More complex than a morality play

I refer to 'Divided Union' (IE, November 26). The editorial states that there is a "moral problem" and that an "increasingly moralistic divide between rich and fiscally disciplined states and poor and slightly messy states" is the centrepiece of EU budget talks that took place last week. Though such a view has the attractiveness of a straightforward and simple explanation, it bears little connection with the truth, which is infinitely more complex and considerably less to do with morality.

In brief, it must be remembered that we are dealing with a seven-year budget (2014- 2020). Most countries deal only with single-year budgets, which are difficult enough to negotiate. We have just had the first dedicated negotiation, and just like in 2005 (as the editorial itself points out) not all was solved first time around. Secondly, this budget negotiation is taking place against the background of the most serious economic crisis in a generation. Just as in individual European countries, we need to ensure that every euro is well spent and that no more euros are spent than need to be.

The central issue that is being discussed is how best to catalyse growth. There is unanimity about the need for a growth-focused budget, and the 30 decision-makers around the table, each with his or her source of democratic legitimacy, naturally do not have entirely homogenous views. The second issue is solidarity: again it is not whether but how solidarity should best be shown to those worst affected by the crisis.

One may understand the tendency, perhaps due to linguistic facility, to frame European discussions through the prism of one set of national news sources alone. However, this belies the reality which could be shown through a more wide-ranging appreciation of the issues, namely that the degree of convergence is considerable and that the constructive discussions that were held last week form a good basis for a budget agreement early in 2013.

... contd.

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