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Horses for courses

Posted by Helen Sunday, April 10, 2005

My colleague does not know it yet but he has been nominated to be the blog’s election correspondent. That is because he finds it genuinely interesting. But being a man of many talents and interests, he has also written about the fragrant Commissar’s day job.

As our readers will recall, the great Margot explained that, although the Constitution is the same for every part of the European Union, the way of selling it has to be different as one size cannot fit all.

This does raise the question of why is it only in propaganda that one size cannot fit all, not in important matters like economic, fiscal or regulatory policy. One presumes the fragrant Commissar, does not really believe that one size not fitting all business, but realizes that at certain level she has to communicate with people, who, alas, do not have her superior wisdom in understanding the beauties of the project.

It seems the Commission, as a whole, shares the Commissar’s concerns. So worried are they about the way the EU is being presented in France (and they do realize that the vote is not going to be on the Constitution alone) that they have decided to postpone discussion of a crucial policy paper.

The paper was to discuss reform of the state aid system, a point of many clashes between the EU and France, who is given to bailing out large companies that are on the skids. The names, Alstom, Bull, France Télècom spring to mind.

There are several problems. First off is the wretched Lisbon Agenda, that is supposed to produce that dynamic European economy by 2010, clearly an impossible proposition while large amounts of taxpayers’ money flows into failing “dinosaurs”. On the other hand, Chirac has already promised even more money to help national “winners”.

Then there is the question of the Single Market, something everybody is terribly keen on, until it comes to real competition.

Thirdly, there is the position and attitude of “Nickel” Neelie Kroes, brought into the Commission, theoretically, to shake up the whole system of competition and state aid.

However, all these laudable aims are being put on hold. The French are not happy with what they see as a “neo-liberal, Anglo-Saxon” development in the EU (if only!). And they may, in their disgust at the thought of not being able to use large amounts of various taxpayers’ dosh to prop up ailing parts of their economy, vote non to the referendum.

That is the problem. And the solution? We shall abandon all those ideas of single market, free market, competitiveness and not even discuss anything like a reform of the state aid system.

Anything to get that Constitution through.