Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Policy Network’

Timmermans’ Convincing Case

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 6th March, 2015

Frans TimmermansIt is frustrating that so much of the discussion about Britain’s relationship with the European Union is about the question “should we be in, or should we be out?” The Prime Minister, David Cameron, must shoulder some of the blame for this, for constantly trying to dance to UKIP’s tune, instead of standing up firmly on the side of most of British business (a natural constituency for him, one would have thought) to stress how important EU membership is for the UK’s economy and how risky leaving to “go it alone” would be. I wish Mr Cameron, and indeed other Tory government Ministers, could have been present yesterday at Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf to listen to the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, give a masterly exposition of how the EU can steer itself through the next four or five years, by doing less better. The event was organised by the social democratic think tank Policy Network, focussing especially on EU reform as well as UK membership, but Mr Timmermans also highlighted the need for a more concerted European response to challenges such as Russia’s adventurism, Mediterranean migration and ISIS and related matters. I asked him if that meant that a recalaibration of the EU’s priorities might therefore be towards a stronger Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), at the expense of internal market regulation, but he responded by quoting Harold Macmillan’s classic remark about “events, dear boy” — in other words, the EU must be able to respond pro-actively as necessary. Meanwhile, Britain marginalises itself from EU action to the detriment of both London and Brussels; I have already blogged about my dismay that Mr Cameron stood aloof from the Merkel-Hollande mission re Ukraine. On that specific issue, Mr Timmermans said that even if the Minsk Agreement has not yet reached a satisfactory conclusion, Minsk must be the basis for taking things forward.

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What Future for Europe?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th February, 2011

The Policy Network arranged an impressive line-up at a seminar on the Future of Europe at Bloomberg’s headquarters in the City on Friday, including Lords Mandelson and Liddle, Vince Cable, Sharon Bowles MEP and EU Commissioner Laszlo Andor. Their definition of ‘Europe’ was narrow, in the sense that the discussion was all about the European Union — and much of it about the future of the eurozone. Fears were expressed that as the eurozone expands, to take in some of the more recent EU members which have not yet satisfied the criteria for joining the single curency, Britain will be increasingly isolated and exposed. It was also stressed that there is still work to be done to implement the single market, and that further expansion of the EU, to take in predominantly young candidate states — notably Turkey — is desirable. One session of the day-long seminar examined what citizens want from the European institutions; there is not just a democratic deficit in the EU but also a lot of work to be done before European citizens really feel engagement with what the EU is for, what it does. Peter Mandelson declared that people on both sides of the Channel essentially want the same things: a secure and prosperous life, in which they enjoy the freedom of choice. But everyone was aware of how difficult it is to persuade a substantial proportion of the British public that Euro-scepticism is misguided.

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