Does one have to choose between Security and Stability?
The sentence - “The Security Pact must take precedence over the Stability Pact!” – expressed by President Hollande in Versailles, struck a receptive chord with a largely confused audience.
I am far from believing that security is not a priority but since when is “stability” not one of the essential ingredients of “security”? I will be taxed of being disingenuous and that the President was clearly only referring to the “Stability Pact” that imposes budgetary constraints on EMU members and not to the broader stability of society; if that is indeed the case, he should remember that the accord was designated as “Stability and Growth Pact”, at the express demand of France; I do not believe his intention was to subordinate growth to security, the former – as well as stability – being an important ingredient of the latter.
The danger with the superficial and populist approach adopted by the President is to further weaken the cohesion of EMU; this provides once again the demonstration of the urgency to complete its integration. His plea, emanating precisely from a country that did not comply with the treaty, appears as a hardly veiled attempt to exonerate itself unilaterally from respecting agreed budgetary rules and ignore the solemn undertakings to which it has subscribed.
In so doing, the President is putting the survival of the single currency into jeopardy compromising thereby not only France’s security but that of the EMU/EU as a whole. It is clear that by re-appropriating its entire budgetary sovereignty, France is only adding to the dissensions that are growing by the day between Member States, be it on the questions of immigration, Schengen, free movement of people, goods and capital or even Brexit.
No one is suggesting to deprive France of the necessary means to ensure its security but this question can only be solved at EU level; Member States should – at last - agree to endow the Eurozone with a significant budget. One of its aims should be to finance the extraordinary expenses arising from the terrorist threat that threatens all its members, possibly through the issuance of bonds guaranteed by such a budget. Simultaneously, it should insist on member’s compliance with existing budgetary rules at national level so as to ensure financial stability, an inescapable condition of security.
Such a policy was implemented by the federal government of the Unites States in the aftermath of the 2007/8 financial crisis. It is indeed the federal government that allowed its deficit to explode providing it with the means to assist individual States who were invited to maintain their own budgetary equilibrium. It allowed the USA to exit the crisis far more rapidly than Europe where the consequences of the financial crisis were aggravated by the “sovereign debt” crisis of 2010/11 and which continues to weigh heavily on the recovery.
Re-appropriating total budgetary sovereignty, in flagrant violation of obligations freely accepted by EMU Member States, can only weaken further the EMU/EU integration process and comfort the rantings of national-populist parties who are its main beneficiaries; the slogan uttered by the President underpins very neatly their objectives.
The time is fast approaching when the choice between “more Europe” and its dismantling will become ever more acute. Battening down the national hatches will only lead to an economic crisis of global magnitude which will come on top of the one we are already suffering from. It will most probably lead to military and civil conflicts as well as social unrest; this will compromise very heavily the security of European populations at a time when no individual nation is able to provide the necessary resources to counter the threat.
Let us not throw away too easily the undeniable conquests of the last 70 years accept that sharing some additional aspects of our national sovereignty is the price to pay for upholding our values and our civilisation.
Brussels 24th November 2015
Paul N. Goldschmidt
Director, European Commission (ret.); Member of the Steering Committee of the Thomas More Institute.
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