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A sorrowful shake of the head

Posted by Helen Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Yesterday’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal Europe [subscription only] shook its collective head sorrowfully over the falling of the free-marketeer Commission President Barroso. It is amazing that anyone should still believe that particular canard.

On this blog we pointed out from the very beginning that Barroso was not giving unequivocal answers to the European Parliament when questioned; that he did not really know how free market work, preferring to see growth and development as a process that could be directed by the Commission; that he was not entirely open about the Services Directive; and that he told different things according to whether he spoke to employers or union leaders – a free-marketeer to the first and protector of social Europe to the second.

Above all, from his appearance on the EU political scene Barroso has maintained that he wanted to see a greatly increased EU budget, in order to put into place more grandiose projects – not precisely the views of a free-marketeer.

The WSJE still hoped for better things. The article enumerates his various failures all to do with his reluctance to stand up to the centre-left minority in the European Parliament, after their dissing of Rocco Buttiglione.

Actually, they attribute too much to the European Parliament. Barroso did not want to stand up to powerful robber barons like Chirac.

They are right to point to the obsession of getting the constitution ratified and the various surrenders to achieve that, most notably, on the Services Directive, though, actually, Barroso had never spoken up clearly in its favour.

“If the Barroso commission thought that seeing the constitution through was of paramount importance, fine; we happen to disagree. It is the duty of politicians to do what they think is right, but that’s why it was so disappointing to see the commissioners sell out free-market principles. If they really believe that reforms are necessary to cure Europe’s sclerotic economies, then they should have weighed whether the constitution was really worth such a high price.”
The mind does boggle. Where on earth do these journalists get the idea that the Commissioners, second-rate politicians to a man and woman, had any free-market principles?

Furthermore, once the IGC put together that constitutional treaty, it had to be implemented and the further integration of the EU, a cause nearer to the average Commissioner’s heart than free markets or economic development, depended on the process continuing unchecked. It was, of course, checked but by the people of France and the Netherlands.

Well, never mind, says the editorial briskly. President Barroso has time to prove his mettle.
“For starters, Mr Barroso should reverse course and begin championing Mr Blair’s economic reforms. These measures have a far better chance of gaining acceptance from the French and the Germans if they aren’t draped in the Union Jack, so the commission could play a key role in presenting reform as coming from a broader coalition that includes Scandinavian and Eastern European nations (which, by the way, it does).”
Which reforms are those? Mr Blair, the Prime Minister who, with his Chancellor of the Exchequer, has brought the British economy closer to the sclerotic European ones than it had ever been before, has not actually produced any reforms. He has just talked in a grandiose fashion of those “new” ideas.

Experience tells one that the French and Germans will reject anything they want to reject, regardless of who is presenting them.

And as for the East Europeans and their desire for reforms: it is there in some measure but what they really desire and keep saying they desire is for the West Europeans to increase the budget and give them more dosh.

I fear, I do so fear that the Wall Street Journal Europe is in for a few more disappointments.