Hamon plans radical departure from EU ‘blabla’

Benoit Hamon in Paris, 10 March. [Aline Robert]

Benoît Hamon said on Friday (10 March) that a multi-speed Europe is just EU “blabla” and tried to drum up intergovernmental support for a €1 trillion energy transition investment programme. EURACTIV France reports.

Socialist Party presidential hopeful Hamon on Friday unveiled the European dimension of his electoral campaign. This includes plans for a new democratic treaty, prepared with economist Thomas Piketty, in the form of an intergovernmental agreement.

“My European commitment is free from any kind of fetishism, it comes from a conviction that if we do not transform Europe urgently we will allow the extreme right to prosper,” the candidate said in a call to France’s pro-European voters.

“The status quo will worsen the split opened up by Brexit,” he said, before presenting a series of proposals that he described as “amendable and open for discussion”.

In fact, the original plans, seen by EURACTIV.fr on 9 March, have already been amended.

Hamon calls for international treaty to 'democratise' eurozone governance

Benoît Hamon’s proposal of an international treaty between the eurozone countries to increase democratic control of the single currency has raised eyebrows on the left, where such sovereigntist manoeuvring is viewed with suspicion. EURACTIV France reports.

Hamon’s initial proposal for a eurozone assembly excluded all participation by the European Parliament. Article 4 of the draft international treaty specified: “The assembly is formed of MPs chosen by their national parliaments, in proportion to the political groups represented and with respect to political pluralism, according to the procedure fixed by each eurozone country.”

Under the plan presented last Friday, four fifths of the assembly would be made up of national MPs and one fifth of MEPs.

National assemblies more legitimate

Asked by EURACTIV about his preference for nationally-elected representatives in eurozone governance, Hamon’s reasoning was clear.

“The European Parliament is a democratic institution but if we want the Bundestag to feel bound by the decisions taken by the democratic assembly of the eurozone, I think it is preferable to ensure those decisions are made by representatives from the national  parliaments,” he told journalists.

Even for Hamon’s supporters this is a hard pill to swallow. “Obviously I would have preferred a 50/50 split,” said Green MEP and former presidential candidate Yannick Jadot. “But it is true that that would not go down well with everyone. It is a first step,” he added.

On top of creating this parliamentary assembly, Hamon wants to reorient the eurozone’s economic policy.

A €1tr “New Deal” for the energy transition

“Austerity policies have been a fiasco. They lead to a widespread rejection of Europe. The obsession with GDP growth and free trade agreements is characteristic of Europe’s failure,” Hamon said.

While he claimed to be sure he could convince the “great parliamentary democracy” of Germany to follow the first part of his plan, it may prove harder to drum up support for the second part.

Behind the new legal aspect of this intergovernmental treaty, Hamon wants to launch a “European New Deal”, with €1tr of investment; mainly in the ecological transition. This ambitious project would see the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and structural funds completely redesigned.

A political bridge

The candidate, who noted that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ attempts to reform Europe on his own resulted in failure, wants to build a “political bridge” across Europe. So far, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa is the only head of government to support Hamon’s proposals. He is meeting with Martin Schulz at the end of March.

“I am aware that the German left is newly available to discuss the reformation of the left,” he said.

Finally, Hamon wants to come closer to the EU’s eastern member states. “Europe must breathe with both of its lungs; the eastern one and the western one. This is often forgotten in the French-German relationship,” he said, leaving little doubt as to his low regard for the idea of differentiated integration.

“A two-speed Europe is like the 3% rule: it is just blabla, it will not change anything,” he said.

On top of its disregard for the European Parliament, Hamon’s proposal pays even less heed to the European Commission, which is preparing to deliver a tough response through Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner – and French Socialist – Pierre Moscovici.