The Economist

French President François Hollande has called for more budgetary, social and tax integration, leading to a "eurozone government" during a debate with MEPs.
Addressing the European Parliament on 5 February 2013, he said Europe was more than just "a market, a currency and a set of treaties".
During the debate, the leader of the Liberal group, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said Mr Hollande's ambitions for EU integration needed to go even further.
"Europe has no future unless we become a true federation - even an empire, in a good sense," he stated.
BBC 5 February 2013

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Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has pleaded for the creation of a federal "United States of Europe."
His new book "The United States of Europe."
EU Observer 1/12 2005

He pleads for a "European social and economic government", which should set minimum and maximum standards for, for example, greater flexibility in labour markets, pension age and workers' protection.

The European Union - a term which the Belgian politician keeps using next to "United States of Europe" - should have an autonomous budget financed from taxes like VAT, which it should use to boost spending on research and development.

The EU should further have its own president, foreign minister, army and prosecutor

Mr Verhofstadt calls a federal EU "the only option."

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En artikel i Wall Street Journal (26/11) av den belgiske premiärministern Guy Verhofstad antyder svaret på frågorna.
Verhofstadt är en brinnande federalist liksom utrikesminister Joschka Fischer och andra kontinentala toppolitiker.
Han döljer inte sina ståndpunkter. Den nya konstitutionen utgör ett stort steg på vägen mot en sammanhållen union, en federal stormakt.
Margit Gennser, Liberala nyhetsbyrån, 6/12 2003

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- They are not more European than we are. They are just more federal.
Mrs. Thatcher, June 27, 1991

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The founding fathers, maybe
For federalism and against

The Economist Feb 26th 2002

Britain and the euro Fit to join?
The Economist Feb 7th 2002

The founding fathers, maybe
For federalism and against
The Economist Feb 26th 2002

A broad division between federalists and anti-federalists in the convention can already be foreseen. The federalists will want a big erosion in the power of individual states to veto EU decisions; an EU constitution based on a legally enforceable charter of rights; a far stronger foreign and defence policy; the development of an EU-wide criminal justice system; and more powers for the European Parliament and the European Commission. Some will argue too for a much bigger budget financed by a directly-imposed EU tax, and a more ambitious pan-European social policy. The anti-federalists will try to fend off many of these notions, and will press for some EU powers to be repatriated to national governments, for example over regional aid, farming and social legislation.

The federalist camp, broadly defined, will plainly have a strong majority within the convention. Mr Giscard d’Estaing’s position is carefully ambiguous; some suspect his real goal is to increase the powers of the larger states. But his two vice-presidents—former prime ministers both, Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium and Giuliano Amato of Italy—are firm federalists. Both recently signed the “wake-up call for Europe” written by Jacques Delors, a former president of the commission much revered by advocates of ever closer union, which called for “continuous transition towards greater European integration”, notably in economic and social policy.

Messrs Giscard d’Estaing, Dehaene and Amato will form the apex of a 12-person praesidium that will guide the convention over the next year. Representatives of the parliament, the commission and national governments will join them on this steering committee. Keen integrationists are well to the fore. Two praesidium members, Klaus Hansch and Giorgos Katiforis, Euro-MPs from Germany and Greece respectively, have both signed a socialist manifesto that calls for a “European government to promote the European social model” and to act as a counterweight to a United States that is “drunk with power”.

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Britain and the euro Fit to join?
The Economist Feb 7th 2002

Just as public opinion is apparently warming to the idea of joining the euro, relations between Gordon Brown and the European Commission have soured. The cause of the dispute is a ticking-off from Brussels about the chancellor's fiscal plans. This is no ordinary disagreement. It goes to the heart of whether Britain can both join the euro and maintain the drive to improve public services.

At first sight, the row between Mr Brown and the commission looks more theatrical than real. The commission says that Britain is failing to meet the rules of the stability pact by planning to run a budget deficit. This runs counter to the pact's stipulation that member states—both in and out of the euro area—should keep their budgets “close to balance or surplus over the medium term”. For the moment, that does not much matter, since fines can be levied only on euro members.

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The Economist about Laken

Europe’s new shape
Dec 13th 2001 From The Economist

Aside from procedures and personnel, the Laeken summit should see EU leaders begin to grapple with the big issues of how to reform the EU. Given the range of opinions, no one can foretell the outcome of the debate, or the constitutional convention.

The ambitions of those keenest to bring European countries ever more tightly together are apparent in a “draft declaration” circulated by Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium's prime minister and the summit's host. His letter poses a series of questions. But a disgruntled Scandinavian diplomat says it is “clearly written by someone with a blueprint for a full-fledged federal state in mind”. It floats ideas for creating a “European political area”, such as directly electing the European Commission's president and giving more powers to the European Parliament and to the commission.

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The Nice summit’s main job is to open the EU to new members from the east The Economist 2000-12-07

WITH ingenuity and determination in equal parts, this weekend’s grand gathering of European Union leaders at Nice should clear the way to a hugely desirable, even historic, goal: the binding back into the West, half a century after the second world war’s end, of many of the once-isolated countries of Central Europe. If the remaining obstacles still blocking the road ahead of the summit can be surmounted, celebration at Nice will be in order.

If, mind you, after all the late-night haggling, many of those obstacles remain, disappointment should not be exaggerated. The embrace of Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others will not be put off for long: the momentum carrying them to EU membership is probably unstoppable. Nothing, save an implausible (though not entirely impossible) degree of mean-spiritedness on the part of countries already in, will prevent their eventual inclusion. Nonetheless, the sooner the new members from Central Europe can be brought in the better.

It would be a huge fillip if at Nice the remaining institutional barriers to the next round of EU enlargement could fall.

