Mr Hague wants to put Britain at the heart of the EU. He must also put the EU at the heart of Britain.
July 1, 2010
Foreign Secretary William Heague says he is keen to ensure that Britain is more active in the EU. He wants more British officials to occupy Director level positions in the European Commission and more staff at entry-level positions at the Commission to be British.
The question is what he intends to do with his new army of British Directors and functionnaires in the Commission? Is he aware that Commission officials are there to protect the interests of the EU as a whole rather than promote the agenda of a certain member state? The Commission is the EU’s engine, the guardian of the Treaties and the expression of the community way. I am aware of certain examples of very prominent and highly respected British Commission officials that have, in the not so distant past, been denied promotion for being too Communitarian. It is hypocritical to complain about the decrease in the number of British officials at Director level when he has something to do with that.
But there is a bigger issue here. The UK is indeed under-represented in the EU institutions. The question is why. Traditionally British officials are not encouraged to pursue careers in Brussels. It is not said explicitly but if one compares the support and tutoring offered to officials in other Member States when preparing for the EU institutions’ entry exams to that offered to British officials one gets the idea. A lot has to do with the atmosphere of eurosceptisism in British society, an atmosphere that Mr Hague has so greatly contributed to. When the EU and its institutions are constantly portrayed as evil, power-grabbing monsters, and at the same time as politically irrelevant, a young official, setting his or her career path will think twice of making the move in to the land of the damned.
It all boils down to what the Government attitude and public perception of the EU really is in the UK. If Mr Hague wants Britain to be more active in the EU he has to be more constructive, not just sound constructive. It is not enough to put your people in place, set them up in a defensive formation and simply resist anything ‘communitarian’ or ‘supranational’ that comes out of the Commission. Active engagement in the EU means producing ideas on how to promote and protect the collective interests of EU member states. Active engagement means contributing to the debate with more than red lines and opts outs. Above all active engagement with the EU starts at home. If Mr Hague is serious about putting Britain at the heart of the EU he must also put the EU at the heart of Britain. Until the British people have the benefits of EU membership clearly, honestly and objectively explained to them they will not be able to embrace the project of European integration. Mr Hague needs to work hard to change the negative image the EU has in the UK, a negative image he has worked so hard to cultivate. Once he has done that more Brits will want to work in the EU. To protect and promote both British and EU interests.
Petros FassoulasAuthor : European Movement UK