Ein bisschen Protektionismus

Neue Töne in der europapolitischen Debatte: Die EU dürfe nicht nur Grenzen einreißen und Räume öffnen, sondern müsse ihre Bürger auch schützen und ihnen eine Heimat bieten, sagt Ratspräsident . Wird plötzlich hoffähig in Brüssel?

Von Craig Willy

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs the meetings of national presidents and prime ministers, has again criticized the EU’s excessive focus on abolishing economic/financial borders and that instead it should “balance” this with “protection.” The EU has been too much of an open “space” rather than a rooted “place.”

From a recent speech:

With Europe, our focus has always been on space. Just think about it. From the very start, the typical action was to remove borders, for goods, workers, investment, to let people and companies move, take initiatives, seize opportunities. Even today – on fields as diverse as energy, telecom or the digital economy – it is still about bringing down borders, creating this big common space. But we’ve never really thought of Europe as a home, a shelter, and today we pay a price for it.


The implications are inevitably left pretty vague but his argument raises an important issue. Many Anglos and euroskeptics have often feared that European integration isn’t really about free trade but is in fact a French plot to create an independent and moderately protectionist European Superstate as a counter-weight to the U.S.A. and globalization.

This Europe puissance would be dominated by the “Carolingian core” of France (naturally), Germany and the Benelux. Van Rompuy, a Flem hailing from the heartlands of the old Lotharingian and Burgundian realms, is evidently not insensitive to this ambition.

In practice, nothing has really come of this stuff (Mitterrand’s Big Idea for achieving superpower status was the euro..). And the EU remains very much the great “opener” and abolisher of borders, pushing for free trade agreements with just about everyone.

Van Rompuy himself has welcomed the upcoming EU-U.S. free trade agreement (TTIP) as “the real game-changer in the making,” a deal which at its most ambitious seems to want to create a Transatlantic economic regime.

Skeptics will also point out that Van Rompuy is at best an “influencer” rather than a decision-maker so his words are inoperable. But I for one am comforted by the fact that some people at the highest levels are at least conscious of the problems borderlessness and rootlessness have caused over the years and are troubled by the predictable long-term consequences for Europe.

This is a short version of the blog post  “Is the EU presided by a closet protectionist?” The original text can be found here