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From The Economist 2000-09-23

If, on September 28th, Danes say yes, the continent’s single currency will get a big boost. Those across Europé who favour “ever closer union” will say that Sweden and Britain are now bound to join the currency - and that momentum for tighter integration across the EU will be recaptured.

If the noes win, a debate about the Union’s future shape is likely to ensue with renewed vehemence.

The no camp, broadly speaking, falls under three headings. First come the nationalists who fear a further loss of sovereignty. Then there is the pricklier brand of democrat, who believe, in the words of Niels Meyer, a prominent scientist, that “the EU is ruining our participatory democracy”.

Third, and most potent on the left, are those who think that Denmark’s exceptionally generous welfare state will come under attack from an EU which, with euro-zone countries edging towards some kind of economic government of Europe, will gain ever-greater control over social security and tax.

It is odd, perhaps, that Danes who are against the euro have not, on the whole, argued that the currency will fail.

Nonetheless, two economic factors have strongly bolstered the antis. First, in the spring, Denmark’s much respected economic council, known as the “wise men”, who are independent of government, declared rather agnostically that the benefits of joining the euro were “minimal and uncertain”.

Second, the new currency went on sliding. Many pensioners are convinced that its falling value means that, within euroland, their pensions would shrink too.

The pro-euro side, backed massively by big business, by the main media outlets and by 80% of MPs (despite divisions within most parties), has marshalled solid macroeconomic arguments, stressing - among other things - the merits of a single exchange-rate within Denmark’s main trading area. Besides, the krone has been tied to the D-mark since 1982 (and more recently to the euro).

But Mr Nyrup Rasmussen’s friends think that, in retrospect, they should have argued more vigorously on political rather than economic grounds for dumping the krone.

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The Economist, May 20

Last week Joschka Fischer told a clutch of dignitaries in Berlin of his vision for meeting “undoubtedly the biggest challenge that has ever faced the EU” - that is, how to turn the present Union of 15 members into one with as many as 30.

Economic integration on that scale, he said, would have to be matched by closer political union. Indeed, Mr Fischer called for a fully fledged European federation, with a two-house parliament and the option of a directly elected president, to be underwritten by yet another treaty.

Countries that wanted to rush ahead into an ever tighter union of that kind should, he suggested, be allowed to create a new “centre of gravity” (a metaphor meaning much the same as “Europe’s avant-garde”, an old unionist favourite) that would nudge the continent towards an eventual “completion of integration”.

Nobody, he added with an eye to Eurosceptics, especially those across the English Channel, would be excluded if they wanted to join the faster-moving “core group” at a later stage. Nor, he insisted, would such a vision threaten the nation-state, which, he acknowledged, still often provides people with a “source of comfort and security”.

The sort of federation he had in mind was “lean”; the principle of “subsidiarity” - always legislating at the lowest appropriate level - had to be defended.

And his proposed lower house of a more powerful European Parliament would be made up of people who were also members of their own countries’ parliaments.

Whether or not Mr Fischer’s frankly federalist blueprint gains acceptance across Europe, it has the merit of telling Germany’s French friends that, at least among some influential people in Berlin, hope springs eternal for the creation of a continent where political sovereignty is increasingly divided - starting with Germany and France.

Mr Fischer’s counterpart in Paris, Hubert Védrine, has welcomed the German’s remarks as “the most ambitious to date”.

Lionel Jospin, the French prime minister, has pledged to wrap up France’s six-month stint with a set of crucial institutional reforms that will enable the Union to take in a dozen new members, mainly from the east. Mr Jospin has himself recently presented some ideas, a bit like some of Mr Fischer’s, though less far-reaching, for “a core of a few [EU] countries co-operating more closely than others”.

The Franco-German axis, says Mr Fischer, is “even more indispensable now than it was 50 years ago...Without it, no European project will succeed.”

But why did Mr Fischer cast his ideas so coyly as being entirely “personal”? Would they not have carried more weight if he had spoken candidly in his capacity as foreign minister of the EU’s biggest country, with the world’s third-biggest economy behind it? For one thing, this modest pitch was meant to reassure less ardent integrationists across Europe that Germany was only flying a kite. For another, German foreign ministers are still wary of coming over as didactic or even bullying.

When Gerhard Schröder declared on coming to power as chancellor in 1998 that Germany had “grown up” enough to be treated as a “normal” country whose leaders would vigorously fight for its national interests, some non-Germans (and Germans too) felt queasy - the more so since the capital was about to move east from gentle little Bonn, on the Rhine, to beefy Berlin, the old imperial capital.

Mr Fischer, a former car-factory worker who took to the barricades during the mayhem of 1968, is as conscious as anybody of Germany’s awful past. The child of ethnic Germans who came back to the motherland from Hungary, he is aware, too, of the ghosts that could be conjured up in such countries as Poland and the Czech Republic by a German-led expansion of the EU to the east.

All the same, he reckons that Germany should be less shy about making its case to the world. Its mere economic might makes it a global force, he says. It is entitled, nowadays, to defend German interests, along with human rights and moral values. To the fury of his own Greens’ pacifist old guard, he backed NATO’s bombing of Serbia and was in the front line of those arguing for German troops to be sent to Kosovo.

Moreover, he insists, Germany is still ill-suited for acting abroad alone. Wherever possible, it should team up with fellow NATOcountries, with the United States, with the United Nations, above all with fellow Europeans.

Yet, a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many Germans - and certainly Mr Fischer - are still groping for a new place in the world. An intriguing piece of kite-flying though it surely was, his recent speech will hardly have persuaded listeners abroad that Germany really knows where it is going.

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