Thursday 8 January 2009

The Czech EU-Council Presidency (7): Economic priorities of the European Union and global free markets - updated

The Czech EU-Council Presidency has presented a document called "Key Issues Paper 2009 - contribution from the Competitiveness Council to the Spring European Council" (update: revised version of the document) in which it outlines the priorities of the European Union to strengthen its economy.

While most of the 11 pages contain general rhetoric including "the Crisis", "research excellence", "small and medium enterprises (SMEs)" blabla, the last page presents, under the headline "The external dimension of competitiveness", a paragraph that might surprise those who thought that the Crisis would change minds when it comes to free market policies.

To the contrary, as you can see:
The external dimension of competitiveness remains of crucial importance. Open markets, both in the EU and globally, are key to ensure growth and jobs. Avoiding the trap of protectionism and overregulation, Europe needs to take full advantage of the realities of the emerging new international economic system, diversify relations and develop new opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships around the globe. Approaches for achieving an ambitious and balanced result in the negotiations on the Doha Round should be explored with our global trading partners.
I don't see any change in free market rhetoric, which underlines that the basis of the Union are, after all, the five freedoms (four in the treaties plus the freedom of knowledge) and the continued strive for an ever more integrated internal market.

This position is confirmed by an editorial written by the Czech President Vaclav Klaus for the Financial Times (found via Publius) where he states:
As regards the EU’s “constitutional” stalemate, the Czech government will – hopefully – not lead Europe to an ever-closer union, to a Europe of regions (instead of states), to a centralised, supranational Europe or to an increasingly controlled and regulated Europe masterminded from above. It will keep stressing its EU presidency slogan “Europe without barriers”, which means the advocacy of further liberalisation, removing trade barriers and getting rid of protectionism.
That is both, an attack to the political dimension of the Union, while stressing its market dimension. It is another sign that the Czech president will indeed split the efforts of the Czech EU presidency and make the next six month the most problematic for the Union in the last decade.

Those advocating for the end of "neoliberal" ideology will have to lobby as hard as those lobbying for a more political and integrated Union until the next European Council.


Ralf Grahn said...


I wonder if President Vaclav Klaus hasn't embarked on a quest to become the Libertas top candidate for the position of Commission President ahead of the June 2009 European Parliament elections.

He does not seem to miss the slightest opportunity to endear himself to anti-Europeans of the less sophisticated kind.

The Czech Council Presidency programme has some sensible points, such as pointing at the potentially benficial effects of a belated but successful conclusion of the WTO Doha round and free trade in general.

(One of the tragic aspects of the 1930s depression was the effect of competing protectionist measures. The same pressures exist today.)

Naturally, everyone is against overregulation, but an attack which is blind to the regulatory failures leading to the present crises is an oversimplification, to put it kindly.

Arguably, one of the weaknesses in Europe is basically national supervision of increasingly pan-European or global conglomerates.

In addition, one way to fight overregulation is to have one regulator and one set of regulations to deal with, instead of about thirty.