EU leaders fight shy of closer union

Major can hope for an easy ride at the meeting in Majorca, reports Sarah Helm

Formentor - There will be good news for John Major when European leaders gather for their summit in Majorca today. The meeting is likely to put the brakes on plans for further European integration, amid confusion about the future path of the union and growing public scepticism about the power of Brussels.

The summit, hosted by Spain, holder of the EU presidency, had been billed as a crucial meeting where the agenda would be set for next year's inter- governmental conference (IGC) on the revision of EU machinery. Instead the weekend will be a brainstorming session on the EU's direction, rather than laying down a blueprint for reform. The IGC is charged with ensuring that EU institutions can operate effectively once the Union has gained new members in Eastern and Central Europe, potentially expanding its number to 30.

Important institutional changes were expected to be on the IGC agenda, including a curbing of national vetos and more powers for Brussels to implement common policies incriminal justice, defence and foreign affairs.

The IGC appeared certain to cause trouble for Mr Major. So ambitious was the agenda that it was predicted the conference would run on until 1997, coinciding with the next British general election, which must be held by May 1997.

However, France made it clear yesterday that it saw a narrower agenda for the IGC, and a timetable finishing before the end of 1996. The European Commission, which had called for important changes including more majority voting, is being marginalised - its voice is hardly heard. No policy conclusion will be issued at the meeting, although the discussions will influence the Madrid summit, which concludes the Spain's presidency in December.

European federalists accuse heads of government of ducking challenges they promised to tackle a few months ago, and of ensuring that the conference on EU reform will be stillborn.

Failure to move towards political union could also throwmonetary union into question, the critics say. Even some members of the European Commission are asking whether the IGC is worth holding.

Earlier this year the demand for institutional change was strong, with only Britain voicing doubts. The Maastricht treaty, it was agreed, needed review. If the EU was to take firm decisions over foreign policy, justice and home affairs, more majority voting would be needed. Germany stressed that greater political unity must go hand in hand with monetary union, due to enter its final stage in 1999. The prospect of enlarging the EU to bring in Eastern and Central European states appeared to necessitate a more centralised decision-making process.

Several factors have since stalled the drive towards more integration. Evidence has grown of public disillusion with the EU. Several member states are committed to holding referendums on the IGC conclusions, and leaders fear the results.

The failure of EU leadership in the Balkans has revealed that talk of common foreign policies remains empty rhetoric. The US lead today in Bosnia has shown that Europe's defence remains in Nato's hands.

The election of Jacques Chirac as French President has brought about a more pragmatic approach in Paris, where the government faces economic problems in the run-up to monetary union. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has also tempered his push forl union.

The European Commission has tried to keep the reforming drive on track. But there is evidence of disarray in the "reflection group" set up to consider the IGC agenda. The French and Germans have noticed the ferment in Britain over political union, and have moved to ease Mr Major's path.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas
film
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee