Foreign Policy Blogs

Will economic protectionism divide the EU?

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The EU is beginning to fret about recent economic protectionist impulses by Member-States and the Czech Republic has decided to act, as they currently hold the 6-month EU Presidency. They have called a special summit of EU leaders for later this month to discuss recent Member-State “protectionist steps and statements”.

This is especially a response to moves and calls by French President Sarkozy to repatriate production of French cars from Eastern Europe (for example countries like the Czech Republic!). UK Prime-Minister Brown also had a protectionist moment in 2007 when he called for “British jobs for British workers”, one year later this has caused industrial unrest in England where workers have taken him at his word and demanded that British workers be given preference in employment, something that is illegal under European law.

What Prime-Minister Brown actually meant is a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that this this comes at the most unfortunate of economic times for the EU. There are already criticisms that the EU has been largely absent from the debate on the Economic crisis and Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel have called for co-ordination measures to be discussed at the special summit called by the Czechs.

These moves are to protect the EU’s precious Internal Market (often referred to as the Single Market) which is the cornerstone of the EU and guarantees the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the EU. If this most basic and successful aspect of the EU starts being eroded, there is little chance that the EU can continue to credibly assert itself as an economic actor.

In a related (and somewhat surprising) move, normally conservative and insular Switzerland (which is not a member of the EU) agreed in a Referendum yesterday to keep their labour-market open to all countriesof the EU, specifically extending that right to the new EU countries – Bulgaria & Romania. By doing this, it rejected right-wing fears of waves of immigration decending on Switzerland from these countries. It also retained its special economic relationship with the EU. A positive sign in these worrying times for EU freedoms.

 

Author

David Garrahy

David Garrahy works in Brussels monitoring European Union activites. He is originally from Ireland and studied a Degree in Law & European Studies at the University of Limerick before earning a Masters in Globalisation at Dublin City Universty. Previously he has worked in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission and as a Legislative Aide for an Irish Senator. His involvement in the EU has included working for the Irish Forum on Europe and campaigning in Referenda in favour of the Nice & Lisbon Treaties.

Area of Focus
Europe; Globalisation; European Comission.

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