16 Sep 2015

Associate Membership of the EU is work in progress

Today there's an opinion piece in EurActiv by a left wing German MP called Joachim Poß. He is pushing for a debate about a report co-written by the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the European Central Bank (all these Presidents and not one of them elected by voters). Imaginatively titled 'The Five Presidents' Report', it aims to set out how to complete the monetary union of the Eurozone countries.

While the UK media is focused on the migrant crisis, perceived splits in the Conservative party over the rules for the referendum, and whether Jeremy Corbyn wants in or out of the EU, the politicians are focused on what they consider to be the bigger and more long term issues, such as economic and monetary union. The European Commission itself describes it as a Commission Priority. This is the focus that is leading towards the formal creation of EU Associate Member status.

There are 28 EU member states. But there are nine member states who are either exempt from joining the Euro (UK and Denmark, although Denmark has started the process and is experiencing economic problems as a result), don't meet the conditions for joining (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania), or are avoiding meeting the criteria for joining (Sweden).

That bloc of nine has held back the Eurozone countries and that is why the idea of having Associate Membership of the EU is being developed. It keeps them in the EU fold while the other states press ahead towards ever greater EU governance. The Associate Members would be in a waiting room until they are ready and able to give up economic control and commit to ever closer political and economic union. A Treaty will be needed to make this happen and there won't be space in it for the UK getting David Cameron's mythical secret wish list of powers returned. So it looks ever more likely that Cameron will seize Associate Membership and claim victory for not accepting deeper integration.

Going back to Joachim Poß's comments, he gives us a reminder of the nature of the EU and why leaving it would be a positive move. He argues that without deeper integration of the Eurozone it:
is not only vulnerable to economic crises and populist slogans from the left and right. It also lacks democratic legitimation.
Populism isn't always bad. It's about being concerned with or trying to represent the views of ordinary people. The EU isn't interested in what ordinary people want. Its mandarins believe themselves to be above the people, to know what is best for them, and seek to govern without any reference to the people or democratic mandate from them. That isn't a political union the UK should be part of.

It's also typical pro EU doublespeak for Poß to argue that further centralising control by moving it further away from democratic accountability would give the EU more democratic legitimacy. Countries that do not control their currency do not control their economy. No one in those countries can vote to change their economic approach and their elected politicians will not have control over their economy. Staying in the EU will increase pressure to accept its control wholesale, which is a huge reason for voting to leave the EU at the earliest opportunity.