoure Report which wants to see more power transferred to the EU - and effectively a European state (Eurofacts, 14/6/02). Yet his speeches are freely highlighted on the official party website.
The Conservative Party website has a link to the Federal Trust, which although claiming it has no view of its own, seeks to influence policy on Europe and invariably uses ardent integrationists/federalists in its discussions.
It also links to the European Foundation site (set up by IDS's colleague, Bill Cash MP). Some will claim that this is 'sceptic', but it is fully committed to remaining in the EU. The online European Journal, June/July 2002, p28 contains material from Struan Stevenson MEP.
" [...Britain's economic interests]. At present these are incompatible with the euro, harmonised taxes; European control of financial regulation, labour markets and pensions; and the creation of a Federal superstate"
(Our emphasis added. But why only "at present"?)
And on the Common Agricultural Policy: "...on balance, it is probably still in the interest of Britain to support it". However we must thank him for his candour in admitting: "Without Conservative co-operation, the CAP would have long ago fallen apart".
We have yet to see IDS make Stevenson apologise for any offence caused to the hard pressed farming community...... and IDS has said that "I can't see circumstances in which I'd want to pull out of the EU". (Telegraph interview, printed 6.10.2001)
EIN VOLK, EIN REICH, EIN NETWORK?
In a quote which he may come to regret, IDS praised a new EPP-ED 'think tank', The European Ideas Network for offering "new answers" and 'best practice' from Europe to problems with public services.
EIN is the brainchild of James Elles MEP (Vice Chairman and therefore a 'full member' of the EPP-ED) who sees it as opportunity to "lead and influence" opinion-formers.
Its Oxford conference in August-September 2002 featured two sessions on Public Services and Demography ('pensions'), but also covered other topics.
EMU: (a greater role for the European Commission in economic policy suggested)
Defence: ("...we are moving from nation states to member states... the traditional NATO is therefore finished". It recommended "convincing electorates" over defence rationalisation)
There were few new ideas in the Working Group on Public Services; or "How to create jobs in Europe", which included:
"....Consult multi-nationals, consult the unemployed"
"....Co-ordinate education & training across Europe"
and although favouring less regulations on small businesses, was fully supportive of the European Commission's 'better regulation' initiative, which in fact points to greater regulation!
And on Demography, the Working Group published an "innovative" idea on pensions: "dramatically better state support for increased birth rates while shifting to the private sphere the obligation for pension provision".
Although Working Group reports issue a strong disclaimer and cannot be regarded as binding policy, it is amusing to note that this Group's Chairman was David Willetts MP.
On 30.9.02, the Conservatives' website featured an attack on the New Labour government by Willetts for failing to provide "genuine help" to pensioners in need.
EIN also has the support of federalists like the Chairman of Germany's CDU party, Angela Merkel, who saw it as furthering integration, and Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
ALIENATION AT HOME
Richard Spring MP, the new Shadow Minister for Europe, wants to see public alienation from the EU "cured" (Hansard, 9-7-01). He is not very inspiring in blaming New Labour for failing to reform the EU (Party website, 3.10.02). His colleague Liam Fox MP (Party website, 1.10.02) complains about a proposed European Directive that would allow struck-off doctors from abroad to practise in the UK. He omits to note that his party had transferred powers, such as on movement of labour, health & safety, to the EU.
Although various Conservative MPs spoke out against funding 'trans-national political parties' (Hansard, 18.7.01), it is ironic to note that their party pushed through the Maastricht Treaty that holds:
"Political parties at European level are important as a factor for integration within the Union. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the citizens of the Union" (article 138a)
The Treaty of Nice now seeks to set up a regime for operating - and funding - such parties.
The Parliamentary Tories could have mobilised enough peers (Tory, cross bench and other rebel) to vote out the Treaty of Nice - but didn't. And in the Commons, Robert Jackson MP voted for Nice against his party's policy without any public sanction. And in the European Parliament, Richard Balfe MEP was welcomed into the fold in spite of being solidly pro-Euro. Some grass-roots members see discipline being very selectively applied!
After unrest in the party, IDS requested that the federalist-dominated EPP-ED group might issue some anti-federalist material. Not surprisingly this was refused point blank, but IDS only gave notice that the Conservative MEPs would quit the group after the next elections in June 2004, (i.e. would continue to contribute to it financially for around 18 months).
It has been claimed that IDS said something like "if the EU goes down the road toward full political union, I don't believe Britain could be part of it" at the 2002 Spring Party Conference, but this is ambiguous and has yet to be substantiated by us.
However even if he did consider withdrawal, the events since do not inspire much confidence. In late 2002 the press reported that Angela Watkinson MP had been disciplined for allegedly putting her name to a Bruges Group pamphlet that differed from the party line. (She denied being associated). The pamphlet didn't even go as far as calling for withdrawal.
And IDS called for a form of majority voting whereby, say, 5 countries in an enlarged EU could veto proposals. This would not give Britain a veto.
Although IDS no longer seems worth an invitation to EPP party summits (e.g. 20.3.03), the Conservative Group for Europe remains an official Conservative Party group and is allowed to undermine "official" policy to oppose the Euro in a stall at the Party's 2003 Spring Conference.
This page compiled: 1 September 2002, links updated 10 June 2006