BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Council President Donald Tusk issued a warning on Monday against forcing the pace of centralization in the EU and said those calling for changes to Union treaties had “zero” chance of success any time soon.
In a speech that focused on ways to strengthen the euro zone within its current legal framework, the message from the former Polish premier who chairs EU leaders’ summits carried cautionary messages for Brussels officials seeking sweeping new powers to manage the migration crisis and for Prime Minister David Cameron as he tries to renegotiate treaties to keep Britain in the bloc.
Tusk, who gave a defense of Europe’s halting, flawed and fractious approach to resolving common problems, cited painful personal experience of communism to warn against “utopian visions”, including those of “ultra-European ideologists”.
“That is why today, in the face of different crises and threats, I propose that we abandon revolutionary thinking
and reflect on how to strengthen the union in its current framework,” he told an event hosted by the Bruegel think-tank.
“Instead of revolutionary thinking and sudden systemic changes, for example big treaty changes, we should use every possibility to improve and correct the current system. Most importantly we should try and apply the rules and principles existing today with greater determination and engagement.”
Tusk has limited personal powers but exerts influence as a broker of consensus positions among the 28 national leaders and as a spokesman for their interests in negotiations with the European Commission, the law-drafting executive institution.
After years of crisis, most recently with the collapse of state finances in Greece, the 19-nation euro zone is looking at reforms that some officials, notably in economic powerhouse Germany, argue could be best achieved by revising treaties - a process that would need ratification by parliaments or voters.
Tusk recommended three measures that could improve stability without treaty change: a common deposit guarantee scheme, capital markets union and independent “competitiveness authorities” to recommend reforms to euro zone governments.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of finance ministers on Friday to discuss euro zone reform, he referred to common assumptions that voters are loath to endorse any EU laws at present. He said: “If someone still thinks treaty change would serve the EMU better, I invite them for a trip across Europe to check the chances of a harmonious ratification process. My bet is zero.”
Speaking after EU officials confirmed that Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will propose a scheme, previously rejected by national leaders, to force states to take asylum-seekers from countries on the EU’s external borders, Tusk said his “plea for pragmatism and moderation” also applied to the migration crisis.
In a veiled appeal to skeptical east European states, he called on them to show “solidarity” with the western countries that have taken in the bulk of refugees so far. But he also echoed their calls for the EU to do more to keep migrants out.
His strong language on the difficulties of changing EU treaties will also be heard in London, where Cameron has said British concerns about immigration from other EU states and over non-euro Britain’s access to euro zone financial markets will require treaty change. EU reform is vital, Cameron has said, for him to recommend Britons vote to stay in the bloc at a referendum he has promised to hold within the next two years.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Cynthia Osterman