Pictured – Brown and Mandelson in the good times – once very close, now bitter enemies.
My europhile lawyer blog-friend Ralf Grahn of Grahnlaw Blog is nothing if not persuasive. He thinks that the EU has to be given a sense of fair play and unity by its members if it is to succeed. I can see his point.
But in his next breath, he declares that anyone (i.e European nation) not playing fair by sacrificing their sovereignty, and by not using their veto, will suffer ‘death by a thousand cuts’. They will be deliberately serially disadvantaged in a myriad of negotiations going on every day in Brussels, as acts of revenge to be exacted for not showing the spirit of fair play!
Fair play or death is the choice being offered to Poland and other small countries being asked to cooperate with Lisbon ratification, it seems. Is it any wonder that countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are having second thoughts about subjecting themselves to total power from Brussels?
Sarkozy has also got the idea of trying out a few lethal cuts of his own, seeing a way to meet the concerns of Irish farmers. He has decided to throw Peter Mandelson to the wolves, belatedly stating that Mandelson has given away too much in WTO negotiation. Before the Irish rejected Lisbon, Sarkozy had nothing to say on this, but he is now playing Irish politics, showing just how desperate he is to get a reversal of the Irish Referendum decision.
‘Poor old’ Peter Mandelson is now appealing for the same ‘Unity’ from Sarkozy, as Sarkozy is doing from Poland and the Czech Republic. Sarkozy is surely making a mistake by this anti-Mandelson ploy, allowing himself to undermine the very unity he relies on for success. Gordon Brown has no doubt fed him a few good anti-Mandelson lines.
The very same relationships of ‘unity’ within New Labour in the 1990s have now become the fault lines that threaten the progress of the EU, complemented by full-on Sarkozy mania. Sarkozy is an unstable character, and piqued by the Irish, is allowing his instability to turn the whole atmosphere nasty. It is precisely the wrong way to be reacting, if he actually wants the EU to succeed.
In this report from Reuters, the current Sarkozy-Mandelson situation is explained.
Mandelson Seeks Unity after new Sarkozy criticism
By Lucien Libert Reuters – Wednesday, July 2 12:27 am
PARIS (Reuters) – European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson said on Tuesday he was being undermined by repeated criticism from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and urged EU states to unite behind his push for a world trade deal.
“It poses a great problem because as the negotiator of the EU, I need the unity of the member states behind me,” Mandelson told reporters in Paris on the day France took over the rotating presidency of the 27-country bloc.
Sarkozy said on Monday he would not accept an agreement under the WTO’s Doha round of negotiations if it meant European agriculture would be sacrificed in the name of freer trade.
The talks were launched nearly seven years ago to try to ease poverty and boost the global economy.
The French president, speaking on French television, accused Mandelson and WTO chief Pascal Lamy of trying to force a deal on the EU that would be bad for its farming sector.
Mandelson rejected the charge and said the EU needed to speak with one voice. “You know in all negotiations in trade as in all other areas, our unity is our strength,” he said.
“We want an outcome that is balanced, which is fair, for everyone including Europe. That is what I’m negotiating for but if I’m undermined, then my ability to reach that outcome will be weakened and I’m sorry for that.”
“Yes, I am being undermined and Europe’s negotiating position in the world trade talks is being weakened. And I regret that,” Mandelson later told BBC television.
“It’s very disappointing because the mandate which I am negotiating in the trade talks — and trying on behalf of Europe to bring them to a successful conclusion — has been agreed on by all the member states,” he said.
“I regret that Mr Sarkozy’s intervention, before and again last night, will make it harder for me.”
France has long opposed the kind of farm import tariff cuts that Mandelson is offering in return for better access for European exporters of cars, chemicals and other manufactured goods in developing countries such as Brazil and India.
NO DINNER DATE
Speaking to reporters later on Tuesday, Sarkozy took another swipe at Mandelson, saying he regretted the British commissioner would not be attending a dinner in his palace along with other EU officials to mark the start of the French EU presidency.
“I would have been delighted to receive Mr Mandelson. I might have some differences with him but it’s not forbidden to have disagreements in Europe,” Sarkozy said at a joint press briefing with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
“It’s because we don’t debate issues enough in Europe that we don’t manage to explain what’s at stake in Europe.”
Last month, Sarkozy accused Mandelson of being partly to blame for Ireland’s rejection of a new EU treaty because Irish farmers were alarmed by his WTO proposals on agriculture.
Mandelson said he was “mystified” by that criticism.
Mandelson was unable to attend Sarkozy’s dinner on Tuesday because he was travelling to Marseille to meet trade ministers from countries around the Mediterranean, a spokesman said.
Ministers from leading WTO countries are preparing to meet from July 21. Without a breakthrough, the round could be delayed by several more years because of the 2009 change in the U.S. administration.
“This is going to succeed or fail in the coming weeks at the ministerial meeting in Geneva. Our negotiating strength in Europe comes from our unity,” he added. “The person who can most contribute to that is President Sarkozy.”
The Doha round has missed several deadlines as countries wrangled over how to open each other’s markets.
Mandelson’s spokesman challenged comments by Sarkozy that a WTO deal would lead to a 20 percent cut in EU farming output and 100,000 job losses, saying they were based on demands by developing countries that the EU has rejected.
Instead, the latest WTO proposals for freeing up farm trade would cause a 1.1 percent drop in EU agriculture production and a 2.5 percent fall in employment in the sector by 2014, he said.
It seems that the influence of Gordon Brown is playing its part in disintegrating European Unity just as he did New Labour. Tin hats on!