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BRITS ARE KEPT BUSY WITH BREXIT, WHILE EUROPEANS WITH REFORMING THE EU

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British Prime Minister Theresa May held yesterday a speech to clarify the Brexit negotiating objectives: out of the European Union, out of the Single Market and probably out of the customs union. She seems to have forgotten the 48% of the British population that have voted to remain in the EU and the Scottish government request to find a way to remain in the Single Market. Nonetheless, May wants a free trade area that would allow the City to remain the heart of the financial world. The Scottish PM replied that it will all lead to a new referendum on Scottish independence from UK. May has kindly agreed on the parliament taking a decision about the issue at the end of the negotiations. It looks like a move to strengthen her negotiating position, since the UK parliament at the end of the 2 years negotiating period set by the “Lisbon treaty” will have to face a choice between leaving the EU with or without the agreement negotiated by the government. It will have to ratify the agreement, despite its being most probably different from British desires.

The same day the “High-level group on own resources”, chaired by Mario Monti and formed by three representatives of the European Parliament, three of the Council and three of the Commission has presented its report on the EU budget reform. The report asks to strengthen the system of own resources by making a series of proposals regarding the financial transactions tax, the carbon tax, VAT, taxes on enterprises income and other related to European policies and the single market. Not only that: the group also opens the way to the creation of an additional Eurozone budget through enhanced cooperation. Those all are proposals based on common sense that aim to rationalize the system of the European revenue. The report moves in the framework of the existing treaties, and proposes immediately applicable improvements to the EU budget architecture. Such a pragmatism, though, leads to the lack of two key proposals: the increase of the EU budget, as of today only 0.9% of GDP, and the overcoming of the balanced budget requirement for the EU, in other words the ability to have debts at a European level, without the need of surreptitiously resorting to the European Investments Bank owned by member states for this purpose.

The same day the European Parliament elected to its Presidency Antonio Tajani, European People’s Party, thanks to the agreement with the Liberals, defeating the Socialist and Democratic candidate, Gianni Pittella. Italian commentators focus on the consequences on national politics - the strengthening of the pro-European approach of Forza Italia and the increased distance with the position of Italian nationalist Salvini – and showcase national pride after achieving for the first time the presidency of the European Parliament.

I’d rather suggest to focus on another aspect: in order to achieve the top positions at European level it takes a long and constant commitment, to gain credibility and partnerships. Tajani and Pittella are among the few Italian long-time MEPs. Normally, the Italian continuous replacement of MEPs weakens them and precludes the chance of obtaining significant roles in the Parliament.

In any case, Italian pro-European personalities now hold the posts of President of the European Central Bank, President of the European Parliament and of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission. If Germany held those positions Italian medias would talk about the “German domination” over Europe: we can notice here the double standard that comes from methodological nationalism...

To sum up: concomitances are revealing.

Despite Brexit arouses great interest in the media all over the world, it is mainly a British issue. The EU loses a recalcitrant Member State, that was not in the single currency monetary system already, out of the Schengen treaty and partially out of the “Charter of Fundamental Rights”. The UK is not the main commercial partner for any of the European state apart from Ireland, while the EU is on the contrary, and by far, the first commercial partner for the UK. British have always liked the idea that “the continent is isolated”, but it is their fantasy. The EU and its member states cannot waste time to run after the future of the UK, but have to worry about reforming the nowadays incomplete and not perfect EU, which is not ready to properly face challenges that comes from growth, employment, geopolitical crisis on its borders and the resulting flows of migrants. The budget is the basic tool to achieve political and European public infrastructural results. In recent decades EU’s competences have increased while its budget has reduced (it reached once 1.27% of the GDP but now it is 0.9, roughly a third less). The proposals from the Monti group are all welcome, as the first step in the right direction. The European Parliament has a central legislative role – much greater than the Italian one, where all the major measures are approved by way of maxi-amendments and votes of confidence – and its democratic life develops in parallel with the citizens and media interest for its activities. The EU looks forward, while the UK is deep thinking about its future.

@RobertoCastaldi
in collaboration with Luca Martinelli

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