At a conference initiated by the Monaco Mediterranean Foundation the president discussed the future of Europe, and expressed his optimism despite Brexit and the uncertainty of the French and German elections.
Where is Europe heading?
Monaco Mediterranean Foundation recently had an exceptional guest at the Hôtel Hermitage: Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. The former President of the French Republic had already been invited by Enrico Braggiotti in the Autumn of 2015 to talk about Europe. So, “why talk about it again?” he asked straight away. Perhaps to better understand what is happening now. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing managed to make people smile, but also to shed light and, above all, to provide a vision, far from the morose and even alarmist speeches about the future of European countries. The president remains very optimistic about the future. “In the press, they announce the dissolution of Europe. It is not so. This has no basis. For the European Union, closing its border with Great Britain is not a major issue.”
Cost of Brexit: 40 to 60 billion
And of course it is evoking Brexit that raises those fears. “The British voted by 51.9% in favour of an exit from the European Union to which they belonged for 45 years. The British were not among the founding countries of Europe.” Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, “founder of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union which allows countries to leave the EU in two years”, pointed out that the British press in the early 2000’s considered Europe to be like “a prison because you could get in but not get out. The British were afraid of a state set in stone. In fact, the exit, in itself, “is a simple act” for the British, but on the other hand, it will involve “undoing what has been done for 43 years. A curious exercise that we are going to witness. But this is exclusively their business.” It is a case that could be made at great expense: “The total cost of the Brexit for the British should be between 40 and 60 billion euros. For the Hexagon, none of this.” The exit from Great Britain is a budgetary saving for France. The difficulty is ultimately for the United Kingdom, which will have to settle its relations with the EU. “According to experts, this will take about fifteen years. It is a tedious process. We may even wonder whether there will not be a change of posture for the British by then.”
The stakes are high: access to the European single market in return for the four freedoms (movement, people, capital and services). The British would like to renounce the freedom of movement of people but it would conflict with one of the founding principles of the Union. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing remains more European than ever. “Do not take an attitude of revenge. The British remain partners and friends. Brexit is a useful indicator to enable European projects to be brought into line. This indication is a blessing. The prospects of Europe, since Jean Monnet, were as a federal organisation, ‘an ever closer union among peoples’. This was rejected by the British. It is, however, that of the founders. It was a matter of restoring peace and moving towards a political federation. This union still exists. That is what we must continue to work for.”
A eurofiscal zone in 2020
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing thus recalls the spirit of the founding fathers. “The horizon of Europe is Europa.” And for him, “It’s more than a political choice. It is a question of dimension. At present, this Union, which inspires pity in Trump, accounts for 7% of the world’s population and is therefore in third position after China and India.” So, is Europe ultimately promised a bright future? “The founders had foreseen that it would not happen at once. The next step should be in 2020 with the fiscal union. There is no longer any historical or social reason for the existence of such divergent regulations. We maintain the taxation system of the nineteenth century. The current system is complex, unfair and incomprehensible. The idea is to propose a single European tax model by creating aeurofiscal zone. It will be up to France and Germany to pick up the torch after the elections.”
The Monaco Mediterranean Foundation conference has thus given a hopeful view of Europe, perhaps offering more optimism for the future despite the current fear surrounding Brexit.