Europe’s most powerful countries call for elected EU president
Germany, France and nine other of Europe’s most powerful countries have called for an elected European Union president and an end to Britain’s veto over defence policy in a radical blueprint mapping out the continent’s future.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
7:26PM BST 18 Sep 2012
In a document released on Tuesday after a meeting between 11 foreign ministers in Warsaw, the bloc, which includes all the largest European countries outside Britain, charted a vision for the “future of Europe”.
As well as calling for a single, elected head of state for Europe, the bloc demanded a new defence policy, under the control of a new pan-EU foreign ministry commanded by Baroness Ashton, which “could eventually involve a European army”.
In order to “prevent one single member state from being able to obstruct initiatives”, a reference to British opposition to a European army, the German-led grouping demanded an end to existing national vetoes over foreign and defence policy.
This would give the EU the power to impose a decision on Britain if it is supported by a majority of other countries.
The plan, which has the backing of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Holland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Portugal the plan, is likely to fuel calls for a British referendum on membership of the European Union.
The document also proposed sweeping new powers for the European Parliament and further splitting of the EU by creating a new parliamentary sub chamber for the 17 countries of the eurozone.
In a joint statement, Guido Westerwelle and Radek Sikorski, the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, called for the creation of a single EU President, running the commission and overseeing regular summits, who is directly elected by voters in a pan-European vote “on the same day in all member states”.
“For Europe to be a truly strong actor and global leader it needs a strong institutional setup,” said Mr Westerwelle and Mr Sikorski. “It needs a directly elected president who personally appoints the members of his “European government’.”
In another major change, the 11 countries urged that changes to European treaties should in future be adopted and implemented “by a super-qualified majority of the EU member states” instead of by unanimity, meaning treaties can no longer be blocked from entering into force by No votes in popular referendums.
The document follows last week’s call by Jose Manuel Barroso for the EU to become a “federation” and growing calls in Britain for a referendum on any new European treaty or constitution.
A British Government spokesman said: “This is one contribution to the debate, which is just starting. The United Kingdom will play a full and active role in that debate.”
Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, described the proposed EU constitution, which has emerged in response to the eurozone crisis, as a “new European settlement”.
“It looks and is entirely hostile to the hopes and aspirations of this country. The government wants to negotiate, so does the Continent, but they are at cross purposes,” he said. “We now know what they want, we know we won’t get what we want, so now is the time to offer the people a choice on our membership of the EU.”
The major intervention by five of six biggest EU countries will increase calls from the Conservative backbenches in the House of Commons for a referendum on Europe.
Steve Baker, the Tory MP for Wycombe, warned that proposals to strip Britain of its veto over defence or foreign policy would be “the end of the UK as an independent country”.
“The EU is emerging as a fully-fledged state that is not under democratic control,” he said. “Any idea of making these changes without the overwhelming consent of the British people would be criminal.”