Eurosceptics & UK-Baltic 'Anti-French Alliance'

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/24/2011 12:07:00 AM
$acre bleu! While the IPE Zone doesn't do conspiracy theories, the above post title was suggested by none other than the Financial Times, not some Eurosceptic rag which are a dime a dozen here in the UK. Alas, there is always a vocal bunch of Euro-haters perpetually voicing their opposition to UK involvement in European affairs as a further erosion of national sovereignty to stereotypically faceless bureaucrats from Brussels.

Needless to say, Eurosceptics enjoy predicting and sometimes even plotting the ever-imminent downfall of the European Union the way orthodox communists do with capitalism. A few months ago, I featured one of the more improbable schemes prior to the passage of the Lisbon Treaty. Czech, Polish, and British Eurosceptics imagined that they could scuttle the Treaty thusly: instead of signing on to Lisbon, Czech and Polish EU haters would hold up proceedings for as long as it took the British Conservatives--famously anti-integration--to gain power and force the matter to be subject to a referendum in Britain, resulting in a surefire defeat. Or so the argument went. The Eastern Europeans eventually folded, and the Conservatives weren't even able to form a government on their own. Had push come to shove, it's unlikely that their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, famously led by someone who served in Brussels and met his wife there (Nick Clegg) would have played along.

But alas, these sorts of conspiracies for the EU's demise keep popping up. Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron invited several Nordic countries to Blighty for a so-called "Nordic-Baltic Summit." Ostensibly aimed at generating innovative ideas and encouraging stronger ties between Britain and the Nordic-Baltics, there was nonetheless a [surprise!] anti-EU interpretation available. Alike the United Kingdom, the Nordic-Baltics are supposedly independent-minded nations, geographically away from Europe's centre who are wary of EU encroachment. So this narrative doesn't fully work with some having adopted the euro like Finland and Estonia, but hey, don't take it too literally...
Britain’s prime minister will host an unprecedented “UK-Nordic-Baltic” summit on Thursday, bringing together the leaders of some of Europe’s most liberal, free-market, green and fiscally tough nations. David Cameron has been keen to present the meeting of nine countries as a cosy get-together, where issues such as wave power [hydroelectric in non-Britspeak] and family-friendly policies feature on the agenda alongside technology and growth.

But others in Europe may see the summit as a power play by Mr Cameron – an attempt to forge a “northern league” of often Eurosceptic, Atlanticist countries that share a desire to rein in the power of Brussels and European Union spending. Alexander Stubb, Finland’s foreign minister, said the summit was “a smart move” by the UK prime minister. “He’s looking for allies in the EU. Small member states are always flattered when approached by big member states.”

When Downing Street was asked whether Mr Cameron was forging an “anti-French alliance”, the prime minister’s spokesman pointed out that he had worked with Paris and Berlin to call for EU budget discipline. Mr Cameron hosted a dinner for the leaders of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia at Downing Street on Wednesday.

The Nordic countries often have an awkward relationship with Brussels. Norway and Iceland are outside the EU, while Denmark and Sweden are outside the euro and look as far away as possible from joining. One Brussels-based analyst said the summit seemed to be a means for Mr Cameron to engage with the rest of Europe while bypassing the EU institutions.
A meeting among the most "Anglo-Saxon" (read: independence-minded) countries who Britain can count on to scuttle efforts at further integration, then? While moving away from the centre of Europe wasn't on the agenda, it possibly was a meeting of like-minded countries that could be called on in the future to frustrate further "Frenchification"--ever closer union in oldspeak. Still, Iceland's leadership may still be smarting from the UK labelling their countrymen as a bunch of terrorists in the recent past. These are interesting times in the EU--even among countries not in the Eurozone.