Correspondent's Choice

This story about a UK opt-out agreed at the June 2010 European Council summit was published by EurActiv on 18th June 2010.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron secured an opt-out on closer economic integration, claiming a victory at his first EU summit in Brussels yesterday (17 June).

EU leaders agreed to greater surveillance and coordination of national budgets but a deal on sanctions for countries in a weak financial position will not be finalised until a high-level task force, led by permanent Council President Herman Van Rompuy, reports in October.

Cameron said he had secured “a clear agreement” that London’s economic sovereignty would not be affected by any changes agreed at the next EU summit.

“This meeting has ensured that UK opt-outs are safeguarded,” said the new prime minister. The bottom line for the UK is that “the euro zone needs to sort out its problems,” he added.

Cameron also stressed that the UK would always present its budget to Westminster before Brussels, in response to proposals from the European Commission to have national budgets pre-examined at EU level.

Leaders await task force report

The Van Rompuy Task Force will look at whether withholding EU funds might be an option for punishing errant governments, while an earlier Franco-German proposal to suspend countries’ voting rights has met with a cold response from other member states.

There have been ongoing concerns among diplomats about the practicalities of imposing sanctions, with some fearing that financial penalties would exacerbate economic problems (EurActiv 17/06/10).

Speaking in Brussels, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested making sanctions tougher for eurozone members than countries such as the UK and Denmark, which have opted out of the single currency – something likely to appeal to the UK’s new leader.

Sarkozy also stressed that economic policy decisions in Europe were “not federal” and that the practice remained “unanimity decision-making” among heads of state and government.

The French position remains at odds with the German view that the proposed “economic government” would be for all EU members and not just eurozone countries.

At the insistence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sarkozy dropped his earlier suggestion that the EU’s economic government should be dealt with only among the 16 members of the euro zone.

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  1. Mrs. Merkel is right, only public budget issues in euro zone member states should be kept under scrutiny. But what will be a “European Economic Government” like? Another supranational body? Loss of freedom and of sovereignty for all Europeans? More bureaucrats and taxes? I am impatient to see what is coming out of this idea, at a time when macro economic policies get weaker or fail. By the way, I remember that one of the famous macro economists of the late 20th century (Pascal Salin) confessed in one of his last textbooks that he did not believe anymore in macro economics…

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