We may claim success in Cardiff but it was Germany calling all the shots

By now, you will no doubt be basking in another British triumph in Europe. This week’s European summit in Cardiff is all over bar the shouting and, as with every Government, no journalist has been left unspun to try to portray our presidency’s success. But it will only have been a success if Tony Blair has at last realised, one year into office and six months in the Euro-chair, that Europe is unique among international institutions.

By now, you will no doubt be basking in another British triumph in

Europe. This week’s European summit in Cardiff is all over bar the

shouting and, as with every Government, no journalist has been left

unspun to try to portray our presidency’s success. But it will only have

been a success if Tony Blair has at last realised, one year into office

and six months in the Euro-chair, that Europe is unique among

international institutions.



Some would argue that the title really belongs to the Commonwealth of

some 50 nations, embracing the world’s largest and smallest democracies

from India to the 9.25 square miles of Tuvalu in the South Pacific. It

grew out of the British Empire and represents a splendid cross-section

of the world’s races, democracies, dictatorships, successes and

failures.



When they are not blasting the former colonial power, they are usually

holding their hand-out for British aid. Its value is thus more

intangible than apparent, but the world would be worse without it.



This also goes for the G8 summit, which brings together most of the

world’s major econ-omies and Russia. Its value is not to be measured in

its achievements but in the fact that those who consider themselves to

be the world’s most powerful leaders meet regularly and have to live

with their communiques for a year. Finally, our permanent membership of

the UN Security Council speaks for itself, though it may not survive if

Scotland takes advantage of Mr Blair’s devolution and declares

independence.



In each of these institutions - Commonwealth, G8 and UN - we are a

sovereign nation. But not in Europe. We have now pooled so much

sovereignty that we are just one vote around a table of 15. If we stand

aside from a particular policy - as we do so far over a single currency

- we are excluded from its management. And if we get ideas above our

station - such as being at the heart of Europe (John Major) or leading

it (Mr Blair) - the Franco-German dictatorship gets extremely

uppity.



Hence the absurd Kohl-Chirac joint letter to Cardiff extolling the

virtues of ’subsidiarity’ - theoretically limiting the power of Brussels

by maximising devolution of decision-making to nation, region or

locality - while at the same time being hell bent on a single currency

and single foreign and defence policies which are the hallmarks of a

European superstate.



Chancellor Kohl is, of course, trailing seven points as he faces a

general election. Beware a European politician bearing the subsidiarity

gift in those circumstances.



Mr Blair could have claimed a towering success - and in Germany, too -

had he demanded Herr Kohl put his money where his ’subsidiarity’ mouth

is by abandoning a single currency. But he didn’t. In PR terms, he

remains a follower, not a leader. Not much changes.



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